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DeWitz

Non-theists, what is your 'ultimate concern?'

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Posted (edited)

One of the greatest Christian theologians of the 20th century, Paul Tillich, described the object of faith as one's "ultimate concern." He was so great that many Christian thinkers denied he was a Christian theologian. I am interested in what or whom non-theists place their trust. Just as Christians (and members of other faiths) have a deity with whom they are ultimately concerned, do some non-theists have an idea, movement, concept, discipline (science? logic? nature? self?) which functions as their "ultimate concern?" If so, what might it be?

I chose to post this in the "spirituality, religion and beliefs" forum because non-theists may have a secular spirituality and/or non-religious concerns and beliefs. I avoided the "spirituality and skepticism" venue due to the tendentiousness often encountered there, which does not facilitate genuine dialogue. Thanks.

Edited by DeWitz
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Posted (edited)

The ultimate concern of all humanity should, imo, be humanism.

We alone are responsible for our future, what we choose to become. I have no belief in deity, although I do not dismiss the possibility of it's existence, but I do - on occasion - have belief in humanity.

Edited by Leonardo
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For me there are a few... discipline would be minimalism (anti-commercialism, living with less, etc), movement would be towards a more ecologically sound society, and an outright cause would be better treatment of animals, farm, wild and domesticated pets.

But being agnostic I also put a great deal of thought into spiritual and philosophical realms.

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The ultimate concern of all humanity should, imo, be humanism.

We alone are responsible for our future, what we choose to become. I have no belief in deity, although I do not dismiss the possibility of it's existence, but I do - on occasion - have belief in humanity.

My brother used to call himself a "humanist," then relaized he was giving short shrift to the dolphins, whales or any other living organism. He doesn't use an "-ist" to describe his beliefs, but he's kind of a "bio-ist" or radical ecologist.

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Posted (edited)

Hmm. My ultimate concern is the future of humans (and I approach things like a scientist.)

I try to practice kindness to others (at least in person. On the Internet, I can be CrankyLeopardPants but I try to not overdo it.) I try to inspire people to reach out and learn new things and to enjoy life, because I enjoy life so very much.

Edited by Kenemet
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Posted (edited)

My brother and many acquaintances are into environmental causes and the wholistic ('gaia') view of the world in itself as an organism, if I understand that point of view accurately.

Edited by DeWitz

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Enjoyment of life is a great value. However, so many of the billions on this planet are in abject misery and poverty. It seems like enjoyment is a value tied directly to economic advancement and financial security. Then again, many would say that money has nothing to do with the enjoyment of life.

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As an aside to your OP, DeWitz, what do you think Tillich was referring to when he said "the object of your faith"?

Was he referring to the deity or deities which is/are the subject of that faith, or the reward promised for adherence to it?

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I'd be classed under Existential Nihilism though most likely with definite Hedonism in there too - why bother suffering? My only concern really is being at peace with myself and others as much as possible.

I'm not scared about a meaningless existence, in fact I find comfort in it and if I can enjoy myself in the process, why not? I used to care about things more than I do now but I've found comfort in giving up.

Too many it might seem like a scumbags way of living but to be honest, I don't care. I leave people to their own devices and expect the same in return.

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<--- points to Jain symbol avatar.

Ahmisa paramo dharma

(non-violence is the paramount teaching)

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Posted (edited)

As an aside to your OP, DeWitz, what do you think Tillich was referring to when he said "the object of your faith"?

Was he referring to the deity or deities which is/are the subject of that faith, or the reward promised for adherence to it?

My opinion, and I'm not a Tillich expert, is that he was referring to whatever thing, entity, concept, ideal or behavior that individuals place their ultimate concern in. For some it could be money/wealth, others nationalism/tribalism, others an ideology or theory. Tillich experienced conflict with some other Christian theologians because he, in a sense, 'de-deified' the object of ultimate concern, insisting that it is anything into which one pours his/her soul and life energies. For some Christians, this would be some form of a transcendent god apprehended through the human-god Jesus, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (this is but one Christian construct), experienced in community.

What do you think?

Edited by DeWitz
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As long as it's not evil, "the object of your faith" as you described could be many things, and not necessarily spiritual or religious. It reminds me of the theologian Teilhard de Chardin, who was also a paleontologist and took part in the discovery of Peking Man. He got censored for some of his controversial theories.

From Wiki:

"Teilhard de Chardin, consistent with the Jesuit motto of “finding God in all things”, wanted to demonstrate that secular work (including his own scientific work) was an integral element of creation and the Incarnation, so that for religious reasons, Christians should be committed to whatever work they were doing and offering it up for the service of God."

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Posted (edited)

It is in the role of the "ultimate concern" that Tillich refers to the spiritual, religious sphere. The ultimacy is the religiosity. The object, as you said, could be anything. Even the concept of evil could be a conscious, willful object of ultimate concern, if that is what one is ultimately-concerned with.

Edited by DeWitz

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. Even the concept of evil could be a conscious, willful object of ultimate concern, if that is what one is ultimately-concerned with.

Yes, I'll have to grant you that. History has definitely born that out.

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I had an epiphany in which I felt connected to everything and everyone, and understood and felt how everything is all connected; it was marvelous, I was so filled with bliss I could hardly talk. It was like I had finally understood where I fit in this huge, live, glowing luminescent energy that was contained in everything and contained everything. So whatever anyone wants to call that, that is my object of faith. I've carried that around with me every since, and just knowing it's there, it exists, fills me with joy and awe.

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My concern would be us stepping backwards.

We all know the basics. History. Religion when backed by government does a LOT of harm and really... very little good. We see it today as well when we think of Muslim countries where the ones doing the harm are the extremist and the governmnt backs them up.

