Author Topic: Secular Karma  (Read 668 times)

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Online superdave

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Secular Karma
« on: April 19, 2017, 11:26:41 AM »
Anyone here believe in this?  I sorta do in the sense that I think trying to be a good person, doing what you think is right, works to your benefit in the long run through non specific ways.  (For example, maybe a friend refers you to a job opening he might might otherwise not have if he thought you were a jerk).

I think this is unassailable logic.  But on the other hand, there's so much randomness in the world, that the effect of random luck might overwhelm whatever benefits such karma might give you. In that case, even karma is a matter of luck.

I used to believe more in the first one, but after reading "thinking Fast and Slow" I'm starting to lean the other way.  Turns out humans way underestimate the role of randomness.  In that case, there are severe implications.

Online Harry Black

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Re: Secular Karma
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2017, 11:30:07 AM »
I see absolutely no reason for this to be true.
The world does not care how good you are, it cares what you can give it. Or rather what you are seen to give it.

Offline Johnny Slick

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Re: Secular Karma
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2017, 12:12:45 PM »
In the sense that if you do good things, it'll come back around to you? No, the universe doesn't work that way. Sometimes random things happen that help or hurt and there's not a lot that you can do about them. In the sense that if you generally behave like a jerk when it doesn't hurt, it'll be harder to avoid behaving like one when it does hurt? Yeah, absolutely, that's a thing I believe. On top of that, Richard Wiseman noted in 59 Seconds that people who are generally optimistic and confident are generally better poised to take advantage of good random events that come along, and so I'm *trying* anyway to make that a part of my life as well.
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Offline The Latinist

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Re: Secular Karma
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2017, 12:26:33 PM »
My experience suggests to me that consistent good behavior does tend to have the kind of non-specific rewards that you talk about.  I don't see any reason to think that it wouldn't, and there's no magical thinking involved.  If you consistently help me, for instance, when I am in need, I'm much more likely to help you when I'm in a position to.  This is not because of any sort of cosmic balancing act, but because of simple psychology and the reciprocity of relationships.  My experience may be different from that of others in that I grew up in a small town where everyone knew each other, and I work in and live in a small community today.
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Online Harry Black

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Re: Secular Karma
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2017, 12:43:12 PM »
I see absolutely no reason for this to be true.
Previous good deeds cant be taken into consideration by the world unless they are known, so immediately there will be a disparity between those who do good deeds and those who give the impression of doing good deeds. So I dont find a logical reason to think its so.
Anecdotally,Ive noticed that kindness gets rewarded in good regard but when it comes to reciprocation, people tend to be really sorry and have an excuse.


Offline The Latinist

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Re: Secular Karma
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2017, 12:57:01 PM »
Your experience is different from mine.
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Offline Drunken Idaho

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Re: Secular Karma
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2017, 01:18:29 PM »
Superdave, I get your comparison, but ultimately karma means something too different for it to withstand skeptical pedantry. I do think that there are statistically significant consequences to being kind (for example) which could at least plausibly lead to an increased chance of good things happening. Random luck is still the primary factor, of course, but here's what I mean:

A person who is frequently kind to others may be more likely to have a higher number of positive social relationships and interactions. This could plausibly lead to a higher frequency of social introductions, which may occasionally have significant professional, emotional, or financial consequences to the person's benefit.

or

A person who lives by a strong moral code may be more likely to live a lower-stress life, with its associated health benefits.

But living positively clearly isn't the only way to obtain such ends. Joseph Mengele's seemingly happy and peaceful later life is really the only nail in the karma coffin I'll ever need.
Strange women lying in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government.

Online daniel1948

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Re: Secular Karma
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2017, 03:14:46 PM »
We are social animals and we tend to behave well towards those who behave well towards us. If you do someone a favor, they are more likely to return the favor. If you refuse to do a favor, the person that asked probably will refuse you when you ask. But this is not karma. This is social behavior in a species that has evolved it because each individual is better off when all help each other. In a social setting, a person might do you a favor because they observed you doing someone else a favor. This is also part of being a social animal.

