He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fair Questions: Does religion cause more harm than good? Part II

Over at the occasionally insightful Salon, Valerie Tarico posts a set of 6 reasons to justify the notion that religion does more harm than good.  I would like to examine these reasons and attempt to sort out the extent to which they might support the claim that religion does more harm than good.

In the course of this analysis, I will approach the claims as an empiricist with a scientific worldview so as not to prejudice my conclusions.  For the convenience of the reader, I will perform my analysis in parts, taking two of the author's claims at a time.

3.  Religion makes a virtue out of faith.

The author really doesn't provide any evidence for this claim beyond the anecdotal, but I will help because I'm a swell guy like that. The Catholic Church holds very specifically to the idea that faith (along with hope and charity) is a virtue of great importance, specifically faith in the Christian conception of God. This claim has (yet again) the same problem as previous claims made by the author; the evidence isn't strong enough to support her general conclusion.  Let's take for example the Buddhist religion (a religion to which I seriously considered converting ten years ago).  The below quote from the discourses of the Buddha in the Pali Canon illustrates the problem with the author's claim that religion in general teaches its adherents to trust authorities rather than trusting their own thinking.

"Do not go by oral tradition, by lineage of teaching, by hearsay, by a collection of texts, by logic, by inferential reasoning, by reasoned cogitation, by the acceptance of a view after pondering it, by the seeming competence of the speaker, or because you think, 'The ascetic is our teacher.'  But when you know for yourselves, 'These things are unwholesome; these things are blameable; these things are censured by the wise; these things, if undertaken and practiced, lead to harm and suffering.' then you should decide to abandon them."

This portion of the Buddha's discourses is perhaps why some have claimed that Buddhism is an atheistic philosophy rather than a religion, but the evidence is strongly against that view, what with the Buddha's references to deities and demons along with heavenly and hellish dimensions in his discourses.  So we know that not all religions train their adherents to trust authority rather than their own minds, but could the author retreat to the view that Christianity trains its adherents in such a way?  Well, that would a difficult argument to make in light of the diversity of Christian views in the United States, which seems to be the only place the author has any limited experience with religion.

Most American Christians who belong to one of the hundreds of post-Reformation era forms of Christianity have a "subjective and individualistic version" of the doctrine of sola scriptura, which is the idea that the Bible alone is the rule of the Christian faith.  And that statement was made by a Reformed Christian who believes the doctrine of sola scriptura, lest the reader think that it was a prejudiced remark.  He is exactly right that most U.S. Christians have a subjective and individualistic understanding of the Bible, choosing to trust their own thinking rather than trusting an external authority to tell them what the passages of the Bible mean.  Given this, the author should perhaps have more sympathy with religious folks who take those Iron Age views by virtue of trusting their own thinking.

But could the author fall back to the position that ancient Christian Churches such as the Catholic, Coptic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches train their adherents to trust authority rather than their own thinking?  Yes, at least on matters of pertinence to the Christian faith.  On other matters like physics and biological evolution, the adherent is taught to respect the natural sciences as an authority.  Even in the much-cited case of Galileo Galilei, Pope Urban was actually a patron to Galileo who provided him with funding for his scientific endeavors until he wrote a book that made the Pope look like the idiot in his dialogue.  The Catholic Church has since come to accept the modern view of cosmology that is neither geocentric or heliocentric, and many Catholic clergy have been active in the natural sciences since there were natural sciences.  So it would be difficult to even make the broad claim that the ancient Christian churches teach a general trust of authority rather than a trust in one's own thinking.

But could the author fall back to the position that at least with regard to theology and morality, the ancient Christian churches teach their adherents to trust the authority of the church rather than their own thinking?  Yes.  And this may or may not be a problem.  The fallacy of the argument from authority is only a fallacy when we appeal to an authority without the necessary expertise to advise us on the issue at hand.  Which means that in order to decide whether or not the ancient Christian churches are actually experts on theology and morality and their adherents should trust them, we would have to have a means of determining what it means to be an expert on theology and morality.

