Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I'm in it for that sweet, sweet coveting


So, on the New Humanist website I took a quiz to figure out what kind of humanist I am (technically not one, that may be the problem here).  The options are Happy, Hedonist, Hounded, or Hardline.  From the options for some of the questions, you can tell which questions would result in you getting a result of "hardline":  ridiculous overreactions to anything the slightest bit religious in nature.  The article is tagged "comedy" so I probably shouldn't read too much into any of it, but in the text for my results (hedonist, bitches!) something peculiar stuck out to me.

You are one of life’s enjoyers, determined to get the most you can out of your brief spell on this glorious planet. What first attracted you to atheism was the prospect of liberation from the Ten Commandments, few of which are compatible with a life of pleasure. You play hard and work quite hard, have a strong sense of loyalty and a relaxed but consistent approach to your philosophy. You can’t see the point of abstract principles and probably wouldn’t lay down your life for a concept, though you might for a friend. Something of a champagne humanist, you admire George Bernard Shaw for his cheerful agnosticism and pursuit of sensual rewards, and your Hollywood hero is Marlon Brando, who was beautiful (for a while), irascible and aimed for goodness in his own tortured way. You adored the humanist London bus slogan (“There’s probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life”) and are delighted that wild young comedians like Stewart Lee, Christina Martin and Ricky Gervais share your full-blooded rejection of religion. Sometimes you might be tempted to allow your own pleasures to take precedence over your ethics. But everyone is striving for that elusive balance between the good and the happy life. You’d probably better open another bottle and agree that for you there’s no contest.
Did you see the bolded statement?  I should hope so, otherwise all my hard work changing its font was for naught.  The rest of the statement makes sense but the bolded statement feeds into a peculiar argument that atheists are often faced with:  that they became atheists for the sake of freeing themselves from strict moral codes.  It is also shows a certain amount of reverence for Ten Commandments that is slightly strange even within the context of Christianity but even moreso when this statement is offered on an atheist site.

First off, the Ten Commandments (as they are commonly rendered) aren't that restrictive.  Especially if you are an atheist, thus making the first four of the commandments moot.  Don't kill/murder, don't steal/kidnap, respect your parents, don't bear false witness, don't covet, and don't commit adultery.  Only if you assume "bear false witness" to include any form of lying (rather than a false accusation) are they particularly strict.  Don't get me wrong, I think that "thou shalt not covet" may in fact be impossible to keep, depending on what one means by "covet".  Is it "I would like me some of that" kind of desire, or does it have to involve actively plotting and obsessing over how you could obtain the coveted object/person for yourself for a significant period of time?  Aside from those potential issues, and the fact that the "honor thy father and mother" commandment does not provide for the possibility that the father and mother and undeserving of even faint, mumbled "thanks," I find it really hard to see how a hedonist, as described in the text and as conceived in our culture at large, breaks those commandments.  A hedonist is someone tries to satisfy their urges, true, but if they did so by stealing, killing, or getting some jollies by accusing their neighbor of being a witch, "hedonist" is an insufficient label.  The label "sociopath" would be more appropriate at that point.  Granted, coveting and adultery do fall firmly within the hedonism tent.  Yet so does sleeping around when unmarried, masturbating, drinking and eating to satiation and beyond, sleeping in 'til noon, and slacking off during the rest of the day when there is work to be done.  And yet there is nothing in those commandments rebuking such behavior.  Sure, it runs afoul of the seven deadly sins, but that's something else entirely.  The fact is that the ten commandments are either ridiculous nuisance rules that everyone violates, rules against the most profound and obvious infractions, or other rules pertaining to worship (that believers may or may not accidentally violate).  Breaking all of them would make you a monster, breaking a few of them makes you human, and yet you could still be a horrible human being without violating one, since it is hardly a comprehensive moral code.

On the topic of atheists becoming atheists for the freedom to do as they please, let me once again state that is most assuredly not the reason that I became an atheist personally, that I know absolutely who claims that this was their reason for becoming an atheist, and that the prospect does not actually make sense.  No theist is told that they chose their particular brand of religion due to trying to avoid certain restrictions placed on behavior by other possible choices for a religion to adhere to.  And no person should be foolish enough to both believe that another religion may be correct but to refuse to believe in it just so that they can act in a way that that religion would forbid and that is predicted to be punished by the particular supernatural arrangement that you partially believe in.  Not believing that the religion is correct in the first place needs to precede the decision to not follow that religion's behavioral requirements for anyone who isn't seriously deranged.

