other thoughts religion

Recent YouTube adventures

[yesterday: 3.9 miles with a lot of walking (I was tired)]

My YouTube diet up until recently had been mechanical repair. Then a few months ago I ran into these online court proceedings and that has been fun.

But more recently than that (I wrote about this just a bit ago), I’ve been seeing a lot of VanderKlay commentary on Jordan Peterson.

There are trends going on that I didn’t know about. That’s no surprise. I live in Mississippi. Mississippi has its own trends, but they usually aren’t followed by others, so they don’t escape. The only thing like that I can think of recently was the Mississippi case in the US Supreme Court that successfully overturned Roe v. Wade. I’m leaving out all of the musical and literary stuff. People are ok with following the musical and literary trends from Mississippi.

Anyway, there seems to be a trend away from New Atheism and toward Cultural Christianity and even genuine personal Christianity. The Atantic is running an article about how the downward trend in church attendance has correlated with other cultural unraveling. Richard Dawkins stated that he prefers living in a culture built on Christianity even though he doesn’t believe any of it himself. Some moderately well known people have declared conversion. And the forms of Christianity that are popular are the ones with longer historic roots, not the “relevant” stuff.

Jordan Peterson started off in psychology and latched on to the meaning of “story” and followed that by tracing some of the oldest stories and a series of lectures on stories from the Bible, particularly the O.T. His angle is that people are wired not for reasoning things out in a scientific or mathematical way. The most direct response to sensory input involves filtering through an importance system. The stock argument for this uses a video where people are passing a ball around, like a basketball and the viewer is asked to focus on the activities of the ball passers, like to count the number of times the ball is passed. Later the video is examined without that focus and the same people can see a man walk through the scene wearing a gorilla suit. But with the initial focus, that event isn’t even noticed! So this importance filter is used at a very low level to remove “noise” and in doing so major details of the experience are lost.

Peterson calls this importance filter a “value” system. Which it is, since importance and value are nearly synonymous. And (I’m not completely clear on this) stories are the way that we make larger patterns of value, like pre-packaged value filters. He then points out that these pre-packaged value hierarchies have larger patterns which point to an understanding of Good, so there are supreme, cross cultural values which are understood to be Good in a universal truth sense. (this part reminds me of reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance where there is a lot of discussion of a universal thing called Quality)

Peterson says these patterns/stories imply a supreme Good, and that the people (individuals) and cultures that work by these patterns are more durable and successful. He has come right up to the cusp of saying he believes the Christian story is true.

And that is kind of interesting because it travels a path from noticing the importance of certain story patterns to saying that the story patterns are there for a reason. I don’t follow him closely enough to know if he is saying the story patterns are a “discovery” of practical utility or if the patterns were a “revelation” from outside source(s). He has a book coming out in November which will probably cover that.

So, the surprising thing is that Peterson’s lectures of how to have a meaningful life (make your bed in the morning), to story patterns in the Bible seem to have come at the same time these “I’d rather live in a Christian culture” folks have concluded that “default” naturalism isn’t going to work. I don’t know if those are directly related.

VanderKlay then picked up on Peterson’s success in arousing interest in Bible stories, getting people to pay to go to these lectures talking about Adam and Eve, Moses, etc etc. And there seems to be a re-awakening of sorts in the listless and distracted, that life is more than pizza and playing video games. He (VanderKlay) points out that Christian traditions are durable and can survive being questioned and examined and can provide the meaning for life that people want. So he has a cloud of people around him, mostly in their 20s-30s, who have video round-table discussions about interesting theologies and traditions and such, and the pitfalls of contemporary life like endless drugs and porn.

I’m kind of a bit old for that. Most of my meaning-of-life questions are settled to my satisfaction. Although I will say that having grandchildren did give that kind of thing a new twist. In the places where I comment or whatever, usually it is from a desire to point something out that I’ve already concluded. And I’m not sure it is a useful role.

But I’ve been watching these videos and thinking about stuff. With aging and retirement and sickness in the picture, there is this realization that my ability to distract myself, “contribute”, and have any importance will diminish over the next years and I am interested in keeping that going as long as possible. Also I see some people have more success than others in aging, just like some have more success than others in earlier life stages.

I have some thoughts on that which I will keep for another time.