Monday, February 14, 2011

the latest PKD and Religion Flamewar

From the Facebook of the excellent scholar David Gill, author of the best PKD blog.

David Hyde We all know what Philip K. Dick thought of Hubbard as a sf writer and his stupid religion!

Cal Gödot All religion is stupid. Scientology is just the new kid on the block.
about an hour ago

Ted Hand
You are stupid to say things like that. Scientology does not equal religion. It's a typical new atheist false metonymy to claim that cult pathology somehow explains all religious behavior. Real science is actually finding that religion has ...adaptive value, real philosophy has always explained that religion is no more or less irrational than anti-religion. But you doubt me? Show me an atheist who isn't emotional and irrational about his religious preference? Atheism, especially this militant new atheism, looks to objective observers just like any other enthusiastic religion. You ask me, new atheism is just as bad as Scientology. At least Scientologists aren't advocating nuking the Arabs like Harris.

Ted Hand
Actually I should say that I have a great deal of respect for serious atheist. You know, the ones who aren't so insecure and defensive about their faith choice that they feel the need to troll on the internet about it? I would love to see s...erious atheists join the debate. The plain truth is that they're not stupid enough to make arguments about theology, and just get down to the business of doing science. Some of the best scientists working on the evolutionary origins of religion are atheists, but they're not saying stupid things about religion like Hitchkins and co. Hopefully, Cal, one day when you actually understand (since you can't stay anti-scientific forever) the difference between true religion, which helps people although it doesn't have anything like the kind of truth claim bridge builders need, and false religion, which has all the harmful traits that Dawkins etc. mistake for the whole, I hope your stupidity will be reduced. I say this out of kindness, although I confess that there's a natural defensiveness since although I'm a stone cold atheist most ways that matter (thank God!) I do find religion highly intelligent and worthy of study.

Cal Gödot I guess I'm just a better atheist than you are, Ted.

Ted Hand It's a poor atheist who resorts to such weak flaming. I think a good atheist doesn't avoid thinking seriously about the subject matter. But it doesn't provide any comfort or wisdom, as you are making clearly. I am deeply sorry for your pain. I'm not mad at God for not existing, myself, and I'm not angry with religious people for seeking that form of comfort. Please consider that you are doing more harm than good with your nasty attitude and clumsy comments.

Frank Bertrand Good for you Ted...I second and third what you said, and then some!!!

Ted Hand I should say comfort and intellectual stimulation, because religion certainly requires a good deal more serious thought than atheism, which apparently takes people about 30 seconds to arrive at and arrests all future thought. Robert Anton Wilson called that "the death of intelligence." but maybe I have a stupid theory of what's logical and healthy. who knows? I can only refer to science and scholarly research.

Ted Hand
thanks Frank! I'm grateful for Dave as usual flushing out the troll with a quiet grace. Flashbacks of playing NES duck hunt as a boy, but while it's fun to kid around about target shooting at shallow ideological illusions, there's a lot of ...pain there and I really needed to get that off my chest. I'm grateful to Dave for what I've learned from him over the years about taking PKD seriously, and that includes not reducing him to some specific view, or calling him stupid because he dedicated so many thousands of hours to questions of religion. But if you think this stuff is stupid, I won't be offended if you don't want to read my PKD and religion blog.

Frank Bertrand I'd be glad to read your PKD and religion blog...where's it at?? As for that subject, I would argue that Phil did indeed have an interest in religion, but even more so in Philosophy and Psychology -- all being but "intellectual tools" to help him fabricate answers to his two salient themes of What is Reality?, and What is "human-ness"?

Ted Hand
I think it's a mistake to overlook Phil's serious religious faith. It wasn't just a philosophical or psychological interest, it inspired much of his philosophizing, and it was based on experience... as well as belief.

Frank Bertrand As for how "serious" I would carefully consider what Dr. Ann Mini has written at her blogspot...I'm not at all convinced about his espoused beliefs...makes for great novel matter, though.

Cal Gödot Yeah, I'm weak - or tired of defending my opinion against flamers who criticize me for flaming. I think there's a word for people like that.

Frank Bertrand Wow, how eloquent and loquacious we are Mr. Godot...reminds me of years ago on the jazzflavor PKD list....

Cal Gödot You old farts make me laugh. You really do.

Frank Bertrand I'd much rather be flatuating than random flaming with no specific purpose...

Ted Hand Cal, You know what I think is funny about old farts? They have tons of valuable experience and wisdom, but assholes like you don't appreciate it (or even listen) when they try and tell us they see a pattern. Fart jokes are funny as hell. Keep 'em coming. You do great Dick Jokes too.

Ted Hand Cal, I'm not merely criticizing you for flaming. It's also the poor quality of your thinking that is worth scrutiny. If you can't handle a direct response, don't insult me. The way I see it, there is a right and a wrong answer to this problem, and you have the wrong answer. This isn't a case of you not feeling like responding to my bad attitude, you can't actually answer my logic. If you can, and can do it without resorting to your usual nasty tactics, I will be happy to concede defeat. I think about this stuff because I want to understand it better. It seems like you are unjustly rejecting the idea of even taking it seriously. But if I'm wrong, why are you just throwing insults? Why not defend your case? No atheist has ever done so convincingly, so you could make a lot of money. I see it like the Randi Psychic Prize. Surely it would be worth a million dollars to you to simply say whatever it is you're thinking, that nobody has ever thought before...