So, having said all this, I am now left to simply ponder why such a sentiment, rife with misconceptions about atheists in general, ex-Christians in particular, would be used on a humanist website.  I am hoping that it is just some aspect of a "comedy" I don't quite understand.  Wouldn't be the first time.

[Edit:  I suppose I should note that aside from the bolded phrase being crazy, and the fact that I do not being labeled a "hedonist" due to negative connotations of the word, that the description is pretty accurate for me.  I do like the slogan "There is probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life," though I refuse to obey the latter part of the sentence.  And I do like the fact that there are a several openly anti-religion voices in the media, especially comedy.  They got me on those points.  Do share your own opinions on such matters to see whether the description in the results is more or less a glorified horoscope.]

42 comments:

Michael Lockridge said...

If I recall correctly George Carlin expressed himself as if he were an atheist, though he considered himself an acrostic. (It's his joke. Look it up. It is easy to find.) His attitude toward our species was not optimistic, and I would say he was not a humanist.

The humanist I know best is my father. He has high regard and an optimistic outlook toward our species. He likes people. Any religious beliefs I have heard him express have been vague and more reflective of our culture than matters of a defined faith.

Do atheists adopt their unbelief to avoid such burdens as the ten commandments? Perhaps some, but not all. Do believers adopt their faith so as to be burdened by such things as the ten commandments? Again, perhaps some, but not all.

The Christian faith I adopted claims I cannot fulfill the ten commandments. Salvation in Christ fulfills those commandments, and I am freed from such things.

Most atheists I have known have adopted their unbelief for one of two reasons. One is a reaction to a negative experience with religion or religionists. The other is the logical extension of a strong belief in science as defining the whole of reality.

As to some of the other implications, to enjoy life is not necessarily hedonistic. Neither does a life of faith necessarily exclude enjoying life or denying all sensual and pleasant things.

I see way too many rabbits running down way to many paths here. How do I get these worms back into the can? Maybe I should have followed up on the humor element.

Mike

mac said...

I would go so far as to say someone who denies religion simply because he does not to operate in it's oppressive confines is not an atheist at all. The reason I reject gods is, I know they aren't real. If I believed god was real and chose to ignore it, I'd be a god hater- not even close to atheism.....Not having to follow most of those commandments is just an added bonus ;-)

mac said...

one more thing....I'm not a hedonist either, but some of that stuff does appeal to me. I particularly like their sexual attitudes. Yeah, I have a love/hate thing going on with littlemac(my dick). On the one hand, it is one of lifes great pleasures. On the other hand, I let it lead me into trouble much more so than I should. But, hey, Im only 44 years old, I might outgrow it in another 44 years ;-)

Richelle said...

this reminds me of a discussion i was having with my husband a few weeks ago. he identifies himself as a christian and i am, of course, an atheist.

we were talking about noah's ark and the garden of eden and several other christian stories. i said that i thought some of them may have some basis in fact but that overall they were just bullshit and he mentioned that he thought it was silly that i was an atheist just because i thought the stories were made up.

i was slightly confused by this response so i asked him if he had always assumed that the reason i didn't believe in god was because i thought the stories weren't accurate and he said yes. upon hearing this i became a bit offended, but i just explained to him that the bs stories were not what led my reasoning in deciding whether or not i believed in god.

i really think there is a misconception among many believers of how atheists come to believe what they do.

Richelle said...

"The reason I reject gods is, I know they aren't real. If I believed god was real and chose to ignore it, I'd be a god hater- not even close to atheism...."

EXACTLY! danny tries telling me that he understands how difficult it can be for me as an atheist living in a VERY baptist part of texas because he was an atheist for a couple years in college. but i really wouldn't consider him an atheist in that period of time because he says the reason for it was because he was mad at churches and the way some christians acted. i would count his little stint more as a crisis of faith than becoming an atheist.

Asylum Seeker said...

Michael: " Do believers adopt their faith so as to be burdened by such things as the ten commandments?"

That's an interesting take I must say. Reversing the expectation that the nonreligious are nonreligious to be free to wonder if the religious are religious to be burdened. The fact that I actually see the appeal of the latter is strange to me...

"The Christian faith I adopted claims I cannot fulfill the ten commandments."

