Right, so after yesterday I actually took this further on Webster’s blog. And to cut a long story short, I decided to reverse my position, read his book when it comes out, and thoroughly critique it.


I admit my goat was got to start with. Possibly the guy’s superciliousness on the subject of the acceptance of death, a topic dear to my heart, is what did it. And certainly I thought his ‘punch you hard’ rhetoric was offensive and uncalled-for. But you know what? I take back what I said yesterday about him being an unworthy opponent. Even if he was rude, I for once was also — and he didn’t rise to it. On that thread I see signs of something I have literally never experienced on the web before: an atheist who is able to listen and respond.

Some of you know I did my time in the web skeptic-proponent trenches. I came away, with no offence intended, realising that most skeptics are simply cartoons. They have no point to make at all. But this guy is different. Don’t get me wrong — underneath it all is doubtless some degree of cartoon skepticism and an ostrich approach to unwelcome data. I’m expecting that. But the thing is, he didn’t have to approve my comments, and he did. Not only that, he showed suspicious signs of actually reading them carefully, all the way to the end. He also pointed out that Dawkins atheists have been upset with him. These are signs of someone with a position different from the normal one.

Even that post I was commenting on — it’s not the work of a cartoon skeptic merely accusing afterlife believers of not understanding the facts of life. However egregious his attempt to settle NDE arguments by appeal to a single Scientific American article (*sigh*), the point he chose to end on shows that his real tack is about a kitsch refusal to deal with the existential implications of mortality. That is hardly your common skeptic fare.

And finally, once or twice, he made me think, gladly. That is, he actually had a point I cared about that was not a cheap shot. I realise now that was all I ever really wanted from the debates.

So yes, he may be a worthy opponent. That’s why, when his book comes out in a fortnight, I’m going to read it and critique it thoroughly. It won’t take long and I anticipate no necessity for research. But for the first time in a long time, I actually give a damn what an atheist has to say. This is a guy who knows a bit about religion and spirituality, and who knows how to think. He also claims to be trying to make others think and is not wholly unfamiliar with his subject. I want to see if I can make him think. Only a little! I don’t expect miracles.

So book your seats now for the debate of the new millennium ladies and gents! The Porphyry v. Anebo of our time! (Yeah right…) ;)

EDIT: Professor Webster hit “like” for this post less than 5 mins after posting. See? He is classy. ^_^

FURTHER EDIT: Weird — I thought the book wasn’t out yet but today Amazon says it’s available. Still it may be a week or two until I get around to it.


11 responses to “[oksowhatitisquib]

  • miramirorum

    I don’t know, Jason, I just read his blog and the comments and I am not as impressed. He is still playing word games and being condescending. He must know he is going to take a lot of flack about wanting to punch noses, as he should, and he is formulating his tactics. You are helping him. Do you really want to do his work for him?

  • Mars

    Disagreements and ‘flame wars’ lead to deeper separation and polarity. Is this a good thing? Are any of these ‘wars’ ever won… does anyone ever get converted to their opponent’s belief system? I’ve never seen it happen. The predictable outcome is that both ‘opponents’ walk away dirtied, pissed off, righteously aggravated and emotionally upset and drained. The Philosophy Professor (PP) dangled out some really stinky bait that immediately got the result he wanted. Multiple strikes from people hungry to defend their version of ‘reality’ and their beloved belief systems. Isn’t selling books helped by creating controversy? Hello!

    Words are abstractions of watery, nebulous concepts and highly subjective in their essential nature. (I like Terrence McKenna’s take on this). Many philosophers and proselytizers believe that words have the ability to convey complex concepts clearly and unambiguously. I don’t subscribe to this notion. Language is an attempt to communicate mental concepts between two or more subjects… in this case, human beings. Our fascination with and need for dictionaries perfectly illustrates the illusion of nailed down meaning.

    Can words connect and align the thoughts behind the concepts? Sure. This is why we read, hoping that we can take in the ideas of people who aren’t present with some recognition, resolution and insight. I have felt the power of personality and prose as they are melded on the pages of a clearly written book. The power of words is magical. Like any tool though, words can be used to create or destroy relationships and connections.

    When you CHOOSE to take the bait of PP you will wind up in his boat and be removed from your own environment and growth path. It’s your choice. Take the bait or not. A true warrior only has his impeccability to defend… not his beliefs.

    • Jason Wingate

      What a load of the most unmitigated rubbish.

      When Socrates debated with Callicles was he removed from his growth path? When Plato debated with Aristotle was he removed from his growth path? When Epicurus debated with Zeno was he pulled from his growth path? When Buddha debated with the yogis was he pulled from his growth path? When the Taoists debated the Buddhists were they pulled from their growth paths?

      What about when Ferrer debated WIlber or when Hines debated Wilber?

      Were they all merely engaged in futile and aggravating mudslinging? Or were they possibly advancing the discourse in the most important conversations human beings can have, such that we still read them today when getting to grips with the nature of life, spirit and culture?

      The ability to debate or to engage in dialectic is a major method in many schools above, and is often considered essential to learning discrimination — something McKenna could occasionally have used a dose of himself, considering his ludicrously inaccurate historical predictions that in the spiritual milieu mostly pass without criticism.

      I know what words can and can’t do, far better than you seem to understand — don’t you see from this blog how influenced I am by Epicureanism? By Taoism? Do you imagine I haven’t read chapter 1 line 1 of Laozi?