David Gill Frank, I'd take Dr Ann Mini with a pillar of salt... Perhaps all secondary PKD texts should include a small packet of salt....

Ted Hand PKD's own words need to be taken with a grain of salt. But I don't think we can avoid the conclusion that he's not just kidding around about his serious interest in religion, which includes a sincere faith, however much he may have questioned it.

David Gill Frank, I absolutely agree with you that PKD sold his mystical experiences and gained quite a rep doing it, brilliant marketing. But I saw a complete copy of the Exegesis; it took up most of the room; and it was quite obviously a work of faith. or rather, the work of a rational mind to try to understand experiences it knew to be true...

Frank Bertrand I realize that I should have been more careful with the antecedents of my pronouns...sorry, Ted. Try: "I get that, Ted, but Phil Dick mentions and writes about C.G. Jung MUCH more than S. Freud."

Ted Hand Oh of course. Jung's a great uncharted territory as a future applicable model for PKD. I'm working on Jung+PKD, specifically the influence of gnosticism and alchemy on Jung and PKD via Jung (and Frances Yates, apparently, judging from his understanding of Bruno) and I recommend anybody interested read Umland's article on Upon the Dull Earth. Perhaps my favorite single scholarly article.


  1. Well, I made it over here, at long last. Quite an impressive array of information. But needs fine tuning. Especially the PKD and Jung connection. Now there's a goldmine waiting for MA and PhD dissertations...But methinks academia is still too busy trying to force-fit PKD into a postmodernist or mystic niche...sort of like a round peg in a square hole concept!!

  2. And as for the subject of your blogspot here, I would willingly admit right up front that I was raised a roman catholic,but had no choice in the matter. Got away from that cult in late HS, even though I was president of my local CYO. Personally and philosophically, I STRONGLY believe that ALL organized religions (with a capital "R") are the worst ever of inventions my human kind. So, I, as a cynical curmudgeon (old enough to be a Vietnam Vet, and a very reluctant Great Grandfather), equally believe in asking VERY HARD questions about myself and the "world" around include the fiction AND non-fiction of Philip K. Dick, whom I was fortunate enough to interview about a year before he died...Speaking of which, when is someone going to start writing about PKD's essays, interviews, and letters???

  3. thanks for the comments Frank. writing about the essays, interviews, and letters is a huge part of this blog. I'm especially interested in the "Dear Claudia" letters.

  4. I certainly don't mean to overlook the important role of doubt in PKD, or reduce him to a mystic (There is no more evidence supporting that extreme view than to support the extreme PKD as atheist view) but it doesn't explain why he was so interested in mysticism/religion. Given his admiration for Plotinus, Spinoza, Presocratics, etc. it's hard to separate philosophy from theology for Dick

  5. I give Cal a troll rating of 2 - 'Could do better, preferably elsewhere.'

  6. The "Dear Claudia" letters (written to, now, Dr. Claudia Krenz) were done mostly while Claudia was working on her MA Thesis about PKD. She subsequently got a second MA, then a doctorate degree. One smart lady...I wrote a review of her PKD thesis many moons ago for the original, and best,, started and run by Jason Koornick...
    As for the thorny question of "influence," why was PKD interested in anything, let alone philosophy, psychology, religion?? Harold Bloom's "The Anxiety Of Influence" is perhaps pertinent here.

  7. My initial foray here, and trying to articulate my perspective(s) about "R"eligion, reminds me of something Dr. C.G. Jung wrote near the end of his long essay, "A Psychological Approach To The Dogma Of The Trinity"(vol. 11, Collected Works, p. 200):

    "It is dangerous if these matters [Christianity "as an object of scientific study, as a phenomenon pure and simple, regardless of the "metaphysical" significance that may have been attached to it"]are only objects of belief; for where there is belief there is doubt, and the fiercer and naiver the belief the more devastating the doubt once it begins to dawn."

  8. Herewith some additional insights from Philip K. Dick that may be relevant:

    8/22/1977 ltr to Eugene Warren -
    "Simply put, even since the theophany which I experienced in March 1974 I have wondered, "If it is possible for God to manifest himself -- as he did to me -- why does he normally, which is to say virtually always, remain a "deus absconditus" a hidden God?" (Selected Letters, vol. 5, p. 92)

    speech: "If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some Of The Others" -- delivered in Sept 1977 at second Festival International de la Science-Fiction de Metz, France -
    "Thus it is said that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are revealed religions. Our God is the "deus absconditus": the hidden god. But why? Why is it necessary that we be deceived regarding the nature of our reality?" (The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick, 1995, p. 252)

    Exegesis entry 1977 -
    "He is indeed the "Deus Absconditus" -- Gnosticism explains why; He is not found in nature because he is not there, & our reasoning cannot discern him because we are occluded." (In Pursuit Of VALIS, 1991, p. 137)

    Oct 1978 interview, by Joe Vitale, in The Acquarian, no. 11 -
    "The whole question of religion is very melancholic. It makes me very sad really. I mean, I've read so much and still, I haven't found God. We have a "deus absconditus," a hidden God. As Plato says, "God exists but He is hard to find."