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Questions (and answers?) > To what extent are Man's choices influenced by his environment?

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message 1: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer I was thinking about Macbeth and this question popped in my mind. For those who have yet to read the play, the story began with Macbeth as a good person who in my opinion, made the wrong choice of killing the king duncan as he was influenced by his environment (Lady Macbeth, the witches and the annoucement of Malcom as the successor)even though there's a desire in him to become king.

Imagine if you and your friend were hiking when both of you fell into a hole. Somehow, help will only come in 3 weeks but both of you know that none of you can last that long without food. Would you become a cannibal to survive?

Another circumstance will be that your friend died immediately from the fall into the hole. Would you eat him?

message 2: by Colleen (new)

Colleen | 67 comments Charly,
I can't even pretend to know what I would do in that circumstance. I know that the will to survive is strong in me. One could even look at the death of the friend as his last gift to help you survive.

I was having an interesting chat the other day with a friend about hypothetical questions.
This dialogue reminds me of that.

Because I know that I do have a tendancy toward being a chameleon, my super-ego reaction would be how important it would be to stay the course no matter what. My spirit on the other hand knows that when circumstances change so do some of my answers for myself.

I am not saying that my intergity is in question only my absolutes.

With my whole heart,

message 3: by Carlie (new)

Carlie | 86 comments I am a scientist. Yes I would cannibalize to survive. Why?
Well, why is there an assumed difference between eating animal flesh and human flesh? DOes anyone realize that the same molecules (proteins, fats, sugars) you get out of animal flesh is found in human flesh?......sure, there are subtle differences in an amino acid here and another there but it's the same hemoglobin, myoglobin, etc. As far as flesh goes, it's the same thing. skin over fat, over muscle, over bone. If it's okay to eat animals, it's okay to eat people.
But there is a caveat. This assumes I want to survive. For some reason I lack the survival instinct. If I had a chance to die, I'd take it. I'm sick of this place (earth) and all its limitations. Maybe next year I'll feel differently, but for now, if I get a curable cancer, I will refuse treatment. I am not afraid of death, in fact, I look forward to it.

message 4: by Colleen (new)

Colleen | 67 comments Carlie,

February 2006 (though my reasons and general energy was a lot different from what you are experiencing right now) I too welcomed the idea of death. I was even given the gift of believing that I only had three months to live. Like the song says "I went rocky mountain climbing" (actually I went to Oregon and experienced a new appreciation for this wonderful world, that I believed I would be leaving"

When my believed date of departure came and went I decided to begin an amazing journey of self-discovery. If I was going to be a part of this earthly experience I wanted to make a difference.

Because of that journey I have a company of my own and I support another company. Both have one general theme running through them. Connection is so important to each and everyone of us.

No man is an island and each man's death would be a loss to the human family. We are not mere animals but have a light inside us that assists in making the world a better place. Carlie you would be greatly missed so if given the opportunity I hope and pray that you would choose to stay and make this world a better place.

With my whole heart,

message 5: by Carlie (new)

Carlie | 86 comments "No man is an island and each man's death would be a loss to the human family"
well the human family experiences thousands of losses everyday, so why the hell not me?

Since you've been there, I'm sure you understand that your message seems like a lot of sentimental hogwash to me in the state that I currently am in. Like you, I also want to make a difference, but my ideas are too lofty and apparently unreasonable and I can't be sure any difference I make won't be overtaken by the greedy once I'm gone. So, for now, I'll wallow in my "negativity" and wish I didn't have to live through this nonsense called life.

