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» babble   » rabble content   » babble book lounge   » The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation - Sam Harris

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Author Topic: The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation - Sam Harris
Michelle
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posted 16 July 2007 05:41 AM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Anyone read these books? I just heard Harris interviewed yesterday afternoon on CBC's Tapestry and it was an excellent interview. I found myself agreeing with almost everything he was saying.

Here's what the book is about:

quote:
The End of Faith provides a harrowing glimpse of mankind’s willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs, even when these beliefs inspire the worst of human atrocities. Harris argues that in the presence of weapons of mass destruction, we can no longer expect to survive our religious differences indefinitely. Most controversially, he maintains that “moderation” in religion poses considerable dangers of its own: as the accommodation we have made to religious faith in our society now blinds us to the role that faith plays in perpetuating human conflict. While warning against the encroachment of organized religion into world politics, Harris draws on insights from neuroscience, philosophy, and Eastern mysticism in an attempt to provide a truly modern foundation for our ethics and our search for spiritual experience.

Here's the description of Letter to a Christian Nation:

quote:
In response to The End of Faith, Sam Harris received thousands of letters from Christians excoriating him for not believing in God. Letter to A Christian Nation is his reply. Using rational argument, Harris offers a measured refutation of the beliefs that form the core of fundamentalist Christianity. In the course of his argument, he addresses current topics ranging from intelligent design and stem-cell research to the connections between religion and violence. In Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris boldly challenges the influence that faith has on public life in the United States.

[ 16 July 2007: Message edited by: Michelle ]


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Caissa
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posted 16 July 2007 05:57 AM      Profile for Caissa     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I heard most of the Sam Harris interview as well. I look forward to reading his books.
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Capsicum
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posted 16 July 2007 06:08 AM      Profile for Capsicum     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I don't see it as ever being either / or.

People speak of evolution as being a set set of rules, or even as a force, ill defined, but somehow in control. I've even heard people talk as if evolution is some kind of being... evolution does this, or that. People speak of 'nature' in much the same way.

Lately the Big Bang has been described as the Big Bounce.

Loop Quantum Gravity, mathematical modelling of collapsing worlds, simultaneous parallel universes, oh my!

In the face of rampant scientific speculation, some people will instead turn to the comfort of their god, or gods. True, when this belief sends out armies to attack non believers, that's a real problem.

[ 16 July 2007: Message edited by: Capsicum ]


From: Around here somewhere | Registered: Jul 2007  |  IP: Logged
Boom Boom
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posted 16 July 2007 06:30 AM      Profile for Boom Boom     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I wonder if Harris belongs to The Religion Of Atheism.
From: Make the rich pay! | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 16 July 2007 06:43 AM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Boom Boom:
I wonder if Harris belongs to The Religion Of Atheism.

Don't know about Harris, but I do.

My religion requires me to believe in "No God". Here are some of our precepts:

* No God created the universe, the earth, and all that dwells therein.

* No God watches over us, teaches us right from wrong, and rewards or reprimands us accordingly.

* No God is worthy of worship by humankind. In fact, No God is worth shedding blood over in wars and strife.

* Besides all of nature and our own wits, experience, work and struggle, we of course have No God to guide us and to give thanks to for all that we enjoy on this earth.

* No God resides in Heaven - No God will welcome all religious folk there after they pass on.

The only real downside is that if you're looking for forgiveness of your sins (without having to change your evil ways of course) or eternal salvation through faith alone, don't bother joining my Church of Atheism. Those who do haven't got a prayer.


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Stargazer
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posted 16 July 2007 06:47 AM      Profile for Stargazer     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I addressed Sam Harris in another thread here not too long ago. I read his book, The End of Faith and let me tell you, the man may be an atheist but he sure does give Bush and the US excuses while sermonizing Islam above all religions. I was frankly surprised to see him and Dawkins team up together, as Dawkins in much more balanced. Sam Harris quoted pages upon pages from the Koran, showing it's murderous ways to heathens and Christians, but did not do the same thing with Christianity. In fact, he says that Islam is by far the most dangerous religion - based upon his cherry picked quotes and his non admission of any from the Christian bibles. I'm a lefty and I was not impressed by his book at all.
From: Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist. | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Sven
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posted 16 July 2007 06:59 AM      Profile for Sven     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Stargazer:
I addressed Sam Harris in another thread here not too long ago. I read his book, The End of Faith and let me tell you, the man may be an atheist but he sure does give Bush and the US excuses while sermonizing Islam above all religions. I was frankly surprised to see him and Dawkins team up together, as Dawkins in much more balanced. Sam Harris quoted pages upon pages from the Koran, showing it's murderous ways to heathens and Christians, but did not do the same thing with Christianity. In fact, he says that Islam is by far the most dangerous religion - based upon his cherry picked quotes and his non admission of any from the Christian bibles. I'm a lefty and I was not impressed by his book at all.

Interesting. I’ve got his book in my stack of books to read. Hope to get to it by this fall.


From: Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!!! | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 16 July 2007 07:10 AM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Boom Boom:
I wonder if Harris belongs to The Religion Of Atheism.

No, but I'm betting you're a non-astrologist. That's a religion too. You belong to it.

Don't try to tell me it's not a religion. It most certainly is.

You also belong to the non-spaghetti-monster religion. If you can't prove the spaghetti-monster doesn't exist, then that just means that you BELIEVE he doesn't exist. You're a Nonspaghettian.

(I adapted this from an argument made by Harris yesterday on Tapestry. )


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Capsicum
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posted 16 July 2007 07:14 AM      Profile for Capsicum     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I'm a Pastafarian. And please don't get saucy with me!
From: Around here somewhere | Registered: Jul 2007  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 16 July 2007 07:32 AM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Stargazer:
I read his book, The End of Faith and let me tell you, the man may be an atheist but he sure does give Bush and the US excuses while sermonizing Islam above all religions. [...] I'm a lefty and I was not impressed by his book at all.

I fully agree. In fact, I was unable to read "End of Faith" for that very reason, after doing a quick scan of the contents and the relative weight given to Islam.

Of course Islam is a pile of superstition, and of course it is used to justify murder, aggression, misogyny and the rest. Well how about Judaism and Christianity?

Anyway, maybe some of his other stuff is more balanced, but I wouldn't know cuz I haven't read any.


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Boom Boom
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posted 16 July 2007 07:41 AM      Profile for Boom Boom     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Capsicum:
I'm a Pastafarian. And please don't get saucy with me!

Do basil and garlic figure in Pastafarianism at all?


From: Make the rich pay! | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
Boom Boom
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posted 16 July 2007 07:44 AM      Profile for Boom Boom     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Michelle:
...You're a Nonspaghettian.

Is it possible for a Nonspaghettian to be a Pastafarian?


From: Make the rich pay! | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 16 July 2007 07:47 AM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I won't touch Pastafare. I'm an Agchopstic.
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Boom Boom
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posted 16 July 2007 07:58 AM      Profile for Boom Boom     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post

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Michael Nenonen
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posted 16 July 2007 01:29 PM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Here's a relevant and rather long quote from an interview with religious scholar Karen Armstrong:

http://www.salon.com/books/int/2006/05/30/armstrong/

Interviewer: "Well, what do you say to the scientists, especially the Darwinists -- Richard Dawkins would be the obvious case -- who are quite angry about religion? They say religion is the root of much evil in the world. Wars are fought and fueled by religion. And now that we're in the 21st century, they say it's time that science replace religion."

Armstrong: "I don't think it will. In the scientific age, we've seen a massive religious revival everywhere but Europe. And some of these people -- not all, by any means -- seem to be secular fundamentalists. They have as bigoted a view of religion as some religious fundamentalists have of secularism. We have too much dogmatism at the moment. Take Richard Dawkins, for example. He did a couple of religious programs that I was fortunate enough to miss. It was a very, very one-sided view."

Interviewer: "Well, he hates religion."

Armstrong: "Yeah, this is not what the Buddha would call skillful. If you're consumed by hatred -- Freud was rather the same -- then this is souring your personality and clouding your vision. What you need to do is to look appraisingly and calmly on other traditions. Because when you hate religion, it's also very easy to hate the people who practice it."

Interviewer: "This does raise the question, though, of how to read the sacred scriptures."

Armstrong: "Indeed."

Interviewer: "Because there are all kinds of inflammatory things that are said. For instance, many passages in both the Bible and the Quran exhort the faithful to kill the infidels. Sam Harris, in his book "The End of Faith," has seven very densely packed pages of nothing but quotations from the Quran with just this message. "God's curse be upon the infidels"; "slay them wherever you find them"; "fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it." And Sam Harris' point is that the Muslim suicide bombings are not the aberration of Islam. They are the message of Islam."

Armstrong: "Well, that's simply not true. He's taken parts of those texts and omitted their conclusions, which say fighting is hateful for you. You have to do it if you're attacked, as Mohammed was being attacked at the time when that verse was revealed. But forgiveness is better for you. Peace is better. But when we're living in a violent society, our religion becomes violent, too. Religion gets sucked in and becomes part of the problem. But to isolate these texts as though they expressed the whole of the tradition is very mischievous and dangerous at this time when we are in danger of polarizing people on both sides. And this kind of inflammatory talk, say about Islam, is convincing Muslims all over the world who are not extremists that the West is incurably Islamophobic and will never respect their traditions. I think it's irresponsible at this time."

Interviewer: "But many people would say you can't just pick out the peaceful and loving passages of the sacred scriptures. There are plenty of other passages that are frightening."

Armstrong: "I would say there are more passages in the Bible than the Quran that are dedicated to violence. I think what all religious people ought to do is to look at their own sacred traditions. Not just point a finger at somebody else's, but our own. Christians should look long and hard at the Book of Revelation. And they should look at those passages in the Pentateuch that speak of the destruction of the enemy. They should make a serious study of these. And let's not forget that in its short history, secularism has had some catastrophes."

Interviewer: "Certainly, the major tragedies of the 20th century were committed by secularists -- Stalin, Hitler, Mao."

Armstrong: "And Saddam Hussein, a secularist supported by us in the West for 10 years, even when he gassed the Kurds. We supported him because he was a secularist. If people are resistant to secularism in Iraq now, it's because their most recent experience of it was Saddam. So this kind of chauvinism that says secularism is right, religion is all bunk -- this is one-sided and I think basically egotistic. People are saying my opinion is right and everybody else's is wrong. It gets you riled up. It gives you a sense of holy righteousness, where you feel frightfully pleased with yourself when you're sounding off, and you get a glorious buzz about it. But I don't see this as helpful to humanity. And when you suppress religion and try and get rid of it, then it's likely to take unhealthy forms."


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
remind
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posted 16 July 2007 01:37 PM      Profile for remind     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
TAT
From: "watching the tide roll away" | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Boom Boom
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posted 16 July 2007 02:36 PM      Profile for Boom Boom     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Nenonen:
Karen Armstrong: "So this kind of chauvinism that says secularism is right, religion is all bunk -- this is one-sided and I think basically egotistic. People are saying my opinion is right and everybody else's is wrong. It gets you riled up. It gives you a sense of holy righteousness, where you feel frightfully pleased with yourself when you're sounding off, and you get a glorious buzz about it. But I don't see this as helpful to humanity. And when you suppress religion and try and get rid of it, then it's likely to take unhealthy forms."

I've always liked Karen Armstrong. I have some of her books - she's a great writer - the ones I have are: 'Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths'; 'In The Beginning (A New Interpretation of Genesis)'; 'The Battle For God'; and 'A History of God: The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam'.


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unionist
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posted 16 July 2007 02:53 PM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
This Armstrong character is bad news. Connecting Saddam Hussein with "secularism". What a manipulative and sophistic creep.

Mao and Stalin were "atheists". There ya go. God must exist, otherwise we're complict in their crimes. Geez, why did I never see this before?

Does she also preach equal time for creationism with evolution? Why not, eh? Imagine being consumed by hatred for creationism.

There is no way I will read her pseudo-books. I condemn her based on Michael's short excerpt. How's that for being "not what the Buddha would call skillful"?

ETA: To be specific, here's what she said about Saddam Hussein:

quote:
We supported him because he was a secularist.

What an egregious and unconscionable lie. And people like this are given the title "scholar". For shame.

[ 16 July 2007: Message edited by: unionist ]


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
CharlotteAshley
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posted 16 July 2007 03:16 PM      Profile for CharlotteAshley   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Nenonen:
Take Richard Dawkins, for example. He did a couple of religious programs that I was fortunate enough to miss. It was a very, very one-sided view."

This business of trying to debunk a belief by punching holes in the adherants is bad mojo. Dawkins might be behaving in an impolite fashion, but that doesn't mean there is a god. Similarily, that Newton was a pretentious asshat (by most accounts) doesn't mean there's no gravity.

Charlotte


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Catchfire
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posted 16 July 2007 03:18 PM      Profile for Catchfire   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
unionist, she was responding to the idea that religion is evil because of the atrocities that atheists like Dawkins and Harris attach to it. As far as I can tell, she is simply pointing out the danger of flattening fraught regional conflicts to a matter of "my god is right, and yours is wrong." I find it difficult to believe that she meant the only reason the West supported Hussein was because he was a secularist. If she did, that is problematic, but your attempt to hyperbolize her argument is unfair.

Essentially, I find the frequent refrain of the Dawkins/Harris type, "if we remove religion, there would be no war in the Middle East," to be nothing short of laughable.


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Michelle
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posted 16 July 2007 03:38 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
And the stupid thing is that neither Saddam Hussein nor Hitler were atheists. There is a difference between not running your dictatorship like a theocracy, and being an atheist. Both Hitler and Hussein were believers (or at least professed to be), and both claimed to have God on their side.

I agree. This Karen Armstrong sounds like a bit of a sophist.


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Frustrated Mess
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posted 16 July 2007 03:46 PM      Profile for Frustrated Mess   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
This Armstrong character is bad news. Connecting Saddam Hussein with "secularism". What a manipulative and sophistic creep.

Not only, that but it is a lie. The US and the West supported Saddam because his party could provide 'stability" for Western interests. Or, why would the West support the Saudis who are anything but secular? Further, the self-serving attack on Dawkins is a further misrepresentation. Dawkins does not "hate" religion. That is another lie. That would be irrational. You can't hate religion anymore than you can hate superstition. All you can do is point out the fallacies of religion and the inherent delusions. And that is what Dawkins did.

"Certainly, the major tragedies of the 20th century were committed by secularists -- Stalin, Hitler, Mao."

Yet more lies. Even if any of them were atheists, which is not by any means decided, were all the good Germans, Russians, and Chinese who carried out the atrocities atheists, also? Of course not. Where was their faith and moral grounding as they sorted gold fillings, ordered workers from the fields to the factories, or emptied the cities of intellectuals?

Where is the moral standing today as good Christians re-elected and continue to support the real Butcher of Baghdad?


From: doom without the gloom | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 16 July 2007 03:47 PM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I wonder if the professed atheists on this post would be willing to allow theistic regimes and politically influential theistic movements the same sort of caveats that they inevitably bring out whenever anyone mentions the crimes of regimes and movements with profoundly anti-religious biases.

For example, Frustrated Mess, are you saying that none of the people who carried out atrocities in these regimes were atheists? If not, then the fact that theists were involved in these atrocities is therefore irrelevant. The real question is whether the regimes legitimized themselves primarily through religious language, whether these regimes were predominantly secular or theistic, and whether they were cozy with religious authorities or hostile to them.

