May 032010
 

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to make my many FormSpring Questions and Answers into blog posts. You’ll be seeing them over the next few weeks. They’re a bit less formal than my ordinary blogging, but still interesting, I hope! I’ve answered 138 questions so far, so that will make quite a few posts.

Here’s one on meditation, then two on religion.

Have you ever practiced meditation? Supposedly, it makes it easier for your mind to concentrate. It also supposed to make it easier to relax, which would be useful for falling asleep.

Yes, my friend Joshua Zader introduced me to the basics of meditation many years ago. The practice helped him a great deal, and I was curious.

Meditation didn’t do much for my capacity to concentrate beyond what a deep breath and asking “Diana, what the heck are you doing?” does though. Nor does it help me much with sleep, although some of the techniques I use are similar to meditation techniques.

Overall though, I’d say that a person needs to know how to sit quietly with himself and allow his mind to be still — rather than frantically racing from one thought to the next or being swamped with overwhelming emotion. A person needs to be able to quiet and direct his mind according to his own will, even when difficult. Some forms of meditation offer practice in creating that state of rational mental calm.

Without that kind of control over his own mind, a person will be unable to cope with overwhelming situations — particularly emotionally stressful ones — in a rational and purposeful way. He’ll melt down in an emergency rather than acting as needed to overcome it. He’ll be unable to think through a conflict in a relationship due to raw feelings. He’ll not want to confront some unpleasant facts because he knows he’ll be unhinged by them. And so on. His life will be worse — perhaps far worse — for being unable to quiet and direct his mind.

Of course, a person doesn’t need to engage in formal meditation to achieve that kind of rational control over his mind. However, the techniques of meditation are highly effective for learning and practicing that control. So they’re be a good place to start, at least.

There does not seem to be a “bridge” between reason and faith, so if someone was religious for their whole life, how does one ditch the supernatural and become an atheist?

Adopt and practice two rules:

  • Steadfastly refuse to think about what does not exist.
  • Think lots about what does exist.

    It’s no small task to overhaul one’s mental habits, but it can be done, if a person is willing to exert the mental effort to direct his thinking according to what he knows to be right.

    As for why someone rejects the supernatural after a lifetime of faith, that’s a different matter. That’s exceedingly rare, I think. Most atheists become atheists while they’re young, while they’re questioning and forming their personal philosophy. If an older person rejects his faith, that’s usually due to some personal crisis, e.g. How could a loving, benevolent God give my sweet daughter this awful terminal disease? However, such crises seem just as likely to strengthen faith. That’s often deeply illogical, but the person of faith is not committed to logic.

    Why do so many people have a problem with argumentum ad ignorantiam? I’ve noticed this with the God concept, aliens, ghosts, Bigfoot, Santa Claus, you name it.

    You could say that about most fallacies. The reason that they’re identified as fallacies is that people accept them as if they’re good arguments.

    Still, appeal to ignorance is particularly common… probably due to the fact that our educational system doesn’t teach our young’uns what constitutes proof.

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