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Pondering the South African Memesphere – Looking for the Good in Everything

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Humanism, Labels and Parenting

February 16th, 2008 · Posted by Hugo · 37 Comments

Here is another wonderful definition of what a “humanist” is. This definition is what Dale McGowan (Parenting Beyond Belief, The Meming of Life) told his six year old daughter, when she asked. It comes from a post on labels:

“A humanist is somebody who thinks that people should all take care of each other, and that even if there is a heaven or a god, we should spend our time making this life and this world better.”

For a simple definition, I think this one works wonders. By this definition, I continue to assert that Jesus was a humanist. (I recently mentioned this to a pastor in my church, I suspect it gave him a new understanding of what a humanist is, hopefully breaking down some stereotypes. I seem to recall this particular pastor making a negative-sounding comment about “humanists” last year, or the year before probably. Possibly something valid with regards to “secular humanists”, but even then, still a case of “othering”.)

On Labelling

Since I am drawing from Dale’s post, let me also deal with the effects of labelling. Dale expresses his views:

That incisive analogy is Richard’s greatest contribution to secular parenting. I completely agree, as (I am increasingly convinced) do most nonreligious parents. Once a label is attached, thinking is necessarily colored and shaped by that label. I don’t want my kids to have to think their way out from under a presumptive claim placed on them by one worldview or another. So prior to age twelve, I won’t allow my children to be called “atheists” any more than I’d allow them to be called “Christians”–not even by themselves. (More on the ‘age twelve’ comment in a later post. Remind me when I forget.)

I still do not agree with Richard Dawkins’ polemic, but Dale provides a buffer that I can more readily agree with. I can attest to the “colouring effect” a label can have on your thinking. In my case, the colouring was brought about by the label “INTP”, at age 13. Even if the label is true, the lay person is not trained in psychology. The lay person’s idea of “introvert” is heavily influenced by the popular meaning. Personal behaviour I might have challenged otherwise, was excused and accepted because “that’s how I’m supposed to be”. Horse baloney.

Now cultural contexts differ from one continent to another. I’m under the impression that the “Christian” label does not bring as much baggage in South Africa as it does in other countries. As everyone here are “Christians”, the label is diluted. I suspect American fundamentalism has a heavier impact on the implications of the label? In South Africa, you can raise your child a “Christian” without them being prone to anti-science, homophobia and superstition. (Cue the atheists going for my throat.)

What I would teach my children, should I ever have any, is something I’ve been pondering for some time. I like the direction a number of churches are taking. Internationally, the churches that are taking part in the emerging church conversation. Locally, Stellenbosch Gemeente and the Moederkerk (which is Dutch Reformed). Moederkerk does have more conservative baggage to deal with, but their vision for the future is very similar to that of Stellenbosch Gemeente. With a good local church embracing memetic diversity, I will let my children join the community.

At the same time, I will make it abundantly clear to them that they should be careful of labels, including the Christian label. I’ll teach them about as many religious traditions as I can. That would be very interesting for me to research as well. I have a book that used to belong to my grandfather, containing “holy texts” from most of the “great religions” of the world. I look forward to the day I have time to start reading it. I will have to complement it with a lot of other material to understand the cultural context though.

Closing Thoughts

  • Too many I‘s in this post.
  • Quite a long post for one that was only really intended to share a definition of humanism.
  • A previous post defining humanism was On Labelling Myself a Humanist. At that time, I was playing with the secular adjective as well. It was a valuable stepping stone in my journey.
  • Humanists in the Stellenbosch area, there is a Stellenbosch Humanists Facebook group. If you join in, you can help us find a purpose for the group?

Categories: Religion and Science
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37 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ben // Feb 17, 2008 at 4:54 am

    Bah. Nica Lalli’s parents were smarter than I realized when I first read about her book. Silly me, unti lfairly recently, I thought that people who called themselves ‘Christian’ were labeling their beliefs instead of labeling a tribal or gang identity.

    In South Africa, you can raise your child a “Christian” without them being prone to anti-science, homophobia and superstition. (Cue the atheists going for my throat.)

