Klasie Kraalogies: As Mist Before the Sun: The Slow Relief of Unbelief (4)

Still Life with Bread and Wine, la Porte

Note from CM: Thanks to Klasie for sharing his story with us. This is the final installment.

• • •

by Klasie Kraalogies

Part 4

When, therefore, we maintain that pleasure is the end, we do not mean the pleasures of profligates and those that consist in sensuality, as is supposed by some who are either ignorant or disagree with us or do not understand, but freedom from pain in the body and from trouble in the mind. For it is not continuous drinkings and revellings, nor the satisfaction of lusts, nor the enjoyment of fish and other luxuries of the wealthy table, which produce a pleasant life, but sober reasoning, searching out the motives for all choice and avoidance, and banishing mere opinions, to which are due the greatest disturbance of the spirit.

• Epicurus


I will make prodigious use of quotations this week – because sometimes, why say something in ones own muddling prose, while it is possible to synthesize some so more mire succinct from other, greater minds.

Deconverting is easy – but changing one’s thought patterns, finding new view on the universe that makes sense is difficult. More difficult still is dealing with the internal emotional fallout – emotional patterns built up over nearly 4 decades takes some time to readjust to reality, once the veils have been removed. Blinding light causes the inner man to blink.

There are many things to find – how does the universe work? What about free will? How does one live? How does one endure suffering? And ultimately, what about death? I can on some things here. Last week someone ask about family – it is something I do not wish to speak about much in the public. Suffice to say, at least one of my children arrived at unbelief before me, the rest came of their own accord. I never attempted to become an evangelist, even in my own household. But my parents – they still don’t know. They live in the opposite hemisphere, and at their age, and especially with the state of health one of them is in, I simply do not bring the topic up, and skirt around issues. What good can be done anyway? But let’s leave that there.

I’m very glad you asked me that, Mrs. Rawlinson. The term `holistic’ refers to my conviction that what we are concerned with here is the fundamental interconnectedness of all things.

• Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

I mentioned Spinoza. Between Spinoza and, funnily enough Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently, I was quite convinced that we live in a deterministic universe. I am sorry, but there is no way around it – our emotional revulsion none withstanding. My university training in Dynamical Systems pointed the way to a useful definition – I started understanding reality as a, for all intents and purposes, a non-linear deterministic system. Meaning prediction is quite futile. Thus it appears as if we have free will.

Of course, James Gleick put it much better:

It struck me as an operational way to define free will, in a way that allowed you to reconcile free will with determinism. The system is deterministic, but you can’t say what it’s going to do next.

• James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science

OK – but how to live in this? I don’t mean things like being a conservative or a liberal – I pretty much accepted that the only way to deal with these matter is in a rationalistic manner (shades of John Stuart Milne, I know). I had already discovered that morality is part of our evolutionary inheritance – and without getting into the debate, which merits a few posts by itself, I refer you to Frans de Waal, the Dutch-American primatologist. A good place to start is The Bonobo and the Atheist.

But just – how to think about life? Eventually, I went back to Epicurus – who really got a bad rap, especially from the Early Church, who spread enormous falsehoods about Epicureanism and the Epicurean communities. Essentially, Epicureanism stands in sharp contrast to Hedonism. It states that you cannot add to pleasure, once you have eliminated pain (see quote above). Once you have eliminated hunger by simple good food, you add no pleasure by gorging yourself – which is the message of Hedonism and the modern way of indulgence. But he does add this – and here I failed dramatically in my religious life, because religion destroyed friendship after friendship:

We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink.


In addition to the Epicureans, the Stoics are also helpful. Marcus Aurelius is most useful when discussing the continuing travails and fears of this life:

Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.

• Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

And so, of course, are the admonitions of his fellow Stoic, Epictetus:

He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.

• Epictetus

Thus, the thing that caused my great anxiety had finally been resolved by well, story.

As a Christian, the spectre of death hung over me.  Hell chased me. Then – when I cast those beliefs aside, the fear of a final annihilation did the same. Which, as an aside is an interesting point, as it directs our thoughts to the very origin of our beliefs. Just think about that. It is of course ironic that I kept on fearing death, because I have had far more than my share of close encounters with the sharp scythe. Gunshot, food poisoning in the jungle, lightening, car accident… and no, I am not here to talk about that. Though somehow, I was lifted out of that fear when I met DEATH – the character, in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.


• Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

His ruminations in the books struck me hard:

Was that what it was really like to be alive? The feeling of darkness dragging you forward?