Say what you will about the professed religious beliefs of Hitler and Stalin, their actual behaviour towards religious insitutions was draconian.

And, in any case, there is a link between Saddam's secularism and the support he received from Western governments, and that link is Iran. Western powers were very worried about the potential for religious revolutions like the one that toppled their pawn, the Shah. Saddam represented exactly the kind of authoritarian power-broker they preferred, specifically because his regime was ruggedly secular and therefore--supposedly--easily manipulated. This is exactly why the US supported Saddam's war on Iran.

As for the question regarding the existence of God, this is a metaphysical question that science quite literally can't address. Check out Ian Barbour's Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues (1997) for a good number of reasons why this is so. Barbour was a professor of physics as well as a professor of religion at Carleton College, and Bean Professor of Science, Technology, and Society.

Speaking of authors like Dawkins, he writes:

"I suggest that these authors have failed to distinguish between scientific and philosophical questions. Scientists in their popular writings tend to invoke the authority of science for ideas that are not part of science itself. Articles in journals of physics, chemistry, and biology do not discuss materialism, theism, or other world views that provide philosophical interpretations of science. These are alternative belief systems, each claiming to encompass all of reality.

"In their epistemology, these authors assume that the scientific method is the only reliable source of knowledge--an assumption sometimes referred to by its critics as 'scientism.' If science is the only acceptable form of understanding, explanation in terms of astronomical origins, evolutionary history, biomechanical mechanisms, and other scientific theories will exclude all other forms of explanation. I would reply that science relies on impersonal concepts and leaves out of its inquiry the most distinctive features of personal life. Moreover, the concept of God is not meant to be a hypothesis formulated to explain phenomena in the world in competition with scientific hypotheses. Belief in God is primarily a commitment to a way of life in response to distinctive kinds of religious experience in communities formed by historic traditions; it is not a substitute for scientific research. Religious beliefs offers a wider framework of meaning in which particular events can be contextualized. As a rough approximation, we may say that religion asks why and science asks how...

"In their metaphysics, these authors have extended scientific concepts beyond their scientific use to support comprehensive materialist philosophies....The identification of the real with measurable properties that can be correlated by exact mathematical relationships started in the physical sciences but influenced scientists in other fields and continues today. But I would argue that these properties of matter have been abstracted from the real world by ignoring the particularity of events and the nonquantifiable aspects of human experience. We do not have to conclude that matter alone is real or that mind, purpose, and human love are only by-products of matter in motion. Theism, in short, is not inherently in conflict with science, but it does conflict with a metaphysics of materialism."

[ 16 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
Frustrated Mess
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posted 16 July 2007 03:48 PM      Profile for Frustrated Mess   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
if we remove religion, there would be no war in the Middle East

If there was no religion in the middle-east over what would they be fighting?

From: doom without the gloom | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 16 July 2007 03:54 PM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Frustrated Mess:

If there was no religion in the middle-east over what would they be fighting?

Territorial ambition, wealth distribution, oil, neo-colonialism, take your pick.

And as for Dawkins' supposedly Vulcan rationality, I don't buy it. I know an emotionally-charged crusade when I see one. The inability of so many atheists to recognize their own emotional motivations strikes me as an expression of what Sartre--an avowed atheist himself--would undoubtedly call "bad faith." This is the height of intellectual hubris, and a transparent attempt to define a rational and virtuous in-group in opposition to an irrational and vicious out-group.

[ 16 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]


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Frustrated Mess
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posted 16 July 2007 04:07 PM      Profile for Frustrated Mess   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
That's interesting. And how many Israeli mothers would send their children to war for Israel's territorial ambitions? How many Palestinians would strap bombs to their chests for territorial ambitions?

My point would be that war is packaged not in the stark terms of national interests but in emotional terms of God, King, and Country. Religion, and nationalism are the potent mix that gives way to the spilling of blood. Moreso as religion provides the weekly address from the pulpit. An organizing tool most states lack.

My guess is that without the poisoned minds provided by religion, a war over land would lack the ferocity and the endurance that a war in God's name offers.

In Northern Ireland the internecine battles waged on and off for 500 years so long as both sides had God to fight for. But when the battle became political between nationalists and unionists in the 60s and 70s, well, it has come to a close. Finally.

Religion becomes just another dividing line among peoples to be exploited by rulers and conquerors. And too often, in almost every case, religious officials are only too eager to play their role.

[ 16 July 2007: Message edited by: Frustrated Mess ]


From: doom without the gloom | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 16 July 2007 04:14 PM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
So, if the emotional appeal that motivates war is to God, King, and Country, is it possible that the God part of this equation is somewhat redundant? Is King and Country ever sufficient? Could God, in fact, be simply a synonym for King and Country--for the "in-group"? If so, then this says little about God, and a great deal about the ease with which religious language can be appropriated for non-religious ends.

As for Israel, remember that Zionism started out as, and for many Israelies remains, an essentially secular movement.

Regarding suicide bombers, the definitive study of their motivations was conducted by Robert Pape, who examined in detail a wide range of suicide attacks and the people who committed them. In his seminal book, Dying to Win: the Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (2005)--and by seminal I mean that it refers to the most comprehensive data-set ever accumulated on the subject--he writes that there is "little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world's religions...Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland."

[ 16 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]


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Frustrated Mess
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posted 16 July 2007 04:21 PM      Profile for Frustrated Mess   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:

For example, Frustrated Mess, are you saying that none of the people who carried out atrocities in these regimes was atheist? If not, then the fact that theists were involved in these atrocities is therefore irrelevant.


I agree. But it was a theist who raised the ludicrous issue. In fact, it is almost always theists who raise that ludicrous issue. It was dealt with by Dawkins in his book.

quote:

The real question is whether the regimes legitimized themselves primarily through religious language, whether these regimes were predominantly secular or theistic, and whether they were cozy with religious authorities or hostile to them.

Say what you will about the professed religious beliefs of Hitler and Stalin, their actual behaviour towards religious insitutions was draconian.



Not true. In fact religion continued to flourish in Germany and the USSR. If you noticed, when the wall fell, the Russian Orthodox Church was still very much alive. Nazi Germany attempted to develop its own mythology along side Christian mythology.

quote:

And, in any case, there is a link between Saddam's secularism and the support he received from Western governments, and that link is Iran. Western powers were very worried about the potential for religious revolutions like the one that toppled their pawn, the Shah. Saddam represented exactly the kind of authoritarian power-broker they preferred, specifically because his regime was ruggedly secular and therefore--supposedly--easily manipulated. This is exactly why the US supported Saddam's war on Iran.


Really? Why didn't they need the Saudis to be "ruggedly secular"? And clearly he was not "easily manipulated". And why being "ruggedly secular" would make him (and obviously it did not) "easily manipulated" you fail to explain.

Saddam was favoured by the US because his party was the strongest unifying organization in Iraq and it just happened to be secular.

quote:

As for the question regarding the existence of God, this is a metaphysical question that science quite literally can't address.


And apparently neither can religion.

From: doom without the gloom | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
Frustrated Mess
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posted 16 July 2007 04:33 PM      Profile for Frustrated Mess   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:

So, if the emotional appeal that motivates war is to God, King, and Country, is it possible that the God part of this equation is somewhat redundant? Is King and Country ever sufficient? Could God, in fact, be simply a synonym for King and Country--for the "in-group"?


No. Governments and kings fall out of favour. History is littered with revolutions and beheaded kings. Ask the Tsars. But God is forever.

quote:

If so, then this says little about God, and a great deal about the ease with which religious language can be appropriated for non-religious ends.


Agreed. Which would be my point.


quote:

As for Israel, remember that Zionism started out as, and for many Israelies remains, an essentially secular movement.


Whatever Zionism started out as, and whatever it has become, there is no denying that Zionists appeal to the Jewishness of its target audience and has firmly planted itself, rightly or wrongly, on the faith and beliefs of Jews. And many of the settlers are motivated by a strong belief that the land they occupy was promised them by God. What would be the reason for their hate and obstinance if there was no God?

quote:

there is "little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world's religions...Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland."


It has always been argued that suicide bombers are motivated by revenge and anger. Other interviews have so indicated. But from where are suicide bombers recruited? Who trains them? Who indoctrinates them? From where do they get their strength if you can call it that? What would be the central organizing principle of Hamas if there was no Islam?

From: doom without the gloom | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
TemporalHominid
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posted 16 July 2007 04:36 PM      Profile for TemporalHominid   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post
I am agnostic. I think it is OK to say I don't know to questions regarding god, souls, heaven.

However, I do favour reason based thinking over faith based thinking.

I choose astronomy over astrology

Philosophy over religion

Chemistry over alchemy.

I happily found a remarkable book about Doubters and doubt written by Jennifer Hecht

ISBN-10: 0060097728
ISBN-13: 978-0060097721

I found it a great read about individuals that challenged credulous people and their belief systems.

re "The End of Faith " and Christopher Hitchens has a simliar book called ""God is Not Great", and Richard Dawkins touches on this too in his book "the God Delusion"

It seems that the self-righteous credulites are always asking for respect, but they are never willing to give respect. They ask for tolerance, but are never about to act tolerant.

A conservative Christian (like Fred Phleps /Ted Haggard/ Jerry Falwell types) or a radical Islamist says that "faggots must die, and god hates faggots" and claims its OK for them to say that because their book is given to them by their god. If society challenges that belief they turn that on secular society and say secular society is intolerant of their beliefs.

Several individuals from the separatist group Babbar Khalsa can publicly call for the death of 10,000 Hindus, and spew hate, vitriol, and malice and incite people to violence in Canada's streets. This is a group linked to the Air India bombing, and they are permitted to allow their children to wear jackets embroidered with automatic weapons illustrated on them, and they honour the masterminds of the Air India bombing in floats across communities across Canada.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/sikh-politics-canada/

and when Canadians express discomfort with these behaviours/edicts they are labelled racists, bigots and phobes so as to silence those Canadians. Canadians are more uncomfortable with the Canadian citizen that is calling for the end of edicts like "Until we kill 50,000 Hindus, we will not rest", than the edict itself.

A minority of vocal Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, and Jews and faith based governments that, for example support things like Israel's occupation, think that Human Rights are an offense to their god and would like to treat their women and their conquered slaves in Gaza and the West Bank, and Afghanistan like cattle.

These extremists, which are gaining more and more power and influence over politicians and governments support these beliefs with the greatest sources of hate speech;
the Bible, Quran, and other religious texts.

But when secularists criticise those texts or the interpretation of them they are labelled racist, bigots and phobes and they risk being charged with hate speech in their societies.

[ 16 July 2007: Message edited by: TemporalHominid ]


From: Under a bridge, in Foot Muck | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
Frustrated Mess
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posted 16 July 2007 04:53 PM      Profile for Frustrated Mess   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Okay, you've really thrown me for a loop here. Now I am not sure what to say. So I will say this: I have no fundamental disagreement with spiritualism. If someone chooses to believe in something and it offers something of value to their lives that otherwise was not there, who am I to say they are wrong?

My prime argument has been with religion. Religion is a tool of the powerful to manipulate and control the powerless. It teaches acceptance of suffering and indignity and poverty and pain and even slavery. Your reward, it says, will come in heaven.

If everyone knew this was it. That life is the here and now and when it is over there will be darkness and nothing more. That their afterlife is not a place in some undefined and unimaginable paradise but their own progeny. If they knew that, then they might be far less accepting of all the indignities heaped upon them. They may even demand heaven here, on earth. And they might be far more concerned with the state of the world they leave for their children to inherit.


From: doom without the gloom | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 16 July 2007 04:55 PM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
So, in your estimation, the whole religious revolution thing in Iran had nothing to do with the Western support for Saddam's regime? You don't think that's a little a-historical, given the panic in Western circles over the possibility of this religious revolution hitting other Islamic nations?

Regarding the Saudis, remember that the primary opposition to their regime is religious, rather than secular, and that the Saudis themselves are about as genuinely Muslim as I am. To maintain their control over their country, they cynically manipulate the most repressive religous institutions in order to maintain a social order that has a funhouse-semblance of Islam, without any of its actual substance (for example, the Saudi regime is about as far from Muhammad's vision of social justice as you can possibly get--a point repeatedly made by its religious critics).

Regarding the tendency for organized religion to become draconian, this strikes me as being simply another expression of a general problem in human social structures. The same thing happens with governments, businesses, and, frankly, unmonitored and unaccountable scientific institutions (as the history of eugenics demonstrates rather well). We aren't about to eliminate science, business, or government any time in the near future, so I'm not sure why it would be a good idea to do it to religion. This seems to treat organized religion like a scapegoat. The appropriate response to religious ossification strikes me as being religious renewal, rather than annihilation.

Perhaps now would be a good time to point out that both early Christians and Muslims were considered by their peers to be "atheists" because of their rejection of traditional gods. We can now recognize that they were simply replacing one set of religious values with another, subtler set of religious values. My suspicion is that the same dynamic is at work with what we call "atheism" today: in its rejection of specific religious practices, it installs another set of religious values--ones that often cater to the worst features of religiosity. Atheism can provide metaphysical certainty, a sense of ideological superiority, a clear distinction between the in- and out-groups, an explanation of the world's evils (in this case, an explanation rooted in the distinction between the rational or "bright" in-group and the unenlightened or "dim" out-group), and a program for salvation (that this salvation occurs in historical rather than otherworldly terms doesn't change its psycho-social function one bit).

You write, "They may even demand heaven here, on earth. And they might be far more concerned with the state of the world they leave for their children to inherit."

Personally, I'm afraid of anyone who tries to remodel the world I live in into their vision of heaven, regardless of whether that heaven is framed in theological or secular terms. Whenever we try this, we tend to incite some rather vicious in-group/out-group dynamics, with generally unfortunate results. Rather than searching for utopials, I'll be satisfied with just working to improve our overall societal levels of justice, equity, and ecological responsibility.

Onto another point: Perhaps, as you write, religion can't tell us whether or not God exists any more than science can. At the same time, perhaps neither religion nor science can tell me whether or not you, Frustrated Mess, are conscious or just a "philosophical zombie"...that is, an automaton who mimics sentience but really possesses nothing of the sort.

Certainly science provides no evidence that in addition to neurological events inside your brain there is some sort of consciousness, some subjectivity that can't, by definition, be subjected to objective quantification. My decision to interact with you as though you are something other than such an automaton...that you are a subject rather than simply an object in my perceptual field...is grounded in what, exactly?

More than that...what informs my decision to interact with my cat as something other than such an automaton? At least with you, I can say that you have a brain that resembles my own, although that really doesn't satisfy any kind of stringent philosophical standard of proof. My cat doesn't even have that.

The question here is whether or not we interact with matter as though it is also an expression of mind. That question simply can't be answered by science. Religion encourages us to do this...without any guarantees that what we are really engaging with, whether human or animal or celestial, isn't simply an automaton.

You may argue that at least animals like my cat have brains, and that this gives them a subjectivity that brainless things don't possess. While I agree that brains are very important for consciousness as we understand it, I think that there's a real danger of succumbing to a mind-matter dualism here that makes mind an "alien" in a universe of matter. I have a hard time buying this, given the fundamental similarities between the organizational principles that govern the brain and those that govern the rest of the universe. For example, its physical structure seems to follow the same kind of fractal pattern that exists throughout nature. The universe probably isn't a figment of our imagination, but on a fundmantal level we could very well be a figment of its, in the sense that our brains and, therefore, our consciousness may well be emergent properties of underlying patterns that are pervasive throughout the cosmos.

