Despite being displaced from our normal spot on the back pew, we had a good evening of conversation last night. Over a dozen people, including a couple of new folks, not least of which was my wife Christy. She made a rare late appearance, bringing sushi no less.
On to the topics:
Is anything really *new*?
1. Is there anything under the sun whereof it might be said, “This is new.”?
2. “Society determines what and how we know, and forms us into the kinds of people we are. Thus as members of society we are never truly free, but instead formed into the sort of people power decides we ought to be.” Fate, Determinism or freedom?
3. What is progress?
4. What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?
5. “Religions admittedly appeal, not to conviction as the result of argument, but to belief as demanded by revelation.” Isn’t revelation an argument?
6. The Buddha: “The mind is everything; what you think you become.” Think about that.
7. Does theism necessarily imply dualism?
8. “Religion is most effective where it is least obvious.” Do you agree? If so, why?
9. “Religion is the metaphysics of the masses; by all means let them keep it. Just as they have popular poetry, and the popular wisdom of proverbs, so they must have popular metaphysics too: for mankind absolutely needs an interpretation of life; and this, again, must be suited to popular comprehension.”
10. Scientists discover that the explosion, which, in the Bible signals the divine message, was effectively the visual trace of a terrible catastrophe that destroyed a flourishing alien civilization. Likely?
11. “When was the last time someone questioned you about your faith? Whereas once the question would have been ‘are you a Christian,’ the phraseology is now more often along the lines of ‘would you call yourself a Christian.’
The first is an objective statement of being, an absolute. The second a subjective assessment – you might not call me that, but that’s what I call myself. Perhaps the move from objective to subjective ontology is part of a wider cultural shift…”
Wow. That’s a lotta stuff. Someone was a little over the top in putting this list together.
Given the size of the crowd, we split into a couple of groups, and I was sometimes in on one discussion, sometimes another. Discussion ranged on what does ‘new’ mean, and does technology count as new? Obviously when Ecclesiastes was written and Qoheleth was musing on the endless repetition of the old which gets passed off as new, he probably did not envision someone at a pub in 2011 looking up his writings on their digital communication device in another language. That seems sorta new, or is it merely a repackaging of the old?
For that matter, is technology progress? Can progress be limited to things that seem to happen ‘out there’ in the culture, things in technology development, methods of science or learning… Is progress also related to things that happen to a person spiritually, socially, internally?
And speaking of internal development – are we free to develop and grow as individuals, or are we constantly being shaped by the cultural currents in society, by institutions, by ‘the powers that be’?
There was some talk of the Buddha, but I’m not sure that was fit for print here.
Regarding revelation, we pondered the difference between an argument based on reason, science, logic, etc., and that which comes via the divine or even through someone else or through intuition, what we might call revelation. Is revelation always personal? Does revelation happen en masse? How do you know when to listen when someone says, “God told me”? And what about when we are separated from said revelation by thousands of years and it comes via a canonical tradition which says, ‘This is what God has said.”? It was noted that people tend to be more and more skeptical of that which comes via revelation, we want cold, hard ‘facts’ which can be positively demonstrated. Yet is there more to life than ‘the facts’?
Regarding explosions and flourishing alien civilizations, several stories of the ‘paranormal’ were shared, including an out of body experience and a night-sky sighting that seemed to defy the laws of physics.
Also noted was the possibility of nano-bots running the universe once we hit ‘the singularity’, or of the world ending in a mess of grey goo, of the fact that nano-bots might be the means by which God brings about the new heavens and the new earth, that we ourselves might be more implicated in the final realization of the kingdom of God than we might think.
All in all, a good night, and the Dark Side chocolate stout was not to be missed.