Tag Archives: atheism

On the problem of Envy

Our instinctive ability to engage in the emotions is one important part of the human condition. An emotion is affective state experienced a few minutes by a subject. And works as a signal of the body’s surrounding events. The subject’s actions follow how it understands emotions. With the scientific method, we need to deepen our emotional understanding, with spiritual needs in mind, that we can then apply in practices and rituals.

Bodily map of simple (Upper) and complex emotions (Lower) associated with words.

Bodily map of simple (Upper) and complex emotions (Lower) associated with words.

The difference between the subject’s experience and the body’s expression of some emotions makes its emotional complexity clear. Darwinian reasoning says, shaping of emotions by evolution need a bodily expression. Therefore, simple emotions are distinct in both emotional experience and expression. Fear has both characteristics for example. Complex emotions are radically different, lacking both a distinct experience and expression. Envy has the characteristics of complex emotion.

In short, nowhere does it appear more clearly that man’s desire finds it’s meaning in the desire of the other, not so much because the other holds the key to the object desired, as because the first object of desire is to be recognized by the other. – Jacques Lacan

Envy and desire preconditions the capacity to imagine the mental experience of others. There are two known passive attitudes to the other, self-defeating envy and admiration. Self-defeating envy says: “I want what you want because and as long as you want it.” The attitudes logical conclusion is crushing the other. Which results in the object losing its sensed value. And attitude of admiration says both “I let the other enjoy for me”, and “I only desire what you desire, I only want to fulfill your desire”. What’s the active attitude of envy and desire? We find it in the attitude of self-assertive envy that says: “I desire what you desire, I want to fulfill my desire.”

Envy expands in a nonhierarchical society. An obvious effect because the emotion is dependent on empathy. Because the higher possibilities for empathy in a nonhierarchical society. Contrary to the common view of envy as the result of a hierarchical society. How does this make sense from an evolutionary perspective? Since proper hierarchical societies only emerged about 6000 years ago – while humans appeared about 200,000 years ago – if hierarchical societies are what form the basis for envy. There couldn’t be any evolutionary basis for envy.

The common view is that envy is bad. Christianity has hammered this down excessively for two millennia, by declaring envy as a deadly sin. One of the ten commandments directly state that: “You shall not desire anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Deuteronomy 5:21). A totalitarian threat of disconnection towards the sinners breaking this command. No wonder then that envy connected tightly with shame, or more precisely fear of disconnection. Fear of disconnection imposes avoiding behaviour and alienation from others. The fear or disconnection makes it tempting to cover expressing the emotion. This avoiding action, however, does nothing else, then straighten the anxiety. To overcome this calls for radical vulnerability.

“When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.” – Brené Brown

The self-defeating way the Atheist behave to the religious makes it obvious how, in fact, the Atheist suffers from severe religion envy. The Atheists self-defeating way in finding joy in to humiliate the religious person typifies this point. The destructive temptation remains, as long as this attitude towards religion is upheld. Belief in the end boils down to how you choose to act. What distinguishes genuine belief becomes clear ones reaction of others acting differently, if it’s disturbed and envious or not. Why would you desire differently than your belief, if your belief is genuine? Syntheism to me is an imaginative approach to the Atheist’s problem of belief – recognizing through envy the deep desire of humanity to be religious. However, in recognizing this need assertively co-create genuine beliefs for our time in history.

God Matters, and the Question of God’s Existence is Irrelevant

The question of whether or not God exists has traditionally been the central focus of debates between theists and atheists, along with related epistemological questions such as under what conditions we are justified in believing in or rejecting belief in God. In the context of these debates, “belief in God” is generally understood in terms of belief in the existence of a more or less (though usually less) well-defined entity or being with a number of properties (e.g. “personal”, “conscious”, “supernatural”, “transcendent”, “omnipotent”, “omniscient”, “omnibenevolent”, “creator of the universe”, and so on). For both theists and atheists working with such a conception of God, the religious/anti-religious struggle becomes a matter of providing arguments and evidence either in favor of or against the existence of such an entity.

Considering the popularity of this approach to religion and God, the title of this text may at first glance seem somewhat paradoxical, or in any case a bit counterintuitive to a lot of people. After all, most theists and atheists seem to hold the question of whether or not God exists to be of utmost importance. In the end, isn’t the existence of God what religion is all about? The Syntheist response to this question is a resounding “No”. However, this does not mean that Syntheists need to dismiss the concept of God as unimportant.

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As I’ve pointed out before, the four key concepts of Syntheism—Atheos, Pantheos, Entheos and Syntheos—all have the word theos (i.e. god) embedded in them. This doesn’t mean that when we are talking about for example Pantheos, we are postulating the existence of a particular being with certain properties. Rather, the use of a term like Pantheos, which can be translated as “the Universe as God”, is meant to express a certain attitude—in the case of Pantheos, toward the Universe or Existence as such, which we choose to regard as divine. In a similar way, our use of the term Syntheos is meant to express a certain attitude toward our relationships and our longing to belong with the Other, which we too regard as divine.

Given that our use of the terms Pantheos/Syntheos etc. primarily expresses our commitment to regarding the Universe/our relationships etc. as divine, it makes no sense to ask whether or not Pantheos/Syntheos “exist”—to do so is to miss the point of our talk about God or the divine entirely. The appropriate question to ask is rather what role these concepts play in our lives; how our decision to regard the Universe and our relationships as divine and holy affects us.

Thus, from a Syntheist point of view, the question of whether or not God exists is irrelevant, because we do not conceive of God in terms of a particular being with certain properties; nor are we interested in fervently denying the existence of such a being. While Syntheism is sometimes described as the “religion of spiritual atheism”, this description is a bit misleading, for Syntheism aims to move beyond both theism and atheism. Rather than wasting our time arguing for or against the existence of God, we choose instead to appropriate the concept of God to suit our spiritual needs and desires. God thereby becomes a name for those aspects of reality that we choose to regard as divine and holy, and in this sense, God still matters as much as ever.