The only way to avoid a mind/matter dualism--a dualism for which I can find no philosophical justification whatsover--is to assume that the universe is mind-like, or, perhaps more to the point, that the mind is universe-like.

Now, religion can't tell us whether or not the universe actually is mind-like any more than science can, and neither can tell me whether or not you are anything more than a philosophical zombie. What the religious impulse can do, however, is encourage me to interact with the universe and with yourself as though both of you are expressions of mind. For you, the upshot is that this religious impulse suggests that I should take your interests into account, and that I should try to engage you in a respectful and perhaps compassionate way. The same is true for my relationship with my cat and, indeed, the universe.

[ 16 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
Frustrated Mess
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posted 16 July 2007 05:17 PM      Profile for Frustrated Mess   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
If the Bathist regime believed Green Men with uranium blood would arrive from space to rule the world and so established a cult, but could still "stabilise" Iraq, the US would have still sent weapons and support.

The West, at that time, was less concerned about the spread of Iran's Islamic revolution because the Baath party was not just secular, it was predominantly Sunni. If it was predominantly Shiite, the West would likely have been less supportive.


quote:

To maintain their control over their country, they cynically manipulate the most repressive religous institutions in order to maintain a social order


!!! Who woulda thunk it?

quote:

As for at least one of your other points--perhaps religion can't tell us whether or not God exists any more than science can. At the same time, perhaps neither religion nor science can tell me whether or not you, Frustrated Mess, are conscious or just a "philosophical zombie"...that is, an automaton who mimics sentience but really possesses nothing of the sort.

Certainly science provides no evidence that in addition to neurological events inside your brain there is some sort of consciousness, some subjectivity that can't, by definition, be subjected to objective quantification. My decision to interact with you as though you are something other than such an automaton...that you are a subject rather than simply an object in my perceptual field...is grounded in what, exactly?



Oh, well faith of course. Not. A preponderence of evidence, the fact I communicate in return to you and with adaptive arguments suggests that should you believe I exist your belief is based on more than faith. What's more, we could arrange to prove that I exist. But you can't even get God to answer you to begin the process of proving an existence.


quote:
At least with you, I can say that you have a brain ... My cat doesn't even have that.

Then your cat is more God-like than I am.

quote:

The question here is whether or not we interact with matter as though it is also an expression of mind. That question simply can't be answered by science. Religion encourages us to do this...

To imagine? Fine. Why build a society around it?


quote:

The only way to avoid a mind/matter dualism--a dualism for which I can find no philosophical justification whatsover--is to assume that the universe is mind-like, or, perhaps more to the point, that the mind is universe-like.

Huh, huh. Maybe I am totally of my rocker here, but the very foundation of most religions (I believe Judaism is an exception) is the dualism of spirit and body and that the spirit can exist beyond the body.

I also don't accept that the universe is mind-like no more than I believe the earth is mind-like although I might agree both live. Rather I prefer to think of the universe as being a vast ocean within which we belong like fish in the sea. But that is me and I can't prove it. But at the same time, nothing in my life hinges on it being true.


From: doom without the gloom | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 16 July 2007 05:41 PM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Frustrated Mess: We're cross-posting. I edited my previous post while you were posting yours.

Now, you write, "Oh, well faith of course. Not. A preponderence of evidence, the fact I communicate in return to you and with adaptive arguments suggests that should you believe I exist your belief is based on more than faith. What's more, we could arrange to prove that I exist. But you can't even get God to answer you to begin the process of proving an existence."

No, as many philosophers have demonstrated most adequately, you couldn't prove that you exist in the sense that you are a sentient being. There's an entire school of philosophy devoted to this kind of problem--it's called epistemology (you know, the whole "how do you know you're not a brain in a vat with all of your sensations being transmitted to you through electrical stimulation"...the Matrix thing).

You could simply be a very convincing automaton--a particularly clever android, lacking any kind of inner world. Consider that many materialists believe that consciousness is simply an epiphenomenon of brain function--an epiphenomena that can't begin to influence the brain on a causal level. If these materialists are correct, then perhaps my own consciousness is an aberration: if sentience has no causal efficacy, then it would change absolutely nothing if I were the only sentient thing in the universe. If that sounds too privileged a position, then perhaps I've simply caught a sentience "virus" that only a minority of human brains suffer from. In any case, your ability to behave in a mind-link fashion would mean nothing to me whatsoever.

After all, according to physicist Mark Buchanan's Ubiquity: The Science of History...Or Why the World Is Simpler Than We Think (2000), things as disparate as intellectual revolutions in the sciences, wars, mass extinctions, forest fires, and earthquakes all appear to follow what mathematicians call "power laws"...statistical patterns that seem to hold for systems in states that are far from equilibrium but below the threshold of pure chaos. If the functioning of human brains and many non-human phenomena seem to abide by the same mathematical regularities, then your expression of mind-like behaviour could simply be the working out of these regularities, as devoid of consciousness as we believe earthquakes and forest fires are.

You mention that regardless of whether or not the universe is mind-like, it won't change the way you live your life. I wonder, though, would it change the way you lived your life if you believed that consciousness was an aberration--something that you shared with a very few people, or perhaps with no one else at all? I suspect that if you believed this, you would be a lot less respectful of the people you encountered in your daily life. Similarly, if we choose to arbitrarily refuse to perceive the universe as mind-like, then we can do whatever we want with it...pollute it, pillage it, torture it, etc. Our treatment of animals in laboratories, for example, certainly suggests that we perceive them as automatons. There are very real ethical consequences to the decision to deny the possibility of mind to the things we encounter.

As for the "fish in the sea" argument: Are you arguing that the mathematical patterns underlying the formation of life (particularly fractal patterns) are somehow utterly different than those underlying the rest of the oceanic ecosystem? Or, perhaps, that fish are somehow alien...in terms of biology, fractal structure, etc...with the oceanic ecosystems that they evolved out of? Again, there's a dualism here that strikes me as being indefensible (in this case, a fish-ecosystem dualism). If fish are emergent properties of oceanic ecosystems, then so are their brains, and so are their minds. The ecosystems, the fish, the fish-brains, and the fish-minds are all expressions of underlying processes. I see absolutely no reason not to call those processes mind-like. To do otherwise would require me to endorse a mind-body dualism that seems highly implausible, to say the least.

Finally, regarding the tendency of so many (but by no means all) religions to embrace mind-body dualism: I think that this is a profound mistake, but one that can only be corrected through theological and philosophical argument. Frankly, I think that this dualism betrays the best parts of humankind's religious experience, and paves the way for fundamentalism, which strikes me as being a degenerate form of religiosity, just as fascism is a degenerate form of political organization.

[ 16 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 16 July 2007 06:27 PM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Catchfire:
I find it difficult to believe that she meant the only reason the West supported Hussein was because he was a secularist.

I find it incredible too. But I was only responding to what she said in the quoted extract. And that's what she said.

quote:
Essentially, I find the frequent refrain of the Dawkins/Harris type, "if we remove religion, there would be no war in the Middle East," to be nothing short of laughable.

If that's their view, it is worse than laughable - it is doing legwork for George W. Bush. I've already mentioned that Harris's overemphasis on Islam is suspect. In the case of Dawkins, whom I have read, he appears to me to have no understanding of politics whatsoever.

Religion is not a cause of war - nowhere that I know, not in recent centuries anyway. It is a horrendous fairy tale which allows evil to grab hold of otherwise good people and help them rationalize shedding the blood of other good people. That is one of the two reasons why religion must be exposed and condemned. The other one, of course, is that it "explains" the world through lies instead of through science.


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
Frustrated Mess
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posted 16 July 2007 06:42 PM      Profile for Frustrated Mess   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
No, as many philosophers have demonstrated most adequately, you couldn't prove that you exist in the sense that you are a sentient being. There's an entire school of philosophy devoted to this kind of problem--it's called epistemology (you know, the whole "how do you know you're not a brain in a vat with all of your sensations being transmitted to you through electrical stimulation"...the Matrix thing).

Yes, I am aware of it. Some Australian aboriginals also believe the dream world, as a separate stream of reality, is more real than the waking world. But regardless of all of that, I, as a real person, an automaton, whatever, can communicate in real time, can think, apparently, and can tell you that I exist at least on the same plane as you. I can even give you a call. God can do none of that.

quote:

After all, according to physicist Mark Buchanan's Ubiquity: The Science of History...Or Why the World Is Simpler Than We Think (2000), things as disparate as intellectual revolutions in the sciences, wars, mass extinctions, forest fires, and earthquakes all appear to follow what mathematicians call "power laws"...statistical patterns that seem to hold for systems in states that are far from equilibrium but below the threshold of pure chaos. If the functioning of human brains and many non-human phenomena seem to abide by the same mathematical regularities, then your expression of mind-like behaviour could simply be the working out of these regularities, as devoid of consciousness as we believe earthquakes and forest fires are.


I think that fits very nicely with Dawkin's selfish gene theory where he argues humans are survival machines for genes. But that doesn't mean we don't have consciousness. The interesting question is can we use our consciousness to change the path upon which nature, either through the selfish gene or some mathematical equation, puts us?

quote:

You mention that regardless of whether or not the universe is mind-like, it won't change the way you live your life. I wonder, though, would it change the way you lived your life if you believed that consciousness was an aberration--something that you shared with a very few people, or perhaps with no one else at all? I suspect that if you believed this, you would be a lot less respectful of the people you encountered in your daily life. Similarly, if we choose to arbitrarily refuse to perceive the universe as mind-like, then we can do whatever we want with it...pollute it, pillage it, torture it, etc. Our treatment of animals in laboratories, for example, certainly suggests that we perceive them as automatons. There are very real ethical consequences to the decision to deny the possibility of mind to the things we encounter.


We do that anyway and I think the reason we do that is because a) religion has taught us that the earth is ours to do with as we will -- we have been given dominion and b) because we have used religion to externalize responsibility, i.e. God will provide.

I don't think we need to give consciousness to something to hold it in esteem and protect it. For me, it is enough that it lives.

quote:

As for the "fish in the sea" argument: Are you arguing that the mathematical patterns underlying the formation of life (particularly fractal patterns) are somehow utterly different than those underlying the rest of the oceanic ecosystem? Or, perhaps, that fish are somehow alien...in terms of biology, fractal structure, etc...with the oceanic ecosystems that they evolved out of? Again, there's a dualism here that strikes me as being indefensible (in this case, a fish-ecosystem dualism). If fish are emergent properties of oceanic ecosystems, then so are their brains, and so are their minds. The ecosystems, the fish, the fish-brains, and the fish-minds are all expressions of underlying processes. I see absolutely no reason not to call those processes mind-like. To do otherwise would require me to endorse a mind-body dualism that seems highly implausible, to say the least.

Uhm, no. I am not saying anything so complex. I am merely saying that the earth floats through space in the same way that fish swim in the sea. The planet just is. We just are. The fish just are. We do not need a greater meaning for life. Life is great in meaning in and of itself. I don't need a reason to live. I just am and I am grateful for it.

quote:

Finally, regarding the tendency of so many (but by no means all) religions to embrace mind-body dualism: I think that this is a profound mistake, but one that can only be corrected through theological and philosophical argument. Frankly, I think that this dualism betrays the best parts of humankind's religious experience, and paves the way for fundamentalism, which strikes me as being a degenerate form of religiosity, just as fascism is a degenerate form of political organization.

I agree.

From: doom without the gloom | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
TemporalHominid
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posted 16 July 2007 07:09 PM      Profile for TemporalHominid   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Catchfire:

Essentially, I find the frequent refrain of the Dawkins/Harris type, "if we remove religion, there would be no war in the Middle East," to be nothing short of laughable.

I don't think Dawkins or Harris ever made that claim, and they don't try to simplify the historical, political socio-economic situations in the Middle East, They don't claim to be authroities on the Middle East . Going beyond an examination of the meta-physical beliefs of extremists and moderates is as far as they go because the other factors are beyond the scope of their premise, but at the same time, they do believe that faith is part of the tapestry of the complex conflicts in the middle east.


From: Under a bridge, in Foot Muck | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
Contrarian
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posted 16 July 2007 07:36 PM      Profile for Contrarian     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Catchfire:
I find it difficult to believe that she meant the only reason the West supported Hussein was because he was a secularist.

Originally posted by unionist:
I find it incredible too. But I was only responding to what she said in the quoted extract. And that's what she said.


Saddam was a secularist, which is not the same thing as an atheist. One reason the US supported him for many years was that he was NOT a Shi'ite who would make common cause with the theocratic government of Iran. In other words they supported him because he was a secularist.

And Armstrong is perfectly right about:

quote:
...So this kind of chauvinism that says secularism is right, religion is all bunk -- this is one-sided and I think basically egotistic. People are saying my opinion is right and everybody else's is wrong. It gets you riled up. It gives you a sense of holy righteousness, where you feel frightfully pleased with yourself when you're sounding off, and you get a glorious buzz about it...
because this is exactly what some of you loudmouthed obnoxious atheists keep doing on rabble. So cut out the holy righteousness, it looks just as ugly on atheists as it does on religious people.

From: pretty far west | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
TemporalHominid
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posted 16 July 2007 07:38 PM      Profile for TemporalHominid   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post
re: lack of tolerance in those archaic sources of hate speech:

quote:
If your brother, the son of your father or of your mother, or your son or daughter, or the spouse whom you embrace, or your most intimate friend, tries to secretly seduce you, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods,” unknown to you or your ancestors before you, gods of the peoples surrounding you, whether near you or far away, anywhere throughout the world, you must not consent, you must not listen to him; you must show him no pity, you must not spare him or conceal his guilt. No, you must kill him, your hand must strike the first blow in putting him to death and the hands of the rest of the people following. You must stone him to death, since he has tried to divert you from Yahweh your God. . .

.(Deuteronomy 13:7–11)

It seams to me that a literalist, a fundamentalist and the extremist has no option in his world perspective but to kill the moderates that water down gods work and do not kill the sister that signs up for Yoga. They must kill the daughter and any one else in the family.. And they must kill those that a secular, and those that subscribe to other beliefs, and all their family members.

And its all all right, because it is the word of god. If people verbalise their dissent, then they must be silenced... first by being labelled bigots for not tolerating the belief of the extremist, and if that course does not work in a liberal democracy then stoned to death, along with their families. People like Hitchens and Harris and Dawkins must die, so must their families. And these people do receive threats like "we know where your children go to school"

[ 16 July 2007: Message edited by: TemporalHominid ]


From: Under a bridge, in Foot Muck | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
TemporalHominid
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posted 16 July 2007 07:48 PM      Profile for TemporalHominid   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Contrarian:
because this is exactly what some of you loudmouthed obnoxious atheists keep doing on rabble. So cut out the holy righteousness, it looks just as ugly on atheists as it does on religious people.

So people that are not credulous should shut up and let the extremist credulous types influence or dicate the agenda of politicians and governments ... got it. I don't think I'll be shutting up anytime soon. Are you going to stone me?

