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Religion » Why or why not Islam? Why or why not Judaism? » 9/14/2018 3:18 am

I don't think you understand what I meant by transformation. I meant it in the sense of deification in Orthodoxy or enlightenment in Buddhism. I'm not saying that I hold out much hope of achieving such a transformation myself in this lifetime, but I think it is what is ultimately expected of all of us, and many religious and mystical figures do hold out it can occur in this life. Indeed, I wonder in what way we can ever be united with God, if we are not always potentially so united. Such a position seems to threaten the divine immanence, and create an unbridgeable gulf between creator and creation, not to mention to put an unnecessarily temporal condition on an eternal relationship. As St. Maximus the Confessor put:

"He conceals Himself mysteriously in the interior causes of created beings... present in each totally and in all all diversity is concealed that which is one and eternally identical".

As far as I know, though it is expressed in different terms, this is much the same viewpoint as you will find expressed in the Kabbalah.

The word mortality here, as in Lear, simply means the untransformed being and outlook.

Your objection to my position rather depends on the Noahide/Jewish faith being true, in an exclusive and total sense, but I don't see that you have made a sustained case for this. In fact, some of what you have said seems questionable, such as the implication (or what I took it to be, since you attacked Islam on this point*) of the superior historical claims of the revelatory nature of the Old Testament.

Whether different traditions are contradictory depends on how you take them, whether as absolute and total truths or relative, partial expressions (upaya is the Indian term) of a total inexpressible truth. Though I'm not sure that this strictly matters here. I simply listed mystical sub-groups of various religious traditions. That the various traditions might contradict each other doesn't take away from the general point I was makin

Religion » Why or why not Islam? Why or why not Judaism? » 9/13/2018 5:21 pm

As a Platonist, in my opinion the point of religion is to transform us entirely, to unite us with God through the divine spark within us. As the Orthodox say, it is to be God-like, or, in Shakespeare's terms, to wipe away mortality. We must have very different spiritual anthropologies (and, obviously I don't take Judaism as proven to be the only true faith - which might overcome my scruples on this point). I have very little interest in a path that doesn't offer not just community, ritual, and worship, but a veritable mystical path, as in Orthodox Heyschasm and the Sufis and Shia Batin of Islam, as well as the Eastern religions. I don't think I could be a Noahide. Orthodox Judaism itself is far more interesting to me, given its much greater supports to a religious life and the Kabbalah, though I understand it is hard to convert.

Religion » Why or why not Islam? Why or why not Judaism? » 9/13/2018 6:41 am

Can Noahides go to the Synagogues and take part in worship and festivals? What of Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah? What scope is there for living this wisdom in a proper (non-Hollywood-esque) way? In my opinion, religion is about more than basic morality and belief. It's about ritual, devotion, communal worship, leading to a mystical path (though I don't pretend to have come close to living this path myself). I may be misinterpreting you, you almost seem to be celebrating that its undemanding.

Chit-Chat » Any secular philosophers who believe in consciousness after death? » 9/09/2018 7:40 pm

Basically every philosopher and scientist on the survival side of the debates over psychical research does (ignoring the religious, of course), though perhaps they wouldn't claim certainty or we know that it is all the person who survives. Stephen Braude is a good, recent example, though he thinks that the survivalism is the better conclusion on only very tentative grounds.

Religion » Why or why not Islam? Why or why not Judaism? » 9/04/2018 9:08 pm

Interesting. I'd heard it before, of course. But never really paid attention. From the context I wasn't sure whether the meaning was expressing approbation or the opposite. It reminds me of the Aussie no fear. It takes a while to remember that, as a response to a suggestion, no fears means definitely not. I would have assumed the opposite!

Religion » Why or why not Islam? Why or why not Judaism? » 9/04/2018 8:47 pm

It must be lost in translation - Canadian/American to British - but what does having no truck mean ? I seem to vaguely remember it means not having a problem with something?

I would say that the Buddhist position is aimed at denying the permanent self so far as it we grasp that conceptually (and, obviously, expressed in language).      So we have to read between lines, as Buddhist authorities are unlikely to tell us in words they believe in a self (with one very important exception, see below). The Madhyamika would deny there is a self and also that there is not a self, or rather claim discursive reason affirms and denies both propositions). But, so far as Buddhism clearly isn't nihilistic (pace Shankara), and offers a thorough spiritual path aimed at enlightenment, it must affirm some kind of self. This becomes clear in encountering traditional Buddhism - this worldview is clearly not just pushing some kind of pessimistic, Humean-esque denial of the self. Buddhists take such joy in the revelation of no self they even sometimes name children after it! Interestingly, though, the Buddha at times seems to affirm a true self, though he also denies the self more frequently. I would say, that the Buddhist, or at least the Mahayana, identify the true self with absolute reality, in much the same way as the Advaita do (though no Buddhist would say this).

