Author Topic: Transcendence Line  (Read 2147 times)

Sriram

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Transcendence Line
« on: December 04, 2015, 05:03:17 PM »
Hi everyone,

People are talking about the Transcendence Line in America following the recent mass shooting.  The line that divides people into believers and non believers.

http://us.cnn.com/2015/12/04/opinions/inazu-thoughts-and-prayers-transcendence-line/index.html

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The war of words over "thoughts and prayers" in response to the San Bernardino massacre is the latest illustration that our culture is fractured not only politically, but also along the transcendence line: The line divides those who believe in a God who intervenes in the world and those who do not.

We see the transcendence line in sharp relief when some people are moved to pray in response to tragedy and others insist that prayer doesn't "work" and isn't "doing" anything. We see it in the puzzled and impatient reactions to the acts of forgiveness extended by the family members of those killed in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. We see it in critiques of Christian missionaries who care for the sick and dying in Ebola-stricken lands.

We see the transcendence line play out in other ways. How could those religious believers be so hateful and bigoted in their beliefs? How could those nonbelievers be so selfish and immoral? Our generalities and caricatures fuel our predispositions, and those on the other side of the line increasingly appear to us as less compassionate, less worthy and less human.

America is deeply divided along the transcendence line. Tens of millions of Americans profess belief in a transcendent God. They include Christians, Jews, Muslims and people of many other faiths. Yet these generic labels are also imprecise; many self-identifying Christians and Jews reject the idea that God intervenes in the world in miraculous and supernatural ways.

Our deep differences are not going away anytime soon. Our own friends, neighbors and colleagues will increasingly fall on both sides of the transcendence line. In light of this reality and other deep differences between us, I have elsewhere argued that we might move toward a "confident pluralism," where we might try to extend tolerance, humility and patience toward those with whom we fundamentally disagree.

That's going to take work. It will require slowing down our social media impulses, drafting and redrafting our written words, and pausing before our spoken words. None of this will be easy. But the coming years will give us plenty of opportunities -- the transcendence line is here to stay.

******************

Any views?  There is a Transcendence Line in Britain too I am sure.

Sriram

Outrider

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2015, 06:40:18 PM »
I think there's a tendency on both sides for people to classify the other group in a bad light - that's the tendency towards tribalism that appears to be ingrained in human behaviour. I've not seen anything in the way of formal study to say if it's instinctive or simply pervasive in culture.

The specifics at the moment, though, of the portrayal in the US aren't so much about who prays and who doesn't - the overwhelming majority in the US appear to pray. The words being bandied about at the moment are aimed at those who are in a position to do something about this AND to pray, and who advocate praying but continue to do nothing about the situation in any practical sense.

It's not a complaint about prayer, or the ineffectiveness of prayer, it's a complaint about the use of prayer as a camouflage for the failure to act.

O.
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Shaker

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2015, 07:57:47 PM »
Transcendence - like spiritual/ity - is one of those concepts that fascinates me and to which I return again and again, because it's often used and poorly or badly defined. A quick scuttle to various dictionaries tells me that the minimal definition is something like "Surpassing ordinary limits." Well, great - but that's not especially interesting to me as exceptional individuals, such as great sportsmen and women (superbly well trained athletes at the absolute pinnacle of their physical and mental fitness, for example) surpass ordinary limits quite regularly.

The more interesting definition of transcendence, and I suspect the one that most people have on mind if they use the word, is "going beyond physical reality or material existence." This is the one that's problematic to me because I haven't been furnished with any even slightly compelling evidence that the concept of anything being beyond physical reality or material existence even makes sense. For uncountabl centuries human beings have been having powerful, persuasive, life-changing experiences which they feel point to a realm of existence not bound by matter-energy, time and space. Whether spontaneous or caused by extreme stress, starvation, isolation or exposure to various substances, countless people have had such experiences and continue to do so. They're not all lying so we have to accept that the capacity for such experiences is not only real but inherent to the human animal. Where I differ is in the interpretation of such experiences; to me, every kind of experience ever had by every single last human being in the world is just that - a human being having an unusual but still human experience in a material world. It's often said that the human brain is the most complex arrangement of matter yet known in the universe. That means it's capable of some weird and wonderful things; and that to me is endlessly fascinating. I do not understand those people who reject this as reductionist and scientistic; that sort of attitude seems to me to praise ignorance over knowledge and mysterianism over the disinterested search for truth about the cosmos in which we find ourselves.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2015, 08:15:22 PM by Shaker »
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ekim