How could they live with it? And yet they did, and even seemed to find enjoyment in it, when surely the only sensible course would be to despair. Amazing. To feel you were a tiny living thing, sandwiched between two cliffs of darkness. How could they stand to be alive?

Obviously it was something you had to be born to.

• Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man


• Terry Pratchett, Mort

Yes – we come from a void, billions of years that we did not exist that somehow doesn’t scare us. Why ruin the life we have with the fear of the time after we are gone? In Reaper Man, DEATH himself finds that he is somehow mortal. His reaction is the best:


Albert backed away nervously.

‘And now that you have it, what are you going to do with it?’ he said.

Death mounted his horse.


• Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

And so I come to the end of this series. To quote Terry Pratchett again –

‘Do you know what happens to lads that ask too many questions?”

Mort thought for a moment.

“No,” he said eventually, “what?”

There was silence.

Then Albert straightened up and said, “Damned if I know. Probably they get answers, and serve ’em right.

• Terry Pratchett, Mort

Instead of oblivion, I discovered life and light. I discovered courage to stand, and joy to be found. I renewed my fascination with the magnificence of this earth, and the universe (multiverse?) beyond. In life, in matter, and in the complicated, surprising, unpredictable beauty of the math behind it all. It might appear senseless – in the words of James Gleick:

The ceaseless motion and incomprehensible bustle of life. Feigenbaum recalled the words of Gustav Mahler, describing a sensation that he tried to capture in the third movement of his Second Symphony. Like the motions of dancing figures in a brilliantly lit ballroom into which you look from the dark night outside and from such a distance that the music is inaudible…. Life may appear senseless to you.

• James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science

And yet – it is fantastic. The existential fear need not be. Yes, we will meet the struggles, even if we must hold to the fading words of the such as Marcus Aurelius (seriously, read him). We will contend with the ups and downs of our internal personae.

And yet –

Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.

• Marcus Aurelius

Region Inside the Large Magellanic Cloud, NASA

94 thoughts on “Klasie Kraalogies: As Mist Before the Sun: The Slow Relief of Unbelief (4)

  1. KK…..I have been educated by this series of yours (and saddened by your journey, as well…) I can see how you have been led by your experiences, although my path has been quite different. I started-and ended-with a simple question: did the man we call Jesus, or Yeshua ben Joseph, exist? Are the words he spoke and the actions of his life true?? Because that is all that really matters, IMHO. I have to agree with CS Lewis~he lived, and he was either a lunatic, a liar, or Lord of the Universe. To me, the truth lies behind Door #3…..and the rest are details.

    Thank you for your insight into another angle on the meaning of life…………….


  2. I’m aware the strength of my own mental instruments wavers. I’m also aware that I’ve belittled my own existential reasoning out of a sense of inadequacy — which though real, doesn’t validate anyone else’s existential conclusions in reference to my own struggle.

    Just getting in to Kierkegaard today:

    The present writer is nothing of a philosopher, he has not understood the System, does not know whether it actually exists, whether it is completed; already he has enough for his weak head in the thought of what a prodigious head everybody in our day must have, since everybody has such a prodigious thought.



  3. RDavid, along these lines I can’t recommend too strongly, Francis Spuffords’s Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense. It could serve as a counter weight to KK’s journey away from faith.


  4. One more, because it’s the best definition of sin out there:

    “Sin, young man, is when you treat people like things, including yourself. That’s what sin is.”

    Granny Weatherwax

    Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum


  5. Thanks Chris. But otoh, I have teenage daughters, who assure me that Style and I do not inhabit the same planet… 😉


  6. Better an informed and true disbeliever than a thousand witless sheep disingenuously play acting. Whatever you do, do it with style and Klass.


  7. Oh I know they were extreme in their theology. But if we go back to my first two posts, I did spend about 13 years outside of the sect before I finally left the faith. In that tine I attended Dutch Reformed, Anglican (short while), Lutheran and a few other churches. Plus I was a habitual reader of this and other online spaces (Jesus Creed etc) for many years.

    My leaving was not so much caused by the extremes (although they did add emotional and psychological baggage), but by the centre not holding under scrutiny, so to speak.


  8. I came here in the early 2000’s when I was still a Reformed Christian, and discovering the then-lively Reformed blogosphere. I stayed- because it is a nice, thoughtful place.


  9. Thank you, Klasie.

    I am truly sorry that the expression of Christianity in which you were raised was so deformed, and hurt you so badly. IMNSHO, I don’t believe God endorsed that at all.