And how would we even do that when we can't trust our own thinking?  As famous skeptic Michael Shermer has noted many times and continues to bring forward today, we human beings are notoriously bad at the whole thinking thing, which is why conspiracy theories that require ignoring evidence and assuming that large swaths of humanity are both extremely competent and extremely malicious are still popular across party lines and demographic groups.  Even 23% of people with post-graduate degrees are prone to these cognitive errors, which suggests that academic training alone isn't a reliable cure for our normal human cognitive problems.  And there's nothing new or interesting about conspiracy theories about religious groups we are predisposed to dislike.  Which brings me to the next point...

4.  Religion diverts generous impulses and good intentions.

The author is very correct that sometimes religious organizations and religiously motivated charities do enrich their leaders rather than spending their money on more useful projects.  That is very true and quite a shame when it happens. It has happened with lots of religious organizations at various times.  This claim is true, but misleading because of what it omits.  This problem is not unique to those with religious motivations.

While some might think that it is indicative of a problem with religion that a large majority of the scandals around charities come from religious people or explicitly religious charities, that is exactly what we should expect when the vast majority of people are religious.  The most plausible explanation for the fact that the majority of charitable misconduct comes from folks with a religious affiliation (in light of the fact that these problems are not exclusive to religious persons) is simply that human beings find it very easy to spend a lot of money on themselves when they have the opportunity.

This is related to a common behavioral problem with human beings, which is that we consume more resources in proportion to the availability of those resources.  And this makes perfect sense in light of our evolution under harsh survival pressure, circumstances under which the smart play is to consume as much of a resource as you can while it is available because resources are very scarce and one does not know when that resource might be available in the future.

The author's more specific claims have a somewhat different problem, which is that she assumes that there is an inherent conflict between the behaviors of those who care for another person out of religious motivations and the behaviors that are actually helpful to that person.  This might or might not be the case, and we would need an objective morality by which to measure a person's actions in order to adjudicate that claim.

Stay tuned for an examination of the 5th and 6th claims.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fair Questions: Does religion cause more harm than good? Part I

Over at the occasionally insightful Salon, Valerie Tarico posts a set of 6 reasons to justify the notion that religion does more harm than good.  I would like to examine these reasons and attempt to sort out the extent to which they might support the claim that religion does more harm than good.

In the course of this analysis, I will approach the claims as an empiricist with a scientific worldview so as not to prejudice my conclusions.  For the convenience of the reader, I will perform my analysis in parts, taking two of the author's claims at a time.

1.  Religion promotes tribalism.

The author cites verses from the Bible and the Koran to substantiate this claim.  And those verses do indeed indicate a mentality of tribalism.  That said, the first difficulty with this claim is that the evidence provided is simply insufficient to substantiate a general claim about religion.  It might substantiate a claim that, "Christianity and Islam promote tribalism."  Even that may be a stretch, because there are also verses in the Bible ("Love your enemy...") and the Koran ("...and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess.") which support an imperative to reach across tribal boundaries that might otherwise normally restrict the kindness of an "Iron Age" person.  In the end, the strongest claim that might be supported by the evidence offered by the author is the claim that, "Christianity and Islam promote tribalism in some cases and promote crossing tribal lines in other cases."

But to be fair, is it possible that we could make the claim inclusive of more religions?  Certainly. We could add other religions to the list and selectively quote their sacred texts as well.  The difficulty is that finding an example of tribalism in the Tao Te Ching would be far more difficult than finding one in the Koran.  Some religious texts have more tribal elements than others, and some have strong elements of universalism.  This makes it impossible to make the case that tribalism is a feature that is common to religions in general.

And even if we could find evidence to support the claim the religions, without exception, promote tribalism, then we face the problem of explaining the tribalism so obviously present in other areas of human life.  Why do we have extremely tribal and polarized political parties who consistently harangue the other party?  Why do we see the development of similar fault lines in secular governments (e.g. the U.S.S.R. and China and North Korea) in which there is one party that oppresses everyone else who isn't aligned with the party?  Why do our schools have cliques and our workplaces have in-groups and out-groups?  Why do our families often undergo division into people loyal to one family member and people loyal to another family member?

There's a very simple reason for this.  We evolved as pack animals, and we think in terms of friends and foes because that is a very functional way for a pack animal to operate when their survival depends on having reliable pack members to ensure their survival.  Tribalism isn't a function of religion.  It's a function of being human.

