Category Archives: Religion

Articles related to religion

The Kiss of Death

Yesterday I finally got round to seeing the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich (the one with the sexy longitudinal grid coordinates). Although regarded as the number one naval museums I found it personally disappointing, about which more in a later article.

I arrived for a talk on the death of Nelson, which was excellent and the highlight of the visit, and the guide said something that caught my attention. When Nelson asked Hardy to kiss Nelson our guide seemed to be very keen that we should understand that this wasn’t a sexual kiss—which I think is a historically respectable sentiment (whichever way you look at it people who are departing are not in the mood for sex) but otherwise I don’t see the point in making such a fuss, but this was not what caught my attention. According to the narrator Hardy knelt and kissed Nelson on the cheek and then administered what she seemed to call the ‘kiss of death’ (though I can find no other instance of the phrase being used in this way)—this was the bit that struck me—Hardy kissed him on the forehead, a common practice that had the effect of settling sailors in death according to our guide.

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New-Age BS

In a comment to my Metaphysical Bloviation (II) article I found the following, an extract from Meditation is a Revolution in Religion:

Intuitive Intelligence

In the East for thousands of years,
disciples have been sitting by the side of the master,
just doing nothing.
It looks strange to the Western mind: what is the point of sitting there?
If you go to a Sufi gathering, the master is sitting in the middle,
and all around his disciples are sitting silently,
nothing is happening, the master is not even saying anything.
hours pass…

It took me a while to establish whether this was a robo-blog and I am still not absolutely sure. In case it is isn’t I am sorry, but this does rather strike me as a lot of New Age tosh. I have spent a fair amount of time around people from the ‘east’ and do spend much time around westerners that have adopted systems of eastern derivation, and believe me, I see none of the described differences but the usual mix of the confused and those addicted to BS.

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Metaphysical Bloviation (II)

The Ducks have challenged me on my pleas for metaphysical tolerance and Hey Skipper has posted some reflections on an Economist article, When Religions Talk, asserting “By definition, religions assert mutually exclusive metaphysical claims”.

Robert Duquette strikes close to the heart of the issue in his comment on my article:

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Ye shall know them by their fruits (I am back!)

I hit quite a block after posting that acknowledgment of what a superior blogger Yglesias is. To what extent was it ego? I don’t know: it is difficult to be sure, but I suspect it was one of several factors.

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Metaphysical Bloviation?

Over at talkingphilosophy blog Jeff Mason has an elegant essay on metaphysics that takes the Kantian view that the physical sciences are the source of all knowledge and everything else is mere speculation. My problem with this essay, and Kant’s critique, is that they are the worst examples of the very thing that they are complaining about—making, as they do, grandiose excessively-general statements about the nature of reality that are quite immune from empirical or logical examination, the most extravagant metaphysical conceit of them all. The genre really should be called metametaphysics as it installs itself as the last arbiter on truth and preemptively disqualifies, tout court, anything that could offer an alternative to its dogmatically positivistic understanding of reality.

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On a Wing and Prayer

Andrew Sullivan on the news of Tim Russert’s death last week asked his readers:

Say a prayer for his family, if prayer is your thing. Especially his dad, for whom this coming Sunday may be extremely painful.

As prayer was my thing I indeed took up his suggestion, but only afterwards realized of the possible incongruity of a Buddhist responding to a Christian’s exhortation to pray.  Some of you may be wondering whether it makes any sense for Buddhists to pray, as prayer is asking God to fix something and Buddhists don’t believe in God, right.

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The Love Buzz

I am aware that my article on Ahmadinejad will probably be comprehensible and attract much ridicule in some quarters (as may my earlier articles, On Zionism, though in different quarters). That is not a problem but it would be a shame. The whole issue is actually intimately related to my recent essay On Love and many other articles on the need to keep head and hart unified, to avoid allowing our ethical judgments be dominated by sentiment (the modern mistake and the central theme of Sense and Sensibility and all of Jane Austen’s novels in my view). Here I will try to draw these themes together and fulfill a promise to reply to a fellow blogger.

Robert Duquette, commenting on my essay, On Love, questioned this effort do all this loving through the intellect, and encapsulated Taleb’s idea (explained in his book, The Black Swan) that our memory, and indeed our whole way of understanding reality, is narrative driven, leading us to simply ignoring or immediately forgetting information that fails to fit the narratives that makes up our understanding of reality. Taleb’s idea makes perfect sense to me and is compatible with what my Buddhist teachers have taught me (as I have understood them).

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