Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pragmatism page at Wikipedia

Found an interesting page on Wikipedia - Pragmatism. From the page:

"Joseph Margolis, in Historied Thought, Constructed World (California, 1995), makes a distinction between "existence" and "reality". He suggests using the term "exists" only for those things which adequately exhibit Peirce's Secondness: things which offer brute physical resistance to our movements. In this way, such things which affect us, like numbers, may be said to be "real", though they do not "exist". Margolis suggests that God, in such a linguistic usage, might very well be "real", causing believers to act in such and such a way, but might not "exist"."

Check out a few more of those interesting ideas at Pragmatism.

- S

Humanist Manifesto III page

(didn't know there was a Humanist Manifesto II :)

From American Humanist Association's H.M. III page:

"Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence."

More here.

- S

Saturday, July 3, 2010

fireworks at 2:56

a happy independence day goes out to the US, the inventors (as far as i know) of the separation between gov & religions. fireworks at 2:56 on this clip, from Woody Allen's Manhattan:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Couple of secularists hanging out & talking about SL & secularism

These clips may appear better (full frame vs. cropped at this blog) at YouTube.

Visit Secular Sri Lanka site for more.







Thanks goes out to Hemantha for making the discussion, recording, & upload to web happen.

- S

On Secularism, Sri Lanka, & Several Related Items

New article at Secular Sri Lanka, check it out!

Here's the 1st paragraph:

"At Secular Sri Lanka website (secularsrilanka.com), related discussion groups (including comments threads at Groundviews.org articles and other sites), and at live meetings in Sri Lanka (at the Rationalist Day event recently http://newslagnostic.blogspot.com/2010/06/report-from-rationalist-day.html & elsewhere), and in the Sri Lankan Diaspora (in US & elsewhere) a relatively old subject - secularism - is receiving a second look. Namely, can increased secularization - in the Sri Lankan context primarily the separation of the government and the religions in an actual sense (or, for example, separating the government and the temple - making Buddhism primarily the concern of the Buddhists and making the government the concern of all, and applying the same approach for all religions) be beneficial to Sri Lanka in advancing peace, national unity, development, creation of a common Sri Lankan identity, and increasing cooperation between Sri Lanka and the Diaspora? While this topic may alarm some Buddhists and some members of the other religions, let me clear the air by saying that those who are thinking about the idea of greater secularization in Sri Lanka are not against Buddhism (most are either culturally Buddhist or are, to some degree, practicing Buddhists, or are agnostics and atheists who have been heavily influenced by Sri Lankan/Therevada Buddhism), nor are they against any organized religion currently active in Sri Lanka or the concept of and practice of religions - they are merely people who love Sri Lanka and would like to see the island pull out of decades of poverty and underdevelopment, and also ethnic/religious unrest. In fact, many who are in favor of greater secularization believe that Buddhism and other religions will benefit - they will be strengthened & may become more useful to people - if practical separation between the government and religions were to occur. Thankfully, now that the 26-plus years long civil war has been ended due to the sacrifice of many, we can take a look at ideas and approaches such as secularism that may speed up positive developments in Sri Lanka. There are many items to consider when thinking about Sri Lanka and secularism. I will briefly outline several items below and point out possible positive outcomes related to greater secularization in Sri Lanka."

Read the rest of the article here/at SSL site.

- S

Saturday, June 12, 2010

$8 for a pair of shoes for a war affected student in Sri Lanka



From the project's page:

"Thousands of children we were affected by the war, do not have access to basic needs such as a pair of shoes, an exercise book or a pencil.

Sarvodaya is already providing these educational resoruces to the children.

This is a campaign to provide 1,00 kids with a pair of shoes.

It costs only $8 for a pair of shoes"

More here.

