Friday, November 02, 2012

All Souls' Day

It's All Souls' Day today (yesterday, we had All Saints' Day). I am just learning that it's a mostly Catholic event – but one that pretty remarkably survived even in places such as the atheist Czech Republic.



I am learning that the event expresses the people's belief in eternal life – it isn't the most accurate description of mine, what about you? – and that the prayers on this day are meant to help the dead to get to the Heaven because they're still not fully cleansed and they must continue the treatment in the Purgatory.




It's a pretty complicated system of interrelated mechanisms...

I would like to know: Do you visit cemeteries and dead relatives on this day? What does it mean to you? Do you believe some of the traditional Catholic teachings? And if it's just a habit, do you think that it was much more for our ancestors? Were they really much more religious than we are today, or were they just used to describe themselves as more religious because it was more fashionable than it is today?



Czech discovery in Egypt

Let me add some more breaking news from the world of afterlife. Czech archaeologists just discovered a wonderful new tomb of an Egyptian princess from the period 2500-2350 BC near Abusir, Egypt: iDNES.cz (there's one picture of a sculpture over there). There are cool sculptures, architecture, and useful texts and such a finding hasn't been made for years.

29 comments:

  1. I don't see society as any less religious today. If I pull up the definition of religion on dictionary.com the definition is "the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices:"

    That definition is general enough to capture just about anybody. At some fundamental level, every person has to have a belief structure, since we simply do not have complete knowledge of the universe and are still required to make decisions on a daily basis. I think the current trend is to see shifting of some of those belief structures. The irony is that several of those that claim to be anti-religious choose a very narrow definition of the term, without realizing that it is virtually impossible to claim to be non-religious, much as it is effectively impossible to claim to be altruistic.

    Ultimately, I think that some people equate the power of a particular religious organization to the power of religion. It really is incorrect to do so. It is also somewhat incorrect to accuse the Catholic church of being responsible for the descent into the dark ages. The descent was obviously caused by much broader economic issues and the ascent of Catholicism was clearly a lagging response and not a leading cause.



    If one takes time studying the bible, one does begin to see a level of intellectual rigor in several of the arguments. If one starts putting things in historical context, one begins to realize that many of the bible stories have much deeper historical roots, and there is an incredible amount work that ties into early astronomy and other consistent observations of the world. These have had significant impact on modern analysis of the world. Even the claim that no one could know the time and place of the end of the world can be seen to have influence in the idea of uncertainty.



    Whether traditional religious texts should be universally decreed acts of fiction is something that will be decided by future societies, but such a decree really implies a lack of intellectual rigor in itself, and a level of ignorance about the human condition that highlights a lack of compassion. To blame religion as being the cause of the world's ills is equally demonstrative of weak intellect. Certainly much evil has been done in the name of one religion or another, however, much evil would be done even without it so there really isn't a lot to the argument.


    As far as immortal souls, that all depends on certain interpretations of what that word means. Anyone who has experienced unconsciousness knows what it feels like to not be an active participant in the world. I would leave it at that.

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  2. Dreamless sleep is pretty much an example of total unconsciousness.

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  3. An interesting and nice essay, anony, thanks.

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  4. I have mixed beliefs about an afterlife. Regarding the dead, I think, quite cynically, that the disposal of bodies is essentially a public health matter; resurrection in this very body as a tenet of some is, to me, an absolutely disgusting idea. I dont visit cemeteries ever, and indeed I could ask myself where my relatives might be buried and I wouldn't know.

    I certainly believe in a christian, not just catholic teaching, which is also The categorical imperative by uncle Kant: do only to others what you would find acceptable to be done to you. As to my relationship to god, that is strictly a personal, subjective one, and independent from any institution. So, I'm religious, but I dont subscribe to any church.

    The Day of the Dead attracts a small crowd to cemeteries here. They clean up the tomsbtones and replace the flowers, etc. It seems to be less an activity related to a conventional religious activity or obligation and more like a personal thing, the assertion of a remembrance of loved ones.

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  5. Are people less religious today? I doubt that. But if we consider religion as a set of external practices, then I would say yes, they are less so. External rituals and the acceptance of several beliefs serve to glue a society and also as a comfort in a short and brutal life.

    Now people turn to the state to provide services such as health and to science for an explanation of the world. The expectable return of short life expectancies, all spent in gruesome work and misery can suggest a future higher adhesion to institutional religious observance for mere comfort.

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  6. Apparently, today we have probably more reason for belief in such things as the soul, immortality, eternity, etc. It seems that even modern science becomes more favorable to mystical, supernatural things and all that: "Possible Bubbles of Spacetime Curvature in the South Pacific" http://arxiv.org/abs/1210.8144

    Tschüss!

