## Is the West in Decline?

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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

Before Spengler and the others, the poet Holderlin (1770-1843) saw the modern age as an age of dearth and lack. It is" the night of godlessness"--an "age of transition and expectation in which the gods or God no longer speak to us and in which the gods or God not-yet reveal themselves in a parousia (the second coming)".

Martin Heidegger picked up on this after he wrote Being and Time. He came to see our time as the time in which the gods have fled and as the time of the God who is coming.

Ours is a time of need. It exhibits a double lack and negation: the No-more of the gods who have fled and the Not-yet of the God who is coming.

Richard Tarnas, author of The Passion of the Western Mind, calls our time, "The Great Initiation". In an initiation there is death and birth-- the death of the child--the birth of the man. In this case it is the death of civilization. And the birth of what?
Last edited by felix dakat on Tue Oct 19, 2021 9:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The purpose of my life would seem to be to express the truth as I discover it, but in such a manner that it is completely devoid of authority. By having no authority, by being seen by all as utterly unreliable, I express the truth and put everyone in a contradictory position where they can only save themselves by making the truth their own.
Soren Kierkegaard– Journals, 432

felix dakat
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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

Well those dudes r wrong because everything is fine and getting better. The only problem mang now faces in his promethean coming of age is the distribution and control of property (not private).

This is not to say that it wouldn't be super fun to interpret the history of mang as some mythological unfolding of metaphysical design and spin stories about great empires falling to the assault of LGBTQ barbarians as we plummet into a new dark age.

The thing about the Spenglers and evolas is that they make history so fucking intriguing and full of diabolical forces that ur like fuck yeah I'll ride the tiger.

But history and evolution is no where near as exciting as they think it is.
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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

felix dakat wrote:Before Spengler and the others, the poet Holderlin (1770-1843) saw the modern age as an age of dearth and lack. It is the night of godlessness--an age of transition and expectation in which the gods or God no longer speak to us and in which the gods or God not yet revealed themselves in a parousia.

Martin Heidegger picked up on this after he wrote Being and Time. He came to see our time as the time in which the gods have fled and as the time of the God who is coming.

Ours is a time of need. It exhibits a double lack and negation: the No-more of the gods who have fled and the Not-yet of the God who is coming.

Richard Tarnas calls our time, "The Great Initiation". In an initiation there is death and birth-- the death of the child--the birth of the man. In this case it is the death of civilization. And the birth of what?

It’s interesting to find you resuscitating this topic, I had been continuing to follow McGilchrist in his “The Master and His Emissary” and also connected to Guénon and Spengler, with regard to his observation that the West had been moving away from a right hemisphere dominated view of the world and becoming left hemisphere orientated. He quotes Jung as saying:
Just as the human body represents a whole museum of organs, with a long evolutionary history behind them, so we should expect the mind to be organized in a similar way … We receive along with our body a highly differentiated brain which brings with it its entire history, and when it becomes creative it creates out of this history – out of the history of mankind … that age-old natural history which has been transmitted in living form since the remotest times, namely the history of the brain structure.
McGilchrist, Iain. The Master and His Emissary (S.. Yale University Press. Kindle-Version.

What McGilchrist’s research shows, is that the brain reveals the developments that these people have been talking about. He goes back in time to discover where culture arose, and asks where did language come from? Where did the themes of mythology come from? How did it develop? And he comes across an astounding possibility, that music could have been the driving force, giving rise to imagination, dance, ritual, theatre and religion. This as far back as perhaps 80,000 years ago, and it was this development that rocketed humanity forward.

… Oliver Sacks writes:
This primal role of music is to some extent lost today, when we have a special class of composers and performers, and the rest of us are often reduced to passive listening. One has to go to a concert, or a church or a musical festival, to recapture the collective excitement and bonding of music. In such a situation, there seems to be an actual binding of nervous systems …
But if it should turn out that music leads to language, rather than language to music, it helps us understand for the first time the otherwise baffling historical fact that poetry evolved before prose. Prose was at first known as pezos logos, literally ‘pedestrian, or walking, logos’, as opposed to the usual dancing logos of poetry. In fact early poetry was sung: so the evolution of literary skill progresses, if that is the correct word, from right-hemisphere music (words that are sung), to right-hemisphere language (the metaphorical language of poetry), to left-hemisphere language (the referential language of prose).
McGilchrist, Iain. The Master and His Emissary (S.104-105). Yale University Press. Kindle-Version.

It is the demise of this broad band of culture, the reduction of taste to subcultures, modes and fashions; a disregard for people who choose expression over a role as a cog in society; the ruining of the wide scope of religious fantasy through reductionist fundamentalism and literalism, and disdain of religious metaphor and symbolism, that people saw as a decline of western culture.
This may sound strange in a time when music is everywhere, but it is an industry, and if you take the average Joe, how many will tell you they can’t sing or act? How much is expression and how much is just consumption?
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

promethean75 wrote:Well those dudes r wrong because everything is fine and getting better. The only problem mang now faces in his promethean coming of age is the distribution and control of property (not private).

This is not to say that it wouldn't be super fun to interpret the history of mang as some mythological unfolding of metaphysical design and spin stories about great empires falling to the assault of LGBTQ barbarians as we plummet into a new dark age.

The thing about the Spenglers and evolas is that they make history so fucking intriguing and full of diabolical forces that ur like fuck yeah I'll ride the tiger.

But history and evolution is no where near as exciting as they think it is.

Well it is true that the ascent of the so-called west since the Renaissance has been driven the whole time by a handful of very obstinate people going against the grain of a sea of imbicility, so to be fair the situation is the same and we can expect further advancement.

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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

The Arab rise was Great, and the caliphates were an incredible shining beacon.

But what sets the Italian Renaissance apart is that the Arabs drew from Greek tradition and incorporated it into their Mohamedan body of knowledge, while when the Italians rediscovered Greece they made it central.

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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

&that's how per heaps made the future perfect sense , tense between the interunction between the Koran and the Bible.

Therein the reactive ideological struggle between then and up to and inclusive to the curtained iron -board of assimilation and rejection.

But here a possible link : sura:740 quoran
& mathew:1924

through perhaps greece

(Where the centrality may need not have been equilateraly. focused as an essential feature through time passages
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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

Pedro I Rengel wrote:Well it is true that the ascent of the so-called west since the Renaissance has been driven the whole time by a handful of very obstinate people going against the grain of a sea of imbicility, so to be fair the situation is the same and we can expect further advancement.

I take it that you mean that the sea of imbecility was the madness of wars going on between the various “noble” houses, empires, or against the peasantry of the land. The wars of expansion and conquest, whoever caused them, the rebellions, revolts and civil wars, the wars of succession, the so-called wars of religion, dominated the lives of people across the planet, despite the rebirth of ancient Greek and Roman culture in the Renaissance, or the cultural development anywhere (the list of conflicts is so huge that it is hard to imagine how any progress was made at all).

It is well documented that, statistically, the so-called Enlightenment has had a gradual effect of the number of wars fought, and that today we are in the lucky position of having less by far than in the times of the Renaissance, although, as you know, we are far away from a peaceful planet. The potential of conflict has only been restricted by the development of weapons that could wipe us all out. That causes something of a stalemate, but very recently we have heard of attempts to overcome this, and even that pandemics could be a solution, albeit a very dangerous “solution”.

