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