2. Religion anchors believers to the Iron Age. 

Granting the assumption that the author's moral intuitions are correct, there are nonetheless serious issues with this claim.  Once again, the author doesn't provide evidence sufficient to substantiate the claim that religion in general anchors people to the Iron Age and only focuses on a small subset of religions.  Scientology is about as far from an Iron Age religion as one could get, and it exhibits many attributes the author seems to find so troubling in those Iron Age religions, such as the reckless acquisition of wealth, a deep-seated need for control over its adherents, and wacky beliefs without good evidence for them.  The general claim that religion anchors believers to the Iron Age is dead on arrival.

This issue is compounded by the author's invocation of the Golden Rule, a rule that came out of a religion which (according to the author) is anchored to the Iron Age.  If this most excellent rule came out of the mentalities of some guy anchored to an Iron Age culture, a guy who upheld the capricious laws of the Torah, then why would we trust it?  Shouldn't we be suspicious of moral claims made by a guy like that?

That said, would we be justified in making the much more modest claim that "Judaism, Christianity, and Islam anchor their believers to the Iron Age?"  The author focused on those religions, so let's examine them.  Given that there are millions of contemporary Jews, Christians, and Muslims who oppose violence, superstition, misogyny, racism, and willful ignorance...well, it's difficult to take seriously the idea that those religions keep everyone in the Iron Age.  At best, we might be justified in claiming that, "People who want to anchored to the Iron Age can use a subset of religions to anchor themselves to the Iron Age."

The author makes the point that believers can easily find validation for their bad behavior.  So what?  What's surprising about people employing normal human confirmation bias to find evidence for their position anywhere they can while conveniently ignoring evidence that might counter their position?  If we are reading the author's article on religion to which I am responding, then we can see that this particular human trait is alive and well today.  The article is a great example of it.

What actually anchors us to the mentalities of the Iron Age is the fact that our brains are basically the same as our Iron Age forebears.  We are subject to the same in-group bias, confirmation bias, and agency over-detection that we see so clearly in the behavior of our ancestors.  Today we have widespread belief in clearly false conspiracy theories, irrational ideological allegiances, and a fascination with New Age occult practices.  Our cognitive errors are no more infrequent than the cognitive errors of our ancestors, though they may lead us to somewhat different incorrect conclusions.

Stay tuned for an examination of the 3rd and 4th claims.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fair Questions: What is heresy?

These are many ways of defining heresy, though for an orthodox Catholic like me, the definition is somewhat more precise in the context of my religion.  The Catholic Encyclopedia Online has an excellent article on heresy that provides a comprehensive view full of important distinctions.  It also notes that many heretical Christian beliefs are named after the folks who originated or popularized them, such as the Arian, Montanist, Pelagian, or Valentinian Gnostic heresies.  While these are useful and important ways of understanding heresy, the simple straightforward definition of heresy is that it is a persistent belief in a doctrine contrary to a defined truth of the Christian faith.

It is worth mentioning that, under this definition, having doubts is not heresy.  And there is a spectrum along which we can exist without falling into heresy (though we might be on the road toward heresy while on this spectrum).  It is certainly possible to hold opinions whose logical consequences are incoherent with a truth of the Christian faith (or several truths thereof) without understanding that incoherence or having the ability to recognize it.  Heresy is an intentional thing, and we cannot be heretics without the intention to believe something contrary to the faith, though we can certainly be heretics without understanding that we are heretics.

One thing that can be learned from a historical study of heresy is that most people who choose a heretical position do so with the best of intentions and often firmly believe that their heretical belief is perfectly coherent with the truth of the Christian faith.  They are generally not malicious and can even be quite virtuous in many respects.  While heretics share a denial of a truth of the Christian faith and a belief in their adherence to the truth of the faith, they can differ significantly as to how they arrive at a doctrine contrary to the faith.

There are two common paths taken to the citadel of heresy, and these paths should be familiar to the Christian reader from Sacred Scripture.

"Deuteronomy 4:2 Do not add to what I command you and do not take away from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you."

Additive Christianity

We begin down the first path toward heresy when we take the position that Christianity in its fullness is not sufficient, that we need something more than mere Christianity.  This is the path taken by the various Gnostic sects who believed that there was a higher truth beyond the existing early Christian worldview, a truth available to those with special knowledge of the esoteric.  This is also the path of the Hermeticists, the 16th century astrologer and philosopher Giordano Bruno of recently renewed fame being one example of this search of the esoteric Egyptian beliefs for a higher truth.  This path is the one walked by those who are popularly called Mormons, followers of Joseph Smith who brought what he believed was a new revelation of the truth of Christianity to the United States in the 19th century and tacked on a bunch of new texts to the existing Bible.