    (evil grin)

    Nah, no point.

    Not as related to this post, but on the topic of the Emerging church: I learned (over at conversation at the edge? maybe) that McLaren hasn’t taken a position on gay marriage. Googling leads me to:

    …I hesitate in answering “the homosexual question” not because I’m a cowardly flip-flopper who wants to tickle ears, but because I am a pastor, and pastors have learned from Jesus that there is more to answering a question than being right or even honest: we must also be . . . pastoral. That means understanding the question beneath the question, the need or fear or hope or assumption that motivates the question…

    @#%@$#%. I’ll stick to trying to answer questions rightly and honestly, thanks. WTF.

  • 2 Hugo // Feb 17, 2008 at 9:33 am

    I thought that people who called themselves ‘Christian’ were labeling their beliefs instead of labeling a tribal or gang identity.

    Indeed. The early Christian church was also more about the community than the dogma.

    I’ll stick to trying to answer questions rightly and honestly, thanks. WTF.

    You’re no pastor (obviously). They have a tough job. A selfless job… A job in caring for a congregation. Until you’ve seen what they do and understand what they do, I understand why you don’t understand that there’s something more important than being right.

  • 3 Ben // Feb 17, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    You’re no pastor (obviously).

    Heh. Depends on your definition. I would meet the wicket of being ordained (Universal Life Church) and I would sort of meet the wicket of having a ‘congregation’ (organizing the atheists & agnostic meetup group.) I’m pretty sure I could perform a legal marriage ceremony, anyway. :)

    I’m glad people like MLK were bad pastors.

  • 4 Hugo // Feb 17, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Hehe, fair enough. Apologies.

    Was MLK primarily a pastor? Ah, details. The point being, there’s different roles to play in this world, and we need not all play the same role. We need not all be MLK, but yes, we definitely need MLK’s. McLaren isn’t MLK, he’s McLaren. And I respect what he’s doing, I’m glad there are McLaren’s in the world, I’m glad there are MLK’s in the world.

    Do you understand why I didn’t take a strong stance on resurrection on that other thread?

    In terms of hope for American fundamentalism: if McLaren takes a strong stance on homosexuality, people that do not agree with him, write him off. They stop listening. He can do much better work by leaving some things unresolved. Priorities. “Pastoral” priorities?

    Now nothing to do with pastors, just with decisions and deciding not to decide:

    One of the pastors at Stellenbosch Gemeente used to be involved with the Dutch Reformed church. They had a big meeting on what to decide with regards to the “homosexual debate”. Everyone was arguing to and fro what they should decide with regards to official church policy. At some point this person stood up and with some passion made a statement to the effect of “I wish we could all decide to not decide, until we each personally know ten gay people.”

    Of course, everyone immediately decided he must be gay.

    *sigh*

    I was wondering if I should make a blog post about that, rather than merely mentioning it in a comment. Could make some point about how people pass judgement about things they know nothing about.

  • 5 Hugo // Feb 17, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    I must stop with nonsense like this:

    You’re no pastor

    That’s me being negative and destructive again. (Not to mention wrong…) And I’m trying to focus on constructive dialogue. Grrr.

  • 6 Bad Ben // Feb 17, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    HUGO: Jip. The beauty of blogging is that you’ve git time to consider what you say. use this priviledge, read & re-read. I know I don’t always. but its good to remind yourself.

    BEN:

    @#%@$#%. I’ll stick to trying to answer questions rightly and honestly, thanks. WTF.

    Dude, have you honestly not noticed that lets say your girlfriend asks you certain things it would be suicidal for your relationship to answer?

    I get the feeling that you only really considered McLaren’s statement:

    that there is more to answering a question than being right or even honest: we must also be . . . pastoral…

    The following is the gist. Context is (almost) everything when it comes to successful approach – in pretty much any situation. McLaren is not saying that he doesn’t want to be right or honest he is saying “understanding the question beneath the question, the need or fear or hope or assumption that motivates the question…” is the precursor to an honest answer. Without which an honest answer is applied to the wrong question: hence it will be misconstrued.

