Monday, December 17, 2007

Naturalist vs. Atheist

Both of the terms in the title of this blog post describe me, but after reading an essay in Christopher Hitchens' latest book I have decided that the first one (naturalist) better describes me than the second one (atheist). More on that in a moment.

The book, The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever, is highly recommended reading. It is a compendium of articles and essays written by a variety of different atheist luminaries. The book is thought-provoking and easily digested in small bites.

Anyway, one of the essays toward the end of the book succicntly discusses why the term naturalist is better (for atheists) than the term atheist. Basically, it is because the term "naturalist" defines the person in terms of what s/he embraces and not in terms of what s/he does not. A naturalist "believes in" the natural world around him and what can be viewed, measured, and enjoyed in nature. I like this and it defines me well.

Secondarily, being defined as a naturalist allows me to define theists as supernaturalists. That is they "believe in" things that can not be seen or measured in nature. It lumps them in with believers in ghosts, fairies, unicorns, and leprachauns. And rightly so, for these things are all supernatural.

Ahh.... do you feel it? I feel all refreshed and redefined heading into the holiday season and next year...



I remember in high school English class learning about the Romantics and their use of nature to explain what the hell was going on in the living world. I felt an affinity for this type of thought and it has populated my belief system since. Instead of using the word God, I always prefered using Mother Nature. Count me as a naturalist too.

Ceroill said...

I think I'm still an agnostic.

coreydbarbarian said...

ah, the romantics...great band!
what i like about you! hey!...uh huh!

what kind of high school did you go 2, bawdy?? ;-)
in english class, no less.

2 the issue: i think it is important to frame the issue for yourself, and in a positive fashion. naturalist vs. atheist is similar to progressive vs. liberal or pro-choice vs. pro-abortion, etc.

also, i kinda like the tag 'supernaturalist'. i could live with that.

since i do believe in things unseen and unproven, the term seems apt. however, x-rays and thermal imaging are unseen and were once unproven. at one time, they were considered make believe.
but what amazing new things we've "seen" with them!

i figure there is still more unknown stuff out there than known, ya know?

and i guess that is very different from those supernaturalists who believe in a magic book or magic church or magic cult leaders with magic kool-aid.

mmm. kool-aid.

all this talk of framing makes me recall a lecture i heard once...thom hartmann speaking at a bioneers conference in 2005, i's the text (mp3 costs $4.95).

Beyond Framing: How Deep Neuro-Linguistic Programming Communicates

this too is highly recommended. : )

derF said...

I always knew I had good reasons for liking you, coreyd, Bioneers is just one of them.



It was just a regular run-of-the-mill public high school.


coreyd,(sorry I forgot the "d" in the previous post)

Thanks for the Bioneer link, it got me to thinking which could be dangerous. The pejorative stance Hartmann has of the word consumer leads me to think we need to use an adjective such as "excessive" or "unrestrained" as even he agrees, part of being a citizen is being a consumer of things. Consumerism, I will agree is bad, but the word consumer is, in essence, a benign term. Just adjusting the framing a little.

And I guess what confuses me about the so-called "progressive movement" is the call for universal healthcare. Most who have read my posts, for bad or good, know I am for healthcare savings accounts, whether offered by companies or states(not, for goodness sakes by the federal government for the reason below) because this gives the "consumer" the freedom to choose how the dollars are spent and if anything is left over it is theirs to keep and do what the want with it. My question to those in favor of universal healthcare is, would the citizenry have more freedom or less if we went with this kind of system. As envisioned by most proponents, this system would be administered by the federal government who as we already know is in bed with a multitude of corporate interests.