One could argue that it was the “handful of obstinate people” that made their contribution to this stalemate, whilst at the same time, belonging to one side of a new conflict, that of the industrialisation and exploitation of natural resources, the death of sustainable agriculture, and the globalisation of the materialist worldview. In this time, the value of the cultural heritage of the Renaissance has been devalued; culture has, to a large degree become the domain of the rich, and the largest societies are developing into oligarchies, leaving millions to struggle, despite there being more money in circulation, and more potential for wellbeing than ever before.

If this isn’t a sign of decline, then because the situation of the poorest people on the planet hasn’t really changed. The fact that we have millions of refugees, people dying of thirst and hunger, and those living under oppression, probably offsets the assumed the progress we think we have made. Of course, for those living in comfort, these signs of decline are not as important as the rise of inflation. But that is a decadence that is equally a sign of decline in my eyes, together with the lack of perspective for millions of people.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot

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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

So from what time are we measuring the change?

Also is it really a "decline" if nothing has changed? are we expecting a progress, the lack of which could be considered decline?

I mean, decadence, materialism and lack of perspective... We've been doing this sort of thing for all of recorded history, there were just fewer of us back then...
Mostly for horrific reasons that MOST of us are now spared, though not all.

Do we really need to mention the obvious benefits of medicine, science and technology on the innumerable dangers, diseases and illnesses that laid absolute waste to so many lives?
How about birth-defects or the trauma of childbirth... dental care and hygiene... and probably the single most critical thing, antibiotics!

As for a moral or ethical decline, nothing has happened there either... we're the same species we were before, except more of us are doing well and that has consequences.

Our lack of absolute terror about our lives, or worse the lives of our loved ones being in peril, being a few bad events or losses away from being cut short, permits us the luxury of being generous with what we have.
There are those who lack any hardship whatsoever and out of boredom or in an effort to find a purpose in life, because there's nothing pressing to do locally, seek out humanitarian causes to champion...
Not often with much effect or forethought, misguided as they might be, the motivation is present... A growing number of people, tightly correlated with their material prosperity, fall in this category.
If only their good intentions were enough... alas the world is too complex and all too often solutions require knowledge and intelligence, not just good intentions.

These sort of statements about a general decline are often born out of a remarkable ignorance of human history, though I'm happy to be proven wrong in this case.
I get that we're far from living in a paradise of peace and prosperity, but that does not mean we've not made dramatic improvements on nearly all fronts.

So I have to ask... what time in history are we comparing this moment to and how was it better?
There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

Mad Man P wrote:So from what time are we measuring the change?

Also is it really a "decline" if nothing has changed? are we expecting a progress, the lack of which could be considered decline?

I mean, decadence, materialism and lack of perspective... We've been doing this sort of thing for all of recorded history, there were just fewer of us back then...
Mostly for horrific reasons that MOST of us are now spared, though not all.

Do we really need to mention the obvious benefits of medicine, science and technology on the innumerable dangers, diseases and illnesses that laid absolute waste to so many lives?
How about birth-defects or the trauma of childbirth... dental care and hygiene... and probably the single most critical thing, antibiotics!

I don’t dispute any of those things you mentioned, and also the statistical improvements overall do show that there are clear signs on the surface that civilisation has benefitted from recent discoveries, only to abuse them and risk their becoming useless (especially concerning antibiotics). I have, on other topics, associated the decline of civilisation with the increase of “left-hemisphere ways of thinking”, curtesy of Iain McGilchrist, but the forms of military or economic imperialism, a consequent overextension of administration, a coarsening of values, and a failure of vitality, vision and integrity, can also be added. I believe that in the nineteenth century there had been cause for hope, but that the cultural move to disassociate progress from the moral groundling that brought us there led to the twentieth century, in which humanity provided a loud encore to the atrocities of past centuries, exceeding the death tolls by far, and threatening the world with extinction.

Of course, there is other evidence from the new century, as was said at the beginning of the topic:
felix dakat wrote:If it weren't for the evidence that we're destroying the environment we live in and causing the 6th great extinction, I might think that civilization was merely changing, that is becoming better in some ways and declining in others. But with the population approaching 8 billion people, the habitat destruction and climate change, it's hard to see civilization improving.

Felix also mentioned Steven Pinker, whose books I found impressive, until I realised that it is statistical evidence that he provides. How statistics cover over the reality of the people at the poorer end of the spectrum can be seen by the “average wage” statistic, in which the figures are tampered with by the astronomical wages of CEOs, who are a small minority, but change the statistics. Secondly, as Churchill said, “I only believe in statistics that I doctored myself”.

As for a moral or ethical decline, nothing has happened there either... we're the same species we were before, except more of us are doing well and that has consequences.

Our lack of absolute terror about our lives, or worse the lives of our loved ones being in peril, being a few bad events or losses away from being cut short, permits us the luxury of being generous with what we have.
There are those who lack any hardship whatsoever and out of boredom or in an effort to find a purpose in life, because there's nothing pressing to do locally, seek out humanitarian causes to champion...
Not often with much effect or forethought, misguided as they might be, the motivation is present... A growing number of people, tightly correlated with their material prosperity, fall in this category.
If only their good intentions were enough... alas the world is too complex and all too often solutions require knowledge and intelligence, not just good intentions.

I can understand your complacency, since we both are in a situation of relative security and wealth, and what concern should I have about the problems of other people? The top 30% of adults hold 97% of the total wealth. According to the OECD in 2012 the top 0.6% of world population (consisting of adults with more than US$1 million in assets) or the 42 million richest people in the world held 39.3% of world wealth. The next 4.4% (311 million people) held 32.3% of world wealth. Most people in the world live in poverty. 85% of the world live on less than$30 per day, two-thirds live on less than $10 per day, and every tenth person lives on less than$1.90 per day. In each of these statistics price differences between countries are taken into account to adjust for the purchasing power in each country. History, it is said, is written by the victorious – perhaps the statistics too.

These sort of statements about a general decline are often born out of a remarkable ignorance of human history, though I'm happy to be proven wrong in this case.
I get that we're far from living in a paradise of peace and prosperity, but that does not mean we've not made dramatic improvements on nearly all fronts.

So I have to ask... what time in history are we comparing this moment to and how was it better?

I think we just refuse to see how fragile our society is, and how the world, slowly emerging out of the pandemic that might not be over yet, is noticing how there are holes emerging in the fabric of society. We have become so globally stretched, that a global catastrophe can cause the collapse of supply chains. The accident at the Suez Canal has led to a lack of availability of many products coming from China. Our dependence upon certain natural resources has meant that the production of semiconductors, upon which our technology is based, has been halted or at least slowed. This has a knock-on effect.

The areas of the world that will be most hit by rising sea-levels (regardless of what caused it) will be pushing out even more refugees, and we already complain about the numbers we have because of the ongoing wars. Societies are militant about an influx of foreigners, and with more seeking refuge, that is likely to increase. What will be the guiding moral standing in this issue? How militant can people get? Well, I suggest you look at the southern states of the USA, and the firepower that has amassed there. Who will move first if the pinch is on?