    Am I missing you here?

  • 7 Hugo // Feb 17, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    While Martin Luther King was surely a pastor to his people, in the public eye he was much more of a prophet. Prophets were people not afraid of controversy, people that challenged the status quo.

    Everyone has a bit of everything. I’ve heard McLaren described as a prophet, but I’d argue his style is not prophetic. His style is more pastoral. I’ve seen him describe himself as more of an evangelist, so there’s that too.

  • 8 Negate // Feb 17, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    I am a secular humanist and this is how i will educate my children. I believe philosophy is already transcending religion in some form. If I look at countries like Denmark, Sweden and France (who has a majority atheist population) they have some of the worlds best education systems and lowest violent crime statistics. I will try and teach my children about philosophy, if they understand philosophy they would automatically understand religion .

    I believe it was Sam Harris who said, alchemy was replaced by chemistry. Astrology by astronomy and religion by philosophy.

  • 9 Hugo // Feb 17, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    It is hard to teach philosophy at a young age. Stories/myths are useful. While I have not actually read it, reading his blog, I know Dale McGowan’s “Parenting Beyond Belief” is probably a very good book to work with.

    With regards to letting them get involved in a local church, well, yea, I do have my doubts. It depends on the culture and the environment. I’m of course thinking largely from the context of my town and Stellenbosch Gemeente right now, and where I think they’re headed in the next decade. At a younger age, I’d probably not let them get involved, I prefer to know what foundations are being laid, preferring to lay the foundations myself.

    But hey, at the rate I’m currently going, maybe I end up propagating only memes, and not genes. ;)

  • 10 Negate // Feb 17, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Hugo I believe Philosophy can also be used as a story telling tool. A certain religion is nothing more than a life philosophy, but a religion has to be believed and followed. When one teaches philosophy form the start, even the Philosophies of Religion you can make it clear to your children, that these stories you are telling are just opinions of some great minds.

    I don’t believe Philosophy is hard to understand when you put in proper context it will develop dynamic and critical thinking . Philosophy is best to teach children how to interpret all kinds of information.

  • 11 Hugo // Feb 17, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    A long article, but worth a read. (Confession: I skim-read many parts…)

    http://zavibes.com/index.php/taboos-heretics-and-moral-fashion/

    The problem is, there are so many things you can’t say. If you said them all you’d have no time left for your real work.

    Choose your battles…?

  • 12 Hugo // Feb 17, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Better, the original is here:

    http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html

    Something to live by…

  • 13 Bad Ben // Feb 17, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    If I look at countries like Denmark, Sweden and France (who has a majority atheist population) they have some of the worlds best education systems and lowest violent crime statistics. I will try and teach my children about philosophy, if they understand philosophy they would automatically understand religion .

    I find this quite a dtestable statement. It’s not stupid, but I fear that you are not considering many of the grossly unfair advantages the abovementioned countries have had in their development: Imperial Injustice benefitted many of the first world countries and made them what they are today. Cultural imperialism continues to hold back african and other underdeveloped countries as well as shockingly unethical buisness practises. It’s like saying the africans are stupid because they’re religious. Its just not fair.

    There are countless examples of religious countries going down the crapper, there are countless examples of atheistic countries going down the crapper. A nation’s ruin or succuess is a complex process, which I assume will take a fair amount of research to comprehend. Treat such occurences with the neccessary respect. Be carefull to essentialise.

  • 14 Negate // Feb 18, 2008 at 12:08 am

    Ben, yeah that was just some recent information stuck in my noggin, don’t know why i made that part of my comment. My main point was more, that i believe philosophy to be a transcended form of religion. In a culture surrounded by philosophy and not a dogmatic religion i believe a great story telling atmosphere would emerge under the population, that would capture the imagination. I think statistics like those of Denmark and Sweden kinda just strengthen those already biased views I have as a secular person.