I want my secular democracy to remain as secular as possible, and I don't want my democracy strangled by extremists that believe they must kill everyone that does not subscribe to their faith perspective.


From: Under a bridge, in Foot Muck | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 16 July 2007 07:54 PM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Frustrated Mess:

If there was no religion in the middle-east over what would they be fighting?

FM, you are totally wrong. Zionism was never a religious movement. The mass of orthodox Jewry opposed Zionism, and large swaths of it do today. The main cadre of the Zionist movement pre-1948, indeed to this day, were secular and even atheist. And there was nothing particularly Islamic about their adversaries, with occasional individual exceptions, until the very recent past.

The fight between settlers and indigenous people had nothing to do with religion, and it doesn't today. I'm rather surprised you would promote this view.


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 16 July 2007 07:57 PM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by TemporalHominid:

So people that are not credulous should shut up and let the extremist credulous types influence or dicate the agenda of politicians and governments ... got it. I don't think I'll be shutting up anytime soon. Are you going to stone me?

I want my secular democracy to remain as secular as possible, and I don't want my democracy strangled by extremists that believe they must kill everyone that does not subscribe to their faith perspective.


Well said. Bravo. The problem with religious proponents is not that they are loudmouthed or obnoxious. Many are not. The problem is that they are wrong.


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 16 July 2007 08:05 PM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Frustrated Mess: You write, "I think that fits very nicely with Dawkin's selfish gene theory where he argues humans are survival machines for genes. But that doesn't mean we don't have consciousness."

I think you're missing my point. I'm not arguing that it's impossible that we have consciousness, I'm arguing that you are incapable of proving to me that you have consciousness. The strategy you're using to try and convince me that you have consciousness is to demonstrate that you are behaving in mind-like fashion. I'm rebutting by arguing (1) that the mind appears to follow mathematical regularities that are present in many parts of nature that we normally think of as being non-conscious, (2) that there is a very influential school of materialist philosophy (the metaphysical philosophy that Harris and Dawkins promote and that they pass off as being somehow "scientific") that claims that consciousness is an epiphenomena that cannot exert a causal influence on our behaviour, (3) that if we accept points 1&2 we have to admit that it is possible that mind-like behaviour can occur without consciousness, and (4) that if we grant 3 we have to admit that your mind-like behaviour can't be used as conclusive evidence of sentience.

I'm going on to argue that if we are willing to be philosophically generous and assume that your mind-like behaviour is evidence of sentience, then there is no reason not to be similarly generous towards the cosmos, which appears to function according to the same mathematical patterns that our brains operate according to. I'm also making the ethical argument that when we don't attribute some form of consciousness to things (like animals, thank you very much Rene Descartes) we tend to treat them very badly because in so doing we perceive them only as objects, rather than as subjects. Finally, I'm arguing that whereas science offers absolutely no grounds for attributing consciousness (in whatever form) to things that behave in mind-like ways, religion does.

Now, as for "the fish in the sea" argument and your assertion about the presence of life in the ocean of space, I'm reminded of a book by philosophy professor Leonard Angel entitled Enlightenment East and West (1994). (I'm going to cut and paste here from a portion of an article I wrote for The Republic...again, it saves time.)

Angel argues that, philosophically speaking, each of us has three bodies. First, we have an experiential body. This body is the particular physical system we experience as present whenever we’re aware, the body that we can feel, taste, smell, hear, and see, and that provides a centre for our sensory experience of the world. Second, we have a volitional body. This is the body that responds to our commands, that moves when we tell it to move. Third, we have a causal body, the physical support system that makes it possible for us to have experiential and volitional bodies.

These bodies aren’t identical. My experiential body produces countless sensations my volitional body can’t control or even understand. My causal body certainly includes such things as my autonomic nervous system, my gastro-intestinal system, and my circulatory system, which typically operate independently of my volitional body, and which are often inaccessible to my experiential body.

While experiential and volitional bodies are relatively straightforward, causal bodies are a little more complicated. What is included in our physical support system? Surely it includes all the organs, muscles, bones, nerves, and other localized phenomena that we normally associate with the word “body”, but Angel argues that we shouldn’t restrict our definition to these phenomena. If our causal bodies include everything that supports the physical existence of our volitional and experiential bodies, then this must also include the air passing through our lungs and the nutrients flowing through our stomachs. In fact, whatever interacts with us in a causal fashion is by definition a part of our causal body. Angel writes that “There is no compelling metaphysical reason which leads one to say that fruit trees and the atmosphere are not to be regarded as parts of one’s causal body, whereas the appendix, small toes, gall bladder, and hair are.”

If Angel is correct, then we all share a causal body that encompasses the entire Earth, but it doesn’t stop there. Think of what it takes to produce a brain capable of consciousness, of having both experience and volition. The human brain is the most complicated object in the known universe. It’s the latest stage in an evolutionary process that’s over three billion years old. Before that process could begin, a solar system capable of supporting life had to coalesce, which could only happen after a second generation of stars had appeared.

Returning to Ian Barbour's Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues (1997), Barbour writes “We now know that it takes about fifteen billion years for heavy elements to be cooked in the interior of stars and then scattered to form a second generation of stars with planets, followed by the evolution of life and consciousness. A very old expanding universe has to be a huge universe—on the order of fifteen billion light years.” The human brain could only emerge in a universe as vast and ancient as the one we inhabit. And so our causal body is finally identical with the whole causally interactive universe, the network of causation from which everything arises and into which everything falls. (Interestingly, this would imply that whatever falls outside of our light-cone would likely not be a part of our causal body, as it couldn't in any way causally interact with us, but, even so, this makes for a monstrously expansive causal body.)

But what is the significance of the brain’s consciousness? Is it a pointless aberration in an otherwise unfeeling cosmos? Perhaps not. Many philosophers, such as Alfred North Whitehead, the father of Process Theology, argue that the only way to avoid the problems of mind-body dualism is by assuming that the capacity for experience is a property of existence itself. This property would reside, in however rudimentary or latent a form, in unified systems as miniscule as the atom. It would progressively develop through more nuanced and integrated responsive systems, such as those found in cells, followed by the increasingly sophisticated nervous systems found in the animal world, culminating, so far as we’re aware, with the expression of self-reflective, multi-layered consciousness in the human brain.

If our causal body is the universe, and if human consciousness is a sophisticated expression of a latent property found everywhere in the universe, then what would this mean? Alan Moore, the creator of such comics as V for Vendetta, wrote an entire series devoted to this very subject (check out his work--the man is a genius whose writing has been absolutely butchered by Hollywood). In the culminating issues of Promethea, he speculates that we’re space-time’s sensory organs, the means by which the living universe perceives itself.

Space, in this reading, is an integral part of our shared causal body, just as the ocean is an integral part of the fish's causal body. Our decision to separate body and space probably has a lot to do with an area of the brain that Andrew Newberg MD, Eugene D'Aquili MD/PHD, and Vince Rause, the authors of Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and Belief (2001) refer to as the Orientation Association Area, or OAA (this is simply a useful descriptor--it's actual name is the posterior superior parietal lobe).

This is the part of the brain that allows us to navigate through space so that we don't bump into things or fall down all the time.

Based on their research with experienced meditators, these authors believe that in deep meditation or prayer either the brain's quiescent or arousal system goes into overdrive, producing a corresponding activation of its counterpart (thus, when pushed to its limit, the arousal system triggers the quiescent and vice-verse). When this happens, the brain enters a state known as deafferentiation, in which sensory stimuli to the OAA suddenly diminishes dramatically. When this occurs, the OAA...which continues to function quite well despite the sudden loss of sensory input...experiences a state of oneness, interpreted either as pure egolessness or of immersion in a cosmic ego. The authors make the argument that this is in no way an expression of pathological functioning: it's not a seizure, it's not a psychotic episode, and it's correlated with overall mental health and high functioning in other areas of life, as well as improved empathy (which, I believe, is necessary for the development our ethical potentials).

(Of course, the meditators might just be automatons, so if we're going to take the author's positions seriously we have to be philosophically generous and choose to attribute sentience to their research subjects.)

The experience of this state of egolessness is remarkable in a number of ways, but most tellingly in the way that it's recalled later. Consider that when we dream or hallucinate, we're convinced that what we're experiencing is "real", but when we return to normal waking consciousness we can tell that what we experienced during these altered states was somehow less real than what we experience normally. In contrast, following a deafferentiated state normal waking consciousness appears less connected with reality than the state of egolessness that's been left behind.

Angel would probably interpret this experience as the sudden apprehension of our infinite causal body. I believe that it's very likely that this experience forms the experiental core of our religious traditions.

At their best, religious traditions provide methods (such as prayer, meditation, and ethical programmes) that make such experiences more likely. Normally, it takes ages for people to learn how to even begin the process of deafferentiation...there are, after all, degrees of deafferentiation that the brain is capable of. Towards this end, some kind of religious institutions are necessary in the same way that athletic regimes and institutions are necessary to produce athletic excellence. The problem, of course, is that these institutions are subject to all of the corruption that all human institutions are subject to.

One of the biggest mistakes of people like Harris and Dawkins, as I see it, is that in their criticism of religion, they mistake the general tendency towards institutional corruption as it plays out in religious institutions for a problem with religion itself, or with religious institutions in themselves. This, I think, is comparable to trying to get rid of "politics" or "political institutions" because of a belief that all politics is inherently corrupt. We are, I believe, religious beings in much the same way that we're political beings: both are part of the human condition, and, regardless of how often our best religious and political impulses are betrayed, we can get rid of neither.

[ 16 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
Jingles
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posted 16 July 2007 09:24 PM      Profile for Jingles     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
So this kind of chauvinism that says secularism is right, religion is all bunk -- this is one-sided and I think basically egotistic. People are saying my opinion is right and everybody else's is wrong. It gets you riled up. It gives you a sense of holy righteousness, where you feel frightfully pleased with yourself when you're sounding off, and you get a glorious buzz about it...

Atheists are egotistical? She must be high.

Believers are the most narcissistic, egotistical, megaolomanical, and selfish people on earth. They believe that this God, the very Creator of the Universe, the One God, the Alpha and the Omega, without beginning and without end, gives a shit about their pathetic, meaningless lives. I have fossils that are older than Homo Sapien Sapien, and yet there are people who think that there is a divine, universe-shattering plan for their sneeze of a lifetime.

It's not faith, it's mental illness.


From: At the Delta of the Alpha and the Omega | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 16 July 2007 09:36 PM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Nenonen:
I'm not arguing that it's impossible that we have consciousness, I'm arguing that you are incapable of proving to me that you have consciousness.

Hmmm. Adolescent pseudo-philosophical debates. Have you ever worked in a factory?

quote:
... an epiphenomena ...

Nahhh, it's "an epiphenomenon".

quote:
...(like animals, thank you very much Rene Descartes)

I thank, therefore I am!?

quote:
(I'm going to cut and paste here from a portion of an article I wrote for The Republic...again, it saves time.)

Perhaps, but think what it does to space! Especially on dial-up!

quote:
... the authors of Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and Belief (2001)

Wait just one minute, professor. These dudes are plagiarists. Wasn't it Oulon Colluphid who authored the epic trilogy: "Where God Went Wrong", "Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes", and "Who is this God Person Anyway?" [Apologies to Douglas Adams.]

quote:
This is the part of the brain that allows us to navigate through space so that we don't bump into things or fall down all the time.

Coulda used that sucker when debates like this one used to intrigue me, I'll tell ya that much...


quote:
We are, I believe, religious beings in much the same way that we're political beings:

Speak for thyself, my son. For in my abode, the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch doth stand ready to smite, yea verily, all "religious beings" that do venture to traverse my godless lintel!


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 16 July 2007 09:41 PM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Y'know, one thing that bothers me about this thread is the unduly scholarly tone. When I told the folks back in the lunchroom about how the debate was going, they laughed heartily (especially at the gratuitous dropping of René Descartes' name) and burst, quite spontaneously, into merry song:

quote:
Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable.

Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table.

David Hume could out-consume
Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel,

And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as sloshed as Schlegel.

There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach ya
'Bout the raising of the wrist.
Socrates, himself, was permanently pissed.

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will,
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.

Plato, they say, could stick it away--
Half a crate of whisky every day.

Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle.
Hobbes was fond of his dram,

And René Descartes was a drunken fart.
'I drink, therefore I am.'

Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed,
A lovely little thinker,
But a bugger when he's pissed.


[Apologies to Monty Python.]

ETA: Ok folks, before you click on the next link, make sure you have something like Quicktime or Media Classic Player (mercifully free!) or Winamp etc., and you can hear the philosophers filleted in full flourish:

The Philosophers' Song

[ 16 July 2007: Message edited by: unionist ]


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
CharlotteAshley
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posted 17 July 2007 03:38 AM      Profile for CharlotteAshley   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Nenonen:
I wonder if the professed atheists on this post would be willing to allow theistic regimes and politically influential theistic movements the same sort of caveats that they inevitably bring out whenever anyone mentions the crimes of regimes and movements with profoundly anti-religious biases.
[ 16 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]

Before anyone goes about putting words in anyone else's mouth, I'd like to declare myself an atheist who has NO interest in linking the crimes of the follower with the belief. I do NOT believe religion is the source of all evil or political instability.

Were we all secular atheists, the same folks would find a new excuse to behave barbarically, IMO.

Charlotte


From: Toronto | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
Frustrated Mess
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posted 17 July 2007 04:31 AM      Profile for Frustrated Mess   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
FM, you are totally wrong. Zionism was never a religious movement.

Unionist, I clarified my position to say "Whatever Zionism started out as, and whatever it has become, there is no denying that Zionists appeal to the Jewishness of its target audience and has firmly planted itself, rightly or wrongly, on the faith and beliefs of Jews."


quote:
Originally posted by Michael Nenonen:

I think you're missing my point. I'm not arguing that it's impossible that we have consciousness, I'm arguing that you are incapable of proving to me that you have consciousness.


Well, that is because you are moving the argument. You can't prove that you have consciousness. Two people in the same room discussing consciousness can't prove that they have consciousness. We assume we have consciousness because within our existence we do. My argument is that God can't be proven. Not even within the confines being erected by you. All else being equal, I can pinch you and you can pinch me but neither if us can pinch God.

quote:

We are, I believe, religious beings in much the same way that we're political beings: both are part of the human condition, and, regardless of how often our best religious and political impulses are betrayed, we can get rid of neither.


So you think we are victims of nature? In the God Delusion, Dawkins asks what role religion would play in human, and therefore gene, survival. He makes convincing arguments. He also makes the argument that children have the ability to imagine their minds being separate from their bodies -- dualism, as it were.

I think you make the error of assuming humans are the final product, the apex, of evolution. It is that sort of thinking that some say is responsible for human chauvinism and disrespect for the planet and systems we all share.

Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael, argues that human arrogance, assuming we are the ultimate in evolution, denies us the ability to evolve further and denies all other creatures the ability to evolve further. Partly because in our arrogance we are driving other species into extinction.

I think part of what you are arguing is based on the presumption that we must be here for a reason. Call it human exceptionalism. I don't believe that. We are here because evolution put us here. If our species did not evolve to be atop the food chain, another would have.

Yes, we have consciousness. Or at least we think we do assuming we are not automatons. But who is to say other species would not evolve to our level of consciousness and even beyond if left alone to their natural environment, each other, and nature?