- S

Interesting ancient religious concept - Brahmavihara

From Wikipedia page for Brahmavihara:

"The four immeasurables are:

Loving-kindness (Pāli: metta, Sanskrit: maitri) towards all: the hope that a person will be well; "the wish that all sentient beings, without any exception, be happy."[9]

Compassion (Pāli and Sanskrit: karuṇā): the hope that a person's sufferings will diminish; "the wish for all sentient beings to be free from suffering."[9]

Joy (Pāli and Sanskrit: mudita): joy in the accomplishments of a person — oneself or another; sympathetic joy; "the wholesome attitude of rejoicing in the happiness and virtues of all sentient beings."[9]

Equanimity (Pāli: upekkhā, Sanskrit: upekṣā): learning to accept loss and gain, praise and blame, and success and failure, all with detachment, equally, for oneself and for others. Equanimity is "not to distinguish between friend, enemy or stranger, but regard every sentient being as equal. It is a clear-minded tranquil state of mind - not being overpowered by delusions, mental dullness or agitation."[10]

Loving-kindness and compassion are both hopes for the future (leading, where possible, to action aimed at realizing those hopes). Joy and equanimity are attitudes to what has already happened, but also with regard to consequences for future action. While these four might be delineated as attitudes to the future or past, they contain the seed of the "present" within their core (as a living embodied practice).[clarification needed] This is the essence of the spiritual laws of karma, self-responsibility, and right thoughts (samma sankkalpa, literally 'right commitments').[clarification needed] A dedicated intention[clarification needed] that all beings are in the "here and now", tranquil, happy, in touch with their gifts and accomplishments, and feeling interconnected by that synergy[clarification needed] to eschew suffering by abdication.[clarification needed]"

And,

"Although this form of these ideas has a Buddhist origin, the ideas themselves are in no way sectarian. The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement uses them in public meditation events in Sri Lanka bringing together Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians. Rudyard Kipling's inspirational poem If refers to the idea of upekkhā in calling Triumph and Disaster impostors."

For more, check out the Wikipedia page for Brahmavihara.

- S

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Link of the day - Navajeevana

Heard about this SL social service org - Navajeevana recently. From their site:

"We have been working to rehabilitate people with disabilities in southern Sri Lanka for over twenty years. Our vision is to see people with disabilities as equal and participating members of a non-discriminatory society.

We provide a holistic service for people with disabilities and work with the “whole” person—from early identification, intervention, treatment and full rehabilitation, where the person is able to earn an independent income.

At our fully accessible rehabilitation centre in Tangalla we provide a range of paramedical services, including physiotherapy, prosthetics and orthotics, speech therapy, supportive seating, wheelchair production, audiological services and physiotherapy. We also run four special schools for disabled children, carry out community mental heath work and work in and with the community to rehabilitate people with disabilities."

For a lot more about the org, visit Navajeevana's site.

- S

Sunday, June 6, 2010

UN human development report '09 for Sri Lanka

Check out the page here - lots of interesting & possibly useful info (for development related projects).

Thanks Muditha for the link!

- S

Thursday, June 3, 2010

In development this summer - Greater Sri Lanka blog

Started a new blog to explore & promote a concept - Greater Sri Lanka - check it out here.

I plan on fully developing that blog this summer.

- S

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Report from Rationalist Day

At Secular Sri Lanka blog.

From the post;

"While it is not proposed to go into details, I must state that the SLRA has right along been advocating secular governance, meaning that the government should be separated from all religions, religion being a private matter of individuals. Indeed, it was as far back as 1970 that the SLRA (then known as Ceylon Rationalist Association) submitted a Memorandum on this issue to the then Minister of Constitutional Affairs, when he sought the views of the members of the public and NGOs on the proposed new Constitution.

Item 6 of our Memorandum dated 25. 09. 1970, stated as follows. ‘In a multi-religious country like Sri Lanka, the best protection for freedom of conscience is a Secular State. India, a country ridden with diverse religions and superstitions, although the vast majority of its teeming millions are Hindus, is, through the wisdom of its political leaders, a secular state. It is good to remember that in the history of the human race, more blood has been shed in the name of religion than in any other cause’."

Read more at Secular Sri Lanka blog.