And, the seemingly weary of me derF, this is what confuses the hell out of me about you and why I keep asking you to relate to me in your own words your vision of what you would like to see(which I believe is a legitimate request). Yesterday on NPR, most if the talk was about Bush's signing of the energy bill and the CAFE standards included which precluded the State of California's(and 17 other states)standards which are much tougher than the ones in the federal legislation. Most of the "progressives" interviewed were aghast at Bush and the EPA and were backing California's threat to sue the federal government. This looks to me like an area that federalism is making the right choice and one which I would think you would be in agreement with. You have to know Bush signed this bill with big corporation's blessings(and with taking out tax credits for big oil, which I don't agree with as it is corporate welfare, even though I am a shareholder of Exxon stock)because of the predictability involved and the lobbying of only the one entity(the federal government). I glean from your postings the environment is one of your big issues. I also figure the Bioneer's view of global corporations is pretty much in line with yours. Now this is where I get confused with you, if federalism could chip away at corporation's power over this country by having 50 laboratories setting the table and environmental issues being settled on a more local basis, why would you be against this?

Also, and this may be quibbling, but this is your quote from another thread on this subject:

"Corporations are chartered on a state level. So, 50 different sets of laws have been regulating them."

True, corporations are chartered at the state level, but they only have to be chartered in ONE state(most notably Delaware, where the costs and restrictions are less onerous)not all and it is up to the states themselves whether they regulate that particular business the corporations are involved with or not. Granted, some states are less restrictive than others, but with a strong investigative and independent press, educated citizens can make the decisions they need to on a more local level(something they may feel more empowered to do because it is local and would effect them at a more intimate level); and isn't that what freedom is all about? Add to this the fact that some states would be and are very restrictive(California,for one, a state which a corporation would be a fool not to want to do business in)and the corporations would have to account for this; which would require resources to solve this predicament(in effect, a wing clipper).

I am in total agreement with Mr. Hartmann about communication, rapport and humanity as a whole. This is why I tout the Internet so much. If an American can have a conversation with someone in China or Africa, doesn't this tie us effectively as the same species residing on the same small planet? Can't this be a tool to promote empathy for other societies? Doesn't this make the world a smaller place and make each others goals more as one? Tie this together with the power of the consumer(benign form), ultimately the group who gives the corporations there power and can take it away, and I envision a world which can become a better place for all with freedom for all. What is your vision, derF?

derF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
derF said...

In my own words, eh? Ha ha ha!!! That’s rich! Especially when it is coming from someone who spouts the same anti-Malthusian rhetoric that for forty years has infused America’s public discourse. Basically what it expresses is the proposal that we should ignore the trauma of our actions in hopes that our genius will devise a remedy. It advocates a social, political and economic blindness. In fact, it has been repeated so frequently as to have constructed the perception that the people mistake this dross for gold. I tell you what, I’ll speak freely and you can judge for yourself which words are mine and which I share with others. Nybletzm!

I believe deep down, we both want this world to change. I believe that America can remain our cage or it can become our chrysalis, that's what you helped me to understand. That to be free; you cannot just change your cage. You have to change yourself.

When I used to look out at this world, all I could see was its edges, its boundaries, its rules and controls, its leaders and laws. But now, I see another world. I see a different world where all things are possible. It is world of hope. It is world of peace.

I can't tell you how to get there, but I know if you can free your mind, you'll find the way.

Ceroill said...

Very interesting, guys. Y'know, I found once an interesting perspective on the whole 'universal healthcare' thing. Someone or other noticed that those against 'universal healthcare' (that is govt. run healthcare)seem to have nothing against govt run police and fire departments.
This brings some questions to my mind: 1- If this is so, is it because they don't think private enterprise would do a better job at these functions? Is it because they don't want those functions to be as profit driven as the healthcare business is?
2- If this is not so, then why is there no hue and cry about them like there is healthcarE?

csm said...

re:healthcare - the thing I find funny is when someone rails against national healthcare and in the next breath says "and they better not touch my medicare."

What the heck do they think medicare is if not a form of national health care?

Ceroill said...

Merry Christmas, guys and gals.



You are mixing up municipal government duties with the federal government. If you want the federal government to put out your house fire go ahead and push for it and good luck. I have heard this arguement before, but you have already seen how well our federal government acts in a disaster, it was called Katrina. If they can't help in a situation they DO have jurisdiction over; just think how well they will do in your house-is-burning-up situation. Local politicians and bureaucrats are beholden to the local people and if they don't follow through their feet are much closer to the fire(figuratively).

