01/06/2010

COMMUNICATION, anger, and atheism

Recently, I read a very strong blog about atheism. I say strong because it's well written, and the ideas put across are well thought out. But it's also strong in another sense - there's a lot of anger! In fact one of the key articles is: 'Atheism and Anger'*.

As I read it I remembered something that Tony Samara once said:
"Anger is a lack of communication".


Communication is CONTACT - contact between two separate centers of awareness; two minds. And through that contact, there is CONNECTION.


Feeling that connection is one of the most important things in life. Why? Because it's REAL. We really are connected to everything around us!...


  • We are connected energetically through our solar plexus to the world around us.
  • We are connected through our actions - everything we do has an impact on our environment. Everything. Even taking a breath! Breathe in, and you accept the gift of oxygen that the trees constantly bestow. Breathe out and you give something back.
  • We are connected emotionally too - smile, and you spread a little warmth and happiness in the people who see your smile.
  • We are also connected psychically. Every thought you have sends a vibration out into the universe, like a radio signal. Think positively and the universe responds.
  • And you know what? We're also intimately connected in a physical way as well - we NEED physical contact with other beings. We need to be touched, held, kissed, loved. It's been proven that people who live alone die younger. Even if you only have a pet, statistically, you are more likely to live longer than someone who lives alone!
So we really are all connected in many ways that we usually don't notice or give much thought to. It's the truth. It's reality. Truth and reality are what I'm interested in. I don't care for anything as much as I care for getting closer to reality. And that, to me, is what communication is all about: getting closer to the truth.


(In case any skeptics are reading this, let me just say: my definition of truth is 'something that I can prove through my own experience'. I put no faith in other people's proof: whether they wear white coats or have letters before or after their name is of no interest to me whatsoever!)


When another being communicates with me, there is contact, and at the heart of that contact is something very real. Two minds meeting; two seemingly separate beings making contact and becoming more aware of the reality of the connection that underlies their existence. To me, that is what life is all about.


As I read that atheist's blog, and I thought about all the anger that she feels, I understood her:  if I believed strongly that I was a totally separate being, with my consciousness created by my brain - locked away by skin and bone; with no possibility of ever having meaningful contact with another being - then hell, I'd be angry too!


But you know what? EVERY BELIEF YOU HAVE, IS A CHOICE YOU MAKE.
Beliefs are just habits.
It's been demonstrated that they are very strong habits: many people would do anything, even die, to defend their beliefs. But they are just habits.
And we can drop habits anytime we like, as easily as dropping a glove, if we really choose to.


If you knew that, would you choose to defend a habit that makes you angry?Or would you re-evaluate what you consider to be 'true'?
Because the truth of our beliefs is absolutely subjective! Truth, as we believe it to be, is subjective. It is relative. So why hold on to ANY belief?


I choose to believe in nothing. I choose to simply feel the world around me as it is.
I feel connected to the world around me through my solar plexus. I feel connected to other people and animals, and even rocks, and trees, and well, everything really, by the rhythmical flow through my veins; and the wind that I breathe; and the water that I drink; and by the planets' orbits. I feel connected and that sense of oneness is blissful.
I choose to feel the bliss of that connection rather than the loneliness and fear of separation.


I choose to believe in everything. I see truth everywhere, and I know it to be at once both true and untrue. So how can I not believe it?!


Actually, I choose to believe that nothing is important: including, no, especially, my beliefs. The only thing that is at all important to me is how I feel. So I choose to feel good first, and to believe in what makes me feel good.


If I feel anger, I know that it is a sign that something in my life, in my environment, in my world, is wrong. Almost always it is because I have lost that feeling of connection. So I EXPRESS my anger; I communicate it, and immediately the sense of connection is restored.
Try it: next time you are angry, instead of just being angry, communicate the anger. Try saying out loud "this makes me angry because...".
In that communication you begin to put right what is wrong. You begin to rebuild that delicate and subtle sense of connection that is so essential to your well-being and inner peace. It's the only thing that really matters...


What do you believe? Do you feel angry about something?
Let's communicate /make contact / connect - leave a comment!


With love...


*Thanks to Greta Christina and her blog for inspiring this article.

15 comments:

Nejc said...

I quite agree that belief is habit, but in my opinion it is not that simple to get it away as take off glove. Habit is like an armour. And knights had shield-bearer to help them take it off with a reason.

I belive in myself, my mind, and althought I fail sometimes, I try hard to do my best. And I try to not get irritaded, angry... because of external source. Some kinds of armour are quite useful if you wear it- imaginary armour:)

Ben Ralston said...

You know, of course it's not that simple. Or rather, if you can do it, it's simple, but if it's a habit you're attached to... then it's certainly an armour!!

