Attitudes Toward Atheists & Beliefs About Atheists

Discussion in 'Religion' started by StrangerInAStrangeLand, Oct 15, 2017.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Part the Second

    "It has been said that there is no human community yet known which has no religious system. Certain it is that everyone who comes across the Sufi activity in any form will relate to what he (or she) already assumes to be religion' or, more likely, the real religion. A study of the words and doings of the Sufis, however, seems to show that they will at one point appear to be supporting the local religious expression, and at another opposing. The confusion arises simply because the Sufis are teaching, not promoting beliefs. Where their teaching accords with local beliefs, they will appear to support these; where it deviates, it will appear to oppose the religious structure of belief.

    "The Sufis themselves are frequently on record as teaching in this vein: though their attitude is generally expressed in terms which were better understood in the past. As an example, the phrase 'Sufism is the inner aspect of religion' can quite easily be seen as meaning: 'Sufi teachings, over a period of time, become covered by social, emotional and other accretions which are stabilized into religions. The living tradition of the Sufis, however, continues. Viewed from the religionist's standpoint, of course, the Sufi element is the inward component, and the rest is the balance of the religion.'"

    —Adilbai Kharkovli

    I keep coming back to this because it's actually what set me on this track, years ago. There is much of this essay I might reproduce, but the key point is that when Kharkovli considers, as he does, that "Sufism is the inner core of religion", the backstory involves capitalized terms like "Real Self" and "Ultimate Truth", but there is also this:

    The conception that 'Sufism is the inner component of religion', too, should be acceptable enough if it is seen from enough examples that religion is often mainly an accretion of superficialities around an ancient core which may be reclaimed, but the corollary, that 'social and emotional activity actually disturb higher perceptions' is unlikely to pass unchallenged, especially among those who believe themselves to be imbibing spirituality with every prayer or operatic aria. Naturally, such people will bee less likely to assail this contention than to ignore it, to the detriment of future valuable research on the subject.

    The much-repeated theory (for we can see it only on that level until it is verified by experience) that 'virtues' are not keys to heaven but essential steps which clear the way to higher understanding, is perhaps the most attractive of all the Sufi statements. There has always been, both in the East and the West, an uneasiness about believing that something done from fear or hope should be rewarded by paradise; or that ordinary human duties, carried out even by the most primitive peoples, should be represented as things which a highly-evolved religious system proclaims as part of advanced religious thinking.

    This involves, of course, rethinking many of the values to see whether they are not, indeed, pitched at too low a level, rather than, as fashionable theoreticians affirm, too high. 'The best that we have' in institutions may be insufficient, not a matter for self-congratulation. This applies to the various forms of human relationship which have been in the past regarded as sublime, but which research might well show to confirm the Sufi claim that they are valuable but only on a lower level.

    And who the hell is Adilbai Kharkovli, anyway? Even more astonishing than Sufis—there's a joke there, never mind—is that this chapter in a book put together for a Sufi press is the only thing I'm finding his name associated with; I'll need to look harder, since what is out there is probably written in other alphabets.

    A Sufi would probably appreciate Iceaura's statement while inwardly noting a criticism having to do with the phrase "God business", because the one thing about the Sufism presented in the larger volume assembled by Idries Shah for a Sufi press is that the whole thing is incredibly arrogant, and, yes, there is a joke there but I can't even actually explain it except to say that Sufis often present themselves as assholes when discussing Sufism because they can't help themselves for thinking they're making some manner of point by it. And even that is a deliberately cultivated prejudice; Sufism is nearly an anti-religion the way an overpaid asshole making a genuine point that only affects other overpaid assholes somehow earns the title of "anti-hero". (Note for internationals: The American context was a pro sports thing asserting nonconformity, which is itself an unfortunate joke.) If anyone ever volunteers they are a Sufi without being asked, the proper response is to neither believe them nor give a damn. Something about killing the Buddha goes here.

    Doesn't quite sound like talking about a religion, does it? Of course, there comes a point in Sufi training at which one is actually a Sufi, and free to retain or dispense with ritual observations as he or she sees fit. Rabia herself once declared that she would burn the al ka'bah al-musharrafah if it ever stood between a Muslim and God. And remember, it's not about getting to heaven; it's about becoming a better person.

    I'm not a Sufi; this isn't about promoting Sufism.