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  7. Hi Lubos, in France we visit the cemetery on Nov 1st because it is a public holiday. It is tradition to put chrysantemum flowers on the graves that's why we never give them as a gift. (If I were in France yesterday I would have gone for sure. Here I just light a candle...)

    I am sure that our ancestors were more religious/believers than us. Religion was the social cement. It would lay the rules of social harmony. Religion was like the matrix ;-). A lot of habits (like praying before eating) tend to disappear (ie. my grandparents would do it but not my parents). I grew up as a catholic (school, parents, village) and being atheist has always been considered as being dangerously lost, and all other religions respectable but not fully evolved ;-).

    In the past priests had a lot of power. For ex. a lot of old people would give money regularly to the local priest or monks so they would pray for them and/or go to heaven (depending on the amount ;-)... nowadays the elderly prefer to pay a nursing home to take care of them. In Ireland it is considered as competition and some priests are very bitter about nursing homes; but even here religion has less and less power. Thank God ;-)

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  8. I hope you, "anony", stick around here. If you have a web-presence elsewhere I'd like to know and connect to it. From what I read here, you sure seem 'philosophically sane' enough for my taste.
    :-)

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  9. OK here are some trivial pursuit data for the orthodox religion which is much more death and resurrection oriented than the catholic from what people say here.


    Every sunday is a celebration of resurection in the leitourgy and every saturday is "soul saturday" and remembrance of the dead is celebrated in the leitourgy with prayers for the clemency of God.


    There are two "Soul Saturdays" in the year, with capital letters, the saturday before Lent, and the saturday before Pentecost. Before Lent asking for clemency from God for All the believing dead, known and unknown, before the Sunday before Lent where the Apocalypse reviewed. The Saturday before Pentecost so as to plead for all the believer dead since Pentecost is the proof of resurrection .



    In general the orthodox fate is very death oriented. If you go to cemeteries you see pictures of the dead and flowers and people pay so that the graves are kept clean. There are special leitourgies

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  10. Nice comment. I particularly liked this sentence: "If one starts putting things in historical context, one begins to realize that many of the bible stories have much deeper historical roots,"

    For instance, take the word allegory in its original sense and use it to interpret this text.

    Question: How do we know when we have correctly solved a riddle, such as the riddle of the Sphinx in Oedipus Rex?

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  11. Lubos, are you really asking about our beliefs on afterlife?

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  12. Wow Anna, I didn't know about the bones unearthed in the Orthodoxy... certainly a traumatic experience. To the Catholics, the Orthodox have the reputation to be very austere. They are morbid too !

    I don't believe in afterlife mainly because I refuse to think about it. I believe that when you are dead you go back to what you were before you were born : some quantum state.

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  13. Hi Shannon
    Of course when one is a physicist believing in an the anthropomorphic God of the Bible is a matter of faith, and I lost it at 18 :) .


    Some decades ago I read a lot of metaphysics, from Castaneda to reincarnation to the Seth system ( of Jane Roberts) and also theories of consciousness espoused by physicists, like Bohm and others. I cannot say I believe in any in the way one believes in religious dogma. I have all the stuff in my data base to check when I die, which is the ultimate experiment for each of us. Including that one may die and that's it ( except I will not be able to check it on the list :)).

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  14. Well, perhaps some readers are asked. I know what you think and believe me, it's not too different from me ;-), but I just got a bit of a thirst to hear some intelligent religiously flavored stuff.

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  15. Interesting thoughts. So yes, it might be that what makes various people "outsiders" is a disagreement with some issues defining group identity that have been invented for their own sake, to put the group together and make their relationship feel special, and no other reason.

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  16. What you say reminds me of the Allegory of the Cave (Plato) : it is "the ideas (sensations, emotions) and not the material world that possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality".

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  17. Western society is far less religious today than it used to be, this is a simple observation of popular culture which is nowadays mostly devoid of big religious themes and more aimed at (pretty simple) individual needs and feelings.


    This is mainly because people (society) were much more scared of the world in the past than they are today, and this fear was instilled by religious authorities (and still is in some unfortunate regions on the earth). Scientific progress has shown that many ideas in the Bible, in Catholic Church (and others) are based on nonsense derived from not understanding how nature works (and hence any charismatic figure making shit up)


    This does not imply anything with regard to whether we can live on in any form after biological death or answer the question of whether some form of God might exist. It just shows that past attempts at tackling these questions are truly silly.


    Today we have people arguing over determinism/non-determinism of Nature in a way that will be seen just as silly in the future. (Because determinism will be seen to be a primitive belief based on non-understanding)

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  18. Thank you, Victor, for bringing this preprint to my attention. I am an amateur of science fiction and will enjoy reading it. It even refers to some goold old Lovecraftian mythology.. excellent! I am hoping for a following paper on possible bubbles of spacetime curvature around the Bermuda triangle later on.

