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Religion and the ''Moral Axis of the Universe''

(Photo by Robin Holland)

In this week’s JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with author Robert Wright, who discussed his vision of how various cultures’ notions of God have evolved throughout history. Wright suggested that, at their best, religious traditions have aligned their adherents with a transcendent “moral axis of the universe” that encompasses values applicable to all of humanity:

“I believe there’s a purpose unfolding that has a moral directionality – I have barely the vaguest notion of what might be behind that and whether it could be anything like a personal God or an intelligent being or not... Whatever is behind it, if something is, is probably something that’s beyond human conception... Given the constraints on human cognition, believing in a personal God is a pretty defensible way to go about orienting yourself to the moral axis of the universe... [The] conscience, which certainly is imperfect as natural selection shaped it, is not by itself a reliable guide to moral conduct, I think... If we want to secure the salvation of the global social system and of the planet – in other words, if we want salvation in the Hebrew Bible sense of the term – we do have to move ourselves closer to what I would call the moral axis of the universe, which means drawing more of humanity into our frame of reference, getting better at putting ourselves in their shoes, [and] expanding the realm of tolerance.”

What do you think?

  • Do you believe, as Wright does, in a “moral axis of the universe” based on common values of expanding tolerance? Why or why not?

  • In your view, is religion necessary to build a more ethical society?

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    Always there in the background, isn't it - "religion" - the "secret" list makers "tool"?

    If there is a philosophical consistency

    to the POLITICS religion is indulging in,

    then I'm missing it...

    Woman are being allowed (Nun who stopped one needless death was fired AND excommunicated - WWJD)to die during pregnancy and/or childbirth

    while at the same time the "hierachy" of the oligarchy bets on the benefits of adult stem cell research.

    That's a spin that might be axis-free...

    Alway there in the background,isn't it - "religion" - the "secret" list makers?

    If there is a philosophical consistency to the POLITICS religion is indulging in, then I'm missing it...

    Woman are being allowed to die during pregnancy and/or childbirth

    while at the same time the "hierachy" of the oligarchy bets on the benefits of adult stem cell research.

    Thanks for writing this, I 100 percent agree to what you have posted, about the whole thing, I have hence subscribed to your rss feeds and will be a regular reader

    I'm reading Mr. Wright's book now and this online discussion has yielded good context to his thoughts. It struck me as interesting to consider whether or not the moral axis of the universe was at work when the pod- and broadcast of the conversation with Mr. Wright was paired with a discussion of global warming. Both seem to draw on a similar theme - the evoluion of our species' ability to expand our concept of harmlessness to a wider net of people. Regardless of whether the coincidence was a mere happy accident or the result of a thoughtful producer, it seems to me that the moral lesson one can draw from both of these segments is that the human animal needs to not only treat our neighbors in close proximity well, but also not harm our neighbors on the other side of the planet and yes, now even our neighbors yet to be born. If there does exist a moral axis in the universe, I do hope his/her/its mysterious ways work before our coal plant carbon causes Greenland's ice to flood Bangladesh.

    It's your right to give flat "I dunnos" if they ask questions germane to such. But I think they'd have more fun if they perceived you'd wrestled with the same problems, and if you provided alternate theoretical answers.

    Posted by: David H

    Let me try it again, and again, if needed.

    The FACT is that there IS, already, the perfect amount of sunlight reaching the earth through a very elaborate filtration system, the "atmosphere" - a system billions of years in the making that is ALSO reacting to some pre-programming, and all this is not "chance" reactions of a subatomic energy dance! What hubris!

    So what we have now in the "science" community is a battle of egos - egos bigger than what shamnas got away with in the 20th century. One "team" approaches science throught the lens of psychosis and sociopathic personality disorders. Their "theories" are in no way able to explain how "sunlight" reaches the earth in a perfect measure of energy. Their theories are INCAPABLE of delivering what life NEEDS.

    The other team uses "theory" to UNDERSTAND the inner workings of the sunlight delivery system. Huge difference in "theory" invention, no?

    Physics is so far off on a tangent supplying "theory" for micro-managing the NEEDS of life. If they could stick a microchip in your nostril and charge you per oxygen molecule, they would. Fortunately, pure physics won't be providing them with the subatomic FACTS they crave to "make money". There are no such FACTS to begin with! PERFECT sunlight reaching the earth - keep dancing around the FACT, David....

    I understood the barrier in said physics lab had 3 (NOT 2) slits. I wonder if the experiment has been tried with other numbers or orientations of pathway. Repeatability of results may be less important than variability of method. (Why can't various lifeways co-exist in the same spatial environment? Does particle physics exclude the idea of non-uniformity? There may be more particles and energies out there than we can conceive, some exempt from known principles, and yet we increasingly narrow our lifeway choices and viabilities over time. Humanity demonstates an "oblivion wish" and a "prudish science."

    I disagree completely with Robert Wright's view of a "moral axis of the universe."

    I, admittedly, am a narrow minded person in that I have embraced the Bible as my complete guide and source for total truth. The universe was created by my God and has inherently as much morality as my pet rock.

    Morality, in my opinion, has been and will always be an influence injected into the world by a moral and just God.

    With regards to tolarance there is much work to do in that area. The "religious,"amongst us, at times, seem to be the most intolerant people who walk the earth. I am the pastor of a non-traditional Christian Church. We have been engaged mostly in unlearning all those things that keep us from growing in our love for God and each other.

    Lastly, religion is not necessary to build an ethical society. Religion breeds hypocrisy, judgement, seperation.

    Faith and spirituality do influence our world towards kindness, mercy, ethics and love.

    The Community of Faith

    Henry Gomez

    Firstly, I returned to a 1985 book by Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen. That book should have been down off the shelf far more frequently. Should have gone straight to
    personology for my example below, and dispensed with "personalities" having psychic links to parallel versions of themselves.

    Secondly, I must make the long shot recommendation that everyone read what Gil Bailie says about the word "refutation" in his book "Violence Unveiled," page 239 (at least everyone who posts on message boards).

    It seems I have dug myself into a little tangent. Sorry, folks.

    Thanks, mike, for expressing your thoughts re what I was writing about. Thanks for having some interest. I think also, mike, it's important to limit the existential relevance of something that seems a matter of such pure theory...a limiting which you more or less laid down for yourself.

    I believe some very strong evidence indicates the
    electrons... [or photons & they might be able to use protons too; "The Elegant Universe" book gives a good rundown (though personally I never thought the wd "elegant" was apt for the quantum level)]... actually travel multiple paths at the same time. What I conclude from this is that there are many worlds at the quantum level...though, personally, I do not believe the soul, for instance, splits off into many worlds at a macro level.

    Here's what happened here though. Two posters besides me wrote that they thought Rene Girard would make a good guest. I cited a commentator on Girard (though mainly a literary critic, Girard's ideas encompass anthropological topics) and C.G. Jung, MD (who of course was trained in medical "science"). Anna responded, it seemed to me, by asking why in the heck I would lend any credence to scientists having anything significant to say about "personality." [She has a strong pt re the inundation of theories we experience...and re extrapolations from "science" meant to shed tons of light on "personality," granted] Generally, I am very skeptical re such relevance...the exact frame Anna conceived I was a million miles from. I have a problem, though, with chucking completely the reason that was/is employed by Freud, Jung, and Girard in route to their conclusions.

    I wish I could give criteria for effective demarcations, but I can't. Freud had theories and Jung had theories, and some of these theories strike me as, in their day, having been not just speculation but...real theories. The thing about the double slit experiment is this: To try to explain the results we will come up with ideas that definitely have a "speculative" ring. It is almost impossible to avoid. It looks as though most of these ideas will be untestable for a fair amount of time. They may remain so for 10,000 years! But, remember Einstein had to explain why the velocity of light emitted from a moving object was not increased by the object's velocity. And, yet somehow he came up with a reasoning process that explained it! In this era in which we are living a thousand scientists will try to frame their explanations re the experiment to their wives attempting with all their might to frame'em as legit theory. And, Lord, just get a few new numbers on the "red shift" and you might as well stoke up the bonfires for a lotta books! All this is just to say that scientists may come along and show us new results...and then build entire metaphysics on top of'em. So, my approach is...just be ready. [meanwhile they may wish to ignore the "unscientific" observations of myth, novels, & Girard] Science will have a relevance even if pop media creates it for science...just for the entertainment value of shock if, say, it needs value somewhere in the equation. Re Freud, Jung, and Girard...for me things are different. Despite what Bottum said in that "First Things" article I cited 7/27, Freud and Jung wove their reasons together in extremely interesting fashions, perhaps in ways we should not, despite Freud's shortcomings, quite forget.

    What I wrote was not a trick. As far as I can tell Roger Penrose, for instance, is a very accomplished mathematician and also believes full-on in "many worlds." It wasn't a trick, but it's good to keep track of the wildest notions around re what impacts "personality." [To my knowledge Penrose speculates no interaction between split-off selves, but just give sci-fi a decade or so] It probably would have been a better thesis just to cite claims that items out of cognitive science, for instance, have bearing...or other items like climate, propaganda, or industrialization.

    We will be learning more about the nature of matter that will more clearly explain the results of the double slit experiment. I do not have the references but overivew of the articles is as follows. In an experiment where (it was either electron or photons I do not rember which) were aimed at a sample and the sample monitored, a disturbance was noted in the sample prior to the electron / photon hitting it. To me what this is saying is that when substances are traveling near the speed of light an electromagnetic disturbance is generated that a sample can effect a test article. The greater than expected number of hits observed in the double slit experiment is not due to splitting worlds but electromagnetic distirbances caused by substances traveling near the speed of light. There should be more published on this issue in the future.

    "Mechanism" to my way of thinking goes along with compartmentalizing disciplines. When you try to take away the walls I guess you might get accused of corrupting the youth among other things.

    "Do you really believe that one human looking at other human beings as if they are insects pinned to a board is motivated to see FACTS about 'life' that his 'science' should be addressing?" Anna

    I was talking about electrons in the double slit experiment. After that I talked about Girard, who is not a scientist (unless he had training in anthropology I'm not aware of).

    But anyway, here's a stretch to relate one example of how physics could impact the notion of personality (it doesn't matter if they should have been doing something else; the results are already before us): If one resorts to the "many worlds theory" to explain the results, then one could assume an individual "personality" splits every half second. The divisions could be more than two and more frequent (as frequent as thoughts arise)...and each split-off self is a new entity in a new universe. Now, how these entities may influence one another may arguably be squared with the "our many selves outlook" (Elizabeth O'Connor for example...who BTW did not theorize any bearing of "many worlds theory" to what she wrote). Personally, I can't buy the bearing I just described, but it's interesting to see how some very intelligent people try to accomadate the experiment's results. I don't see a whole lot of harm in subjecting oneself to the panoply of implications others see in them.

    It doesn't say much about personality (as far as I can imagine). You're right on that score. But Girard says things pertinent to personality in my opinion.

    A child these days might watch "The Elegant Universe" made for TV or "What the Bleep Do We Know!? It's your right to give flat "I dunnos" if they ask questions germane to such. But I think they'd have more fun if they perceived you'd wrestled with the same problems, and if you provided alternate theoretical answers.

    David H,

    Science and "god" are not at war. Science is HOW "god" does things.

    Girard is projecting his own stuff, as was Freud, as are you. In order to be truly "objective" about what 7 billion people desire in common, you would have to love each and every one of them. Do you really believe that one human looking at other human beings as if they are insects pinned to a board is motivated to see FACTS about "life" that his "science" should be addressing? Would such a human even deign to engineer perfect sunlight amounts to shine on the "others"?

    Amateur astronomers around the world have tacit agreement on certain "facts". We laugh at the "pros" and their paid-to-concoct "theories". We know that we haven't even mapped, correctly, the "you are here" fact...

    Mechanism will never explain the mystery of personality.

    The advantage of the "Comments" message boards here is that they minimize distracting graphics...and maximize what posters write. Show me any that do so more, bob.

    Why withhold your erudition from us? Why not expand a little on the error of our ways?

    First Girard's ideas are too speculative to consider. Next we need to conserve bandwidth. Everything is fine as long certain folks get the last word. But I think E.F. Schumacher [who advocated "divergent thinking"], for example, would not be displeased if the thread went on and on.

    Wright wants to help me be ethical by encouraging me to approach my notion of the Great Spirit like a grown-up. And Anna wants me to give up "speculation" re same. But I'm in favor of something different.

    Wow. Looks like the webmaster here needs to make a limit on characters per comment. (about 500 would be good) Lots of peeps suffering from hypergraphia. Or maybe they're just obfuscators. Dividing into pages would be good too.

    "Jung theorized that certain symbolic themes exist across all cultures, all epochs..."

    At first they called it speculation. They called Faraday an animist.

    Questions about God might be desirous of unquestionable doctrine, I grant you that. Something solid. But what if I give a long answer and include scads upon scads of carbon 14 dating procedures wherein errors were committed...and then tell my child that on this basis we do not have to believe the earth is 4.54 billion yrs old like the ungodly scientists claim? There was a time some believers probably laid out just such an answer. For them...most likely a list of 20 errors committed implied that any "consensus" on 4.5 billion was actually not credible "theory" at all...that it was nothing beyond speculation.

    Sure, to some questions, depending on my mood, I'd say...don't know. But if all the adults a child came into contact with were never in a mood to boring the child's life would be! You never say "maybe..."?

    Mom, in the double-slit can one electron be in so many places at the same time?

    Well, I might know how you'd respond, Anna, but as for me...I can only hope and pray that if this question ever comes my way in earnest from a as not to let him down...I can only hope that I'm fresh and have a fair amount of time to do justice to the theories! [I have a relatively quick one, though, just in case] Unlikely question? Not if they've watched a certain episode of Nova, not if they saw
    What the Bleep Do We Know!?. Richard Wright himself alluded to the problems these days answering questions about what goes on at the quantum level. Man, if he'd allow string theory into the mix...there'd be enough dimensions for everthing he wants to write off as anthropomorphizing (there would only be the room...discerning "design" is another matter).

    "Activity Summary
    Students investigate the double-slit experiment and research historical conflicts involving scientific theories......"
    [emphasis mine]

    [A little later on in life] you think Jung was right about the Gnostics' "pleuroma" being the collective unconscious, or does Ken Wilber's breakdown make more sense to you?

    Ah yes..."corrupter of the youth." Now there's a potent one to pin on the scapegoat. Socrates is mentioned in the article I quote below, but I haven't yet found where on the page. I did find this passage below, though, which intimates a little the nature of the paradigm change Girard's writings suggest. Interesting this article he is referenced as having said he has no "theory." But I think that's a fine point matter.

    "Human desire is not essentialized, Girard argues against Freud; it does not come naturally packaged in such mandatory Freudian shapes as the death instinct, the Oedipal longing of the boy to possess his mother, or the woman's envy of the male phallus. Desire is instead mimetic (as the great novelists have all seen), and we learn what to desire by watching the desiring of others. The key to understanding how the sacrifice of a scapegoat once worked to found and preserve culture lies in Girard's notion of desire. Underneath cultural scapegoat myths there lurks the desperate hope of controlling the outbreak of swirling, undifferentiated desire--mimetic desire gone mad in a cultural crisis in which imitation imitates imitation and violence breeds upon itself.

    But if you've never had to develop a theory to answer a child's question...which planet is it you hail from?