- S

India, Secularism, & Psuedo-Secularism

While doing some research on both the current & historical instances of secularism in the Indian subcontinent, I found the following Wikipedia articles:

Secularism in India: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secularism_in_India

From the article:

"The history of Indian secularism the protest movements in the 5th century B.C. The three main protest movements were by the Charvakas (a secularistic and materialistic philosophical movement), Buddhism, and Jainism. All three of them rejected the authority of the Vedas and any importance of belief in a deity.[2]

However, it was in the 18th century, when the British East India Company began to gain total control over India that ideas of secularism began to have impact on the Indian mind. Until then, religion was considered to be inseparable from political and social life. On the other hand, the British codified laws pertaining to practices within religions on the sub-continents. To this effect they instituted separate laws for Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis and others as part of their divide-and-rule policy. In doing so they laid the foundation for a nonuniform civil code which remains largely unchanged to date. This is a major grouse for Hindu right wing politicians who insist that there should be a uniform civil code for all citizens. For example, believers of all faiths other than Islam are legally bound to be monogamous while those who practice or convert to Islam are permitted up to four marriages."

And;

Psuedo-Secularism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudo-secularism

From the article:

"The Hindu nationalist movement claim that the Indian National Congress and the associated Communist Party of India are pseudo-secularist. Their claim is that leftists in India are not truly secular since they appease minority communities (such as Indian Muslims or Indian Christians) at the expense of the interests of the Hindu community, and often at odds with western ideas of secularism .

A major issue raised by the Hindu nationalist movement is the implementation of a uniform civil code of India and their opposition to separate legal codes for religious communities, such as the Shariat bill, and the Indian Government's subsidy of the travel of Indian Muslims to Saudi Arabia to visit Mecca (Hajj subsidy) or Kumbh Melas for Hindus and many religious holidays. In India, courts have ruled that Sharia or Muslim law, holds precedence for Muslims over Indian civil law,[3] which caused considerable anguish among Hindus and fueled allegations of pseudo-secularism against the judiciary as well."

Very interesting, I think I'll need to read more about secularism & India.

- S

Flood relief appeal from SL Red Cross

From: http://www.redcross.lk/eh_news199.html

"17th May 2010: The unprecedented heavy rain over the last two days have severely affected many people all around the Colombo, Kalutara, Galle Matara and Ratnepura districts, displacing over 40,000 people.

In close coordination with the local government authorities, the Sri Lanka Red Cross volunteers are working round the clock, helping with the rescue operations and food distribution. Branch disaster Rescue teams have been deployed in the affected districts.

The Kalutara branch is feeding 2000 people of the affected 13,000 in the district. The Gampaha branch is helping the Forces with rescue boats and equipment in addition providing and distribution of cooked food.

Volunteers from other branches including Galle and Colombo are also engaged in a number of relief operations including food distribution.

We are urgently in need of funds to provide cooked food for distribution amongst the affected civilians amounting to over fifty thousand people.

At this time of dire need of our people, is making an appeal for funds to assist these vulnerable people and will be used for the provision of food for the coming days to as many people in need, marooned in the affected areas.

For further details on relief activities & funding coordination please contact Chandana @ 0773710352"

More here: http://www.redcross.lk/eh_news199.html

Link: SL Red Cross site

Check out the site for SL Red Cross here:

http://www.redcross.lk/index.html

Couple of interesting pages on the site:

Red Cross Scholarship Scheme: http://www.redcross.lk/scholarship.html

Assistance for IDP's page (their most recent update is from Nov '09 however): http://www.redcross.lk/idps.html

- S

Link re: 1000's of SL farmers receiving aid from a UN anti-poverty project

From http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=33858&Cr=lanka&Cr1=;

"Thousands of Sri Lankan farmers to benefit from UN-funded anti-poverty scheme

23 February 2010 – Nearly 58,000 farming households in Sri Lanka are expected to benefit from a United Nations-funded programme designed to improve their livelihoods, boost their incomes and enhance their participation in the marketing and selling of their products.

The $25 million loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will enable the country’s National Agribusiness Development Programme to help small producers, women, landless households and young people in rural areas."

