Howardism Musings from my Awakening Dementia
My collected thoughts flamed by hubris
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My friend, Josh, put a follow-up to this essay on his web site. I especially like the quote:

The Bible says man is made in his image, but with the commonality of genetic code amongst all life is not all life in his image?


That the universe has in it more than we understand, that the private soldiers have not been told the plan of campaign, or even that there is one, rather than some vaster unthinkable to which every predicate is an impertinence, has no bearing upon our conduct.

We still shall fight-- all of us because we want to live, some, at least, because we want to realize our spontaneity and prove our powers, for the joy of it, and we may leave to the unknown the supposed final valuation of that which in any event has value to us. It is enough for us that the universe has produced us and has within it, as less than it, all that we believe and love. If we think of our existence not as that of a little god outside, but as that of a ganglion within, we have the infinite behind us. It gives us our only but our adequate significance. A grain of sand has the same, but what competent person supposes that he understands a grain of sand? That is as much beyond our grasp as man.

If our imagination is strong enough to accept the vision of ourselves as parts inseverable from the rest, and to extend our final interest beyond the boundary of our skins, it justifies the sacrifice even of our lives for ends outside of ourselves. The motive, to be sure, is the common wants and ideals that we find in man. Philosophy does not furnish motives, but it shows men that they are not fools for doing what they already want to do. It opens to the forlorn hopes on which we throw ourselves away, the vista of the farthest stretch of human thought, the chords of a harmony that breathes from the unknown.

—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Meaningless Evolution

My wife dropped the newsletter from her parish on the table when she returned from Mass today, and while I was cooking my world-famous "Winter Root Stew", I leafed through it, and found the following… all in capital letters, mind you:

We are not some casual or meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is loved. Each of us is necessary.

Once when I asked my wife if she believed in evolution, she said definitely not. She found the thought of it distasteful. However, I think this phrase really sums up most people's dislike of evolution… that of personal meaning.

But evolution and meaning are not correlated. It is true that if you believe in evolution, then personal meaning, personal value or personal worth is not dictated to you… it must be sought out, discovered and earned for oneself. To me, that sounds far richer.

The other day, I ran across an article that attempted to demonstrate that the more "religious" a country was, the lower its "morals." Compare the crime rates of Japan and various European countries where few people express religious affiliation with America and you get the idea. Of course, you must keep in mind that corellation isn't causation, and I for one, am not sure I'm willing to blame religion as the basis of our immorality and social problems-- it inevitably comes from many factors.

However, I do think there may be an interesting thought to chew on, in that those who are not religious, are moral for… dare I say, for better reasons than a fear of hell and the hope of a quick repentence. The godless moralists may be more moral because they may have struggled and internalized these issues, and take a more personal responsibility for their actions.

I haven't came to any conclusions about these ideas, but I present them to spawn some dialog. Any takers? Yes, you in the back with the orange hair and purple cape, go ahead…

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I could not agree more with the hypothesis that you are putting forth. I was once in the Christian faith and have done a complete 180, evolving myself into an agnostic evolutionary scientist. It has been all for the better.

It makes me sad to hear that people believe a life without "serving God" is meaningless. How uncreative these individuals are. I guess I don't have a major problem with the people who have tested their beliefs, or even tried other culture's beliefs. I do have a problem with the ones that grow up being spoonfed religious traditions and never even pause to question and reflect on their beliefs.

Living in Kansas, where "Evolution is on Trial," I get a full dose of the aforementioned poison thoughts. By the way, great website Howard… your website was an inspiration for mine. Check it out some time will ya?

Thanks for the compliment, and your site looks great.



I'm deeply fascinated by the honesty and profound commitment to the common good of human kind expressed by many atheists, without discriminations or dogmatisms.

Atheism (so as agnosticism) is the most challenging philosophical approach to the meaning of life; it is NOT a shortcut to egotism, it's instead a puzzling and troubling attempt to enlarge our comprehension of the world without the narrow barriers of prejudice and superstition. It's pure freedom, it's pure responsability.

Religion is our dog leash: it constrains us within certain predefined paths, menacing punishment to the curious guys.

As Albert Einstein used to say:

The ethical behavior of man is better based on sympathy, education, and social relationships, and requires no support from religion. Man's plight would, indeed, be sad if he had to be kept in order through fear of punishment and hope of rewards after death.

It is, therefore, quite natural that the churches have always fought against science and have persecuted its supporters.

I think you are right noticing that there seems to be a correlation between religion and country morality: cultural environments devoted to the positive assertion of individual responsability and social solidarity (such as northern european countries) are liberal ones, where the position of the religious lobbies is treated in the same manner as any other lobby (laical principle). Euthanasia, PACS (civil solidarity pacts), birth control methods, women rights, drugs legalization etc. are seen as evil by the god-fearing people, but they've been approved in those countries evaluating them for their effective results/benefits, not for their traditional predetermined consideration.

The most aggressive countries are (you guess?) those inoculated by an absolutistic way of thinking, an ideology, a strong thought that a maybe-democratical leader pumps up instrumentalizing it to catalyze the public opinion (in Italy, as we sadly have a multicentenary experience about that, we call it "popolo bue, oxlike-minded people").

IMHO, USA are infested by religious sects due to their very poor cultural assets (despite their economical prosperity) and their extreme cult for the material consumption. Moreover, USA institutions are traditionally bound with religion: I admit that any time the europeans hear addresses by your President Bush (but, definitely, any other that preceded him), they judge them really ridiculous and comic with all those pathetic references to God!

Another example: Italy is one of the countries most influenced by the christian church, but nobody need to remind you of the bad criminal reputation it gained (mafia & so on) and the corruption it feeds and lets thrive!

Atheism is the only philosophical approach that keeps absolute rules out of the semantics and just inside the metalinguistic (syntactic) expression of thought, whereas religions jealously shape both the semantics and the syntax out of absolute rules.

My compliments for your nice blog, Howard!

—Stephano Chizzolini


Perhaps evolution appears to be meaningless because we fail to perceive the meaning. I heard that Darwin repudiated parts of his theory in his later years after having meditated upon the idea that this elegant creation that he studied so fervently all of his life would HAVE to have had some kind of 'intelligence' behind it. He figured that it's unbelievable that it could have all happened by ACCIDENT!

That clip from the Catholic flier about us being here for a purpose involving love reminds me of many of the similar sayings from the Vedas. They say that we are deluded into believing that we are seperate from the ultimate cause and purpose of creation by the veils of forgetfullness that cover our consciousness once we become entranced by the feelings of existance. Many sages have claimed to have removed those veils and they all tell amazingly similar stories about what they see. I have discovered that the sum of all of their awareness and wisdom contains a common thread that creation is just a thought in the mind of the infinite. If we can awaken from our delusion of self we will see the eternal clear light from the perspective of the Self…

—Ean McClane