Is it too hard to exclude religious references from discussions about consciousness?

Discuss the November 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, In It Together: The Beautiful Struggle Uniting Us All by Eckhart Aurelius Hughes.

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Okoth David
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Re: Is it too hard to exclude religious references from discussions about consciousness?

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Excluding religious references from discussions about consciousness can be challenging, as beliefs and perspectives vary widely. Striking a balance that respects diverse viewpoints while fostering a secular discourse is essential for inclusive and constructive conversations.
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Re: Is it too hard to exclude religious references from discussions about consciousness?

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Yes, religious traditions have undeniably influenced the way we talk about spirituality with terms like "divine love," "faith," and even "spirit". But I think we can have the same discussions if we use neutral language like "unconditional love," "confidence" or "inner awareness" instead. I prefer more neutral language because it encourages participation from a wider audience.
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Re: Is it too hard to exclude religious references from discussions about consciousness?

Post by Angus Zonny »

Yes, it is hard. This is because it is religion that makes us question ourselves in reality.
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Re: Is it too hard to exclude religious references from discussions about consciousness?

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Alex Reeves wrote: February 15th, 2023, 9:29 am That may not be too easy, simply because consciousness deals with the spirit, and religion also deals with the spirit. So I think it will be very difficult to separate the two.
While the concept of the spirit is integral to many religious interpretations of consciousness, it's crucial to recognize that consciousness is also explored through various other lenses.

Philosophy, for example, often tackles the metaphysical aspects of consciousness, questioning the nature of awareness and the mind-body relationship. This exploration delves into areas like identity, perception, and the essence of being, which aren't necessarily tied to a spiritual or religious interpretation.

Similarly, in the field of neuroscience, consciousness is examined more as a product of brain activity. Neuroscientists study the neural correlates of consciousness, seeking to understand how brain processes result in the experience of being conscious. This approach is grounded in the physical and observable workings of the brain, offering a more scientific perspective on consciousness.

Given these diverse viewpoints, it becomes evident that consciousness encompasses more than just the concept of the spirit. The spirit, as understood in religious contexts, represents just one dimension of a much broader and complex phenomenon.

In light of this, I'm curious to understand what you mean by 'spirit' in the context of consciousness. Also, how do you see the interplay between the spiritual interpretation of consciousness and the perspectives offered by other disciplines like philosophy and neuroscience?
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Re: Is it too hard to exclude religious references from discussions about consciousness?

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abstactlemon wrote: February 19th, 2023, 1:36 pm I think religion and spirituality go hand in hand. But I also think we draw a lot of our religion from our spiritual, a lot of the same virtues are found in both places so I think they’re severely intertwined.
Yes, you're right that religion and spirituality can be deeply intertwined. But where does consciousness fit into this mix?

Consciousness, in its broadest sense, is about our awareness and experience of the world, and it's a key aspect in both spiritual and religious contexts. It's interesting to consider how our understanding of consciousness is influenced by these spiritual and religious beliefs.

How do you see consciousness being shaped by religious and spiritual perspectives, and what are your thoughts on its role in these contexts?
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

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Re: Is it too hard to exclude religious references from discussions about consciousness?

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Amarachi Nzeakor wrote: February 24th, 2023, 8:08 am For many, the central concepts of love, faith, and consciousness were thought in the church. We may experience these emotions outside the setting of religion, and that's ok. The statement is merely there to draw similarities, not as a rule. Perspective is essential: Taking what we want from the book and tailoring it to our likeness.
Your point about the origins of concepts like love, faith, and consciousness primarily in religious settings is intriguing. However, this raises an interesting question regarding individuals who are born into atheistic beliefs or environments where religion isn't a central aspect of life. Where do these individuals primarily encounter and develop their understanding of such profound concepts?

On the other hand, can there be an inherent aspect within our genetic makeup or human condition that predisposes us to these experiences and understandings, independent of religious teachings?
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Re: Is it too hard to exclude religious references from discussions about consciousness?

