What I do NOT believe every human being is entitled to

In a previous post, I stated what I do believe every human being is entitled to:

“I believe every human being is entitled to membership in a local, real-world community of people in which:

  • “The members agree to take responsibility for each other’s welfare—especially the welfare of the children, but that of everyone else as well.
  • “The members share certain beliefs and ideals in common—whether these beliefs and ideals be viewed as ‘religious’ or as ‘secular.’
  • “The beliefs, ideals, and rules of practice of each community are stated in authoritative writings whose meanings are clear, unambiguous, and in no way misleading, deceptive, or unnecessarily confusing; and which were originally written in the language spoken by the members of the community.

“If a community of this kind is not available to every person, then I furthermore believe that every human being has not only the right, but also the obligation, to actively oppose the efforts of any individual or group that is working, whether directly or indirectly, to prevent such communities from coming into being and being made freely available to all persons.”

I now state what I do not believe every human being is entitled to.  I do not believe every human being is entitled to membership in a local, real-world community of people in which:

  • The beliefs, ideals, and rules of practice of each community are stated in authoritative writings whose meanings are not clear and unambiguous, or which are misleading, deceptive, or unnecessarily confusing; or which were not originally written in the language spoken by the members of the community.

It is for this reason that I do not believe that any person is entitled to membership in an esoteric religious community; and since it has been found as a practical matter that the existence of esoteric religions makes it very difficult for non-esoteric religious communities to exist—that is, the type of local, real-world community in which I believe every person is entitled to membership—it logically follows that I believe every human being has both the right and the obligation to actively oppose the efforts of any individual or group that is working, whether directly or indirectly, to promote one or more esoteric religions.

Non-esoteric religions are associated with sanity, consciousness, rationality, honesty, and straightforward communication; esoteric religions are associated with their opposites.  For that reason:  There is no moral equivalence between esoteric religions and non-esoteric religions.

The important conceptual distinction between “meaning” and “belief”

At the heart of the strategy that I propose for replacing esoteric religion with non-esoteric religion lies a crucial conceptual distinction:  the distinction between “meaning” and “belief.”  A “belief” can be thought of as a certain type of “meaning”:  one that a person has accepted for him- or herself as “good” or “meritorious” or “worthy.”  Placing emphasis on this conceptual distinction helps us to imagine a society—unlike the society we now have—in which most of its members who spoke the same language could be expected to assign roughly the same meanings to any given assertive communication of a religious nature—without those people also being required to accept those particular meanings as “good” or “meritorious” or “worthy” for themselves.

In other words, I believe it is possible to imagine a society in which the meanings conveyed by assertive communications of a religious nature would be more or less shared in common by everyone, and in which the commonly and generally agreed-upon determination of meaning would always precede belief in, or agreement with, the meaning that was being asserted.  It would only be after the meaning had been determined with reasonable certainty by society as a whole that it would be considered permissible for the various members of the society to “go their separate ways” in deciding whether or not to accept that meaning as a personal belief.  So it would not be considered permissible for a person to say, “This writing means such-and-such to me, which is why I believe it,” even if the writing did not have roughly that same meaning in the view of most of the other members of the person’s society.  It would also not be considered permissible for a person to say, as esoteric religionists often do, that it is necessary to “believe in” or “have faith in” a religious scripture before it will be possible to determine its meaning with reasonable accuracy.

This would represent a definite departure from the way things currently work with the existing, traditional, esoteric religions.  According to the thinking of esoteric religionists, the particular esoteric writings that they happen to regard as “holy” or “sacred” should always be interpreted in a way that makes the writings “good” or “meritorious” or “worthy” in their own individual minds.  In other words, with an esoteric religion, the reader’s personal belief or wish precedes the determination of the author’s meaning—which is exactly the reverse of how a sane person ought to be thinking.

