Thanks for your welcome. Living in "the belly of the beast" as I do, contacts such as this are very important. I used to live in the Miami area, and then in Southern California. The USA in general is steeped in religious delusion, but it's very strong in mid Florida. It's my understanding that there are many nonbelievers in Great Britain, so you probably don't feel the degree of isolation we atheists feel here.
I looked over your page quickly. Very interesting.
To your point on Professor Dawkins article which I found interesting reading; as a product of 20th century America and having small children... we are dripping in the excess that is the "Christmas Season". It has always been a challenge to come to terms with my rational views of life (having been an atheist since childhood) and my Children's vampire like desire for all things Christmas. It was difficult to tell them just last year that in fact that there was no jolly elf that brought them goodies on Christmas Eve. Many a tear was shed all around. Instead of creating a "solstice" celebration or saying "merry Newtonday", we have decided to embrace the secular traditions; including Santa as metaphor for what we feel is what Christmas should be about. Rejoicing in the human spirit, helping those with less and showing your loved ones just how much they mean to you. If it includes an XBOX 360, so be it! Cheers.
I should hope so after 8 years of the war upon faiths as opposed to fact and science lets hope common sense returns. After being house bound 9 days over lack of snow removal it appears there are still a few left in office that need to be replaced.
Thanks for the welcome. In a quick scan of your page I see how grateful you are for your parents' lack of religious dogma.
One of my questions has to do with Western culture, literature specifically, since I am an English teacher and sometime journalist. Unlike in the U.K. C of E schools (where I went for a few years when my dad was in grad school), U.S. schools offer little to no biblical literature. Secular children--the majority here in New England--grow up with little understanding of many of the great works of art and literature because they don' t know the stories on which they are based.
As an English teacher teaching Steinbeck, for instance, in an American Lit class, I end up teaching bible stories before broaching Steinbeck's work because otherwise the kids utterly miss the allusions.
My own position on God and nature etc. is rooted in Jaynes work and neurology since then showing our consciousness tied to our ability to make metaphor from language. Lately I think that one of the best ways to make metaphor is to hear the same story over and over and over and allow the mind to drift while half listening. I have not seen any work on this phenomenon--because I barely can describe it myself, but I think if that state of knowing a story and its images and allowing free-association simultaneously enables the deep, idea, and image forming understanding humans seem to crave.
One question is, if Jaynes is right, that civilization, language, society etc. brought us this far--how do we keep the stories, the moral lessons, the (sort of) history in their right place? That is, we drop the fairy tale aspect, yet retain the moral beauty, or as John Gardner might have said, the moral fiction.
Mary Gordon parses moral fiction beautifully in this essay and describes the essential nature of story to our species. My other question is, as long as the biblical allusions are part of those stories, can we afford to distance ourselves from them and what is the best way to teach them to our children without imparting magical thinking?