    Posted by: David H

    Obviously, a different planet that the one you inhabit :-)

    Planet Anna was NOT "created" through "theory"...and if all you could come up with in the way of a weighty mental masturbation retort, after a couple of days, to religious "theory" was this peurile side track, than my job is done. You're not going to lie to my kids :-)

    It may take the rest of your life, David H, but some day, you WILL whisper the words, "I don't know" instead of making things up.

    "Theories" in science are the part of the process that leads to discovery of facts.

    When to comes to "god", you're arrriving on the time space continuum from a different angle. Start with the FACT that the amount of sunlight reaching the earth is PERFECTLY "engineered" for life support.

    How you might "think" that it happened to be so engineered - perfect dose of sunlight - is NOT theory - it's speculation.

    But if you've never had to develop a theory to answer a child's question...which planet is it you hail from?

    Thank you for the interesting discussion on The Evolution of God.
    I would urge you to interview Rene Girard, who has developed an extraordinary theory on the birth of religions and cultures (intertwined) and their periodic decay and reconstitution.
    Girard's theory cannot be explicated in a brief few lines (and he would do it much better on a show). There are three major components: First is mimesis. Humans have a high drive to desire what others desire. We imitate our models, copy them, but moreover we desire what they want. This leads to conflict and resentment. As this builds up within a society (and this model at its most basic is in primitive societies) its functioning weakens and is endangered. An incident occurs in which the resentments of the entire society are spent in murderous rage against a scapegoat. This is Girard's second point. This dissipation of everyone's resentment brings harmony to the society, an awe and hush. This event is divinized into a myth, and is re-enacted as religious ritual with sacrifice to again rekindle the mimetic desire and cathartic release and social order. Girard's last main thesis is that Christianity has initiated a long period of deconstructing scapegoating victimization that had brought social harmony.
    Anyway, I urge Bill Moyers to interview Rene Girard!

    Posted by: Allen Johnson

    When a child asks the question, "what is this all about, really?" the child is not looking for a THEORY.

    It was not something "theoretical" inside the child that produced that question.

    I think you are the second person in this thread, Allen, to suggest that The Journal have Rene Girard as a guest. It doesn't take an expert on Girard's ideas to realize what a new phase he has brought to societal behavior analysis and to literary criticism (I am no expert, but, as best as I can recall, your breakdown is right-on, and BTW served as an excellent short recap for moi...a nice change of pace around here).

    The thing about symbolic analysts in meritocracy is that they get mired down in finessing scads of "studies." The studies must be made fit for the printer. The studies hatch others of like kind, and the lives of the symbol analysts aglomerate to a vast field of minutia characteristic of the academic preocupations of a given era. A good example of this right now (outside academe mostly but involving experts) is how, in the US medical system, teams of specialists are provided little incentive to actually talk to one another in regard to individual patients. They have their schedule of consults, and the brief notes written for the doc in charge are written according to "acceptable" precedent and acceptable expense [no limit on meds expense mind you]. There is not enough brainstorming or actual "consulting" re unique sets of interventions that might benefit the particular patient...because that might run the risk of going against the routines-of-maximum-drugs-ordered (the typical course which requires the max).

    The paradigm Girard describes I came to understand as powerful in his break-down on the myth involving Loki. Mimetic rivalry is not just about a set of mental, behavioral, or societal dysfunctionalities. To me it doesn't seem to be like an analysis in which, say, narcissism is given credit for driving everything in particular segment of modern time. Of course, it can completely take over the psyche, but mimetic rivalry seems to be the biggest human trip that Marx and anthropology in general (for starters) failed to recognize in terms of its true significance. So, perhaps it is a time when we are breaking out of the minutia...especially IMO if, say, we were to mix in a recognition of the limits of our four dimensional "scientific" explanations for a lot of things thus far.

    Allen, if you or anyone else think I am off the beam in my apprehension of how Girard's ideas figure in our world...please lemmie know!

    At one point, Wright referred to God as "he". I think the correct pronoun is "it".

    Anna D,
    Your rebuttal is well received however
    Like it or not...
    God is a rational construct from the fact that reality is a rational phenomenon.
    Religion is a social organization based on belief in a superior intellect capable of creating this rational reality.
    Unfortunately, people are not always rational and as a result organized religion is susceptible to corruption.
    Like my three year old granddaughter said looking through her circled fingers with a small gap between her index finger and her tiny thumb; "People are all a little bit crazy".
    This was in response to her father's complaint about someone's poor decision.
    It is an amazing miracle that things are as good as they are considering the chaos people manage to generate.

    I agree with the tenant that our interpretation of GOD has evolved, as has the organic being. As a perceiver, feeler and thinker the guiding moral compass is all that is required of GOD.

    I am a great admirer of Bill Moyers but it confused me to hear him say "The three great religions" and in the Socratic method, I would like to inquire of him what he meant by great.

    Does he mean great in terms of numbers of adherents? destruction of life and property? deceiving adherents out of their livelihoods? domination and oppression of bodies, minds and souls? hypocrites? abusers?

    I always think in terms of Six great religions and by great I mean the most adherents, aggression, destruction of life and property, etc. Wasn't it for the power and glory of the Shinto Emperor, living incarnation of God, that using bodies as WMD - the Kamikaze - originated?

    As for Hinduism and Buddhism, I think they would be the greatest in terms of the moral truth/axis that Mr. Wright spoke of.

    His point in "baby bear language", as I understood it, was that religions are never going away so they have to somehow incorporate Human Rights into them in order to save Planet Earth.

    By my mind, heart and observations, I submit that religions are never going to be able to do that and, in order to spare our Planet, we need a world admission, assent, recognition that Universal Human Rights must SUPERSEDE each and all religions. This is a fairly simple concept in baby bear language - Never do to another person, religion, country, etc. anything that you wouldn't want done to yourself, religion, country, etc.

    Gwen Williams, Dallas

    Thank you for the interesting discussion on The Evolution of God.
    I would urge you to interview Rene Girard, who has developed an extraordinary theory on the birth of religions and cultures (intertwined) and their periodic decay and reconstitution.
    Girard's theory cannot be explicated in a brief few lines (and he would do it much better on a show). There are three major components: First is mimesis. Humans have a high drive to desire what others desire. We imitate our models, copy them, but moreover we desire what they want. This leads to conflict and resentment. As this builds up within a society (and this model at its most basic is in primitive societies) its functioning weakens and is endangered. An incident occurs in which the resentments of the entire society are spent in murderous rage against a scapegoat. This is Girard's second point. This dissipation of everyone's resentment brings harmony to the society, an awe and hush. This event is divinized into a myth, and is re-enacted as religious ritual with sacrifice to again rekindle the mimetic desire and cathartic release and social order. Girard's last main thesis is that Christianity has initiated a long period of deconstructing scapegoating victimization that had brought social harmony.
    Anyway, I urge Bill Moyers to interview Rene Girard!

    Ok, my opinions in a nutshell. One Zen guy said don't give everything away, but my "everything" might end up not being a lot. It might be a Kairos moment. There are possibly suitcase nukes loose out there according to two writers I respect (though Google finds you nothing but denials). So here goes...

    Wright basically says metaphysical speculation about the "unknown" Great Spirit has no anchor. He implies the issues involving evolution are settled (I have mentioned in other "Comment" threads here prior that Rupert Sheldrake and
    Norman Macbeth have both alluded to problems with the natural selection mechanism, but that is no matter. The last thing upper middle class liberals care about is mention of such guys. Even today...after a number of incisive books by these writers...symbol-analysts' notions of answers to the enduring biological questions remain scarily circumscribed. Verily...they hold...the "science" in their hip pocket is the real science! By the way...way, way too many of this crowd do not get close enough to critiques of meritocratic dystopias to touch'em with a ten foot pole--more important than those critiques today is the larger and larger horde of sister/fellow symbol-analysts out there on tours promoting 21st century spam novels. And they worry about their kids losing track of a culture! As usual, one man's blind spot is another man's hot button.) If you give me a choice between Darwinism and a religion without a sentient life-creator, in my opinion it's not much of a choice. The "Perennial Philosophy" can get one along a ways; just check out The Essential Mystics by Andrew Harvey. If you want sudden enlightenment, fine. There exists and has existed for some time a very respectable tradition of same. In my opinion, however, one can go through Harvey's book and get somewhere too. That's how you can know the Great Spirit cares. You've got two avenues of approach. In my opinion the real-deal summary of taking the Western path or the Perennial Philosophy path or the metaphysical opposed to the sudden enlightenment path...can best be framed in the old East Indian categories of Jnana Yoga versus Karma Yoga. Jnana Yoga [pronounced yana] from some angles can appear like it's practiced in an ivory tower...easy. Karma Yoga...engaging in plain old "works" after sudden enlightenment (existential, dispensing with can dedicate works to non-dual Brahman or to the peace one finds)...seems hard and unsophisticated when you read the blurb about it. But the Jnana way has its drawbacks, and in the actual East Indian frame among the considered the harder road. [And "harder" does not imply more merit!]

    We all need to volunteer, and at least discover the level of ego on that level. That'll help us reflect on coordination with respect to larger goals. Whatever we say, whatever we write on message boards about the Great Spirit's attributes...who knows who is speaking from experience? That is why the injunction not to judge now seems to make so much sense to me.

    Like I said below, I resonated with the post by Froemming and the one by Wittenborn (sorry, just took the briefest notes, and now don't have the time to go back for 1st names). Also, there's another post that mentions consciousness being the underlying substance of everything, but I can't seem to find it. Likely there are a number I've missed completely as well.

    PS: Thoughts that arose due to earlier points made here: Peggy L, In my opinion the Great Spirit has to have as much femininity as masculinity, and perhaps other attributes equally as important or more important than yin & yang. What happened in this life that I didn't have more time for Kabbalah...or Aurobindo (Aurobindo had a Western education)?

    With Wright we get either Darwin or a Buddhism that doesn't wish to discuss attributes...not without good reason! But they're gonna be discussed anyway you cut it, at least when folks are young and full of energy. Just...with this guest (and I can't fault Wright for what he believes) the West that has/had faith gets pushed aside in regard to its many breakdowns. It's no big deal. We've certainly had our say when it came to economics...Marx and structural readjustment. (Those were the days my friends when the West could get an audience!) I merely write here to register, for instance, things with respect to items like alchemy and gnosticism...things Jung thought it worthwhile not to forget (of course he pushed aside divine metaphysics at strategic junctures). Things of like nature being, for instance, the things of Bohme, von Hartmann, Royce, Berdyaev, Husserl, etc., etc.

    Never wanted to talk or write like the kind of "extreme postmodernist" that even Ken Wilber critiques, but I can probably get close. I look at the nine quantum views presented by Nick Herbert, for example, and I wonder if one day they'll be scrutinized between the lines just as Jung tried to mine alchemy for truths regarding the psyche. In the twinkling of an eye I am back to the 60s reading Fred Hoyle's writings of the convinced there was that overwhelming probability that the universe oscillated throughout eternity. Wonder if I missed out not reading more Thomas Kuhn.

    Emanationist Buddhism!

    Granted, the above only lasted for a short spell...yet how bout Yogacara?!

    "The introduction of science cleaned the moral slate marred by the Church's prejudices and continues to do so." Dave

    I think, Dave, you may have the notion of religion in mind that's prevalent in the Romney/Palin camp, probably not Hedges' POV in this book? Did that one "matter much," you ask? To me, yeah.

    Personally, my opinion is "science" hasn't cleaned up a whole lot of note recently. Read the first chapter of "The Shock Doctrine." Science gives us little gadget-icons, which have replaced the icons of yesteryear (jets...which now only serve to remind us of peak oil).

    There is no community here? When a lot of the community goes to bed some stay up and read, like they did with Thomas Paine. As always in this venue, gotta find what's of value between the majority of lines...Froemming, Wittenborn, Peggy L, and oft times Grady and yourself eg. It's not all puppy love. Betsy, for instance, is accurately representing the complaint I hear from others all the time re generations of "people who respect no standard or law." On those people there might be some light somewhere.

    At least from that angle, it doesn't strike me as facile puppy love. It's just what's out there. There's gotta be more that needs to be posted here...out there too. If there is nothing to relate to the generation Anna says
    7/19, 1:50 P most likely'll crash and burn...yeah, well then maybe she's right.

    Notice, though, how the published hold back. Bill must only be suggesting talking points they have already considered. Oh yeah...forgot...Friday night party night.

    DCE, "The greatest threat to human beings is chaos."

    AD, "Which goes back to the timeline I look at - the CAVEMAN figured that one out experientially. So all this "new age" stuff is the FORGET-ING of that million year lesson!"

    DCE, "We depend on our intellect to understand reality and deal with it realistically..."

    AD, "Yeah well, how come "perception is reality" was foisted on us by propagandists? Propagandists who behaved like the Inquisition when it came to censoring any question a CHILD might ask about their stupid (word du jour) idea about "reality"!"

    DCE, "We are no longer cave people in a prime evil society where life is simple."

    AD, "Please note comment above about the Caveman. The Caveman DISCOVERED "civilization".

    DCE, "We live in a very complex society managing complex social systems and
    high tech systems that can create either heaven or hell that are of our own making. These systems support very large populations of people.
    This is the way these systems work."

    AD, "First off, the Prime Directive was not followed. Instead of NATURAL social evolution based on experiential wisdom, we have had 100 years of bloody revolution. No one is in disagreement about the MASSIVE THEFT that put everyone's CREDIT FOR LABOR ALREADY DONE into some software program that WAS NOT, I repeat, that software WAS NOT a contributing factor in the "creation" of ANY "social" system. What kind of society has "rich" people that would clamor to be "chosen" by a con artist - Madeoff - to take their money?! Still building collapsing pyramids in the sky, it seems..."

    DCE, "The systems are designed to perform a task."

    AD, "Right, run the formula that a HUMAN programmed into it for a MACRO task. GIGO. Too much "G" and then what?"

    DCE, "They are built to work efficiently and they are maintained to serve peoplekind."

    AD, "That was the THEORY. Definitely NOT the fact. I have had the most retarded conversations in research situations where data managers told me that a value of "0" would not be accepted. What were we measuring? Deformed blood cells. ZERO is a REAL value in a real human being. How could I even be subjected to such goofiness of political power games if people were not INCOMPETANT and empowered to BE incompetant because they could do what you are doing, DCE, argue that the "system" is SUPREME. NO SYSTEM that man has created is PERFECT. The amount of sunlight reaching the earth IS PERFECT."

    DCE, "They are depended upon to provide quality lives in a quality environment.
    When these systems fail, chaos sets in and destroys people's lives."

    AD, "Good Morning, America! My father made a bet with his war buddies about the date that "communism" would fall. He won the bet, but only because the person who was even closer to the day died :-) Then they made a bet about how soon "capitalism" would "fall" after "communism"."

    DCE, "Society is no parlor game; it is an essential element of our existence."

    AD, "Society is not a THING. Society is made up of human beings living on a planet that was PERFECTLY programmed/designed to support our skin bodies."

    DCE, "It is essential that we always have the best solution to every problem in order to survive."

    AD, "Maybe we need Native Americans and other "savages" to write and produce their own "detective" series on TV? Once agian, the "caveman" seems to have been the last "society" that figured out, through the COMPLEX analysis of clues "reality" produced, how PERFECT things already were."