    To return to the subject of Lubos post, I will state the obvious - that it is difficult for many people today, who have received a modern education, to believe in the continuity of consciousness after death. Even if they deeply feel the need for it. Tonight I went to visit an old friend. She is resting in quiet place somewhere in the south of Ireland. While a part of me wishes for her to still be there and happy, somewhere if not in this world, another part does not believe it. Instead we know now that our lives are short, that a large universe has been there for 13 billion years before we were born and will continue to exist for a long long time after. So I think that for many of us, the difference with our ancestors, who reflected on the afterlife, is that on these occasions we reflect on the shortness of our lives and wish we could have spent more time with the ones who are gone.

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  19. You're welcome, scooby! I guess you've found an explicit connection between this paper and Halloween. I hope it wasn't too difficult for you to recognize the true intentions of the author...

    Returning to the main theme of this post, I want to draw your attention to this stunning "news": Scientist [i.e. Stuart Hameroff] shows what happens to 'soul' after death http://bitly.com/WVt1wN

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  20. Although religions can be about anything from football to climate change, if we are talking about traditional religion my definition of it would be: “historical responses to supernatural phenomena”. Phenomena occur, or are alleged to occur, priests interpret and elaborate, and over time build up metaphysical theological systems to explain the human condition. These systems are basically pre-scientific attempts to explain nature. Science is of course the latest of these religions although we like to think it as more sophisticated and reality-based than its competitors.

    Even though the population of Czechia is described by Lubos as atheistic, he also says that it is prone to all sorts of superstitions and psychic beliefs. Thus I would describe the modern religion of Czechia not as atheistic but rather as a form of eclectic New Age mess that is fairly prevalent in most if not all Western countries. The citizens are wise enough to recognize that the traditional religious rituals and beliefs are obsolete, although they may like practicing them anyway, but also recognize that the posturings of the scientific priesthood in certain areas are not necessarily reality-based either. Therefore they carry on regardless with whatever material is at hand.

    Human beings are essentially psychic creatures. That is to say, we exist as a kind of virtual organism in the brain of our physical body. We are defined by our physical body, but also constrained and limited by it. We are of course also subject to death and suffering caused by the body. Therefore it is only natural that this virtual organism wants to seek out and inherit the fullness of its supposed other dimensional existence. It may of course be deluded in this search, or it may be merely at a very primitive stage of its understanding.

    Incidentally I was amazed to discover that Czechia has a history of religious innovation in the past as well. Bohemia had its own Protestant Reformation a century before Martin Luther in the form of Jan Hus. Although Hus was eventually barbecued by the Church, Bohemia was in fact a majority protestant state 200 years before Galileo.

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  21. p.s. I found that the metaphysical model described by the Seth pov , Jane Roberts the author, purporting to be channeled material, i.e. dictated by Seth, is the most inclusive one. All the others I checked could be inserted as a subset of this global one . Like a theory of everything :). The most important to remember from it pertaining to the after life is that: "when one dies one finds what one expects to find".

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  22. Nice. Like an apotheose :-)

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  23. I am an atheist from Romania, a mostly Christian Orthodox country, and here we call it "The day of the dead". It doesn't really mean anything for most people I know, atheists included (I have many atheist friends who celebrate it).

    By celebrate I mean that they take flowers to the graves of the departed, but without any contemplative implication about everlasting life. It's just something everyone does on this specific day of the year.

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  24. Dear Anna, try to look up metaphysics in a reputable source. It's easier than my attempting to explain why your idea of it is innacurate.

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  25. Ahem. If a phenomenon occurs, it occurs in nature. To me, supernatural is a weird word.

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  26. Interestingly, I just finished reading a small book (Blackmore, Very Short Introduction to Consciousness) and the case is argued that we dont have continuity of Consciousness even in life and wide awake.

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  27. You're welcome, scooby! I guess you've found an explicit connection between this paper and Halloween. I hope it wasn't too difficult for you to recognize the true intentions of the author...

    Returning to the main theme of this post, I want to draw your attention to this stunning "news": Scientist [i.e. Stuart Hameroff] shows what happens to 'soul' after death http://bitly.com/WVt1wN

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  28. You're welcome, scooby! I guess you've found an explicit connection between this paper and Halloween. I hope it wasn't too difficult for you to recognize the true intentions of the author...

    Returning to the main theme of this post, I want to draw your attention to this stunning "news": Scientist [i.e. Stuart Hameroff] shows what happens to 'soul' after death http://bitly.com/WVt1wN

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  29. I thought I should have something to say about religion, but I didn't - it's difficult. However, I was at McDonald's yesterday, and somebody had left a newspaper on a table, so I picked it up and found this cartoon, and thought I'd share it. (Don't try to infer my opinion of religion from it.)

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