Existentialism - a positive alternative to religion - or a negative one?


gcarth Plus
15 3.3k 1 United Kingdom
23 Sep 2019 1:42PM
I don't like labels but I certainly have Existentialist tendencies i.e. I believe we give meaning to our lives by the choices we make: We need to gain 'authenticity' by taking responsibility for our own lives by 'ploughing our own furrow' were necessary.
For me, religion is merely a means of control and something to cling to in order to provide comfort and certainty in an uncertain world of angst.

Join ePHOTOzine for free and remove these adverts.

brian1208 16 11.6k 12 United Kingdom
23 Sep 2019 4:43PM
Raised in a strict Baptist home for unwanted children for a large part of the first 10 years of my life I rejected religion and started out as a Socialist, drifted through Nihilism and Anarchy then by a circuitous route to conservatism (note the small c) until in my old age I am now a grumpy, pragmatic old cynic who has no beliefs, not even that I am going to wake up tomorrow.

Its the happiest time of my life as I live minute by minute (does that make me a "Minuteman" or a "Minutist" I wonder) I no longer give a damn for anyone else apart from my immediate family (why should I, the rest of the world has done nothing for me) and am totally divorced in my mind from all the angst of modern day living, much of which is just another way of controlling the many for the benefit of the few.

Existentialist, no way, much too serious and who needs religion anyway, it is as you say, just yet another means for the few to control the masses
gcarth Plus
15 3.3k 1 United Kingdom
23 Sep 2019 5:13PM

Quote:Existentialist, no way, much too serious and who needs religion anyway, it is as you say, just yet another means for the few to control the masses
Well, Existentialists can be a bit serious but they tend to be very anti-religion.
It seems to me that you have some of the "I'm my own man" attitudes as you have made your own choices like the Existentialists.

We live in a "binary" reductionist world where everything has to be black or white, all or nothing etc.but what appeals to me about Existentialism is that it emphasises the importance of individual choice and personal responsibility.

That said, Existentialism does sometimes seem to (especially in Nietzsche's works) emphasise the 'self' too much and not enough about empathy for others.

brian1208 16 11.6k 12 United Kingdom
23 Sep 2019 5:52PM

Quote:We live in a "binary" reductionist world where everything has to be black or white, all or nothing etc.but what appeals to me about Existentialism is that it emphasises the importance of individual choice and personal responsibility.


This is certainly the way the media, politicians and those who wish to establish themselves in a position of power over others would have us believe, in fact life is anything but binary - I believe it is a continuum of realities, each of us seeing a different reality from the other.

In my training as a scientist I learnt the concept of temporary suspension of disbelief, ie: anything may be possible until proven not to be so, its a great way of handling intractable problems and seeking new concepts, which can then be tested against practical experience, rather than shutting down thought before the subject is even explored

I find its a great way of dealing with all attempts to force things into the "Right or Wrong" categories, most of the time its irrelevant anyway and where it is important its also necessary to consider other views (only in my world of course Smile )

Solipsism rules in my world Grin
gcarth Plus
15 3.3k 1 United Kingdom
23 Sep 2019 6:42PM

Quote:Solipsism rules in my world
Solipsism seems to rule a lot of people's psyches! Well, narcissism to be more precise - though I always think narcissism is border line solipsism. I was brought up on a farm where you didn't meet many people or generally socialise much and so I remember being rather unhealthily self-absorbed and solipsistic in my early years.
Fortunately, I've come to realise that there are other people in the world. I've come to like people and people matters over the years but I'm not a natural mixer and have limited social skills!