    DCE, "Lead pots and corrupt politicians are a disaster for any society."

    AD, "EVERY "ism" wrought out of the fevered minds of the 20th century's incompetant and power mad psychotics and sociopaths are the disaster. GIGO."

    DCE, "Not realizing the vital role of socialization is wicked bad."

    AD, "It's not "bad". It's a serious, well-diagnosed and studied, disease of the human brain resulting in personality disorders. Rare enough when the "caveman" was in charge of eugenics, but now deliberately mass produced by GOVERMENTS and ECONOMICS and the worst, RELIGION, with the goal of bringing back slavery. No one has a moral responsibility to "tolerate" CREATED DISEASE. You are arguing, it seems to me, for the most UNPERFECT and artificial way to live, DCE. A "system" that is too artificial and imperfect, non-experiential, and TOO BIG TO SAVE."

    I'm meditating on what other options there are in ending the chaos that delusional social engineering crap like "perception is reality" wrought without another planetary self-full-filling prophetic armaggedon is launched by the "shrewd" and "clever" (read psychotic and narcissistic) mercenaries (read shamans and politicians) who get rich off of murder or narcotics.

    All I can come up with is contemplating how leukocytes are perfectly programmed to aggressively go after what is "bad". Law of the jungle - leukocytes? Pre-emptive strikes are one long era of unintended consequences - chaos...

    bbBob and Anna D,
    The greatest threat to human beings is chaos. We depend on our intellect to understand reality and deal with it realistically...

    We are no longer cave people in a prime evil society where life is simple. We live in a very complex society managing complex social systems and
    high tech systems that can create either heaven or hell that are of our own making. These systems support very large populations of people.
    This is the way these systems work. The systems are designed to perform a task. They are built to work efficiently and they are maintained to serve peoplekind. They are depended upon to provide quality lives in a quality environment.
    When these systems fail, chaos sets in and destroys people's lives.
    Society is no parlor game; it is an essential element of our existence.
    It is essential that we always have the best solution to every problem in order to survive.
    Lead pots and corrupt politicians are a disaster for any society.

    Not realizing the vital role of socialization is wicked bad.

    Betsy whitfill,
    Back to the grave gravity situation...
    The sad but true is that when people jump off a very high cliff, they do not feel any pain until they hit the ground. They must have the common sense to understand that when they hit the ground it will be the last thing that they will ever remember.
    Without some form of floatation device; jumping of very high cliffs is a bad idea.
    This cause and effect relationship not only applies in the physical world; it also applies in the non-physical world of concepts. Wrong concepts can be just as deadly as stricking the ground after a long fall. If you think that you will grow wings on the way to the ground in time to save yourself; you are badly mistaken.

    The first law of foolishness is ignore good advice.

    Anna, I don't live in CA. Sorry.

    IF WE ARE TO SURVIVE... we need to get together, agree upon a plan, and get to work. Democracy exists only outside of government. Formalities and procedures do not make justice. Insurance policies do not provide medical care any more than a Constitution guarantees human rights. This is a delusional and brainwashed culture controlled by puppetmasters, what Sheldon Wolin called an inverted totalitarian state, a failed menace to the rest of humanity. Such a society that could squander resources in the hopeless cause in Afghanistan while one fifth of its people are unemployed and seeking food stamps is a travesty. Go to any shopping center to see the sow bellies and rotten teeth on the "used-to-be working people." The Afghanis look better and healthier than we do, even after they hike endless trails to tend their poppies. Our "hollow-eyed ones are far more damned in their tilting trailers over the crank pans. (And you just can't satisfy your typical employer without meth anymore, even in NASCAR.)

    Well that explains everything, Betsy! You're into "health care" and "relligion" CA-style. More prescription pot stores in LA area than McDonalds and Starbucks combined...guess you DO need to tax the ganja, huh?

    Psyche 101 USED to be, stop blowing smoke in people's faces, especially when they are being adults and trying to solve problems.

    From what I hear from law enforcement folks in "the west", I doubt the damage done to the "moral axis" of the population can be undone. You might want to use FOI and get access to CIA Mkultra files proving that if you damage the child's brain early enough, there is no recovery. Tuskegee, part II...

    Why do you think it's not working anymore, Betsy?

    BIOLOGIC pressure from population numbers. There is NO WAY to stop that "programming".

    It looks like the "west coast" will NOT be able to wake up in time to be the first line of defense.

    Good to have that "secret" FACT (unintended consequences) confirmed. It's about time this thread got "useful" :-)

    I just heard the news to which Anna D referred as a sweep in NJ. Yes, without law abiding govt. servants, we have no chance for orderly lives. A crude counterpoint to a discussion of harmlessness and "morality".

    I'm NJ born and living in out west, where the FBI has been investigating the local school system for years, and where local city councilmen and women are indicted for financial crimes. Life in America, but Jersey has always had an underbelly exposure problem.

    I wonder how much of GDP is spent on fighting crime?

    The idea of humanity must include equity, justice, temperance, empathy and cooperation. Without human life as the first consideration; the concept civilization becomes corrupted.
    Religion should support the above conditions or it is evil. Religion should be a personal persuasion and a force for good.
    Secular institutions should also be a source of human support not death and destruction. We need to live in benevolent societies that do not tolerate malevolence.
    Nature and nurture must support the concept of kindness and not promote maliciousness.
    Life is short and nobody survives for very long; we need to make it a pleasant experience within the best possible environment for human beings. Social systems must be designed to improve human life not destroy it.

    As often as Wright mentioned the word "transcendence" and variations he neglected "transcendentalism" and "transcendentalists." Looking back on history there as never been such an upsurge in moral growth--from a modern perspective of equality, justice, and humility--than resulted from man's inquiry into nature and his own inclusion in the sphere of living things. The introduction of science cleaned the moral slate marred by the Church's prejudices and continues to do so. Human suffering is now a cause for action and not a means of control. Religious ideals stand in the way of moral action and provide a certainty in the mind of the believer that only fortifies malevolence--let us not forget Dr. Tiller in recent months.

    And Israel-Palestine: Theodor Hertzel: religious extremist. Sure there was war over land, but it most certainly was not a "secular" war for "secular" land. The rhetoric has soared since 1948, and it was present in the time preceding Jewish-Russian migration into settled territory. The same rhetoric is destroying the lives of millions in Palestine, as words take on nefarious action. Ignoring the religious aspects of conflict as elements of causation does nothing to resolve the conflict. Mr. Wright has attempted to touch all the bases and gained nothing, which is what I gained by listening to this particular interview.

    Betsy and Jack,

    You've got NOTHING without rule of law which, btw, WAS and IS in some "civilized", white, not hispanic countries the SUM RESULT of "harmlessness" in "operations".

    No one is going to build gas chambers, but a whole lotta CRIMIINALS ARE going to those nice new jails that they built. You have to love the irony.

    Quite a sweep in NJ today, looks like the dam has broken...

    Here are quotations from various traditions which demonstrate the universality of the notion of harmlessness. Suggest that the principle of sharing is implied therein as an attitude and a recommendation for living together. (Max Kaehn noted the Golden Rule in the first comment).

    1. "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. (Christian - Matt 7:12)

    2. "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." (Buddhist - Udana-Varga 5:18)

    3. "Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain and your neighbor's loss
    as your own loss. (Taoist - T'ai Shang Kan Yin P'ien)

    4. "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary." (Jewish - Talmud, Shabbat 31a)

    5. "This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you." (Brahman - Mahabharata 5:1517)

    6. "Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: do not unto otherswhat you would not have done unto you." (Confucian - Analect 15:23)

    7. "That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself." (Zoroastrian - Dadistan-i-dinik 94:5)

    8 "No one of you is a believer until hedesires for his brother that whichhe desires for himself." (Islamic - Sunnah)

    Are we on this site "living together." No, disembodied and non-verifiable word streams compete for attention. There is no community. We project our needs on Moyers' utility like a teenaged puppylover projecting hormonal needs upon a teacher, classmate or media image. We will not have community until we can see other eyes, touch other hands and exchange material items.
    "Would you like to come over for tea? With the Missus and me. It's a real nice way to spend the day, July 30th, 2009, on the streets of Washington, DC."

    Great interview, but one problem-- at the beginning, at the 2:35 minute mark, there is the statement that all primitive cultures invented gods. That is not true. There is at least one that did not-- the Pirahã tribe of Brazil.

    In this video, they are described by Christian missionary, Daniel Everett:

    IF WE ARE TO SURVIVE, we will need to work out a social system of equity and justice that will bring us up to speed on our social skills.
    Civilization depends on people living together in peace.

    Posted by: D. C. Eddy |

    I'm sorry, but the "caveman" about 30,000 years ago "discovered" civilization when s/he "discovered" the rule of law - jungle style.

    The tribe did not worship as its "leaders" the ones who lied, cheated, stole, raped, murdered, enslaved, or killed off the more intelligent in their tribe out of jealousy.

    "Relgion" has more often than not been the superstitious voodoo that conspired to put the unfittest where they do not belong.

    What possibility is there for "peace" without a rule of law? The "sharing" ideology behind Trotsky's rabble-rousing "ism" - communism - did nothing more than produce an ignorant and criminal oligarchy. That's why it "fell"...right?

    Best to look at YOUR pet "ism" and not pretend it's following the laws of some kind of moral "gravity".

    Minutes before Prez Obama's conference this evening

    (side bar observation - why was Bush called "President Bush" and Obama is called "Mr. Obama"?)

    two women were starting the "spin" - one of the women is a cable TV bloviatrix who is all about "gay rights" and she was the one who said that people should not expect the "right" to have health care. I kid you not, you can check it for yourself.

    And the other woman was an MD with a talk show (also a bloviatrix) and she backed up the whole IDEA that it is NOT a "right" to have health care for everyone, but that all had some kind of "responsibility". Huh?

    After the conference, the MD again did not clarify "responsibility" - she did not SEE that health insurance companies were RESPONSIBLE for what THEY did that made everyone NOT trust them or like their existance as "consors" of "rights".

    If the pharma companies spent billions of producing an antibiotic that clears up infection "X", then the person who gets infection "X" does NOT have a "right" to that medicine because, for instance, the patient was "irresponsible" and dated a person who did not wash their hands after going to the bathroom, what the heck is going on?!

    No "rights", but all the "responsibility"?

    Not evolving "peace" with such interpretations of "sharing" are we?

    Even the caveman would understand such insulting sophistry...and then, well, being a caveman, "justice" might involve a lot less yaddayadda :-)

    Flick the "off" switch...and go watch the sunset...seriously, its more of a "tilt" of a rigged slot machine that they want...

    D.C. wrote: "Betsy Whitfill,
    The problem with learning from gravity is the tendency toward a flat learning curve and the end of trial and error when gravity ends the game..."

    B: Without going too far into the intricacies of karma, and although I see your point, my reference to the Law of Gravity was not so much technical as it was an attempt to suggest that there are laws which cannot be breached with the confidence that nothing bad will happen. I've heard many people scoff and say that they don't believe in such laws and so they do not affect them. There are a few generations now of people who respect no standard or law, for they think that they are special in some way and need not adhere to a "moral" standard. They really think that what they do doesn't matter. It is largely about them that this discussion speaks, is it not? Other than philosophers having an abstract discussion, who else would need to be educated in the question of whether or not there is an over-arching moral axis? I am just saying that there is such a structure, and that it is made up of the Law of Cause and Effect, and the Law of Rebirth, or Karma. The learning curve for these Laws is extremely long and arduous, and the pain and suffering along the way is the essential motivational push. The reward of pain and suffering is an increased capacity to love and for compassion.

    DC: "We are now at the point where our technology has far exceeded our social skills. We have the capacity to destroy the earth with our technology and our social skills are still in the survival of the fittest caveman mentality."

    B: Yes indeed. I wonder when there will be a serious discussion of ending war as
    a foreign policy tool? Do people really think about that? Do they assume it cannot ever happen?

    DC: "IF WE ARE TO SURVIVE, we will need to work out a social system of equity and justice that will bring us up to speed on our social skills.
    Civilization depends on people living together in peace."

    B: Yes, yes, D.C, well said. We need to learn to become harmless. Without sharing, there is no justice, and without justice there will never be peace.

    Where would we be without strong 'Christian' values? 'Faith' groups support EX Miss Calif. even though she posed for racy photos - no problem. Republican Governors committing adultery while badgering others who do the same - no problem. Intentionally lying (Bush and Fallwell against McCain and his wife in 2000) no problem. Supporting a war (Iraq)idiot Bush started off lies that kills our military men and women - no problem.

    How pathetic of 'conservative' book house Regency to release a book around CHRISTMAS time on behalf of EX Miss Calif. who failed to fulfill her end of the bargain, not to mention have racy photos taken of herself. Conservatives no doubt will back a hussy lazy girl just because she is against gay marriage. No biggie that she didn't do the job she was supposed to do. No biggie that she posed for nude/semi-nude photos.
    Numbskull EX Miss Calif. was stripped of her title because she didn't fulfill her obligations. No Work No Title. Dah!

    Interesting how 'Faith' groups have only SOME morals and obey SOME of the commandments. 'Faith' groups are not trying to stop Mormons from having several wives (adultery and perversion there). Plus, forcing underaged girls to marry old men - Disgusting! Funny how some people are allowed to have more than one spouse while some aren't even allowed just one - doesn't seem fair or right. Is the definition of marriage - Between Man and Woman and Woman and Woman? 'Faith' groups supported Bush who LIED to start a war in Iraq which resulted in and continues to result in American Soldiers deaths. 'Faith' groups supported McCain who had multiple affairs while married to his first wife.

    I am sure ALL 'Faith' groups people who supported Bush's corrupt war in Iraq, made their children join the military. Otherwise, I can't imagine how disappointed Bushwackers must be in their children who decided to go to college and not join the military.

    Betsy Whitfill,
    The problem with learning from gravity is the tendency toward a flat learning curve and the end of trial and error when gravity ends the game...
    There is more to gravity than "apples fall to the earth". What we call gravity is only a small part of the continuity that provides us with a functional life experience. Order is an essential element of comprehensive reality.
    Through our senses, we are aware of the systems that make our lives possible. We depend on our mind to understand reality and deal with it
    realistically. Through communications, we can share information necessary for the structuring of our lives.
    Our intelligence has made it possible for us to survive and prosper.
    We are now at the point where our technology has far exceeded our social skills. We have the capacity to destroy the earth with our technology and our social skills are still in the survival of the fittest caveman mentality.
    IF WE ARE TO SURVIVE, we will need to work out a social system of equity and justice that will bring us up to speed on our social skills.
    Civilization depends on people living together in peace.

    "Religion" is nothing more or less than the question that a child with a normal mind asks, "What is this all about?"

    A person will remain forever ignorant if they make stuff up instead of admitting "I dunno" and then proceed to carefully look for the answer using all the clues that reality offers up.

    The biggest problem today is that too many generations of children FORGOT that they had once asked the question.

    Medical research has produced a lot of molecules that break through the blood brain barrier because they were in search of a cure to alleviate symptoms, like epilepsy, that a diseased brain produces.

    If you take the molecules/drugs that might balance alcohol induced psychosis, for instance, and you have a normal brain, chances are that you will have a psychotic episode. That's why psychos push drugs - they can then play the head games that a normal person would never play with them. No better place to worm into someone's head then when they are seeking answers in places like "church".