More here: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=33858&Cr=lanka&Cr1=

- S

Monday, May 31, 2010

Grameen Bank - Banking for the Poor

Ladies & gentlemen, explore the Grameen Bank site & start thinking:

http://www.grameen-info.org/

Sri Lanka can use many similar institutions & thinking (not just SL, but the entire world, but let's focus on SL for the moment here).

Economic freedom & opportunity goes hand in hand with intellectual & religious freedom (including freedom from religion) & opportunity. Specially in the developing/under-developed world.

So, until Sri Lanka is fully out of poverty/is well developed, I am going to lead my SL & diaspora agnosticism related activism with anti-poverty & development related concerns (writing, projects, encouraging others to participate in ending poverty in SL. etc.).

A lot more goodies (links, articles, projects & collaboration opportunities) coming soon!

- S

Monday, May 24, 2010

Link of the day - Center for Inquiry

Check it out - Center for Inquiry

From their site's About Us page:

"At the Center for Inquiry, we believe that evidence-based reasoning, in which humans work together to address common concerns, is critical for modern world civilization. Moreover, unlike many other institutions, we maintain that scientific methods and reasoning should be utilized in examining the claims of both pseudoscience and religion. We reject mysticism and blind faith. No topic should be placed off limits to scrutiny—certainly not fringe science and religion, which have an enormous influence on beliefs and conduct."

More here.

(thanks to Hemantha from Secular Sri Lanka for the link)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

5 billion $s a year or more to Sri Lanka from the Sri Lankan diaspora?

The following is a part of a comment I left at my Agnostics vs. Believers article at Groundviews, an off-the-topic statement, but, some think (myself included) that it may be a worthwhile/useful thing to think about & possibly even try out. So, check out the following and post some questions or comments in comments to help further develop this idea:

"Also, a sad but true, and maybe there is some hope in this/may be useful in the near future thing that I figured out recently (roughly): it would only take a small, regular commitment by just a fraction of the SL diaspora that lives in the west to double or triple the SL GDP/make a LOT more $s available to SL for development, etc (a small example – 500,000 people giving/investing/trading $1000 a year to SL would result in 5 billion dollars, and $1000 when divided into a whole year is just less than $3 a day per person – which is definitely less than what I spend on coffee & tea each day). In a way, for SL to become largely financially self-sufficient (in this type of thinking I am imagining all Sri Lankans who live anywhere on the planet as one nation/SL or members of one nation though they may also be members of other nations due to where they physically live, & not just the ones that physically live in SL). However, such a thing would require a pretty huge change between how Lankans in SL & Lankans in the diaspora relate to each other (& also how the SL gov deals with both groups). Perhaps something for me/us (at least the agnostics, who are not afraid of change & new ideas) to think further about (as in how can such a new collaboration be brought about?)."

- S

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

One more SL history related post: 2 links re: N.M. Perera

Here's Wikipedia's page on Perera. From the page:

"After his election, he and Philip Gunawardena (the other LSSP member of the State Council), acting as people's tribunes used the State Council as a platform to carry forward the party's struggle to gain full independence for the country from the British. At the time only people like N.M. Perera and the LSSP stood for complete independence for Sri Lanka: the leaders of the Ceylon National Congress were only concerned with obtaining concessions from the British."

And (of course I have to mention this :):

"In 1939, he starred in the first ever Sinhala film."

For more, visit the Wikipedia page.

::

And check out this article from Daily News.

- S

SL history link: Sinhala Only Act

The Sinhala Only Act can probably be identified as one of the significant starting points to the events that culminated in the '83 - '09 SL civil war. For more on the act, a good starting point may be this Wikipedia page. If you see any other useful links re: the act, post them below.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Final Sunday music post - "Wolf Like Me", by TV On The Radio

More Sunday music - "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis" by Tom Waits

Some music for Sunday - "Please Don't Pass Me By", Leonard Cohen

Note to a Sri Lankan agnostic re: the emerging Positive Human identity/non-believer & believer approach

The following comment was in response to this comment by a Sri Lankan agnostic, left at Agnostics vs. Believers article at Groundviews.