I can accept your philosophy of us being part of the web of existence. But for me it ends when we are place ourselves as the end product of evolution.

[ 17 July 2007: Message edited by: Frustrated Mess ]


From: doom without the gloom | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 17 July 2007 04:53 AM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Frustrated Mess:
Unionist, I clarified my position to say "Whatever Zionism started out as, and whatever it has become, there is no denying that Zionists appeal to the Jewishness of its target audience and has firmly planted itself, rightly or wrongly, on the faith and beliefs of Jews."

Ok, I see that now, thanks FM. But I'd like to note that you did follow up with this:

quote:
And many of the settlers are motivated by a strong belief that the land they occupy was promised them by God. What would be the reason for their hate and obstinance if there was no God?

If you're talking about some of the post-1967 Occupied Territories maniacs, that may be true - although even there I would argue that their "religion" is only a figleaf for territorial and economic aims, and it is only a fanatical fringe that talks that way. But in the origins of the conflict, and (I repeat) right up to date, religion has played no actual role. Palestinians aren't fighting because of Jihad or Allah and never were. Nor will you ever find any religious statements or motivations on the part of the Zionist leaders. It's all about territory, resources (water), politics, economics, interfering foreign powers - and if anything, race and ethnicity, not religion, are used to stoke the flames.


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
Frustrated Mess
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posted 17 July 2007 05:17 AM      Profile for Frustrated Mess   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
although even there I would argue that their "religion" is only a figleaf for territorial and economic aims

I would say that is almost always the case.

From: doom without the gloom | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 17 July 2007 07:48 AM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Frustrated Mess: Regarding pinching me...this is a stimuli that you would use to elicit a response that would demonstrate, in your opinion, evidence of consciousness, even though it might very well be nothing of the kind (the automaton argument again). Another kind of stimuli would, I assume, be language, but this still falls prey to the automaton option. Clearly, assuming that you have consciousness, there is no way that you could determine that I have consciousness. Unless we are willing to make a leap of faith on this matter, our solipsism is inescapable.

Now, imagine that we were to pinch or speak to an entity that we cannot hurt and that doesn't communicate through an understandable language, but whose behaviour still seems governed by the same mathematical regularities underlying our own, and who shares with us the same causal body from which our minds and consciousnesses have arisen. Whether or not we attribute consciousness and mind to this entity depends upon the same leap of faith that we use in our discussions with one another. When we're talking about the cosmos itself (rather than, for example, and earthquake), that is, when we're talking about the entirety of our causal body, I can see no reason for not granting it the same courtesy that I grant you when I assume that you aren't an automaton.

As for another one of your points, I'm not sure that human beings are the apex of evolution. I think it's altogether possible that our minds are part of a greater mind of such subtlety that we can't comprehend it, and that our own sentience is simply a localized expression of a much larger phenomenon. I also think it's possible that there are forms of organic life in the universe that are more neurologically sophisticated than we are...with the provision that their increased sophistication would still have required all of the pre-requisites that I outlined in my previous post (second generation stars, billions of years of evolution, etc).

Despite these possibilities, the fact remains that, as far as we know, our brains are the most complex objects in the universe. Even so, the brain seems to be an expression of mathematical regularities that, while not omnipresent, are certainly widespread enough within the universe as to suggest an underlying identity between the brain and the rest of existence, and to strongly suggest that mind and consciousness exist outside of the confines of our skulls.

Anyway, I'd like to thank you for something. Throughout this discussion you've been very respectful, while a number of other posters have resorted to name-calling, the blithe dismissal of my arguments by quoting Monty Python skits and referring to my arguments (and the arguments of physicists, philosophy professors, and neurologists) as "adolescent pseudo-philosophy", and--my favourite--the blanket condemnation of religion as being an expression of mental illness while simultaneously exalting atheists as paragons of rational impartiality. In doing so, I believe they've demonstrated that atheism can be a kind of exclusionary religiosity, a religiosity designed to reinforce one's own sense of metaphysical certainty and ideological superiority by means of the demonization of an out-group, and that leads to attempts to silence members of that out-group by attacking them on a personal level. I don't believe that atheism has to degenerate into such a debased religiosity--Noam Chomsky's and Albert Camus' atheism comes to mind as examples of honestly enlightened forms of atheism--but I think that, like all forms of religiosity, atheism is susceptible to such degeneration.

And unionist...do you really think it's possible to discuss metaphysics--which is what we inevitably have to address when we're talking about God--without bringing in metaphysical arguments? Or does it bother you when people expose and challenge the metaphysical assumptions that the positions of polemicists like Harris and Dawkins depend upon, but that they're loathe to admit?

[ 17 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 17 July 2007 08:32 AM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Next we should embark on a 10-year polite scholarly debate with the creationists, being very respectful at all times, because after all, their views our just as valid as ours. Then we should have a nice respectful discussion with anti-choice religious people who, after all, are just coming down on one side of a very very legitimate difference of opinion. Then on to same-sex marriage, child labour, and the White Man's Burden.

Respect for all opinions, under all circumstances, is the key. Otherwise, we become "exclusionary", which, you understand, is very bad. Religious people never practise exclusion. We progressives must learn from their profoundly ecumenical spirit.

In the name of the three bodies, Amen.

On the issue of "respect", I adopt Dawkin's and Mencken's views:

quote:
I am not in favour of offending or hurting anyone just for the sake of it. But I am intrigued and mystified by the disproportionate privileging of religion in our otherwise secular societies. All politicians must get used to disrespectful cartoons of their faces, and nobody riots in their defence.

What is so special about religion that we grant it such uniquely privileged respect? As H. L. Mencken said: ‘We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.’



From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 17 July 2007 08:35 AM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Well, that's a nice answer to a question I didn't ask. Would you be interested in answering the questions I actually posed?

Once again: do you really think it's possible to discuss metaphysics--which is what we inevitably have to address when we're talking about God--without bringing in metaphysical arguments? Or does it bother you when people expose and challenge the metaphysical assumptions that the positions of polemicists like Harris and Dawkins depend upon, but that they're loathe to admit?

[ 17 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 17 July 2007 08:37 AM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Nenonen:
Well, that's a nice answer to a question I didn't ask. Would you be interested in answering the questions I actually posed?

Actually, my post was in reply to your very latest post (before you edited it to include a new question to me, which I will address in due course). Here is what you said about the two topics I just raised, namely "respect" and "exclusion":

quote:
Throughout this discussion you've been very respectful, while a number of other posters have resorted to name-calling, the blithe dismissal of my arguments by quoting Monty Python skits and referring to my arguments (and the arguments of physicists, philosophy professors, and neurologists) as "adolescent pseudo-philosophy", and--my favourite--the blanket condemnation of religion as being an expression of mental illness while simultaneously exalting atheists as paragons of rational impartiality. In doing so, I believe they've demonstrated that atheism can be a kind of exclusionary religiosity, a religiosity designed to reinforce one's own sense of metaphysical certainty and ideological superiority by means of the demonization of an out-group, and that leads to attempts to silence members of that out-group by attacking them on a personal level.

From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 17 July 2007 08:43 AM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Fair enough. So, what you're saying, if I'm reading you correctly, is that it's all right when atheists cling to an ideology that gives them a sense of metaphysical certainty, that frames their in-group as being rational and virtuous and their out-group as being irrational and vicious, that refuses to engage their primary opponents in honest debate, and that misrepresents their opponents' positions through the erection of straw men, but that when theists do these things it's a sign that religion is inherently malignant.

You said in another thread that you "hate religion." It also sounds like you want other people to treat this particular hatred with some sort of consideration, rather than to treat it the way we normally treat hatred--that is, as an expression of the most debased part of our emotional functioning, and the emotion furthest removed from rational discourse.

[ 17 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 17 July 2007 08:58 AM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Nenonen:
Once again: do you really think it's possible to discuss metaphysics--which is what we inevitably have to address when we're talking about God--without bringing in metaphysical arguments?

This is a progressive board. I don't come here to debate whether God exists or not. I did that when I was an adolescent. I still do that on occasion with friends and family members. But among progressives, in a political context, a person's individual religious convictions (or lack of same) are not up for discussion, any more than debates on whether we should all be heterosexual or homosexual. Individual freedom of conscience is sacred, and such debates lead only to division and disunity.

The ways these discussions generally arise are varied: 1) States and societies which seek to impose one belief set or another and practise discrimination; 2) states or groups or individuals that exploit religion for nefarious purposes (war, misogyny, exploitation, etc.); 3) (related to the previous ones) the need to have officially secular states and societies - separation of church and state; 4) the need to respect freedom of conscience and the challenges of accommodation, etc.

In all these arenas, progressive people - whether atheist or Catholic or Animist or whatever - are firmly united. Their private beliefs and practices in no way interfere with their ability to combat injustice, together. If, on the other hand, a Muslim says that her beliefs require that she aim for the establishment of an Islamic Republic in Canada or Egypt or Afghanistan, then that person will have difficulty being part of a progressive movement in Canada - unless they just keep their belief to themselves and find other issues on which to unite.

So, in short, metaphysical discussions are indeed very important when talking about God. But progressive people never talk together about God at all (except as per points 1-4 above and similar), nor about sexual orientation (except of course to unite in fighting tooth and nail for equality), nor about skirts and jeans (except when needed to oppose oppressive and arbitrary dress codes), and so forth.

quote:
Or does it bother you when people expose and challenge the metaphysical assumptions that the positions of polemicists like Harris and Dawkins depend upon, but that they're loathe to admit?

Not at all. I confess I still find it stunning that grown people, in our society, in 2007, would profess to believe that supernatural entities exist (really, not figuratively) that have some causal relationship with either the universe's origins, or its daily unfolding, or both. But I have overcome my amazement and learned to live with it.

The key thing is this: You can prove, beyond any reasonable scientific or spiritual doubt, that Harris, Dawkins and others are frauds, self-delusional, lying, scheming, and all the rest. You may be absolutely correct. But, as others have mentioned above, none of that will breathe a puff of life into your long-obsolete, long-dead God model.

Evolution is an amazing process. Once human beings have surpassed a lower stage of development, it is really hard to drag them back down.


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 17 July 2007 09:08 AM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Well, that's nice, but again you've answered none of the points I've raised.

By endorsing materialism, you have expressed metaphysical positions that you simply have not defended, and you have blithely ridiculed my attempts to examine these metaphysical positions. Most significantly, you responded to none of the points raised by Ian Barbour in one of my earlier posts that specifically addressed your central criticisms of religion.

This is an example of the arrogance that I often encounter in debates with atheists: many lay claim to an exalted rational status that they simply aren't interested in earning.

And, of course, you are being disingenuous in your list of reasons why progressives discuss religion. One of the reasons why many progressive atheists discuss religion is to mock theists, including progressive theists, and to thereby bolster their own sense of metaphysical certainty and ideological superiority. When this occurs...as it does regularly on this discussion board...it makes perfect sense for progressive theists to respond. When they do, however, they are called mentally ill, irrational, and otherwise foolish. This inevitably alienates people who should be natural allies.

[ 17 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
remind
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posted 17 July 2007 09:10 AM      Profile for remind     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by unionist:
Individual freedom of conscience is sacred, and such debates lead only to division and disunity.

Excellent point, and I would ask what are people doing here trying to discuss religion recently and trying to pose things from a religious stand point even, no matter what religion it is?


From: "watching the tide roll away" | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 17 July 2007 09:21 AM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Unionist: Regarding your assertion that the movement away from theism is a kind of evolution out of ignorance, I'm going to re-post something I wrote some time ago in another thread, as it's relevant here.

The notion that atheism and secularism represent a form of societal evolution away from ignorance is a legacy of the Enlightenment, which itself was very much a stage in the development of a cultural dynamic that had been playing itself out in Europe for quite some time, perhaps beginning with the Reformation. The work of Walter Benjamin is rather useful in understanding these dynamics.

Reformation Christianity was the brainchild of Martin Luther. Contrary to the dogmas of the Catholic Church, Luther believed that salvation was brought about by faith alone, rather than by good deeds or the intercession of church authorities. Faith, however, was contingent upon God’s grace, which could never be compelled by human efforts and which was, therefore, forever uncertain. By making grace and faith the sole factors in the redemptive drama, this drained human actions, and indeed the mortal world itself, of their spiritual significance. A de-sanctified world, a world with an impoverished mythos, is a meaningless world, a world of melancholy and mourning. As Shakespeare puts it in Macbeth, “Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

The primary virtue within such a world is the capacity to endure despair, to live without the comforts of sacred meaning. Benjamin argues that by valorizing existential dread, Reformation Christianity made possible the development of an economic system predicated upon the meaninglessness of human existence, wherein all things and all people are evaluated solely in terms of their usefulness in the metaphysically pointless process of capital accumulation. Once Reformation Christianity relocated sanctity outside the circles of the mortal world, capitalism could do away with sanctity altogether. In this reading, capitalism is devoted to the annihilation of the sacred. Benjamin writes that “Capitalism is an unprecedented religion which offers not the reform of existence, but its complete destruction.”

This set the stage for modernization, atheism, and secularization, cultural developments that may have had generally positive results for Europeans and their descendants, but which have had far more ambiguous effects elsewhere in the world. Consider, for example, the different roles that these developments have played in Europe and the Middle East.

Karen Armstrong’s The Battle For God examines the different trajectories modernization has taken in Europe and the Middle East. She argues that modernization, which is a necessary feature of secularization, involves radical economic and political changes that influence every institution in society. Whereas agrarian civilizations are limited by the productivity of the soil and can never count on significant surplus production in any given year, modern civilizations employ industrial technologies to achieve ever-higher surpluses year after year. While agrarian civilizations are necessarily conservative and guided by memories of the past, modern civilizations value experimentation and are oriented towards the future. The process of modernization in Europe took several hundred years. It was accompanied by numerous wars, mass dislocations of people, ethnic cleansing, and wrenching cultural upheavals, but it gave Europe the means to raise standards of living and to dominate the entire globe. Because of this, modernization was generally regarded in Europe as a liberating process.

In the Middle East, however, the story was quite different. Europe modernized on its own over a long time within a veritable geopolitical vacuum. In the Middle East modernization was rapidly imposed by colonial conquerors or by regimes that were desperate to stem European incursions into their territory. Rather than having centuries to evolve, modernization had to move quickly, without allowing sufficient time for Middle Eastern societies to adapt to the changes it brought about. This made modernization even more violent and chaotic than it was in Europe. Most importantly, modernization didn’t confer any real geopolitical advantages in the Middle East. In the race for modernization, these nations couldn’t hope to compete successfully with European countries that had enjoyed a centuries-long head start. In fact, all too often modernization projects, such as the building of the Suez Canal, simply served the interests of colonial powers, leaving Middle Eastern countries terribly indebted and their people destitute. In the Middle East, therefore, modernization was generally and understandably seen as oppressive and exploitive.

The history of conflicts between rulers and religious authorities also had different trajectories in the Middle East and Europe, as documented by Richard Bulliet’s The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization (2004).

In Europe, religious authorities were far more centralized and powerful than they were in the Middle East. Violent European religious conflicts raged from the eleventh century Investiture Controversy until the Peace of Westphali in 1648. When the dust settled, kings had claimed the field, and the power of the clergy receded. Through the course of the religious conflicts, both Catholic and Protestant institutions were every bit as authoritarian as worldly rulers, and they almost always colluded with those rulers in their exploitation of the masses. For progressive Europeans, therefore, secularism became intimately associated with resistance to tyranny. Any explanation of the rise of European secularism has to take this history into account.