    But here's the secret, and it's not really a secret: There are any number of religious and para- or post-religious philosophies that aren't particularly new, since they can reach back to Aristotle, at least, but generally defy such petty dualisms as believing in an undefined value or not.

    Let us try what should be an accessible example: When Bill Maher criticizes the idea of people who are not religious, but are "spiritual", he's actually just being a stupid asshole. I don't outright reject the criticism; he's just really, really lazy about it, and whenever he speaks on the point he proves he hasn't a clue what he's on about. If he wants to be helpful, he could try finding a new discussion for those aspects of human necessity.

    Because one thing science cannot do is explain the particular purpose of life.

    Sounds like a stupid thing, I know, but it's also a product of our human psyches that hasn't selected out along the way. And that's where this all comes from. Even Aristotle was merely human; the hardest thing to reconcile for the notion of Unmoved Mover is the need to give it some manner of shape and will.

    An interesting contrast about political discussion is that the Biblical "God" is, in American disputes, at least, so dressed and bound up with accretions of shape and will as to be a subject deity. The Alpha and Omega is not, or, perhaps, naught; the Christian godling can be contained in a redlight district motel nightstand drawer.

    More generally, though, questions of shape and will are important because they bind and constrict the godhead. The Unmoved Mover does not move other things without prior movement upon itself; the Unmoved Mover simply is, and in that act of being, at the very least, we perceive motion, and perception is itself motion in this context. I'll skip the part about the Naples arrangement, except to remind that what we call time is necessary in order for change—e.g., motion—to occur. Another way to say it is that the Unmoved Mover need not move anything particularly, but need only be.

    It's also kind of a dumb name at this point.

    Let us consider science for a moment. First cause will be expressed as a mathematical formula. Full stop.

    Humans keep searching for will in meaning because they seek explanation in comprehensible terms.

    I said something about studying and learning about religion, and while that is a ludicrous sum of information, this seemingly wandering post is part of that: When we attend the dialectics, perform the psychoanalysis of history, or, you know, write the goddamn artistic criticism, if that is what it takes, this strange vagary I keep orbiting is what emerges.

    If "God" is bound, then "God" is not "God". That's the thing about Alpha and Omega, though we need to skip the analysis of what the Omega has to do with the infinite or boundless.

    Because that's the next thing about monotheism: If God is God, then God is boundless, else God is not God for being bound. The panentheistic result is a necessity of God's infinitude.

    Consider a weird bit we've heard from Christianity, at least in my lifetime. Certain quarters would claim that humans have free will because God doesn't know, which is a boundary against omnipotence, and also creates a range in which God is not. Fifteen to twenty-five billion of these ranges over time that we can estimate from what we know; there are over seven billion of them currently operating on planet Earth right now.

    The word "totality" is insufficient: Consider an abstract all of everything ever, that was or wasn't, including potentials abstractions like an absence of particular potential. In the psychoanalytic meaning of history, what we can infer from the record available to us is that the monotheistic godhead is a human invention that, approximately, represents our relationship to certain ideas, some of which seem to result from fear, and that our species has yet to evolve past. It's the weirdest trap, an effect of how the human mind works, and we might be dealing with it wrongly, as such, but perhaps we cannot select out of it as a species, and can only learn to deal with it properly. Remember that the so-called "God" phenomena in our brains are associated with our perceptive and creative operations. We are neurotic creatures, and there are reasons we perceive and imagine gods.

    ―End Part II―
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  3. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Part the Third


    Just because: Tiassa on Kharkovli (Oct., 2001)↗.

    The functional reason a Sufi might choose to abandon religious practice, regardless of whatever pretense the religious metaphor requires, is the recognition that God is utterly inconsequential.

    And, you know, a careful, diligent student studying and learning about religion can figure this out pretty quickly once comparative obligation is apparent. (Hint: Polytheism requires monotheism for the same reason the monotheistic godhead cannot be bound or incomplete.) Similarly, henotheism and kathenotheism are a lot easier to live, but we really would hope those should be weird subsets of people being "spiritual", and thus not caring what godling they name while communing with whomever; that is to say, as a human rights issue, such religious behavior should never be requisite.

    For a less diligent student, like myself, honestly, I don't see much extraordinary about this result, regardless of what a Sufi might say or not since that's either part of the point or why train that much for something mundane, and, yes, that's part of the joke, too, I think. Or maybe not.