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Blessing Chi Peculiar wrote: February 24th, 2023, 9:40 am I don't think so because religion receives superior and consistent homage, there is a lot of hostility directedtowards it. Religious leaders prosper, but they are successful because they choose to do it. Control will not be a factor. What drives a man to behave as he does?
It’s true that religion often receives significant attention and respect, which can be accompanied by varying degrees of skepticism or hostility, particularly when religious leaders are perceived as wielding considerable influence or control.

The success of religious leaders, as you mentioned, can be seen as a result of their choice and dedication to their path. This brings an interesting angle to the discussion about consciousness – the role of individual agency and the motivations behind human behavior. In religious contexts, actions and decisions are often interpreted through the lens of spiritual or moral guidance. However, when we factor in the political aspects, such as the influence and control wielded by religious leaders, it adds a layer of complexity to our understanding of consciousness and human behavior.

How much does the political aspect of religion influence an individual's consciousness and actions? Furthermore, when considering consciousness in the context of religious and political interplay, how do we differentiate between spiritually motivated actions and those driven by other factors, such as the desire for control or influence?
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

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Re: Is it too hard to exclude religious references from discussions about consciousness?

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ahassan_96 wrote: March 14th, 2023, 1:24 am Religion is just an integral part of spirituality, especially in practicality. Since consciousness relates to our thinking patterns, belief comes as a result of the way life is perceived. Thus, in the process, the human conscious has developed unique and profound ways to come up with structural patterns that determine how the mind should operate for it to be deemed as functional.

However, I don’t think religion necessarily shapes our consciousness. It’s just practicality on its part. The topic about consciousness is wide and doesn’t rely on linear dynamics, rather, expansion. So religion may be part of the human consciousness, but being conscious simply means expanding your awareness to limitless possibilities without relying on limited concepts.
Absolutely, your perspective on the relationship between religion, spirituality, and consciousness is quite intriguing. You've pointed out how religion, while an integral part of spirituality, might not necessarily shape our consciousness. This idea suggests that while religion can influence our thought patterns and perceptions, it isn't the sole architect of our conscious experience. It's an interesting notion, especially considering the diversity of religious beliefs and practices across cultures.

I'm curious about your thoughts on the expansiveness of consciousness. You mentioned that being conscious means expanding awareness to limitless possibilities without being confined to limited concepts. In this light, do you see consciousness as inherently flexible and adaptable, capable of transcending the structures imposed by religious doctrines? And how do these limitless possibilities of consciousness interact with the structured patterns that religion often provides?
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Re: Is it too hard to exclude religious references from discussions about consciousness?

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Kendal Low wrote: March 14th, 2023, 11:03 am I think that while it might be difficult, it is definitely possible. You can be spiritual without being religious. I personally believe that religion and spirituality are two completely different things, even though many people would disagree.
The idea that one can be spiritual without being religious opens up a whole new avenue for understanding consciousness.Spirituality, devoid of formal religious frameworks, often focuses on personal growth, a deep sense of connection with the universe, and an exploration of inner self. This form of spirituality seems to offer a more individualistic approach to understanding consciousness, one that is less about adhering to structured beliefs and more about personal exploration and experience.

Considering this, I'm curious about your perspective on how spirituality, independent of religion, influences our understanding of consciousness. Do you think that a spiritual approach to consciousness allows for a more expansive and personal exploration of our awareness and existence? And in your experience, how does this form of spirituality help in understanding the deeper aspects of consciousness that might not be addressed by traditional religious doctrines?
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

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Re: Is it too hard to exclude religious references from discussions about consciousness?

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Chinemezu Okafor wrote: March 18th, 2023, 2:56 pm I think that it is going to be overwhelming for someone who is very religious to put away his religious beliefs while reading this book. This isn't totally bad because everyone is going to have a different experience while reading this book, both religious people and people that are not religious.
When readers approach a topic like consciousness, their religious backgrounds can profoundly shape their understanding and reactions. While this diversity of perspectives can enrich the understanding , it can also lead to fundamental disagreements. These disagreements often stem from the varying ways religious doctrines interpret concepts like consciousness, which might conflict with secular or different religious interpretations.

For instance, a person with strong religious convictions might interpret consciousness in the light of their spiritual beliefs, potentially conflicting with a more scientific or philosophical interpretation. Such divergences can sometimes lead misunderstandings, as each individual tries to reconcile new information with their existing belief systems.
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Re: Is it too hard to exclude religious references from discussions about consciousness?