Anyway, I think there are dangers as well as advantages in choosing to be a member of any club, association or school of thought because of the tendencies of humans to seek reinforcement of their identity with the the ideas from their particular peer group.
That's why I like elements of Existentialism thinking - they're a sort of club that is against clubs, as it were!
brian1208 16 11.6k 12 United Kingdom
23 Sep 2019 7:16PM

Quote:Fortunately, I've come to realise that there are other people in the world. I've come to like people and people matters over the years but I'm not a natural mixer and have limited social skills!



the benefit of proper solipsism is that all the people I imagine inhabit my world are people I like and the rest don't exist

Of course, as a nihilistic solipsist I can't even be sure that I exist

But as a pragmatist who practises suspension of disbelief I'm willing to accept the possibility I may

The hours of fun I have in the bath pondering these and other such meaningless issues (I think) Grin

The one sure thing I have learnt as I've aged is that life isn't worth living without a sense of the ridiculous and its further helped by the ability to laugh at oneself and extract the urine out those who think they should be in power

As for everything else, my excreta donation reservoir is empty
Carabosse 16 41.3k 270 England
23 Sep 2019 7:40PM
Our musings on the meaning and purpose of life always lack context, don't they?

We are oversized ants on an insignificant ball of rock in a galaxy which is just one of an estimated 100 billion (100,000,000,000) galaxies in the observable universe.

Chances are that our philosophical mental machinations would cause much amusement to more advanced beings which are very likely to be out there. "They don't even know what questions to ask never mind the answers!" [Much alien hilarity ensues].

Why am I reminded of a very old mash potato advert? Tongue
brian1208 16 11.6k 12 United Kingdom
23 Sep 2019 8:32PM
it rather depends on the context from which you consider the question CB, I agree with your estimate of the importance of single human being (and even the human race) within the galactic context but as we are humans and individuals our context must by definition be different (I would suggest)

Look at it from a simplistic human point of view - me for example, I'm simple Smile

I live on a world inhabited by roughly 7.50 billion people

This number is meaningless to me (and I would argue that anyone who tells me they can comprehend that many people is at least misguided)

How then am I to relate my life to that of all the others?

Approximately 100% of them are not even aware that I exist as an individual and the bulk of those who do have no understanding of who I am or how I live or think and so couldn't care less. Likewise for my comprehension of them as individuals

Therefore I would suggest that the only rational / pragmatic approach to many if not all the problems in the world is that of the existentialist as garth suggested " the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will." or to follow my approach of Solipsism, the world only exists in my mind (as I can have no true understanding of it other than through my perceptual filters as built by my mind) as per "The Theory of Mind" : "We never know for sure what is going on in the minds of other people we can only make assumptions based on experiences with our own beliefs, emotions and perceptions."

So I would suggest that you are right within your mental construct of your world and I am equally right within mine.

One could argue that all else is a result of evolutionary sociological and psychological forces attempting to integrate individuals into some sort of social structure (civilisation?) often at the expense of the individual and resulting in constant conflicts
gcarth Plus
15 3.3k 1 United Kingdom
23 Sep 2019 9:54PM

Quote:"We never know for sure what is going on in the minds of other people we can only make assumptions based on experiences with our own beliefs, emotions and perceptions."
I've often pondered that thought: We seem to spend our lives making assumptions about reality.
I suppose David Hume was a man ahead of his time in his asserting the importance of sensory experience over rational perception.

Anyway, as you say, it could be that we have to live within our own version of reality.
That said, I would think most of us see reality in broadly the same way but of course it could be that we are all collectively in a sort of virtual reality system. WinkSad
(I don't really think that ...but it's impossible to be 100% certain of the truth).Wink

This is another reason why I think Existentialism is relevant because it emphasises that we embrace uncertainty and create our own meaning (reality) by the choices we make.
I think the problem is that we, as humans, are controlled by our emotions which tend to trump our reasoning - so it's tough being a human being - that's why some of us turn to a belief in a parental omnipotent God figure instead of being authentic individual beings and accepting uncertainty.
gcarth Plus
15 3.3k 1 United Kingdom
23 Sep 2019 9:58PM

Quote:One could argue that all else is a result of evolutionary sociological and psychological forces attempting to integrate individuals into some sort of social structure (civilisation?) often at the expense of the individual and resulting in constant conflicts
Maybe it's a lose, lose situation: We lose individual identity if we try to create an integrated harmonious society or we lose identity in an Orwellian dictatorship...
brian1208 16 11.6k 12 United Kingdom
23 Sep 2019 11:13PM

Quote:so it's tough being a human being


I'm not so sure of this, I reckon its easy being a human being but tough to be an individual fitting into the norms of society.