Even today, there are certainly examples of people who take this well-worn path toward heresy.  Some folks have reached the conclusion that we need some of the insights of Buddhism in Christianity to round it out, that we can create a worthwhile syncretistic religion by combining what we see as the best of both traditions, an approach often taken by the Gnostics who existed alongside the Christian communities of antiquity.  Perhaps one might believe that Christianity would be better if it were to involve the increasingly popular practice of yoga or the little known Jain monastic disciplines.   Perhaps one might seek to merge Christian beliefs with various Native American cosmologies or theological positions.  This is an additive Christianity, a process of tacking on systems of thought incoherent with Christianity and calling it Christianity, but a better Christianity with a higher knowledge or a deeper understanding.

Reductive Christianity

We begin down the second path toward heresy when we take the position that Christianity in its fullness is not necessary, that we can remove some of the parts we find uncomfortable for philosophical or emotional reasons and have a purer Christianity.  This is the path taken by Arius and others, to deny that Christ is consubstantial with God the Father because he could not reason his way to the traditional Christian view of the Sonship of Christ.  This is also the path of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformers who followed after him, whether it was taken by removing books from Sacred Scripture to suit his theology as Martin Luther did or by adopting the three Solas (Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura) so as to exclude the role of the Christian tradition that had formed the scriptures and provided the concepts of grace and faith used by the Reformers.  This path is the one walked by those who were popularly called Shakers, a branch from the Quakers founded by George Fox in the 17th century, Christians who quite seriously took away sex from Christianity, practicing abstinence in a heroic fashion that lead to the collapse of many of their communities.

Even today, we see this path being taken quite often as more and more people describe themselves as Christians without a church or spiritual without a religion, taking more and more away from Christianity until it is unrecognizable as having anything to do with Christ because it is fully compatible with contemporary values, values which are often mutually exclusive with the values of Jesus in the Gospel.  This subjecting of the faith to the limitations of the reasoning capacity of the individual often leads to a philosophical religion and can even take us further down the path to universalism, an increasingly prominent view among my contemporaries which suggests that all will be saved, making all religions equally valid in their view.  This is a reductive Christianity, a process of taking away from the deposit of the Christian faith until it suits our preferences and priorities and still calling it Christianity, but a better Christianity without all those troublesome parts that challenge our sensibilities.

Customized Christianity

In many cases today, we are tempted to walk both paths toward the citadel of heresy, adding to Christianity what we find valuable in other religious traditions and in secular contemporary values while at the same time taking away or downplaying those parts of Christianity that are counter-cultural and seen as unenlightened and irrational.  The result is a customized Christianity, a Christianity which has been reshaped in the image of the individual who has fashioned it to meet their individual preferences.

It is an additive Christianity in that they have added their own preferences to it and fashioned it in their own image, and it is a reductive Christianity in that they have taken away the parts of Christ's message that challenge them, leaving only the platitudes that comfort them without asking them to grow.  It is a Christianity which at a certain point is no longer Christianity and can only be properly described as a religion of the individual's own making, a Selfianity in which Christ has been pushed out to make room for the Self as the final arbiter of truth.

This is where heresy ultimately leads; in denying a truth of the faith, that faith is made incoherent and thus there is less reason to accept it along with more reason to reject it.  In heresy we unravel a thread in the seamless garment of the Christian worldview, gradually tearing away the garment to reveal a Christ without the garment he made for himself and finding a Christ whose teachings are unacceptable to our egos, a Christ from whom we then walk away alongside the rich man of the Gospel so that we can embrace a new religion constructed of our own preferences and pathologies, perhaps remembering fondly a Christ we could not quite accept and perhaps being disappointed by Christ being so unenlightened and irrational.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Juvenile Anthropology: Abandoning the Good

In many discussions with my contemporaries, it is argued that a thing should be permitted because it is not explicitly prohibited.  Others take it a step further and propose that what is not explicitly prohibited is not only permitted, but acceptable.  Others take it even further and suggest that all is permitted, that any act by a moral actor is good.  This last view is not a view that is generally taken seriously, perhaps because we often intuitively understand that if any act we choose is good, then the distinction between good and evil is a moot point in practice.