While Islamic religious institutions were weaker than their European counterparts, they were also more effective at resisting attacks by the region’s royalty. Unlike the Catholic Church, Islamic religious institutions never became major landholders and were never responsible for atrocities comparable to the European Inquisition, and so they had an easier time retaining their legitimacy among the populace. Furthermore, because the Quran places far more emphasis on the machinery of social justice than the Christian Bible does, Islamic religious authorities often became advocates for the oppressed.

Bulliet writes, “Traditional Islamic political thought had a horror of fitna, a word signifying upheaval and disorder and embracing everything from riot to civil war. Anarchy was intolerable, government a societal necessity. On the other hand, the impulse of rulers to maximize their power to the point of tyranny, zulm, appeared as a natural concomitant of government. All that restrained rulers from acting as tyrants was Islamic law, sharia. Since the law was based on divine rather than human principles, no ruler could change it to serve his interests. Since the interpretation of the law was the prerogative of the ulama, the religious scholars, rulers who were tempted to go beyond the law, and thereby achieve absolute power, had to devise ways of coopting, circumventing, or suppressing the ulama.”

People of European descent tend to see liberty as the opposite of tyranny. For most Muslims, however, the opposite of tyranny is justice, and in particular justice grounded in religious law. Thus, whenever rulers or colonial powers oppressed the people, popular resistance was always framed in religious terms. Islamic religious leaders led armies against imperial invaders, harshly condemned dictators, and organized boycotts of monopolies granted to Western businesses.

Whereas secularism in Europe was accompanied by democracy, in the Middle East it has all too often facilitated the rise of authoritarian regimes like those of the Shah in Iran, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, or Attaturk in Turkey. From the perspective of traditional Islamic political theory, this is exactly what is to be expected whenever the uluma loses ground.

Thus, when Westerners argue for the secularization of the Middle East, we’re unwittingly arguing for the abandonment of the most powerful conceptual vocabulary for the promotion of social justice Middle Eastern Muslims possess, and we’re encouraging the region’s most dangerous authoritarian tendencies.

If the legacy of the Enlightenment has had such different consequences in the Middle East, then imagine how foolish it is to assume that Enlightenment values are necessarily applicable to peoples even further removed from Europe, such as the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

In short, there are grounds for believing that aggressive atheism of the sort advanced by Hitchens, Dawkins, and, frankly, you, is itself an expression of un-self-reflective ethnocentrism.


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 17 July 2007 09:41 AM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Nenonen:

This is an example of the arrogance that I often encounter in debates with atheists: many lay claim to an exalted rational status that they simply aren't interested in earning.

Someone may open a thread here asserting (without scientific evidence, naturally) that the universe is in fact a fleeting nightmare in the troubled sleep of an ant which died billions of years ago. I will arrogantly refuse to enter into such a puerile debate.

Likewise, if someone asserts (again, without scientific evidence) that homosexuality is better for people's mental health than heterosexuality - or vice versa - I will treat such a claim and invitation to discussion with precisely the amount of attention that I consider it merits. Hint: not a lot.

quote:
One of the reasons why many progressive atheists discuss religion is to mock theists, including progressive theists, and to thereby bolster their own sense of metaphysical certainty and ideological superiority.

Show me an example where a discussion on babble began in that way. Please. Because you and I can both cite countless examples of the kinds I mentioned, namely, evil acts committed by or in the name of religion, usually but not always organized religion. So please check the ingredients label on your man carefully for any telltale signs of straw.

quote:
When this occurs...as it does regularly on this discussion board...it makes perfect sense for progressive theists to respond. When they do, however, they are called mentally ill, irrational, and otherwise foolish. This inevitably alienates people who should be natural allies.

Poor theists, just trying to meditate privately on their sincerely held beliefs, and the leftist atheists come along mocking them, picking fights. Let me tell you something, Michael. You don't know my sexual orientation, my taste in clothes, or many other things about me which are my own business and irrelevant to my involvement in progressive politics and discussion. And you know what? I don't really care to know your metaphysico-theological opinions all that much.

No progressive movement ever requires its adherents to hold, or not to hold, any particular private religious views. If you choose to display your religious views in public, be prepared to have them excoriated. Can't take the heat? In my experience, every kitchen, regardless of temperature, has an exit door.


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 17 July 2007 09:47 AM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Nenonen:

Thus, when Westerners argue for the secularization of the Middle East, we’re unwittingly arguing for the abandonment of the most powerful conceptual vocabulary for the promotion of social justice Middle Eastern Muslims possess, and we’re encouraging the region’s most dangerous authoritarian tendencies.

"Westerners" who argue for the secularization of the Middle East are one wing of the White Man's Burden crowd. Progressive people (of all compass points) demand that nations be left alone to work out their form of government, culture, religion, etc. My wish for the region is that all invaders, aggressors and occupiers get the hell out - period. Then, che sera, sera.

You attack the straw men who want to "secularize" the region (like Stephen Harper, I guess, with his militant anti-Islamic fundamentalist stand, backed up by withholding funds from the Hamas-led PA). I agree with you - they should keep their hands off or suffer the consequences. But then, you go further, opining that some religious quackery or "conceptual vocabulary" is recommended for the region. Your interference is just as unwelcome as the fierce anti-Islamists. To them, and to you, I suggest: Mind your own business. The White Man has carried his Burden for too long. Take five.


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 17 July 2007 09:48 AM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
So, again, no, you aren't interested in responding to the points I've raised, but you are interested in taking swipes at emotionally convenient straw men. Again, you're laying claim to a summit of rationality that you obviously have no intention of ascending.

Now, as for threads opened in order to ridicule theists, Sven recently opened a thread that mocked Christians who were killed at a rock concert specifically because they were Christians at a Christian rock concert, and this thread was opened in order to discuss the views of a man who is utterly contemptuous of theists and who is more Islamophobic than Christopher Hitchens. And let's not forget reminds' thread that proposed that Nazis were devout Christians. Are you honestly incapable of seeing this?

Edited to add: Ah, we're cross-posting again. So, we agree that the push for the secularization of the Middle East is an example of the White Man's Burden, and that the West should remove its imperial influence from the region. However, while I believe that we need to engage respectfully with the intellectual traditions of the region, you are content to contemptuously refer to them as religious quackery and to withdraw smugly into your ethnocentrism. Frankly, I see this as abandoning the Burden but emotionally clinging to the intellectual superiority of the White Man.

[ 17 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 17 July 2007 10:04 AM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Nenonen:
So, again, no, you aren't interested in responding to the points I've raised, but you are interested in taking swipes at emotionally convenient straw men.

You are getting a bit scary now. You asked me two questions (about whether we could avoid metaphysical discussion, and whether it bothered me when the assumptions of polemicists like Dawkins and Harris were challenged). I answered both questions, with some care and attention, I thought. Try scrolling up. It is, of course, possible that you didn't like my answers.

quote:
Now, as for threads opened in order to ridicule theists, Sven recently opened a thread that mocked Christians who were killed at a rock concert specifically because they were Christians at a Christian rock concert, and this thread was opened in order to discuss the views of a man who is utterly contemptuous of theists and who is more Islamophobic than Christopher Hitchens. Are you honestly incapable of seeing this?

You're quite right. That was in my view a gratuitous and infantile swipe. I don't really know why Sven did that, and I think a number of posters made their views known - and some people went overboard. Here's what I said to one gentlemen who accused anti-religious progressives of being in the pay of the Republican Party:Can't you just accept that some progressive people oppose religion (not religious people) because they think it is harmful to human beings?

Have you also not noticed that the vast majority of critiques of religion by babblers are based on the anti-human stands of certain churches and certain church leaders - like misogyny, homophobia, anti-abortionism, anti-birth control (and its effects on HIV/AIDS control), anti-other religious people, etc.? [/qb][/quote]

quote:
Edited to add: Ah, we're cross-posting again. So, we agree that the push for the secularization of the Middle East is an example of the White Man's Burden. However, while I believe that we need to engage respectfully with the intellectual traditions of the region, you are content to contemptuously refer to them as religious quackery and to withdraw smugly into your ethnocentrism. Frankly, I see this as abandoning the burden but emotionally clinging to the intellectual superiority of the White Man.

Oh get off your horse. I'm a Jew, and the main religion I've abandoned, and which I ridicule as mercilessly as I can, is Judaism. As for Islam, it's just as bad. It's not the superstition that bothers me, it's the chauvinism, misogyny, intrusion on individual freedom, warmongering, all the rest. Oh, and the same for Christianity. Isn't it a remarkable coincidence how all these religions treat women and LGBT (for example - but people in general) like shit? What is it about theism that turns your brain and your conscience to mush?

I stand, unyieldingly, for the right of peoples to make their own destiny. You use charges of "ethnocentrism" to emotionally blackmail me into respecting their stupid ideas as well? You want to turn me into some mealymouthed diplomat saying,

"Well, yes, I can certainly see how you and I, sitting here having a cocktail, could possibly be fleeting nightmares in that long-dead ant's troubled sleep, very picturesque, yes I respect and cherish and will perhaps even help you to fund private schools to pass on this rich legacy to your children, but you know I, personally, believe that this 32-year-old died for your sins, had second thoughts and came back 3 days later, then packed his bags and left again, ah, yes, waiter, two more Margaritas please?"

Non, merci.


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
rabble-rouser
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posted 17 July 2007 10:12 AM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
So, you agree that there have been threads opened on this board that were specifically intended to target theistic beliefs. Would you also agree that throughout these boards there are examples of posters referring to people who hold theistic beliefs as being mentally ill, stupid, etc? If so, then how exactly do you want theists to respond to these statements? Should we simply smile and withdraw into our closets to meditate and pray, or should we--gasp--consider defending ourselves?

As for your dreaming ant example: this is, of course, exactly the kind of straw man I'm talking about. There is a hell of a difference between saying that the universe is the dream of an ant and saying that it appears mind-link, and that the decision to interact with it as a mind rather than as an automaton is based upon the same kind of metaphysical leap of faith that allows me to interact with you as something other than an automaton.

Your dreaming ant example has all the merit of an argument produced by an idiotic theist that states that atheists believe that the universe is composed of randomly bouncing atomic billiard balls. The only response to such a theist would be to say, "That's a straw man." It's the same with your dreaming ant example.

Tell, how much actual theology have you read? How familiar are you with the philosophical developments in theology in various religions? My hunch, based on your postings, is that you aren't familiar with them at all. You seem to be arguing a position based on a version of theology that utterly ignores the strongest arguments put forth by theologians. You seem to want to take swipes at a school of thought that you aren't terribly interested in understanding. This is, by definition, is what the term "straw man" was designed to address.

As for my claim that your atheism expresses a form of ethnocentrism--and, let me ammend that to say that it expresses a virulent form of Western ethnocentrism--I stand by it. You haven't given me a single argument that would suggest that my presentation of the development of European atheism is incorrect. The fact that you are a Jew who has rejected Judaism simply shows that you have chosen an Enlightenment-based ideology over your Judaism. There is a long history of this kind of conversion--a history thoroughly grounded in Western cultural dynamics. Check out Armstrong's The Battle For God (2000) for an examination of the relationship between modernity and secularism, on the one hand, and Judaism, Christianity, and Islam on the other. Your rebellion against Judaism, regardless of whatever merits it might have, is thoroughly permeated by an Enlightenment (and materialist) frame of reference, a frame of reference that you assume is inherently superior to all others, and that makes you unself-reflectively ethnocentric. Again, you've abandoned the Burden, but you're cling to the White Man.

If you see that claim as a form of bullying, then you shouldn't go around accusing theists of being unable to stand the heat in the kitchen.

Anyway, I have to dash. The rain has let up and I want to work out...this is my last day of vacation (sigh) and I should enjoy one last bout of physical activity before I'm stuck behind my desk again.

[ 17 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
Stargazer
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posted 17 July 2007 10:27 AM      Profile for Stargazer     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
What is not interesting is you constant attempt to get people to take religion seriously. You are in essence, trying to convert us to a belief in a God. Give it up for god's sake! We are not shoving our beliefs down your throat as secularists, you however, seem to feel the need to do that to us, while accusing us of persecution (in essence). Please!! Enough is enough. Unionist has answered your questions. You want to post more about your beliefs, go for it, just don't expect to be taken too seriously.

Oh and once religion stops trying to dictate what the world should live by, then and only then do you have any valid criticism of secularism or atheism.

Perhaps you are comfortable with the massive inequaliry inherent in religion. We as progressives, well, hey we just aren't. Respect that and leave it alone.


From: Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist. | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 17 July 2007 10:29 AM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Stargazer: Oh, cripes, pots and kettles...

And when people on this board open threads or make posts that explicitly ridicule religion and the people who hold religious beliefs, what would you have progressive theists do?

Or, if you were on a progressive board that explicitly ridiculed feminism and the people who hold feminist beliefs, what would you do? There are many people who believe that feminists are trying to re-model the world according to their beliefs, and to force other people to abide by their ideological leanings. In fact, feminists are trying to do this, and, regardless of the sins of particular feminists and feminist organizations, they are ethically justified in doing so, because they are respoding to what they perceive as genuine social evils. The same thing is true for progressive theists. You may not share their beliefs, but, unless you can adequately respond to their arguments, you have absolutely no grounds for trying to silence them or ridicule them anymore than non-feminists have grounds to silence or ridicule feminists.

As for unionist's supposed response to my positions, please show me where he responded to Barbour's discussion of materialism as a metaphysical position.

Finally, I'm not trying to convince anyone that God exists. I'm rather undecided on that point myself. I'm arguing that materialism is a metaphysical position that, as a metaphysical position, doesn't have the kind of scientific justification that atheists like Dawkins and Harris believe it has. They are guilty of making a rather glaring "category error". When such atheists attack the metaphysical positions of theists because of their lack of metaphysical grounding, they are ignoring the fact that their own metaphysical positions are equally unsupported by scientific evidence.

In other words, those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

[ 17 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
Bacchus
rabble-rouser
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posted 17 July 2007 10:35 AM      Profile for Bacchus     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
leave
From: n/a | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 6680

posted 17 July 2007 10:39 AM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Bacchus:
leave

In other words, "Shut up." No one is forcing you to read what I'm writing, Bacchus.


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
Moderator
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posted 17 July 2007 10:42 AM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I think he was supporting you by answering your rhetorical question.
From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 17 July 2007 10:50 AM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Michelle: You're right, he may well have meant this. If so, then I apologize for that post.

Still, I think this suggests a real problem for progressive theists. If we "leave", then where, exactly, can we go where we will not be ridiculed for our beliefs? Should we create our own discussion board, and thereby let the bridges to other progressives fall into disrepair? Should we remain silent when we are called "mentally ill" or "stupid" by the people who should be our allies in social justice movements?

Dammit, I have to go and work out. I'm using this debate as an excuse for procrastinating. I've been working out several times a week for fifteen years, and I still don't enjoy it. I think my body has some sort of genetic glitch that prevents it from producing endorphins. Ah, well....


