Dalai Lama tells his Facebook friends that religion “is no longer adequate”

This past Monday, people who have the Dalai Lama as a Facebook friend found this little gem in their newsfeed.

All the world’s major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.

The Dalai Lama’s advice sounds startling familiar — one that echos the sentiment put forth by outspoken atheist Sam Harris who argues that science can answer moral questions. The Dalai Lama is no stranger to scientific discourse, and has developed a great fascination with neuroscience in particular. It’s very possible, therefore, that his thinking has aligned with Harris.

In a recent interview with the Globe and Mail, Harris had this to say about science and how it should be used to inform our moral and ethical sensibilities:

The moment we admit that questions of right and wrong, and good and evil, are actually questions about human and animal well-being, we see that science can, in principle, answer such questions. Human experience depends on everything that can influence states of the human brain, ranging from changes in our genome to changes in the global economy. The relevant details of genetics, neurobiology, psychology, sociology, economics etc. are fantastically complicated, but these are domains of facts, and they fall squarely within the purview of science.

We should reserve the notion of “morality” for the ways in which we can affect one another’s experience for better or worse. Some people use the term “morality” differently, of course, but I think we have a scientific responsibility to focus the conversation so as to make it most useful. We define terms like “medicine,” “causation,” “law” and “theory” very much to the detriment of homeopathy, astrology, voodoo, Christian Science and other branches of human ignorance, and there is no question that we enjoy the same freedom when speaking about concepts like “right” and “wrong,” and “good” and “evil.” Once we acknowledge that “morality” relates to questions of human and animal well-being, then there is no reason to doubt that a prescriptive (rather than merely descriptive) science of morality is possible. After all, there are principles of biology, psychology, sociology and economics that will allow us to flourish in this world, and it is clearly possible for us not to flourish due to ignorance of these principles.

It’s important to remember that Tibetan Buddhists, while rejecting belief in God and the soul, still cling to various metaphysical beliefs, including karma, infinite rebirths, and reincarnation. But interestingly, the Dalai Lama once had this to say on the subject:

My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.

Other Buddhists, however, such as Stephen Batchelor, argue that Buddhism should be stripped of all its metaphysical baggage and simplified down to its basic philosophical and existential tenets — a suggestion that has given rise to secular Buddhism.



I’m never entirely sure of the credibility of ‘famous’ people on FaceBook, so I take this with a pinch of salt until proven - yet it’s still interesting.


How Humans Became Moral Beings: In a new book, anthropologist Christopher Boehm traces the steps our species went through to attain a conscience

Why do people show kindness to others, even those outside their families, when they do not stand to benefit from it? Being generous without that generosity being reciprocated does not advance the basic evolutionary drive to survive and reproduce.

Christopher Boehm, an evolutionary anthropologist, is the director of the Jane Goodall Research Center at the University of Southern California. For 40 years, he has observed primates and studied different human cultures to understand social and moral behavior. In his new book, Moral Origins, Boehm speculates that human morality emerged along with big game hunting. When hunter-gatherers formed groups, he explains, survival essentially boiled down to one key tenet—cooperate, or die.

This has likely already been seen by many of you, but I thought I’d share it anyway.

This has likely already been seen by many of you, but I thought I’d share it anyway.


Moral opposition to religious misogyny: Religious bigotry towards women is more difficult to counter as it often comes garbed in clothes of piety

Many of us have been watching in horror as a fringe element of haredim in Israel advocate the exclusion of women from all forms of public life.

Over the last week we have seen violence erupt with rioting in Beit Shemesh that included throwing stones at police officers, the threatening of a Ynet female photographer, and perhaps more disturbingly than anything else was the harassment of a seven-year-old girl on the street for not being dressed “modestly enough.”

As the father of a little girl, my outrage can barely be contained.

The idea that women should not be involved with communal affairs and, for all intents and purposes, be treated as second class citizens, is nothing new. Women have been treated this way by men of all cultures, religions and backgrounds for centuries up until relatively recently.

The fact that Jewish communities and their norms, in some ways in the past, went along with this is something we should be embarrassed of, but is not surprising.

Nonetheless, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has mentioned, a perusal of the Torah and the holy Scriptures clearly shows that woman are not to be seen or treated in this light – much to the contrary.