I was going to mention that part as well, but I have gotten to the point where I am not sure that any particular point is true of Christianity at large as much as just fringe interpretations of it. I honestly thought that this was the common view, but I wanted to avoid being accused of building strawmen.

"The other is the logical extension of a strong belief in science as defining the whole of reality."

In my case, it is that there is nothing that anyone can say about anything beyond the realm that science can observe that has much reliability. It's not so much a strong belief in science as much as realizing that "reality" beyond science is pretty much blind speculation (save for subjective personal experiences, arguably, but only for the person having those experiences).

mac: I would still call a person who rejects religion for stupid reasons an atheist under the condition that, despite their irrational motivations, they really don't believe god(s) exist. It's just that I cannot possibly imagine one attaining such a lack of a belief entirely due to wanting freedom to pursue pleasure. That's motivation for joining a religion with a different interpretation of what the gods frown upon that is more to your liking. However, certain restrictions do reflect on the nature of the deity doing the forbidding, so I can actually understand how one might come to conclude that a particular god doesn't exist based on the morality they prescribe contradicting their stated purposes or character. But the non-belief has to come before the rejection, otherwise you are just insane.

Richelle: Odd. What better reason to not believe in a certain religion than to find that the claims that they make are false or absurd? Granted, the portions that could be found to have either of those two qualities do not necessarily pertain to the existence of god, and it could easily be argued that the points in question are not as much factual claims as much as literary device or allegory. But at what point can you continue to turn the bulk of your religion's perspective into metaphor and still claim that it has anything relevant/coherent to offer?

"but i really wouldn't consider him an atheist in that period of time because he says the reason for it was because he was mad at churches and the way some christians acted."

Yes. There is a difference between being dissatisfied with religion or religious people and not believing in the claims that the religion makes. It takes a little bit more than not being affiliated with a particular religion to be an atheist. Though you could call yourself non-religious at that point. If you still essentially believe in a god though you are still a theist, even if you are unchurched.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

I received the exact same message when I took the quiz. Being called a hedonist stings a bit coming off of 3 nights of trauma call last week. Apparently I am an extremely misguided hedonist.

I also think that there are other reasons to reject theology other than those given. In my case it was the logical inconsistency of the constructs as well as the contextual history of the beliefs.

pboyfloyd said...

We're told that if we see contradictions in the Bible that we must be taking it out of context.

I see a giant contradiction in the the timing and placement of the Commandments. Here Moses has revealed, Yahweh has decreed, "Thou shalt not kill!"(as if this is not just common sense.)

What's next on the agenda? The slaughter of the occupants of the Promised Land.

I suppose some believers would count that as puting, "Thou shalt not kill!", IN context, as in, 'right-out-of-the-gate', we see that ethnic cleansing is 'cool' with God.

:o)

GearHedEd said...

Part of the problem may be that religious people necessarily see the world as having been created by God, and to them that's obvious. Then, they misdefine atheism as "separation from God", because they don't have enough imagination to imagine a world that doesn't require a god for its existence.

The jury is still out on the science thing, i.e., science hasn't answered all the questions. But science is a process, not a static mythology based in ignorance, and answers are being found almost daily.

Asylum Seeker said...

" Apparently I am an extremely misguided hedonist."

Yeah. If I am going to be called a hedonist, I could definitely be getting more mileage than I currently am in order to really deserve the title.

" IN context, as in, 'right-out-of-the-gate', we see that ethnic cleansing is 'cool' with God."

God doesn't see race or ethnicities: he just sees targets ;)

" Then, they misdefine atheism as 'separation from God'"

Wait...isn't that how some of them define "Hell" as well? Wow. Suddenly, everything makes sense!

"The jury is still out on the science thing, i.e., science hasn't answered all the questions. But science is a process, not a static mythology based in ignorance, and answers are being found almost daily."

This is very true and needs to be remembered. There may be some limit to how much we discover about our world, but we haven't reached it quite yet.

oneblood said...

Ed makes a very good point.

--

Asylum, I respectfully disagree with the notion that non-belief has to come before the rejection of whatever religion.

Or perhaps it's better stated that an intuitive, "a priori" construct is acting on someone's behalf when they do leave a religion for "hedonistic" reasons?

Abuse and all that it entails, seem like great reasons to reject religious rules and God. Perhaps the affected person just sets up a binary and has an anti-theism, or maybe, just maybe, the emotional triggers are enough to throw out the whole shebang.