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
Stargazer
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posted 17 July 2007 10:53 AM      Profile for Stargazer     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I don't live in a glass house. I live in a brick hose and like, I'm not trying to convert you to anything. I am just rather tried of your long-winded posts. But yeah, I can chose not to read them, but can you simply stop with the pot, kettle back thing because hey, unless you want to come over to my house and burn some sage and let me give you a two hour long talk about the benefits of the blue men, then I'm postive I'm not trying to talk you into believing squat.
From: Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist. | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 17 July 2007 11:03 AM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Nenonen:
So, you agree that there have been threads opened on this board that were specifically intended to target theistic beliefs.

No, not at all. I told you what I thought of Sven's thread. It was in very poor taste. You're trying to elevate it into some crusade against theistic beliefs. I don't agree with you at all on that.

quote:
Would you also agree that throughout these boards there are examples of posters referring to people who hold theistic beliefs as being mentally ill, stupid, etc?

No, not at all. I have seen examples of individuals, theist or not, being referred to in those ways. But a reference to people who are (say) practising Presbyterians, or who believe generally in God, as being mentally ill, stupid, etc.? Not once that I can recall. In fact, your allegation that there is such a trend on this board, as opposed to some foolishness here or there, is frankly offensive.

quote:
If so, then how exactly do you want theists to respond to these statements? Should we simply smile and withdraw into our closets to meditate and pray, or should we--gasp--consider defending ourselves?

Since you ask, here is my suggestion:

quote:
I don't think your post was funny, in fact it is offensive and in poor taste. I happen to be a Christian, but even if I weren't, I would feel the same way.

On the other hand, here is one of the actual replies:

quote:
Contempt for people of faith is depressingly common on the left.

You see? Wrong answer!!

quote:
As for your dreaming ant example: this is, of course, exactly the straw man I'm talking about.

Some of your invitations to debate reminded me of sophomoric discussions of undergrad years and before. Do you respect my view that belief in an omnipotent omniscient Creator is on the same level as the dreaming ant?

quote:
Tell, how much actual theology have you read?

You mean, in the course of 13 years in parochial day school and five undergrad philosophy courses (ethics and epistemology primarily)? Not as much as you, obviously. My abandonment of theism kind of steered my finite reading time in other directions.

quote:
How familiar are you with the philosophical developments in theology in various religions? My hunch, based on your postings, is that you aren't familiar with them at all. You seem to be arguing a position based on a version of theology that utterly ignores the strongest arguments put forth by theologians.

Get this straight. You're not talking to Dawkins here (because that was the God-people's charge against him). He was interested in preaching atheism to the unconverted. I'm not. I am arguing no position about theology. My view of theism is the same as my view of creationism - worthy of study by scholars, but not worthy of serious debate, and potentially very dangerous if placed on an "equal time" footing with secularism and evolution.

quote:
You seem to want to take swipes at a school of thought that you aren't terribly interested in understanding. This is, by definition, is what the term "straw man" was designed to address.

I have to be a student of theology in order to oppose theism? Sorry, not on your life. That's intellectual arrogance.

quote:
As for my claim that your atheism expresses a form of ethnocentrism--and, let me ammend that to say that it expresses a virulent form of Western ethnocentrism--I stand by it. You haven't given me a single argument that would suggest that my presentation of the development of European atheism is incorrect.

Give me a break. I believe there is no such thing as God or the tooth fairy. You want to psycho-socio-analyze me as being an unconscious adherent of some brand of "European atheism"? Be my guest. Send me a courtesy copy of your paper once you're done. This is 2007. Religious beliefs, like numbers of angels on the heads of pins, no longer rate the extent of discussion and debate that they did before Newton and Copernicus and Galileo and the industrial revolution.

quote:
If you see that claim as a form of bullying, then you shouldn't go around accusing theists of being unable to stand the heat in the kitchen.

Aw c'mon, I didn't mean to complain that you were bullying me. That's your complaint. I'm just trying to explain to you that the debate which you so passionately espouse is simply not on anyone's agenda. Canadian progressives don't care. God isn't part of any party's platform. It's over.


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
Frustrated Mess
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 8312

posted 17 July 2007 11:23 AM      Profile for Frustrated Mess   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Frustrated Mess: Regarding pinching me...this is a stimuli that you would use to elicit a response that would demonstrate, in your opinion, evidence of consciousness

The pinch is not the point.

I think I understand what it is you are trying to put forward. You are suggesting that God may be a consciousness at another level that we can neither see, communicate with, or comprehend. Is that correct?

At the same time you are arguing that I can't prove my own existence so how can I expect anyone to prove God's. Is that correct?

Well, if indeed an entity exists that we can't see, nor can we communicate with it, nor can we comprehend it, then why would we call it God since most religions exist on the basis of a relationship with God and many Christians with a personal relationship. Surely, in most faiths, there is a "communion" with God.

Are you saying the universe is God? If so, then are you redefining God? And to what end?

As to my own existence, I do not need to prove it as the evidence of my existence is enough to satisfy myself. In other words, if God was to sit down beside me for a conversation, I would no longer deny God's existence as I do not deny yours.

We are simple creatures no matter how we try to spin it. We require food, shelter, clothing, and we reproduce like rabbits. If we continue to foul our own nests we will destroy our own habitats and ourselves and no amount of deep thought, meditation, prayer, or pleading will change that and no being will arrive at the 11th hour and pull our asses out of the fire.

The one thing the bible got right, the most overlooked but meaningful passage is "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."


From: doom without the gloom | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
Sven
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posted 17 July 2007 12:01 PM      Profile for Sven     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Nenonen:
So, you agree that there have been threads opened on this board that were specifically intended to target theistic beliefs.[/QB]

quote:
Originally posted by unionist:
No, not at all. I told you what I thought of Sven's thread. It was in very poor taste. You're trying to elevate it into some crusade against theistic beliefs. I don't agree with you at all on that.

Okay. Poor taste, probably. The purpose of that post in that other thread? I thought it was ironic that the Christians were subdued in their ongoing music festival after the unfortunate accident when, given their belief in an everlasting afterlife of peace and ecstasy, one would think they would be joyful that the decedent was in “a better place”—indeed, a much, much better place if the heaven they believe actually existed. Nothing more or less than that.

Substantively, I think that unionist’s posts capture very well my concerns about religion and other organized beliefs in supernatural phenomena.


From: Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!!! | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged
Contrarian
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posted 17 July 2007 12:14 PM      Profile for Contrarian     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Sven, you appeared to be expressing hatred of all religion, which of course is irrational.
From: pretty far west | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 17 July 2007 12:34 PM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Contrarian:
Sven, you appeared to be expressing hatred of all religion, which of course is irrational.

Duh?

You mean, if we develop 719 flavours of militant atheism, and a religious person expresses hatred of militant atheism, we can call her irrational too? Force her to choose which ones she hates/dislikes/mildly disapproves?

I disapprove of all religion. I am so much against it that if you came up with some harmless brand which was moral, universal, enlightened, socially progressive, and not anti-scientific, I would probably conclude that it wasn't a real religion!

Yeah, I know, Unitarians are close. Maybe others. But don't forget. I like the people. I just don't like the ideology.


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
Sven
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posted 17 July 2007 12:37 PM      Profile for Sven     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Contrarian:
Sven, you appeared to be expressing hatred of all religion, which of course is irrational.

Why is that “irrational”? There are many rational reasons for despising religion.


From: Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!!! | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged
Contrarian
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posted 17 July 2007 01:26 PM      Profile for Contrarian     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I can't find the quote now, but I think it was you, Sven who said Dawkins could not be expressing hatred because that would be irrational. Did you write that?
From: pretty far west | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 17 July 2007 02:28 PM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Okay, I'm back. Still no endorphins, just significant pain.

Unionist: You wrote, "I have seen examples of individuals, theist or not, being referred to in those ways. But a reference to people who are (say) practising Presbyterians, or who believe generally in God, as being mentally ill, stupid, etc.?"

Note that on this very thread Jingles wrote:

"Atheists are egotistical? She must be high.

"Believers are the most narcissistic, egotistical, megaolomanical, and selfish people on earth. They believe that this God, the very Creator of the Universe, the One God, the Alpha and the Omega, without beginning and without end, gives a shit about their pathetic, meaningless lives. I have fossils that are older than Homo Sapien Sapien, and yet there are people who think that there is a divine, universe-shattering plan for their sneeze of a lifetime.

It's not faith, it's mental illness."

I didn't even have to search other threads for this example. So, your position is that progressive theists should just let statements like this slide, right?

As for your undergrad philosophy courses, I also have an undergrad philosophy degree, and if you're ever interested in sharing reading lists on the subject of religious studies, please let me know, as I suspect...based on your apparent inability to recognize materialism as a metaphysical position that's just as scientifically indefensible as theism...that my list is a little longer and the books on it a bit deeper than those on yours.

Now, as for your dreaming ant example: when theists argue that the universe appears to be mind-like, and that the leap of faith that attributes mind to it is much the same leap we make when we attribute mind to other human beings, we aren't saying what exactly this mind is. In fact, the greatest theologians in all of the major religions argue that God cannot be described literally, and that all stories about God have to be understood in symbolic or allegorical or metaphorical terms (for evidence of this, check out Karen Armstrong's A History of God, 1993). Your ant example, on the other hand, describes in a literal fashion exactly what this mind is. It turns the ineffable into a Douglas Adams-esque caricature. In other words, what you seem to be criticizing isn't religion per se, but rather religious literalism, which is recognized by major theologians as being a degenerate expression of religiosity.

So, to summarize:

You have provided absolutely no arguments to support the claim that materialism is more "rational" than other metaphysical schemes.

You have stated that no threads on Babble have been started with the intention to ridicule religious beliefs. I showed you several.

You have stated that no one on Babble has described religious people as mentally ill. I directed you to a post on this very thread that makes that claim.

When it's demonstrated that attacks like this have been made, you dismiss them as examples of isolated "foolishness". (I doubt that you would be so forgiving if, for example, Jingles said, "Feminism isn't an ethical philosophy, it's a mental illness," or if remind started a thread called "Stalin a Devout Marxist?")

Rather than respond to the strongest arguments that theologians make, you have chosen instead to attack literalism, which major theologians also condemn, and to erect caricatures of literalistic beliefs in order to argue your point. In other words, you rely upon straw men to make your points.

Frustrated Mess: Yes, in saying that the universe is God I am revealing myself to be a monist. There's a very long tradition of monism in numerous major religions. If you want, I can give you examples of monist thought from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Taoism, and Buddhism.

The difference between myself and, say, Ian Barbour, is that theists such as himself believe that while God encompasses the universe, God also transcends the universe.

Both positions regard the universe as mind-like, and neither introduces anything new to theological discourse. These ideas are very, very old...though of course people unfamiliar with and uninterested in theological debate wouldn't know this.

As for the potential for communion with God, refer again to my discussion of the book Why God Won't Go Away. One of the points raised by the authors is that the capacity of the human brain for deafferentiation may have the same relationship to God that our capacity for mathematical thought has to the universe: both may be neurological mechanism that allow us to access dimensions of reality that are otherwise hidden from scrutiny. Deafferentiation, in this reading, would allow for the possibility of communion with the divine...a communion that transcends language and is, therefore, "ineffable".

Stargazer: If your disdain for religion is grounded in a materialist metaphysics, then, no, your house is not made of brick and stone, it's made of glass. If your disdain for religion is not grounded in materialism, then it's self-contradictory, and, again, your house is made of glass.

As for the suggestion that no one except the religiously-minded is trying to shove their beliefs down anyone's throats, please spare me. People try to shove their beliefs down other people's throats on this board all the time...beliefs about imeprialism, feminism, Zionism, colonialism, 9-11 conspiracism, and, yes, atheism and religion. That's what people do on discussion boards like this: we advance positions and then defend them, sometimes vigorously, and we respond when people challenge positions that we hold.

The difference with religious discussions on this board is that many atheists have based their sense of self upon their atheism, they like to use progressive theists (again, people who follow in the tradition of people like Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Tommy Douglas, and Malcolm X) as whipping boys because it gives them a sense of ideological superiority, and it makes them very uncomfortable when they're called on what they're doing.

As for the length of my posts, ignore my posts or live with them. I'm challenging none of the underlying principles of progressive politics, I'm not disparaging other poster's positions as being expressions of (for example) "mental illness", and at least I have the decency to try and respond to as many points raised against my positions as I can.

Contrarian: No, that was Frustrated Mess, who wrote "Dawkins does not "hate" religion. That is another lie. That would be irrational. You can't hate religion anymore than you can hate superstition. All you can do is point out the fallacies of religion and the inherent delusions. And that is what Dawkins did."

[ 17 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
Sven
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posted 17 July 2007 02:35 PM      Profile for Sven     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Contrarian:
I can't find the quote now, but I think it was you, Sven who said Dawkins could not be expressing hatred because that would be irrational. Did you write that?

Nope.


From: Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!!! | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 17 July 2007 02:50 PM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Unionist: One more thing. You seem to believe that discussions of religion have no place on a progressive board, as religion has nothing to do with progressive politics. Do you, then, suppose that the religious motivations of Martin Luther King, Ghandi, and Malcolm X and the movements they spearheaded were politically irrelevant? If not, then, since people and movements such as these have had such a significant role in progressive circles, it seems to me that you have to allow for discussions about religion on progressive websites.

Sven: Since I suspect that you'll ignore all of the arguments I've made about metaphysical materialism, etc, here's a good practical reason not to make a habit of mocking religion.

In The Battle For God, Karen Armstrong extensively documents the shift of Christian evangelical movements from left-leaning politics concerned with promoting the Social Gospel (that is, with redistribution of wealth and the erection of a welfare state) into movements that embrace apocalyptic violence and corporate greed. One of the major factors in this transformation was the omnipresent ridicule that evangelicals endured because of their beliefs in a rapidly secularizing environment in the earlier part of the 20th Century, and especially following the Scopes trial. Humiliated and vilified by the national media, they withdrew from public discourse and formed a counter-culture, within which the worst possible features of religiosity were allowed to spread unchecked. Using an extensive analysis of the growth of fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Armstrong argues--persuasively in my mind--that religious people tend to respond to this sort of widespread evangelical atheism by withdrawing, abandoning progressive politics, forming counter-cultures, and turning to apocalyptic literalism.

While the contempt you express for religion probably feels good...a pleasure undoubtedly shared by the teenagers who, in the 1980s, thought Rush was just brilliant...but it has real-world consequences that do nothing to advance the cause of social justice and much to hinder it.

[ 17 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
Contrarian
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posted 17 July 2007 03:00 PM      Profile for Contrarian     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Contrarian: No, that was Frustrated Mess, who wrote "Dawkins does not "hate" religion. That is another lie. That would be irrational. You can't hate religion anymore than you can hate superstition. All you can do is point out the fallacies of religion and the inherent delusions. And that is what Dawkins did."
Thank you Michael, I knew I'd seen it somewhere.

I am a Christian, but I do not condemn atheists for being atheists; what I condemn is people who announce that religion is stupid, thus arrogantly assuming that they are smarter and wiser than everyone here who has ever prayed or burned sweetgrass or meditated or taken part in any religious rite or expressed their spiritual beliefs.

And I don't condemn people who have other spiritual beliefs, because I think people experience God in different ways. I may not agree with someone's beliefs, but I can understand that their beliefs are important to them, and respect that.

When you get to where religious beliefs impinge on human rights, then you have to take a stand; but you can more easily come to an agreemtn if you understand where the other person is coming from, rather than just dismissing them as stupid.