  10. “one of his major points was that enough really is enough–once you have it, in whatever, adding to it will not serve to make you happier”

    ah, contentment: to be rich is to be content with what we have

    to be happy is to live in the present moment with thankfulness . . . . . as a person who is older I sometimes identify with these words from Anne Lamott:
    “For twenty years I have ached to go back home, when there was nobody there to whom I could return.”

    people I loved lived there and they have passed on . . . . . and I can’t ‘go home’ again . . . . and there are those days when I wonder why ‘going home’ again comes into my head:

    do I want to be young again? do I want to see those dear people again? do I regret the mistakes and the missed opportunities of those days? is ‘re-winding’ into the past my idea of ‘renewal’ ?

    I don’t know.

    so instead: I make the coffee, I look out at the snow falling, the candles are lit and the fireplace is glowing, and I am warm and safe and holding a puppy ……… if this does not please me, then I am ashamed of my greediness for what cannot be had again

    to be at peace is to be thankful, or is it the other way around? 🙂


  11. My religion is born of weakness. I admit it. I’m not among the winners or strong in the game of life. Given that, it seems appropriate that the religion that has claimed me, or that I claim, is that of the Crucified God. If it’s just illusion, which I acknowledge it may well be, it’s the illusion that fits the gap in me, if not the gap in the our inability to explain the world.


  12. Those are good questions. I suppose that my own awareness of how much time and promise I’ve wasted in my life, how much I’ve f**ked everything up, and how I can never make up for it, and how I’m too caught up in decades-long destructive habits that blindside me every time I try to change them anyway (and this despite years of psychological counseling and treatment) leads me to hold out for some hope of the squandered waste being redressed after death, for some kind of resurrection in which all that I’ve lost and thrown away will be restored and fulfilled. Without this hope, I’m afraid I would sink into irreversible despair. That’s the gap that religion fills in me. It may be that something can come out of nothing, but not enough can come out of me to make life bearable if this is the only life we have. If it’s illusion, it’s one I need to survive.


  13. Klasie, thanks for sharing your story. And to CM for hosting it. There’s a lot that resonates with me. Painfully so.

    If you don’t mind my asking, what originally brought you (and continues to bring you) to Internet Monk?


  14. And to be honest, why fit anything in there? Why not be excited about all there is to still learn?


  15. It is a long stretch to go from “Something cannot come out of nothing” to the Trinity and Incarnation and Resurrection, requiring many smaller steps, each of which is subject to myriad skeptical questions and critical analyses. You can as easily fit Islam or Buddhism or etc. in the space opened up as you can Christianity, and some of these perhaps more easily. Pick your religion of the gaps.


  16. When I was 12 or so, my dad once said to me, “How do you know you are living here? How do you know you’re not a gray blob, sitting in a cave on Mars, imagining that you’re living here?”

    50 years or so later, I was watching an episode of Star Trek, The Next Generation, and Dr. Beverly Crusher thought all her friends were disappearing before her eyes. She set out to find a scientific explanation and solution, then briefly stopped and said to herself, “What if I’m insane? Well, if I am it won’t matter what I do anyway.”

    I think, a half-century later, Dr. Crusher answered my dad.


  17. One last quote from Pratchett, just for fun (I love this one!):

    “His philosophy was a mixture of three famous schools — the Cynics, the Stoics and the Epicureans — and summed up all three of them in his famous phrase, ‘You can’t trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there’s nothing you can do about it, so let’s have a drink.”
    – Terry Pratchett, Small Gods


  18. And yet, the presumption that because we are as of yet uncertain about the nothing to something part (Krauss none-withstanding), therefore God (and all of Christianity) is even less tenable. It is (or was for me at least), “shoe horning” a cherished belief into a empty space in reality so as to hold on to it. It is in fact, the last desperate stand of God-of-the-Gaps.

    There are plenty of alternative logical arguments, which I won’t bore you with. Aquinas’ Cosmological argument is a good one, yet makes an incredible leap (must be a first cause, therefore that first cause is God). In the end, it is futile – it proves nothing, since it cannot prove a deity, it might point towards energy, or a multiverse, or something else as well.


  19. Or, as said by the great Epicurean philosopher, Mary Poppins–“Enough is as good as a feast!”


  20. Or there is a God and you should, indeed, fear eternal damnation. The road sign is there; you ignore it at your own risk.


  21. None of which excludes a Creator who implanted that property into the fabric of the cosmos. I am aware of the counter-arguments, but “something coming out of nothing” is still to my mind a philosophical conclusion, not a scientific one.


  22. emotions and experiences are not inherently unreliable. Neither are logic and reason inherently infallible.