While it's not thoughtful in one sense, to call it crazy feels like an overstatement.

Asylum Seeker said...

"Abuse and all that it entails, seem like great reasons to reject religious rules and God. Perhaps the affected person just sets up a binary and has an anti-theism, or maybe, just maybe, the emotional triggers are enough to throw out the whole shebang.

While it's not thoughtful in one sense, to call it crazy feels like an overstatement."

Oooooooo...I didn't think about abuse. Hmmm. Still not sure though. I just find it very unlikely for the person to simultaneously to believe that the religion is correct about there being actual danger in not adhering to their moral code while rejecting that moral code and only the moral code. Anti-theism is a big confounding factor though that I didn't account for. But I suppose it comes down to exploring the reasoning, overly emotional or not, of those who suffer this fate that causes them to "lose their religion". In other words, I would need to determine whether these things (disenchantment with the church and such) cause one to have doubts about God's existence, or to question whether the moral code that one supposedly has to live up is/should be more lax. This is a definite way to resolve the problem, but without having some doubts about the certainty of punishment for specific behaviors it still doesn't make sense to reject an ethos when you still sincerely believe that doing so will have dire consequences. But, I am not exactly normal, so perhaps "insane" really is a bit much to describe it.

oneblood said...

It's 3 in the am here Asylum and I want to mull over your response. Briefly in your defense however,

'But, I am not exactly normal, so perhaps "insane" really is a bit much to describe it.'

How the mind deals with what I would call profound, and habitual ambivalence, could be labeled 'insane.'

Perhaps I'm putting more of a pejorative spin on the term than you do.

Asylum Seeker said...

"Perhaps I'm putting more of a pejorative spin on the term than you do."

Hard to say. I use those and similar terms a bit liberally, despite the fact that I really should know better. I guess case-in-point is the name of the blog itself. But I do think that I meant to suggest some kind of serious mental failure at work, at the same time suggesting that this particular kind of failing is not within the "normal" scope of erroneous human thought processes (which, on second thought, is entirely debatable).

Richelle said...

well, asylum and pliny, i took the quiz and it turns out i'm a hedonist too.

i was disappointed at first. some of the descriptions are accurate, i do have a strong sense of loyalty, my friendships are very important to me and i do enjoy that bus slogan. however, i don't know much about george bernard shaw and doubt i would admire his pursuit of sensual rewards, and if i were to ever have a hollywood hero it wouldn't be marlon brando despite my agreement with him on certain things. and most importantly, giving a big "fuck you" to the ten commandments was not what attracted me to atheism.

but then i decided that we don't have to accept the new humanist website's version of hedonism. i find it to be based on a school of thought that i have several disagreements with.

i would much rather think that if i am going to be defined as hedonistic for the purposes of this quiz that it would be epicurean hedonism as opposed to cyrenaic hedonism.

GearHedEd said...

As for me, I'm an atheist because I refuse to believe in the absurdities contained within MOST religions. A notable exception is Buddhism, but it's more of a philosophy than a religion anyway.

But that doesn't mean I'm less moral than the average Christian; it just means that morality is based in rational thought and need not rely for it's utility on a "Godly" explanation of it's source.

GearHedEd said...

In other words, not all atheists are out of control hedonists, like the Christians would have us believe.

GearHedEd said...

Michael said in the first post:

"The Christian faith I adopted claims I cannot fulfill the ten commandments. Salvation in Christ fulfills those commandments, and I am freed from such things."

Paraphrased:

a) I'm a miserable sinner and cannot control myself, and

b) believing that I'm saved relieves me of being responsible or accountable for my own bad behavior.

This is the ROOT cause of a lot of stupid shit that can be attributed to Christians the world over, and is the exact argument used when a prominent Christian fails (Ted Haggard, Mark Sanford, Larry Craig, etc., etc....).

This isn't directed at Michael (he might be a great guy, but I have no information either way and don't prejudge people), but at the prevailing attitudes expressed by so many Christians I meet.

GearHedEd said...

I didn't take the test, but they'd probably label me a hedonist, too.

Richelle said...