I hope this is only a stage that all people who change the world have to go through. But it would suck to finally appreciate life and have to leave it as we all do.

message 6: by Wendy (last edited Aug 30, 2008 07:46AM) (new)

Wendy (wendywins) | 103 comments Carlie,
You are the person who can create meaning in your life.
A friend of mine's kid inquired as to why people were fighting wars and his father told him that the two sides differed over what would happen after death. The kid said.."Why dont they just wait?" (and see). A practical response! I say we need to focus on the here and now and create as good a world here as we can, for us , for our kids and for everyone (including animals etc!).
Individuals can change this world and bring hope etc (Look at the amazing impact Obama has already had on hope and self image in America).
Cant you look at those who need help and decide to offer what you can ? I was the catalyst for starting a school in Afghanistan in a village where there had never been a school and the illiteracy was likely 95% at least. Now over 1,000 kids are in primary school. And others have attended and left. All families there have been positively impacted. You may be a decision away from changing someone's world.

message 7: by Carlie (new)

Carlie | 86 comments I agree that helping others is important. I do anyway even though I feel like it's worthless. If everyone dies anyway, what's the point? I helped someone, and? I'm so sorry y'all but I've been having an existential crisis for the last couple of years. Some days, I go to church, and I feel completely hopeful, but then on other days I just feel like "what's the point of all this?" I'm just gonna give it time.
But it's really nice to see that there are so many other nice people out there. I admire your effort Wendy.

message 8: by Colleen (new)

Colleen | 67 comments Carlie,
All any of us have guanteed in this life is this moment. I love the song "This is the Moment".

"This is the moment!This is the day,
When I send all my doubts and demons
On their way!

Every endeavor,I have made - ever -
Is coming into play,Is here and now - today!

This is the moment,This is the time,
When the momentum and the moment
Are in rhyme!

Give me this moment -This precious chance -
I'll gather up my past
And make some sense at last!

This is the moment,When all I've done -
All the dreaming,Scheming and screaming,
Become one!

This is the day -See it sparkle and shine,
When all I've lived forBecomes mine!
I won't look down,I must not fall!
This is the moment,
The sweetest moment of them all!

This is the moment!Damn all the odds!
This day, or never,I'll sit forever
With the gods!

When I look back,I will always recall,
Moment for moment,This was the moment,
The greatest moment Of them all!"

When I can take a moment and make it feel like a lifetime that is true joy for me.
If I make a difference in someone else's
moment that is joy!

With my whole heart,

message 9: by Shannon (last edited Sep 29, 2008 12:37PM) (new)

Shannon  (giraffe_days) Answering the original question, hypothetically of course, I could probably do it if the person were already dead.

I certainly don't think the small things are hopeless. I always try to do the little things, and it makes me mad when I hear people say, for example "i don't use biodegradable washing-up liquid, what's the point? No one else is" - the idea being that "one person can't make a difference" (how'd we get onto this topic?). Individual's can make a difference and even though we are all to die one day, there would be no point in living if you didn't try to make your bit of the world a better place, rather than the other way around. Be environmentally-friendly, talk about it, and you'll be surprised at the number of people around you who listen. You've gotta push something from being an exception to being the norm - why is everyone always waiting for others to go first?

Oh, yes, sorry Charlotte - I do believe our environment has a lot to do with how we are and the choices we make. It's especially interesting to see how landscapes form cultures and nations, right down to stereotypical characteristics. Fascinating stuff :)

message 10: by Colleen (new)

Colleen | 67 comments For me, it is not a matter of changing the whole world by my actions. It is more a matter of when I change me I can see the world in a better light.
2 1/2 years ago I had an amazing experience. For a couple of weeks I saw the world so much different. I was amazed that by shifting into a loving person that trusted the world, created a world around me that was trustworth, kind and loving.
When I come from a space of LOVE it is a challenge for me to see any else.