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2015, 11:13:25 AM »
Transcendence - like spiritual/ity - is one of those concepts that fascinates me and to which I return again and again, because it's often used and poorly or badly defined.
A lot of the difficulty arises around trying to form concepts around a word which might have been used only in a mythical sense to convey a method towards a conscious 'state' of being.  I believe the word 'transcend' has a Latin origin which meant 'to climb across'.  It suggests a barrier or threshold which one has to pass beyond e.g. the mental forms and forces of the psyche, which are sometimes symbolised by water ... crossing a river, walking on the water and sometimes by air .... flying the magic carpet.

SusanDoris

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2015, 11:13:45 AM »
If only those who use the word transcendence with the meaning of, 'well, we have experienced transcendency, so we have a special quality/know something which you don't' would read your post, Shaker, ....! Ah, well!
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ekim

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2015, 11:30:13 AM »
If only those who use the word transcendence with the meaning of, 'well, we have experienced transcendency, so we have a special quality/know something which you don't' would read your post, Shaker, ....! Ah, well!
Such egotism is present and even encouraged in many walks of life, celebrity status being one, and it would probably indicate lack of transcendence, just another person with bragging rights.

Sriram

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2015, 12:21:57 PM »
I think there's a tendency on both sides for people to classify the other group in a bad light - that's the tendency towards tribalism that appears to be ingrained in human behaviour. I've not seen anything in the way of formal study to say if it's instinctive or simply pervasive in culture.

The specifics at the moment, though, of the portrayal in the US aren't so much about who prays and who doesn't - the overwhelming majority in the US appear to pray. The words being bandied about at the moment are aimed at those who are in a position to do something about this AND to pray, and who advocate praying but continue to do nothing about the situation in any practical sense.

It's not a complaint about prayer, or the ineffectiveness of prayer, it's a complaint about the use of prayer as a camouflage for the failure to act.

O.


Actually 'praying' and 'acting' are not two different things. Prayer is a way of influencing the Common Consciousness within ourselves to do the needful in any given situation.

enki

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2015, 02:36:51 PM »
Having read your above(post 2), Shaker, I think that it is an excellent exposition of my views, also.

I also tend to agree with Susan's post, which closely followed it.

Cheers
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ippy

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2015, 02:43:53 PM »
Well I don't care whatever it is any of you say, I'm certain I bumped into Elvis this morning when I was taking my dog for a walk.

ippy

Udayana

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2015, 02:55:49 PM »
Having read your above(post 2), Shaker, I think that it is an excellent exposition of my views, also.

I also tend to agree with Susan's post, which closely followed it.

Cheers

ie  The experience of  "going beyond physical reality or material existence" is itself generated from or an artifact of physical reality and material existence. So what is wrong with that?

I doubt that anyone who has experienced it and understands their experience would go around claiming that they "have a special quality/know something which you don't"
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SusanDoris

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2015, 03:19:13 PM »
ie  The experience of  "going beyond physical reality or material existence" is itself generated from or an artifact of physical reality and material existence. So what is wrong with that?

I doubt that anyone who has experienced it and understands their experience would go around claiming that they "have a special quality/know something which you don't"
No that is not said in so many words, but the implication is clearly there!   It goes something like this:

- You cannot have experienced what I have, because you are not spiritual/have a closed mind/are a materialist/etc.
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ippy

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2015, 05:20:00 PM »
No that is not said in so many words, but the implication is clearly there!   It goes something like this:

- You cannot have experienced what I have, because you are not spiritual/have a closed mind/are a materialist/etc.

Don't tell me Susan, you saw Elvis too?

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enki

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2015, 08:44:41 PM »
ie  The experience of  "going beyond physical reality or material existence" is itself generated from or an artifact of physical reality and material existence. So what is wrong with that?

I doubt that anyone who has experienced it and understands their experience would go around claiming that they "have a special quality/know something which you don't"

With regard to your first paragraph, nothing is wrong with that at all. That is exactly how I tend to interpret transcendent experiences. That was the point, was it not?