::

Hi Observer,

RE: "See Sujeewa, you’re a man of faith to me. Faith in what you perceive as “agnosticism”. Having faith in non believing is also a faith to me far as I am concerned and when they get organised it actually scares me much as religious folk who have deep faiths in spiritual mumbo jumbo."

I do believe that humans are able to work out our problems without having to rely on most likely non-existent (not active or not a part of the real world, just intellectual items that exist in religious thought) devices such as karma, reincarnation/rebirth, nirvana, gods, hells, heavens, etc.

The ultimate goal (or what I would like to see happen on this planet) is not merely the non-believers* organizing ourselves in order to accomplish goals that we think are important (separation of religions & states, freedom of thought world wide, freedom of expression world wide, freedom of religion or freedom from religion world wide, an end to hunger, homelessness, poverty, etc.), but non-believers, believers & others working together to turn this planet into the paradise that it can easily (w/ the right number of people & effort involved) become.

* also, there is a difference between mere agnostics and atheists and positively motivated agnostics & atheists - by positively motivated I mean people who are interested in making things better in this world and are active in doing so via whatever methods available to them. So, a more accurate term for the kind of people I am speaking of, myself included, would be Positive Humans (as this group also includes believers, not just agnostics). However, for this discussion with hard core/blind believers of SL Buddhism & since the Positive Human label is not yet well known, agnostics or non-believers is the most useful label for the camp that is skeptical of the grand speculative claims made by Buddhism.So, don't worry, most people on the planet at the moment would probably agree with your definition of agnosticism :) But, some of us are in the middle of building a new way to interact with this world, and agnosticism is a starting point, one aspect of that new method.

Also, the idea that humans should be able to work out our own problems without having to rely on gods or other speculative devices was probably/most likely introduced to me via SL Buddhism.

Anyway, I am totally cool with all religions - as long as they do not do harm to people, & as long as they realize that any one branch of human knowledge is, at best, only relevant to just one area of human existence, and thus religion is not all/not everything, and should not be wed to the state & forced on non-believers & people who cannot or have not chosen a religious identity & may not want to choose a religious identity. I am however very cool with secular & useful laws, etc. that may have religious origins (since religious ideas have an even earlier basic human need or desire origins or are otherwise products of human creativity).

As the world continues to deal with problems caused by organized religions, specially ones that do not tolerate dissent (more a problem in the Islamic world than in the Buddhist countries I think), I am sure more and more non-believers will become organized & active in order to save themselves & their secular/open societies (or to liberate their societies from religious oppression) from the control of just one religion or several religions.

- S

::

I plan on developing the Positive Human blog to explore & promote the PH identity/world view, return there in the near future for more content along the lines of thinking & action described above. Thanks!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Comments I couldn't leave at Groundviews' Agnostics vs. Believers article

I left several comments today at my Agnostics vs. Believers article at Groundviews, but just a few minutes ago I could not leave a comment there (error message was "could not get captcha free hash"), so, in case that happens in the future, this blog post will be the space that I will use for leaving comments that cannot be left at the Groundviews article. So, here goes:

::

Hi Chathura,

Thanks for reading & commenting.

RE: "It’s hard for the believers to give up on certain beliefs even though no scientific proof is found."

True, and not just scientific proof - it does not have to be scientific proof - it can be any kind of personal verification - but most people are either just not interested or are not able to check & see if the grand claims made by religions are true/real/accurate. Luckily (for ourselves & others) not all of us are asleep (at least not all the time :).

- S

::

Friday, May 7, 2010

Article re: microfinance in Sri Lanka

Just found this article (abstract from a larger document), checking it out now, looks interesting. Here is a segment of it - from Commercial Microfinance: A Strategy to Reach the Poor?:

"Therefore, this study explores “downscaling” by banks as a model of microfinance commercialization that has used as a strategy to reach the poor. In order to answer the main research question, an explorative case study methodology was chosen, based by a microfinance programme of a well established commercial bank in Sri Lanka, the “Hatton National Bank.” This study was based on commercialization debate areas; trade-off between sustainability and outreach, financial performances and impact on clients."