With my whole heart,

message 11: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Kane | 2 comments I would venture to say that each and every detail that takes place in a person's life has some sort of effect on the outcome of whatever situation happens to present itself. For example, say a jogger stops to rest against a tree to his right instead of the brick wall to his left. He gets a splinter from the wood on the tree, doesn't notice it, and it eventually ends up infected. Whatever, I'm no doctor, and that is probably a horrible example (I've been accused of those before), but what would have happened if he chose to lean against the brick instead of the tree? He would have saved himself from the tragedy and heartache of having an uncomfortable splinter rotting away his hand. One detail can make a difference in the outcome of a small situation, just like one person can make a difference in a single event that could potentially change the tide of history. I guess I am saying that I refuse to believe that everything I do makes no difference unless I do with a group. Screw that noise.

message 12: by Colleen (new)

Colleen | 67 comments Aaron,
I do not believe that it is required to do anything as a group. The truth is the bigger the group the louder the noise. "No man is an island".
Whether you appreciate it or not what you does affects someone. As Aaron pointed out, every choice we make leads to a unique experience.
Through out history there have been individual that have made a huge impact on society. In every case they didn't stop with only themselves.
With my whole heart,

message 13: by Kipahni (new)

Kipahni | 21 comments i think there is a lot to be said about how nature influences mans choices. we learn ideals,mores and norms from the people around us. and the whole mob mentality, humans are truely impressionable, so a lot of what we do is based on that ( which incidentally is why it is sometimes difficult to live cross-culturally, you have to relearn cultural taboos) but just as society can influence me, so can i influence society. it doesn't have to be through huge pomp, just take a passion and apply it to your life. my current one is ending FGM. am i speaking to large groups, or conferences,or effecting policies? no. but i am talking to the mothers that come to me one at a time, and hopefully that will be one less child that has to endure needless pain.

message 14: by Bob (new)

Bob Myer | 39 comments I'm new here, so please be (somewhat) kind if I don't adhere to group protocol just yet. I'll learn.

Going back to the original post, I feel that Macbeth's selfish desire to leapfrog into a better position, a better post in life, over those who rightly hold those posts (or will inherit them) is being critiqued in the play. When his will to power begins to flag, his wife urges him on (with very unkind words concerning his manhood). Macbeth, then, is a warning to those who would chase desires and step over those who have given them a hand up (as Duncan did).

This relates to the cannibalism question in that if one decides to eat his friend - dead or not - in order to gain higher station for himself (in this hypothetical case, literally higher), then he falls into the same trap that Macbeth fell into. He consumes his friend in order to bring himself up to a higher position, and in doing so, dehumanizes his friend (in that most of us would still see that "meat" as a friend) and himself.

So, while none of us can accurately say what we would do in such a situation, I believe - and would like to believe - that I would weigh each day in the hole my option of remaining human and my option of dehumanizing myself. For me, it is that simple. For others, specifically those who focus on the "science" of the thing, the question may be different, but then I suppose the definition of and idea of "survival" is different, as well.

Bob M.

message 15: by Geoff (new)

Geoff | 18 comments
Richard Dawkins presents an argument in the clip below that we have been programmed by evolution to see pretty much only what we need to see in order to survive and reproduce. The environment does indeed influence us, to a great degree, according to Dawkins. We understand the physics of objects that are approximately our size, but wrestle with those much bigger or smaller. A moving vehicle is easy to relate to; but quantum mechanics is virtually opaque for most of us. A water striders world is a two-dimensional pond surface; ours is three-dimensional…but are there only three dimensions? We go with what we know, even if that is only a tiny slice of “reality”, whatever that may be.

I wonder how much of this carries over into our social sphere. It is easy to get into a groove, and see just what we are used to seeing, or perhaps need to see to maintain our sense of comfort. Being objective can be a struggle. How many times do we choose a book or article that is in line with and confirms our beliefs, and disregard journalists or pieces of writing that reflect values very different from our own? It’s often easier to stay with what is needed to maintain a comfort zone, more difficult to examine the abstract, distant, or distastful.

Dawkins ruffled some feathers recently with his book, “The God Delusion”, in which he adamantly stated that there is no God, and implicitly suggested that those who think there is are probably not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Are those individuals clinging to the two dimensions they know and love, maintaining a belief system that makes life more comfortable, or… it more complicated than that?