    It comes down to what I think is best for a child’s development. If i may take a line from Richard Dawkins, most theist are atheistic to 99% of gods created by humanity, but i person who calls himself a atheist just takes it one god further as th person calling himself a theist. In the end i find no problem with secular parenting, because it seems kinda unfair to me, that we impose the culture/group relevant god(by this i mean your in SA so your religion would be Christianity, if you were in Iran it would be Islam) unto our children. I have no reasonable way of proving to my children that this god is the right one, so i have no right to force such a opinion, but on the other side of the coin, I am then forcing a secular opinion?

    I have an atheist friend who says he will raze his children with Christianity, because he thinks it installs a great moral code, but this is a field i’m still trying to understand and explore.

  • 15 Bad Ben // Feb 18, 2008 at 12:29 am

    I don’t believe in forcing anyone into Christianity, children or adults. I would not want to even invite someone to something that does not have a profoundly positive (for lack of a better word) impact on my life. Shees, its tough. My ideal would actually be to live out a passion for my God to such an extent that 1) my relationship with my child should be affected profoundly & positively. NBNBNB!!! it freaks me out when people in the ministry suck at key relationships. 2) My kid can see I am honest about my experience, and therefor desire it too.

    It buggers up if these two don’t compliment each other. humans have unpredictable tendencies to either run away from what they are taught (often when there is no strong relationship to the teacher) or to hide complacently in these legacies. I have experienced both of those sides, Yet my current experience of faith is hard to define in terms of such a dichotomy (as dynamic experiences often are).

    My feeling is that Children should play and respond out of their own desire to philosophical or religious stimuli. The truth should speak for itself, no?

    PS. Your friend seems adamant on raising TRUE atheists… Christianity essentialised in that way, seems stripped of its credibility – mere religious philosophy. I maintain there must be more to it for Christianity to justify itself on its own terms.

  • 16 Negate // Feb 18, 2008 at 12:53 am

    You raze some real valid points, this is where the scary and blurry lines come into play. If you live out your passion for god, your children would surely recognize this, and this would most probably have the positive effect on them. Perhaps the effect you want. Is our actions not already doing the forcing that we are afraid of?

    What you say about people running away from experiences they are taught is so true. If i may use a example : I know of 2 people, 1 is a friend real close to me. They both were razed in families with church pastors, and they turned out to be satanist and a wiccan. Truth should definitely speak for itself.

    I don’t think my friend is adamant on razing true atheist, he told me he is scared. He believes religion gave him his moral code, so he wants to be sure his children has a moral code. I on the other hand believe family is our moral code. Children will notice how there parents are acting and that will rub of on the children. A practical example, almost 80 percent of serial killers were abused. A parents behavior will be crucial on how the child experiences or understands the world around him.

  • 17 Hugo // Feb 18, 2008 at 1:23 am

    Sorry, I must chip in pedantically:

    raze – to destroy or tear down
    raise – well, to raise…

    I just can’t handle all this talk of razing children. ;)

  • 18 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 18, 2008 at 2:03 am

    Dude, have you honestly not noticed that lets say your girlfriend asks you certain things it would be suicidal for your relationship to answer?

    I’ve been married for nearly a decade – I’m familiar with those lessons. :)

    I get the feeling that you only really considered McLaren’s statement:

    that there is more to answering a question than being right or even honest: we must also be . . . pastoral…

    The following is the gist. Context is (almost) everything when it comes to successful approach – in pretty much any situation. McLaren is not saying that he doesn’t want to be right or honest he is saying “understanding the question beneath the question, the need or fear or hope or assumption that motivates the question…” is the precursor to an honest answer. Without which an honest answer is applied to the wrong question: hence it will be misconstrued.

    Am I missing you here?

    Oh, I read the context. To me it looks like he is trying to not offend or not challenge those who would deny civil rights to homosexuals. It makes it less defensible to me, not more.

  • 19 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 18, 2008 at 4:06 am

    Do you understand why I didn’t take a strong stance on resurrection on that other thread?

    I think so. I don’t know if you can tell or not, but I am biting my metaphorical tongue on a lot of topics here (like that one.)