    There are very bad people afoot. I suggest watching a show that PBS ran called "The Ascent of Money".

    It's way past time to judge the lawmakers and the judges.

    I "govern" myself better and with more COMPETANCE than anyone out there with an official title. That's why I am a "free man".

    The incompetant and the greedy and the power mad and the full-blown psychos and the narcissitic sociopaths are NOT religionists, economists, reporters, scientists or "government". They have gone too far. They always do. They will never shut up.

    Those are the facts. Let's deal with them. "I dunno" what the best course of action IS, by myself, but I do think that the consensus of normal minds is well nigh "harmonious".

    No one can allow themselves to be "ruled" by someone who is less competant than you, yourself, are.

    My Dear Friend Billy Don Moyers (and Michael Winship):
    Our Chris Hedges today called the USA an "inverted totalitarian state" on Talk of the Nation (with Neil Conan). Chris was not contradicted even in the NPR comments. He has said in plain language what you two have danced around in your editorial comments. He does have a slim 200 page new book discussing pro wrestling, reality TV, porn and college, which I don't think matters much (Empire of Illusion). Hedges has recently advocated for a formal resistance to our mega-state, and I do agree the time has come. (Hedges assumptions seem based upon the work of Sheldon Wolin, former political scientist at Princeton, who suggests democracy exists only outside the government.)(People as diverse as those writing below probably share our consensus: Betsy and Anna D.) How soon can you have Chris back on the Journal to discuss the question,"What civil actions can the typical US citizen take to overthrow the oligarchy?" You might invite little old Skip Gates (soon to be former Harvard Don, Louis Henry Gates, Jr., just out of jail) as a convivial counterpart. Fascism is closing in fast, faster than Obama ever expected, and we must act now or accept serfdom. (A morass of healthcare chichanery and 14 Trillion in bailout debt is not doing us any good, so flush that...)

    Jack Martin

    I'll be in DC next week if anyone wants to get together and talk:

    P.S. Chris sort of thinks God, of some sort, exists, at least that's the impression Christopher Hitchens gets, if that helps.

    Everyone is getting confused because they are basing their beliefs and arguments on the bible and religion. We have all been a part of that trap as tradition has fed it to us for generations. It causes fear and guilt. I too was nagged with doubts. Some of these teaching just didn't feel right. So a few years ago I decided to do extensive research on my own in history. First, I dug back to find out who actually wrote the bible and where it came from. Now I know most of you are using scripture to validate your arguments. I pieced together some interesting facts. Then I had classes in classical antiquity, Roman and Greek history. So much of what has been handed down to us came from Greek mythodogy. I won't bore you with the details. Do your own research.

    Religion was used centuries ago as a tool of social control to prevent social chaos. A lot of churches today oppose higher education because they don't want people to be exposed to the 'truth' because they will loose their power.

    The bottom line is that all humans beings have equal value. Our circumstances are a direct result of our choices individually and collectively. If we could really understand that, we would make good moral choices and not have to be controlled by religion.

    We were all given the gift of intellegence to be able to reason and think for ourselves. However, we are so used to allowing others to think and decide for us. Many educated and elite people know this. But not many would speak out publically because our country is basically Christian and you would risk the same reaction that many have expressed here. And the weak become controlled by the strong.

    I applaud President Carter for having the courage to take a stand although somewhat limited because the issues go even beyond the woman issue. Yes, we are evolving and a huge paridigm shift is on the horizon.

    Everyone has a right to believe what they want to believe. I'm just tired of those who try to shoove their religion down your throats in a self-righteous manner as if you are less than because you don't agree with them. And when you look closely at their lives, you usually find that they are hypocrites! We can disagree amicable and love each other anyway.

    It is so time for people to be freed from bondage and allowed to live their best life. Nobody has actually died and came back and told us what's on the other side.

    Betsy continues to share her resources, "An ethical society will be built in the future by those who adhere to the two great Laws of Life: the Law of Cause and Effect; the Law of Rebirth. In simple terms, they describe the fact that you reap what you sow (and there is no getting a pass by stating that a certain teacher is your personal savior...uh uh), and that you will reincarnate into the same situation over and over until you have reaped what you have sown, and have become totally harmless in thought and deed."

    Maybe or maybe not, Betsy. You've swapped one dogma for another and are making the same mistake of trying to enforce your "way"...but the part that is "true" seems to be that here's your chance for breaking free of the same harmful conduct.

    We'll see how the total solar eclipse goes tomorrow in the karma section of Spaceship Earth. Will superstition be exploited or will the science FACTS of being a spinning ball in space be accepted as "real"?

    Q: Do you believe, as Wright does, in a “moral axis of the universe” based on common values of expanding tolerance? Why or why not?

    I have trouble with the word "moral" since it is so misused to emphasize special interests, even when associated with "expanding tolerance". One's self-centric view is the underlying assumption here. There is tolerance (usually only within limits) and there is harmlessness, a much more open and pervasively accepting way of life which creates harmony.

    In your view, is religion necessary to build a more ethical society?

    It could be if the institution of religion were doing its mandated job of educating people in how to live life most fully and most harmlessly. As it is, religion is a mediocre ritualization of human aspiration, crippled as it is by dogma and corruption. But that will be changing as a new Teacher begins his mission of restating the purpose of life, and of pointing out the way forward for mankind. The purpose, of course, is Love and the way forward begins with sharing the world's resources so that all may have the basic necessities of life: nourishing food, adequate shelter and health care, and all the education needed for life. Some will say we don't need another teacher. I suggest you have a listen to This One and get back to me on that. An ethical society will be built in the future by those who adhere to the two great Laws of Life: the Law of Cause and Effect; the Law of Rebirth. In simple terms, they describe the fact that you reap what you sow (and there is no getting a pass by stating that a certain teacher is your personal savior...uh uh), and that you will reincarnate into the same situation over and over until you have reaped what you have sown, and have become totally harmless in thought and deed.
    Like the Law of Gravity, you might deny the Law for a time, but sooner or later it will teach you.

    I have "evolved" from being raised as an Episcopalian, attending a Catholic HS and having been raised by prominant atheists.. to being a very spiritual and thoughtful person on the concept of human consciousness and my understanding of what "GOD" is ....

    Currently, the most plausible evidence is pointing to something at the quantum level. I have been researching a lot about entheogen use among different cultures and how our consciousness perhaps really cannot fathom deeper levels of "reality".. and it takes other states of consciousness either via deep meditation or ingestion of entheogens for our minds to open up and be able to just begin to understand "GOD" and another reality.

    I believe that early Christianity and the whole "Christ Consciousness" came out of probably entheogen use and that various power structures (as they are want to to ) took over and removed access from the masses that could have helped them to awaken to be a more evolved species..

    It all still boils down to evolution.

    Other Katherine Harris: Maybe Bill had a hidden contractual obligation to promote Wright's book. Having worked as a radio producer, that's what I assume. But you are right, we faithful viewers were short-changed. What a pointless rehash! I guess if big, bad old God wanted us to have peace, freedom, jobs and medical care he would've written it in a mass produced onion skin volume of contradictory sayings and doubtful provenance.

    Though he is an agnostic and I a Catholic, Wright and I are on parallel tracks. His view owes Hegel, my view owes Teilhard de Chardin. Whichever, man's end will be better than his beginning. But, at our end, one of us will be pleasantly surprised.

    I always look forward to viewing Bill Moyers Journal, but must confess both shows relating religion to morality and justice had me at the brink of my endurance. What these presentations made clear to me, is that God just can’t be fitted into human reality; can’t be defined or communicated in the usual manner, because we continue to view everything through a physical perspective. Our founders were much wiser. They released God from physical confinement. Seemed to recognize our God-given mind existed only as a common conscious sense. It was after God was allowed to be a ‘free agent’, released from religious control; that human reality moved toward common welfare, or a more ‘just’ state. In fact, it could be the door that America opened was to God’s world,--which is not some other place,--but right in our midst; within the heart of each person. The people turned in their swords; came together in deepest thought; followed an image of fairness. Leaders of nations did not; continued to see only the physical reflection; to revere physical power. I feel American success is relevant to a government in likeness to intrinsic natural structure: where each cell matters, all contribute harmoniously to form the whole;--and all depends on allowance for this inner energy to be free to flow from the inside-out; and that the source of this intrinsic ‘good’ --in the people and their environment—is God.

    But even those who once were believers can become seekers. It is a lot more difficult than buying into cultural beliefs but the results can be far more rewarding.

    Posted by: Herbert Sweet

    Well, according to a news bit posted on aol, President Jimmy Carter quit his church after 60 years. Read for yourself why he said he did it. Has nothing to do with death.

    Speaking of death, Pentecost is part of the story of "christianity"...should have enlightened people about what happens after death...some part of you supposedly can choose for something other than eternal sleep. Haven't come across the gang of anti-religionists, or wha'ever, that has data and proof that Jesus was the ultimate con man and lied about life after death, but if those people are still around, I'm sure they'll show up on this blog :-) They usually start laying out their case with referencing "ancient" myths and note that resurrection is something that many "gods" (Egyptian, Greek, Sumerians, etc) did way before Jesus showed up to pull the same stunt (according to them).

    So, yes, death and what happens after death, if anything, is one of those questions every normal minded child asks.

    Anna D & group,

    It has been said the government is a reflection of the people. While, in the short run, the rascals often do a lot of damage, in the long run, there is truth in this. This is made clear by the fact that, when the governments get too detached, revolutions occur. The same applies to religious leaders.

    A great deal, if not all, of religion exists to provide comfort to the fear of death. People would like to believe that they somehow can survive death and religions have become established to cater to that need.

    Now I am not so cynical as to berate all of our religious leaders. Most are quite sincere and moral people. But there are a lot of con men too as there are an awful lot of folks who are ever so eager to get conned.

    But even those who once were believers can become seekers. It is a lot more difficult than buying into cultural beliefs but the results can be far more rewarding.

    Mr Wright was referring to Philo of Judea who is also styled Philo of Alexandria.

    Another pertinent ancient philosopher whose thought bears heavily on these matters is Heraklitus.

    A more modern thinker who has some things to say about the evolution of conciousness and religion is Terence McKenna.

    There is also the risk of social chaos due to the fact that religion does play a part in controlling the masses and keeping us somewhat safe. I have not come up with any other way to do that.

    Posted by: Joyce

    Ever heard of "rule of law"?

    Personally, I'd prefer embracing the best in the laws of the jungle at this point in time. Most of the people stealing the bananas are doing it under the "holy" cover of their interpretation of "religious" law in combination with a political mantra of "over-regulation".

    some dont believe our consciousness is so itsy-bitsy or that craetion is so stupendous or mind-boggling. maybe the perception is an illusion, but it comports with the ancient teachings about our existence(e.g.-the buddist ideas about the unity of everything)

    In addition, claims of being a god clearly fail the logic I presented earlier disputing the entire notion of deity. In short, God, being the source of the creation, can not be understood or experienced in terms of the creation. (Scroll down a bit to post on Jul 19 12:01AM.)

    Posted by: Herbert Sweet

    Mr. Sweet,

    I grok what you are saying. How can it be otherwise in regards to creator/creation?

    However, I stand by my observation - what all "religions" have in common is an ever increasingly elaborate system of ego rationalizations enforcing a holier-than-thou elitism. Such antics by "leadership" is neither "passive" nor "unconditional" love.

    We are all "passively" being herded into poverty, sickness, depravity, savageness, etc.

    It's all PEURILE head games in service to tyranny.

    Downright embarassing to witness a bunch of adults blog about their personal head trip while Rome burns to the ground, ain't it?

    No one is getting a medal for "believing" in a god or "not-believing" in a god, because as you note, Mr. Sweet, the Creator can't be understood by one itsy bitsy semi-conscious being in a mind-boggling, stupendeous creation.

    I draw the line in the sand at the wish of tyrants to torture humanity with so many self-serving "rules" that pretty soon the question every NORMAL MINDED child asks will be "blasphemy" against the WORDS of the sons of god or the chosen ones or wha'ever.

    But then again, we all read a different "book" about Jesus and "love", didn't we?

    As a result of my own experiences and studies, I support Mr. Wright's viewpoints with some minor differences. I'm not sure where he came up with the term "moral axis of the universe." I do believe that we have to respect and pay attention to nature and what it tells us. There is cause and effect. Our actions have consequences individually and collectively. If everyone were more conscious of how their choices have a tremendous effect on their quality of life, they might choose more carefully and be more apt to follow the Golden Rule.

    However, it is also obvious that the strong usually takes advantage of the weak and everyone is not and will not be enlightened - thus natural selection.

    Considering that this is a Christian country, most people would not have the courage to speak on these issues. There is also the risk of social chaos due to the fact that religion does play a part in controlling the masses and keeping us somewhat safe. I have not come up with any other way to do that.

    But men have turned in their swords for nuclear weapons; and most likely because when the lion lays down with the lamb,--we can be pretty sure of which one will get back up.

    Meesto & group,

    To convey thoughts on the material that we are covering in just a few words is a challenge to say the least. By my having said that there have been con men who are criminals at heart who pose as the enlightened is not saying that there are no enlightened souls. It is just that we come across con men more often.

    In regards to the heroic figures of the past, religious or otherwise – it is likely that we have embellished the truth over the years to satisfy our changing view of the ideal. It is also likely that some of these people are entirely mythical.

    To the believers out there, I pose the following – where do you draw the line between believing and wishing?

    I forgot to mention Socrates who was also incarcerated and died a true martyr in passive civil disobedience by voluntarily taking the poison hemlock after being judged guilty. This true martyr hero is not to be confused with these so called contemporary violent and ignorant terrorist martyrs who kill themselves and other innocents with some bomb strapped to their waist. Socrates was the first of my knowledge in written history who faced his enemies graciously and passively to die for everyone's' right to free speech/thinking. His influence and Socratic method is the backbone of Western thought thanks to his brilliant student Plato writing down his teachings and story.

    My favorite prophesy/vision is from Isaiah of a time to come 'When Men turn their swords into plowshares and the lion lays with the lamb". That's what I'm talkin' bout!

    Firstly, bravo to Sylvia for your very progressive and positive comments. To Mr. Sweet I say that some who have been incarcerated historically are not always con men such as Jesus, Gandhi, Mandela and Martin Luther King not to mention all the folks who have been imprisoned for civil rights protests. As for Anna D. and Michael the atheist I must elaborate on my reference to Jesus and his revolution of peace in his "turn the cheek" core teaching for humanity to progress. Words are tricky in that many have multiple meanings and can be subjective in semantic terms like 'passivity'. To me being passive represents strength, real strength as in controlling one's more animal-istic tendency towards violence. When I wrote of his 'passive love teaching' I did not necessarily mean that love is passive, although maybe it should be as in unconditional love. But more importantly is the fact that he was passive and he did walk the walk as he talked the talk through his actions of powerful passive resistance which represent his core teaching of turning the other cheek and not fighting back with violence and more destruction. Again his dying on the cross and not running away if the proof. Another example being when he had one of his disciples put his sword down as the Romans guards took him away is more proof or evidence of his ultra progressive teachings of passive resistance = 'turning the cheek'. He even said to love and pray for your enemy! This was the new testament! This is the most progressive thinking if we are ever to have a world of peace where people get along and the total human misery and waste of vital resources caused by stupid wars and fighting will be greatly reduced if not eliminated. Am I an idealist - yes! So were all the great prophets and sages who bravely shared their God inspired wisdom for we humans to have guidance toward a greater world. Passive power based on love is what I mean. Great and tremendously powerful and influential leaders such as Buddha, Jesus, St Francis, Gandhi, Mandela and Martin Luther King have accomplished great things and advanced humankind in the right direction with the power of passive resistance and or civil disobedience and not one human was killed by them! Not one because every life is precious. This is what they teach us growing up but our actions in wars and in our personal lives with these violent, destructive most popular entertainments we engage in show otherwise. We have been living in this paradox or contradiction for many thousands of years, when the first intelligent primitives started to realize the precious and fragile nature that is life and how important a loving and peaceful environment is to our over all sanity. This type of progressive environment is the only true civilization.