    You just made every Reformed apologist on the net have an apoplectic fit. 😉


  23. “Guilt was the grease in which the wheels of the authority turned.”
    ? Terry Pratchett, Small Gods:


  24. I think Small Gods is my favourite. I think it has a bigger impact than dozens of philosophical treatises or populist books.

    “The figures looked more or less human. And they were engaged in religion. You could tell by the knives (it’s not murder if you do it for a god).”
    ? Terry Pratchett, Small Gods

    “There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.”
    ? Terry Pratchett, Small Gods

    “Belief, he says. Belief shifts. People start out believing in the god and end up believing in the structure.”
    ? Terry Pratchett, Small Gods


  25. Great series. I had a very similar arc in my own life and beliefs. The only big difference is I came of age in the late ’90’s early 2000’s and the same-sex marriage fight had a big influence in pushing me away from religion and the church. Up until then I had my doubts, but viewed church as something generally good if not totally accurate in its supernatural claims. But seeing the way gay people were treated and talked about finally pushed me into no longer going.

    I love Terry Pratchett thought, “:Small Gods” had a massive impact on my outlook on religion and belief.


  26. But even in deistic-moral systems, right and wrong changes. There is a lot of OT moralism which won’t be touched today.

    It is good to ask these questions. But be aware that the answers are often long, complicated and convoluted.


  27. My argument isn’t that only the true religion can breed order, it never has been. Ironically I believe, apparently as you do, that some sense of law in order is part of our DNA, I just believe it for a different reason. But if one excepts a naturalistic framework we get back to the question of “why?”. Why should this be considered right or wrong? And if the answer is, “We evolved that way”, then why should it continue to be right or wrong? With evolution things change. Maybe years ago eugenics wouldn’t have worked out for society, but maybe now it will. Or why should we use tremendous resources to take care of the sick and the old? If it is only an evolutionary impulse, maybe that impulse is like a vestigial organ which is no longer necessary or helpful, and we need to remove it. This isn’t an argument for anything, but rather a consideration of the implications of a purely naturalistic framework.


  28. You bring up an interesting argument. The thing is, if one has only been exposed to fear-based motivation due to a specific kind of religious background, such as I have, that is a reasonable argument to make.

    But yet, all societies have developed laws, irrespective of their religious perspectives. A broad consensus has emerged, and still evolves. If your argument held true, only the “true religion” would breed order. But that is manifestly false. Also, highly non-religious societies would descend into chaos, but that is also manifestly false.

    In fact, we find that attitudes towards law and order rely on a multitude of motivations. Bur because humans have a range of emotive responses, and are most of the time only sub-rational, we have discovered that a form of law and order is necessary to “keep the margins in check”. Now Frans de Waal, describes the same phenomena in our primate cousins – from Bonobos to chimps to others. And no one is going to argue that it is their belief in the Trinity that helps them keep order among themselves.

    No, morality is a complicated subject. And it exists outside religion.


  29. Why should I follow a bronze age tribal deity’s rules if I don’t get all the benefits and blessings that he promised to give to those who follow those rules?


  30. Only for those who don’t want to follow. And by don’t want to I’m not talking about conflicting desires but just flat out “I don’t like God’s rules” attitude. But the Biblical writers didn’t shy away from fear as a reason to obey. Why should I follow society’s laws if I don’t like them and they are the result of evolution, other than fear of the consequences for breaking the law?


  31. Oh, i am a big supporter of emergent complexity, properties etc. I think it is a necessary mathematical outcome. I also suspect, just like fellows like Douglas Hofstadter and others, that this is the origin of consciousness. The strange orders created by chaotic systems (mathematically defined, that is), the wonders of synchronicity and feedback loops – there is much, much still to discover. The world is joyous, wonderful place.

    And I look forward to that beer – just choose a spot with good ales!


  32. Ah, Bach.

    When they compiled the golden disk with earth sounds to attach to the Voyager spacecraft – hopefully to be found by some alien civilization in the future – the question came up on what music to include. Someone suggested Bach, but Carl Sagan answered that that would just be showing off.


  33. I think many of these non-theistic philosophical wanderings are manifestations of the same Meaning that is how I experience God. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God—language, meaning, interpretation by a mind. Can there be logic without meaning?

    But surely much of this is true:

    We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink.


    Because where two or three are gathered together, they attest to common meaning that transcends themselves and their own existence as small, selfish entities. That Meaning is the very substance that nourishes us and provides the basis for our love and fellowship.