"In other words, not all atheists are out of control hedonists, like the Christians would have us believe."

many of the negative connotations associated with hedonism are a result of christian bullshit (not surprising). they turned it into this philosophy that people just fuck and drink and do whatever the hell they want all the time and that's not what it was about at all.

epicurus believed that the greatest pleasures humankind can attain, and should pursue, are knowledge and friendship. he also believed in self-restraint and moderation.

different schools of philosophy did focus more on physical pleasures than mental pleasures, but it wasn't about selfish pleasure seeking. their focus was on humanity as a whole.

oneblood said...

Websites like the one you guys/gal attended to, set up false dichotomies the same way religious websites do.

From personal experience inside the church, one has to believe in not only a primary false dichotomy, but various secondary ones as well.

I don't attribute this strictly to religion, but to whom created it. Humans.

We like belief, and sides, and adore false dichotomies (also whatever the plural of that is) I guess I should just say limited choice.

I've put up a list like this before elsewhere:

religion vs. reason
good vs. bad
hedonsim vs. ascetism
The kkk vs. The nation of islam
misogyny vs. misandry

The list goes on and on and on. I'm unsure as to the biological benefit for false dichotomies, but they sure make things overly-complicated.

Michael Lockridge said...

Just for the record, I view myself as a good man, but not a particularly nice man. A nice man could not routinely hold people prisoner for the state and in the process occasionally apply physical pain to do the job. That I have a reputation for being quite skilled at the application of pain leaves me with very mixed feelings.

I do understand the hostility toward Christianity I occasionally find here. I was hostile to Christianity at one time, as well. Conversion experiences tend to be complex and not particularly rational, whether toward a religious faith or away from such a faith.

I do not come here to argue any of you into Heaven. Though curiosity and some engagement of the intellect are aspects of the conversion experience they are not central. Faith may be rationalized and justified by reasoned arguments, but the faith experience is largely emotional.

I recognize an aspect of the supernatural in the process, as well. Not being subject to the forms of analysis most of you have expressed as definitive of the whole of reality, such an aspect would be meaningless. Hence, not suitable for argument.

Just as a footnote, I was not drawn to my faith by the examples and practices of Christians. I was driven to it by internal and supernatural forces. I do not fully integrate into much of Christian culture. Many of your criticisms have validity, and so such wholesale integration is, uh, distasteful.

With regard to hedonism, which was the central theme of this thread, I would contend that there exists a range of hedonistic values, and as such we are all hedonists to some degree.

Somewhere along the scale each of us will draw a line, and consider going any further toward absolute hedonism as simply wrong.

Where do you draw the line, and why?

Mike

oneblood said...

Mike, I don't think you asked the particular question of me, yet I feel an obligation to point out that reason states that absolute anything often ends up as remote as 'God.'

"Somewhere along the scale each of us will draw a line, and consider going any further toward absolute hedonism as simply wrong."

Application of hedonism is no different than application of other behaviors which benefit or please. I don't think the human mind is built (so to speak) for absolutes in an absolute sense (if you'll forgive the pun).

This is oblique, but I think you should genuinely ask yourself Pilate's question. "What is truth?"

Richelle said...

"Application of hedonism is no different than application of other behaviors which benefit or please. I don't think the human mind is built (so to speak) for absolutes in an absolute sense (if you'll forgive the pun)."

i agree with oneblood here mike. i have always found it silly for anyone to adhere to any single way of thinking, whether religious or philosophical, because it just doesn't seem natural to the human process of growth.

my ideas have evolved over my lifetime and i expect them to continue to do so. i feel i have a deeper understanding of certain things than i did 5 or 10 or 15 years ago (can't go back too far, you guys know i'm a young doe) and i accept that there are certain things that i will never fully understand.

here's how i see it: if anyone fully, unquestionably accepts any one way of thinking as the "right" way, they are accepting that someone else was able to figure it all out, find all the answers that countless others had failed at finding. that person was able to complete their growth process and acquired all the knowledge that one could possibly obtain.

now that just doesn't fly with me. nobody has all the answers. when a person stops learning it doesn't mean that there is nothing else for them to learn, it just means that they have closed themselves off from any new ideas. you see with christians, muslims, humanists, utilitarians, etc.

this is why, instead of identifying with any single group with a specific set of ideas, i enjoy looking into all different philosophies and religions to learn new concepts that might help shape my own ideas.

but that's just me...

oneblood said...

Asylum,

Sorry yours is the blog of the 'hour' so you get the tangent.

I was just gifted a word from Nietzsche, 'eudaemonic' or 'eudemonic' which apparently means "producing happiness and well-being."