    More bluntly, look at these posts. I don't criticize the proposition of the ballpark assignation; indeed, it works great, because in corralling all those petty godlings like that, we get to skip what could possibly be worth another post in getting to that point in the first place.

    But the irony is that this is kind of the only way to explain the obvious rational logic of the monotheistic godhead. The problem comes when we choose to waste our time on questions like whether the monotheistic godhead exists.

    It exists, as a thought at least, but thereby it exists. Full stop.

    This, of course, is a completely useless assertion. It might be true, but it has no effect on anything. The question of believing in a thought is self-evidently answered: We all believe in a thought. A more useful and applicable context would be, well, useful.

    The answer is that it does not really matter whether or not the monotheistic godhead exists because the only way in which it can be requires—(how's that for a paradox?)—it be unbound and complete. As Diderot put it, "Whether God exists or does not exist, He has come to rank among the most sublime and useless truths." More practically: The manner in which the monotheistic godhead can exist is indistinguishible from an otherwise ineffable abstraction beyond totality.

    Consider, please, another odd moment with science: We might say certain events are relevant to us. Maybe someone almost ran into you with a car. That's relevant to you. Whether or not the sun is going to explode next Tuesday, right 'round tea-time—(spoiler alert! Barring extreme and utterly unforeseeable events, no, it's not)—is relevant to us. I use the word event for a reason. Because the Universe is, to you and me, a series of events. That is how we perceive it. But "the Universe and everything in it" is actually one event. Questions of determinism are irrelevant for the sheer scale of it all. Toward that end, what if the Universe is part of a multiverse? The multiverse is one event. Our language isn't really good at capturing this aspect, because part of all and everything as one event simply defies our comprehension. To wit, if I say the Mandelbrot set is a really cool recursive result, but also very limited, I can't actually explain what I mean in the context of how many dimensions can nontermination apply simultaneously, as every word of that expression is far too limiting.

    Can there exist multiple infinities?

    Are the infinite things that are separate from the infinite things that are not? That's a little abstract since the Universe we comprehend appears more an infinite potential than an infinity, but, you know, repeat that bizarre question as many times as needed for the multiverse until you never want to hear it again.

    One syllable.

    Three letters.

    The godlings become ever more useless because they were invented a long time ago, and are in certain dimensions thoroughly ossified. The thing is that even the Abramist godling need not be such a fixed notion; it must eventually evolve, else be replaced. Humans will continue to invent philosophical constructions to manage the fear permeating their perceptions of the Universe, and who knows, maybe the point isn't to evolve past God, but to eventually conquer and thrive in a condition without such fears. I don't know, you think the species can make it off the rock in such a manner as to outlast it? Will we still be human? What manner of gods will we invent, then? It would be nice to know the outcome, but that would mean we either live forever, and in the moment of achieving that conquer our fear of death for no longer dying? I honestly can't foresee religion going away before we accomplish some of this sci-fant stuff. And the only way we do that is if the species lives long enough to figure it out. I could invoke multiple lives just for the fun of it, because what the hell would that teach us about reality? But come on, at this point we've left the discussion behind.

    What we have left is a word describing an abstraction which, in turn, describes the ineffability of reality. This isn't really something to believe in or not; as the saying goes: God is. Accepting this tautalogy isn't a matter of believing in anything.

    It does, however, allow us to study the role of this abstraction in dialectic form, such as the psychoanalytic meaning of history, or the criticism, and, inherently, the comparative. The question of believing in God or not pertains to, especially as an artificially constructed dualism, is fundamentally fallacious. It is a political argument, and much akin to a religiously-derived political argument delineating righteous and unrighteous, holy and unholy, clean and unclean. If it was an historical argument proper, i.e., theological, there would be utility in actually studying what human beings have said and believed and done about God. Indeed, in that context, the godlings people invent along the way are matters of historical evidence inasmuch as they are recorded and discussed.

    The monotheistic godhead was a fine one to start with; these many words are part of trying to explain something simple that does actually take some study to figure out. And the reason I keep picking on that point about study is that we have this history of what people do with the idea of God to review, and this political question of believing in God starts with definitions derived from unreliable sources. Like many slothful political arguments, it tends to attack the lowest-hanging fruit of relevance according to the beholder.

    As philosophical and logical considerations go, we might reach across the gap to science in order to ask: Why would we concede inaccurate presuppositions at the outset?