I think the key is to really be honest about what you believe - which to me means questioning WHY you believe it. For example, if someone believes something that makes them angry... perhaps there is a deeper reason why they WANT to be angry.

In that case, by questioning their ANGER, and truthfully communicating what REALLY causes the anger, then the belief can really be dropped like dropping a glove. Anger always has an underlying cause. Usually under the anger there is a fear. And under the fear there is something deeper...

It's interesting that you used the analogy of armour. Armour is for protection. And that's often what beliefs are for too - to be without beliefs, is, in a way, like being naked. And that takes a lot of courage...

But it's also the way to really experience more joy :)

Nejc said...

In slovenia we have proverb habit is a coat of mail, that's why. And yes, belief makes us strong- if we believe in positive things.

If you take it literally, being naked require courage, because of society beliefs and habits and also cause it might be deadly for most of us- imagine walking in winter or some freezing place as Antarctica. Our environment is not much different. We need beliefs to protect ourselves.

Ben Ralston said...

Aha, interesting proverb.
I think that many people protect themselves too much. Now is the time for taking off our armour... of course, I'm not talking literally.
There is a nice story:
A king heard from a fortune teller that his rule would be soon over. So he built a strong castle to protect himself... he had the walls built very thick, and the doors very strong. But when he was inside, he felt it was not strong enough. So he had the builders block up the walls, so that no one could come in. And finally, when he felt very safe, he realised too late, that he was all alone... and so his rule ended.

Greta Christina said...

Greta Christina here, the atheist whose blog you linked to. I'd just like to make a couple of points.

First: You seem to be making assumptions about my entire life based on one blog post. That doesn't make much sense, does it? I am generally a very happy, satisfied person, with a great deal of meaning, joy, and connection in my life. Here, for instance, are some pieces I've written in my blog about experiencing transcendent, transformative connection with humanity and the universe... without any belief in God or the supernatural.

For No Good Reason: Atheist Transcendence at the Black and White Tour
http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2008/06/for-no-good-reason.html

Dancing Molecules: An Atheist Moment of Transcendence
http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2007/05/dancing_molecul.html

Atheist Meaning in a Small, Brief Life, Or, On Not Being a Size Queen
http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2008/12/atheist-meaning-in-a-small-brief-life.html

A Skeptic's View of Sexual Transcendence
http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2009/07/skeptics-view-sexual-transcendence.html

Part of the Show: Atheist Transcendence at the Edwardian Ball
http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2010/01/atheist-transcendence-edwardian-ball.html

I am sometimes angry about some things. I think anger is sometimes important, and I expressed that in this particular piece. But it really doesn't make sense to assume that, because you read one blog post I wrote about anger, therefore anger is the dominant experience of my life. (It's also rather patronizing -- but that's another topic.)

Second: If you're arguing that anger is always a sign that something is wrong with you or your life... I must respectfully but passionately disagree. Anger is often an important emotion. Anger often motivates us to take action when we see harm or injustice being done. I certainly acknowledge that anger is complicated and difficult -- but it has an important place, not only personally, but socially and politically.

You say that when you feel anger, you express it and communicate it. That's exactly what I did in this "Atheists and Anger" piece. Why do you see that as a bad thing?

Ben Ralston said...

Hi Greta, thanks for your comment.
First of all, about you: I did not mean anything personally! I certainly make no assumption about your life, or your dominant experience. I simply based my remarks on the article you posted about anger. There are a lot of things in that post that you are angry about!
Secondly, about anger: I TOTALLY AGREE with you that anger is important! I'd go further: it's absolutely necessary for us if we want to progress on the path to deeper and more lasting happiness.
My main point really is just that it's better to focus on what is underneath the anger, rather than on the thing that seems to be making us angry. Anger comes from within - like any emotion. Some people are more angry than others. Why? Because there is something in them which causes that anger. If they use the anger a signal, as a signpost to direct their attention within, then the anger serves a wonderful purpose. If they simply indulge in feelings of anger and direct the anger outwards they are not doing anything useful at all.
Again, none of this is personally about you - I don't know you, except for a few of your articles.
I believe that our purpose in life is to be happy, and to spread happiness. If everyone focused on that simplicity, there would be very few problems in the world. We can either use anger to guide us towards that inner happiness, or we can indulge it.
One is focusing on the symptom, the other is dealing with the cause. My work is only interested in cause. I leave the symptoms to the men in white coats.
With love, ben

Ben Ralston said...