  34. In my somewhat limited, but positive, understanding of Epicurus (Greek philosophers generally make my eyes glaze over), one of his major points was that enough really is enough–once you have it, in whatever, adding to it will not serve to make you happier. Intelligent man–if more of us followed that principle, the world would be a better, more abundant, place for all of us.


  35. I do want to add, as I’m usually pushing back against something you said, that I have enjoyed your series and appreciate it.


  36. I think you already know the answer to that but I’ll say it anyway; even if people can’t or won’t hold me accountable, God eventually will. Beyond that, if you don’t believe in God and you don’t want to follow biblical morality there is no reason to.


  37. Theistic semantic gripe: The reason (Reason) that societies shouldn’t destroy themselves and the reason that “sub-optimal” is less than optimal is God. And that reason pervades everything, from the societal level to the most personal level, including judgments made both my logical interpretation and subjective emotional weighing.

    I understand that it’s a semantic cop-out, which is why I don’t pretend that it exists in the same realm as serious, intellectual inquiry. I wouldn’t ask for my semantic argument to be afforded intellectual respect, but I do ask for it to be given personal respect, because it works for me and forms the basis of my worldview, and I feel totally authentic in affirming it. I do believe it is true.


  38. Klasie, you have built a formidable intellectual fortress. Its walls are the smoothest adamantium and unobtainium; they cannot be breached or scaled. You have honed your emotional jiu-jitsu so that every oppositional move is counter-moved and pared and flipped on its head. Congratulations, I guess?
    “I mentioned a sect. By the time I was nine years old, we were immersed. These guys were different. They were Strict! With a capital ’S’!… They had a Mission Station, which became our main holiday destination henceforth, where one would enjoy the wonder of 3 services every day. Being harangued from the pulpit. Being told to confess your sins. Being told you must be perfect!… “Want to know about hell? Let’s watch this movie about hell.” Estus Pirkle’s “Burning Hell” was shown at least once a week… And so I grew up – in perpetual fear. Religion was fear. Fear was religion. The world was a snare pit. A 6000 – year old snare pit.”
    Damn that sect. Damn them to hell. Tie a millstone around their necks and cast them deep into the sea. You say you are a determinist, Klasie, then these religious assholes determined this outcome. Why do we humans do this? The soviet union and purity of ideology-comrade, Mao’s China, Jim Jones, David Koresh, Heaven’s Gate, L. Ron Hubbard, the N.I.C.E., 1984…why do humans want to imitate the hive—the Borg? Because no matter how comprehensive “the Program” there is always the Solzhenitsyn, the Cool Hand Luke who “won’t get his mind right”. Instead of producing the “perfect Christian” they instead have produced “the perfect atheist”. Congratulations, y’all (sarcasm so heavy I now have heartburn).
    Well, Klasie, my friend, I won’t dispute your story, because it is your story, and I respect that. It is not, however, my story. For me, at least, what saves my intellect from surrendering to absolute determinism and materialism is the concept of emergent properties. In chemistry, for example, the taste of saltiness is a property of salt, but that does not mean that it is also a property of sodium and chlorine, the two elements which make up salt. Thus, saltiness is an emergent property of salt. In biology, the heart is made of heart cells, heart cells on their own don’t have the property of pumping blood. You will need the whole heart to be able to pump blood. Thus, the pumping property of the heart is an emergent property of the heart.
    The way I use this term means I think that neither life nor consciousness is an independent substance but they cannot be simply reduced to the level below (i.e. to chemistry in the case of life or to biology in the case of consciousness). So when you say, “I couldn’t escape the fact that there are structures in reality (if those are the right words), and that reality does not reflect a super-naturalist world view, but is very much naturalist, or materialist if you wish…”, I think you have literally missed the forest for the trees. Rather for me, I cannot escape the fact that human realty reflects the emergence of FREEDOM (picture, please, Mike the Geologist painting his face half-blue and shouting…). And that emergence ABOVE nature was God’s plan from the beginning of everything to create us in His Image. We are the literal eikons placed in the temple of His universe that reflect His reality. His reality is freedom, and, of course, the highest expression of freedom is to love and be loved.
    So: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life… is for me the highest reality. I know YMMV, but there it is—when you are in Indy, you, me and Chaplain Mike will meet for beer and further discuss. Be well, my friend.


