In this first post I just want to introduce myself and (off the top of my head) outline a few of the themes you can expect to find in this blog in the future.
As described in my Profile, I've gone from Christian to free thinker and (I like to think) deep thinker. I've replaced my belief in God with a belief in people – people who can: (1) choose to create our own meaning and purpose in their lives; (2) choose to find happiness in good deeds, and in causes 'higher' than our own selves; (3) take responsibility for their own actions, thoughts, feelings, and their own responses to situations even if/when they cannot control those situations; (4) find opportunity (the opportunity to demonstrate dignity and integrity) even in hardship; (5) believe in themselves so that they KNOW they can cope with setbacks, and that they are capable of making good things happen; (6) make their knowledge secure, or tested against real experience....
Now, in later posts I will offer some essays and arguments well supported by wider reading. I'll be drawing on Existentialist and Humanist foundations, and taking ideas from my study of Psychotherapy. My work will be influenced by philosophers, authors, and therapists, including the following: Aldous Huxley, Satre, Camu, Carl Rogers, Victor Frankl, Rollo May, Irvin Yalom, Richard Dawkins, Richard Carrier, and others....
Here, in brief summary, are a few of themes I'd like to go into:
1. Shared difference: as a therapist I am often brought back to my idea of "shared difference". We are all the same in the sense that we are all different (sorry if this sounds needlessly paradoxical). In some general senses perhaps we all want similar things: love, and meaning, for example. But different things bring love and meaning to different people, in very different ways. We all require the confidence to be ourselves, so that we can then (with confidence) pursue what we want. This means leaving aside other people's traditions and conditions, and indeed religions.
2. Self-belief: "we cannot fight the enemy we cannot see", as Freud rightly said. We need awareness of our limitations in order to know what to change, yet an appreciation of our strengths and our potential is what enables change to occur. That's my one big tip, and 'the secret': believe in yourselves and you WILL cope with setbacks - you will turn setbacks into successes, and whoever pushes you down you WILL take responsibility for picking yourself back up; and you WILL make good things happen. We can be proud of ourselves, without being full of ourselves - confidence isn't boasting, becaue confidence is secure! Of course no one is perfect, not in every way, so no one can acheive great things or win approval from others all the time. Thus if we base self-worth on acheivement or approval we are resting on very shakey ground. On a pragmatic level, therefore, the most useful thing is to believe in ourselves (as ourselves) unconditionally. Just by being ourselves (one of a kind!) we are being valuable.
3. Experience precedes truth, not visa versa: I'm a believer in empirically observable states of affairs (i.e. things that exist), so I'm no believer in karma or reincarnation anymore than I'm a believer in aliens called Zippie. However, I like Buddhist psychology because it puts experience before truth. In contrast other religions posit a truth, and require us to somehow shape our experiences (our hopes, and feelings) so that they fit that truth. There is no one objective truth, or one way that we can all (with our different languages, backgrounds, and intellects) see. There is no abstract (Platonic) essence of love, joy, sadness, nor any abstract essence of objects like doornails or rubber ducks. Further, if we pursue some abstract concept that we read about, or conjure up, we miss the real thing. Love, for example, happens when we surrender to the experience, NOT when we pre-plan the feeling before we've felt it (!!) and they tray to make the experience fit the concept.
4. Rational Humanism: If we all went around believing in things without evidence or reason it could all get very silly. People could be discussing the occurance of flying pink elephants (most Thursdays at lunch time). Or closer to home, people could believe in fairies, alien abduction, or indeed 72 virgins in Heaven if they die as martyrs.... How about this: we could believe that God made human beings who are capable of sin, even though He knew well that He (in his RIghteousness) could have no association with sin. We could believe in a God who just wasn't capable of forgiving us when we did in fact sin – at least not without inflicting some punishment, hence the need to allow his son to be crucified. Although a crucifixion may seem to take a bad situation and make things worse, we could nevertheless believe that this privileged Son of God somehow took our sins on himself so we don't have to do anything to go to heaven - or, that is, we don't have to do anything EXCEPT believe all this rediculous stuff without any direct experience or evidence. Oh dear: were having enough trouble explaining how our Universe came into being - why add to the problem by creating the question, "how did this God come into being?"? Yes, without evidence or reason things CAN get very silly.
In any case, these are just a few initial ideas. I'd love to hear opinions and feedback, and I hope to be open to, and respectful of, different opinions. I don't believe in things "beyond experience", but I am very eager to broaden my experience. Teach me, I want to learn, and to empower myself through that...