More goofiness from Deepak Chopra

I’m not sure what the reason is, but well known, and supposedly reputable, news outlets like CNN keep giving Chopra a platform for his nonsense, and as usual atheists and skeptics are his favorite target of criticism.

Standing back a bit, faith is on a rheostat, not an on-off switch. Putting God into the position of yes/no, belief/unbelief doesn’t really reflect the modern state of faith. There are gradations of belief. In fact, 17% of people who identify as atheists still go to church — they have social and family reasons for their choice rather than religious ones.

I don’t think there are many atheists who would claim that social and familial pressures have no influence on people’s beliefs or never cause people to make a pretense of belief to please others. In fact once upon a time I was one of those 17% who went to church despite not believing in god, and my eventual putting my foot down about this was one of the many things which drove an emotional wedge between my parents and I, ending in estrangement years later. Quite frankly to pretend that atheists don’t understand these things is kind of insulting given that we live with these cultural realities all the time.

Further, it shouldn’t need to be stated that a person who goes to church while not believing still doesn’t believe, those pretenses of belief to make family members or friends happy is still just pretense, not some “gradation” of belief.

We all fall somewhere on the sliding scale of belief and unbelief. Secular society has sharpened our demand for truth. To me, this is a positive development. If belief in God can’t stand up to proof, it won’t sustain a person through difficult times.

Yes, if we are honest with ourselves, our beliefs are held with varying degrees of certainty, I’ll give him that, and he even seems to almost praise skepticism here, but then he takes it all back in the next sentence.

I consider skepticism a way station on the way to a higher, more fulfilling kind of spirituality.

Millions of people have walked away from organized religion to become more spiritual, not less. They call themselves seekers; their disbelief is a starting point for starting their own investigations.

So according to Chopra I’m in a halfway point between fundamentalism and spirituality. Thing is I could easily frame this discussion differently and say liberal/progressive religion or spirituality is a way station to becoming an atheist. In fact I actually spent several years exploring “spirituality” after I left fundamentalism and ultimately found it to be no more true or emotionally fulfilling than anything fundamentalism had to offer.

The mistake he makes is to assume that atheists and skeptics aren’t interested in investigating things. Why on earth would he assume that? Don’t get me wrong I’ve met some people who wear those labels who are, in my estimation at least, rather incurious about the world and often less educated on certain subject that then think they are. However, I don’t see their behavior as a result of those labels, but rather being caused by factors innate all human behavior, honestly, factors not unlike the ones that cause many people to listen to Deepak Chopra despite his lack of knowledge.

Where the census form asks what faith they belong to, they might not have a ready answer, but that’s not important. What’s important is walking your own spiritual path. As a lifelong goal, it’s one of the most rewarding.

    What’s not rewarding is to base your belief or unbelief on secondhand opinion. Being a knee-jerk skeptic is as limiting as being a knee-jerk fundamentalist. In both cases, the mind is being conditioned by others.

    This inconsistency is the main problem I have with the kind of wishy-washy ecumenical relativism spouted by Chopra. He says everyone should follow their “own” spiritual path, but has spent the entire article disparaging the choices atheists, and for that mater fundamentalists, have made. He is speaking out of both sides of his mouths, on the one hand claiming to believe the whole “different paths up the same mountain” shtick most new age gurus claim to believe in, but simultaneously disparaging the choices of those who don’t agree with him.

    He criticizes us because our “mind is being conditioned by others” but clearly wants us to listen to him, so how is that any different? For that matter what would a person whose thoughts and reason had developed entirely independent of others even look like? Everyone’s thoughts have been conditioned by others.

    In my own conception of God as the source of consciousness, creativity, intelligence, love and evolution, the reason to be spiritual is to increase all of those qualities.

    Unfortunately, the goal of many faiths is to obey dogma and accept a cultural mythology. Atheism can do good by casting a skeptical light on cultural mythologies, but believing in nothing but the material world is cold comfort.

    Complete word salad. I believe there is a source for the things he mentions, but have no reason to call that source god, and actually think it confuses issues given how most people use the term. In fact he essentially admits that the manner in which he defines God is unrecognizable by the majority of humans, but decides to unwisely ignore that and plunge ahead. Further, there is no guarantee that the truth will be comforting, I don’t think wishful thinking is a valid basis for a worldview.

    Strong-minded, vocal atheists claim that God isn’t science and science isn’t God. But the implication that faith is irrational and only science knows the truth has no basis in fact.

    Rationality is a specialized aspect of the higher brain, but it’s not the end-all and be-all of life as anyone can tell you who has experienced love, music, art, compassion, self-sacrifice, altruism, inspiration, intuition — indeed, most of the things that make life worth living. Some studies indicate that scientists actually go to church more than the general population. They have found a way to be scientific in their work without turning it into a moral dogma.

    I feel for people who get stuck in any belief system, including rigid skepticism. They are signing up for the suppression of curiosity. As painful as it may be to question the faith you were brought up in, it’s worse to be stuck. The human story is about growth and evolution. That will remain true no matter who shouts loudest about God or the absence of God.

    Based on the fact that scientists are more likely to be atheist than the general population I suspect that the study that claims scientists go to church more often than the general population either doesn’t exist or has been questionably interpreted by Chopra. However, since he, unlike me, wasn’t actually willing to post a link to the study referenced I can’t really examine his claim.

    More generally, I don’t accept this dichotomy. I don’t think requiring evidence or rational arguments for claims somehow makes it impossible for me to feel emotion. This is just absurd on the face of it. Further, I haven’t suppressed my curiosity by becoming an atheist. I’m incredibly curious about all sorts of things, I just demand clear thinking and rational thought to come to a conclusion.

    I will never understand why we, as a society, seem to give so much credence to self help “gurus” like Mr. Chopra. His public speaking and writing is full of feel good nonsense with very little content…on second thought maybe I understand exactly why people give his statements credence.

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