What do people think?

message 16: by Carlie (new)

Carlie | 86 comments Actually, when I listened to Dawkins talk on NPR about his book, what I wonder is why is he intent on everyone else seeing the world the way he sees it, atheistically. He isn't even willing to admit that noone knows for sure whether God is a delusion or not. He believes what he believes and is completely blind to other possibilities.
I don't see how he is any different from religious fanatics. When everyone is convinced that they are right and everyone else is wrong, one has to wonder if that's not something that is necessary for human survival.
As for your theory, I think it varies from person to person. I myself love to talk to and listen to people whose views differ from mine. But I have this weird concept that belief is different from concrete knowledge. Maybe the people who like to hear things that reaffirm their beliefs don't actually see it as a belief but as a point of fact?

message 17: by Colleen (new)

Colleen | 67 comments I have not read and do not intent to read "The God Delusion”. Why? With as statement such as -- 'those who think there is are probably not the sharpest knives in the drawer.' Possibly simply because as a solid believer in God I am offended. I choice to believe it is however because it reveals the authors personal basis. Like Carlie, I see an author bent on having everyone see it his way. Many people have encouraged me to write a book, yet I realize that I do have a huge bias and the book would only serve those with my same bias. It is only in one on one time that I can truly connect with everyone. what I love to experience is seeing the world through someone elses eyes. There has not been a time when I do this that I don't come from the experience seeing something I never saw before.
Those that would say we have to prove everything fail to see that most of the precious things in life, love, joy, happiness, fulfilment, are beyond explanation.

message 18: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendywins) | 103 comments "what I love to experience is seeing the world through someone elses eyes. There has not been a time when I do this that I don't come from the experience seeing something I never saw before."

Then read a book to see the world through someone else's eyes and do not refuse to read something that may differ with your perception. Choose to know more. Shutting your eyes and stuffing your ears is to a different point of view and condemning a book you have not read is totally inconsistent with with your claim to want to see the world thru others' eyes.

message 19: by Carlie (new)

Carlie | 86 comments Would you really read a book when the author calls you an idiot or psychotic?
I have no problem reading books where there's a difference of opinion from my own. The majority of ones I've read are exactly that. Yeah, it makes me uncomfortable but the story's still good. But when I listen to an interview with the author and he clearly has no respect for believers, then I assume that his book comes from the same point of view and I really don't need to read him call me deluded and present the evidence for it when it was grating enough to hear him say it.
In his case, it's not the message, but the attitude and dismissiveness that comes with it that makes me uneasy.

message 20: by Wendy (last edited Jun 09, 2009 12:49PM) (new)

Wendy (wendywins) | 103 comments Dawkins book is hardly one that calls all believers psychotic or idiots. I have not heard Dawkins in interviews saying that but I have obviously not heard all his interviews. Of course, I hear people refer to anyone who supports abortion as murderers, to feminists as "unhappy, manless and manhating" women, to liberals as "naieve and not patriotic", as people who have sex out of marriage as "sinners" and nonchurch goers, believers, etc as going to Hell.. etc etc. We are surrounded by such speech. I do read articles by people whose views I do not agree with to understand their point of view and rationale for their beliefs and I have friends of various persuasions, political parties, religions, etc. I think cutting oneself off from even reading a book by a well respected author.....a book that has had an impact and infuses discussions (pro and con) is an emotional response which is likely convenient for not dealing with the subject. I was quoting Colleen in terms of "seeing the world through someone else's eyes" which is hard to do if you keep your eyes shut to their views cogently presented in a book and then talking about what you have not read. Of course I HAVE read Dawkins's book so I DO know what it said.

message 21: by Geoff (new)

Geoff | 18 comments Belief is different from concrete knowledge. Yes, that’s an interesting point Carlie. Those in the scientific community would say, of course, that all knowledge is theory; that nothing is absolute, not even things we take completely for granted. Being tentative, weighing the evidence, and not getting impatient for conclusions is a way of trying to be as objective and transparent as possible, and separating out our personal blind spots, bias, or simply incomplete evidence. Leaving the door open to peer review, or new information, helps keep us on the straight and narrow, and helps prevent getting locked into dogma.

