A Mealtime Affirmation

As you sit down to eat, realize that there are people who are going hungry.

This isn’t a plea to give to the poor, although that is a commendable thing to do. No, my plea is for you to stop for a moment and be thankful for the food on your table.

Studies in positive psychology have shown that an attitude of gratitude has a positive impact on our lives and moods.

But I don’t believe in God, so praying to God is not an option. But how about thanking the beings that actually did grow and bring this food to my table.

Here is our family’s mealtime affirmation:

We give thanks to all beings who have brought this food to our table, and vow to respond in turn to those in need with wisdom and compassion. Let us eat mindfully.

Give Up All Hope

We need to learn to cope rather than hope.

Hope is the delusion that things will be better in the future. As if progress is an inevitable law of existence. It is not.

Attachment to a good future outcome is the recipe for suffering. Hope is detrimental to tranquility.

Hope is an expectation about the future, mindfulness is being here in the present moment. Expectations lead to disappointment.

Don’t expect anything and when you don’t get it you will not be disappointed. But if you do get it – surprise!

Love Me As I Am

Love me as I am, but love me enough to not leave me the way you found me.

To ask someone to love you the way you are, and not try to change you, is to admit that you think that you are perfect. Or equally as bad, that you are not interested in becoming a better person.

For only a perfect person does not need to change and has no room for improvement.

News flash – you are not that person.

But likewise, don’t try to change someone else. Accept them as they are.

The best way to change the world is to change yourself.

Your example is more powerful than your words will ever be.

A Better Society

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy

In order to have a better society, we need better citizens. You improve the community if you improve the individual.

If you want a better world, you first need to have better humans.

But how?

By adopting a worldview and way of life that holds life and nature as sacred, and that helps people develop moral character, lovingkindness, and compassion for all beings.

I am thinking of Buddhism, Daoism, Stoicism, Existentialism, Humanism, and Bodhidaoism.

Just Living is Not Enough

I want to let you in on a little secret, you don’t get wise by just living.

You might think that old age brings forth wisdom, it does not. Even experience doesn’t help some folks.

Wisdom requires a level of self-reflection and self-doubt that is far too uncomfortable for many people.

Many people would rather be right than to be wise.

Wisdom begins not in knowledge, but in knowing that you don’t know. The four most powerful words in the English language are, “I do not know.”

They say that the larger your pool of knowledge, the greater your shores of ignorance.

It’s true.

Defining Naturalistic Spirituality

You would be forgiven if you thought those words incompatible and that naturalistic spirituality was an oxymoron.

The English word spirit comes from the Latin spiritus which means “breath.” When a person dies they breathe their last breath.

Later, in Christianity, spirit came to refer to the supernatural immortal part of humankind given by God. But that is not what spirit originally meant. It simply meant the breath.

I contend that the word spirit refers to our consciousness, our ability to be aware. This ceases at death when we breathe our last breath. We lose consciousness.

Spirituality, then, refers to the quality or state of having or cultivating an expanded or deepened consciousness of our union and communion with reality.

See, no God necessary.

Are You Being Manipulated?

The first question to answer is, what is manipulation?

Wikipedia has a good explanation, “Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the behavior or perception of others through indirect, deceptive, or underhanded tactics.”

This leads us naturally to the second question, how can you tell whether or not you are being manipulated?

You know someone is trying to manipulate you when they try to make you feel guilty, angry, or fearful. These three emotions short circuit critical thinking.

If you want someone to watch your news program, vote for you, or stay with you even if they don’t want to, guilt, fear, and anger are great motivators.

Anyone who manipulates you doesn’t respect you. They just want to use you. Don’t let them!

Trust the Experts

Trust the experts or you should become one.

Experts can be wrong, but trusting the consensus opinion of the experts is the best path to the truth. You simply have no better source of evidence.

If expertise does not matter, then let a truck driver do your next operation. Or let a plumber do your dental work. Or have a stocker from the grocery store fix your car.

Just because experts can be wrong doesn’t mean the non-experts are going to have a better opinion. They won’t.

When the experts reach a consensus, trust that consensus unless other verifiable evidence contradicts it.

A Very Simple Meditation Practice

Meditation is hard. At least it is for me. And I have been at this for decades. So here is my simple meditation instruction for those who don’t like meditating.

You can do this in any position, and in any situation. Begin with just three breaths. As you breathe in say in your mind “open.” As you breathe out say in your mind “relax.”

As you breathe in, not only say to yourself “open,” but become open to the world around you. Like a flower opening to the sun, open your heart to reality as it is, right now.

As you breathe out, not only say to yourself “relax,” but let the muscles in your body relax. Just let your body go limp, like the air being let out of a balloon.

If you are sitting, make sure the palms of your hands are turned up. This is giving your body the clue to open up, be receptive, and relax.