Read more here.

Muhammad Yunus/Grameen Bank interview

Green Hair, Grey Hair trailer

What the internet needs is another Groundviews article that produces a debate around faith based elements of a religion

So, naturally, I had to write that article, check out The Agnostics vs. The Belivers... here.

Book review link for "The Work of Kings: The New Buddhism In Sri Lanka"

Haven't read Work of Kings yet, but this review makes the book sound interesting, check out the review here.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Groundviews article comments area discussion/debate on the real-ness of karma, etc. gets over 1000 comments

Well, have not been able to post/reply to a couple of comments at this Groundviews article today - because (the reason might be, according to Groundviews) the article now has over 1,000 comments & may have reached the Wordpress limit for comments.

On the bright side, all the comments (specially by BolongodaMan, SomewhatDisgusted, & myself, & also Heshan) in response the the Belivers Team :) (Yapa, Wijayapala, Off The Cuff) clearly established that karma, reincarnation, & nirvana cannot be shown to be actual elements of the real world/real universe - using modern science, math, or any other method that can be verified by a non-beliver.

So, go read all the comments at the article (it may take you a while). The mysterious device of the universe known as the Wordpress comments limit may have ended that conversation/debate. But I'll post my comments from today, the ones that I was not able to post at the article, at this blog later today or at some point tomorrow.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Introduction to 10 reasons used by hard core/blind belivers when defending karma, reincarnation, nirvana

Sri Lanka & the diaspora are full of millions of Buddhists. So, a Sri Lankan agnostic will not have to go far before he/she runs into a believer. Most Buddhists/most believers are reasonable people, they will readily admit that some concepts in Buddhism have to be taken on faith - such as that the Buddha is/was who he supposedly said he was, that the existence of nirvana is most likely real, that the Eight Fold Path works as advertised, and that reincarnation/rebirth is real. However, some hard core/blind believers of Buddhism deny the speculative nature of several key aspects of Buddhism - namely karma, reincarnation, & nirvana - and claim that those items are very much real aspects of the actual world & universe. The following are 10 reasons they may give when defending their belief that karma, reincarnation, nirvana are real and not speculative aspects of a great world religion/an example of human creativity - even though they cannot provide any modern scientific & mathematical, or even ordinary logic/reason based proof to demonstrate that the speculative items in Buddhism are an actual aspect of the real universe. The following was written by the commenter SomewhatDisgusted at this great conversation/debate re: Buddhism at Groundviews. To see people argue each item at length, for weeks on end, read the entire comments thread at the Groundviews post (it is the samsara of Buddhism discussions :), highly entertaining - if nothing else).

"Top 10 reasons to believe in Karma and Rebirth so far
[written by SomewhatDisgusted]

1. Argument from dishonesty (a.k.a argument from conspiracy)
Q. Prove/give us reason to believe that kamma and rebirth are real.
A. You are a dishonest, decadent western conspirator. Therefore, kamma and rebirth are true.
* Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_motive

2. Argument from definition
Q. Prove/give us reason to believe that kamma and rebirth are real.
A. There’s no such thing as proof. Therefore, kamma and rebirth are true.
* Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loki’s_Wager

3. Argument from science
Q. Prove/give us reason to believe that kamma and rebirth are real.
A. Science is pathetic and faulty. Therefore, kamma and rebirth are true.
* Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignoratio_elenchi

4. Argument from argument reversal
Q. Prove/give us reason to believe that kamma and rebirth are real.
A. Prove that it doesn’t [isn't?] . Therefore, kamma and rebirth are true.
* Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophic_burden_of_proof

5. Argument from illustriousness (a.k.a Argument from intimidation)
Q. Prove/give us reason to believe that kamma and rebirth are real.
A. Einstein. Oppenheimer. Shrodinger’s science and Newton’s cat. Quantum physics boom!Therefore, kamma and rebirth are true.
* Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignoratio_elenchi