    In terms of hope for American fundamentalism: if McLaren takes a strong stance on homosexuality, people that do not agree with him, write him off.

    I think American fundamentalists have already written him off. Dunno, though, obviously.

    That’s me being negative and destructive again. (Not to mention wrong…) And I’m trying to focus on constructive dialogue. Grrr.

    Nah, you’re fine. I just thought it was funny that if you looked at it a certain way…

  • 20 Bad Ben // Feb 18, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Ben-jammin:

    Oh, I read the context. To me it looks like he is trying to not offend or not challenge those who would deny civil rights to homosexuals. It makes it less defensible to me, not more.

    I don’t agree. Brian knows exactly how many people will be offended by his stance. people will be offended either way. C’mon man, I don’t feel we’re listening to each other. In what way is McLaren being a moral coward by taking such a risk (that of offence from the moral majority in america: who can and will seriously damage one’s credibility in a nation like that) by trying to understand a situation before voicing opinions? He never says he is unwilling to take a moral stance, but not before he understands a situation. I have no qualms that he wouldn’t hesitate to tell a rebellious sex fiend that what he is doing is wrong. wrong against himself and God.

    are you listening to me man?

    If you are please try and rephrase your objection so I can see what you are saying!

  • 21 Bad Ben // Feb 18, 2008 at 9:35 am

    You raze some real valid points, this is where the scary and blurry lines come into play. If you live out your passion for god, your children would surely recognize this, and this would most probably have the positive effect on them. Perhaps the effect you want. Is our actions not already doing the forcing that we are afraid of?

    Thanks for the positive reply. I hear what you are saying here. I suppose it all comes down to intentions. If you are acting out your passions because you want to influence it becomes manipulation – of yourself, and your children. But i can’t see how we can avoid the spontaneous expression of our passions in front of our children, and te effect thereof. Children are smarter than we think. Maybe forcing is to be held responsible for the rebels amongst us?

    I believe that moral integrity should be an integral and spontaneous disposition, not a strategy. This is my objection to a lot of bad impact on the part of evangelicalist churches.

  • 22 Hugo // Feb 18, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Personally, I think McLaren already has a good idea where he stands on the issue. I think he’s just choosing to not take a public stance on it. Picking battles carefully.

    I think American fundamentalists have already written him off. Dunno, though, obviously.

    Quite possible. I wonder what the Shofarian sentiments are. A few years ago, I’ve heard rumours through the grapevine that some individual there had a dream about two lions coming to tear Stellenbosch apart. This dream was then subsequently interpreted to refer to Rob Bell and Brian McLaren. Funny…

    Now Aslan the lion (Narnia) is a Christ figure. I can picture demons fearing his influence… when he comes to tear the rot out of “Christians” that are missing the point? Dreams, lovely things, you can make them say whathever you like. ;-)

  • 23 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 18, 2008 at 10:51 am

    In what way is McLaren being a moral coward by taking such a risk (that of offence from the moral majority in america: who can and will seriously damage one’s credibility in a nation like that) by trying to understand a situation before voicing opinions?

    How long does he need? The issue has been around for quite a while now.

    That means understanding the question beneath the question, the need or fear or hope or assumption that motivates the question.

    I don’t see how any of that provides a valid reason for not taking a position. Maybe if you give me an example.

  • 24 Bad Ben // Feb 18, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Im not talking about the public domain as Hugo points out. You yourself used the example where McLaren adresses an individual case. He is not making a public statement about his policy towards Homosexuality by circulating that comment: rather his policy concerning the treatment of individual cases.

    I’ll shortly post an interview that deals with this specifically, before we continue missing each other here.

  • 25 Bad Ben // Feb 18, 2008 at 11:18 am

    HOMILETICS: Some would say that the position you outline in A Generous Orthodoxy expresses rampant relativism. Catholics just learned within the hour [of this conversation], that they have a new pope, Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI. Ratzinger, Dr. No, is not known for being particularly flexible on moral issues. We don’t have a pope or a moral theologian, or a Congregation on the Doctrine of the Faith who will draw a line in the sand for us. Isn’t relativism a danger to the church?