Certainly today, when it is clear that women are as capable, and arguably more competent and efficient in many ways, than men, there is no excuse for this type of jaundiced attitude.

To say, as this fringe group does, that excluding women is a matter of modesty is nothing short of a smoke screen for what we would otherwise call bigotry.

The idea that women shouldn’t have a say in how things are run because of issues related to modesty is clearly misogyny and male chauvinism dressed up in the cloths of piety. It must not be tolerated at all.

Ambitions know no boundaries

History has taught us that when the rights of women are trodden on, all groups should start to be concerned for their rights. If this is allowed to occur towards women, it will inevitably also turn its attention towards other groups.

Who may be next? Will it be you? Will it be me? Perhaps both of us. Witness how Saudi Arabia treats people who practice a religion other than Islam, or even how it treats members of its own Shi’a minority, for a modern day illustration of this point.

When you examine human nature you will notice that people often remain unsatisfied even after they achieve their stated ambitions. The goalposts seem to keep moving.

When it comes to achieving positive for the universe, for oneself, and for one’s family this is a good thing. Unfortunately, however, this same type of thing happens to people with nefarious aims.

For a long time there has been a tacit approval of woman being relegated to a somewhat lesser status in many religious communities. Even in the Brooklyn enclave of the relatively enlightened Orthodox Jewish community of Crown Heights, women have been barred from voting for the local Jewish Community Council.

But this is changing, at least in Crown Heights. The current Council president, Mr. Zaki Tamir, promised the New York Times in April 2011 that he would reverse this, and women would be allowed to vote in the next election held in 2013.

In some communities, however, there has been no such progress. In fact, the opposite has occurred – the fringe zealots have been emboldened and the standing of women has been slowly eroded.

In Jerusalem, women have been relegated to sit at the back of buses. While visiting Israel last year, for the first time ever, I saw Jewish women in the Geula section of Jerusalem wearing clothes that completely covered their entire face, similar to the Islamic niqab or veil. Companies have been pressured to remove women from their advertisements.

These are all relatively recent additions in many Jewish communities. They are certainly light years away from the Judaism which used to celebrate the 15th of the month of Av as a day when single boys and girls would mingle in the vineyards to meet potential marriage partners.

All types of bigotry must be opposed. But somehow religious bigotry towards women is more difficult to counter because it often comes garbed in the clothes of piety. It is precisely for this reason that we must be vigilant in calling it out and oppose it at every level and immediately whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head.

This responsibility falls primarily to the leaders of the community and the women within the communities. But it also must be opposed by the rest of us.

If a sense of justice does not motivate us, then this should: If bigotry is allowed to thrive in this form, history has taught us that its ambitions know no boundaries.

From Jewish World

Interesting read. 





“Atheists…What if you’re wrong??”

 This is beautiful…. he approaches this question with so much maturity and understanding…everyone should really watch this.

oh my goodness, I love this :o This made me say omg out loud several times. haha he’s…wow. & the ending was priceless. 

TheoreticalBullshit, you handsome atheist sonuvabitch.

Submission from dontdenythepanda
*lol* sounds about right :)

Submission from dontdenythepanda

*lol* sounds about right :)


Deader than dead: people in vegetative states are viewed as deader than corpses

In 1990, Terri Schiavo suffered a heart attack that left her in a persistent vegetative state. She came out of her coma but severe brain damage left her unresponsive with no detectable brain activity. Trapped in a state of “wakeful unconsciousness”, her condition triggered a lengthy legal battle between her husband, who wanted to end her life support, and her parents, who wanted to keep her alive. The debate over Schiavo’s moral rights raged for the better part of a decade, and the arguments were filled with people who claimed that her condition was a “fate worse than death”.

The phrase reflects a curious tendency to view people in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) as being deader than dead. Kurt Gray from the University of Maryland has found that people, especially religious ones, tend to think of PVS patients as having less mental capacity than a corpse.

Together with Anne Knickman and Daniel Wegner from Harvard University, Gray asked 201 volunteers to read an account of a car accident. The protagonist – David – either lived, died or entered into a PVS. “David’s entire brain was destroyed, except for the one part that keeps him breathing,” the third description read. “So while his body is still technically alive, he will never wake up again.’’