Be completely present in the here and now. That’s it.

You can also use this as a centering practice before doing regular meditation. Relaxation is the doorway to mindfulness.

Something to Live For

Finding your life’s purpose is part discovery and part creation. You are here to make the world a better place than you found it. How you do that is harder to discern.

I wish I could give you a foolproof recipe for finding your purpose in life, but I can’t. Nobody can. It is unique to you. But I might be able to offer you a few tips.

The discovery part is to find out what you are good at, what you are passionate about, and how these fit into what the world needs. If you can get paid for it, all the better.

Now the hard part. Disregard all those things and do what you fear. If it is uncomfortable, good. You have to get outside your comfort zone in order to grow personally, spiritually, and professionally. Recreate yourself into the you that your envision you would be if all the world would just cooperate.

Now combine your self-creation and your self-discovery. Then follow the path that gives you inner peace. Go where that peace blossoms. The right path will not be easy, but you will have peace of mind in the midst of the storms

Reading My Bodhidaoist Book

I had to put an end to that.

My book Spirituality Without God, which was out of print, was selling for $104. I contacted the publisher and it is back on Amazon for $12.98.

For those who didn’t know, my book Spirituality Without God is included, with updates, in my book Secular Spirituality. This is a collection of my past works since 2011.

My thinking has evolved since writing Spirituality Without God in 2018. I consider Bodhidaoism a type of religious humanism, therefore Humanism is no longer one of the Four Traditions. It has been replaced with Existentialism.

I am no longer a physicalist. My position I call open naturalism. The natural world exists, but how the mind relates to that is an open question that science and philosophy are still struggling with. Agnosticism is not an easy position, but in this case, I think it is the right one today.

If you read the Bodhidaoist Manifesto and compare it to the original Summa Sophia, you will see a lot missing. I am not sure we really know how many virtues there are, or how many faculties we have, or any number of nice neat lists. I have drunk deeply of the wine of agnosticism.

I figure there are a lot of things best left unsaid. What I am not fairly certain about has been removed. You will notice my tone is much more humble. I think we think we know more than we actually know.

So read my book with the understanding that it is not perfect, but that Bodhidaoism is a work in progress. I hope to publish a new book about Bodhidaoism in 2021, fate willing.

Bodhidaoism and Reality

The hardest problem to answer for any religion is what exists and how do we know. Traditionally these are known as metaphysics and epistemology. Here is my answer to the metaphysical question:

We accept the scientific consensus on the origin of the universe and the evolution of humans through natural selection. We believe that there is one reality, but to human beings, this reality appears in two forms – subjective and objective.

I would call my position open naturalism. I believe that the natural world exists and that science is the best means of knowing it. But I believe that the mind is an important part of reality. How that fits with the natural world is an open question.

One option is panpsychism, which I prefer. As Philip Goff explains, “Panpsychist’s believe that consciousness is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of the physical world.” There are many theories on how this is so.

Another option is that the mind is an emergent phenomenon. C. D. Broad explains that “the characteristic properties of the whole…. cannot, even in theory, be deduced from the most complete knowledge of the properties of” the parts. In other words, in the words of Douglas Hofstadter, “the soul is more than the sum of its parts.”

The Four Wisdom Traditions of Bodhidaoism

A wisdom tradition, whether religious or philosophical, is a belief system and way of life that passed down from generation to generation that has lasting value. It contains the wisdom of its forebearers.

The first wisdom tradition, and the most influential, is Buddhism, which began in the 5th century BCE. Buddhism is the nontheistic religion that was started by Siddhartha Gautama, better known as the Buddha. Today psychology is confirming many of his insights into the human mind.

The second wisdom tradition is Daoism, which began around the 4th century BCE. Daoism, also spelled Taoism, was founded by a movement of those returning to nature. Laozi is the legendary founder. Today Ecopsychology is confirming the human need to be connected to nature.

The third wisdom tradition is Stoicism, which began in the 3rd century. Stoicism is a philosophy that was created by a man named Zeno of Citium. Today Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which was inspired by Stoicism, is confirming many of the Stoics insights.

The fourth wisdom tradition is Existentialism, which is a philosophical movement that began in the 19th century. It takes seriously our struggle to find meaning and purpose in the modern world. This gave rise to Existential psychology and Logotherapy.

Bodhidaoism is a Humanism

Bodhidaoism, the way of awakening, is the name of the personal religion that I invented in early 2017. It is a religion that doesn’t require a belief in God, the supernatural, or an afterlife. It is guided by science and inspired by Buddhism, Daoism, Stoicism, and Existentialism. It is a personal religion that is without clergy, church, or Bible.

I agree with the original group of Humanists, “Today man’s larger understanding of the universe, his scientific achievements, and deeper appreciation of brotherhood, have created a situation which requires a new statement of the means and purposes of religion. Such a vital, fearless, and frank religion…. is a major necessity of the present” (Humanist Manifesto I).