    McLAREN: It’s a shame that anyone would accuse me of relativism, especially in reading A Generous Orthodoxy where I devote a chapter to relativism.

    HOMILETICS: Al Mohler for example. He’s not stupid. Why would he say that?

    McLAREN: It’s really perplexing to me. I agree with you. He’s not stupid. But yet he just makes this statement. In the book I make the analogy that absolutism is like cancer, and chemotherapy is like relativism. And chemotherapy, if you take too much of it, will kill you. So I certainly don’t hold up relativism as a great thing. It’s a dangerous thing. I think absolutism is a dangerous thing. We need something beyond both. So I don’t know why he would say that.

    But for some people certain issues seem very simple. So anyone who doesn’t agree that this or that isn’t an open-and-shut case, they would tend to see as a relativist. But for those of us who are pastors, when you sit across the table from people with serious problems and you hear their stories week after week, a lot of things are pretty complex. And those same people who are open-and-shut on some issues, then they will deal with a lot of complexity on other issues.

    HOMILETICS: So you’re willing to pound a stake in the sand on certain things, but on a lot of other things that separate communities you’re not quite so willing to say —

    McLAREN: That would be a great way to put it.

    HOMILETICS: So you have only one or two “Here I stand” issues.

    McLAREN: For example, the issue of homosexuality that’s so divisive. I’ll bet you could find someone who is as conservative as possible on the issue of homosexuality, and if there were bands of thugs who were going around beating up homosexuals, I’ll bet that some of those most conservative people would stand up courageously and say, “You shouldn’t go beating people up.”

    HOMILETICS: That brings up an interesting question. I read your response when you were asked about your position on gay marriage. You said, “What breaks my heart is, that no matter what I say, I’m going to hurt some people.” It seems to me that Brian McLaren is letting everyone else do all the heavy lifting for him, while he stays neutral, because those on the left are saying, “Yeah, we have a position and we’ll give you an answer” and those on the right are saying, “Yeah, we have a position and we’ll give you an answer,” but McLaren isn’t willing to hurt anyone because he evidently has a value that he holds higher than the need to state a position. It’s slacker spirituality.

    McLAREN: Yeah, slacker, or some would say “cowardly.” The irony is that I am willing to stand up and say that and take a good amount of criticism for it.

    HOMILETICS: I can see the irony. I am not asking you to answer that question, but to respond to the reticence to take a position on some of the questions that are being asked out there in the culture. And why are you unwilling to do that?

    McLAREN: I appreciate the question. Let me say two things: First, I think this issue is badly framed. It’s like walking into a domestic violence argument. There are so many things going. It’s not the right time to resolve the argument.

    HOMILETICS: You have to take one person to jail and then deal with the other person.

    McLAREN: Exactly. And any policeman who walks in on domestic violence is going to have the husband saying, “I’m right, and she’s wrong” and vice versa. So there are times when it’s best not to take sides. And I’m not saying that other people are wrong to take sides. But maybe everyone is not supposed to take sides on some of these things. And I should say as a sincere Christian, if I felt before God I was supposed to take sides on this, I would gladly do that.

    When there are political things going on, political parties can separate votes. I worry very much that abortion and homosexuality have been used by the political parties so the church might not even know that its strings are being pulled by political movements.

    Second, because I travel a lot, I’m around a wider range of Christians than most people. And my honest feeling is, that across the board you really see great signs of the Holy Spirit at work. I think some of these issues are the tip of the iceberg and there are deeper issues going on. I would rather focus on the deeper issues. I think these other issues are distractions.

    For example, the issue of homosexuality brings up some very profound issues that the Christian faith has to deal with. They have to deal with psychopharmacology — to what degree is the human soul related to the biochemistry going on in the brain? Because when we deal with sexuality, we’re dealing with the relationship between the soul and the body. We’ve got challenges to deal with there that are very, very profound.