  39. Yes – but emotions are much, much more subjective than reason, because while 1+1=2, emotive responses are diametrically opposed quite often. I am reminded of the quip in Lutheran circles about certain types of evangelicals, namely that they are led by “liver-shivers”. 🙂


  40. Of course – we always need to understand people within their context. After all, if moral perfection is what one is looking for, why read the lecherous Solomon, or the bloodthirsty, husband-murdering David, or the anti-sexual Paul, or……


  41. “The side effect of Sell-that-Fire-Insurance Salvation.
    “If you can’t love ’em into the Kingdom, SCARE ‘EM INTO THE KINGDOM!” You can only live so long in “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” mode with God’s Hell-gun pressed to the back of your head — one up the spout, hammer back, and safety off — before you snap and go crazy and/or go over the Berlin Wall to the West. Yet “SCARE ‘EM INTO THE KINGDOM!” is so common — “Sell that Fire Insurance!”

    And we wonder why there is a lack of emphasis on love in churches, or why many walk away.


  42. Independent Fundamentalist Baptist > Fundamentalist Charismatic Pentecostal > Fundamentalist Evangelical. With smatterings of LCMS and PCA in between here and there.


  43. I hear what you are saying, but I will have to go w/ Scot McKnight on that: some argue “that emotions and experience are an “unreliable” means to determine the truth of a claim. Yet, are they? It depends on the claim being made. For example, if the claim is simple, such as, “That lemon is sour,” then my experience tasting it and the resulting feelings I experience are reliable to determine the truth of that claim unless, as C.S. Lewis suggests, we do not experience the lemon as sour. In that case we have only two logical choices: either something is wrong with the lemon or something is wrong with one’s taste-buds. For Lewis, our subjective feelings should correlate with the objective reality we encounter. If they don’t, well then we need to work on training them to respond rightly, as well as help train others—hence the Narnia books. My point in referencing Lewis is simply this: emotions and experiences are not inherently unreliable. Neither are logic and reason inherently infallible. Emotions, like logic, either correspond to reality or they don’t. We are responsible for analyzing and discerning truth claims, whether they are propositional or narrative.”


  44. Chances are I won’t have time to read his work, but quite frankly the short answer to my question isn’t really satisfactory because we really don’t really know that it would lead to the self destruction of a society. Eugenics is the example I chose because the logic of evolution can easily lead someone to that position. But even if I grant that your position is right, once I realize these moral ideas just arose from evolution, what reason do I have to follow them if I don’t want to?


  45. Exhibit number one: Religion based on fear.

    You won’t understand Seneca, but I find this sort of thing abusive and despicable. Loathsome. Not because I am scared of death. Death doesn’t scare me anymore – for the first tine in 4 decades. But what I find loathsome is that this vile nonsense preys on the minds of the sensitive and the innocent.


  46. To your last point, exactly. I saw someone on twitter this morning mention how after being out of a long term abusive relationship for a few months, their natural interests that they had suppressed were starting to emerge again. I’ve felt the same way with Christianity, especially fundamentalism.


  47. Oh yeah, I’ve never been more terrified or fearful of life and death than when I was a Christian. All my life, constant nightmares, waking terrors, walks down the aisle for assurance, nothing brought peace but unbelief.

    IDK if the same thing drives people to find God, more that they are in terror and are driven to a solution, which sometimes is God, sometimes is not. The right persuasive person offering comfort at the right time wins. God has nothing to do with it.


  48. Exactly. Which means that we have to recognise that we are easily led by emotions, and that while these are powerful, they are no guide to truth.


  49. Jon, short answer: Eugenics is part of a pattern of belief that if followed will lead to the self-destruction of such a society. IE, it is evolutionary sub-optimal. Same with say a society where murder is ok. Or incest. Etc. They simply destroy themselves, whereas societies that value kindness and conpassion survive.

    Long answer? Read Frans de Waal.


  50. “As a Christian, the spectre of death hung over me. Hell chased me.” That sounds awful. I am sorry that you experienced that.

    The side effect of Sell-that-Fire-Insurance Salvation.
    “If you can’t love ’em into the Kingdom, SCARE ‘EM INTO THE KINGDOM!”

    You can only live so long in “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” mode with God’s Hell-gun pressed to the back of your head — one up the spout, hammer back, and safety off — before you snap and go crazy and/or go over the Berlin Wall to the West. Yet “SCARE ‘EM INTO THE KINGDOM!” is so common — “Sell that Fire Insurance!”

    “I renewed my fascination with the magnificence of this earth, and the universe”. I do think we Christians don’t do that (enough), and have no reason not to. We should be fully engaging.

    Another side effect, this one of “Spiritual Good, Physical Baaaaaaad!” and “It’s All Gonna Burn”. Thank you, John Nelson Darby and Hal Lindsay.

