Dawkins is one of those whose motivation isn't quite clear. He is clearly anti-christian but also very pro-judaism although one isn't supposed to discuss it. He has sort of tried to cover it, read LAME, be declaring he is an ethnic Christian. The man has more than sufficient education to know that is a stupid thing to say.
@ Matt Giwer;
"He is...also very pro-judaism..."
Claim without supporting evidence.
Please validate claim.
There is a fantasy that Jews are an ethnic group or a "people" or a race. All such claims are nonsense. I pointed that out on his website when it was free and open discussion. I was banned. The open discussion format like here was banned.
Just before this happened by was confronted with a demand I provide formal references to my posts about Israel which were critical but were from Israeli news sources. A request for future posts is reasonable. A demand with no way to modify previous posts for URLs supporting what I posted is not reasonable. Pointing that out lead to the instant banning and change of the entire forum discussion.
All of which might have lead to me shrug it off had he not a couple weeks later declared himself to be an ethnic Christian which is even dumber than the claim of being an ethnic Jew.
Dawkins is a great evolutionary biologist. That does not mean his skill set transfers outside that field. It is not impertinent to observe it does not. Not that I give a shit about being impertinent or even downright obnoxious and rude.
The secret is, as long as you are not a psychopath or some such you will be more or less the same person regardless of religious, philosophical or ethical system or lack of them.
However if you let some minister or rabbi or priest or monk or leader or teacher or master or anyone else tell you what to do or tell you what it really means then you are in deep shit.
I have found much inspiration in the basic text of Buddhism
I've also incorporated basic Buddhism and Taoism into my ethical and philosophical outlook. I think the key word above is 'basic'. Buddhism is like any other religion; there are widely divergent interpretations and practices. I looked at the basic structure of Zen, and liked what I saw. That said, I interpret a few of the key points as;
1- Karma is simple cause and effect. If you do positive things, then positive things generally follow as a result. Simple.
2- Reincarnation is bunk. I don't believe in life after death, or rebirth. I can see from a certain perspective that we change with each experience and are thus created anew throughout our lives. It's a bit of a metaphoric stretch, but I like the mental imagery.
3- The Four Noble Truths make sense to me. We experience pain and frustration because we desire and form attachments. If we eliminate strong desires and attachments, then we experience less pain and frustration. Simple concept that is hard to actually do. It is also something that I think people take a bit too far (attachment to the concept of avoiding attachment?). I think desire is natural. It's the refusal to let go once things fall apart that is the target of the four truths... at least IMO.
4- Tao (The Way) is nothing mystical or "spiritual"; it is simply the way things work. I look at it as a nod to all of science, and think that greater understanding of science gives greater insight to Tao.
5- The Eightfold Path in my opinion is something that is great to aspire to, but I'm way too much of a cynical, ethically flexible dick to ever really get anywhere with it. It is a recipe for sainthood, and have no desire for that.
Just my two cents.
I've seen too much buddhism in action to have a positive view towards it. It is promoting backwardness, it's exploiting the poor. It does also promote sectarian violence as can be seen Burma or Sri Lanka. It can be a hobby for spoiled Westerners who don't have something more useful to do with their time though.
And the prize for winning comment goes to Albert, those Buddhist monks can be some real blood thirsty bastards when they have a go at each other.
Since everyone is talking about what it is like ... lets say I thought about it for a lot of years and tried everything I came across as a supposed way to enlightenment. Then one day I got it. By got it I mean for weeks afterwards I would break out in almost hysterical laughter thinking about all my "efforts." It is the laughter that confirms I got it right to outsiders but to me I needed none.
The one thing that is true is before enlightenment one hews wood and carries water. After enlightenment one hews wood and carries water. Nothing changes but everything is different even though the same.
After a lot of trying to do all those recommended things you realize it is impossible to do them. And that is the point. It is that realization NOT being told that is the realization that requires the efforts.
Hewing wood and carrying water are still hard work and your reaction to the work does not change you simply understand you are not responsible for the feeling. Once you realize that the reason for searching disappears. Thinking there was something to find, something so obvious, something you should have seen from the beginning is funnier than anything else.
But why are you searching? It does not put food on the table. It does not bring peace of mind. It changes nothing and you have been told that before you started. And when you get there it is where you started. And I have told you the only thing you gain from all the searching, a few weeks of laughter at yourself, laughter at your own expense.
I have found only one scientific idea that approaches this and it is involving research into consciousness, self-awarness. It is for example feeling afraid. The body has a fear reaction and then we become aware of it. It is NOT that we recognize something to be afraid of and then react.
It fits other metaphors. Surrendering to a higher power? Surrendering to your body over which you have almost no control. Inspired by a Muse? We may choose what we paint but the urge to paint something is there, a talent we discover we have. A musician may study his art but all the lessons in the world won't let me play a tune. The redemptive value of sacrifice? We are social creatures. Sacrifice for the good of the group is a characteristic of all social species. Yesterday was Memorial Day in the US.
Anyway. That is all I have to say about it. I have done this before and usually I am simply ignored which makes no difference to me. You can't see it until you see it. Nothing I said can make a difference.
I have a mild interest in zen buddhism. It seems more philosophical and has a basic tenet (as I understand it) which is the opposite of many religions: find your own way.
Unfortunately people do take even fairly benign things too far and get stupid about it.
For Matt and those who don't have a problem with zen buddhism and might like to read a science fiction series with zen as a central aspect (it helps save the colonists from being totally killed off at the start) there is Dennis Schmidt's Kensho series: Way-Farer, Kensho, Satori, and Wanderer. (A quick look at Amazon suggests they might be fairly available.)
Find your own way?
There is no way. There is nothing to find.
Sounds pretty good, Matt