    I too am a hypocrite. Would I be able to 'turn the cheek' if someone threatened my family? Probably not - but intuitively I know that killing another human is the worst thing a human can do. Unfortunately, the lesson or philosophy of turning the cheek and loving those that persecute you is far ahead of where our collective mentality is at right now. But the world is getting smaller quickly and the need to get along more important then ever before. Christ's vision gives us something to aim for and attain to as an intelligent species. For as we try to live by such gracious and caring ideals it will only make the world a better place to live for all.And eventually by making the effort to live up to these hard yet very high standards of righteous behavior, the evil person who does threaten you and your family will be a rare exception to the new rule which will be a mostly non-violent humanity that works together to solve problems and looks out for each other. Therefore reaching our true potential as God's chosen ones on this planet at this time. With Dominion comes great responsibility.

    God Bless this Man made mess!

    Wright, in short, argues that morality is the action one takes to perpetuate his own genes. For example, your children are more important than someone else’s children. Animals behave the same way. This is a very interesting observation but there are other ways of looking at the subject of morality.

    From a state of consciousness or awareness point of view, I would suggest three states -- Criminal, Alienated and Enlightened. Each perceives his social and physical environment in a different way. To keep this simple I will limit the scope of this to the social environment.

    The most common state is one of alienation where the individual sees himself as separate from the world around him. This is the “look out for number one” point of view. This is why laws and law enforcers are needed.

    Further down the chain is the criminal who not only sees people as separate but perceives them to be opposition to him. He therefore opposes them as a means of self preservation. We isolate these people from society.

    At the top is the enlightened individual who views himself as a part of the environment. He treats others with deep respect and, in turn, they not only respect him but they love him. People are drawn to these individuals as they, quite correctly, see it to be to their own benefit.

    Happiness, in turn, grows as the individual moves up to higher states.

    There are, of course, the criminals that promote themselves as enlightened. These are the con men. But, eventually, their game is up when the truth comes out.

    (earlier posts: 7/20 12:40 AM & 7/19 12:01 AM)

    Thank-you Bill Moyers for giving us a chance to search our hearts.

    My first take on this discussion was too much head, not enough heart. A post by Charles Micheal Couch in the "Faith, Justice and Society" blog says, "It amazes me that all Christians can't point to moments of meeting with God in unquestionable ways. I have had many such meetings. I know that God is no respector of persons. Maybe, and I'm pretty sure this is it, 'You shall find Me when you search for Me with your whole heart'." This post is from July 4, 2009 8:53 PM. One to reread for me. He goes on to say he doesn't define "salvation" as that meeting. I agree. Also that many won't recognize Jesus when He does come.

    A later post by Mr Couch: "Anyone who hasn't met God personally at least once, should refrain from writing books on the subject." This is dated July 17, 2009 9:50 PM, in the Global Warming blog. It should be here.

    In these terms, there is no debate. Either you have had this sort of experience or you haven't. And if you want one, you'll most likely find it if you look.

    There is an interesting parallel discussion about whether God exists, or is just society's creation following an AOL story about Atheists putting up a billboard that says, "Imagine No Religion" (John Lennon) on an Alabama highway.
    Scroll down for the comments, currently 179.
    No lack of opinions here.

    I agree with Mr Couch and would add that personal truth is what you know in your heart.

    mr. gordon,
    i think if there were psychedelic mushrooms around 2M years ago then, yes, i think, yes, the people would have a concept of you moral axis. some (presumably intelligent) researchers sincerely believe that religions arose from ritual and shamanistic use of consciousness altering drugs. look into the physics concepts that relate to the "holographic universe" and its relationship with consciousness for some mind-opening ideas about existence...

    The bible was written by man but inspired by god, so where’s the footnote that said it was ok to modify, revise, rewrite or add to god’s word because of your geography or the year!

    Man wrote the best selling bedtime story book to get your money and control you.

    god / jesus

    jew / Catholic / Protestant

    Sunni or Shia

    Muhammad or Muhammad’s House

    It’s all Man’s word.

    The only moral axis of the universe which I believe in is the one we, humanity, create. I don't believe in a moral axis
    before humanity existed. As Right admits, God began as an illusion and I believe it remains one. We use God to satisfy our ignorance of our own understanding of the universe. 2 millions years ago, do you think humans understand or had any conception of a "moral axis" to the universe? I highly doubt it. And the idea of god began as an illusion because humans did not possess the mental faculties to understand, for example, why lightening happened, or why it rained or why the sky was blue. It was evolution that overtime allowed humankind to develop the mental faculties that finally shed light on what originally befuddled our senses. We now know why the sky is blue and we know why it rains. As far as a "moral axis" to the universe, this notion remains a relic of a time gone by and to those who will still believe in, you do so at your own peril, for you live in delusion.

    # In your view, is religion necessary to build a more ethical society?

    No, religion is not necessary to building a more ethical society. Previous thoughtful humans such as Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill explained. Benthan specifically came up with Utilitarianism's specific school of thought: derived the rule of utility: that good is whatever brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. And nowhere in this definition does god or religion enter the picture.

    To build a more ethical society, means devising ways of maximizing happiness to the greatest number of people. Yes, religion is a cheap form of happiness building, if you will, but it's not necessary to create happiness. Religion remains a weapon used to hurt and divide humankind.

    i could not help thinking that this wright fellow could have saved a lot of time reaching his awareness of another level beyond our temporal reality by getting himself some powerful hallucinogens. he'd have to write a whole new book

    "The moral axis of the universe therefore becomes the totality of everyone’s consciousness."

    Just an educated guess....
    It would seem to me that if there is a moral axis of the universe it would exist in a parallel universe. When referring to consciousness there would be a binary axis of both moral and immoral consciousness that creates the dynamics of human consciousness.
    Thereby, this would establish the apposing concepts of right and wrong, good and evil, heaven and hell. This situation would explain our cognitive internal
    Part of the thread theory could be the silver thread that provides a conduit between the two binary universes. The thread could also provide communications between the parallel universes that provide us concepts beyond our normal comprehension. The thread could be in the form of a hollow mobius strip. This reality being a binary universe could explain some of the occurring anomalies.
    Some times we know more than we think we know.

    Brain scientists have told us that the possible number of brain cell connections exceeds the number of atoms in the universe. This may explain why humans have the capability to transcend waking state consciousness, which serves only to focus on the content of creation, to arrive at the state of transcendental consciousness, a state which is synchronous with the transcendental source of creation.

    At this level, both ego and thought are extinguished. Interestingly enough, the experience of attunement with universality is the polar opposite of ego driven claims of being a god.

    In addition, claims of being a god clearly fail the logic I presented earlier disputing the entire notion of deity. In short, God, being the source of the creation, can not be understood or experienced in terms of the creation. (Scroll down a bit to post on Jul 19 12:01AM.)

    Bill, it seems to me that no one really knows why we are here, so everyone comes up with his or her own individual theories. But if we are all having different conversations with the same universal consciousness it could be that we are feeding this universal consciousness our different experiences. The moral axis of the universe therefore becomes the totality of everyone’s consciousness.

    No one knows where consciousness exists in the brain, so no one knows where consciousness exists in the universe either. It may exist in a different dimension for all we know. I doubt humanity will ever be able to figure it out. We are not that smart.

    Posted by: Alvin

    Hi Alvin,

    Do you really think that the "universal consciousness" is accepting EVERYTING that we are feeding it? I hope not :-)

    When you look at the scale of time, we might be in a million year cycle as pertains to getting smarter.

    I have no problem with God, him/her self. I do get a bit twitchy when someone claims to be channeling the Big Giant Head because the next step is always to claim that HE (the shaman) is "god", or at least a "son of god" or wha'ever.

    And the other team - atheists or wha'ver - also end up in the same place of "consciousness" (using your language) after their season of deep thoughts. They too become a "god". Which is really confusing - how did they end up being a god when there is no god to begin with?

    Bottom line - since we are NOT that smart yet, it's obvious we could NOT have invented/created ourselves.

    There's a real lack of humor, anymore, about "deep thoughts"...we need to lighten it up without getting sophmoric. We ALL asked the same questions as precocious kids, didn't we?

    In a way it's all head games, now. If there is a dimension of consciousness where God and I hang out, one on one, then it stands to reason that everyone else should just butt out :-)

    I havn't read Mr. Wright's book(I intend to).It seems that he covers the same ground as Karen Armstrong did in The History of God.

    Sorry, but this is the first time I've ever fallen asleep during one of your shows. I watched again and found it equally soporific, although I forced myself to stay awake.

    With so many real and urgent issues begging for attention, why waste airtime and your considerable talents on Laputan tangents?

    Faith in the frame you describe, Michael L, is humans embracing...reaching up. Real faith (which I acknowledge you must catagorize as "according to his opinion") is the result of a movement of the Great Spirit down (as Ellul put it). Quakers described this movement as emanating from "inner." The evidence of things hoped for.

    It can be paradoxical in that to outsiders the reaching-down when described can sound nebulous. Pascal's wager is also a little paradoxical in that it does purport on the surface to be a wager. Pascal, however, if I recall correctly, actually demonstrated an appreciation of nature over which the "wager" thing could have been simply a layer of cover. IOW the way he was able to stack the deck [in a fair manner] this case might be thought of as the reaching-down.

    PS I've got that "Criticism of the Fractional Reserve System" all I need's time.

    lity I believe is "faith."

    How can one discover true moral propositions with faith? Belief in god and religious belief in general is faith-based. Faith is belief without evidence or in defiance of the evidence. Every religious philosophy that I have encountered promotes a faith-based mentality. Name me one that doesn't.

    Well, if one is willing to believe in a claim without evidence or in defiance of the evidence, how can one discover true moral propositions and simultaneously KNOW that those moral assertions are true?

    People often say that religion offers true moral claims. But if religion is a body of faith claims, how can we know that religious moral claims are true. For instance, Jesus tells claims that it is true that "turning the other cheek" in the face of aggression is moral and that we should "love God" and "love others." Yet he offers no proof of his claims. The tenets of Islam claim that praying to Allah 5x per day and giving to the poor is moral. Yet the Koran would have us believe this without a systematic logical demonstration of the soundness of these claims.

    This is what faith yields. If one chooses to take a tremendous amount of information on pure trust then how do we know that that information corresponds with morality? How can one argue that others should do such and such without proving to those others that the provided advice is any good? Faith gets us no where and, as a result, it completely prohibits religion from offering any valid moral allegations.

    If one seeks to induce/deduce moral propositions through reason, then one is exhibiting a rational mentality. However, the more one employs such logic the less one becomes religious.

    Dave Stephenson,

    I'm an atheist and an advocate of capitalism so by no means do I think that ""God" is the strongest argument yet for a notion of "natural capitalism."

    I loved this interview - two kind, gentle people sharing ideas with each other.

    This interview was engaging and interesting. The one thing that did get 'under my skin' a bit was the notion that god is subject to natural selection. Rubbish. A more accurate analogy is that the ultimate influence on god is the power of the marketplace. If a god does not satisfy consumers demand he must either evolve or be replaced. "God" is the strongest argument yet for a notion of "natural capitalism".


    Wright mentions Philo of Alexandria, a 1st-century Hellenic Jew who tried to harmonize Jewish scripture with Greek philosophy.

    Great program. It's encouraging to see that a profound respect for science can coincide with belief in a transcendent morality.

    I see Wright's concept that the universe has a moral axis to which we can beneficially align ourselves the same way he sees the idea of god as someone watching our unseen sins: a useful belief if not an accurate one. Boiling down the overwhelming complexity of human social life to a one-dimensional "axis" of morality is a simplification. Humans evolved to see things in binary good-bad terms because it's easy and useful, not because it represents the transcendent nature of the universe.

    I think that Robert Wright has some very interesting and plausable ideas about the nature of God, but I am concerned that God is going to be very angry with him when she watches this broadcast.

    Bill, it seems to me that no one really knows why we are here, so everyone comes up with his or her own individual theories. But if we are all having different conversations with the same universal consciousness it could be that we are feeding this universal consciousness our different experiences. The moral axis of the universe therefore becomes the totality of everyone’s consciousness.

    No one knows where consciousness exists in the brain, so no one knows where consciousness exists in the universe either. It may exist in a different dimension for all we know. I doubt humanity will ever be able to figure it out. We are not that smart.

    I liked Robert Wright’s interview confirming that the world isn’t all about us and we can only see God as well as our brains can handle. Our father, mother, cradle of life – It evolves as we do. Makes sense and doesn’t have to imply God’s existence at all. Evolution is geared up to what works and obviously, love and understanding work.

    What many misunderstand is thinking that God and the Church are one and the same. I was debunked of this concept years ago while researching a paper for a psychology class in college. While looking into the history of the church to determine when suicide was first considered a sin I found an book explaining that at first it was not only acceptable to the church but encouraged that you should die for your faith. The idea promoted at the time was that if you are absolved of your sins by the Church and die without sinning again you were guaranteed a place in Heaven. The people interpreted this in a way not envisioned by the church hierarchy, that once absolved if you kill yourself leaving the absolution you are home free. The church even celebrated this idea for a long while until they realised that their congregation was shrinking as was their coffer with the loss of the tithing of their departed membership. It was at this time that it became the dogma of the Church that suicide itself was a sin. The reason the Bible can be interpreted to be saying anything you may want it to say is that it was written over a period of hundreds of years with the express intent not of putting God's word into writing but to record the dogma of the church at any given moment over that time. Most of the writings that should have become a part of the Holy text were simply discarded because they did not agree with what the Church wanted to promote as The Word. A person must get away from the man made concept that the Church is the human embodiment of God and understand that the men interpreting the Bible are primarily concerned with the preservation of Church, it's authority and income as with any other endeavor of men. It is this concept that some authoritarian must rule over your beliefs and that membership in a Church is required that stands in the way before any rational questioning of Gods existence or purpose can be examined without the same contamination of the greed and lust for power of men that has become included as part of the Bible and Church dogma by the very men who benefit from that concept. Once the benefit that a few men gain from promoting the Church is eliminated the concept of God and religion for all the people becomes much more clear.

    The book of WEB (chapter 1, Verse 1)

    In the begining God created natural selection and He said now I will see what develops. If it survives this is good. If it destroys itself it was unworthy of existing.