Is this the best way to look at the world? I don’t know. Some might say that it is irrelevant to be always peering into a microscope, when many of the biggest questions about human existence may likely never be answered anyway. Better to go with intuition, and with what feels to be right. This is perfectly valid in a universe where we really don’t know what the complete story is anyway.

For me the key point is: what is going to lead to a fuller and more satisfying life, for all of us? If our belief system comes from within our own psyche, rather than externally, it’s likely that there are reasons why it is as it is. Life experience has its effect on all of us, and moulds our opinions. Later, the experiences may drop away, slip off into the subconscious, or be forgotten- but the mouldings remain (advertisers take full advantage of principle that we often remember the message, but forget the messenger. GM cars are good, but who was it that gave me that info?…..). Understanding these factors, I believe, will lead to greater satisfaction, just in the sense of having greater self-knowledge, and being able to make a clear choice on what we want.

I see the first methodology above, subscribed to by Dawkins and other scientists, as quite different from fanaticism. The first is, if you like, a “bottom up” process. It assumes that we know nothing, and so will have to work carefully, and be open to new input, to amass enough evidence in order that we do know something. Fanaticism is, I would say, a “top down” process, in that its adherents are very sure that they already have all the information that they need, and are not interested in looking at any more. Indeed, they can be extremely intolerant of any dissenting view.

message 22: by Carlie (new)

Carlie | 86 comments If you say the book is not disrespectful of belief, then I'll have to take your word for it. It would be surprising though that someone who voices in interviews a disrespectful account of believers would write something completely objective. Are you sure that you are not simply unaware of the offense because being someone who shares the authors views, you are not less able to recognize it? Would you take it as a compliment if I called you delusional as the title clearly does?

message 23: by Wendy (last edited Jun 10, 2009 11:18AM) (new)

Wendy (wendywins) | 103 comments The title could have said, I suppose, Occidental Mythology (which is the title of a book by Joseph Campbell) which you might not have considered immediately insulting to you. It is a publisher's marketing method to have a title which attracts attention.

It does not say "If you believe in a god, YOU, my friend, are crazy, delusional or an idiot". That you read it that way,and took such umbrage that you would not read it is your issue, not the author's.
Obviously, it is written from the perspective of someone who does not believe in invisible beings including gods, fairies, goblins and demons. I suppose you do not believe in Zeus,Mithra,and the gods that others have believed in or in fairies or leprechans etc. Those who did or do believe in might suggest are kidding themselves, deluded themselves or whatnot but you do not necessarily consider them crazy or idiots...right?
Those who believe in say, fairies or pixies or leprechans or angels on their shoulders etc are likely harmless in their superstitions or active imaginations. However, those who believe someone is whispering in their ear and telling them to kill the infidels in the supermarket, you might believe are in fact dangerous and the delusion they harbor...that of a personal God urging them and justifying them to commit something to warn about and discuss why it is unfounded. This range of discussion is all possible to find in many of the books out these days which have been attacked as those who believe in their own religion's personal God HE called Allah or GOD or whatever. You might in fact find these books interesting though I am sure you might share the disrespect of beliefs that urge people to kill infidels....or sacrifice their children or whatnot while being offended by any opinion or argument that contradicts any of what you learned at your parent's knee. Everyone draws their own line in terms of respect and in terms of what is a faith which may comfort but not cause one to do harm to oneself or others.
Is it objective to suggest that radical Islam encourages irrational and dangerous acts which cause harm to others, which urges murdering authors like the woman who wrote Infidel or the author of The Satanic Verses (Salman Rusdie)? Would you say an author who writes of religious beliefs he does not share is objective or subjective? and your criticism of his book (which you have not read)....Would you call your criticism objective or subjective and emotional.?