    What percentage of our people are on Prozac? What does that say, and what does that mean? There’s Viagra out there. What if they get a really good anti-Viagra pill? There’s not too much of a market for that! But would it be the right thing for Christians to do in a sex-crazed culture, to give their 13-year-old boys the anti-Viagra, have them take it until a week before their wedding? We’re right in the middle of these issues of the chemical and genetic dimensions of behavior. Huge moral issues for us to deal with. For us to fight about homosexuality on one level without going down to those deeper issues, it seems to me, it’s badly framed. And the way my mind works, it’s hard to take sides on an issue that you feel just isn’t framed well.

  • 26 Bad Ben // Feb 18, 2008 at 11:19 am

    I bet Im opening a whole crate’s worth of canned worms for you with this on ey’ mr. Namesake?

  • 27 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 18, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    I bet Im opening a whole crate’s worth of canned worms for you with this on ey’ mr. Namesake?

    I’m thinking less and less of Mr. McLaren, anyway.

    They have to deal with psychopharmacology — to what degree is the human soul related to the biochemistry going on in the brain? Because when we deal with sexuality, we’re dealing with the relationship between the soul and the body. We’ve got challenges to deal with there that are very, very profound.

    Oh, that’s helpful. The human soul?

    So you’re willing to pound a stake in the sand on certain things, but on a lot of other things that separate communities you’re not quite so willing to say

    So I picture in my head John or Jane looking to marry their partner, and someone telling them ‘no, you can’t do that, because that would separate this other community of superstitious dualists.’ Nope, it doesn’t seem at all a sufficient reason to me.

  • 28 Bad Ben // Feb 18, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    That’s no rebuttal mr. Jammin. That’s pure contradiction.

  • 29 Hugo // Feb 18, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    *grin*.

    That anti-Viagra idea was quite a thought provoking one. In particular, my thoughts are provoked with regards to what McLaren actually thinks. But… either way… I know I’m probably very biased when it comes to the guy. I think he’s great. As such, I generally tend to assume he holds my position, when he says things vague. I’ve read some of his books, seen him talk numerous times, and had a good lunch with him at our house. So yea, I’m biased. ;)

    I assume he is probably pro gay marriage, I assume he is anti pharmacology when it comes to manipulation of your natural biology. But these are my assumptions. He mentions the anti-Viagra idea, but does not take a stance. He merely illustrates what the issues are.

    What I like about his approach is that he is more interested in people thinking for themselves than handing down doctrine and dogma from a pulpit. I don’t think replacing one charismatic leader making up the rules, with another one doing the same, just with better rules, is good idea.

    OK, that’s probably a bit of a straw-man, but you see what I mean.

    But… yea… that’s why I like Marcus Borg more. He is more firm on his own ideas, much less wishy-washy, but he still shares them in a humble manner. Fundies won’t like reading some of his stuff, while they would read McLaren. I’ve lent McLaren to a couple of people already. It is a good starting point at least.

  • 30 Hugo // Feb 18, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    The Human Soul: not something in empirical reality. Something in “Meh”. Something psychological. Something to do with the “human condition”, to do with “what it is to be human”. Think Gattaca-tagline:

    There Is No Gene For The Human Spirit.

  • 31 gerhard // Feb 18, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    re: the anti-Viagra pill and homosexuality debate..
    mclaren’s policy is (@ least in regard to homosexuality) not to marginalize himself. he doesn’t gain anything from actually standing up for a perticular morality. you know it pains me to see people like that in the world. i think once you have gay friends you see this whole issue from a different light. Most of them are just like you and me … not rebellious sex fiends… and by saying you wont take a stand for them as a majority you are actually condeming the majority.. what he is _actually_ saying if you read between the lines , most of them are rebellious sex fiends and its the induvidual case that is the exception. they suffer for his social ambitions..
    sometimes i wish there was a hell for people like this… wave the flag of peace for his own gain…

    re:human soul
    can i add something for you to think about ? have you worked with neural networks? do they have an measureable sate that can be empirically meaningful? simple nodes are not a problem , but a big multi-layer structure of hundreds of billions of neurons … could one really expect to isolate
    specific functions of that network ?

    one can only really measure epirically the factors making up the state and the symptoms of the end result because the state itself is non-senseical in the traditional form.. guess what i am saying is that it may not be a ‘empirical reality’ at any given point but that it is based on one… hence based in one ..

    hope this doesnt get percieved as hijacking again even if it results in discussion:P

  • 32 Bad Ben // Feb 18, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    I get the Idea that McLaren is not Pro-gay…Haven’t read too much of his stuff, but it’s my impression.