As science moves forwards, we take a step away from superstition. We seemingly (for most, but not all) take steps from religion/faith. In all the fact of science being every changing, it is never changing in taking us backwards back to superstitious beliefs, back to religious beliefs ruling us..

I do not care if there is a God. It would not matter, religion is so vast and in such great numbers of dfferent beliefs, that it needs to remain out of politics and science. BEcause history and present history shows how dangerous it is when you get one religoius belief governing the people and taking rights away based on religion.

I worry about stepping backwards... us not learning from our history.

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Posted (edited)

My opinion, and I'm not a Tillich expert, is that he was referring to whatever thing, entity, concept, ideal or behavior that individuals place their ultimate concern in. For some it could be money/wealth, others nationalism/tribalism, others an ideology or theory. Tillich experienced conflict with some other Christian theologians because he, in a sense, 'de-deified' the object of ultimate concern, insisting that it is anything into which one pours his/her soul and life energies. For some Christians, this would be some form of a transcendent god apprehended through the human-god Jesus, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (this is but one Christian construct), experienced in community.

What do you think?

The "object of faith" is, to me, the goal of having faith - why a person has faith. And that should cause concern for many religious people, imo, because I see many religions promoting a personal goal as that object.

The reason I believe this is that the "object of faith" must be something that can be realised, and not an unattainable, unrealisable, abstract such as 'good' or 'evil'.

Edited by Leonardo
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The "object of faith" is, to me, the goal of having faith - why a person has faith. And that should cause concern for many religious people, imo, because I see many religions promoting a personal goal as that object.

The reason I believe this is that the "object of faith" must be something that can be realised, and not an unattainable, unrealisable, abstract such as 'good' or 'evil'.

Maybe this is a question of semantics or verbiage. Tillich was clear that nebulous concepts such as "good," "evil," "the revolution of the proletariat," or "justice for all people," along with more concrete goals such as "national/racial identity," "a homeland for my people," or "the protection of the last remaining superpower on earth" can all be ultimate concerns for some individuals and groups.

Tillich was aware of , and wrote about, the possibility of the demonic usurping such people and groups. The guideline for assessing a person or group was to identify the actual ultimate concern at play. For instance, a theoretical church group might identify the Christian God as their ultimate concern in their literature and liturgy, but in actuality they are concerned ultimately with building a bigger building and being a more influential force in their particular denomination and tradition. In Tillich's view, the object of faith is whatever the person or group addresses as their ultimate concern, in words but more importantly, in deeds.

Tillich came out of, and was critical of, German national socialism in the 1930's. He saw clearly that, despite co-opting the German Christian churches, Hitler and the Nazis had no allegiance to any power above them (as in a deity). Their ideology was their religion--their ultimate concern. More mild cases of government, homeland, freedom, hope, etc. (some concrete, some nebulous) serving as ultimate concerns to groups and individuals can be seen throughout history and on our contemporary landscape of faith.

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I have never heard of Tillich! I don't seem to have any need of a faith or a spiritual input in my life, the here and now suits me well.

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One would hear of Tillich in an undergraduate History of Christian Theology course or in graduate level studies in Philosophical Theology or Christian Doctrine. His is not an everyday name, although that does not negate his influence in formal theology.

One of his greatest contributions to the field is this notion of "ultimate concern." In his view, everyone has an ultimate concern which coincides with their object of faith. It could be anything from material wealth to world peace to a traditional god. It's just one of many tools of theological analysis.

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I don't know if I am placed as theist or non-theist. Nature is God to me. My concern is we have moved so far from nature we will end up on the extinction list. The Abrahamic concept of god puts man above nature which to me is a flawed idea, in that we a subject to laws of nature and physics. As we pollute and make changes to natural systems we put our children and maybe ourselves at risk of a miserable future. It concerns me when people talk about the end of the world in terms of the return of a god king to rescue us from ourselves.

My Christian friends tell me I worship the creation, which is fine with me. It is the creation the sustains and nourishes me. I am a child of the Earth and stars and no more than that. That was my epiphany and my bliss.

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Maybe this is a question of semantics or verbiage. Tillich was clear that nebulous concepts such as "good," "evil," "the revolution of the proletariat," or "justice for all people," along with more concrete goals such as "national/racial identity," "a homeland for my people," or "the protection of the last remaining superpower on earth" can all be ultimate concerns for some individuals and groups.

My opinion is that the "ultimate concern" must be something that extends beyond the individual (be unselfish), which is why I expressed caution regarding those religions which promote a personal reward for faith. I am unconvinced regarding the inclusion of abstracts such as 'good' and 'evil' as "ultimate concerns", as I feel their almost total subjectivity removes them from inclusion. I accept one might argue that other abstract concepts such as 'equality' (which I would consider a valid "ultimate concern") might be argued to also be subjective - but are they as subjective as 'good' and 'evil'?

I would consider carefully the reason why someone claimed "good" (or evil) as their "ultimate concern" - because it would seem to me that such a claim might only be hiding a purely personal (i.e. selfish) goal.

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Posted (edited)

The Abrahamic concept of god puts man above nature which to me is a flawed idea

Others have/had the same idea;

"Deep ecology is a contemporary ecological and environmental philosophy characterized by its advocacy of the inherent worth of living beings regardless of their instrumental utility to human needs, and advocacy for a radical restructuring of modern human societies in accordance with such ideas"

Edited by redhen
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My opinion is that the "ultimate concern" must be something that extends beyond the individual (be unselfish)

Sounds good to me.

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To help continue the upward trend humanity has been experiencing since the start of the modern era. It's vague, because I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to do that, but I wish to get involved in Diplomacy one day so that might have some effect.

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