Because of my upbringing and emotional experiences arsing from it I spent most of my life until well into my early 20's convinced I wasn't a human being, merely an observer of humanity (I guess I was basically a sociopath with no understanding of human social behaviour, a good mimic but totally lacking a visceral understanding)

I still have problems relating to many aspects of what I see in interactions between humans to this day but I guess that in part made me the person I am now at the age of 78 and finally contented with my life, having, with the help of my wife of over 50 years raised two well balance but independently minded sons and they in turn have raised independent thinking children of their own. I have done things that others have forcefully told me were beyond my abilities and had a career few could imagine and better yet, in my last 10 years, when told I was too old to be an effective research scientist trained and mentored over 1400 members of staff in the research organisation I worked for, essentially acting in a subversive role by helping them as individuals to free themselves from the belief that the company would look after them and helping them to take control of their own careers

We are none of us followers, all are either scientists or technically inclined and all have and will continue to plough our own furrows in life, hard as that is at times

I don't understand emotion and have never trusted it but have studied the way in which those who seek power over others use it as a tool to manipulate individuals an the masses to their own ends
Carabosse 16 41.3k 270 England
24 Sep 2019 1:49AM

Quote:I live on a world inhabited by roughly 7.50 billion people


All of whom could be comfortably accommodated within the British Isles if you use the population density of Monaco - where they live pretty comfortably! You could actually accommodate the planet's population on the Isle of Wight, but it would mean rather a lot of skyscraper buildings and limited green space.

Again - just to put things in context.Wink


Quote:I think the problem is that we, as humans, are controlled by our emotions which tend to trump our reasoning


Some more than others, I would say.


Carabosse 16 41.3k 270 England
24 Sep 2019 1:53AM
Enjoy! Tongue

LINK
hobbo Plus
8 1.3k 2 England
24 Sep 2019 5:15AM
Mmmmmmmm!

I wonder where any of you would be if due to a catastrophic happening, all power stopped, screens blank, no transport, manufacturing or growing of food, added to by an outside threat that was out to destroy most of what you believed in.

People in my age group, came extremely close toward the end of WWII, as mere children, or early teens, most of our able bodied relatives were conscripted to fight or work toward regaining normality. Mothers were left to pick up whatever was left of the home. Concentration camps were places of very real horror and torture, likewise Japanese POW camps.

Had it not been for the gentle side of Christianity with its sharing, caring, forgiving roots, far too many would have given up and gone under.

Read books like that about....Weary Dunlop......and of others like him, who gave help in spite of all.....

As wartime children and postwar teens our mainly Christian, teachers, parents and mentors helped us and the the Allied world to regain normality.....

Sadly, all that is being sneered at now.....
gcarth Plus
15 3.3k 1 United Kingdom
24 Sep 2019 9:14AM

Quote:Sadly, all that is being sneered at now.....
I don't think all the elements of Christianity are being sneered at.
Personally, I think what Jesus preached about forgiveness was a great and noble message. To me, he was just another prophet - albeit a particularly remarkable one.
I believe that the "gentle side of Christianity" is indeed a wonderful thing but I don't think a belief in God is required.
However, a belief in the human spirit is required and it is possible even for atheists to have empathy for and forgiveness for their fellow men and women.
Where was God when he allowed World War 1 and World War 11 to destroy so many millions of lives. He wasn't content with that: He couldn't wait 20 years for World War - He had to inflict the Spanish Flu empidemic on us!

I have to say that I feel more compassionate and empathetic about fellow beings than when I thought I was a Christian.




Sign In

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join For Free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.