    God bless this mess?
    It is more like; God save us from our distress, we have made a mess!
    According to the Bible; we are made in God's image. Therefore; inversely, God is in our image. Considering His capacity for creating diversity; He could be in any form. However; it seems logical that he would pick a form that is functional within the context of physical reality.
    Considering the fact that order is a necessary condition for reality to be functional; He probably has to work within the confines of his established laws of physics.
    Who ever has created the reality we experience would necessarily have a free will just as we have a free will.
    We are the created and He is the creator. He preceded us, making it necessarily true that we did not create Him.
    We have a need to define God consistent with our own best interests; despite this fact, God is who He is. Until we see God and know all of His attributes, we must accept the fact that He exists because of the existnce of what He has created and maintains.
    To say we created God is the ultimate foolishness.
    We accept the fact that particles exist because of their effect on reality. The same courtesy should be extended to God.
    We can use this model of God to extend our knowledge until we have a better Model.

    If one believes "there's a purpose unfolding that has a moral directionality", one might conclude that the Millenium, the thousand year reign of Christ described in the Book of Revelation, is the conclusion of that moral evolution.

    I think the Age of Aquarius was a false step towards a more ethical society, and it was quickly eclipsed by the decade of greed.

    "God created man in his image"
    I believe personal consciousness--the 'perceiver' --the invisible person--is our likeness to God.

    Wright's starting point, like everyone else's, is the conventional understanding of deity. The train of thought below presents an entirely different perspective.

    When we start wondering what God looks like, convention has it that we have moved beyond the area of inquiry and into the realm of belief. Never-the less, there remains a path of inquiry that is still open. Consider this: What has been said about God’s appearance has not been told to us by God but, instead, by other men. Certainly, whatever is written or spoken by man should be critically examined. This is true even if divine inspiration or even divine communications is claimed as there is no means of validating such claims.

    So let us begin our inquiry on what God may look like with the most common starting point, the Bible. There in Genesis 1:27 it is stated “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Which one of us, then, does he look like? Does he resemble the bearded figure in Michelangelo’s painting, ‘The Creation of Adam’?

    The God of Western culture is no minor Greek deity. Our God is the creator God who has created the universe and everything in it. Or to put it another way, God is the source of the creation.

    The creation, as best we know it, consists of space, time, matter and energy. Therefore, unlike us humans who are bundles of matter and energy at a place in space at a particular time, God can be none of these. If he were, then he would also be within the creation and not be its source.

    Everything within the creation is limited by and defined by the above components of the creation – space, time, matter and energy. If God looks like this, then he doesn’t look like that. We are now into the discussion of attributes and attributes are limitations. The source of creation, being beyond creation can not be described in the limiting terms of the contents of the creation. I don’t mean to suggest reductionism but it would be like trying to define atoms in the terms of the structures that they constitute.

    It is rational, then, to go even further. God is currently thought of as a loving God. In earlier times, he was thought of a hateful God. Neither can be correct because any description is a limitation. This, again, is but another attempt to envision the source of the creation in terms of the creation.

    So why do we do this? Every creature, from the Amoeba on up needs to have some understanding of the environment in which it survives. Intellect, to whatever extent it exists, functions at the level of the creation. It knows only space, time, matter and energy and nothing more. Therefore, when attempting to understand the source of creation, the intellect can only think in terms of the creation.

    By the line of reasoning presented above, I am not making the case for a cold material reality. Instead, my conclusion is that the source of creation, or God if you prefer to use that word, can not be personified or concretized in any way.

    I had to stop watching because Moyers and Wright kept conflating "God" with "religion", the latter probably because it makes for a much more sentationalist title, and because the appropriate title "The evolution of religion" is not only boring but its veracity is also utterly obvious.

    Listening to Robert Wright, I suddenly realized that the creationists have had it right all along - just backwards. Humans create gods in their own image, not the other way around. It's an ability of which humans who like gods should be very proud.

    A very interesting discussion--as usual. THANK YOU so much, Mr. Moyers, for airing these kinds of important ideas that commercial television seems reluctant to tackle in depth.

    The comments by Hermann Trappman and Sherry Sword-Noland seem to be right on target and eloquently stated.

    Those interested in another perspective on a transcendent "directionality" as it relates to religion, reason, science, and morality might want to read an article that appeared in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin a few years ago, "In The Beginning of Creation Was Consciousness," by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a leading experts on Islamic science and spirituality. Nasr is Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University.

    In that article (, he argues that all of the great religions acknowledge that consciousness is the origin of the "Alpha and Omega" (in Judeo-Christian-Islamic terms, Christ/Messiah/Allah the endless beginning and the beginningless end that is also Right Now). He argues that with the rise of scientific thinking, the concept of an overarching consciousness existing as the universe has been unfolding has been reduced and negated. A deistic view of the universe--that "God" set things in motion, then left the scene--has led to the mechanistic, utilitarian ways in which we have treated each other and the earth/creation.

    He argues that today we must again become aware that expanding a sense of the importance of consciousness is both the source of all growth and the answer to "why?" Otherwise, we face a dead, emotionless universe, full of meaningless stardust particles locked into time and structure--and therefore death and ultimate extinction. The mechanistic view has led today to a spiritual hopelessness and psychological alienation that is very damaging. We try to distract ourselves-- with TV, with waging war for more oil, with searching for extraterrestrials, or with drugs or booze--from the fact that we will soon die.

    Did "We" think "us" up after the Big Bang--or before it? Who is "We/I/You" or "God"? Does "before" and "after" hold meaning? If so, what? Nasr discusses Plato, Descartes, and many others, but we might also add Shroedinger and his cat-in-the-box condundrum about observation/consciousness and states of being, and Hugh Everett's many worlds interpretation in quantum physics ("in my Father's house are many mansions," said Jesus) in thinking about "what's real, what's important" and "can we create (a more-perfect) reality"? How do we examine anything without consciousness to do so? Consciousness is what leads to the Creation--something of meaning made out of nothingness and nihilism.

    What's important is that we use our consciousness--this gift of reason and awareness of reality (however we may think of it)--to continue to create a better Now and Future for us all. We have a constant, moment-to-moment call to become fully aware (Jesus, for one teacher, constantly exhorts his followers "Stay awake," "Be watchful," "Open your eyes," "hear with your ears"), to choose to make ourselves and the world better.

    This is the message of Jesus, the Buddha, the Tao, the promise of Zion and the New Jerusalem, Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama, etc. No beginning, no end, the eternal now, a perpetual unfolding guided by interconnected consciousness, reason, and compassion toward a bettering of all our lives.

    Even without a belief in "God," we can see hope for this moral progression in many ways. It has taken centuries, but we have diminished the incidence of slavery worldwide, we have the Internet being used to connect mind to mind and to shed light on the mistreatment of protesters of injustice under despotic rulers, we have made great strides toward educating women to take their place as equal partners not chattel, we have begun to take seriously the practical "religious" charge to be stewards of the earth and of creation by protecting the environment.

    Making moral choices is what individual and collective consciousness does--eventually. Religious scriptures provide a localized framework in which we can individually begin to get a grip on the immensity of this freedom and responsibility. Institutionalized religions provide the common meeting places for those of similar (limited) viewpoints, where (ideally) individuals are regularly reminded and encouraged to continue to seek the transcendent order and good over death and destruction.

    Thank you again for the opportunity to hear important ideas discussed with such wonderful curiosity and intelligence.

    Dear Bill,

    As I listened to your interview with the author of "The Evolution of God" I wanted to join in the discussion. I wanted to tell you both that our evolution can only lead to the final acceptance of what we have heard, and repeated, many times, and yet fail to believe -- we are gods.

    Jesus told us this(John 10:33-34), and He demonstrated it. Only our lack of belief keeps US from demonstrating it. But that lack of belief is very powerful. It can thwart the expression of our godhood, though it can never alter it.

    The evolution of God is merely the coming realization that we are all sons and daughters of the most high. "I am in the Father, and the Father is in me." We are all heirs to the throne. God lives, and moves and has 'His' being in us. We live, and move, and have our being in 'Him'.

    Your guest was so intelligent and articulate, so thoughtful and studied. But I wonder if he has allowed himself to contemplate the most obvious explanation of the purpose "out there" he referred to numerous times in relation to whether there actually is a God: We ARE God on earth, living, expressing, loving. Our bodies and our personalities are our creations for the purpose of doing all of these things. Your guest is right -- our brains can't comprehend HOW this is so (because we created our brains), but something in us knows that it IS so, and our brains can comprehend that. that's enough to realize our purpose.

    I love your show. I love your good work. I love you, Bill.

    Thank you,
    Sherry Sword-Noland
    author of "How To Be Perfect"

    Rather stupidly, I started at the top here and read down to Fri 11:49 PM, and now realize I better post or I'll be reading all night. Sorry for waxing long below, but what's left out night after night is beginning to bug me [Granted, Moyers includes more of everything than anyone]. I should qualify this by saying IMO it is not any one person's fault that I am bugged; rather it seems media have collectively become like a machine that reflects not our ideas but a melange of meritocratic ideals/falderol. [Oh yes, Dinah, one would think it obvious that it is from somewhere other than here.] Therefore, of course, I thank The Journal that it provides such a clutter free and usually user-friendly message board.

    Empathizing with the other and walking in her shoes no longer draws on the categories "phenomenological" or "existential." We have a summer hit book which goes forward in the vernacular of the present only. But this poses no huge problem for me. Perhaps such forgetfulness is appropriate. It is the virtue of the internet (at least) that we can go forward straightway without a lot of oft times windy obeisance.

    Though I haven't read him, as a talker Wright's an interesting guy. I could listen to writers who are into Jung's version of Job, or the late Edward Edinger's Job, or Whitehead's God...every week and never get bored. Anyone who speaks of evolution as an evident, unified, block of a foundation...but who retains as many cautions as Wright re antireligious interesting. [But I must admit that in my worst paranoid nightmare I begin to wonder if the sudden popularity of Wright-like ideas meets no obstacle because these ideas serve to keep the dying embers of a certain hegemony going.]

    At first it seemed like he'd wrestled with things really heavily, but the theory of best character (of religions) having flowered in empire...I'm at least inclined to doubt a little. To me it seems like empire has attempted to crush these attributes. Why they flourished in the midst of empire might just as well be viewed as the need for an antidote to empire, and the arrival of one from a transcendent dimension. Please don't cite the flourishes-inspite-of-empire-argument either...still implies empire as catalyst. A really positive notion of "interdependence" under globalization (globalized empire) is to me also questionable. As we have seen over and over, a number of export platforms hither and yon do not yield enough jobs to offset the consequences of the loans it took to set them up.

    It's funny how this comes back to Keynes too [as did another religion & justice discussion here recently], or equal participation. Of course, grossly unequal trade balances yr after yr after yr after yr indicates "empire" somewhere in the picture. The cotton subsidy issue re Africa eg, or the era of terminator seeds only for planting in India and on and on...

    I choose to refer to my faith here, I hope, in terms easy for skeptics: My notion of the Great Spirit is based on an experience of "grace." This grace was fleshed out in almost innumerable gifts from three of love and tough love. Though the last to die among these may not have been up to imagining the details of stories like
    this one, she was nevertheless sharp enough; and my unswerving opinion is that she could not have been wrong about the source of her strength. There are also matters of synchronicity and, as mentioned by Berdyaev...destiny. But I cannot go into these in a small space. Some with faith also seem to provide accurate interpretations of how the world works. Empire births not God, but there are some interesting views from the faith community IMO re how in actuality it's mimetic rivalry that runs the empire show.

    Included below are some Carl Jung sentences out of "Aion" quoted by Edward F. Edinger. We are dealing here with the Great Spirit ("God") not as some pure construct, but as provisionally equated with the psychoanalytical concept "the Self"...including the the other end of an axis in common with ego. Yes (for the particular out there (we should be so lucky you'd drop in)), it's true that Edinger talks more generally in terms of "the Self," while Jung here is referring to a more "central archetype" concept.

    'The God-image is not something invented, it is an experience that comes upon man spontaneously...The unconscious God-image can therefore alter the state of consciousness just as the latter can modify the God-image once it has become conscious. This, obviously, has nothing to do with the "prime truth," the unknown God--at least, nothing that could be verified.'
    Re the role of the unconscious as discussed by Jung and Edinger, I've actually found that Morton Kelsey makes more sense to me in "The Other Side of Silence," though all three have heavy things to say.

    When it comes to evolution, Rupert Sheldrake himself does not insist that his hypothetical mechanism is absolutely what is required to make evolution plausible from our challenged four dimensional frame, but IMO it or something akin to it is. I don't see much progressive about leaning on "evolution" like it's something transparent and/or something soon to be totally comprehended. In doing so (alluding to ye olde "natural selection" or whatever agent) you have the equivalent of a mysterious god right there. Of course, from the agnostic POV I'm sure it seems that I sum up way too much mystery in the short phrase "Great Spirit." Outside of faith, though, and outside of the Darwinists...I just say read some Sheldrake and Norman Macbeth ["Darwin Retried" eg], and see if you discover a third sphere from which to view the whole thing. What does the term really mean in the phrase "evolutionary psychology"? It refers to thousands and thousands of pages of research as some kind of authority...the obvious authority...but hints not at all to any controversy amongst researchers. It offers nothing for instance that refutes Sacks' reservations re modular views of the mind. And don't dare ask it about qi!

    The truth, however much it scares us to contemplate, is that electrons are not the only things we cannot get a tacit handle on these days. A lot of things are ending up in this category right about now. [Macbeth and Sheldrake, who have tried to help, already illusions here that the limelighter meritocrat jefes will put them on anything other than "ignore" though.] Firstly, we seem to have totally forgotten that the statement "society is an addict" arose out of our "culture," and thus we cannot imagine a Roosevelt-scale change in industrial consumerism itself [or changes on a larger scale]...say simply to pay for Public Option or Healthy Howard or whatever...let alone for the purpose of engaging the population in positive, productive endeavor (work). No, no...just make health insurance cheap enough and lift the yoke from our businesses. And it's very true that this will accomplish far more economically than any nostalgic free trader out there could hope to imagine. But. But what will our businesses then manage to create that's both practical and cheap enough to purchase? Time shares? [But, we freak out in this case simply because our memory is bad re what Wilson-Schaef said. Ah yes, the truths "culture" gave us once upon a time.] Or take, as Moyers pointed out, the Wall Street god's fall...a fall which will no doubt increase the downing of alcohol and pills. [I write this not with glee but with a little fear and trembling--the collective maya has by no means left moi free of its influence.] My last item...consider also how current election squabbles all over the globe may cause people to despair and revert back to "the republic" concept. But if we aren't inclined to be reactionary like that we may end up looking for some other element to add to the concept of democracy. Appropriate technology perhaps? Local production? [Perhaps as per Erich Pica and Mary Sweeters...let the environmental agreements be what's globalized???] But for sure...getting inside the other guy's mocasins as Wright emphasized.