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Covenant Olusegun wrote: March 22nd, 2023, 12:03 pm Yes, I think we humans are bound to spiritual things and beliefs. We have something we hold on to and have faith in; humans are naturally very religious, and this is because we all have a spirit. 

While respecting the viewpoint expressed in your post about the natural inclination of humans towards spirituality and religious beliefs due to our 'spirit', I'd like to offer a different perspective for consideration.

The assertion that humans are inherently religious and that this is tied to the concept of having a spirit can be seen from another angle. Many philosophers and scientists argue that human beings have the capacity for a wide range of belief systems and that spirituality or religiosity is not a default state but rather a product of cultural, social, and personal influences.

From a philosophical standpoint, thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Friedrich Nietzsche have explored the idea of existentialism, where the emphasis is on individual freedom and choice, rather than an innate spiritual or religious essence. In this view, consciousness and self-awareness are not necessarily tied to spirituality or religious belief but can be grounded in secular and humanistic understandings of the world.

Moreover, in the field of cognitive science and psychology, studies suggest that while humans have a natural tendency to seek patterns and meaning, this does not inherently equate to religiosity or spirituality. The development of religious beliefs can be seen as one of many ways humans have tried to understand and explain their experiences and the world around them.

I would like to know your opinions on these different view points.
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Re: Is it too hard to exclude religious references from discussions about consciousness?

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Yasmine M wrote: April 13th, 2023, 5:17 am
Kelsey Roy wrote: January 25th, 2023, 3:59 pm I struggled to conceptualize consciousness without incorporating religion while reading the book. Religion and faith are a large part of my life and shape how I view the world and existence. I appreciated how Hughes allowed space for readers to interpret his theories through their unique worldviews. For some readers, it may have been impossible to consider religion a part of consciousness. That is the beauty of individuality.
I agree with you. I also find it hard to disassociate both consciousness and spirituality from religion. Particularly because the first time I came upon those terms was from religious teachings. And although Scott tried to not base his book on religion, there is a lot of common ground with religious teachings; it is the case at least for those with religious background.
I guess those who don't identify with any religion will manage to understand consciousness and spirituality in their own way.
The ability of humans to evolve their beliefs and understanding in light of new knowledge and experiences is a significant aspect of our cognitive and philosophical development. While it's true that early exposure to religious teachings can profoundly impact our initial understanding of concepts like consciousness and spirituality, this doesn't necessarily fix our perceptions for life. Humans possess a remarkable ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn, allowing our understanding of complex ideas to evolve over time.

Philosophically, this ties into the concept of the 'plasticity' of the human mind – the idea that our understanding and beliefs are not static but are continually shaped and reshaped by new experiences, information, and reflective thinking. This plasticity suggests that our initial religious teachings are just one of many influences on our understanding of consciousness and spirituality.

Furthermore, the journey of understanding these concepts can lead to a rich exploration beyond the realms of our early teachings. Exposure to diverse philosophical, scientific, and cultural perspectives can significantly broaden our understanding, allowing us to view these concepts through a more nuanced and multifaceted lens.

In this light, I would argue that while our religious background may play a role in shaping our initial understanding of consciousness and spirituality, it does not necessarily limit our ability to comprehend and interpret these concepts in new and diverse ways. Do you think that our capacity for cognitive and philosophical growth enables us to transcend the initial frameworks provided by our early teachings? How have your own beliefs and understandings evolved over time with exposure to new experiences and knowledge?
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Re: Is it too hard to exclude religious references from discussions about consciousness?

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Catalina Isabel wrote: April 14th, 2023, 7:51 am
Covenant Olusegun wrote: March 22nd, 2023, 12:03 pm Yes, I think we humans are bound to spiritual things and beliefs. We have something we hold on to and have faith in; humans are naturally very religious, and this is because we all have a spirit. 
I don't agree that humans are naturally very religious. It depends on where you live, the beliefs there and also upbringing, people's own thoughts around religion. There are plently of people who do not believe in God, or some that believe we have a soul but do not believe in a particular religion. These things are not mutually exclusive.