From: pretty far west | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 17 July 2007 03:08 PM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Contrarian: Yes, exactly.

I have absolutely no problem with atheists like Noam Chomsky. He's very clear about his metaphysical beliefs, but he doesn't feel compelled to embark on anti-religious tirades, and he tends to be pretty damn respectful when he's talking to people regardless of their metaphysical beliefs.

Furthermore, I don't have a problem with atheists like Albert Camus, who condemn religion but do so only after examining the strongest arguments theists advance on behalf of their views, and after demonstrating some respect for their point of view.

In other words, I have no problem with atheists who behave like adults, rather than like children who revel in the forbidden delight of pissing against the cathedral wall.


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
Frustrated Mess
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posted 17 July 2007 03:47 PM      Profile for Frustrated Mess   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Chomsky considers religious beliefs to be irrational. That, by the way, is his choice of word.

quote:
In The Battle For God, Karen Armstrong extensively documents the shift of Christian evangelical movements from left-leaning politics concerned with promoting the Social Gospel (that is, with redistribution of wealth and the erection of a welfare state) into movements that embrace apocalyptic violence and corporate greed. One of the major factors in this transformation was the omnipresent ridicule that evangelicals endured because of their beliefs in a rapidly secularizing environment in the earlier part of the 20th Century, and especially following the Scopes trial.

See, Michael, I don't buy that at all. Karen Armstrong, best I can tell, is a spinner. She will mold the facts to fit the reality she is trying to sell.

The rise of evangelical movements follows several lines and is almost uniquely North American. One of the characteristics of the movement is what I would term the Starbucks-zation of religion. These new churches offer "community" in the same way that Starbucks offers "neighbourhood". It is manufactured, sterile, appeals to nostalgia, and is only available on the terms of the provider. The rise of big box churches follows the rise of x-urban development and the substitution of shopping for human interrelatedness and activities. It follows the substitution of backseat DVD players for communication with children. It plays on the worst excesses of humans from materialism, to superstition, to xenophobia.

In fact, these churches are to faith what Fox is to news. They don't teach or promote changing attitudes so much as they reinforce existing attitudes towards community, materialism, those who are different, etc ... These churches are "Christian" in name only.

To blame the rise of these churches on secularism and atheism is intellectually dishonest and historically false.

In fact, Dawkins book, The God Delusion, was in many respects a response to these religions, that he and many others, including Chomsky, deem dangerous.

As a former believer, myself, I was almost literally wringing my hands wondering where are the mainstream Liberal churches in the face of this rising tide. And then I saw the Catholic Church among them! And I saw the protestant denominations graying and losing members as they vacillated rather than confront this growing "faith" movement.

The current push by atheists is more a response to the rise of the evangelical right with their fundamentalist doctrines and their dangerous embrace of willful ignorance than anything else.

There is this clamor that we should respect religious beliefs. All religious beliefs? The religious beliefs of people who would return us to the dark ages? If not, which religious beliefs are due respect and which are not?

I witnessed a man running for the public school board say he wanted to return God to the classroom and that is why he was running. No doubt he would have planned a field trip to Alberta for children to learn the earth is only 6,000 years old and that man walked and played with dinosaurs.

The issue of faith has left the confines of the church and entered the political arena. It was the evangelists who put it there. And they didn't put it there because of secularism. They put it there because they could taste their own political power. Don't expect atheists to leave it alone.


From: doom without the gloom | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
remind
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posted 17 July 2007 03:49 PM      Profile for remind     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Nenonen:
Furthermore, I don't have a problem with atheists like Albert Camus, who condemn religion but do so only after examining the strongest arguments theists advance on behalf of their views, and after demonstrating some respect for their point of view.

In other words, I have no problem with atheists who behave like adults, rather than like children who revel in the forbidden delight of pissing against the cathedral wall.


a) very presumptuous aren't you in believing that others like have not examined the stongest arguments, and indeed religions on which to base our condemnations? Moreover, why would we respect your pov, when you have shown no respect for others pov, particularility those who do not agree with your perspectives.

b) You are now dismissing people as children pissing against the cathedral wall because they do not agree with your perspectives, amazing your self righteousness embodies all that is loathsome about those suffering from false religiousity and you do not even see it.


From: "watching the tide roll away" | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 17 July 2007 04:34 PM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Frustrated Mess: Yes, he does. But he also has a portrait of Archbiship Romero in his office, he speaks out on behalf of Liberation Theologians, and he's never once gone on an anti-religious crusade like Dawkins or Harris.

As for Armstrong, take the time to read her historical analysis of fundamentalism in The Battle For God. Her work has been very well received by historians, and she clearly demonstrates a common pattern of persecution-withdrawal-countercultural formation-degeneration into literalistic extremism can be found in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The evidence is there, but rather than fill the next three hundred thousand lines presenting it, I'm simply going to refer you to her research.

Look, at least I've read Dawkins and Harris. Can you say the same about Armstrong?


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
Frustrated Mess
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posted 17 July 2007 05:14 PM      Profile for Frustrated Mess   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Chomsky speaks highly of the Liberation Theologists. I still remember the Pope shaking hands with Reagan on a balcony in Alaska and the purge of those brave men and women just a short while later.

I haven't read Harris' book. I did enjoy Dawkin's book but it was a light read. I can see why the religious didn't appreciate it at all. But going in the reader knew it would be a highly partisan book offering a very one sided view. In the same way conservatives would not be pleased by Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.

I will look at Armstrong's book, but from the interviews and reviews I have read, I might feel like a Liberal reading Ann Coulter.


From: doom without the gloom | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
CharlotteAshley
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posted 17 July 2007 06:12 PM      Profile for CharlotteAshley   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by unionist:
quote:You seem to want to take swipes at a school of thought that you aren't terribly interested in understanding. This is, by definition, is what the term "straw man" was designed to address.

I have to be a student of theology in order to oppose theism? Sorry, not on your life. That's intellectual arrogance.


Or as Steven Weinberg said, "it is like saying that no one is entitled to judge the validity of astrology who cannot cast a horoscope."

Interesting discussion going on here; I wish I could keep up with you guys. 0_o

Charlotte


From: Toronto | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
ceti
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posted 17 July 2007 06:17 PM      Profile for ceti     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Karen Armstrong is well-known and well-respected authority on religions. Her books on Islam and Buddhism are well-regarded, so all this venom against her is quite out of place.

Hell, I'm an atheist, and roll my eyes and get nauseous over the holy roller stuff. However, I also know quite a few rabid atheists who think theists are stunted mentally, backwards thinking, and generally stupid. This arrogance is appalling and blind to modern history, especially when Western Science and positivist ideology are responsible for just as many modern atrocities.

Therefore I think the central question is not so much about personal belief, but always about the eternal war of the powerful against the weak. Whether ordained by God, or by eugenics and social darwinism, the dark motivations of elites find its justification in whichever way it wants.

And while religion is the opiate of the masses, it is also the "sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world." So I think more understanding is warranted.


From: various musings before the revolution | Registered: Jan 2005  |  IP: Logged
Frustrated Mess
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posted 17 July 2007 06:24 PM      Profile for Frustrated Mess   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Karen Armstrong is well-known and well-respected authority on religions

Perhaps, but that doesn't make her an authority on modern culture any more than Dawkins position as a well respected authority on genetic theory makes him an authority on religion.

From: doom without the gloom | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 17 July 2007 06:28 PM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
ceti: Well said. I mean that...not only were your points solid, but there was a quality to your prose that was quite pleasant.

Frustrated Mess: I appreciate that you're going to take a look at Armstrong's work. Again, I recommend The Battle For God. I honestly think you will enjoy it, and that you will find its arguments compelling, even if in the end you disagree with her conclusions. I'd very much like to hear your opinion about it once you're finished.


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
Contrarian
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posted 17 July 2007 06:31 PM      Profile for Contrarian     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Frustrated Mess:

Perhaps, but that doesn't make her an authority on modern culture any more than Dawkins position as a well respected authority on genetic theory makes him an authority on religion.

Since studying religion is about studying what people believe and why they believe it, it probably does make her an authority on modern culture where it involves what people believe and why they believe it. That's just common sense.

From: pretty far west | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
Frustrated Mess
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posted 17 July 2007 06:46 PM      Profile for Frustrated Mess   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Uhm, no it isn't. Does the study of theology explain the iPhone or the Xbox?

I am not even convinced that many of the evangelical movements are as much a religious movement as they are a populist political movement veiled in the trappings of religion.

I will look at the book, Michael. I did read the Pagan Christ and enjoyed it very much. Atheism and Paganism, I think, could probably get along.


From: doom without the gloom | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
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posted 17 July 2007 06:57 PM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I enjoyed The Pagan Christ, too. His book Water Into Wine is also rather good. He expands rather well on themes he raises in The Pagan Christ. I wrote a review of it for The Republic. You can find it here:

http://www.republic-news.org/archive/167-repub/167_Nenonen.htm

[ 17 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 17 July 2007 08:09 PM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by ceti:
Western Science

That is a very intriguing term. There is "non-Western" science too?


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
unionist
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posted 17 July 2007 08:26 PM      Profile for unionist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Nenonen:

Note that on this very thread Jingles wrote: [...]

I didn't even have to search other threads for this example. So, your position is that progressive theists should just let statements like this slide, right?


First, Jingles tends to extremism. I tend to gloss over his posts. Second, why are you asking me again whether you should "let this slide"? I already told you how to answer, and in 2-3 lines, not 15-20 paragraphs. Dismiss it as being offensive and in bad taste. What more? Try to blast the "left" for harassing and persecuting religious people (as one other poster, whom I quoted above - "Republican party" - does)? That is ugly and false, it is sophistry, and I'm not sure why you're doing this. There is no history in our country of the left abusing religious people. You know very well that it is the opposite.

quote:
my list is a little longer and the books on it a bit deeper than those on yours.

I've already acknowledged that you are more intelligent, handsome, and better dressed than I am, and that your ability to spew abstruse theology leave mine in the dust. You may also recall that I have no interest in such angel-counting. You win, you're brilliant, you're well read, I yield.

quote:
In other words, what you seem to be criticizing isn't religion per se, but rather religious literalism, which is recognized by major theologians as being a degenerate expression of religiosity.

I despise religion as a whole, as being anti-scientific, obscurantist, escapist, and divisive. You, like some other believers, divide religious beliefs into good (yours) and bad/degenerate/literalist/fundamentalist/evil/terrorist, etc. It is views like the one you just espoused which illustrate clearly one of the most harmful aspects of religion - the assertion of "Truth", and the inevitable and consequent inquisitorial condemnation of its heretical negation.

quote:
You have provided absolutely no arguments to support the claim that materialism is more "rational" than other metaphysical schemes.

Not interested. That's your mediaeval childish game. Play with your marbles, the grownups are busy.

quote:
You have stated that no threads on Babble have been started with the intention to ridicule religious beliefs. I showed you several.

Good for you. You win! Again! Go see the moderators - or maybe file a CHRA complaint. Or better yet, like anyone who ventures into political minefields - suck it up.

We frown on ridicule of people here - not of their ideas. We exclude certain debates because progressive people don't need to re-argue whether sexism, racism, fascism, homophobia, etc. are permissible. But ridiculing religious ideas? If babble says "no" to that, I will give it my blessing and leave. Religion has been protected by society, by the state, by force of arms, by humiliation, by excommunication, by the burning stake, for far too long. Time to submit to a little bit of verbal critique. If you're too sensitive to abide it - plug your ears and shut your eyes.

Quit whining.


From: Vote QS! | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
Jacob Two-Two
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posted 17 July 2007 11:03 PM      Profile for Jacob Two-Two     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Jesus, unionist.

Why do you jump into conversations on a particular topic just to rabidly and relentlessly insist that nobody should be talking about it?

Why do you go out of your way to disrupt these conversations with mockery and thread drift, contributing nothing but derailment of the conversations other people were interested in having?

Why do you repeatedly state that said conversations are beneath you and not worth your time, ridiculing those who indulge in them, despite the fact that you are putting as much energy into them as anyone else, and more than most? In fact, why do you flat-out state that you don't indulge in conversations of such topics, even though you contradict yourself with the very existence of the denial?

If the conversation wasn't worth having, you wouldn't have it. And we wouldn't have to hear about why you wouldn't have it because you wouldn't be here. Imagine, a thread about a topic, filled only with people who actually wanted to discuss it.

Again and again I see you devote your considerable time and energy to shutting down conversations that you think shouldn't happen. Again and again you avoid actual discussion, claiming that the topic is beneath discussing, while cluttering up the threads with your unproductive ridicule. Apparently it's not beneath doing that with.

Of course, if you have no respect for the topic, then you'd have no respect for those who think it's worthy of discussion, and your behaviour here has shown that ably enough, I think. And yet the question remains, why are you posting in a thread that you clearly don't want to participate in?!? What do you get from it?

If I were you I'd examine your motives for being here, because (speaking of rationality) they don't seem too rational to me. They seem a little pathological from where I'm standing.

If it's not worth talking about, then stop. Go away.


From: There is but one Gord and Moolah is his profit | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged
Michael Nenonen
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 6680

posted 18 July 2007 05:51 AM      Profile for Michael Nenonen   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Jacob: You beat me to it.

Unionist: Again and again, you claim that discussions of theistic metaphysics are childish, without presenting a single argument that demonstrates that materialist metaphysics are in any way superior to them. The best you can do is call them "medieval"...even though the reference I provided for this argument is a man who is himself a physicist as well as a professor of religious studies. You may believe that such arguments are out of fashion--but, then again, you wouldn't know, since you aren't familiar with this field of study.

When pushed to the wall, you engage in rather adolescent ridicule and express disdain for what you believe are topics that are beneath you but that, as Jacob Two-Two points out, you are strangely prone to invest your time and energy into.

As for my willingness to criticize some features of religion while criticizing others...I assume that you support some features of various political movements while criticizing others, some features of popular culture while criticizing others, etc. This is called being intellectually discriminating, and it's just as legitimate when it's applied to religion as it is when applied to anything else.

Anyway, I would like you to answer some more questions--ones that I posed before: Do you think that the religious motivations of Ghandi, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and the people who were drawn to their causes were irrelevant to their progressive politics? If these motivations were relevant, then, given the significance of these movements in the history of progressive politics, doesn't this indicate that religion is a legitimate topic of discussion for progressives? If these motivations were irrelevant, then why is it that they seemed to generate such extraordinary commitment to social justice on the part of the movements' leaders and activists?

[ 18 July 2007: Message edited by: Michael Nenonen ]


From: Vancouver | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
Frustrated Mess
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 8312

posted 18 July 2007 07:19 AM      Profile for Frustrated Mess   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Do you think that the religious motivations of Ghandi, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and the people who were drawn to their causes were irrelevant to their progressive politics?

That is an interesting question. Did religion add to their politics (I don't know if Ghandi and Malcom X were progressive) or as leaders within their communities did it merely facilitate their rising to the fore. I mean, I can't help but to note that all three were members of oppressed and persecuted communities. Ghandi as the liberator of India from British empirical rule, and Malcom X and King as African Americans during the civil rights movement.

From: doom without the gloom | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
Moderator
Babbler # 560

posted 18 July 2007 07:32 AM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Long thread - feel free to continue in a new one!
From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged

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