"Anger often motivates us to take action when we see harm or injustice being done. I certainly acknowledge that anger is complicated and difficult -- but it has an important place, not only personally, but socially and politically."
I forgot to reply to this.
Any action that is motivated by anger is fuelling the harm or injustice. If you really want to create a world in which there is less violence and injustice, you must eradicate first IN YOU what causes harm and injustice. Otherwise you are simply feeding the energy which caused it in the first place. Albert Einstein said:
“You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.”
And one of the most powerful politicians of our time (ever?), Ghandi, said:
"You must BE the change you wish to see in the world"
His form of politics overcame the British Empire and led to their departure from India. While all the angry anti-war protests do precisely nothing.
Only when enough people learn to cultivate peace in their hearts will the world be free from harm and injustice. Anger is a stepping stone, but it's not the answer.

Greta Christina said...

Ben, here is my problem with this.

When you say something like this --

"if I believed strongly that I was a totally separate being, with my consciousness created by my brain - locked away by skin and bone; with no possibility of ever having meaningful contact with another being - then hell, I'd be angry too!"

-- you're perpetuating one of the most common myths about atheists and materialists -- and one of the most hurtful ones as well. It is simply not true that atheists have no possibility of meaningful contact with another being. Atheists experience great meaning and deep connection in our lives... and the idea that our lives are joyless, meaningless, and lacking in connection is one of the ugliest forms of common misinformation that's spread about us.

And you can't get out of that by simply saying, "I didn't mean anything personally." If you had written that, for instance, gay people are all promiscuous and aren't capable of deep love or long-term commitment, and a gay person called you on how mistaken and hurtful this was, I hope you wouldn't defend it by saying, "I didn't mean anything personally."

You said that you understood me -- but it's very clear that you didn't. If you'd understood me, you would have understood that "atheists have no possibility of ever having meaningful contact with another being" is not only untrue, but a form of bigotry, and you would not have spread it in your blog.

As for the issue of anger itself: Are you really saying that the cause of anger is always something inside us? That a woman who's angry at being raped, a mother who's angry because her child was lynched, a person who's angry because their home was bombed... none of these people ought to direct their anger outward? They simply ought to "direct their attention within"? I sincerely hope not.

And history does not bear out your theory about the ineffectiveness of anger. Every major movement for social change that I know of was driven, at least in part, by anger: anger at real harm and real injustice. Even Gandhi himself said: "I have learned through bitter experience the one supreme lesson: to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmitted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmitted into a power that can move the world."

I am not saying that anger by itself is enough: it needs to be channeled and given positive direction. But it is important -- and not simply as a guide to what's wrong within us. Anger can be a guide to what's wrong in the world.

If you don't agree, that's your right; if you want to treat anger in your own life as a guide to what's wrong with you personally, that's your right as well. But please stop spreading myths about how atheists are angry because we have no connection or meaning in our lives. Thank you.

Ben Ralston said...

Hi Christina,
I feel that *meaningful* contact between two seemingly separate beings indicates that the separation is not real. We are connected by the universal consciousness that we have in common. Any other contact would seem to me to be pretty superficial - based on physical (sensory), or emotional (temporary), or intellectual (cold) grounds. In other words superficial.

I really am sorry if this offends you - when I said that I didn't mean it personally I suppose what I really meant was that I don't mean to hurt you. I understand that you are passionate about being atheist. I also believe you when you say that you have experienced transcendental, meaningful, deep connection with other people.
But I don't see how you can believe passionately in separation and balance that with the experience! It just doesn't make sense to me... you're clearly highly intelligent (I don't mean to sound patronizing, I'm just being sincere!)- How does it make sense to you?

"As for the issue of anger itself: Are you really saying that the cause of anger is always something inside us? That a woman who's angry at being raped, a mother who's angry because her child was lynched, a person who's angry because their home was bombed... none of these people ought to direct their anger outward? They simply ought to "direct their attention within"? I sincerely hope not."

Here I suppose we will never agree Christina, because you look for "what's wrong in the world" and I prefer to see PERFECTION.

My blog post ‘EVERYTHING. Is. Perfect.’ pretty much explains how I feel about the question you asked about war and rape and suffering regarding anger. But to answer you directly:
Yes, I am saying that all suffering is a choice. It’s the difference between feeling like a victim, or taking responsibility for how you feel.
Get angry and direct it outwards, or use it as a wonderful way to consciously evolve. To me, that means finding where the anger comes from - inside - and transforming it into a more real feeling: love.
I'll give you a concrete example. I was abused as a child. I'm not angry about it, because I have forgiven the man that did it. I first came to understand him, then I felt sorry for him - and there is no anger left. If I had chosen to hold on to the anger would it really have achieved anything 'in the world', other than making me unhappy?

Finally - we actually do agree more or less, at least in part, about anger. The last 3 paragraphs of your last comment are absolutely in keeping with what I am saying. It's the difference between using, or channeling anger (‘controlling and transmitting it as a POWER’ as the beautiful quote you gave said) or holding on to it. Holding on to anger creates nothing.
I believe that the power Ghandi was referring to is love.

Greta Christina said...