To me this brings back a needed ambiguity to a co-opted word.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Eudemonia is also one of the cultural choices in Sid Meyer's old game, Alpha Centauri. Blissful citizens - who aren't particularly productive. Not the preferred choice of a scientifically obsessed martial player of the game such as I ;)

Asylum Seeker said...

Richelle: "epicurus believed that the greatest pleasures humankind can attain, and should pursue, are knowledge and friendship. he also believed in self-restraint and moderation."

In that case, I am even LESS of a hedonist than I previous thought, but now suddenly want to pursue the path of hedonism further :)

oneblood: False dichotomies are so common because they seem so intuitive and easy to use that you would be hard pressed to not to use one if you could be convinced by a superficial appearance that had any bearing on reality.

Also: "The kkk vs. The nation of islam" as a dichotomy made me laugh.
And here is an answer to the question posed in your next post"
"Truth is not a lie". It actually sounds like it means something, doesn't it?

Michael: "Just for the record, I view myself as a good man, but not a particularly nice man."

Same here, but more because I am an asocial than because I have a job that requires me to be, how should I say, "not gentle".

"I do not fully integrate into much of Christian culture."

I would argue that it is coming to the point where very few people can lay a claim to being fully integrated into something that could definitively be called Christian, because that particular label has been becoming ever more broad over time. And I appreciate the fact that you are interested in conversation above conversion, more because it feels more comfortable that way. If something I say fails to return the favor, I apologize in advance (while I have the right temperament to do so). And I agree that we are all hedonists to some degree, which I suppose is why I take offense to being called one, because the label has no real meaning unless you are implying that one is indulging yourself above and beyond the normal scope of human pleasure-seeking. I can't imagine that human existence would be bearable without a dash of such pursuit, and yet also firmly acknowledge the wisdom behind several religions' negative view on the idea of pursuing them too often or too vigorously. All things in moderation, or some such thing.

Asylum Seeker said...

Richelle again: "here's how i see it: if anyone fully, unquestionably accepts any one way of thinking as the "right" way, they are accepting that someone else was able to figure it all out, find all the answers that countless others had failed at finding. that person was able to complete their growth process and acquired all the knowledge that one could possibly obtain.

now that just doesn't fly with me. nobody has all the answers."

I agree with you in a way. This potential for new information, and likelihood that a given perspective formed without godlike knowledge of the world does cast enough doubt to make it so that holding something as a absolute is hasty and overconfident. However, I think it needs to be noted (even if it you implied it to be irrelevant due to only addressing absolutist positions) that one can hypothetically hold beliefs with a reasonable amount of certainty even if they are old beliefs (if they are supported/aren't contradicted by present day knowledge). The fact is that people way-back-when were very clever and made quite a few accurate observations about the civilized and natural world. Sometimes they were wrong (geocentric solar system) and sometimes their observations were merely incomplete (Newtonian physics). They may not have had all the answers, but some of them were at least close enough to get partial credit. But, yes, it still does stand that absolutism based on such things is probably unreasonable. Always got to have a little wiggle room.

Oneblood again: I actually followed a very short trail of breadcrumbs to "eudemonism", which is "the doctrine that the basis of moral obligations is to be found in the tendency of right actions to produce happiness." So it's the idea of feeling good by doing good, which is a term that I am slightly more happy with.
The question is why they would use "demon" in the word. Would "good demons" produce happiness [suddenly a succubus comes to mind...]? Or are we talking "daemons," so it is "good spirit/god"?
These are the questions that keep me up at night.

(Note: the last two comments were originally one but the system wouldn't let me post it because it was too long. Imagine that: me, writing something that was too long. Ha!)

GearHedEd said...

Here's another slant on "hedonism".

We humans are wired such that in the absence of adverse pathologies, sex is extremely pleasurable. I'm picking on sex here because it has an obvious biological function, as opposed to some other pleasure producing activities like drinking alcohol, etc.

But humans are also wired to crave pleasure, and some individuals begin to form addictive behaviors around pleasure "events". This is a bad thing, even without resorting to religious prohibitions. Like Richelle said, "many of the negative connotations associated with hedonism are a result of christian bullshit...", but they need not have started out that way.

Sex is necessary for the species to continue. How can that be a bad thing in and of itself, unless it promotes addictive or destructive behaviors?