But the idea that if you do good, good will come back to you is pure magical thinking, and can be refuted by observation, and the fact that bad things do happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. That's assuming that you can even come up with rational, objective definitions for "good" and "bad."
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Online Harry Black

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Re: Secular Karma
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2017, 03:25:13 PM »
Your experience is different from mine.
I guess so!
Ive noticed some people who do nice things and do get rewarded, but they usually tend to be likeable people anyway?
I have seen enough nice people get the shit end of the stick that I have no faith in the concept as a way to predict likely outcomes.
And as Drunken Idaho says, Ive noticed so many utter shitbags do well that it seems meaningless as a concept.


Online superdave

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Re: Secular Karma
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2017, 04:07:44 PM »
I think using the phrase Karma might have poisoned the well here..

Offline Jeremy's Sea

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Re: Secular Karma
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2017, 04:11:32 PM »
This idea has no relation to Karma as understood and practiced by traditional Buddhists.

This version is a very "western" way of thinking of it, more like good deeds and sin. Karma is simply the practice to cease suffering. Nothing about it suggests it balances anything, and nothing good is supposed to come of doing good. The end benefit is enlightenment. Outside randomness isn't anything more or less special than human acts.

To try to put it briefly, by practicing compassion you attempt to lessen suffering. All karmic lines can be ended by compassion towards suffering. You cannot just go out into the world and end others' karmic lines, but you can end them when they pass to you.
If a dog bites a mailman (randomness), and this pisses off the mailman and he shreds important mail for the homeowner, who then becomes angered and slaps his kid for a minor offense, and that kid comes to your classroom and disrupts the class because he was slapped by his father, you now have the choice to find compassion for the child to help lessen suffering by the very least of not acting it out and passing it on, and even perhaps by not making things worse for the child, who could then enrage his father and mother all over again and on and on... you can see it spiral out. Your own attachment to things can cause this suffering. If your ego is bruised you will likely act in a shitty manner to someone else and they then have the choice to get pissed and be shitty, or to end that karmic line in themself and not pass it on.

If you do not incorporate the practice of compassion to end suffering, then you're not actually talking about karma, you're discussing some other concept of a positive energy bank.

And yes, I think karma can be perceived secularly, but not with the end point being some kind of nirvana, though I could argue a person who can end suffering is enlightened.  :laugh:
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Online Mr. Beagle

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Re: Secular Karma
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2017, 05:38:38 PM »
My view is a probabilistic one. The more "good" contacts you make, the better the odds that one of those contacts will recommend you for a job, donate blood when you are sick, etc.

That is "sorta kinda" karma, and I have been known to use the negative form of that word when a nasty guy gets a comeuppance. "Karma is a bitch." But I am not Buddhist, and the casual use of the word might well offend a serious Buddhist as misappropriation.

That said, Buddhism is probably the least "theological" of the major religions.
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Offline Drunken Idaho

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Re: Secular Karma
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2017, 06:06:53 PM »
I think using the phrase Karma might have poisoned the well here..

Indeed. I think I know what you were orginally getting at (using karma as a simile), but it's kinda hard to get past it.  ;)
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Offline Jeremy's Sea

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Re: Secular Karma
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2017, 06:25:57 PM »
My view is a probabilistic one. The more "good" contacts you make, the better the odds that one of those contacts will recommend you for a job, donate blood when you are sick, etc.

That is "sorta kinda" karma, and I have been known to use the negative form of that word when a nasty guy gets a comeuppance. "Karma is a bitch." But I am not Buddhist, and the casual use of the word might well offend a serious Buddhist as misappropriation.

That said, Buddhism is probably the least "theological" of the major religions.
I'd be shocked if most cultural Buddhists understood it either, much like in other religions scholars tend to understand it better than practitioners.
I also use the term Karma incorrectly, but use it more to denote poetic justice or dramatic irony.  ;D
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Online daniel1948

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Re: Secular Karma
« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2017, 10:20:02 AM »
This idea has no relation to Karma as understood and practiced by traditional Buddhists.

This version is a very "western" way of thinking of it, more like good deeds and sin. Karma is simply the practice to cease suffering.
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Thanks for that explanation. Clearly very different from the way it is commonly used here.
Daniel
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