With regard to your second paragraph, I see that Susan has already responded, so I have nothing to add.
Sometimes I wish my first word was 'quote,' so that on my death bed, my last words could be 'end quote.'
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SusanDoris

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #13 on: December 06, 2015, 05:41:14 AM »
Don't tell me Susan, you saw Elvis too?

lppy
:) Funnily enough, though, yesterday I started listening to Carl Sagan's 'Contact' - never read it before - and right at the very beginning, the word 'transcendent' is used quite a few times!
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Rhiannon

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2015, 06:01:13 AM »
The OP seems to be using belief in the transcendent to divide people into those who 'get' it and those who are ignorant, even within individual religions. That doesn't strike me as particularly helpful.


ippy

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #15 on: December 06, 2015, 08:35:17 AM »
:) Funnily enough, though, yesterday I started listening to Carl Sagan's 'Contact' - never read it before - and right at the very beginning, the word 'transcendent' is used quite a few times!

I see!

Ippy


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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #16 on: December 06, 2015, 09:26:16 AM »
Actually 'praying' and 'acting' are not two different things. Prayer is a way of influencing the Common Consciousness within ourselves to do the needful in any given situation.

Which might be a valid point if the American politicians were forcing the mass-shooters to pray, bu they aren't. They're offering their own 'prayer of condolence' and still not doing anything about gun control.

In the sense you're using it, 'praying' is just a synonym for 'considering', and it doesn't appear that they're really doing that, they're just publicly saying 'isn't that sad... But hey, automatic rifles in supermarkets rock, right?'

O.
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Emergence-The Musical

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #17 on: December 06, 2015, 10:15:15 AM »
Well I don't care whatever it is any of you say, I'm certain I bumped into Elvis this morning when I was taking my dog for a walk.

ippy
Ippy. How is it going in your mission to find as many ways of saying..........''It's all bollocks....why can't you see that?''?
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Emergence-The Musical

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #18 on: December 06, 2015, 10:19:19 AM »
:) Funnily enough, though, yesterday I started listening to Carl Sagan's 'Contact' - never read it before - and right at the very beginning, the word 'transcendent' is used quite a few times!
If you're looking for down the line, no nonsense atheism in Sagan you won't find it I'm afraid. He could never bring himself to become an atheist.
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Outrider

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #19 on: December 06, 2015, 10:26:55 AM »
If you're looking for down the line, no nonsense atheism in Sagan you won't find it I'm afraid. He could never bring himself to become an atheist.

Arguable. In his own words:

Quote from: Carl Sagan
An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence. Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do now to be sure that no such God exists. To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed

He wasn't a gnostic, certainly, on either side.

Quote from: Carl Sagan
Some people think God is an outsized, light-skinned male with a long white beard, sitting on a throne somewhere up there in the sky, busily tallying the fall of every sparrow. Othersófor example Baruch Spinoza and Albert Einsteinóconsidered God to be essentially the sum total of the physical laws which describe the universe. I do not know of any compelling evidence for anthropomorphic patriarchs controlling human destiny from some hidden celestial vantage point, but it would be madness to deny the existence of physical laws.

I think that makes it fairly clear that he was at best a deist, but I'd presume an atheist as we'd depict it now and (hold on, Vlad) probably a philosophical materialist...

Unfortunately, he's no longer around to give a definitive answer, but whilst he explicitly rules out being a gnostic atheist he - like many people of the time - viewed agnosticism and atheism as positions on the same question.

O.
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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #20 on: December 06, 2015, 11:17:00 AM »

There is a gulf between Sagan and even Cox and the New Atheists and that Gulf of course is wonder. Cox has it, Sagan had it in buckets.

Darwin talks it in the same hedgy way he alludes to agnosticism and cultural Christianity but then counters it by saying ''so what'' if atheism has no message of joy or hope. Douglas Adams had no sense of wonder except to wonder what all the cosmic fuss was about. No wonder with him you only get  parochial suburban atheist flippancy about ''enjoying the garden'' and of course on the other side of the gulf are those who believe the universe just pops up in Adamesque fashion. And of course the interminable claims that we are merely apes, neurons, chemicals and electrical signals etc.........I would move that it is impossible and unreasonable for Atheists to claim Sagan as their own.
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Outrider

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #21 on: December 06, 2015, 11:26:49 AM »
There is a gulf between Sagan and even Cox and the New Atheists and that Gulf of course is wonder. Cox has it, Sagan had it in buckets.