Since Bodhidaoism is a type of religious humanism, humanism is not considered one of the four wisdom traditions. Bodhidaoism, just like Humanism, “is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity” (Humanist Manifesto III).

Bodhidaoism “is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality” (IHEU Minimum Statement on Humanism).

What is Bodhidaoism?

I thought it might be a good idea to define what Bodhidaoism is. It is a worldview and way of life that I created in 2017. But here is a more in-depth definition.

Bodhidaoism is a natural religion that doesn’t include a belief in God, the supernatural, or an afterlife. It is an evidence-based religion that is guided by the relevant findings from the natural and social sciences. It is a new humanistic religion that is inspired by insights drawn from Buddhism, Daoism, Stoicism, and Existentialism. It is a personal religion since it is without clergy, church, or Bible.

It might also interest you to learn that I created the word Bodhidaoism by combining three words. Bodhi is from the Pali language of Buddhism and means awakening. Dao is from the Chinese and means ‘way.” And ism is a suffix, derived from the Greek, and means “doctrine : theory : religion” (Merriam-Webster.com).

I Was Wrong

I was wrong about Christianity. I was wrong about Gnosticism. I was wrong about Buddhism. But each time I was less wrong.

True rational consistency does not consist in stereotyping our beliefs and views, and in refusing to make any improvements lest we be guilty of change.

True rational consistency means holding our minds open to receive the rays of truth from every source, and in changing our beliefs as often and as fast as we obtain further information. This way of life alone accords with the claim of being rational.

No one should be afraid to change their beliefs in conformity with increasing knowledge. Such a fear would keep the world, at best, at a perpetual standstill on all subjects of inquiry, including science. Such a fear would mean all improvement would be prevented. The quest for truth would be aborted.

What is Philosophy?

Philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom, and a philosopher is one in pursuit of wisdom. This is why I call myself a philosopher.

The word philosophy comes from the Greek word philosophia,. The first part philo is the Greek word for friendship “love.” The second part is from the Greek word sophia, which is the word for “wisdom.” So philosophy is literally the “love of wisdom.”

Today philosophy means something else. It has become an academic discipline concerned with clear and rational thinking about a subject. It is far from the original conception, what Pierre Hadot calls “Philosophy as a way of life.”

I think that Epicurus said it best, “Empty is the word of a philosopher which does not heal any suffering of humanity.”

Conspiracy Theory Fallacy

The Conspiracy Theory Fallacy is a group of fallacies. That is why those who believe in a conspiracy theory cannot be convinced by the evidence. The theory is unfalsifiable.

The first fallacy is confirmation bias. This is the tendency to only notice information that confirms one’s prior beliefs. Things that don’t fit the theory are ignored or denied.

The second fallacy is called the furtive fallacy. This is when outcomes are asserted to have been caused by hidden misconduct by decision-makers. It does not merely consider the possibility of hidden actions but insists on them. It can lead to general paranoia.

The third fallacy is called the canceling hypotheses fallacy. This is when one defends one belief by proposing a second belief to explain the lack of evidence in support of the first belief. There is sometimes related to furtive fallacy.

People want life to make sense, and so they will grab unto a conspiracy theory to make sense of things. This is extremely dangerous, because it removes one from reality. We should aim to live an evidence-based life. It is the only sure path to truth.

So What is Wisdom?

If you search for a definition of wisdom, you will find little agreement. It is a hard word to define. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.” Not very helpful.

I have searched for a better definition but found none that I liked. So I have come up with my own.

Wisdom is the right use of knowledge for attaining insight into the true nature of reality so that one can live the good life.

“The right use of knowledge” is from the Zoroastrian religion. “Insight into the true nature of reality” is from Buddhism. And living “the good life” is from the Greek philosophical tradition.

Almost a Buddhist

The Buddha was amazing in getting a lot of things right over 2,500 years ago. He believed in the Big Bang, evolution, and the power of mindfulness for mental health. His was a religion that did not require a belief in God.

But being right about 95 things does not guarantee that one is right about the over five things. The Buddha was amazing but not infallible. There just is no evidence for the heavens and hells of Buddhism. And the evidence for rebirth is inconclusive.

That is why I am almost a Buddhist. I just can’t accept the six realms, rebirth, and the existence of gods without evidence. And yes, I could call myself a secular Buddhist, but I find that hollow. I understand why some people do, but it just doesn’t feel right. Even Stephen Batchelor avoids the term.

So where to go from here. First, I stopped writing the Buddhist column for Patheos. Second, I have returned to Bodhidaoist as my self-designation. Third, I have decided to start blogging again under my name. I hope you enjoy as I am in pursuit of wisdom in a world without God, the supernatural, and an afterlife.