    Back during my Done/Seeker days, I had a Jesus Juke cast a big wet blanket on my previous passion for astronomy. Took years to recover from that one throwaway Spiritual Counting Coup.


  51. My take on Aurelius:
    He was upper-class Roman, and “being sober, rational, fair, and tolerant” was entirely within the constraint of being upper-class Roman. He couldn’t get outside the box of being Roman, with its zero-sum game of honor/shame and power and tropism for cruelty. Just as Mohammed could not get far outside the box of Arab Tribal Culture, with its zero-sum game of honor/shame.


  52. Matthew James Bellamy


    Erie whispers
    Trapped beneath my pillow
    You won’t let me sleep
    Your memories

    I know you’re in this room
    I’m sure I heard you sigh
    Floating in between
    Where our worlds collide

    Scares the hell out of me
    And the end is all I can see
    And it scares the hell out of me
    And the end is all I can see

    And I know the moment’s near
    And there’s nothing we can do
    Look through a faithless eye
    Are you afraid to die?

    It scares the hell out of me
    And the end is all I can see
    And it scares the hell out of me
    And the end is all I can see

    It scares the hell out of me
    And the end is all I can see
    And it scares the hell out of me
    And the end is all I can see


  53. –> “Probably need to calibrate my instruments…”

    Just keep the targeting device locked in on Jesus and you’ll be okay. Let all that other stuff go.


  54. Adams, Pratchett, Gleick. Good, clever minds. Some of their statements might fit right into Ecclesiastics, me-thinks.


  55. –> I find this very ironic, if not paradoxical.

    My predeterministic self was going to write a witty response, but my free will self stopped me. Or maybe it was the other way around…


  56. –> “I renewed my fascination with the magnificence of this earth, and the universe”. I do think we Christians don’t do that (enough), and have no reason not to. We should be fully engaging.

    This. One of the true joys of being a writer is that it helps me see God as Creator. The magnificence of the earth and the universe can’t be overstated. If He enjoys CREATING as much as I do as a struggling author…well, I can barely IMAGINE the places that exist beyond where our telescopes can see.


  57. –> “As a Christian, the spectre of death hung over me. Hell chased me.” That sounds awful. I am sorry that you experienced that.

    Yes. That does sound awful.

    I find it interesting that non-Christians can experience the same thing and FIND God, while Christians who experience such things LOSE God. In other words, some revelations cause people to switch seats with someone who had a similar revelation. A good friend of mine became a “Done” over an experience that caused another good friend to become a believer. Strange.


  58. Perhaps when I feel like I’m freely choosing one course of action instead of others I’m actually in the grip of an illusion, and no such free choice exists, since everything is determined, including the preference I will opt for in making what appears to my free choice. In that case, even my personal thoughts and preferences are determined by non-personal factors, and my experience of self and self-consciousness itself an illusory epiphenomenon. It’s hard to see how the concept of person can stand for an ontological reality in this case. But even if that’s the way it is, I will go on speaking and thinking as if that freedom exists, as will every human culture, and as you yourself will, Klasie. I find this very ironic, if not paradoxical.


  59. You stated in your post that you accept the idea that our morality came with evolution. But to me that still leaves a lot of questions. Morals are not always the same, so who is to say one is right and the other wrong. Or is it even correct to speak in terms of right and wrong? Is life more like a game where the majority or the most powerful just decide what rules we have to play by? For instance, why would eugenics be wrong in a naturalistic worldview?


  60. >> I started understanding reality as a, for all intents and purposes, a non-linear deterministic system. Meaning prediction is quite futile. Thus it appears as if we have free will.

    Thank you for this series, Klasie. Before you go, I wish you would expand on your point a bit. I agree with you enough on this that I would look forward to discussing it over a beer or two, perhaps even three. I have never studied Calvin, but my impression is he might agree with you, unlike most of his followers. The Reformed may be the one group on this planet I am least interested in sitting down with. Even Luciferians acknowledge free will, and it appears to be the first law of this planet to me, as well as the overriding principle of the governing Galactic Confederation, if such actually exists.

    Every day, rain or snow or shine, I pray a blessing for more than 150 people in particular as well as many more under various groupings. You come under one of those groupings, as does everyone reading these words. This means, if my belief is valid and thus regardless of your belief in this matter, that you get a daily smidgen of blessing you wouldn’t otherwise get if I quit doing this. You can, of course, put up a shield against this blessing, which would be honored. If I did not believe that my effort, which takes about a mile and the better part of an hour, if I did not believe it makes an actual difference in people’s lives and in the state of the world and the universe at large, I would spend that time and effort elsewhere, probably on myself. I realize many would say I would make more difference volunteering in a soup kitchen, but I disagree. There’s likely a lot more people working in soup kitchens of all kinds than doing what I do.