    To Bill Moyers, I say thank you, thank you, thank you for the best program on television.  If I had to choose only one, it would be Bill Moyers Journal.  Especially thank you for the recent show on Wright's EVOLUTION OF GOD.  I have spent a lifetime thinking about, reading about, and attempting to learn about the verity of the divine in human life.  I was grateful for the work of de Chardin. And for a slim book whose author I do not recall, YOUR GOD IS TOO SMALL. I am now 86 and believe I have distilled the essence of what I can personally accept in the matter.  I was not raised to attend church.  In my twenties, I,like Mr. Wright, spent a few years as a "born-again" Christian in the Southern Baptist Church.  For various reasons, some of which related to what I came to see as fairy-tales unacceptable to the reasoning mind, I came to reject the SBC.  Strangely, I followed this with a year's instruction by a priest in Roman Catholicism, instruction which only increased my incredulity at the tenets of traditional Christian theology.  I followed this with an intense study of the relationships between and the nature of faith and reason, along with the attainment of two college degrees heavy in the liberal arts, including philosophy, the humanities, et al.  In recent years I have read heavily in books such as Richard Dawkins' works, THE END OF FAITH by Sam Harris, and, in attempt to make sense of traditional Christian theological tenets, C.S. Lewis and Philip Yancey's WHAT'S SO AMAZING ABOUT GRACE?  I have pored over St. Augustine, and recently finished a college course in Humanism.  I subscribed for years to the periodical FREE INQUIRY. I studied the findings about early Christian and near-Christian sects such as the Essenes.   I guess I am still thinking, but ultimately I came to a few principles that are bedrock for me.  I would not presume to recommend them to  others. (1)  The Golden Rule is found in all religions and seems reasonable. (2) Atheism rejects some drive that seems innate in all human beings. (3)  Agnosticism with its "I just don't know" seems reasonable.  (4)Accepting that death is really the end, that there will never be anything more, is repugnant to humans but is in line with the rest of nature;after all, as one writer said, it is our condition before we were  born and we did not suffer because of it.  Instead, this idea should urge us to live what we have here and now to its fullest.  Those aspects of Humanism that say that this is a man-centered world are probably correct.  A moral code is derived from the realization that a fulfilling life would be impossible unless we accept the tenets of responsibility for others and for society as a whole.  Although Existentialism is rejected by many today, it has much to contribute along those lines.  The idea of love for nature and for one's fellow man grows logically out of acceptance of responsibility for others and for our civilization and for our planet.  I reject outright ideas such as the virgin birth, the literal sonship of Jesus, the Trinity, the literal definition of the eucharist as fantastical remnants of early religions used by the powerful to control lesser beings.  I reject the idea of a bloodthirsty deity whose notion of justice is that mankind has the weight of some kind of terrible sin or susceptibility to sin or original sin and that this vengeful deity will accept the murder of his own son to wipe out this weight and make man fit for everlasting life.  Traditional religions have done many things that are good, especially the consolation it provides for believers as they face the inevitable sorrows and losses of life.  (I wish I COULD believe).  Many good works come of religion.  And much of the most fearful aspects of human history have come from human constructs of religion.  So I rest comfortably on the bedrock beliefs I have outlined and on contemplation of the staggering awe-inspiring complexities of the universe. 

    Thanks, Messrs. Wright and Moyer.          

    For all those confused about religion, including Mr. Moyers and Mr. Wright I recommend an article by "Aylva" called 2012-666. It is only seven pages long and it gives a much clearer picture of religion than any expert blather about this rogue institution. Ask for it at It's free!


    For Charlene: The person referenced and mentioned in the program is Philo of Alexandria. Quickie primer on

    The question should have been put to Mr. Wright, "Have we created God in our own image?"

    I agree with other comments here that this was a refreshing program on religion for probing "the other side" of the issue. I am a great admirer of the work of our illustrious host, and in my memory one of his most interesting pieces on television was on Lucas Ranch, when Joseph Campbell just about lost patience with his line of questioning on matters of faith.

    A second line of inquiry that would be worth pursuing with an open mind is the recent work on the origins of early Christian texts, which is developing at a break-neck pace for a tradition 2000 years old.

    If we can agree that without the New Testament there is no Christianity, then understanding the historical development of the writing of this material should be of great interest to us all.

    Is religion necessary to build a more ethical society? No.
    "To mend the world is true religion"--William Penn.
    More programs like Bill Moyers Journal is the need!
    Where ideas are presented, but deductions given to the viewers. Religions form minds,--separate people,--and cause conflict.
    However, I do think we must reach agreement on the existence of God if we hope to build a more ethical society. Ethical behavior surrounds a common sense of 'fairness'; expression is a personal art; so contrary to the oppressive reality founded by primitive mankind, it almost seems as though it arrives from another dimension; as in the case of Jesus,--whose behavior can evoke this image of 'fairness' like no other human story,--or classic work of art. If not from God,--then what explains this inherent common sense,--our humanity,--the human heart? Why holding the highest rung on a hierarchy ladder in a predator-prey world,--would we show this peculiarity?

    The notion of God evolving is essential as we approach a future where reasoning and accountability are the only hope for sustainability. Looking at the world around me has led me to certain conclusions. We are a noun. We have created a God in our image. But what would explain a hundred billion galaxies? What would explain the stars and dark matter which seems to bind this all together? I found God in the beautiful organization of the Periodic Table. I found God while watching children learn to count. I found God while listening to kids talk about the details of dinosaurs. They had memorized the Latin names of those extinct behemoths. What is the survival importance in that? What personal need can that possibly satisfy? There truly is something magical in children.

    For me, God is not a noun, but a verb. God, simply stated, is the Creative Force. By definition, I imagine that idea as a unified field theory. Within the Creative Force I identify two main energies at work, Composition and Decomposition.

    The early Universe produced stars which were predominantly made up of hydrogen atoms. As those early stars went into supernova, they began to form the Periodic Table that we know today. More recent stars, which included those elements, would supernova into the rest of the elements. For instance, our Sun was born with enough iron to build the inner, iron rich, planets. That’s the same iron which flows through our veins. We are truly star stuff. Those elements are the foundation blocks of all the compounds that we know. Those compounds have evolved into the eyes reading these words and the mind considering these ideas.

    God is not intelligent design. The design is in the endlessly changing and evolving possibility of the entire Universe. The nature of God is evolution. Everything is God. Our lives are not the lives of lonely little specks on a tiny insignificant planet which is spinning around an average sun. We are a part of the greater cosmos, a magnificent symbol, a metaphor for the force flowing through everything. Everyday we have a chance to make decisions which will lead to Composition or Decomposition. Our choices are made with the limited intelligence we have. If our choices lead to the destruction of our species, then we may concede that the journey was amazing. If we can begin to realize that our choices are wonderfully important, that we are constructing tomorrow, that careful reasoning and built-in accountability are essential, then we may work toward a more interesting future where we explore yet unthought-of possibilities.

    Trapped within our primal notion of God is the idea of human hierarchy and intolerance. That is a wonderful image of Decomposition. Democracy and enfranchisement really is a much better concept than nobility. The works of our Congressional representatives are a part of the force which will lead toward Composition or Decomposition and no one can escape that. For those human beings without healthcare, in a nation which has produced so much wealth, it’s as terrible as the purposeful torture and murder of many thousands of people every year. It reaches far beyond a national disgrace. It’s a legacy of personal avarice and indifference of others, left over from the systematic genocide of the American Indians. No system can survive for long with the wealthy eating the poor. God must evolve if we are to survive.

    Libraries are full of books like Wright’s “Evolution of God.” Writers get curious about religious studies and write an extended opinion piece with the information they have learned. When you’ve read one, you’ve read them all, as they are personal traipses through academic literature without academic review.

    From the content of the interview with Wright, he sounds exactly like what Mark Lilla means by interpreting liberalism’s reaction to the death of god as giving us a "still-born god." In the absence of claims to revelation, we get human projection of human desires onto the cosmos, what Freud called a cosmic narcissism. Justifying that, as does Wright, as incentive for good behavior is a “functionalist” view of religion where the ends justify the means.

    Religion now has gotten well underway in its study of science, a long overdue retort. I recommend the 2005, "Scientific Explanation & Religious Belief: Science & Religion in Philosophical & Public Discourse." It concisely covers the discussion in the academy on the role of belief, in science as well as religion, and the consequences for public policy.

    Clearly Wright enjoyed his study. His reaction, hopefully, and book sales, sadly, might have been different if he had taken Nietzsche seriously, as do writers on religion who deserve to be taken seriously.

    Meesto wrote, in part, "This sad reality blurs peoples minds as to the true passive nature of Christ's teachings."

    I guess you can arrive at this kind of personal conclusion about "love" being "passive" when you stop pondering the "religious" story BEFORE you get to the part about Pentecost and the living Spirit of Truth.

    About 12 years ago I wrote, The Starlight Technique, much akin to the work of Mr. Wright but in a very simplistic fashion, complete with instruction on how to practice a universal technique for the evolution of consciousness. I published the book on-line, free of charge, so it would be available to everyone including those who are financially challenged. Go to and scroll down to the bottom of the picture and click on the words, The Book. It is in adobe acrobat pdf, takes a moment to load. Enjoy!

    Mr Wright, like many, who are in "think tanks" try to figure out things. Wright as an ex southern baptist is struggling and hopefully one day he will find it. The evolution of religious thought came late and Lenin enjoyed Darwin´s theory of evolution that he incorportated it into some of the principles of Marx-Lenninism. But we see what happened in the last century.

    Western Christianity, Judaism and Islam are struggling to find God. Eastern Orthodoxy says you´ll never know God in His True Essence because He is beyond our knowledge and out-side of creation. Our understanding and knowledge do not have the language, comprehend God. The only way we can get to know God is by His energies. Forgiveness, love, mercy, His Creation, etc. This is something for Mr Wright and others who are trying to know God in His essence.

    Erich Pica said it right on, "A lot of money interests are in Washington!" Start naming names and the influences they have and find out if they have the public interest in mind, or their own agenda in making more money. It is about time that real solutions are found and not just talk.

    I am a devoted Bill Moyers viewer. Intelligent and honest discussion engaged in a respectful manner is so rare on TV. I like all the different viewers' comments even though certain people's stringent and limited thinking is slightly worrisome. I really think it's important for everyone to keep an open mind so we as as a species can reach our full potential in terms of positive, progressive evolution. We need a lot of work but the great teachers, both male and female of history have given us many lessons to help guide us like a moral compass through the darkness toward the light. I,like C. Daugherty from NC was alarmed when Mr. Moyers made a blanket statement in reference to the teachings of the three great religions rooted in Abraham and Mr. Wright supported it when he refereed to the Koran and Old Testament bible's allowing for the killing of other human beings and lumped in Jesus by omission. The revolution that Jesus represented was the 'turning of the cheek' and dying rather then killing someone. His not running away and dying on the cross is case in point. I guess the fire and brimstone burn in hell Southern Baptist version of Christ has blocked their brains as to the true message of Christ which was love. Also there is the fact that so called Christians have been paradoxically killing in the name of Christ since Rome's General Constantine 1700 years ago. This sad reality blurs peoples minds as to the true passive nature of Christ's teachings.The fact is - there is no mention of killing for any reason in any of the new testament gospels and the way this was over looked by two such intelligent men from christian backgrounds is a sad commentary on how Christ's super progressive lessons have not been truly understood, even by two such respectable, intelligent men such as these, 2000 years later.
    Also people should pay respect to the fact that the Buddha was teaching passivity, love and compassion 500 years before Christ and surely as Christ was mega intelligent and Jerusalem an epic center in the world where ancient knowledge flowed liked currency, he was obviously influenced by the Buddha's teachings.

    May God bless this mess!

    Good show.

    Mr Wright = Mr Right.

    In a thread entitled “God and reason” I posted an article entitled “A Common Supernatural Phenomenon”. In that article I have provided a plausible argument for God’s existence.

    Religion is an essential element of human intelligence....
    The concept of God is an essential element of nature. Without a rational organization of reality; there would be only chaos.
    While we only get a glimpse of the essence of God; we do understand a great deal about the world that He has created. Just like the models that we use to understand nuclear structure, we use models to understand the attributes of God. Fortunately, an attribute of God is benevolence and He provides us a reality that is consistent with our needs and desires.
    If we are a threat to His creation; we will pay the price. Anyone who has studied the course of history will understand this prophecy.
    We are bound by the laws of physics as well as the laws of state. We can create heaven or hell on earth depending on our choices.
    Evolution and time itself is only change in place and structure. Comprehension and intelligence go beyond physical reality.
    Intelligence is not restricted to people. It is a universal causation to provide a rational reality.
    Darwin's evolution is a case of non sequitur. He was probably unaware that his conclusions should follow his premises and that his premises must be consistent with reality.
    The Moral Axis of the Universe is order; like it or not.

    I watched the episode this evening. As i watched it became clear that Mr. Moyers expected someone different from Mr. Wright. Mr. Moyers was dealing with his own shock as this obviously intelligent individual, Robert Wright, refusing to say, "the human intellect is all." Mr. Moyers struggled many times with language from Mr. Wright that suggested that religion may in fact be an attempt to point to something that transcends the intellect. In each case Mr. Moyers offered alternative phrasing that would instead point to something under control of the human intellect. Mr. Moyers has chosen to project his own logic onto the world in order to gain the illusion of control. I understand Mr. Moyers' contempt of religion, still in his call to be open minded i would hope that he could appreciate that not everyone who expresses a faith in the possibility of the transcendent born of their own subjective experience is an idiot. Perhaps we have something to teach Mr. Moyers, if he would listen.

    Thank you VERY much for finally having a guest unafraid to probe into territory that has been feverishly hostile to inquiry for so many centuries.

    There is no mandate to hold religion and gods immune from the same evaluations we apply to other subjects.

    Mr. Wright is intellectually honest to say that no one can make assertions about the supernatural. I look forward to reading his books.

    However I think his idea of a 'purpose unfolding with a directional morality' subjective and unscientific, and am not sure I share it.

    Bill, once again thanks for this program. You provide maybe the most important service in America today! My comment has to do with the title of Wright's book. The title "Evolution of God" would be better titled "Evolution of Man's Perception of God" would be better. This is also true of Karen Armstrong's "A History of God", where "A History of Man's Perception of God" would be more appropriate. In both cases these authors are attempting to describe the human attempt to comprehend the Divine, which of course is what every religion attempts to do and which every person attempts to do as well. What I found most interesting was Wright's accounting of his Buddist meditation experience without recognizing or identifying those experiences as a personal experience of the Divine. Wright's "Moral Axis of the Universe" is obviously Wright's current concept of God. Wright's perception of God may very well change over time. Allowing one's perception of God to change, grow, and become more complete over time makes perfect sense. I have read Armstrong's book, but not Wright's. Nevertheless, from the interview it seems that Wright has confused, as many do, religion and God. God exists independent of any particular religion (i.e. a perception of God). All religions are incomplete and some, maybe all, include things that are simply not true. Although religion may point the way, ultimately each individual must sit in the silence to know God.

    I suggest for all to read "Teachings from the American Earth" Indian Religion and Philosophy,1975, edited by Dennis and Barbara Tedlock. Liveright 500 fifth Ave. Ny Ny

    I only saw the last 30 minute of the program but it did intrigue me since I've been on a search of my own. I am tired of one religion claiming the rights to God. With those self imposed rights eventually seems to come to justification to kill one another in the name of that righteous god. With that right comes the boasting that I will attain heaven and you will not. I am the chosen. We've heard this sickening mantra for centuries and the simplistic black and white answers to these questions.
    My search is an attempt to find God after we eliminate the things that God is not. IF we are able to do so, what remains must be God. So we throw out the dogma, the saints, the symbols, the virgins, the hierarchy, the paintings, the Latin tradition, and the born again preconceptions that brought God down to our level; and what do we have remaining? I don't know, but I don't think that it resembles religion as we know it.