You may have seen other titles of books that were The Selfish Gene..... Does that book anthromorphize a gene and say it has an attitude? Or does it simply lead into the discussion of what behaviors are self-conserving, or self-benefitting in terms of evolutionary function.....?

message 24: by Carlie (new)

Carlie | 86 comments well, you have most certainly confirmed my suspicions. Because you do not agree with me on one thing, the existence of God, you assume the worst. I myself have never said I would not read it. My comments were simply an attempt to get you to understand Colleen's point of view. If I detested any book, I most certainly would not have listened to an entire 30 minutes of an interview with its author. Colleen, on the other hand, from what I can gather of her posts, is very infused with her spiritual beliefs and they affect every facet of her life. So I can understand why she would be offended if someone called the God who is everything to her a delusion.
I do not find the title personally insulting because I believe it shows the author's one-sided point of view which we must all agree is perfectly normal. How many people actually have two differently sided povs? But don't tell me you would rush out to purchase a book titled "Tasty animals" if you were vegetarian.
I did not, as you say, read the title and take umbrage. As I've posted before, I listened to his comments on an interview and thought him rather similar to religious fanatics who insist that they have it right and others are "insert whatever label he used here".
And as far as the actions of murderers, I would be less likely to disagree if one condemened their actions rather than their beliefs. For obviously if some who believe in God dedicate their lives to helping others while others who also do, prefer to kill unbelievers, then apparently it's not the belief that is the problem. I know of no religious beliefs that urge people to kill unbelievers. Christianity teaches one to love your ennemies and do good to those who persecute you. My husband is muslim and has told me that Islam does not urge violence. I've only heard of religious fanatics urging others, in the name of their religion, to kill others.
Furthermore, I did not learn my beliefs at my parents knee as you suppose. Yes, my mother took me to church, but I heavily disliked it. And as a child I read the bible as I would read any book full of interesting stories. My beliefs are my own, as yours are yourn.
There are many books that I've enjoyed reading that contradict my beliefs. Thankfully, the authors never sought to denigrate me for not sharing their views. I agree with you that perhaps it is the publisher that wanted to draw attention but like I've said before, the interview I heard on the radio turned me off more than the title itself.
It is not Islam that encourages mass murder, it is people. It is in our nature to take from something what we want and do as we will and choose not to listen to anyone who tries to point out to us that that something actually preaches against our actions. It is not Islam that urges the murder of its own adherents. Muslims have been victims of radicalism themselves so obviously it is not the belief in Allah itself that is the issue if believers kill other believers.
"Would you call your criticism objective or subjective and emotional.? I have not criticized his book, I've criticized his demeanor in the interview where he does speak of his book.

message 25: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendywins) | 103 comments I said "Is it objective to suggest that radical Islam encourages irrational and dangerous acts which cause harm to others, which urges murdering authors like the woman who wrote Infidel or the author of The Satanic Verses (Salman Rusdie)?" Notice I said "radical Islam" not Islam.
I know its like "guns do not kill people. People kill people".
Yes, people have to act with guns or faith that God gives them justification (for murderous acts) but that does not mean that they are not factors.

message 26: by Geoff (new)

Geoff | 18 comments Bias can be a difficult problem. Scientists do “double-blind” experiments in order to try and avoid bias. Even psychologists, who ought to know something about this after studying human behavior, usually have a colleague they debrief with from time to time, to check out where their bias is creeping in to cases. I am sure I have my own set of biases. I think one can only try to bring them up to the light of day, and examine them in a critical way.