    And every once in a while, the tumbleweeds make it obvious. When the argument against the existence of God has no idea what it's arguing against, an undefined value remains undefined.

    And it really seems the strangest regard for nil, null, naught, and nothing.

    Belief or disbelief in an undefined value equals an undefined result. Belief or disbelief in nothing equals nothing. Math as metaphor:

    b x 0 = 0
    d x 0 = 0

    Neither is that the "nothing" evangelical Atheists would mean by simply disbelieving God. It's the nothing of their disbelief; they don't actually know what they're disbelieving. Nor do they care, because it's a political argument.

    Meanwhile, one syllable, three letters; ineffable object of our human pursuit of comprehension, including first cause; anyone is welcome to find a better word.

    Don't like what religionists do with it? Okay, neither do I. And?

    I mean, that's the thing: And?

    I would submit that as such the political argument would do better to attend the psychoanalytic meaning of history than worrying about separating wheat from chaff.


    Constitution of United States of America. 1992. 1 November 2017.

    Kharkovli, Adilbai. "Those Astonishing Sufis". Edited by Hafiz Jamal. Sufi Thought and Action. Assembled by Idries Shah. London, Octagon Press: 1990.

    Weigle, Luther, et al. The Bible: Revised Standard Version. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1971. University of Michigan. 1 November 2017.

    See Also:

    Armstrong, Karen. A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.

    Brown, Norman O. Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytic Meaning of History. Middleton: Wesleyan University Press, 1959.

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  5. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    Thank god

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  7. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    Last edited: Nov 2, 2017
  8. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    But not with any sure knowledge of what one believes in, or does not believe in. One has belief, but without knowing what one believes in if anything.

    That was simply my offering to a poster inquiring as to how one could be described, reasonably, as "sort of" believing in God.

    There are also situations in which a reasonable person could truthfully give no direct answer when asked whether they believed in God.
    Yes. The mathematicians have proven that, at even the simplest levels.
    Why would one pretend not to understand a question asked because the questioner's presuppositions were inaccurate? Granted awareness of the arrogance of familiarity with such inaccuracy should warn against carelessness and bring wariness of discourtesy, but with that in mind the option of answering with mental reservations and condescending fingers crossed remains dishonest.

    And since the question itself is so often an assault, a playground level attempted mugging, surely there is a role for the flat block of some kind: "not yours, or anything like yours", say.
  9. birch Valued Senior Member

    unfortunately, that's what theists do to atheists when they are the majority and they are even more obnoxious because they dismiss rationality completely. they will literally bully you and shove the religion down your throat and treat you like you don't belong in the universe itself because you are not one of 'them', regardless of what is right or wrong, which is suspiciously secondary or not important. let me reiterate that point again: most theists were very 'cliquish', or cultish (power) and not at all interested in the validity or morality of any belief, just the belief or allegiance to a god or more supreme power itself. so most of them are full of shit. it seemed to be mostly ego/identity driven. so what's new?

    do you know how assinine a typical conservative, dogmatic religionist is like? it's like conversing with the devil itself in how manipulative and irrational their arguments are. and i'm not even talking about the likes of jan which is pretty tame and he's not that bad compared to most religious assholes i've known throughout all the years of churchgoing and with various churches and denominations. i have extensive 'inside' experience.

    i would have to say the good that sites like this do, especially with religion, is it deconstructs much of the bullshit religion has been allowed to get away with.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2017
  10. birch Valued Senior Member

    there are also unconventional methods or info to glean that is often right in your face, even if it's subtle. people who are too rational tend to think people who believe in such things are just incorrect and miss the rest of the subtle pieces that could be like crumbs of a trail but the other information to glean from is what attracts lifeforms and the reasons for their beliefs and particular nature of their concept can reveal clues about nature itself, even unconsciously.

    i noticed a similar theme in nature, with some exceptions of course, with most theists as in they were similar in their makeup, in some way. you could say it's some deep-rooted mental/emotional wiring or evolution. i also noticed that often the most immoral people were the ones who 'naturally' believed in 'god' also. does this in some round-about way actually indicate there is some god? actually it may be an ironic clue. were the gnostics right that most religionists worship the demiurge? for instance, when anyone who was truly ethical was purporting to believe in god, evil was ready to take them out. but ironicly, when evil people claim membership with the religion, it's really not the same god they are perpetuating. interesting? god is a name that can be applied to anything.

