Belief, Christianity, Cultural Traits, Culture, Education, Faith, Family, Fun, God, Honesty, Intellectual Honesty, Mysticism, Nontheism, Parent / Child, Play, Reason, Religion, Skeptical Thinking, Thinking, Truth, Values

How Mom Raised Me to Think For Myself About Religion

(About a 9 minute read)

We used gold star stickers in Sunday School. You licked them and stuck them to you. I always wanted my teacher to lick them — because I would over-lick them — and I always wanted her to stick them to my forehead.

It was almost the only good and decent thing I could fathom came of attending Sunday School.

When we three sons would ask Mom why we could not stay home to play on Sunday mornings, she would tell us that “Christianity is your cultural heritage and you should be exposed to it.”

That was mildly confusing because not only did I fail to fully understand what “culture” and “heritage” were, but it also seemed to contradict Mom’s almost scandalously old fashion notion that we were not to make up our minds about religion until we had “reached the age of understanding”.  That is, until we were at least 18 and “preferably 21”.

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Alienation From Self, Belief, Consciousness, Education, Fantasy Based Community, Human Nature, Ideas, Ideologies, Learning, Liars Lies and Lying, Life, Living, Reality Based Community, Skeptical Thinking, Spiritual Alienation, Thinking, Truth

Only a Child Can Believe

(About a 3 minute read)

The next time someone gives you directions, take a moment to notice how you feel about them both before and after you have taken them and discovered for yourself they got you where you wanted to go.

Did your feelings change a little bit?  My own feelings change.  Not much, but still perceptibly change.  Near as I can figure, that’s the difference between my believing that something is true and my accepting that something is true.  It’s the difference between my conscious mind believing something, and my whole mind — including my subconscious — believing something is true.

I have a friend who is in the habit of saying, “I believe you, Paul”.  I have known him for at least a decade, and I have yet to see evidence he has believed me even once about anything!

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Absolutist Thinking, Advice, Alienation From Self, Attachment, Authenticity, Bad Ideas, Being True To Yourself, Belief, Clinging, Courage, Creative Thinking, Delusion, Free Spirit, Freedom, Honesty, Human Nature, Impermance, Intellectual Honesty, Life, Living, Obligations to Society, Oppression, Passion, Play, Resilience, Self, Skeptical Thinking, Society, Spiritual Alienation, Spirituality, The Art of Living Well, Thinking, Truth, Whining, Wisdom

The Wisdom of Uncertainty

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Paul zealously offers his opinion that to embrace uncertainty is necessary and key to living a passionate, spirited, and authentic life.

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THE CRITICS ENTHUSE!  Zut! The Grand Fraud American of Blogging once more crucifies our world’s conscience and decency by attempting to undermine all that is holy and sacred about life.  He urges us to reject the certainty of every principle that is certain, reject the certainty of every truth that is a rock. I will not lie about the pig.  He is an outlaw, a criminal, a villain.  It is up to our world to deal justice to Paul Sunstone.  At last, he must be guillotined.  The guillotine must be returned to the public service of our world!”  — Aloyse Leblanc, Le Critique Passionné de Blog, “La Tribune Linville”, Linville, France.

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Bad Ideas, Belief, Biases, Communication, Conversation, Creative Thinking, Delusion, Education, Fantasy Based Community, Honesty, Human Nature, Intellectual Honesty, Judgementalism, Learning, Liars Lies and Lying, Life, Living, Magical Thinking, Obligations to Society, Quality of Life, Reason, Self-Flourishing, Skeptical Thinking, Society, Thinking

Willful Stupidity and the Good Reader

(About a 4 minute read)

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  — George Bernard Shaw

I suspect future historians will now and then speak of us as an “Age of Wonders”.  The wonder of our electronics.  The wonder of our communication technologies.  The wonder of our medical advancements —  especially in the field of mental health.   And so forth.

But sadly, I suspect future historians will also speak of us as an “Age of Willful Stupidity”.

If so, they will doubtlessly say our age began over 100 years ago with the Stupid Bolshevik Revolution in Russia that was soon enough followed by the Rise of Stupid Fascism in Italy.   And the historians are bound to point out that the willful stupidity has continued largely unabated straight through to today’s many Stupid Denial Movements.

I suspect future historians will write whole libraries on that one theme alone — willful stupidity.  And I expect — I actually expect — that somewhere in those libraries there will be a book or article with an insightful footnote saying, “The first casualty of willful stupidity is the art of listening.”

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Education, Honesty, Human Nature, Intellectual Honesty, Language, Learning, Life, Living, Logic, New Idea, Quality of Life, Reason, Skeptical Thinking, Thinking

Three Pillars of a Well-Educated Mind

SUMMARY: There may be several pillars of a well-educated mind, but to me, the three most important are intellectual honesty, open-mindedness, and critical thinking.

(About a 12 minute read)

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”  ― Margaret Mead

Like most people who do not suffer from a crippling over-abundance of sanity, I am a staunch believer in the notion that we could do a much better job than we are doing in teaching people to think.

Saner people might point out the many ways in which American culture discourages teaching people to think.  For instance, there is a deeply rooted strain of anti-intellectualism in our society that has been present ever since the 1820s or 30s, and which most often manifests itself as contempt for anything exceeding a narrowly practical education.

I freely concede that making a living is of periodic importance in life, such as roughly during the period between the ages of twenty and sixty or so.  But to me, that doesn’t mean you should so focus your education on getting a good job that you fail to develop the skills necessary to lead a fulfilling life.

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Belief, Cultural Traits, Culture, Education, Free Spirit, Human Nature, Knowledge, Learning, Life, Living, Love, Memes, Mysticism, Quality of Life, Satori, Self-determination, Skeptical Thinking, Society, Thinking, Transformative Experience

New Eyes

SUMMARY:  A look at maximizing our freedom by freeing us from our cultural assumptions so that we might pick and choose which aspects of our culture are of value to us and which aspects are not.  Life experiences (including travel), education, love, and mystical experiences are all considered as means of freeing us.

(About a 6 minute read)

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ― Marcel Proust

My first wife, Jana, was born in Bohemia, Czechoslovakia under the Soviet occupation.  At age 9, she escaped with her family to West Germany.  Two years later, they immigrated to the US.

Her mother and father, both being doctors, were able to send her back to Europe to attend a private Swiss boarding school for her high school education.  After high school, she lived in England for awhile, before returning to the US to attend university, where I met her.

By the time I met her, she was a confirmed traveler.  But travel was much more to her than an exciting adventure.  It was a way of learning new things, new ways of doing and thinking.  Or, as Proust might have it, travel was Jana’s way of gaining “new eyes”.

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Bad Ideas, Belief, Biases, Cognitive Biases, Human Nature, Ideas, Intellectual Honesty, Knowledge, Logic, Philosophy, Reason, Skeptical Thinking, Thinking, Truth

Finding Truth in All the Wrong Places

SUMMARY: The post examines the notion that we can reliably decide what is true or not according to whether or not an idea “feels true”.

(About a 3 minute read)

“Suppose truth really is a woman”,  Nietzsche asks at the beginning of one of his books.  “Has not the history of philosophy proven that philosophers are clumsy around women?”

Nietzsche was among the first Europeans to recognize how problematic is the notion that we humans seek truth.  About the same time, in America, the philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce was developing Pragmatism — a school of philosophy resting on the observation that we do not seek truth, but rather seek the psychologically comfortable state of belief.

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