Gray asked the volunteers to rate how strongly they agreed with six statements about David’s state of mind. The results clearly showed that people see PVS patients as being more dead than dead. The volunteers were more likely to agree that dead David, compared to his PVS counterpart, could influence the outcome of situations, know right from wrong, remember the events of his life, have emotions and feelings, be aware of his environment, and have a personality.

Gray thinks that this odd pattern stems from the old notion of mind-body dualism, the philosophy which states that the mind and body are separate things. Such beliefs are especially common among people from religious faiths that believe in souls, which live on after death. If that’s the case, a dead person is merely a disembodied mind. Indeed, Jesse Bering has found that people generally hold intuitive beliefs about the minds of dead people. If it’s not a religious afterlife, then it’s ghosts or something similar.

To test this idea, Gray repeated his experiment, but changed the vignette where David lives to another where he died. This one was written to draw attention to his corpse. It read: “David died on impact. After, being embalmed at the morgue, he was buried in the local cemetery. David now lies in a coffin underground.’’

Among people with little in the way of religious beliefs, the emphasis on David’s cadaver brought their responses in line with their views of PVS patients. That’s predictable – in previous studies, people tend to lose their intuitive beliefs about the minds of the dead if they focus on their bodies. However, this didn’t work for the highly religious volunteers. They still ascribed more of a mind to deceased David than to vegetative David.

Finally, Gray found that the “fate worse than death” trope is actually true for many people. When 55 volunteers read first-person stories of people who were involved in car accidents, they felt that entering a PVS would be worse than dying, for themselves and their families.

People in vegetative states have awoken from a coma, but remain completely unresponsive to the world around them. Lights and noises fail to stir them and there are no signs that they understand words or expressions. Adding the word “persistent” can be infuriating. It implies that the patient is highly unlikely to recover, but it doesn’t rule out the odds of such a recovery. By blurring the lines between life and death, it plays havoc with our sense of morality and our perceptions.

Gray argues that while people tend to see dead people as disembodied minds, they see people in a PVS as mindless corpses. As he writes, “These results suggest that for vegetative patients, life or death may depend more upon the mind of person making the decision than the mind of the patient.”

From Discover

I’m mostly posting this because of the section concerning the way in which religious people react in these cases. It makes for an interesting read; personally, I don’t ascribe to the ‘deader than a corpse’ way of thinking, because they obviously aren’t.

But - without a lot of evidence being put forth for it - I don’t think there’s still a mind in there, either - and I certainly don’t believe in ghosts/spirits/souls. Once you’re dead, you’re dead, that’s it. In my opinion, anyway. 

An interesting little exchange was had in the comments: 

1.   Jorge Silva Says: 

Strange, I always thought that highly religious people were also more inclined to be against ceasing life support for patients in vegetative states. Yet, this study seems to show that they perceive such patients as being “deader than dead”. Either I’m wrong on the first or from what this article says, it should follow that the religious should be more supportive of ending life support in these situations.

The reply from the author: 

 Ed Yong  Says: 

Nope, both are true. Religious people are more likely to view PVS patients as deader than dead, AND more likely to be against ending life support. The authors described this as “ironic”.

An interesting little insight into how they think, yes? 


“Picture if you will the following: That it is conclusively demonstrated that the figures of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, Joseph Smith, all the other imposters are nothing more than that, legendary or mythical or fraudulent figures. Are you going to start screwing in the streets? Are you going to start stealing each other’s property? Are you going to start not caring about one another or your children? Are you going to have no source for your ethics or your morals? I submit that this is not so and that those who’ve said to you that the source of morals and ethics must be in some sense godly or supernatural have been fooling themselves and trying to fool you. If there was no god and if there were no prophets and no revelation our moral dilemmas would be exactly as there are now. Who doubts it?”

Christopher Hitchens - on morality (via doubtingmarcus)

(Source: youtube.com, via doubtingmarcus-deactivated20140)

Qualiasoup’s first video in a new series on Morality: Good without God. 

This is a very good listen, and I look forward to the rest of the series.


Who is really heartless?


thanks for the submission, notable-piecesofme :)

(Source: theatheism)