We are just not seeing our fragility, and it is the poor that will feel it first.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot

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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

Bob wrote:I think we just refuse to see how fragile our society is, and how the world, slowly emerging out of the pandemic that might not be over yet, is noticing how there are holes emerging in the fabric of society. We have become so globally stretched, that a global catastrophe can cause the collapse of supply chains. The accident at the Suez Canal has led to a lack of availability of many products coming from China. Our dependence upon certain natural resources has meant that the production of semiconductors, upon which our technology is based, has been halted or at least slowed. This has a knock-on effect.

The areas of the world that will be most hit by rising sea-levels (regardless of what caused it) will be pushing out even more refugees, and we already complain about the numbers we have because of the ongoing wars. Societies are militant about an influx of foreigners, and with more seeking refuge, that is likely to increase. What will be the guiding moral standing in this issue? How militant can people get? Well, I suggest you look at the southern states of the USA, and the firepower that has amassed there. Who will move first if the pinch is on?

We are just not seeing our fragility, and it is the poor that will feel it first.

You've got me wrong... I'm not arguing everything is roses and rainbows such that you pointing out how precarious our relative comfort is, would strike me as news.
What I'm arguing is that you must have a romantic lense through which you view human history if you think this is WORSE than it was.

People would starve and die if it failed to rain enough, or the population of certain critters dropped due to bird migrations or some such, nevermind natural disasters and diseases for which we had no rapid response nor global charities to help alleviate the suffering.

Kings, queens, lords and ladies owned everything and you owed them your fealty or your life, you got to work for them and keep some of your produce as payment, thanks to their magnanimity... and because you were needed alive to serve.
You had no rights, no prospects, no upward mobility but what your betters decided to gift you... and that's all assuming you were a "free" man.

Meanwhile the church would build grand cathedrals and influence policy with the money and power you gave them because you didn't want some natural disaster or disease to kill your whole family and maybe they could put in a word for you with the big guy upstairs... that is if you weren't literally or figuratively buying a key to heaven because in this world so many things could lay you to ruin that were entirely outside our control, whether you were rich or poor, that the only hope was for a better one elsewhere. And of course, these institutions preached whatever morality was politically convenient for their time, their influence a great aid in controlling the masses for the lords and ladies with whom they colluded.

Money and power was funneled to a select few who used it to accrue more money and power, in any era of humanity, go back a few hundred years or a few thousand. The only difference being it happened on a local level instead of a global one, but it was the same damn thing except you and I would not have been "in a situation of relative security and wealth" in any other era... we would have been the serfs under the thumb of some lord or lady, that is if we were lucky.

Now you're seemingly bemoaning that not yet EVERYONE has such comforts that you and I may enjoy... where I'm grateful that we managed for anyone to have it at all.
If you're saying things could be better, then you've gone about it the wrong way... things could most certainly be better and you'll get no argument from me.
But to suggest things used to be better, seems wildly inaccurate.
There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

Bob wrote:I take it that you mean that the sea of imbecility was the madness of wars going on between the various “noble” houses, empires, or against the peasantry of the land.

Not quite.

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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

We regard the following as the values of the West:

Rationalism: Whereas the development of a rational frame of mind, relying solely on logic and reason to seek absolute truths, has led to a particularly astute observation of life, and is for that reason valuable, an excessive form of rationalism leads towards a lifeless and mechanistic understanding of reality. This is something that has become more apparent in the last century and is incorporated in many assumptions made in the political realm.

It has also been apparent that the rationalist ideal of self-command threatens to break the important connection between moral perception and action. It is particularly visible in the difficulties surrounding relationships. The wealthy libertine has become a hero and the reliable partner has become regarded as a bit of a bore. Consequently, the rise in single households and consequent delinquency amongst young people has become an increasing problem.

Self-criticism: Once, together with humility, thought to be the ideal of an educated and civilized person, self-criticism is now associated more with major depressive disorder. Instead, social media encourages arrogance, boastfulness and immodesty, and the smugness of post-modernity is hardly to be overlooked. There is real conflict growing in the academic institutions, in which the assuredness of an opinion is enough for people to demand the cancellation of another opinion. The mob rules, and this is spreading.

The disinterested search for truth: The ideal of impartiality was held up as a beacon of Western society, but the reliance on funding has caused various areas of science to develop dogmatic stances on certain positions, and scientism has become popular. There is also hardly room for debate anymore, in which conflicting opinions can be tried against each other, with the one conceding to the other when proven to be inferior. Instead, opinions are intertwined with personality and hardly a sign of a disinterested search for truth.

There is also evidence of corruption growing in decision making, and impartiality has suffered for this reason. The recent discussions with regard to the pandemic has shown how governments have made it profitable to be associated with their political parties. The search for the best solution in a crisis was used to benefit friends and promote ideologies.

The separation of church and state: This was once held up as an achievement of Western society, but in American politics, the influence of the Evangelicals and the Jews is so large that potential Presidents have to include policies which will appease the will of these groups, or risk not being elected. On the surface, it may appear that church and state are separate, but the reality of everyday politics is another thing.

The rule of law: We must hope that judges implement the rule of law without bowing to the whims of Governments. In Britain recently, implied by the ruling party, newspapers denounced judges as “the enemy of the people”, and in America, similar statements were made regarding decisions about the validity of the voting process. Parties with a large enough majority have the power to write laws that decrease the democratic rights of people (such as the right to demonstrate) and have begun to do so.

Equality before the law: This is probably the case if a misdemeanour comes before the court of law. There are multiple cases being reported in independent newspapers where this doesn’t happen. There are other cases where friends of the President are pardoned, despite having been proved to have committed a criminal offence. This is obviously something that the average Joe doesn’t experience, because he doesn’t have friends in high places. In Britain there have been multiple examples of “one rule for them, and another for us”.

Freedom of conscience and expression: This was once so highly regarded that you could believe it was true. The fact is, that whereas the state will probably not bother you, there is a growing mob rule that organises itself over social media, that will do everything to silence people, or even destroy their careers, for just stating their opinion. Even biological facts are enough to bring a mob to your door, to burn your books, vandalise your classroom, and threaten you with death.

Human rights: Only recently, the foreign minister of Britain stated “I don’t support the Human Rights Act and I don’t believe in economic and social rights”. This is an opinion that is becoming popular amongst conservative politicians, let alone far right groups. In June 2018 Trump withdrew the US from the UN Human Rights Council, the world’s most important human rights body, in protest of its frequent criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

liberal democracy: The above examples have already been numerous examples of a liberal democracy, but we have seen that the West is going through a stage where voters are not really concerned with a democratic system. They want people to do the job, a strong man or woman, which is dangerously approaching another type of government. There have been numerous worrying similarities in countries thought to be home to a liberal democracy to developments in Germany, prior to the rise of Hitler. The defence of such a democracy is in the hands of the electorate, but countries like Poland and Hungary have given up statutes that limit the power of government.

As I say, there are many indications that the public are weary of the task of protecting the values of the West, and many aren’t even aware of them anymore. Democracy is hard work and if you are not prepared to be involved, you leave it in the hands of people whose engagement is not necessarily in your interest. This is, in my opinion, not only a danger, but a real danger.