So not really a gulf, then: that implies qualitative differences, not quantitative ones. I'd actually suggest that the real difference isn't the degree of 'wonder' they have, but rather the cultural background in which they were expressing it which influenced their portrayals.

Quote
Darwin talks it in the same hedgy way he alludes to agnosticism and cultural Christianity but then counters it by saying ''so what'' if atheism has no message of joy or hope.

And, again, how much of that is the cultural weight of his time?

Quote
Douglas Adams had no sense of wonder except to wonder what all the cosmic fuss was about.

As a person I don't know a great deal about him to know whether he did or didn't, it's certainly not what he chooses to emphasise in his writings which are more on the absurdities of cultural tropes and bureaucracy. However, even if he were a cynic that's hardly a personality trait unique to those who have no need for faith.

Quote
No wonder with him you only get  parochial suburban atheist flippancy about ''enjoying the garden'' and of course on the other side of the gulf are those who believe the universe just pops up in Adamesque fashion. And of course the interminable claims that we are merely apes, neurons, chemicals and electrical signals etc.........

I find it odd that you, and others attempting to deride those of us that accept the evidence of a naturalistic origin for the universe, think that there's anything 'merely' about it. We aren't 'merely' apes, we're incredible apes, whilst all apes are incredible mammals and so on down. You laud Sagan for his 'wonder' then fail to aspire to it yourself, and fail to recognise it on those others of us that do, it seems.

Quote
I would move that it is impossible and unreasonable for Atheists to claim Sagan as their own.

You could move that, but only on your previous track-record of making assertions without basis. In what way does the phrase 'it makes no sense to pray to the law of gravity' imply this is a man who thinks there's a conscious guide to reality that merits a personal connection?

O.
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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #22 on: December 06, 2015, 12:21:53 PM »
So not really a gulf, then: that implies qualitative differences, not quantitative ones. I'd actually suggest that the real difference isn't the degree of 'wonder' they have, but rather the cultural background in which they were expressing it which influenced their portrayals.

And, again, how much of that is the cultural weight of his time?

As a person I don't know a great deal about him to know whether he did or didn't, it's certainly not what he chooses to emphasise in his writings which are more on the absurdities of cultural tropes and bureaucracy. However, even if he were a cynic that's hardly a personality trait unique to those who have no need for faith.

I find it odd that you, and others attempting to deride those of us that accept the evidence of a naturalistic origin for the universe, think that there's anything 'merely' about it. We aren't 'merely' apes, we're incredible apes, whilst all apes are incredible mammals and so on down. You laud Sagan for his 'wonder' then fail to aspire to it yourself, and fail to recognise it on those others of us that do, it seems.

You could move that, but only on your previous track-record of making assertions without basis. In what way does the phrase 'it makes no sense to pray to the law of gravity' imply this is a man who thinks there's a conscious guide to reality that merits a personal connection?

O.
Nobody who has read me extol the virtues of Sagan ....which now includes you could fail to notice that it his very sense of wonder that inspires me unlike the lack of it in Dawkins, Adams, etc.
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Shaker

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #23 on: December 06, 2015, 12:22:29 PM »
There's a fairly hefty quasi appeal to authority going on here on Vlad's part, it seems. Sagan was a great man and a superb science communicator and his legacy will endure, but his views on God and religion (which I suspect were based very much on the need for diplomacy in an atypically religious nation - another mantle that Neil DeGrasse Tyson has inherited, which Dawkins doesn't need to) are of minor interest, surely? Vlad's fulsome encomiums of Sagan and Cox bears out Dawkins's withering but not inaccurate comment on the Templeton Prize going to scientists prepared to say something nice about religion.
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Shaker

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Re: Transcendence Line
« Reply #24 on: December 06, 2015, 12:26:03 PM »
If you think Dawkins lacks wonder, you should do what you've obviously failed to do so far and actually read him, Vlad. Unweaving the Rainbow - about this issue specifically - would be your best place to start. It was written specifically to refute the daft but prevalent notion that science, while useful, is rather dully utilitarian and inimical to a sense of wonder about the cosmos (something that no scientist worth his or her salt would ever say, incidentally). If anybody needs to read it, Vlad, surely you do.

As for DNA of blessed memory - presumably you haven't encountered his quote: "I'd sooner take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day."
« Last Edit: December 06, 2015, 12:48:45 PM by Shaker »
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