Friday, March 29, 2013


OMELET TIME---I've broken enough eggs---time to make an omelet.

Let's remind ourselves of the problem and suggest a better solution: Every human is beset with three anxieties: DEATH---GUILT---MEANINGLESSNESS.

They mix and mingle in complex ways and taken together, constitute the challenge of life.

Religion attempts to deal with them---offering myths, doctrines, Holy books, commandments, arcane rituals and ethical systems. 

What do we non believers offer? 

Glad you asked?  This is the major challenge to Unitarian Universalist;  the only church that doesn't claim to have a message from God----the only church that can generate meaning without metaphysics.

We deal with the anxiety of death by facing it as courageously as we can----reminding ourselves of Buddha's words:  Life is like getting on board a ship that sails out into the ocean----and SINKS.     THE TRICK IS TO ENJOY THE VOYAGE!

Another parable attributed to Buddha makes the point even stronger:  A man being chased by a tiger falls over a cliff but manages to grab hold of a vine, and he's just hanging there.  Before he falls to his death he notices that a strawberry is growing out of the side of the cliff.  And so, holding on with one hand, he plucks the strawberry, puts it in his mouth, eats it and enjoys it.  ENJOYS IT!  WE ARE ALL HANGING----AND THERE IS NOTHING ELSE TO DO BUT ENJOY THE STRAWBERRIES!!


What an intelligent society does about  the problem of death---is to use brainpower and technology to extend our vigorous lifetimes.  We are making progress;  And I for one think we will continue till eventually we can extend our lives indefinitely.
Unbelievers aren't troubled much by Guilt----hardly a fraction of what troubles believers--- because we don't accept that God---if he exist---has said anything about ethics----especially not sexual ethics.  Advanced societies are rapidly abandoning unreasonable commandments---creating  new---more enlightened--more pleasurable
notions of appropriate behavior.  (America lags behind the new understandings---The president of France OPENLY has a wife and a mistress--hardly creates a ripple over there---I wonder if the wife has a lover)


BUT HOW DO WE GENERATE MEANING?  ----without believing in religion?

I say we unbelievers can generate meaning by playing the game of life with intention and intelligence.

What is meaning?   It's a feeling---of aliveness---purposefulness and connection that exist between the beginning and end of an intention.  Some philosophers call this sequence of events a GAME, A project or a gestalt.  I like to call it a game because we all understand the phrase "the game of life".

Looked at carefully we can see that the essence of a game is that one thing is declared to be important than another.  WHAT IS NOT---is declared to be more important than WHAT IS.  This morning all of you played the church game.  You declared that being here was more important than whatever else you could have done.  Soon this game will be over and you might play the lunch game.  Life is a series of games---large, small and overlapping, where we are moving from what is to what is not.

 It's obvious to us that what is not ----is--- ultimately--not more important than what is---BUT WE DECLARE AND PRETEND THAT IT IS SO THAT WE CAN GET MOVEMENT IN OUR LIVES. The point of all games is to give motion to our lives.(The movement I'm talking about is not just physical motion----reading, thinking or even meditation is a kind of motion---intentional progression from a beginning to an end.)

So the challenge of meaning is the challenge of motion.  We play the game of life by selecting one of our fascinations--- activating intentionality---to get ourselves moving through experience-(making "waves" in the process)-to (hopefully) generate meaning. (a feeling of aliveness) It is awesomely democratic that (by this analysis)  anyone anywhere at any time can generate meaning. ( a feeling of aliveness.) (we generate a small flicker of meaning by scratching an itch)

Only movement can generate meaning,  And here's a couple of things I betcha never thought of : First:  AS YOU MOVE FROM WHAT IS TO WHAT IS NOT----YOU MAKE WAVES-----affect things and people.  WAVES ARE OUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD. (waves are our effortless, natural contribution to the world)
                   Second:" ALL YOU EVER WANTED TO DO WAS CONTRIBUTE."

It is benevolent irony that actively playing the game of life-- to amuse and fulfill ourselves is the best way to contribute to the world.  Ayn Rand got it right in her book "The Virtue of Selfishness".  Thoreau in living his life selfishly for himself inspired millions to follow their dreams..

Say---are y'all falling asleep on me?

(Audience Noooo---Amen)

Sweet people:  I'm saying that movement is more important than location.  Acquiring is more fun than possessing---getting rich than being rich.

Imagine that your head is a light bulb---your brain is the filament---experience is electricity.  As experience moves through you---you light up!  I say that meaning is Glow.  Sometimes we glow brightly---sometimes dimly--depending on how artfully we move through experience.

To be brilliantly lit is what we all want.  How do you know when you are lit up---alive and on purpose?  WHEN WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS SO INTERESTING THAT YOU LOSE TRACK OF TIME.  Psychologist have given a name to this feeling---FLOW. 