6. Argument from erudition
Q. Prove/give us reason to believe that kamma and rebirth are real.
A. It cannot be understood by “common” knowledge. Therefore, kamma and rebirth are true.
* Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_authority

7. Argument from omniscience/overwhelming authority
Q. Prove/give us reason to believe that kamma and rebirth are real.
A. The Buddha said so. Therefore, kamma and rebirth are true.
* Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_authority

8. Argument from personal conviction
Q. Prove/give us reason to believe that kamma and rebirth are real.
A. I know it exists! I’ve experienced it. Therefore, kamma and rebirth are true.
* Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anecdotal_evidence

9. Argument from impressive numbers
Q. Prove/give us reason to believe that kamma and rebirth are real.
A. Many people believe it. Therefore, kamma and rebirth are true.
* Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum

10. Argument from irrationality
Q. Prove/give us reason to believe that kamma and rebirth are real.
A. Rationality is overrated. Therefore, kamma and rebirth are true.
* Ref: Fallacy? What fallacy? Logic & reason are no longer applicable. Anything goes!"

For a little bit more, read this comments post by SomewhatDisgusted. And for a whole lot more, read the entire comments thread at this Groundviews article (make sure you take off a week from work in order to do this - it will suck up a lot of your time & will most likely drive you insane at times - you have been warned :).

- Sujewa

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

And by "Higher Ground" I mean liberation of the mind from the prison of blind faith

So, a little bit of music, to start off this week's offerings at this blog - take it away Stevie:

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Article re: race & religion based schooling in Sri Lanka

This new article asks some interesting (& perhaps important for the peaceful future of Sri Lanka) questions. From the article at Secular Sri Lanka:

"The establishment of schools based on Race/Religion is indeed short-sighted. The founders of those educational institutions have only concerned about the situation at that time, to rectify only a handful of issues they were facing at that time. They have unleashed a set of monsters to kill another monster. They have clearly not thought about the future of this country. They have been dreaming that when the colonial rulers leave the country it will become a paradise. Has it become a paradise? Now our old colonial masters have gone back to their own land but laughing at us while we kill each other. We have separated evermore thanks to the short-sighted education systems that are in place even today. Can we correct this? What is the simplest thing we can do to make this go away? Of course change the way of teaching, Focus on “Sri Lankan” values; create “Sri Lankans” but NOT “Sinhalese-Buddhists”, “Muslim-Islamists” or “Tamil-Hindus”."

More at Secular Sri Lanka.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rejecting Race Theory (with the help of direct experience & secular & religious ideas)

Read all about it at Religurd. It's an old (from 2003) blog post of mine called "Race Is A Lie". I may re-post it here at some point, but in the meantime, check it out here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What is agnosticism and how does it relate to a positive approach towards Sri Lanka and the diaspora?

Agnosticism, in my view, is an approach to religion that states that a person may not believe in all or certain aspects of a religion or of all religions, or that a person may be comfortable with some aspects of a religion or religions and may not be comfortable with the more fantastic aspects of religions - such as gods, life after death, etc. The text book definition of agnosticism is the position that certain philosophical or religious questions cannot be answered by human reason, with typically the biggest question being the existence of God.

A positive approach to living on Earth is one that is useful to many or all humans. Generally, in my view, work that assists with the goal of ending poverty on Earth, ending hunger, ending homelessness, and helps in creating societies ruled by just and humane and effective laws, and work that supports individual rights, protection of individuals from both illegal and evil physical or mental harm, work that assists with safeguarding freedom of thought & expression, work that assists individuals with building wealth and securing property, work that provides people with health care, are all positive actions, and are a result of a positive approach to living on Earth.

Sri Lanka, an island in the Indian Ocean, as many readers of this blog post may know, is a nation with a long history. Civilization in Sri Lanka reaches back to the far distant past, with remains of past societies still visible on the island in the form of ruins, sculptures, etc. Modern Sri Lanka - since independence in 1948 - has struggled with poverty, underdevelopment, and a series of armed struggles - the longest running of which - the war between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government, ended last year. At this point in time Sri Lankans exist either in Sri Lanka proper - on the island - or world wide, in various countries, as a part of the Sri Lankan diaspora. An agnostic and positive approach from both within Sri Lanka and outside - in the Sri Lankan diaspora - can lead to the improvement of the quality of life for people in Sri Lanka and the diaspora.