"But I don't see how you can believe passionately in separation and balance that with the experience!"

I literally don't understand what you mean by this. I don't believe in "separation." I believe -- or rather, I have concluded based on an overwhelming preponderance of solid evidence -- that there is no supernatural: that the physical world is all there is, and that experiences that seem non-physical (such as consciousness) are actually biological products of the brain. That's not separation -- it is, as I've pointed out in many of the pieces I linked to above, the basis of a profound connection with the vastness of the universe.

If you want to know my reasons for reaching this conclusion, you can read some of them here:

The Top Ten Reasons I Don't Believe In God
http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2008/09/the-ten-main-reasons-i-dont-believe-in-god.html

Why I Don't Believe in the Soul
http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2008/07/why-i-dont-believe-in-the-soul.html

Both these pieces have links to other pieces, where I discuss my reasons for not believing in the supernatural in more detail.

I'm probably not going to be willing to debate this particular question with you, as you've stated yourself that "the truth of our beliefs is absolutely subjective!" I am unwilling to go very far in debating what is and is not true about the universe with people who don't think there is such a thing as non-subjective reality -- i.e., a real universe that exists outside our own experience, a universe that existed before we were born and will continue to exist after we die. If you don't accept that basic premise of non-solipsism, we won't have a common ground for even beginning a conversation. You say "I don't care for anything as much as I care for getting closer to reality" -- but I don't see how you reconcile that with the solipsism of thinking that truth is absolutely subjective.

What I will say is this: When it comes to your attitude towards atheists, you have basically reached your conclusion and are twisting the facts to fit into it. You have concluded that this supernatural "universal consciousness" is not only real, but is the most real and most valuable part of the universe. And you have therefore decided that, no matter what atheists say about our deep experience of connectedness with the world, it must be superficial. Again, it's like talking to a gay person who says, "What you're saying about us isn't true, it's a bigoted myth, we do experience deep love and long-term commitment," and responding by saying, "That can't be true -- because deep love and long-term commitment are, by definition, something that can only happen between a man and a woman." You're prioritizing your ideology over actual human experience.

As to anger itself: Again, if it works for you to deal with your anger by treating it as a guide to what's wrong with you personally, then that's fine. But to insist that everyone else ought to handle their anger in the same way you do is deeply patronizing. To say the least. Many people -- including, again, Gandhi -- have found anger to be an inspiring force to create meaningful social change. It can be a force for connection: feeling anger on other people's behalf is a form of basic human compassion. To deny that is, again, to prioritize your ideology over actual human experience. What works for you is not what works for everybody.

Ben Ralston said...

Hi Greta,
Hang on a minute. You said:
"...to insist that everyone else ought to handle their anger in the same way you do..."
- I didn't, and I don't, insist that anyone do anything. I don't know why you continue to say that I'm being patronizing... nor do I really understand why you keep comparing what I said to saying something about "all gay people".
I didn't actually say ANYTHING about "all atheists". I don't like labels like 'atheist', 'solipsist', 'gay', and so on, because I don't think any two atheists, philosophies, or sexual proclivities are ever the same anyway! So I certainly am not bigoted!
It's early in the morning and I just got up. I'll answer your other questions more fully later. Thanks for the interesting debate!
With love, Ben

Ben Ralston said...

Greta, you said:
"When it comes to your attitude towards atheists, you have basically reached your conclusion and are twisting the facts to fit into it"
NO. I simply don't have an 'attitude towards atheists'!. That WOULD make me bigoted wouldn't it? I was commenting on your anger. You listed many many things that make you very very angry. YOU talk about "all atheists", and are happy to label yourself as one too - I don't.

You keep trying to pin a label on me too - bigot, homophobe, anti-atheist (or whatever the right term is!), patronizer... it seems to suggest that your interest is more in expressing your anger though, than in furthering an interesting debate.

With love

Peter said...

Hi,
the paradoxical about atheism is that on the one side they deny faith and on the other side it only base on faith in intellect and ego.
To use the words of a wise man:
"From the viewpoint of the evolution of consciousness, atheism results from the refusal or inability to let go of the illusion that the narcissistic core of the ego is sovereign and is the source of one's life and existence."

Namasté
Peter

Ben Ralston said...

Faith in intellect and ego. I was thinking about that a lot, and couldn't quite 'put my finger on it', but you're right.
There is a denial of what is sometimes called 'blind faith' - which really just means having faith in what can't be seen, which is pretty funny because it's a scientific fact that we only see a limited range of light wavelengths - and an absolute conviction, which parallels the catholic inquisition sometimes in it's rigidity, in intellect. And perhaps, as you say, ego. Nice quote too - who is that wise man?

Peter said...

Hi Ben,
it´s from David R. Hawkins. Pretty much all quotes that I post are from him.

Namasté
Peter

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