Why is this a subject for this forum? Because I believe that we got here by the values of religious people, who were willing to take up the responsibility of government and defend the ideals. I’m not saying that these people were perfect, nor were they all Christian, but they had values that had kept society together over great lengths of time. The danger now is that these values are no longer valid and exactly what values are valid is difficult to distinguish. Without a set of values that people work for, a society is doomed to fall.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot

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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

Another example of the decline of society. This has to do with the rationalist ideal of self-command threatens to break the important connection between moral perception and action:

The epidemic of drinks spiking targeting young women in nightclubs in the UK has a horrific new variant: injecting women in the back or leg with the same drugs. Young women are going to clubs wearing denim jackets and other thick clothing to try to protect themselves from attackers armed with syringes and an apparent desire to harm young women purely for having fun and freedom. Aside from the terrifying use of needles - with all the additional targeted violence and potential risk of hepatitis and more - what is possessing the perpetrators of these acts? Women say that they do not even necessarily ‘pursue’ the young women involved. These are simply random acts of extreme harm. There is a culture here that we must acknowledge and address. We need to face this daily violence and ask why men behave like this.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot

Bob
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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

Bob wrote:Why is this a subject for this forum? Because I believe that we got here by the values of religious people, who were willing to take up the responsibility of government and defend the ideals. I’m not saying that these people were perfect, nor were they all Christian, but they had values that had kept society together over great lengths of time. The danger now is that these values are no longer valid and exactly what values are valid is difficult to distinguish. Without a set of values that people work for, a society is doomed to fall.

That clears things up a bit.

I find it odd to suggest a cause for any new development that was present for a long time prior to that development.
For example the religious values that people held and still hold to some degree existed long before the development of the modern values that you attribute to them.
I doubt religiosity can then be credited with causing these modern values their rise to prominence.

Likewise, I doubt there's much merit to the claim that it's the growing irreligion that is the culprit for the new postmodern confusion.

These developments correlate much more closely with the introduction of new technologies and the subsequent change in methodologies.
The world of ideas is certainly important, but they don't birth themselves out of the ether and grip people or leave them randomly, some new circumstance paves the way for their cultural ascendance or dismissal.

For example, I attribute many of the values you list as "lost" or "under assault" to the introduction of the internet and it's maturation.
We've created a massively competitive market in the world of ideas, people are bombarded with fact and fiction every which way and we are ill equipped to tell the difference most of the time.
It's this, I believe, more than anything else that has shifted the speed with which ideas can be transmitted and the lack of quality control that makes those ideas often foolish and ill considered.
This is not Nietzsche's postmodern predictions any more than it's a sign of the end times... this is our species trying to adapt to a new landscape we've suddenly been introduced to.

Now you might think merely being exposed to ideas isn't suffient cause to accept them.
But speaking as an atheist, it seems to me that truth was never what was attractive to us as a species. Given the prevalence of superstition and religiosity throughout all of our known history
The promise of a better future within our power to attain giving us the illusion of control, empowerment, righteousness, especially for those dispossessed, is far more attractive than is any truth. I know this may seem strange to you, if you believe religious people relinquish control to God, but I'd contend it's actually the opposite. This god character is reasonable, kind and loving... makes a few demands and can promise you paradise or at least relief from misery, either here or in the next life. You are enabled to strike a bargain with the world itself. Now I'm not interested in a theological debate about religious teaching, nor would that be relevant to the point I'm making... most people who were religious were not theologians, for whom God was a metaphor or some such. For most people god was the reason it rained, the reason you were hit by a plague or were spared from one.

The death of religion I believe is far more likely due to those illusions of control being made more and more irrelevant with the advance of our scientific understanding of such things. We don't need to pray to unseen forces that they spare our loved ones yet another plague, when we can get vaccine... the need for such bargains, becomes less prevalent culturally. Now religion does a great deal more than that, but I see a similar pattern for most of the other roles it played. Community and common stories between you and your neighbors, TV and Radio. We hear the same songs watch the same movies, check. Solidarity, community: in many European countries, government programs, unions and aid given during times of need negated the need for a church to organize such things, as well as more dense populations providing ample venues for socializing, check... this is just to give you a sample of an alternative to your hypothesis. And I believe the timing of these events correlate far better with shifts in ideas and culture.

So let's apply this hypothesis to see if we can get an explanation for the rise of postmodernism. The world is suddenly far bigger and more complex than it ever was, everything is interconnected and there are so many voices.
Our ability to model the ethical or moral consequences of our actions is becoming vanishingly small and so the process of evaluating such things is made insurmountable. We have no need for a God, as it's not nature we're bargaining with, and it's not through appealing to some authority that we can claim to be doing right by our fellow humans. We need a simple lense through which to filter the world, without having to show much regard for reason, evidence and all the things that would reintroduce the complexity that made us feel morally impotent in the first place. Simple solutions to complex problems, slogans, oppression charts that help us navigate who we should care for and how much, all to feel like we're doing good and being good, helping to bring into existence a paradise or utopia... and that might downright help us feel morally superior too.

Fundamentally to my eyes, there's hardly any difference between a religious ideology and a postmodern one... they are both sold as an illusion and a balm and used to herd the masses in one direction or another, using similar promises.

Now I don't know where the dominos are gonna land on this new development, this new landscape, we'll just have to wait and see... but one thing is almost certain, it will have to cost us something first.
We will have to be burned to learn how to play with this new fire... it's just a question of how high a price we end up paying before we learn.
Same as it's been since the dawn of time, really... so not much has changed.

Except the tech... that part's pretty sweet when we don't kill ourselves with it.
There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

Mad Man P wrote:I find it odd to suggest a cause for any new development that was present for a long time prior to that development.
For example the religious values that people held and still hold to some degree existed long before the development of the modern values that you attribute to them.
I doubt religiosity can then be credited with causing these modern values their rise to prominence.

I think that we have to differentiate when looking at the history of the church and the rise of modern values. The world has been caught up in power struggles for millennia and the church couldn’t pretend it wasn’t in the world. I am critical of the way the church implemented the power that they received with Constantine, and of course with certain developments that followed. The problem is that as soon as the Church was a state religion, it gained influence and people who wanted influence found it to be an alternative career, especially if they were not in line to inherit power. This was something that the “real” church, and I am convinced that there has been one, couldn’t avoid. That is one reason why the Roman Catholic Church speaks of “the true Church of Jesus Christ” and this was also what the reformation was about. So you can see that inside the church it has been known that it is a struggle.

Even if you don’t believe the dogmas of the church, I feel we have to accept that there are eight fundamental social values of the church have been particularly important in developing the values we have today. These are a few of the biblical values available, but we will do with eight:

Grace This is quite a subversive value! It means giving people more than they deserve. It is the idea of unmerited favour. As a reaction, it is expected that believers retain a sense of propriety and consideration for others. In the brutality of the world, this value was extraordinary.

Hope Hope is one of the most important values that children can develop. Children who are encouraged to hope will be less likely to lose faith or give up. When the going gets tough, they won’t allow themselves to be overcome by discouragement. People who have hope are happier and more satisfied with life. It is based on the hope of the Gospel.