But the previous views are taken seriously, and that is why they are worth addressing.  The first argument is problematic because it assumes that there are no principled ways we might evaluate the moral quality of an act when there is no existing prohibition on it.  Prior to the detonation of the first atomic bomb, there was no prohibition on detonating an atomic bomb.  Does this mean that we had no principled way to determine whether or not we ought to detonate an atomic bomb, that we should simply permit it in the absence of an existing prohibition?  Most of us would be extremely reluctant to apply this sort of moral reasoning to a historical case, so why would we use it today?  Why would we not apply existing moral principles from some deontological or consequentialist framework in order to determine whether it should be permitted or prohibited?  Usually, the answer is, "Because I want to do it!"  I'll leave it to the reader to decide whether or not that's a convincing answer.

The second argument is problematic as well because it assumes that what is permitted is acceptable.  People are permitted to make horrifyingly hateful statements about their fellow human beings in the United States.  People are permitted to call others stupid, to belittle them, to make false statements about them.  And yet who would claim that this sort of bullying is acceptable simply because it is permitted?  Who would propose that these are morally good acts?  Usually the people performing those acts, "Because I want to do it!"

The deeper problem with both of these views is that they come out of a juvenile anthropology, an understanding of what it means to be human that assumes that the best mode in which we can exist as humans is the one in which we don't do bad things, rude things, harmful things.  All of which is to say that we should avoid being a "bad person".  This is not necessarily a bad goal, but it is only the beginning of moral development.  As a child, my moral goal was to not be a bad person.  I sought to avoid the painful consequences of my decisions.  As a youth, my moral goal was to be a good person.  I sought the rewards of acceptable behavior.  As an adult, my moral goal is to be a person of the highest virtue, to turn away from both what is evil and from what is merely acceptable toward what is most excellent, what is most true, and what is most beautiful.

Many of us have taken a view of morality that is suitable for children and paraded it around as if it were the ideal, a vision of a mature morality.  This provides a model of morality for our children that affirms their existing childlike morality that is completely appropriate for a child and never calls them to develop beyond it as they grow toward adulthood.  Many of us have let our children stagnate in what Kohlberg called a pre-conventional morality, seeking to avoid punishment and gain pleasurable rewards.  In doing so, we create a generation of adults who are functioning at the same moral level as a child in most respects.  This should sound very familiar to anyone currently working with university students in the United States, which I currently do.

We should want to give them something greater than a life in which the only meaning or purpose they can have is the one they share with an earthworm.  We owe it to our children to offer them something better than existing in the childlike state of fearing punishment and seeking pleasure, adrift in a sea of desires on a world of moral twilight with no moral compass by which to navigate.  We should be willing to lead them to the universal moral principles characteristic of a mature morality, the rules of love that will take them into a happiness much deeper and wider than anything they have yet known.

Instead of abandoning the good in favor of what is acceptable, permitted, or not prohibited, we can embrace the highest good and lead those we love to grow toward that good so that they can have what is indeed the good life, a life guided by principles rather than mere response to stimuli.  We can show others the path to what is the greatest good, the most profound truth, and the best beauty so that they can have more than what is merely acceptable, permitted, or not prohibited.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Juvenile Anthropology: Terminating the Future

Every society has an anthropology, by which I mean a cultural understanding of what it is to be human and what the implications of human nature are upon our moral obligations.  There is currently in post-industrial Western countries a crisis of anthropology as the traditional anthropology tries to survive the arrival of the contemporary anthropology.   I know this all too well as someone who previously held to a juvenile anthropology.

In these countries, the traditional anthropology is the Christian anthropology.  In the Christian anthropology, we are children of God, inherently worthwhile as persons.  In the Christian anthropology, human life is a precious gift to be preserved and the natural world is a gift to cherish as careful stewards of it.  In the Christian anthropology, sex is a gift to be used wisely and carefully.  In the Christian anthropology, suffering is informative and educative, a process that tells us what is causing us harm and showing us where we need to grow.  In the Christian anthropology, men and women are complementary to one another and a mutual gift to one another.  In the Christian anthropology, our highest purpose is altruistic.  In the Christian anthropology, human being are frail-minded and foolish, a view supported by modern cognitive science that has found us making myriad cognitive errors in the normal course of daily life.  In the Christian anthropology, we are unable to perceive many important things about our world, a view compatible with what science has revealed about the limitations of our perceptual mechanisms.