GearHedEd said...

Oooh!

Putting on my Halloween costume now!

Asylum Seeker said...

"Sex is necessary for the species to continue. How can that be a bad thing in and of itself, unless it promotes addictive or destructive behaviors?"

I think that this is the main reason why, in the Old Testament for example, there are no prohibitions against sex entirely, but against certain kinds of sex that, for whatever reason, the authors did not like (extramarital, premarital, and homosexual sex are the specific ones I can remember). So, those could technically be considered the kinds of sex that delve too far into hedonism, and are beyond the scope as a necessary thing that is also a source of pleasure. I guess the problem is simply defining what constitutes being addicted to a certain activity and whether that form of particular addiction is bad. It comes down to, I think, a matter of personal taste rather than anything objective. I guess Michael said the same thing, really.


Anyway: hmmm...maybe I should consider a costume as well (or, in other words, an avatar change to a different cosmic horror. Been using this one for ages).

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Anyway: hmmm...maybe I should consider a costume as well (or, in other words, an avatar change to a different cosmic horror. Been using this one for ages).

what the hell is that thing anyway? It reminds me of a still as conceived by HR Giger

Asylum Seeker said...

It is: a random image I found on the internet. Of course ;)

Honestly, looks like it has a tentacle for a head and a mouth on its stomach. Pretty self-explanatory. Except for the fact that I don't see any teeth. Must have to have all of his food served to him mashed.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Ah - I see we return to the roost - Chutulu and Adam. heart warming!

Asylum Seeker said...

What can I say, I have a taste for the classics!

oneblood said...

This is a geek addition but Richelle mentioned,

"...many of the negative connotations associated with hedonism are a result of christian bullshit (not surprising)."

It was eye opening for me to come to understand this as not true. Not because of anything particularly wonderful about Christianity, but that the religion served very much as the annihilator and absorber of extant philosophies, and religions etc.

Asceticism pre-existed Christ, so did Gnosticism. Though they can be separate, you practically set up a modus ponens, if Gnosticism then asceticism.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

This is one of my biggest concerns about many religions - this rabid self-loathing of all things human and natural. All these uptight repressed people in this country - no wonder the NRA has a field day - it's the only release allowed in this country ;)

Asylum Seeker said...

You know, you don't really need religion to have a certain distaste for human nature. Honestly, I think religion simply integrated certain repressive aspects into it that were already as much a part of human nature as the things that they are reacting to. That is to say that, for example, killing is a part of our collective human nature, and repressing such activity is human nature as well. Having sex is human, and so is not having sex. So on and so forth. Being rather repressed myself, I find it hard to blame religion, and find it even harder to decry repression itself without feeling like I am throwing myself on the fire in doing so.

Richelle said...

"It was eye opening for me to come to understand this as not true."

it is true that christians have perpetuated a distorted view of hedonism that is centered around sex, materialism and selfishness to a point where many in our society, if asked about hedonism, would have an immediate negative response due to the spread of this misinformation.

that is what i was specifically referring to.

just wanted to clarify that...

Stacy S. said...

Ooh! Now I want to go put on a costume too!!

Stacy S. said...

This is all I had in my closet - from last year.

Harvey said...

Sorry to come into this thread so late, but.......

There is a philosophical school referred to as Egoistic Hedonism. It states that, given a choice, humans will always seek that "solution" they anticipate will provide the most positive or, converesely, avoid the most negative outcomes. Allowing for actual lack of choice, lack of or inaccurate predictive information, or emergency situations wherein there may be insufficient time to make a considered decision, I believe this philosophy to be correct in its observations of human behavior. The problem with this philosophy is, however, that if we are "wired" to react this way, there is no real "choice" involved. If one acceopts this viewpoint, it becomes even more evident that all religious or other "moral" constructs simply urge us to restrain our natural "prewired" impulses. One can also extrapolate from this that maturation and/or civilization of the individual, progressing from one's totally egoistic condition as an infant to what is hopefully an adult fully integrated into the various societies with which he/she comes into contact represents a learning process as to which of our natural "selfish" behaviors yield more negative outcomes (responses from society) than they may provide "good" in satisfying our immediate desires.
Having said this, my personal journey to atheism has nothing to do with the Ten Commandments or rejection of my Jewish upbringing. I simply have not yet been able to find the "kernel of faith" that any Deity exists to warrant acceptance of any religion.