The mentality found among esoteric religionists is thus essentially the mentality of a spoiled child:  “I wish this writing to mean such-and-such; and so it should mean such-and-such; and so it does mean such-and-such.”  The upshot is that the reader’s own personal desire comes before the meaning that the author actually intended—that is, personally desired—to convey.  So the reader’s desires are always made paramount; and the meaning of an author’s communication is made to conform to the reader’s own idiosyncratic ways of thinking, instead of being allowed to confront the reader on the author’s terms.  The result is that genuine communication between persons is not able to occur.[1]

Continue reading “The important conceptual distinction between “meaning” and “belief””

What I believe every human being is entitled to

I believe every human being is entitled to membership in a local, real-world community of people in which:

  • The members agree to take responsibility for each other’s welfare—especially the welfare of the children, but that of everyone else as well.
  • The members share certain beliefs and ideals in common—whether these beliefs and ideals be viewed as “religious” or as “secular.”
  • The beliefs, ideals, and rules of practice of each community are stated in authoritative writings whose meanings are clear, unambiguous, and in no way misleading, deceptive, or unnecessarily confusing; and which were originally written in the language spoken by the members of the community.

If a community of this kind is not available to every person, then I furthermore believe that every human being has not only the right, but also the obligation, to actively oppose the efforts of any individual or group that is working, whether directly or indirectly, to prevent such communities from coming into being and being made freely available to all persons.

An open letter to Moti Nissani concerning the creation of non-esoteric religious communities

Dear Dr. Nissani,

The article of yours recently published on Veterans Today, “7.4 Billion Cheers for Real Democracy,” resonated with me quite strongly.  Like you, I believe that small-scale communities need to be developed that are essentially democratic and egalitarian in nature.

I approach this matter from a slightly different angle than you, however.  In your article, you wrote, “[I]n real democracies, the truth comes out more readily and it is more likely to lead to criticism, debate, and a change of course.”  I believe that our approach should effectively be the reverse of that:  We would insist on truth-telling, with the expectation that doing so would inevitably lead to more democratic forms of social organization.

Continue reading “An open letter to Moti Nissani concerning the creation of non-esoteric religious communities”

Non-esoteric religious communities as a solution to the intrinsic defects of the nuclear family

I believe that there are certain fundamental and intrinsic defects in the institution of the nuclear family that give rise to child abuse and mistreatment; but I also believe that the institution of the “non-esoteric religious community” or “practical philosophical community” would be able to help address and overcome those intrinsic defects.  And, importantly, it would do so by complementing the nuclear family, rather than destroying or replacing it, or swallowing it up.

Let me say at the outset that, as a general matter, I do not want the state to be involved in trying to solve the sorts of family problems that I will be discussing (although I do think there may be a role for the state, at least for the time being, when child abuse takes less subtle forms of physical and sexual abuse, making it necessary for the child to be removed from the home).  I also do not want to see any “Brave New World” scenario come about in which parents no longer play a central role in the upbringing of their children, and in which this job is given over to some irresponsible bureaucratic “collective.”

However, I believe that hysterical fear about the emergence of any such “Brave New World” scenario has actually been whipped up for the purpose of distracting people’s attention away from the fact that the nuclear family—when left on its own—is far from ideal.  I do not believe that people should be content to assume that so long as parents are just “left alone to raise their children” without any outside interference from anyone, then everything will be all right—as many now believe, since “everyone knows” (because it’s said so very often) that parents love their children ever so much and would do anything for them.

So I realize that I’m going to meet with a lot of resistance when I offer the suggestion that the nuclear family—considered by itself, in a socially isolated state—is really not such a great thing after all.  In fact, I restate my belief that considered by itself it is a fundamentally dysfunctional and intrinsically defective institution that cannot be relied upon to attend to the needs of children.  And that is the reason why I believe it is absolutely essential that voluntary, non-esoteric religious communities be brought into existence in order to complement and give support to nuclear families, and help to compensate for their inherent weaknesses and limitations.

Continue reading “Non-esoteric religious communities as a solution to the intrinsic defects of the nuclear family”