Here is the best short summary I know for a meaningful life:
     1. Respond to your fascinations, (some things fascinate you--some don't)
     2. Wake up your creativity. (creativity is concept transfer)
     3. Share yourself---somehow--with others. (Brian Swimm)

Gimme an Amen folks--I'm almost home.

(Audience Amen)

I want to make crystal clear the difference between a believer and those playing the game of life courageously.

A believer obeys----a game player plays.

A believer yearns for destination---a game player enjoys the going.

A believer's goal is salvation; a game player's goal is aliveness.

A believer wants to be "right"; a game player wants to be satisfied.

A believer lies about the uncertainties of life---A game player accepts the uncertainties.

A believer thinks he standing on a solid rock of doctrine---a game player knows he's on a rolling ball. (the earth)

A believer thinks he can't live without an infallible guide---A game player knows there is no infallible guide.

A believer seeks to do what is "right" A game player to do what is appropriate.

My fellow earthlings.  Are we clear about the difference between a believer and a game player? ( an experiencer)  If so say Amen.

(Audience Amen)

When enough people move beyond beliefs to experience---the world will be transformed.  Wars will end.  People will stop persecuting and dominating others because being satisfied will be more important than being right.


All this can be ours if we will only UNBELIEVE.

(prolonged applause and cheering)

(copyright 1981 by Randall Vining)


Michael said...


Wonderful thoughts, well stated.

As a passionate agnostic, I broadly agree with the perspective you articulate.

I do have a question about one part of it, though. In this post, and the previous one, it is mentioned that there are three roots of anxiety: Death, guilt, and meaninglessness.

My question: Is that model your own? And, if so, why leave out so many other sources of anxiety--like isolation/loneliness, pain/suffering, shame/defectiveness, and more?
I'm curious.

And, again, I appreciate your wise and honest writings.


Randy said...

Thanks Michael for your kind words, insights and question.
I borrowed the Death, Guilt, Meaninglessness analysis from Paul Tillich's book THE COURAGE TO BE.
I do think it's a comprehensive list of human anxieties---that give rise to religion. Pain in it's assorted forms has an object and is a different thing from anxieties. Tillich says that we cannot bear naked anxiety and always seek to morph it into fear so that we at least have something to focus on.

Wayne (Wirs) said...

After 32 years, has your opinion changed any Randy? Do you still think that pursuing temporary and fleeting pleasures provides any real meaning? That self-centeredness and hedonism are what this world needs more of?

Obviously you know my opinion, but I truly wonder if you've found anything deeper.

George said...

Deserts will bloom and love will permeate the atmosphere? And we can accomplish this by not believing and experiencing instead?

Accordingly, wars will end?

Who do you think you're kidding?

If you want to create more love in the world, start by doing so in your writing. You have simply used the same techniques of manipulation and fear (with the intention of control) that you condemn others for.
Instead of "Brainglow", try Heartglow for awhile.

"There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, George. Someone had to say it.

Anonymous said...

It had been sometime since you put anything new up & I was without much in the way of internet for several days, when I get back there are 3 entries & sermons no less!

This whole series has left me with comments & questions.

How can you have a church that doesn't have to do with a message from god?
Is it just a tax thing? Poking fun?

How do you deal with those who's ... never mind, that question does not matter, it has no answer from you.

It just struck me, you are having fun! All you ever do is have fun! You have chosen to ignore as much as you can of everything that does not go towards making you feel good.
I not built that way.

Mary Matzek said...

Suppose our game is to kill someone to give us satisfaction and that is our game? Some serial killers have no conscience, no sense of nurture,no sense of helping others. Where does all that come into your game? Passive philosophy can be a game changer, but it has been tried and doesn't stop wars.I'm not a believer, but I believe in leaving the earth better than I found it; helping others; and the many principles of Christian beliefs. I just can't abide a "GOD" or god figure that is all knowing, all powerful but allows children to be tortured and starved. I believe in the inherent goodness of my fellow man. (Highly challenged right now.) I believe in enjoying the trip, but preserving nature for the future. Big Order!!!Thus, I stress. But, I love your philosophizing and reckoning with a good sphere of influence and making people think.

Anonymous said...

I've been impressed lately, with how our culture is taking on problems tangentially in order to adapt and survive.
Gay marriage for instance, tangentially refuses biblical infallibility. The rib thing, patriarchy, and 'created in the image of God'...anymore than horses, turtles, eagles are created....
The gun prohibition movement tangentially gets at,and shines a light on the most militarized nation in the world, both having and selling weapons worldwide. That's us.
I like your tangential approach to solving the poverty problem, traveling around frugally with friends.
I'm appreciating the tangent more these days, and am trying to think of ways to include it around death, meaninglessness, and guilt.

Anonymous said...