In the juvenile anthropology, we are inherently worthwhile as persons...just because.  Except in cases in which we don't feel pain.  Or aren't sufficiently cognitively developed.  Or in cases in which we feel lots of pain and little pleasure, so why bother living?  In the juvenile anthropology, human life is an accident to be enjoyed while it lasts with what pleasures are available to us and the natural world is either a resource to be exploited while it lasts or a source of beauty to be preserved as it was when we found it.  In the juvenile anthropology, sex is a right to be enjoyed liberally and in whatever way we prefer to have it.  In the juvenile anthropology, suffering is immoral because we don't like it, and we should make it stop.  In the juvenile anthropology, men and women are enjoyable to each other as bodies to delight in, a source of an emotional and physiological high until the next body is found.  In the juvenile anthropology, our highest purpose is hedonistic (and of the Cyrenaic variety).  In the juvenile anthropology, human beings are strong-minded and rational, but only if they agree with us.  The rest of them are idiots.  In the juvenile anthropology, what we perceive is all there is and it is deeply important, though not quite as important as our opinions.

The Christian anthropology may have problems for those who don't accept its particular theology or cosmology, but when the label of Christian is taken away and the historical baggage of the behavior of Christians is dropped, it is still a mature anthropology that understands human weakness and calls us to lives of deeper happiness.  It's an anthropology developed by adults who have a depth of human experience.

Contemporary anthropology by and large sounds like the viewpoint of a spoiled adolescent.  It is cynical, selfish in the most unhealthy ways, and deeply incoherent.  It is juvenile, exemplary of the worst of youthful behavior and tendencies with none of the positive qualities of youth.  Ironically in light of its obsession with youth, our culture has adopted a juvenile anthropology that is quite ancient.  It is the same juvenile anthropology that lead to the widespread practice of infanticide in ancient Rome.  After all, sex is a right to be enjoyed liberally, but the juvenile don't need to deal with those pesky natural consequences of their behavior.

The mature Christian anthropology of our mystics and ascetics and Saints is under fire from an anthropology that takes the view of a teenager who just doesn't understand why he can't do just anything his whims would lead him to do because he sees himself as his own final authority. This juvenile anthropology ignores the scientific understanding of our cognitive and perceptual limitations just as strongly as it denies the understanding gained through mature sacrifice and self-denial. It will cause a grave failure in human progress if we adopt this juvenile anthropology because it will prevent us from understanding ourselves well enough to grow and adapt in the face of new problems.

In an increasingly globalized and densely populated world, we need altruistic and mature individuals who understand their own limitations in such a way that they can empathize with the weakness of others and solve problem cooperatively rather than refusing to work with others because they aren't smart enough or strong enough or likable enough. Those who hold to a juvenile understanding of their own human nature will not be able to help us move into a future in which those qualities are need because they will be stuck in adolescent mentalities, stagnating in the worst nonsense of youth while not utilizing the great passion of youth to drive us into a brighter future. 

The future created by eternal whiny teenagers will be a future full of the silliest schoolyard antics and egoism, a future in which children die because the parents miss their fun times, a future which is now. By killing those who could make that future better and raising children who do not understand how to respect the appropriate boundaries of human society, we create a future impoverished of virtue, lacking in empathy, and bereft of the great depths of love we can reach through self-denial.  The juvenile anthropology, for all of its youthful qualities, will terminate a worthwhile future of love and compassion before it begins in favor of an ephemeral present feeling which always fails to satisfy our deepest longings. 

It will do this because those who have a juvenile anthropology have never known the deeper substantial joy that comes from a life guided by a mature love and compassion.  They may never be able to experience a future they have been told is a myth as they wallow in a present reality shaped by the myth of the triumph of human reason, the myth of the ascendancy of fleeting feelings as the measure of a good life, and the myth of the self as the final arbiter of truth.  If we want to reach a worthwhile future, we will need to abandon the myths of an anthropology of the youthful dead disengaged from the world and build up an anthropology of the grateful, joyous living people who light up the future of the world before us.