Delusion is something I don’t have a big problem with. Heck, people spend good money on delusion. Those that go to movies, plays, or read some of the novels listed on this very site, for example, are engaging in delusion, at least for a short while. This is not a bad thing. How atrophied our lives would be, if we were confined to the factual, the here and now. In a broader sense, we are all delusional. Unless you are absolutely sure of the purpose of the universe, and human’s role in it, then you are probably, like everyone else, with the possible exception of a handful of monks, mediators, or mystics, making up a story. The story tells you what you should/need/want to/or have no choice in doing with the time you have. Of course, we live in the day-to-day world, and pragmatism dictates that we come up with something; and for the least fortunate of the world, the “have no choice” part looms large. But we could be surprisingly off track. Some stories are productive or fun, others less so. Again, I think all we can do is bring our ideas out, and allow them to be debated.

I have met a few Muslims myself, and they were certainly anything but violent. I don’t know, but I suspect, that those that commit violent acts have life issues that probably run across cultures and beliefs, and their behavior would probably be the same in any setting. That said, I do have this problem with religion: Asking people to suspend critical thought, in order to accept the metaphysical aspects of various religions, sets an awkward precedent. It’s a wedge, a foot in the door that says you don’t really have to think about everything, just accept. And if one can do this for the big story, it gets easier to do it for the smaller bits. Me…..I’d rather think about it.

message 27: by Carlie (last edited Jun 11, 2009 03:35PM) (new)

Carlie | 86 comments I don't agree that religion asks people to suspend critical thought. I do understand where you're coming from since my catholic friend told me that she was discouraged from reading the Bible and was instead told that she should rely on her priest's interpretation. But, from my personal experience, critical thought and questions are welcomed. The church I attend now invites people to share their thoughts. I read recently that Judaism encourages question asking. In Christian book stores, I see many books where questions are asked and answers are given in a biblical concept. not to say I haven't met people who would tell me to shut up.

I totally agree with you on the individual concept though. Violent people will find whatever reason they can to commit violence. Religious belief does not have a monopoly on being used for violence.
I would argue that personal property leads to even more violence. Should we abandon personal property altogether because a few bad apples kill people for, say their nice shoes?

message 28: by Geoff (new)

Geoff | 18 comments I see at least two factors at work when talking about beliefs systems, including organized religions. One: what needs and or desires are being satisfied by the belief? And two: how important is it for the individuals involved to explore the given belief, and dissect its workings?

When it comes to needs and desires, most major religions are excellent at answering our hopes. Fear of death? Explained, in a most satisfactory manor. Existential angst? Soothed and assuaged, quite nicely thank you. Ultimate meaning of the universe? All written down, one just has to read the book. Desire for social connection? Well, pretty much built into the package, for the most part. The very core questions that humanity has faced over the millennia are handled in a way that eases our passage immensely. Our basic psychological and social needs are supported quite readily. It is not surprising that immense numbers of people in the world today subscribe to religious belief, and have done over time. The question is, as we slide into point two, is: does all this come from inside us, a psychological construction to smooth our way through life, or is it our rational understanding of an objective, external, stand alone truth?

People vary quite a bit in what they are willing to accept as fact (as far as anything can be known as fact), in my experience. I guess I fit in there along the scale too. Some people like to fix the brakes on their car, examine each piece carefully, assuring themselves that the job has been done correctly. As for myself, I am quite happy to have a mechanic do the task. I pump the brakes once, they work, and hey- I’m off down the road. I’ve accepted, you might say, what I have been told, in a superficial sense. I guess it is a value judgment as to how important life issues are accepted, or to how rigorously they should be explored, for each of us. Some are happy with a few basic questions, as long as things fit with their gut instincts and their values. Others fret, knash their teeth, and pace the floor, wanting to know, wanting to go further. I think there is a spectrum there.

As far as we know, if we are to accept the workings of science at all, the metaphysical aspects of religion stand outside of our findings. Most of the doings and events described in religious literature would never survive publication in a reputable, peer reviewed, scientific journal. That is to say, not survive critical thinking. I am defining critical thought here as: comparing a given proposition with what relevant information we have amassed over time; information derived in systematic, defensible way, and also in a way in which individuals consciously try to avoid bias.