Steven said:

Randy, in my experience, much of what you said is true. Meaning is found in experience, or True Knowledge, not "belief" in what others have experienced and conceptualized.

As to this entry, however, I'm with Wayne...

My experience is that true meaning--I would call it deep and lasting Joy, Peace, Serenity, or Spiritual Awareness--cannot be found in pursuing outer experiences that temporarily satisfy the selfish desires of a separate personality, mind or body--i.e., the sense of separateness called the "ego" or "impostor" by some spiritual teachings.

The hungry and selfish ego--constantly craving and scanning its outer environment for new pleasures, temporary fulfillment, scientific breakthroughs, romantic relationships, etc.--is unlikely to escape death or end wars, as your last entry suggests.

Can scientific discoveries save us from death? Is there anything in the universe of physical forms that escapes death and "lives forever"? The accumulated evidence suggests the answer is "No." Observation of the physical universe tells us all physical forms eventually "die" or dissolve, even stars and galaxies.

Will billions of separate egos pursing their own temporary material satisfaction-i.e., playing Ayn Rand's "game" of chasing temporary material pleasures--lead to a more loving, joyful, environmentally sustainable world, or "end wars"?

Having a look at the evidence suggests the answer is an emphatic "No." The last 6,000 years of evidence suggests that individual egos pursuing their own selfish interests have led to a human condition of domination, continual warfare, environmental destruction, and unspeakable cruelties to fellow human beings, animals and nature.

In my experience, you are right to point to actual Experience, rather than belief, as the source of "meaning"--what I would call Peace, Serenity or Spiritual Awareness in this everlasting Now.

BUT, I would suggest that Inner Experience is the True Source, not temporary outer experiences of the kind promoted by Ayn Rand and other materialists.

Wishing you the best in your travels,


Ron S said...

As you know much of what you say resonates with me. I too am a non believer of God and much of the Bible, (there is some history that is undoubtedly correct).
I agree that my unpolluted/untainted "experience" (or as near as I can get to it) is my only real "truth".

I do quibble with the concept of "meaning"/"meaninglessness". To me that requires constant vigilance and judgement of the experiences and that pollutes the experience.

I ask you if two children go to Disneyland and child #1 just revels in the thrill of every ride and child #2 spends a portion of his time working to understand how the rides accomplish their goal.

Which child has had the most pure experience?

Anonymous said...

This Randy guy is deep. Pass the nachos.

Rob said...

Just checking in to see if the reverend has put up a new sermon...

Anonymous said...

You’re a legend in your own mind.

Anonymous said...

"After 32 years, has your opinion changed any Randy? Do you still think that pursuing temporary and fleeting pleasures provides any real meaning? That self-centeredness and hedonism are what this world needs more of?

Obviously you know my opinion, but I truly wonder if you've found anything deeper." Wirs

There is nothing deeper.
This is it.
See that.

Anonymous said...

Loved your sermon and agree with every word of it. I was raised a Southern Baptist in the mountains of NC and became aethiest after my first year in college. I have studied all major religions and the histories of the major religions. It is all a scam to keep control over the people.

"I don't think we're here for anything, we're just products of evolution. You can say, "Gee, your life must be pretty bleak if you don't think there's a purpose,' but I'm anticipating a good lunch."
-- James Watson

Anonymous said...

Lack of belief in god or religion is fine, no disagreement.

Believing that elimination of belief will lead to a utopia in which "wars will end. People will stop persecuting and dominating others because being satisfied will be more important than being right," etc. is another unrealistic belief that ought to be eliminated under Randy's theory.

Actual human experience shows the human ego will manipulate, dominate and kill not only for belief, but also for material status, accumulation of wealth, etc. etc. There are plenty of sociopathic egos who don't believe in gods, but would happily starve you and your children to acquire more wealth and status.


Randy said...

Thank you anonymous for your thoughtful correction. Of course you are right: Unbeliever egos are capable of all the evils of believers. (almost) And collectives of Unbelievers will not likely usher in Utopia. That part was rhetorical flourish (puffery) Perhaps I could have better said that the dark ages were dark largely because humanity was stuck in religious doctrine and the renaissance rebirthed us because many got unstuck from them.

Jerry Flores said...

Just a thought what if atheists are wrong? They sure have a lot to lose. Also wanted mention the story of the kids at the amusement park sounds like kid 2 is just scared. Just different a perspective. I enjoy your pics of different places especially the ones f

Randy said...

Jerry: You're right----If I'm wrong I have a lot to lose.
But if you're wrong---you have a lot to lose---a lifetime of misdirected energy---just like believing Muslims and Hindu's and Buddhist and Jews and Mormons. All of you are a part of Humanities problem: You impede ethical evolution---tribalize humanity, obstruct science, brainwash children. I strongly recommend Sam Harris' little book "Letter to a Christian Nation"