  • 33 Bad Ben // Feb 18, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    why would he be pro-gay and not speak up? the people he would offend are already so offended by him! whereas he seems to wish not to offend pro-gays, who are still open to his ideas. Consider carefully the american context…

    Enlighten me if Im mistaken (quite possible), somebody please?

  • 34 Hugo // Feb 18, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    McLaren does have gay friends. I can go mine his response to Campolo’s chapter on Homosexuality in “Adventures in Missing the Point” to see what more we can deduce from his opinion, but I don’t know how important that is.

    What I do remember was that he was sharing some of their plight. He shared an instance where he accidentally outed a homosexual member of his congregation or friend, and some of the discussions around that point. I took it mostly as an argument against judging and for compassion and understanding, pointing out how homosexuals are often much “better” people than we are. (I’m not doing those pages justice right now. I can go reread them… maybe blog about them? Later.)

    Gerhard, thanks, no you’re not hijacking. Not this time. :-P Your summary of McLaren does look rather negative and strongly stated. I think you take some leaps of faith there. Less absolute certainty would go down well (much like less certainty in my posts). Give the guy some credit, or judge him so harshly only after reading some of his books, understanding his perspectives. Or hey, after meeting him in person?

    My point with Meh, which was missed in earlier comments, is not that it cannot be explained in Lah, in reality. I know friendship and love could be explained in reductionist terms, and that knowing the “empirical” scientific side of psychology and neurobiology etc does not detract from the experience. However, it doesn’t change the fact that the experience takes place in a different realm, an emotional realm, the realm of the psyche and the “mind” (as opposed to the “brain”). Maybe in a few centuries’ time, all humans will live in a first-world context and have a solid education with regards to science and technology etc. While even then they will experience and live in Meh, right now they live in a reality very different from that of someone with a $100 bank account and a solid house to live in.

    *sigh*, yea, straw-man and misdirection, maybe? Still, I hope my point is communicated well enough. Meh is “real”.

    Meh.

  • 35 gerhard // Feb 19, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    *sigh* i just dont think he should tell people what they should be allowed to do sexually and emotionally , and i dont think he should be for public policy that does. if he outed someone then fine… good for him for possibly ruining that persons life and possibly marginalizing that person to being a ‘accepted’ outsider.. makes me dislike him more , for having done that to some one , even unintentionally…

    i believe in the kingsley scale and that everyone falls on that, saying that sexuality should be considered on a induvidual basis to me seems evil because of this.

    btw, i also consider someone telling me that i’m not allowedto take my anti-viagra as evil… just as much as i consider a parent giving a child a pill like that ..
    i have a problem with this whole having to be a concenting adult in a concenting enviroment bit.. seems a bit like 1984 to me :P

  • 36 -M- // Feb 19, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    On a more shallow note (and not completely off topic), Bono’s contribution to the discussion about MLK… ;)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgZYlTpRoRc

    -hey! his last performance on this blog was pretty bad, so I had to do something about it!-

  • 37 Hugo // Feb 20, 2008 at 12:12 am

    OK, with regard to the accidental outing, that was a misaddressed email. You really need to read those pages to understand that, and before judging the guy. I’d be willing to bet you a significant banknote he doesn’t tell people what they should be doing. He’s there to help, pastoral, not authoritarian.

    It seems I should probably stop saying stuff about McLaren, if people are only interested in finding stuff to use against him. If you’re looking for flaws, you’ll find them, in any person. No one is perfect.

    Thanks -M-! /me tips my hat.

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