Faith, Spiritual life, Hope – Content Mixture

“In a century of staggering open questions, hope becomes a calling for those of us who can hold it, for the sake of the world.”

“In a century of staggering open questions, hope becomes a calling for those of us who can hold it, for the sake of the world. Hope is distinct, in my mind, from optimism or idealism. It has nothing to do with wishing. It references reality at every turn and reveres truth. It lives open eyed and wholehearted with the darkness that is woven ineluctably into the light of life and sometimes seems to overcome it. Hope, like every virtue, is a choice that becomes a practice that becomes spiritual muscle memory. It’s a renewable resource for moving through life as it is, not as we wish it to be.”

– Krista Tippett – Becoming Wise

“I lean a bit more confidently into the experience that life is so endlessly perplexing. I love that word, perplexing. In this sense, spiritual life is a reasonable, reality-based pursuit. It can have mystical entry points and destinations, to be sure. But it is in the end about befriending reality, the common human experience of mystery included.”

“The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty.” I have thrown this line into more than a few erudite discussions, and it delightfully shakes things up.”

– Krista Tippett: Religion does not have a monopoly on faith

“Secular society has been unfairly impoverished by the loss of an array of practices and themes which atheists typically find it impossible to live with because they seem too closely associated with, to quote Nietzsche’s useful phrase, ‘the bad odours of religion’.

We are presented with an unpleasant choice between either committing to peculiar concepts about immaterial deities or letting go entirely of a host of consoling, subtle or just charming rituals for which we struggle to find equivalents in secular society.

In giving up on so much, we have allowed religion to claim as its exclusive dominion areas of experience which should rightly belong to all mankind – and which we should feel unembarrassed about re-appropriating for the secular realm.”

“Our soul-related needs are ready to be freed of the particular tint given to them by relgions – even if it is, paradoxically, the study of religions which often holds the key to their rediscovery and re-articulation.

The underlying thesis is not that secularism is wrong, but that we have too often secularized badly – inasmuch as, in the course of ridding ourselves of unfeasible ideas, we have unnecessarily surrendered some of the most useful and attractive parts of the faiths.”

“To conclude, this book does not endeavour to do justive to particular religions; they have their own apologists. It tries, instead, to examine aspects of religious life which contain concepts that could fruitfully be applied to the problems of secular society. It attempts to burn off religions’ more dogmatic aspects in order to distil a few aspects of them that could prove timely and consoling to sceptical and contemporary minds facing the crises and griefs of finite existence on a troubled planet. It hopes to rescue some of what is beautiful, touching and wise from all that no longer seems true.”

– Alain de Botton – Religion for Atheists

Content Mixture – It’s getting better and it’s still not good enough

It’s easy to be cynical and maintain that nothing is ever getting better. “You have to be able to hold two ideas in your head at once: the world is getting better and it’s not good enough!”

This mixture includes two items.

Excerpts from #1:

The world is not a perfect place. Many things went wrong for humanity this year. You’ve heard a lot about them. We still have major problems, in particular around environmental degradation, international migration, political extremism and economic inequality. These are the big challenges of our time. And it’s also true that the surge of progress has not reached everyone. Far too many people still live in extreme poverty, 6 million children still die every year of preventable diseases and hundreds of millions of people cannot exercise basic freedoms. But as one of my favourite statisticians Hans Rosling says, “You have to be able to hold two ideas in your head at once: the world is getting better and it’s not good enough!”

It’s easy to be cynical and maintain that nothing is ever getting better. The empirical evidence flatly contradicts this view; looking at what what we’ve already achieved as a species should give us confidence going forward into the future.

Excerpts from #2:

This book is about what may be the most important thing that has ever happened in human history. Believe it or not – and I know that most people do not – violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence. The decline, to be sure, has not been smooth; it has not brought violence down to zero; and it is not guaranteed to continue. But it is an unmistakable development, visible on scales from millennia to years, from the waging of wars to the spanking of children.

The historical trajectory of violence affects not only how life is lived but how it is understood. What could be more fundamental to our sense of meaning and purpose than a conception of whether the strivings of the human race over long stretches of time have left us better or worse off?

The human mind tends to estimate the probability of an event from the ease with which it can recall examples, and scenes of carnage are more likely to be beamed into our homes and burned into our memories than footage of people dying of old age. No matter how small the percentage of violent deaths may be, in absolute numbers there will always be enough of them to fill the evening news, so people’s impressions of violence will be disconnected from the actual proportions.

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