    The law of free will, in my view, is so vital to the ongoing story of this planet that the whole shebang depends on it, hangs from it, and it influences how the story turns out day by day, moment by moment. I can’t run the whole show with intentional free will, but as I understand it, I can make a real, if small, difference in the outcome, not just in my own life, but in the story at large, possibly enough to tip a balance. This is not just an interesting philosophical side trip for me, it is the whole point to why I am here and now. I’ll buy the first round and I’ll try what you’re having.


  61. Epicureanism differs even from ancient hedonism in that it aimed to moderate pleasure, saying that once the basic desire/need/pain is fulfilled, you cannot add to the pleasure. Hedonism is the headlong pursuit of pleasure. The only similarity is that they both concentrate on the question of pleasure, but their answers are radically different.


  62. Essentially, Epicureanism stands in sharp contrast to Hedonism.

    Isn’t Epicureanism a form of philosophical Hedonism (not hedonism as defined in popular culture)?


  63. Although I come to different conclusions, thanks for sharing.

    “As a Christian, the spectre of death hung over me. Hell chased me.” That sounds awful. I am sorry that you experienced that.

    “I renewed my fascination with the magnificence of this earth, and the universe”. I do think we Christians don’t do that (enough), and have no reason not to. We should be fully engaging.


  64. I feel ambivalent about Marcus Aurelius. I’ve read his Meditations, and there was much wisdom in his words, some of it overlapping with the basic perspectives I’ve found in Buddhism. He had a reputation among his contemporaries for being sober, rational, fair and tolerant. On the other hand, during the time that he presided as Roman Emperor, there was a marked increase in the local persecution of Christians. Historians disagree about the degree to which Aurelius was involved in or responsible for these persecutions, but these and the various wars he waged leave doubt in my mind about the extent of his tolerance and fairness, whether his philosophical wisdom was ultimately only the words of a sophisticated mind superimposed as window-dressing on the active brutality of the imperatives of Roman rule.


  65. How do we relate the future to the present or to our past experiences?
    Yesterday was full of doubt and fearfulness for me. I played some Bach, danced, conducted and swayed to the melody and the beat. Bach and I have a great relationship. He puts me on the right path if I stumble.
    I overdose on Bach, my epicurean feast. I cannot have too much. He sits in Heaven.

    Today my best friend spoke to me of her travail yesterday. Her good friend and her family decided that the path for their loved one was to end. The nurse gave the over dose of pain killer and the soul departed.
    I am unsure how my friend feels about this. It was the family’s decision but she was there to love, hold and support them.
    I have tried to be there for my friend today as she tries to get her head around what she witnessed yesterday.
    The release of the suffering and pain of the ill person and of the family is something I think my friend will never cast from her mind.

    Where is God in this situation?

    My friend finds no happiness in the present. She was abandoned by “The Church” 25 years ago. Her faith in God as redeemer is nil. I believe God was with her yesterday and in her time she will feast again. This is my prayer for her.


  66. Thanks for sharing your story, Klasie. Things may be as you say they are. With the exception of one or two religious experiences which I took to be supernatural in origin but may merely have been delusional, nothing in my experience makes it impossible for me to believe that the picture you draw of existence is the accurate one. It may be.

    But if I came to believe that it is correct, I’m afraid I would not have the same spirited enjoyment of the completely determined and purposeless universe that you do. From the moment I became aware of myself and the world as a child, I have experienced it as frightening and painful. I came kicking and screaming from the womb, and according to my family spent the next couple years continuing to kick and scream. I expect to go kicking and screaming back into the darkness when I die, if not literally then it terms of my disposition toward the world and my impending death. My religious belief may be nothing more than one of the ways that kicking and screaming has continued throughout my life.

    Then again, it may be that your picture is wrong, and there’s more to faith, and life, than that. We shall find out, or not. No one can be certain, either way; that’s difficult to live with, but there’s no honestly avoiding it.


  67. Thanks for this series.

    Following your last episode, I summed up the situation as I see it with “there is no epistemological route from Man to God.”

    Not quite ready to take the leap that you have, because I’m aware that the level of ‘proof’ I am ‘demanding’ is probably beyond what is possible while still leaving me the choice about believing or not. Probably need to calibrate my instruments…


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