Full development of Sri Lanka - of the island becoming a place that is competitive with the most developed countries on the planet - has been delayed by the lack of cooperation (to put it mildly, outright violent hostilities at some points which led to a nearly 30 year war may also be an accurate view) between the two main groups of people on the island - the Sinhala speaking Buddhists & Christians & others (mostly Buddhists) or the Sinhalese and the Tamil speaking Hindus & Christians & Muslims & others (mostly Hindu) or the Tamils. Agnostics, positively oriented agnostics who are interested in building a better Sri Lanka - from within Sri Lanka and from the diaspora - may be able to function as intermediaries, a buffer perhaps, and a positive force that can help guide people from both groups towards action that benefits Sri Lanka as well as the rest of the world.

In my view a positive agnostic does not seek the destruction of religions (as religions are a part of the intellectual and creative heritage of humans) but both freedom of religion for those who wish to practice a religion and freedom from religion for those who do not wish to participate in religions. In addition, a positive agnostic will help save non-believers or believers of different religions from any excessive & evil (aimed at destroying human life) actions initiated by extremist factions of one or more religious groups. In the Sri Lankan context, positively oriented agnostics from Sri Lanka and the diaspora may be able to assist the people of Sri Lanka with maintaining peace and dialogue between various groups/communities/ethnic & religious factions/"races", etc. Also, agnostics, who are open to useful knowledge from any part of the world - unlike conservative Sri Lankans who distrust the West, for example, may be able to assist with the modernization of Sri Lanka in areas useful to Sri Lankans: education, industry, employment, finance, security, etc. Positively oriented agnostics can assist Sri Lankans talk to each other and work with each other and can assist with the conversation that needs to happen between Sri Lankans and the rest of the world - since we do not favor one religious or ethnic group over another, and we seek development of Sri Lanka & the diaspora so that all Sri Lankans and the rest of the world may benefit.

- Sujewa

Secular Sri Lanka site

Check it out here.

From the Who We Are section:

"Our membership is open and all are welcome, (both nonbelievers and believers), atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, secularists, skeptics, humanists, separation of Temple and State advocates, and individuals who are questioning and searching beliefs with open mind. We campaign for a Secular Sri Lanka, moving forward with an amended Secular Constitution, promoting Science and Reason as the central doctrine in democratic governance. Religion is a strictly private matter of Sri Lanka's citizens, and the state requires strict separation from religious participation. We encourage and promote a much needed dialogue for a constitutional amendment to separate religion from Sri Lankan State."

A lot more here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Mission

I consider all religions to be products of the human intellect & of human creativity. Thus, all religious knowledge & experience is also the heritage of non-believers, since we too are human. The goal of this blog is to explore & suggest some constructive methods as to how non-believers and believers (in Buddhism and all other religions that can be found in Sri Lanka) in Sri Lanka & the world wide Sri Lankan community - the Sri Lankan diaspora - can work together to accomplish useful objectives. Further, additional goals include inquiriy into and discovery of various Sri Lankan secular/atheist/agnostic traditions & views & practices as well as inquiry into same aspects of the religions in Sri Lanka & the diaspora. The end goal of this blog & this project is to help make living in this world a better experience for all Sri Lankans and other humans on Earth (helping to end poverty, lack of food & housing, lack of education & employment opportunities, supporting freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion, supporting security of the body & property, & supporting individual rights & freedom to build wealth, as well as supporting the creation & implementation of good laws & supporting the turning of Sri Lanka into a land ruled well by just laws, also a land free of racism and oppression that arises out of race theory - to name just a few items of concern for this blog & project).

This blog was inspired by Buddhism related conversations held at the comments section of a Groundviews post.

Constructive contributions, in the form of comments or blog posts, are welcome. Send me an e-mail if you would like to write a post for this blog.

- Sujewa