Faith This means to believe in what you are doing, or to put great trust or confidence in something or someone. People who strive for the good of all put their faith in their cause, whether they are Christians or not. Faith is also fidelity to something – a cause, another person, an organization, anything else that is important to you. It also means fidelity to yourself (be true to yourself, said Shakespeare, and you’ll never be false to anyone else).

Love Agape, and its verb form agapao, is one of the several Greek words for love. The Bible also mentions phileo, or brotherly love, and refers to eros, erotic love. Agape, which is the love ascribed to God, is a love that voluntarily suffers inconvenience, discomfort, and even death for the benefit of another without expecting anything in return. The value of love is found through dedication and devotion to something or someone you love.

Justice From a scriptural point of view, justice means loving our neighbour as we love ourselves and is rooted in the character and nature of God. It includes our enemies, (not "just for me"). A concept biased in favour of the disadvantaged. Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on various things such as ethics, rationality, law, religion or equity.

Joy Although it seems banal, joy is experienced when something or someone provides a source of happiness. Today we see joy as only possible, when things are going right, but Christians were encouraged to be joyful when they recognised Kairos, the “right time” or the “moment of opportunity”. To stay healthy physically we need to feel joy. Its high energy clears our thinking, disperses worry and other negative emotions, and relieves stress, the starting place for most illness.

Service This means taking on responsibility and being prepared to serve others before expecting to be served. It means holding other higher in esteem and not living self-centred. Service increases overall life satisfaction and helps you feel relaxed about yourself because you are helping others. It can also help to decreases stress and ease depression

Peace The spirit of the gospel and of the Christian is one of peace, and it is a Christian duty to seek to bring war and strife, abuse, violence, ill-treatment, stress and anxiety everywhere to an end. It is not just the absence of strife, but positive well-being.

The Church wasn’t the only institution that promoted these values, but it was one of the most influential. The caricature that we have of the Church in the past is coloured by bad experiences, but also by stereotyped portrayals in books and films. We always tend to remember the bad and forget the thousands of quiet people in the past who lived according to these values because they were Christians. My observation is that, with the rise of fundamentalism, there are less “quiet” people living according to the values above. I have experienced it in trying to build a network in a small village, so that people living in a care home experience the village community, despite being confined to wheelchairs or to bed, like I did in another village before that. I didn’t even get a reply to my reaching out. Other colleagues told me of similar experiences in other towns. All of us could look back on times when it was not that way. The Pastors shrugged their shoulders and confirmed the problem.

Likewise, I doubt there's much merit to the claim that it's the growing irreligion that is the culprit for the new postmodern confusion.

These developments correlate much more closely with the introduction of new technologies and the subsequent change in methodologies.
The world of ideas is certainly important, but they don't birth themselves out of the ether and grip people or leave them randomly, some new circumstance paves the way for their cultural ascendance or dismissal.

For example, I attribute many of the values you list as "lost" or "under assault" to the introduction of the internet and it's maturation.

Yes, but the internet is a symptom of the decline. Although it has great potential, and great advantages, it manages to amplify the problem at hand, and the fact that society isn’t moving towards common goals, and can’t agree on common goals, causes even more confusion. It is the same with any tool, or instrument, which, depending on the intention of the person wielding it, can be put to good or bad uses.

We've created a massively competitive market in the world of ideas, people are bombarded with fact and fiction every which way and we are ill equipped to tell the difference most of the time.
It's this, I believe, more than anything else that has shifted the speed with which ideas can be transmitted and the lack of quality control that makes those ideas often foolish and ill considered.
This is not Nietzsche's postmodern predictions any more than it's a sign of the end times... this is our species trying to adapt to a new landscape we've suddenly been introduced to.

No, I’m sorry, if you invoke the survival of the fittest, then you might as well be in favour of war to solve the question of competition. Adaption shouldn’t mean accepting the consequences of our effect on our environment as unavoidable. If we accept great losses, especially through hunger and thirst, in our adaption, it would be more humane to use war as the “great adapter” – which is, in my eyes, the main option of decline.

Now you might think merely being exposed to ideas isn't suffient cause to accept them.
But speaking as an atheist, it seems to me that truth was never what was attractive to us as a species.

Says one speaking from a position of comfort. The indifferent search for truth is said to be the great goal of science. Do you think that truth should be disposed of, because it’s not popular?

Given the prevalence of superstition and religiosity throughout all of our known history
The promise of a better future within our power to attain giving us the illusion of control, empowerment, righteousness, especially for those dispossessed, is far more attractive than is any truth. I know this may seem strange to you, if you believe religious people relinquish control to God, but I'd contend it's actually the opposite. This god character is reasonable, kind and loving... makes a few demands and can promise you paradise or at least relief from misery, either here or in the next life. You are enabled to strike a bargain with the world itself. Now I'm not interested in a theological debate about religious teaching, nor would that be relevant to the point I'm making... most people who were religious were not theologians, for whom God was a metaphor or some such. For most people god was the reason it rained, the reason you were hit by a plague or were spared from one.

A rather stereotyped caricature of religion, disregarding the assistance of the church in holding truth up as the great ideal, only to be then ushered out of the door by people who wanted to dispose of the moral aspects.

The death of religion I believe is far more likely due to those illusions of control being made more and more irrelevant with the advance of our scientific understanding of such things. We don't need to pray to unseen forces that they spare our loved ones yet another plague, when we can get vaccine... the need for such bargains, becomes less prevalent culturally. Now religion does a great deal more than that, but I see a similar pattern for most of the other roles it played. Community and common stories between you and your neighbors, TV and Radio. We hear the same songs watch the same movies, check. Solidarity, community: in many European countries, government programs, unions and aid given during times of need negated the need for a church to organize such things, as well as more dense populations providing ample venues for socializing, check... this is just to give you a sample of an alternative to your hypothesis. And I believe the timing of these events correlate far better with shifts in ideas and culture.

I’m sorry, but the word solidarity is a word that America doesn’t seem to understand. In many European countries (I live in one), the church was indeed needed to organise social engagement and for a long time provided more hospitals, clinics, care homes, hostels, social services, etc., and these are still around, despite the private market finding interest in it. I worked for the church in care homes.

So let's apply this hypothesis to see if we can get an explanation for the rise of postmodernism. The world is suddenly far bigger and more complex than it ever was, everything is interconnected and there are so many voices.
Our ability to model the ethical or moral consequences of our actions is becoming vanishingly small and so the process of evaluating such things is made insurmountable. We have no need for a God, as it's not nature we're bargaining with, and it's not through appealing to some authority that we can claim to be doing right by our fellow humans. We need a simple lense through which to filter the world, without having to show much regard for reason, evidence and all the things that would reintroduce the complexity that made us feel morally impotent in the first place. Simple solutions to complex problems, slogans, oppression charts that help us navigate who we should care for and how much, all to feel like we're doing good and being good, helping to bring into existence a paradise or utopia... and that might downright help us feel morally superior too.