    It is dangerously problematic
    to advance as your guest
    did the proposition that
    ''god'' is an evolutionary
    process. It is simply a further elaboration of the
    creationist dodge into
    ''design'' and then into this
    'god as evolutionary process'
    direction. All defective,
    dangerous nonsense.
    What? conscience is not
    a reliable insight into moral truth? Nonsense.
    A sense of self PLUS a sense of empathy entails
    a moral sense.
    Your guest is grossly
    confused about his premise.

    Thanks much. Best show ever on religion. First one where I could agree with almost everything said by a guest. Not surprised that many of your bloggers don't agree with and could not understand him.
    Answers to your questions.
    1. Yes, because it satisfys my fundamental desire to see my family and humankind survive and prosper.
    2. Yes, because it's our nature. But my view of religion has evolved as Mr. Wright discussed, and we may not survive unless others do the same.

    Just another religious discussion trying to blur the theory of Evolution into Creationism BS. He is just taking Deepak Chopra's bs and converting to christian dogma.

    There is no cultural Evolution. There is Evolution that effects the culture.

    Only person that has done good work
    on Evolution is Dr. E. O. Wilson.

    So lets get down to the ground.
    Is all this going to reconcile
    the pyramid scheme that is civilization.
    or overcome Exponential Growth.
    Is Man smarter than Bacteria. the anwser
    is NOT.

    sorry about the misspelling...I was eating cookies and typing at the same time. Feminine.

    Ms. Hooker,

    Two books that evoke the idea of the divine femine are: Alone of All Her Sex, the Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary written by Marina Warner..Vintage Press/ Random House and When God Was a Woman written by Merlin Stone...Barnes and noble Books.

    No, I don't think that morality needs religion. And I'm not sure that humanity is becoming any more tolerant because of religion.
    Normally, I enjoy the Journal, but I find religious segments annoying.

    Peggy Luhrs' comments are right on the money. Wright argues that the idea of god is the product of cultural evolution, and yet, as Peggy notes, only a god in masculine form is assumed or presumed to have "evolved." If he's going to base his views on cultural evolution, they're only going to be credible if he acknowledges the divine in feminine form. "She" may have--and obviously has--been a casualty of cultural evolution, which also argues that "She" is as real as the He-god or as unreal, whichever you choose. Wright's remarks remind me a bit of the whole ridiculous line of questioning to which Sotomayor (sp?) has been subjected in her Supreme Court confirmation hearing, i.e. would she bring an ethical and gendered perspective to the law--as if a white, masculine perspective isn't the perspective that has governed legal formulations historically.

    It doesn't matter if it's big G or little g if it's judgemental...kinda loses that sacrosanct validity in that context

    Spending 30 minutes watching Robert Wright only
    brought me to the conclusion he is a confused person. At 9 years of age, he did not have a reborn experience only a emotional experience
    as a lot of people have. He
    can't write a book on a GOD
    he does not understand and
    has taken a lot out of the
    context the scriptures have
    to say. No one can understand an infinite GOD in his own finite mind.
    You can only know GOD by faith in GOD the Son, Jesus. Sadly, people want
    to believe in their own god, little g.
    I couldn't find an e-mail
    address for Mr. Wright
    maybe you'd be so kind to
    forward this to him.

    I haven't studied the desert religions the way Mr. Wright has, and I haven't studied the forgotten religions of the many indigenous peoples on the planet, but I can say, without hesitation or doubt, that Mr. Wright is providing a spiritual service.

    It seems all religions sprang from the spiritual experience of an individual. Mohammed, Jesus, Buddha, the neighborhood shaman; all had that transcendent, spiritual experience that Mr. Wright so honestly and courageously admits having no clue of. Nice to hear such honesty.

    To Cynthia Daugherty:

    Jesus had just told another parable to the masses and on the way back to his sanctuary, one of his disciples just had to ask why Jesus told such lame stories. Why didn't he tell them the good stuff?

    Jesus replied with something akin to Matthew 7:1. The 'judge not' thing, beginning with "You who have seen the kingdom of heaven must not judge those who can't". That's the Bible version of events.

    I always thought Jesus had a great sense of humor, and probably replied to that disciple, "You know; there's a parable about that."

    His disciples would stifle groans and glance at each other, trying to feign sincere attentiveness...

    When asked why the 'N' word was not allowed in her home, Maya Anjelou replied, "Words are things." That's the shortest parable I've ever heard.

    For Bill:

    Well done, sir! I see you've found your spiritual stride. You're doing the best work I've seen you do in (oh, poo; memory fails me, but a long time, I'm sure).

    Morals, memorized, get us only so far. Morals practiced from fear get us only so far.

    Awareness of the moral imperatives of each moment lead us past the limits of reason.

    My life was saved by a series of cats who all took an interest in my spiritual well being. Now, when I see a cat in need, I do what I can.

    I stop for road kill and carry them to the side of the road. I take in the homeless.

    Strangers, when hearing of the money and time I spend and the number of cats I now live with, will ask me, "How can you do that?"

    I smile my I-must-be-simple smile and the confusion passes.

    But there was a time that I would reply, "How can you not?" Judgmental. They see cats. I hear them.

    For Cynthia once more:

    Ten blind people standing around an elephant, feeling it with their hands, will describe ten different animals. None of them are disrespecting the others; they just aren't experiencing the same thing. But it's still the same elephant.

    The Bible is a wonderful place. Enjoy who you find there!

    Wayne Martin

    Love is genderless, consciousness is genderless, and energy is genderless....God is all of these things, as are we. We are one with God. Religion has certainly suppressed women, to say the least, throughout history. But it has also separated us from the God that is within us, instilled us with guilt and dogma, and placed itself in the control position of "re-uniter" between us and God.
    Jesus said "The kingdom of Heaven is within you". Religion says Heaven is elsewhere, and we need religion to take us there.

    Thanks Bill. I didn't really know what Charlene was asking about but, the spellings she gave did come up on Bing. Nonetheless, thanks for the clarification.

    Dear Mr. Moyers,

    I watch your show all the time because I get to see truly intelligent conversations about important issues...the sort of thing that tv has far too little of.

    But tonight's half hour on religion was 100% conducted in the male gender. God was always referred to as He, always in terms of what He tells, Jews, Muslims, Christians all of whom are presumptively male in this conversation.
    It seemed just a newish, highly intellectual rehash of Baptist Christianity

    What I saw as the lack of joy in David Wright's entire demeanor might be connected with that religion's fanatic insistence on the prevalence of masculinity which of course it shares with all the major one god religions discussed.

    I no longer believe that a conversation about universal truths can be fully informed if it takes place in the masculine vacuum in which this one was conducted. I know the Moyers show has had women and feminist theologians but those conversations never excluded the male gender. I realize how easy it is for
    discussion of religion to only mention male pronouns, activities given our cultural and linguistic constructs. I don't believe there is a prejudice against women at work here.

    But everywhere I look I see men examining what's gone wrong but never taking a hard look at the role that the pervasive imbalance of male domination of all the institutions of power and social organization plays in our current chaotic situation.

    Peggy Luhrs
    Burlington, VT

    Peggy Luhrs
    Burlington, VT

    Dear Mr. Moyers,

    I watch your show all the time because I get to see truly intelligent conversations about important issues...the sort of thing that tv has far too little of.

    But tonight's half hour on religion was 100% conducted in the male gender. God was always referred to as He, always in terms of what He tells, Jews, Muslims, Christians all of whom are presumptively male in this conversation.
    It seemed just a newish, highly intellectual rehash of Baptist Christianity

    What I saw as the lack of joy in David Wright's entire demeanor might be connected with that religion's fanatic insistence on the prevalence of masculinity which of course it shares with all the major one god religions discussed.

    I no longer believe that a conversation about universal truths can be fully informed if it takes place in the masculine vacuum in which this one was conducted. I know the Moyers show has had women and feminist theologians but those conversations never excluded the male gender. I realize how easy it is for
    discussion of religion to only mention male pronouns, activities given our cultural and linguistic constructs. I don't believe there is a prejudice against women at work here.

    But everywhere I look I see men examining what's gone wrong but never taking a hard look at the role that the pervasive imbalance of male domination of all the institutions of power and social organization plays in our current chaotic situation.

    Peggy Luhrs
    Burlington, VT

    Peggy Luhrs
    Burlington, VT

    To Charlene and to Michael Legnon: Do a search for "Philo of Alexandria."

    Thanks for the interview with Robert Wright. In particular I appreciated his treatment of Richard Dawkins. Religion is not the problem - there is a disposition in humans due to how we evolve that creates the in group and out group problem. He did not mention Rene' Girard's work, but he implied it. Keep this level of theological discussion going, the public needs it.

    Very interesting. I immediately went to Amazon and ordered the book. Thank you.

    Mr. Wright appears to be a thoughtful man, who in my opinion, consistently contradicts himself in his philosophical search for the meaning of life and god (God) or whatever the culture chooses to call it. I am certain his time alone in silence and meditation during his stay at a Buddhist monastery completed his journey to truly confuse his own thinking. I was intrigued and "glued" to your TV interview with this author, wondering when the plot would come to a climax, as if watching a movie that goes on and on, and then ends and you think: "Whaaaaaat??" He is a sweet man spinning within his own vortex going nowhere around his axis of the universe. May God shower mercy on him. He appears to be a smart but lost puppy.

    To Charlene:

    You have the correct spelling. Bing the name or look up Bulgarian historians


    I come to Bill Moyers blog...Bill freaking Moyers, the most thoughtful TV program ever, and I get comments about Mr. Rogers...come on folks!

    If "expanding tolerance" means less judgment of those different than ourselves, I'm all for it.

    Unfortunately, religion is all about judgment, and does far more to separate people than bring them together.

    Sorry about that. You are right. If it is Mr.Rogers Neighborhood, it would also be Mr.Rogers reincarnation.

    I am not entirely joking: Yes, there is the look and the voice, but also the "while we're fiddling about, in doubt, it's good to be good" vibe.

    The question about the "religious certainties" of Ms.Palin and friends - one of the big problems the world faces - I was sorry we didn't go there.

    Easily the best show of its kind on TV in this country. How can we get it in to a network?

    I just finished watching 40 minutes of Mr. Wright expounding what? God is a creation of man, but belief in this man-made creation is essential to our moral compass? Sorry, I don't understand. If man created god, then man created, why the middle-man?
    Did I miss something?

    That would be Rogers or Rodgers presumably -no apostrophe!

    Bill, for nth time, financial markets are not the only market, and less still is it that the financial markets failed than that the Federal institutions, which control credit failed and that was due to attitudes that liberals no less than conservatives still frequently exhibit.

    It is possible that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny," as it were. Certainly elementary teachers and child psychologists are inclined to think that way, but it is hard to separate nature and culture and there are good reasons for not doing so, as it seems Wright wants to do. In any case, I worked all this out more than a generation ago and I wrote about it here last Dec 27 in response to another program:

    "This was a really stupid film that only served to remind me that ppl, even clerics, understand even less about religion than they do about monetary economics and politics. There are and always have been three different understandings of religion, and correspondingly of politics and economics, too, which we can perhaps most easily differentiate as making up the three persons of the Trinity. The conflict over these is precisely why we developed the Trinity baloney, and why we have mixed constitutions. The Father represents a jealous monarch, the Creator, whose being is entirely will, demanding loyalty or faith, and is venerated by those whose desire is to boost their own egos in the process. Thus shame is important here, and there is no shortage of duplicity. They wish to identify with the greatness and power, like a servant with his lord. A nation is viewed as the lord's family. The political party equivalent is the Tory and the economic equivalent is the bullionist, who believes possession is wealth. The Son, in contrast, attempts to atone for sin seen as debt and fulfill or service a contract and is bound up with the elevation of the mother to divine status. Worshipers hope, indeed are greedy, for forgiveness and to be loved, and they cannot be happy without scarcity and affliction. They feel guilty, are forever envious and show status anxiety. Whigs are the political equivalent, and they represent the legislative branch of constitutions, but not the idea of a social contract, rather the social fabric is held together by an heirarchical system of incentives and rewards. In economics they measure wealth by debt. The Spirit, is essentially not religious at all, in the sense of the other two, but represents the idea of natural good, reason, virtue and justice in philosophy, and its branch is, of course, the judiciary, which once included the legislature, but not since the latter was taken over by the Whigs. In politics and economics, it is genuine socialism, where there is neither money, in the sense of gold, nor debt and its sort of money. St Paul called this caritas, and it assumes a universality and receptivity not present in the other two and sees sin as a lack of honesty. Even our languages give different meanings to the same word depending on which viewpoint is involved. It should be obvious that all of our wars have in some way involved a collision of one or more of these, and not conflict within any one of them. Alone the first named tries to prevent large-scale fighting by territoriality and posturing, as on the India-Pakistan border, and by largess. The second maintains peace by dependence, altho it is given therefore to excess and enervation, and attempts to expand its base, as wealth is transferred upwards. The third, by self-restraint based on perception of the greatest good. The last was held by most of the speakers as being central to all religions, which is manifestly untrue, and I don't see conflict among them going away unless the underlying differences go away."

    There are a few points I have taken umbrage with regarding Wright's conversation: why is god always referred to in a masculine tense, why isn't being born once enough and whose morality is valid?

    Ethics and morals are not the same albeit, they are twins. And apparently since everything is subjective, what is the actual value of these traits when bending the codes which we place these ideals seems to happen to all...i.e., rationalization.

    I think Wright does not touch upon the concept that we, as humans, must depend on a superior, idealistic being or ideal because we are afraid to fully accept our responsibility in this, the world, as we know it. I mean if god is everything and everything is god than we are our own gods. However to fully become aware of this, we would have to grow to ultra-human. Since we are lazy in this respect, we are not wanting to absorb the total responsibility of the action of total responsibility.

    I also believe Wright misses the point that religion is more politically based than anyone wants to admit. Control certainly comes from fear and fear is preached ad nauseam from all pulpits.

    If Wright really wanted to address a novel idea, he might investigate the concept of god without religion.

    I just watched and was interested in a man he mentioned - Filov Alexander. Is this the correct spelling? His ideas sound similar to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Couldn't find online. Help - if you know please tell me. Thank you.

    How is it that people like Mr. Wright know so much about God and the beliefs of all Christians, Muslims, and Jews and the way to heaven ... but completely ignore the "real" God(s) of billions of other people on the planet who live essentially the same lives with the same hopes, fears, wonder, and awe?

    Dear Bill: I'm very concerned about your guest's misrepresentation of God. You and he agreed that God is fickle and vengeful in the three great religious texts. You go on to state that God is a sometimes vengeful God in the Quran and in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)and are oddly silent about the New Testament. What an amazing misrepresentation you do to the New Testamant, because even upon close examination, it NEVER advocates vengence or violence. That is precisely what makes the message of the New Testament completely new and miraculous. You do an intellectual disservice to the text of the New Testament when you loosely imply it's like the other two great religious texts. It is not. And please examine it yourselves to see the vast difference between it, and Judaism and Islam. Thank you, Cynthia Daugherty, Charlotte, NC

    I'm not familiar with Robert Wright. Interesting guy - but is he the reincarnation of Mr Rodger's?

    Impressive discussion. Thank you.

    Once you are drawing the rest of humanity into your frame of reference and acknowledging their perspective is as real as your own, thoughtful application of the Golden Rule will suffice without recourse to a deity. Whether your touchstone is God or game theory, the important thing is recognizing that those other people really are people, no matter how strange they may seem at first.

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