On the other hand, many of the personalities and events in religious scripture absolutely dovetail with our understanding of human psychology. In the bible, for example, a number of very human emotions are attributed to God, such as love, hate, insecurity, jealousy, rage, and egomania. If I were a district attorney, right at this point I would be exclaiming: “We have a case- book ‘im!” Beings that don’t fit with any other reasonable understanding of how the world works, but do seem unnervingly like a projection of us humans. Suggestive in the extreme, I would say. It suggests a system that was designed by us to meet our existential needs, and has been variously borrowed, manipulated, and hijacked along the way for any number of purposes. Human purposes.

message 29: by Dana (new)

Dana Miranda (unmoored) Bob wrote: "I'm new here, so please be (somewhat) kind if I don't adhere to group protocol just yet. I'll learn.

Going back to the original post, I feel that Macbeth's selfish desire to leapfrog into a bette..."

First of all welcome and as i am new as well sorry if i am not familiar with common protocol. As you stated that Macbeth's desire was of a selfish nature, one is first declined to ask whether being selfish is beneficial to the individual or harmful. I gather you took his actions as wrong, but personally actions that are selfish are not wrong, selfish being as self-beneficial, for he acted for power. However, i would agree that Macbeth's desire for position is flawed for it is prompted by his wife's taunting and his own sense of emasculation. As to what right inherited posts have i would assume there is none unless others allow them to hold their post. It is correct that Macbeth desires a will to power that all possess, the only flaw being that Macbeth acts for himself while neglecting to rule over others just as he himself does not wish to be ruled by.

This relates to the cannibalism question for you assume that one devours another to gain higher station for himself but one does not dehumanize a friend through cannibalism, he instead holds onto life. Now if that friend were alive however, a man still holds onto life he however forsakes the right to live from another.

For me, I believe that cannibalism and murder would weigh in my heart but not in my option of remaining human and my option of dehumanizing myself. That is just another aspect of humanity in man.

Geoff wrote: "I see at least two factors at work when talking about beliefs systems, including organized religions. One: what needs and or desires are being satisfied by the belief? And two: how important is it ..."

i agree with you in man's fundamental understanding as well as interdependence with religion. on one hand we are stifled by our own dissatisfaction and on the other satisfied with questions being solved and hand fed to us, even our social connections are given, whether by like-minded individuals or family members. to your allusion of the mechanic and the car man's satisfaction is that one subjectivity dealing with one's perspective. i would happily give my car to a mechanic, yet to questions that i want to know fully i would delve as deep as possible, another hint to our subjective natures.

i have longed since fled from religion due to a mixture of dissatisfaction from what is presented as well as the ideologies on is suppose to accept as 'truth'. as for science i accept it as simply 'facts', that which can be subjected to violent change but can still give appropriate answers. It is true that man hovers in stability and thrives in security, while trying to avoid bias, but that is where i think that individuals have to know of their bias, then look to other perspectives and opinions, and after that see what one agrees with and what does not. these perspectives may not be able to be founded, but if accepted one can at least see the world as biased, while still following their own path.

as for the existence of god i believe that to be simply a man made construction out of a fundamental need for love, understanding, and as a tool for manipulation and unification. until, further proof is given i will believe this as so, yet even if proof is given i doubt the existence of a higher being would prove inconsequential to me.

message 30: by Bob (new)

Bob Myer | 39 comments Dana - If you haven't read Crime and Punishment, perhaps it would be a good read for you.

message 31: by Dana (new)

Dana Miranda (unmoored) i do plan on reading the book soon, i like the works of dostoevsky and notes from the underground is one of my favorite books. may i ask why you suggested the book though?

message 32: by Bob (new)

Bob Myer | 39 comments Dana - Having just re-re-read the book, I happened on your comments here and thought that your examination of the characters' thoughts and ideas might be of benefit to you.

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