The world is getting smaller, but we are getting overstretched in our interdependency and key requirements of societies are being provided by competing nations like China and Russia. If we could agree on human rights, we would be well off. You also confuse complications with complexity. We all know that the human race is complex, but there are people who are complicating things for ego centrical reasons. We need to find common denominators, rather than cut up society in ever more tribes.

Fundamentally to my eyes, there's hardly any difference between a religious ideology and a postmodern one... they are both sold as an illusion and a balm and used to herd the masses in one direction or another, using similar promises.

Now I don't know where the dominos are gonna land on this new development, this new landscape, we'll just have to wait and see... but one thing is almost certain, it will have to cost us something first.
We will have to be burned to learn how to play with this new fire... it's just a question of how high a price we end up paying before we learn.
Same as it's been since the dawn of time, really... so not much has changed.

Except the tech... that part's pretty sweet when we don't kill ourselves with it.

The difference between a religion and an ideology is that whereas religion appeals to conscience, ideology demands adherence. That is why where religion went wrong it warped into an ideology, whereas the postmodern ideology has been one all the time, although it has been getting militanter.

Ideologies are also Marxism, Communism, Nationalism, Fascism, etc. and have been known to cost lives because peoples obedience was put in doubt. Living in an ideology makes you prone to denunciation, and that can be dangerous.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot

Bob
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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

If the state of the world is in a state of simultaneous progress and regress, as it seems to be when I read the morning news, is civilization and its antithesis not simply engaged in the perennial battle between good and evil as mythologized by Zoroastrianism, second temple Judaism, New Testament eschatology, and Manicheism? Only now the players are rationalism versus irrationalism, science versus religion, democracy versus totalitarianism, etc. To me it would seem no different if it weren't for the unavoidable evidence of environmental decline.
The purpose of my life would seem to be to express the truth as I discover it, but in such a manner that it is completely devoid of authority. By having no authority, by being seen by all as utterly unreliable, I express the truth and put everyone in a contradictory position where they can only save themselves by making the truth their own.
Soren Kierkegaard– Journals, 432

felix dakat
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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

Bob wrote:I think that we have to differentiate when looking at the history of the church and the rise of modern values. The world has been caught up in power struggles for millennia and the church couldn’t pretend it wasn’t in the world. I am critical of the way the church implemented the power that they received with Constantine, and of course with certain developments that followed.

This is mental acrobatics to my ears, I have to say.
This sounds like when a communist denounces all the attempts at communism as "not really communism" but corrupted versions... if only we could get it right!

How can you not see, that these religious stories and their efficacy was very much because people, the common people, believed the superstitious version...
What you're selling, sanse the supernatural, is merely re-packaged stoicism, It requires no god... no church... it flies free of any religion and amounts to wisdom, not earned by any christian, but merely inherited, or rather stolen and claimed as their own. Wisdom is valuable, for certain.. but it's not christian.

What IS christian are the stories... and those stories, have a lot of supernatural stuff in them, a cosmic scheme where the world order is the will of a creator God who designed it to comfortably house a certain type of character, A character he has has revealed to us, such that we can live as he intended and reap the rewards of pleasing him, or ignore and suffer the consequences.

Grace This is quite a subversive value! It means giving people more than they deserve. It is the idea of unmerited favour. As a reaction, it is expected that believers retain a sense of propriety and consideration for others. In the brutality of the world, this value was extraordinary.

Yes, this is quite a useful way of getting the peasantry to give what little they have to each other so the nobility don't have to concern themselves with such matters... There's a reason christianity was a useful ideology to adopt. A choice made by emperors, kings and queens... when not made by invading armies... only after a sufficient level of force, accepted by the people.

Do we even know how many dissenting voices were killed or tortured for heresy, through the years? I guess that history was written by the victors as well.

As with all the other values you list... this just seems confused to me.

Do you think the communist party elevated any other value?
That was their whole pitch, the generous distribution of wealth, for the sake of justice, solidarity, a hopeful future, where we don't just say we love each other but show it by sharing everything, etc etc.

Are you under the impression, that this new generation of social justice post-moderns, denigrate Justice, solidarity, optimism etc?
This strikes me as awfully naive, if that's what you believe is the difference.

The difference isn't what values you preach when you're an idealist... but what the specific shape of the ideal world is, that you believe is possible and attainable, that you are willing to make sacrifices to bring about. The values that raign supreme in that ideal world are always the same damn thing, everyone lives in peace, we all look out for each other and there is nothing but love and happiness... but to get there we're gonna have to go through some hard times, make sacrifices, fight those who are too greedy to allow us to build this better future and in the process we will suffer in the short term... but if we have faith... we'll get through it!
But then there's the question of how high a mound of dead bodies does it take for our faith to be shaken?

The addition and widespread belief in an afterlife was no accident... It divorced that ideal world from this one.
No commitment need be made to make this world any specific shape, such that you could hold your leaders accountable for not doing so.
Instead, the emphasis was to live in a way that pleased God, as he was described to you by your literate priest who colluded with your lord, so as to get to that ideal world, after.

We've created a massively competitive market in the world of ideas, people are bombarded with fact and fiction every which way and we are ill equipped to tell the difference most of the time.
It's this, I believe, more than anything else that has shifted the speed with which ideas can be transmitted and the lack of quality control that makes those ideas often foolish and ill considered.
This is not Nietzsche's postmodern predictions any more than it's a sign of the end times... this is our species trying to adapt to a new landscape we've suddenly been introduced to.

No, I’m sorry, if you invoke the survival of the fittest, then you might as well be in favour of war to solve the question of competition. Adaption shouldn’t mean accepting the consequences of our effect on our environment as unavoidable. If we accept great losses, especially through hunger and thirst, in our adaption, it would be more humane to use war as the “great adapter” – which is, in my eyes, the main option of decline.

...

Says one speaking from a position of comfort. The indifferent search for truth is said to be the great goal of science. Do you think that truth should be disposed of, because it’s not popular?

I think you have me wrong, Bob.
I am not trying to defend these developments as good things or cast them as bad... I'm merely observing a pattern and describing it to you.
You might have said the same about nuclear reactors, gunpowder, the printing press, hell even contraceptives... when such things are introduced as options in our lives, where before they were not, there is going to be a period of adjustment. Our motives, ideals and stories rarely change, until they CAN change for the better... or MUST change to survive this new environment. That process of adaptation takes time, however... we don't figure out overnight how to make new things work for us, instead of against us.

For example:
Do you think the hippie, free love stuff just happened to coincide with the mass availability of contraceptives?
Do you think perhaps the spread of STD's like AIDS might have reined that impulse back in? or was that just a coincidence as well?

I don't think these events are unrelated such that the cause be our abandone of christian values of sexual propriety... I think our abandone of such values in favor of another, is the effect of these new options and then constrained by reality punching us in the face for taking it too far.

This need not even be the introduction of new technology, an increase in wealth changes our individual worlds quite dramatically too, introduces new options, causes adaptation.
What I'm trying to suggest is: This is new... give it time, we don't know where we'll end up with it.

I’m sorry, but the word solidarity is a word that America doesn’t seem to understand. In many European countries (I live in one), the church was indeed needed to organise social engagement and for a long time provided more hospitals, clinics, care homes, hostels, social services, etc., and these are still around, despite the private market finding interest in it. I worked for the church in care homes.