I think we should bear in the context here. It is a commonplace in Hinduism to identify the individual self with the cosmic Self or absolute, in various ways. This, combined with Buddhism's radical apophatic approach, led to the emphasis on no-self - to strongly differentiate Buddhism from its errant competitors.

Yes,the Buddhist certainly believes our concepts, though having some empirical, temporary utility, don't capture all of reality. But it is perhaps more than this, in that the Buddhist sees over-reliance of discursive, conceptual reasoning as one of the outstanding barriers to spiritual progress and enlightenmen

Religion » Why or why not Islam? Why or why not Judaism? » 9/04/2018 1:41 am

John West wrote:

In so far as Buddhists deny the reality of the self or think all is becoming, I have no truck with them. (I never know whether Buddhists are “authentic” anymore.) I don't know enough about the other religions to even start asking questions about them.

I should begin my comment by saying I'm going to talk in a way no traditional Buddhist would, because Buddhism is radically apophatic. But we're not Buddhists, and don't need to adhere to its strictures. Really, I think Buddhist metaphysics is very close to Advaita non-dualism*. But, taking a radically apophatic approach to our spiritual knowledge, they believe discursive reason is a tool we need to dispense with, or at least strongly keep in its subordinate place, on our spiritual journey. They think the concepts and language of discursive reason - which in truth can never penetrate to the root and origins of things - tend to be become treated as means to absolute truth in their own right: they become like cages or idols. The Buddhist spiritual method is above all aimed at breaking these cages or shattering the idols. So when the Buddhist says there is no self, we can translate him as referring to our concepts of a permanent self, not that that there is truly no self. It some sense there is a self, but trying to grasp this conceptually is like trying to cup water with our hands, so better to say there is no self (though the Buddhist would never put it this way). So far as becoming is concerned, it would be as true to say the Buddhist thinks all is being and nothing becoming. The Mahayana saying is that Samsara is Nirvana. This isn't meant to deny any reality beyond becoming, so much as to affirm a fundamental non-dualist, much like that of Shankara (though, again, a traditional Buddhist would never put it this way). I recommend the works of Marco Pallis and T. R. V. Murti as good introductions to Buddhism.

You never get quite identity, because it is of the nature of human languages and c

Religion » Why or why not Islam? Why or why not Judaism? » 9/03/2018 8:59 pm

Which is to say, it isn't really Rabbinic Judaism. Even conservative reformed Judaism is like very liberal, pick-and-mix Protestantism. I'm not the kind of person to put strong emphasis on historicity. I care much more for spirituality, morality, and symbolism. From my perspective, there is no comparison between reform and Orthodox Judaism. It's like comparing Eastern Orthodoxy with a Protestant mega-church. But, still, I think Orthodox Jews can make similar claims to Orthodox and Catholic Christians on the place of tradition in giving us the Scriptures. The Rabbinic tradition does also go back to the Second Temple. The OT itself, in its final form, isn't too much older. Finally, I think it would be a mistake to consider the Rabbinic tradition frozen in time, or inapplicable to enduring issues. What such claims usually mean is that people want to dissent from tradition on modernist principles.

Religion » Why or why not Islam? Why or why not Judaism? » 9/02/2018 7:58 pm

At the risk of derailing this thread at the beginning, why only these two faiths, opposed to say Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, or Daoism?

On Islam, one of the arguments made is the Koran itself, which is a remarkable work of literature and expression of the Arabic language. Unfortunately, that kind of argument won't have the same kind of appeal for those who aren't fluent in Arabic, nor for those* who aren't attuned to traditional literature (whose idea of great literature of Harry Potter or Game of Thrones).  A poster who shall remain nameless actually posted a reasonable link on this a while ago. Otherwise, I think the arguments are mostly going to be spiritual and philosophical ones -  Islam is a purely monotheistic, universal faith with what I would say are some noble examples and ideals, whether we are talking morally, spiritually, or mystically. 

I think Judaism would probably have similar appeal (if it does appeal). Judaism (by which I mean Orthodox Judaism - the only type I would consider) is somewhat less open to converts, and, for adult males, conversion is somewhat daunting. This may put off converts (though Judaism doesn't have the same need to proselytise, of course). 

By the way, I haven't read Bill's article, but it seems strange to me the abstract talks about the arguments of C. S. Lewis and T. V. Morris. I'm a great admirer of Lewis, at least, but it seems to me that it, for example, the Greek Fathers would be more important interlocutors to interact with on the incarnation. Maybe he does do that.

* I don't mean you John. I'm talking generally.

Religion » Did Paul believe in a spiritual or physical resurrection? » 8/16/2018 10:11 pm

It is certainly true we have to establish the contemporary views of the Pharisees before ascribing them to Paul, but wouldn't we expect Paul to spell out the differences, if he did disagree with the Pharisees (assuming there was a settled view here)? This would have been his previous view, and presumably the predominant Jewish view at the time. I suppose there are dangers in concluding anything from an absence of comment, but it seems likely there would be some evidence of this contrast in Paul's writings.

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