    to me, this indicates strongly at least, that there is at least one simple conclusion and that there probably is some higher being and not necessarily all good either etc (but not the only one) they are unconsciously aware of on some primal level because it's so fundamentally a part of them as in a mirror effect. the difference was that one person's version of god could be contradictory to anothers but that seemed to be due to the duality of nature itself: dark or light, good or evil. in other words, which forces or version of higher power do you value most and actually really hold allegiance to, regardless of superficial associations or facades? people would value what is more closely more aligned to their nature. dr. jekyl or mr. hyde? so the label 'god' could represent more than one concept or value.

    the part that most religionist don't get is not everyone pledges allegiance to a goddamn mob boss just because it's got more power. those who have a more similar nature will of course naturally gravitate toward belief and worship of a hypocritical, perverse and corrupt god though because it reinforces or at least excuses their moral weaknesses through allowance of predation which is the natural order of things.

    what is even more enlightening is that there exist people with minds that are independent with an opposite stance with opposite values, so this may likely point to the equal likelihood that there exist more than one higher power or GOD. just like there is more than one form of government, system, values, or modus operandi. who'd a thunk it? pfft.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2017
  11. birch Valued Senior Member

    also, you can learn about people's values with indirect information such as it's typical for most theists to assume that a 'belief' in god as well as a hypothetically eventual evidence of god revealed will result in everyone worshipping/agreeing with it. as if that's some justification itself. this indicates that power alone is what they value. power alone is not enough justification alone to worship anything or agree with it, in everyone's book. there are similar clues or themes in a micro level, does everyone believe in or worship hitler, stalin, kim jong un or other corrupt and evil leaders or powers, past or present etc? nope. what makes people think that it's different with a god/s?

    in truth, hypothetically, if there were some evidence later to be revealed there are greater beings as in more likely we reside 'inside' of one, the next order of rational business for scientists would be to further investigate what it's nature is or what makes it tick, not automatically worship it, without knowing wtf it is. LMFAO!
  12. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    What an interesting question.
  13. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

    From Stranger Post 10: Definition of atheism
    Stranger do you deliberately post in some format which cannot be copied?

    Your above description of atheism is actually a description of a cosmology unlike any I have ever read or heard about. Did you make it up?

    You seem to ignore the notion of evolution, which is accepted by most folks: Including almost all atheists & many religious folks. Do you believe in some variation of Darwinian evolution?​

    You apparently have some dictionary (or maybe your own) definition of the terms atheist & atheism, but no concept of what atheists actually believe.

    An atheist does not believe in the existence of some supernatural being usually called god. Your above definition relates to cosmology. I (an atheist) personally do not have any belief matching your definition of atheism, & I doubt that any other atheist would accept your definition of atheism.

    BTW: There is a discipline called cosmology which describes various scenarios about the origin & evolution of our current universe. Examples are as follows.

    Continuous Creation or Steady State which was a favorite of mine until the discovery of quasars indicated that the universe in the distant past was very different from our current universe.

    Big Bang which is the theory currently accepted by mainstream science.

    Alternating bangs & crunches.​

    I do not know of any other cosmologies, but would not deny that there are more than the above.

    I accept Big Bang cosmology, but have hopes that some other notion will replace it. I am not sure what cosmology other atheists accept.
  14. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    Not to diminish the religious aspect but this xenophobia & coerced conformism exists in many other forms also & seems to be an unfortunate part of human nature.

  15. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    Do you not understand the topic of this thread?
    I am posting examples of other people beliefs about atheists.
    Other than thinking you are responding to my opinion, your exposition is welcome.

  16. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    People who are TOO rational???

  17. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

  18. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    re: How people view atheists (cartoon)

    That really is unfortunate. Where are you that people still randomly ask you if you believe in God?​
  19. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    I seem to recall some kid asking me such a question in P.E. (gym) class way back when. But apart from that--yeah, nada.

    I don't know what, specifically, it is about forums which are ostensibly "science oriented" and the seeming inability to appropriately contextualize, but it doesn't happen nearly so much on, say, philosophy oriented--or even philosophy of science--forums. Sure, you get the preachers--at both ends--but they're usually shut down fairly swiftly for the sake of fruitful discussion.

