Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Challenge to Atheists and Believers Alike

The fourth volume in the Final Jeopardy series of books has just been completed. It's title is: Final Jeopardy: Religion and the Reality Problem. (or the Kindle edition). Its length is 562 pages. 

Some of the topics that are discussed in the aforementioned book are: Free will, suffering, consciousness, nihilism, mythology, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, Friedrich Nietzsche, evolution, morality, irreligion, sacredness,  mysticism, and spiritual abuse. While most of the book is fairly general in nature, there are some sections of the book that explore -- at least in outline form -- certain facets of the Sufi Path as those aspects relate to some of the foregoing topics.

Among other things, the foregoing book critically explores, in some depth, the ideas and arguments of a number of atheist writers, including: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Bart Ehrman, Greg Epstein, Victor Stenger, John Allen Paulos, Stuart Kauffman, and Darrel Ray. I believe their perspectives (both individually and collectively) are fraught with a variety of problems. 

More specifically, the aforementioned individuals often tout their books -- or this is done or their behalf by individuals who are like-minded -- as being works of reason and science. Unfortunately, both reason and science often seem to be in short supply in those works. 

People are free to believe whatever they like. Moreover, I have no desire to take that freedom away from them. 

I do not know what, if anything, will happen to the foregoing individuals after death (and two of them -- namely, Christopher Hitchens and Victor Stenger -- might already have some insight into this matter). Similarly, I have no idea what fate lies in wait for me beyond the far (but drawing ever closer) horizons that circumscribe my Earthly life. 

I don't dislike atheists, nor do I dislike people who are committed to a different form of spirituality than I am. Furthermore, I do not harbor ill-will toward any of them. 

Like me, they are human beings who are attempting to do the best they can with the limited information they have. Quite frankly, I hope that things turn out felicitously for them in any number of ways, but all of these considerations are way beyond my pay grade. 

However, as has been said: "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." All of the individuals identified previously have spent considerable amounts of time engaged in throwing stones at the idea of religion, and, yet, if one looks at the structural properties of the conceptual houses from which they are lobbing their linguistic projectiles, one is able to develop a fair understanding with respect to just how fragile, flimsy, and vulnerable the foregoing conceptual structures often are. 

I do not have a problem with someone who criticizes the hypocrisy of people who claim to be religious and, then, proceed to act in ways that run contrary to basic principles of decency, morality, fairness, humanity, and character. And, in fact, there are many criticisms -- with which I would tend to agree -- that the individuals who previously were identified by name tend to level against those who are engaged in all manner of religious hypocrisy. 

Nonetheless, when the foregoing authors try to generalize from the acts of individuals and, in the process, offer blanket criticisms concerning the nature of religion, they become engaged in activities of confabulation in which they conflate and confuse their own invented imaginings concerning existence with the actual nature of religion. In the process, they arbitrarily define and frame religion according to their own likes and dislikes.

The nature of religion is very simple to state. It gives expression to an individual's search for the truth concerning the nature of one's relationship with Being/Reality. 

Some individuals engage the foregoing sort of search in very constructive, character-driven ways. Other individuals do so in very destructive, abusive, and problematic ways.

The truth -- whatever it turns out to be -- is sacred, hallowed ground and is deserving of both our veneration and commitment. Nonetheless, none of us (whatever our beliefs might be) is justified in supposing that what we believe is necessarily synonymous with the truth concerning the nature of reality.

Therefore, perhaps there should be some degree of humility present in the foregoing sort of search in order to allow for the possibility that one just might be wrong about what one believes the nature of truth to be (whether such beliefs are oriented in a theistic or non-theistic manner). Unfortunately, this sort of humility often seems to be missing from the works of many of the previously mentioned individuals.  

There are a number of atheists who have trashed a few of my books on religious issues -- especially ones that are critical of the writings of Sam Harris. They have done so without even reading what I have said, and I know this because their criticisms lack the specificity of someone who has gone through what has been written and, then, points out specific examples of what they believe to be problematic with whatever I might have put forth in a given book. 

I don't mind if someone has a legitimate criticism of something that I have said. However, the sorts of reviews being alluded to in the previous paragraph tend not to be exercises in honesty.

Such individuals provide negative "reviews" of some of my books based not on a sincere and genuine desire to engage in a dialog about the nature of reality but because they wish to try to control what other people do, and do not, read. Apparently, they believe that if they can place my writings in a negative light, this will discourage potential readers from purchasing those books ... but the tactic hasn't succeeded since, to date, I have sold thousands of books in different parts of the world.

Nevertheless, what some of the individuals who write blanket, negative reviews concerning my work are actively engaged in doing is not a matter of trying to provide genuine assistance to others with respect to the latter's search for truth. Instead, the former individuals wish to interfere with, or undermine, the possibility that any given seeker after truth might undertake her or his search in a manner that might lead to conclusions other than what such negative reviewers wish to impose upon the unsuspecting readers of those reviews. 

By becoming engaged in the foregoing sorts of activities, such individuals are immersed in processes of spiritual abuse and proselytizing on behalf of atheists everywhere. Given that those people often consider themselves to be antithetical to all manner of spiritual abuse and proselytizing, their activities are rather -- to say the least -- ironic in character.

Unlike the foregoing individuals, there was one atheist -- an individual from Canada -- who wished to remain an atheist but who indicated in his review that, nonetheless, he found the arguments in one of my books on religion to be both intelligent and well-reasoned. I appreciated that review more than most -- even more than some reviews that were written by people who agreed with me -- because despite the fact that the gentleman from Canada didn't accept my perspective, nevertheless, he was willing to take the time to read what I had said and, after having done so, was willing to acknowledge that despite whatever reservations he might have about my ideas, he was of the opinion that the book was not just an exercise in irrational, incoherent, ideological rhetoric. 

I hope people -- whether they believe in God or they don't -- will take the time to read the real world version of: Final Jeopardy: Religion and the Reality Problem (or the Kindle edition). I hope people -- irrespective of whether they agree or disagree with what the foregoing book says (or do a bit of both) -- will be interested in pursuing such ideas in an honest, sincere, fair, and humanistic fashion. 

I believe the foregoing book is written in such a way that anyone who reads it -- regardless of their conceptual orientation --  will come away with new ideas on which to critically reflect. My intention is to challenge people to re-think a variety of issues rather than to denigrate individuals whose ideas are being critically explored during Final Jeopardy: Religion and the Reality Problem