And csm, I have considered Medicare a mistake from the beginning and it will fall on our shoulders(and all generations after)to pay for the trillions of dollars of liabilities which will be incurred. All throughout my twenties and thirties I would tell anyone who would listen that I would give up any Social Security benefits(this includes Medicare)if they would stop taking out the taxes from my paycheck. I am in my forties now and getting close to the tipping point where I would stop taking that trade-off, but I still think I would do it now if given the chance. As a disclaimer, I am not independently wealthy and still live paycheck to paycheck.



I will have to say your last post addressed to me has got to be one of the nicest in recent memory. I would love to hear how I helped you to see, as you say, the need to change ourselves and not just our cage.

Even though you believe I spout "anti-Malthusian rhetoric", I want you to believe me when I tell you much of what I "spout" comes from me. Are they original thoughts? According to you, I guess they aren't; but I will tell you you know the sources of such thinking better than I, as I am not one to steal another's rhetoric. I do not read much non-fiction(I gather this can be construed as a relative term), never did really. I believe prose is an artistic occupation and I find many non-fiction writers lacking. (Anybody out there know of someone in the non-fiction ilk who can best Cormac McCarthy?)I get the bulk of my news from NPR. I do get much material from Cato(which I know you have problems with, maybe this is where the anti-Malthusian rhetoric comes from, you'll tell me). And I fill in the blanks with Strategic Forecasting, an organization I have talked of before, who provides straight world intelligence without a bias. That is it. I take this information and run it through my humble noggin and Voila, out comes my posts.

Through this humble noggin of mine, I think I have found our central difference. I believe you fall on the more pessimistic side of the fence and I, the more optimistic. You are correct when you state that I believe our genius will devise a remedy for our ills. I get this from my father(directly as a matter of fact, I remember the conversation as if it were yesterday). This brings up my last point of this post. You posted:

"Basically what it expresses is the proposal that we should ignore the trauma of our actions in hopes that our genius will devise a remedy".

My question to you my friend is, how is working on a plan to fix a trauma with whatever genius we can muster ignoring the problem? To me this would constitute an attempt to solve the problem, not just pointing out the problem, which I will have to say you are an expert.

Ceroill said...

Bawdy, very well answered, thanks! I did realize the federal/local angle myself, but I wonder how many others would have picked up on that. I was curious to see just how you would respond, and you did not disappoint me in the least. Thanks. I find it interesting how common tunnelvision seems to be at times. Not that I expected that of anyone here.

csm said...

Being in my 40's, too, Bawdy, I think I'd forgo social security payments if they'd just stop taking them from my check. Of course, I know this will not happen and I just hope that there will be sufficient funds to pay me back something when the time comes. I'll start withdrawing from social security as soon as is allowable.

And just to be clear, even though I'm sure you know this, my medicare/national health care comment was not directed at you (or anyone who posts here).

Ceroill said...

Hey I just saw this link at BoingBoing:

Sorry I had to chop it up, but it was a bit long. Enjoy.

csm said...

That is truly bizarre, Bob. Did you follow the link to The Gospel of Christian Atheism? The guy that wrote that is one mixed-up dude.

Ceroill said...

No, I just loved the picture.

derF said...

When I was a young guy, on the farm, I used free-time to prepare myself as a future cour-de-bois. I had read in some book, maybe Fenimore-Cooper, that the lake peoples used a peculiar way of walking to pass through the brush silently. So, I spent hours and days practicing for a profession that has no place. It wasn't totally pointless, though. Each foot-fall taught me the presence of now. It's a moment that is altered with each step. It's a moment that can't be replaced. That is why foresight is more precious than hindsight and that is why ignoring cautionary voices is a step towards our own peril.

It's not the foot-fall; it's where and how you place it.

coreydbarbarian said...

i was gonna be a ninja when i grew up...