      I plan to use words to do what they can, not what they can’t — like Webster and like all the above. I’m not trying to “convert” but to elucidate. And when you read what I write, then will be the time to judge whether I’ve been pulled into someone else’s mess — or have advanced worthwhile thoughts in a useful way, at a critical juncture, in a convincing manner, which would hardly be asking too much of language.

      As for whether Webster welcomes what I’ve said so far or the prospect of more of it, I have strong reason to believe not — and I will prove it later.

      And thank you so very much for allowing it to be ‘my choice’, rhetorically handing me permission that was never yours to give.

    • Jason Wingate

      … sorry if that sounded harsh. It’s just that this very morning I was writing something about the difference between verbal philosophy and practice. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s being lectured on what I already know, especially when it’s wrongly implied I’m about to abandon what’s important. The first step in anything transpersonal is mastering the social-linguistic self — learning to be quiet. Why would I not know that? Why would I not factor it in?

      I’ll make you a bargain — read what I write, and then tell me whether you think I was right to write it.

      If you think your comments are likely to be cogent I will offer you an advance copy. Alternatively, of course, you could completely ignore as so much verbiage — it is, as you’d say, “your choice”. :P

      • Mars

        You said it by your actions. Also:

        “So yes, he may be a worthy opponent. That’s why, when his book comes out in a fortnight, I’m going to read it and critique it thoroughly.”

        But maybe I misunderstood or misinterpreted your actions or intent.


        • Jason Wingate

          Sancho, you are obviously a lovely guy with good intentions. As I tried to explain to you, debate can serve a positive purpose, and everything else you need to know is in my post — but although it is not that important, I’ll rephrase.

          I am by nature you understand a verbal fencer anyway. I like a joust. Furthermore, the skill of thinking does play a role in spirituality in ways that most people these days don’t want to admit. But as I said in this post, skeptics know nothing about jousting, nothing about debate, and usually nothing about thinking. They talk about critical thinking but are destitute of it themselves. Never mind their blindness to transpersonal truth, they are blind to reason.

          Therefore Sancho, I never debate them. Every day, some skeptic somewhere “slaps me in the face”. I never respond. And why — because debate is evil? No, because they do not actually want to debate.

          Conclusion: Jason is not doing this just from being slapped in the face! That happens all the time! Therefore he is not interested in the destructive aspect of this. You can see that clearly if you read carefully.

          Then yesterday I see yet one more of these skeptics, even ruder than the rest! I respond — really in the way of, what a jerk, that slap I think is the most pathetic slap I ever felt. I see at once this guy knows philosophy, knows theology, writes about Buddha — but if he says something like this, he must be just another idiot. Yesterday, did it sound like I thought his book was an “opportunity for debate”? I know exactly what that book is — or is supposed to be. I know what he is trying to do, believe me. :)

          But then! I find out the man himself is something different from how I judged. He has studied ethics yes, but also I see he makes an attempt live by them. And as I tried to explain above that is the reason i am going to fence with this man. Not the book — the man. He is a worthy opponent. He and I share some degree of language. So let’s see what happens when you tell a worthy opponent about some worthy stuff, and contrast it with some less worthy stuff. If he turns out not to get it, what have I lost? Nothing.

          And I have gained — a fun contest, and also the chance to put some thoughts in what I believe will be a constructive order. Probably also I’ll gain in ideas, because in the short time I talked to him, he also made me think. How many skeptics do you know who not only study theology but teach it at university level — and tell fellow atheists they should study it too, even when they are booed for it? Think about it!

          All this is really the same as what I wrote in my post, but here it is again, and if you don’t get it, don’t worry. When my riposte is done you can read it all. If I was wrong to write it, you can feel free to tell me. And this is all actually not that important to me or anyone, so I really think I’m done here!

          Best wishes to you Sancho.

  • Mars

    First I’d like to apologize for rubbing your nose in what you already know. Sorry, I don’t know you and I’ve only read a few of your blog posts. I didn’t expect to upset you with my post… maybe I haven’t… there I go jumping to conclusions again. Maybe I should have used some smiley faces to defuse the unintended pointedness of my remarks. ; )

    I can see that you are an excellent wordsmith and proud of your wide range of literary consumption and understanding. These are commendable pursuits… but you already know that as well. My intent was to communicate my perception that PP had constructed a “tar baby” (Uncle Remus reference) in an attempt to snare any passers-by that were offended by its (his) percieved lack of manners. Obviously you don’t see his construction this way but as an open challenge for debate and discussion. Is it possible for both of us to be right? Or wrong? Or misguided? All of these are possibilities as well as ten thousand other interpetations.

    You and I both know that your choice is always yours. I was meerly trying to get you to take another look at both sides of the decision matrix… but you are obviously already far beyond that point. Sorry, I missed that clue as well. It’s as if he has personally slapped you in the face with his glove. I can sense your fire in the reaction to my post.

    While I doubt that people hundreds or thousands of years from now will be reading your refutation of PP’s diatribe I see your need to defend the territory of your belief systems. I may not agree but how is that relevant? It’s not… unless you want to look at another person’s perspective… for just a minute or two. It matters little to you (or anyone else) how I feel about your efforts. Carry on. My best wishes to you… genuinely.


    • Jason Wingate

      My intent was to communicate my perception that PP had constructed a “tar baby”… Obviously you don’t see his construction this way but as an open challenge for debate and discussion.

      When did I say that?


      I did look at your perspective my friend — you failed to look at mine.

      Neeeeever mind.

      Thanks for the best wishes, same to you…

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