I think we can definitely discuss conciousness without going into religion, but I like that the author mentioned both of these views. They were likely trying to appeal to a bigger audience by doing so.
I agree with your perspective that humans are not inherently or naturally very religious. This viewpoint aligns with the understanding that religiosity and spiritual beliefs are significantly influenced by cultural, environmental, and personal experiences rather than being innate qualities.

The diversity of religious beliefs and the presence of secular or non-religious communities across the world support this idea. People raised in different cultural or familial environments often develop varied beliefs about religion and spirituality. Additionally, the existence of individuals who change their religious beliefs over time or who adopt different spiritual practices from those they were raised with further indicates that religiosity is not a fixed, inherent trait.

I would like to hear your opinion on, if religiosity is not an innate trait, what factors contribute to the development of religious beliefs in individuals?
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Re: Is it too hard to exclude religious references from discussions about consciousness?

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Davy Ifedigbo wrote: May 23rd, 2023, 10:15 am Considering that individuals are metaphysical entities, I believe it might present difficulties to exclude theological allusions from conversations regarding awareness. People possess cognizance of their environment owing to their cognitive capabilities. As ethereal entities, we harmonize with the divine essence residing within ourselves and others. Consequently, conversing about consciousness without addressing our cognizance of the divine becomes an unfeasible task.
Your perspective on individuals as metaphysical entities and the idea that our cognizance is linked to a 'divine essence' is thought-provoking. However, I'd like to offer a different viewpoint that challenges the notion that consciousness necessarily involves an awareness of the divine.

Firstly, the concept of 'divine essence' is largely a theological construct and varies significantly across different cultures and religious beliefs. The assumption that all individuals inherently possess or are aware of this divine essence is not universally accepted, especially in secular or non-theistic philosophies. For instance, in materialist or physicalist views, consciousness is understood as an emergent property of physical processes in the brain, with no requirement for a metaphysical or divine component.

Additionally, the understanding of consciousness in various branches of psychology and neuroscience does not typically invoke the notion of the divine. Research in these fields often focuses on the neural correlates of consciousness, exploring how our awareness and perception are grounded in brain activity. This scientific approach suggests that consciousness can be discussed and understood in terms of cognitive and biological processes, independent of theological concepts.

Moreover, the rich diversity of human experience shows that many people understand and experience consciousness without reference to a divine essence. Atheists, agnostics, and those who follow non-theistic spiritual paths often have profound experiences of consciousness that do not involve a cognizance of the divine.

Given these considerations, it seems feasible to discuss consciousness without necessarily invoking theological concepts. While the idea of a divine essence may be a significant aspect of consciousness for some, it is not a universal or necessary component for understanding or experiencing consciousness.
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Re: Is it too hard to exclude religious references from discussions about consciousness?

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Liza Chulukhadze wrote: June 28th, 2023, 9:25 am Faith has transformed my life I could say. I find that peson with no faith finds it hard to find hope in anything. Overall, ot usually depends on the society you live in.
While it's understandable that faith has had a transformative impact on your life, and may intertwine with hope for many, it's worth considering whether faith is indeed a necessary prerequisite for hope. This relationship between faith and hope can be explored from different perspectives, particularly in a society with diverse belief systems.

Firstly, the concept of hope can exist independently of religious faith. From a psychological standpoint, hope is often seen as a state of mind that anticipates positive outcomes, regardless of one's religious beliefs. It's possible for individuals who do not subscribe to any religious faith to experience hope based on personal aspirations, trust in others, or confidence in their own abilities and efforts. This suggests that hope can be rooted in secular or personal grounds, not solely in religious faith.

Moreover, in various philosophical traditions, hope is considered a fundamental human experience that can arise from our nature as forward-looking beings. Existentialist philosophers, for instance, have argued that hope is a part of the human condition, stemming from our capacity to envision and strive for a future, irrespective of religious faith.

Also, the necessity of faith for hope might vary depending on cultural and societal contexts. In some societies, religious faith might play a significant role in shaping the concept of hope. In contrast, in more secular societies, hope might be more closely associated with personal goals and societal values rather than religious beliefs.
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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