I never said otherwise... I'm merely making the claim, that if my hypothesis is true, then as our reliance of those functions dissipates, for example through government programs, when alternative options are made available, that's when you'll see the number of churchgoers start to drop. And that would be true on a locational basis. For example, one would predict that urban areas would see such a drop in attendance much sooner than rural ones, as those alternatives are more readily made available in more densely populated areas.

The world is getting smaller, but we are getting overstretched in our interdependency and key requirements of societies are being provided by competing nations like China and Russia.

Quick correction... THE WORLD is not what I was talking about. OUR world, is.
By that I mean our individual every day world that we interact with and recognize. THE WORLD is too big for us to live in.
But now so too is OUR world as we've been connected to oh so many more people... where before "THE WORLD" was whatever you saw on TV or heard about on the news, and that was already pretty daunting...
Now you can literally look through the window of your screen through someone's Iphone and see a live broadcast of what's happening in egypt, south africa or any other place right now...

You even get to have a conversation with someone who lives in absolute misery and none of your quint notions of "be kind to each other" will help this person's family, who live a few miles away from a war zone, survive the month... and this isn't some charities' infomercial where "if you care give to 2 bucks", with someone helpful to gives you the answers about what to do to help.

What's worse, this man you're talking to is telling you how those charities are mainly helping the people who want him and his family dead...
This isn't some faceless man you heard about on the news anymore... So now you've got a problem, the hell do you know about how to help? If you're somewhat human you want to.. but you're impotent and what's worse is, you're incapable of even analyzing the problem so as to formulate a viable solution.

You're exposed to a bunch of random idiots who all have a hot take on the situation and you're pretty biased because one side of this conflict has your online friend and his family in it... so crowdsourcing isn't proving that useful.

And in the midst of this comes this super simple lense through which you can quickly analyze and instantly tell what the problem is, and what you can do to fix it and identify the people who actively stop those efforts. It's not surprising that it's selling, is what I'm saying... but it's dumb so it's only a matter of time before reality will punch us in the face for buying into it... and then we'll be forced to seek something more viable... it probably won't even be that long.

However, christianity is not an answer to this question... it's not equipped for the task. All it can do is what it has been doing for so long, what Jordan Peterson advises... forget the bigger world and just focus on cleaning your own room, take care of the people around you and make your world a small local area again, leave this stuff to the experts or "your betters".
There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

felix dakat wrote:If the state of the world is in a state of simultaneous progress and regress, as it seems to be when I read the morning news, is civilization and its antithesis not simply engaged in the perennial battle between good and evil as mythologized by Zoroastrianism, second temple Judaism, New Testament eschatology, and Manicheism? Only now the players are rationalism versus irrationalism, science versus religion, democracy versus totalitarianism, etc. To me it would seem no different if it weren't for the unavoidable evidence of environmental decline.

That is how it appears to be, but I would suggest, basing my assumptions on the various authors we have spoken about, that this battle is going on in our brains, and exported into the conflicts of current affairs. Those who have chosen the domination of the left hemisphere, in the interest of science and progress, contradict those of the right hemisphere, who see the wider picture of destruction of environment and culture, which the left hemisphere rationalises.

This may have been similar even back then …
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot

Bob
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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

Mad Man P wrote: This is mental acrobatics to my ears, I have to say.
This sounds like when a communist denounces all the attempts at communism as "not really communism" but corrupted versions... if only we could get it right!

How can you not see, that these religious stories and their efficacy was very much because people, the common people, believed the superstitious version...

What I am saying, is that Religion is a main contributor to the larger picture of Art and Culture, which are motors of social development. This is what makes religious and cultural diversity so important. Cultural education creates new learning cultures and includes participation in the artistic-cultural events of a society. We are talking about the entirety of a society's life processes out of which technical and artistic developments as well as values and norms result. Culture in the narrower sense includes literature, visual and performing arts and music, but cultural diversity is the expression of diverse identities and cultures within and between societies, whereas the rationalism that has taken over tends to look at particulars and chosen to dispense with the larger picture.

What IS christian are the stories... and those stories, have a lot of supernatural stuff in them, a cosmic scheme where the world order is the will of a creator God who designed it to comfortably house a certain type of character, A character he has has revealed to us, such that we can live as he intended and reap the rewards of pleasing him, or ignore and suffer the consequences.

If you don’t accept the mythological and symbolic relevance of religious stories, they are only “supernatural stories”. How can we even attempt to discuss them? You display the classic cynicism towards religion of the rationalistic mind and have no connector at which we could engage. If you conflate Religion with ideology, you can’t distinguish what I am saying.

The rest of your post really convinced me that my thesis is right, but because we are approaching the world from completely different perspectives, there is no point in continuing. Many of your assumptions convince me even more.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot

Bob
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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

Bob wrote:If you don’t accept the mythological and symbolic relevance of religious stories, they are only “supernatural stories”. How can we even attempt to discuss them?

We're not talking about a "hypothetical" religion... so that must mean we're talking about the ACTUAL religions that have existed and acted on the world for millennia.
We're operating as though the facts of the real world are different... I agree this is a problem.

You seem to be under the impression that these stories and the difference they made was born out of some high minded spiritual fulfillment and purpose they provided, but that's not what happened on the ground where people lived. It did modify behavior, it did instill values, it did bring people together it did give them community and provide them art and culture and all those good things and it did all those bad things too. But it did them through LIES... now you call them symbols, but people believed they were REAL, not merely stories, but history... a shocking number of them STILL DO!

I can send you a harrowing amount of testimonials from people alive TODAY.... I'm not trying to suggest religion never did any good in the world, atheism would have risen to prominence or the religion would have destroyed the societies it occupied long ago, instead of persisting this long. So obviously that's not the case, but the means by which it achieved this required the LIE... And if you're proposing we reintroduce it, without the lie and it will once again do what it used to do for us, I wholeheartedly disagree with that prediction... and I doubt it could even be done today. We no longer require the same lies to move us... which is why I believe religion is losing its perches on people.
There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

Mad Man P wrote:We're not talking about a "hypothetical" religion... so that must mean we're talking about the ACTUAL religions that have existed and acted on the world for millennia.
We're operating as though the facts of the real world are different... I agree this is a problem.

You seem to be under the impression that these stories and the difference they made was born out of some high minded spiritual fulfillment and purpose they provided, but that's not what happened on the ground where people lived. It did modify behavior, it did instill values, it did bring people together it did give them community and provide them art and culture and all those good things and it did all those bad things too. But it did them through LIES... now you call them symbols, but people believed they were REAL, not merely stories, but history... a shocking number of them STILL DO!

I think the large part of the problem with people judging religion of the past is that they do so by the standards of today and today’s experience of lived religion. The Christian Fundamentalist movement actually rose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries within Protestantism in the United States against biblical criticism and modernist theology from Europe as well as changes in the social and cultural scene of the country. I can actually remember how, in the 1970’s, Billy Graham led a crusade that split the church here in Germany. I was initially taken along with the wave, but soon noticed its failings. I returned to the theology of the years before and began recognising the value of the mystics and their various organisations, realising that a non-political and essential Christianity was conducted away from the large cathedrals, often amongst Friars and Monks, who lived in poverty.