    Not saying it doesn't happen here, but it's kind of rare.
  20. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Compared to that, the staff here is expected to be "fair", which is itself a really complicated notion. Our "both ends" would be some manner of rhetorical sleight intended to justify protecting one end in order to demonstrate our fairness, and possibly for the sake of being seen, though I'm uncertain about that last.
  21. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    Kind of funny that a concept we're introduced to before we even learn how to read is so problematic.

    In lieu of "shutting down," the approach of demonstrating that a participant is effectively arguing against him- or herself can also be employed, but--again--typically with far less "success" on science oriented forums. One doesn't have to be a proponent of "archeological" methods to appreciate that we often borrow or adopt rhetorical devices--even arguments in entirety--which originate with persons or traditions we are arguing against. For instance, I've always contended that the concept of "mysticism"--when it is appropriately applied (a rarity)--is the antecedent of "scepticism" (also, when appropriately applied--slightly less rare, but still rare) in the history of ideas. And by no means does this exclusively apply to, say, apophatic traditions. This idea has gotten a fair bit of mileage in the world of philosophy, not so much amongst the "science" crowd.

    I don't know, maybe one does have to adopt the archeological approach, but I really don't think so. I say this because there were plenty of pompous asses, centuries even before Foucault, who seemed almost wholly incapable of intellectual empathy, or shifting perspectives, yet they still possessed the ability to situate ideas seemingly at odds, or hostile, to their own.
  22. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Well, about three years ago I had a Christian fundie I was working with (factory production line) threaten to get his gun from his car and "blow my head off" because my response to that question was noncommittal rather than affirmative. (He got fired. Not his first offense.)

    The question isn't common. But it is serious, when it shows up. Fundies are actually not ok, not right in the head - as with racists, crossing them in the real world involves taking some risk.
  23. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Okay, so, this isn't quite entirely a digression or splinter, but still: The hardest book I have ever read, and thus utterly failed to finish, is all of one hundred sixty-nine pages, including notes, bibliography, and index.

    I shite thee not. Every one of those pages, even setting aside the words from Arabic, reads like a foreign language.

    No, really, I've had the book for fourteen years and never been able to comprehend it well enough to finish. It is essentially a professor emeritus summarizing a thesis derived from something he noticed at some point in his career and then just couldn't let go of because it keeps coming up. And that's actually the reason I keep trying to read it; something about it just keeps coming up in the world.

    And it's a book about religion in which virtually nothing is actually a matter of fact other than it is a fact that this is what the record says, or, it is a fact that this object exists at this point in space. That is to say, there is a story that coincides with this place, and this place is right here.

    For the moment, I would recall a discussion in which an associate noted Devil's Advocate in order to grant that God exists. Something about the point, in the moment, felt really pretentious, and I think it is because the only reason one needs to "grant" anything is that they are operating according to terms that require them to do so.

    This provides a contrast to a notion I refer to fairly regularly, the psychoanalytic meaning of history; and it would behoove us to attend the fact that this phrase comes from a classicist.

    Because, okay, if you're familiar with J. G. Frazier, The Golden Bough, a 1922 tome on the cult at Nemi and ceremonial magick, imagine compressing all of that—my copy runs 864 pages, including index—compressed into an examination of pre-Islamic myth that runs a thin one hundred sixty-nine pages, including notes, bibliography, and index. Jaroslav Stetkevych, Muhammad and the Golden Bough: Reconstructing Arabian Myth (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana Univ. Press, 1996), is nigh on impossible.

    The thing is, one need not grant shite in order to comprehend the basic process: This is a literary criticism built from what scraps the historical record provides, and does function as an artistic critique reflecting the psychoanalytic meaning of history. At no point does the question of God's existence matter a whit. Artistic, generally, or more particularly literary, or even historical criticism are reasonably appropriate and require no Devil's Advocates.

    Toward another aspect, it's my general, not especially refined understanding such that I regard the very word mysticism as derived from mysterium, which, to me, essentially coincides with, say, the idea of an ultimate truth. The relationship 'twixt mysticism and sketpticism seems apparent, but I haven't any subtstantial psychoanalysis of that particular historical evolution. Something like mysticism as an empathy or sympathy toward notions of system and relationship, anthropomorphized as such because that is what people do; skepticism often seems an assertion of control against uncertain perception—perhaps even imagination—of irresolute system. I don't know, call it a quick thumbnail sketch on matchbook cardboard.

    It's like, I wonder how many evangelical Atheists who read the fiction of Steven Brust have figured out the secret of Adrilankha and environs.

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