There are still today books being reproduced that show that Christianity away from the political centres was a contemplative, quiet movement, that used allegory and fable, and recognised metaphor and symbol as a method of spiritual access to the truth of the Bible. The people used the painting in monasteries and churches to follow the story of Christ, the 14 stations of the cross being a favourite meditation. Meditation paths and pilgrimages were also important and even today, away from fundamentalist parishes, you can still experience them. The fact that this has survived through the upheavals of wars and modernity is a sign of their value. There are examples of brethren leaving Europe and travelling to India, living as a Sannyasin and being revered by the population (Bede Griffiths), and people like Thomas Merton discovered the similarities between Taoism, eastern monastic traditions, and Christian monastics. There is such a broad wealth of experience that Americans find it difficult to grasp, being under the impression that fundamentalist Christianity is it.

I can send you a harrowing amount of testimonials from people alive TODAY.... I'm not trying to suggest religion never did any good in the world, atheism would have risen to prominence or the religion would have destroyed the societies it occupied long ago, instead of persisting this long. So obviously that's not the case, but the means by which it achieved this required the LIE... And if you're proposing we reintroduce it, without the lie and it will once again do what it used to do for us, I wholeheartedly disagree with that prediction... and I doubt it could even be done today. We no longer require the same lies to move us... which is why I believe religion is losing its perches on people.

Wouldn’t you say, looking at what I have just written, that the testimonials you can provide today, that it is a sign of decline? Perhaps American Christianity was never the same as European Christianity, considering the Puritans fled to America, after seeking to purify the Church of England of Roman Catholic practices, maintaining that the Church of England had not been fully reformed and should become more Protestant. Perhaps that was the basis of American Protestantism, drawing as they did inspiration from the writings of the religious reformer John Calvin, who is big in America.

The Puritans had come to North America in order to worship freely without fear of persecution, but they were not interested in the religious freedom of others. The Massachusetts Bay Colony, though not a theocracy, was informed by Puritan belief and demanded strict adherence to proper behavior (as defined by the Puritans) from its citizens. Native Americans were considered in dire need of salvation and so missionaries were sent to convert the neighboring tribes which resulted in so-called 'praying Indians' who were no longer welcomed by their people and were considered inferiors by the Puritans and so were relegated to a kind of no man's land in between the two.
https://www.worldhistory.org/Puritans/

It could be that your vision of Christianity is coloured by this influence on American Protestantism.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot

Bob
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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

Bob wrote:It could be that your vision of Christianity is coloured by this influence on American Protestantism.

Here's the problem, as I see it... you think the literate people who spent their time studying theology and reading philosophy, writing meditations on the meaning and value of christian teachings were representative of what people believed. Where as such stories about narrow-minded literalism emerge, often not in the form of any doctrine, but as events recorded in history, as most people were illiterate and uneducated and did not write down their beliefs, but they did act them out.

Now unfortunately I don't carry around a list of such recorded events that clearly demonstrate the beliefs of the average person to whom the church preached... but it would not be hard to find. Assuming you have spent time studying philosophy, you ought to see the subtext of what thinkers from different eras were alluding to, the problems they meant to address. The bemoaning of this phenomena is quite near ubiquitous.

I'm not claiming this superstition is a consequence of christian teaching, merely being taken advantage of by it. That superstitious tendency predates christianity and all of recorded history... It's worth noting the import of that human impulse and naive to imagine it does no work. Healing crystals, astrology, alternative medicine, new age voodoo, all fine examples of things that take advantage of our human superstition, divorced from any religious teaching, but considered spiritual, all the same.

What's more, a problem in our conversation seems to be tone is not communicated well. You keep reading my pointing out the practical utility of christianity as "cynical". Keeping the poor and miserable masses from killing the rich and powerful to take their stuff is a consequence of christian, hell most, religious teaching... I don't know why pointing that out seems like a cynicism, to you. For our history to functionally be what it was, SOMETHING had to perform that feat. Ideally not only that, but keep the masses loyal to the crown so as to send their sons to war and death when required.

This is not me being cynical, but analytical... these were necessary things for our history to have been what it was. People had to believe, that this structure was acceptable or necessary.
Even the most heinous actors in human history, believed themselves heroes, champions of justice and prosperity. Willing to make the sacrifices to get to paradise or the utopia just around the bend.

If we cut to the bottom line for me, Bob... at the end of the day, I think tethering our judgement of good and bad, better or worse to the reality of human well being is the only way we avoid the idealism that spawns ideologies.
Our morality ought to be empirical and pragmatic, not an intellectual exercise in the theoretical or worse divorced into the spiritual... Going through that door is what allow us to perform mental acrobatics with words like "grace" and "love", claiming them as part of our intellectual property or heritage... that conversation is an absolute and monumental waste of everyone's time and effort... and it's fruits are always rotten.

We adopt and abandone ideas, for their utility... and we pay a heavy price every time we do it the other way around.

So if you want to know if we're on the right track... look at how we're faring.
Last edited by Mad Man P on Sat Oct 23, 2021 3:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

"Keeping the poor and miserable masses from killing the rich and powerful to take their stuff is a consequence of christian, hell most, religious teaching... "

[bump]
promethean75
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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

"Healing crystals, astrology, alternative medicine, new age voodoo, all fine examples of things that take advantage of our human superstition, divorced from any religious teaching, but considered spiritual, all the same."

You forgot to include placebo effect in your list. Placebo has a demonstrably significant healing effect in controlled experiments despite the fact that it is merely based on false belief. Isn't that the very definition of superstition? Yet it works!
The purpose of my life would seem to be to express the truth as I discover it, but in such a manner that it is completely devoid of authority. By having no authority, by being seen by all as utterly unreliable, I express the truth and put everyone in a contradictory position where they can only save themselves by making the truth their own.
Soren Kierkegaard– Journals, 432

felix dakat
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### Re: Is the West in Decline?

felix dakat wrote:"Healing crystals, astrology, alternative medicine, new age voodoo, all fine examples of things that take advantage of our human superstition, divorced from any religious teaching, but considered spiritual, all the same."

You forgot to include placebo effect in your list. Placebo has a demonstrably significant healing effect in controlled experiments despite the fact that it is merely based on false belief. Isn't that the very definition of superstition? Yet it works!

*sigh*

I'm sure plenty of religious rituals, as well as new age practices have a placebo effect... and beyond that do other good things, like bring people together in a shared interest, forming new friendships and bonds, communities, provide avenues for people to express themselves creatively and inspire them to do so. They even provide alternative means of seeking peace out of bounds of the normal social conventions, like explore say a monastic life or one of contemplative meditation, without being preoccupied with the acquisition of material wealth or the earthly horrors of it's privation... Of course all of this is a luxury afforded by the necessities of life and liberty being provided from elsewhere... but it's not always wasteful, sometimes they produce art or express insight of great value to others and sometimes works so great that we would all be poorer for having missed out on it.

I'm not blind to the upsides, felix... I'm trying to point out the inherent liabilities, that are being ignored. So that's why I "forgot" to mention it.
There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

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