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Author Topic: Religion as the problem
josh
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posted 08 September 2004 12:34 PM      Profile for josh     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:

Sam Harris presents major religious systems like Judaism, Christianity and Islam as forms of socially sanctioned lunacy, their fundamental tenets and rituals irrational, archaic and, important when it comes to matters of humanity's long-term survival, mutually incompatible. A doctoral candidate in neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles, Harris writes what a sizable number of us think, but few are willing to say in contemporary America: ''We have names for people who have many beliefs for which there is no rational justification. When their beliefs are extremely common, we call them 'religious'; otherwise, they are likely to be called 'mad,' 'psychotic' or 'delusional.' '' To cite but one example: ''Jesus Christ -- who, as it turns out, was born of a virgin, cheated death and rose bodily into the heavens -- can now be eaten in the form of a cracker. A few Latin words spoken over your favorite Burgundy, and you can drink his blood as well. Is there any doubt that a lone subscriber to these beliefs would be considered mad?'' The danger of religious faith, he continues, ''is that it allows otherwise normal human beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy.''

Right now, if you are even vaguely observant, or have friends or grandmothers who are, you may be feeling not merely irritated, as you would while reading a political columnist with whom you disagree, but deeply offended. You may also think it inappropriate that a mainstream newspaper be seen as obliquely condoning an attack on religious belief. That reaction, in Harris's view, is part of the problem. ''Criticizing a person's faith is currently taboo in every corner of our culture. On this subject, liberals and conservatives have reached a rare consensus: religious beliefs are simply beyond the scope of rational discourse. Criticizing a person's ideas about God and the afterlife is thought to be impolitic in a way that criticizing his ideas about physics or history is not.''

A zippered-lip policy would be fine, a pleasant display of the neighborly tolerance that we consider part of an advanced democracy, Harris says, if not for the mortal perils inherent in strong religious faith. The terrorists who flew jet planes into the World Trade Center believed in the holiness of their cause. The Christian apocalypticists who are willing to risk a nuclear conflagration in the Middle East for the sake of expediting the second coming of Christ believe in the holiness of their cause. In Harris's view, such fundamentalists are not misinterpreting their religious texts or ideals. They are not defaming or distorting their faith. To the contrary, they are taking their religion seriously, attending to the holy texts on which their faith is built. Unhappily for international comity, the Good Books that undergird the world's major religions are extraordinary anthologies of violence and vengeance, celestial decrees that infidels must die.

In the 21st century, Harris says, when swords have been beaten into megaton bombs, the persistence of ancient, blood-washed theisms that emphasize their singular righteousness and their superiority over competing faiths poses a genuine threat to the future of humanity, if not the biosphere: ''We can no longer ignore the fact that billions of our neighbors believe in the metaphysics of martyrdom, or in the literal truth of the book of Revelation,'' he writes, ''because our neighbors are now armed with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.''


http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/05/books/review/05ANGIERL.html?pagewanted=print&position=


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Cougyr
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posted 08 September 2004 12:54 PM      Profile for Cougyr     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
There's an old adage, "Nothing causes a Bishop as much trouble as a saint in his parish." I am always puzzled by the contrasts of religion. It can be the salvation of saints and an opiate for the masses. It attracts intelligent people who try to understand the great mysteries and total morons who think they know everything. Religions preach peace and good will toward all, yet beat the drums of war. Is the problem religion? Or how poeple use it?
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praenomen3
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posted 08 September 2004 01:18 PM      Profile for praenomen3        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
No question about the damage done by religous zealotry, but they don't have a monopoly on carnage. Two words: Hitler and Stalin.
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praenomen3
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posted 08 September 2004 01:20 PM      Profile for praenomen3        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
... make that three: Mao
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skdadl
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posted 08 September 2004 01:38 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Harris seems to find ''moral relativism'' as great a sin as religious moderation, and in the end he singles out Islam as the reigning threat to humankind. He likens it to the gruesome, Inquisition-style Christianity of the 13th century, yet he never explains how Christianity became comparatively domesticated. And on reading his insistence that it is ''time for us to admit that not all cultures are at the same stage of moral development,'' I couldn't help but think of Ann Coulter's morally developed suggestion that we invade Muslim countries, kill their leaders and convert their citizens to Christianity.

Yeah. Long before I got to that paragraph, I figured that's where this guy would be headed; and the rationalization of torture that he apparently does seems to fit as well.

I read this on the weekend and thought the book sounded very superficial, the writer more polemicist than thinker. What he objects to, of course, is fundamentalism, although he fancies that critique up by saying that the faithful who aren't fundies are even worse -- that their religion is no religion at all. In other words, he is playing a semantic rather than a logical game: he invents his own definitions, and therefore he always wins.

I was thinking of this review yesterday when reading Stockholm's risible posts about religion on the thread about the attacks in North Ossetia.

At one point, Stockholm, believing that he was doing the same sort of brave defence of rationalist atheism that our subject here does, exclaimed something like, "What about Voltaire? What about Rousseau? What about the Enlightenment?" etc.

Yee hee hee hee. Stockholm picked there two of the most famous NON-atheists of the Enlightenment.

I'm wondering which Voltaire Stockholm has actually read, because Voltaire was easily the most famous deist in Europe -- well, ok, between him and Newton it would have been a toss-up, perhaps, and maybe we should add in there Mme du Chatelet, Newton's translator in France and Voltaire's lover -- when we rewrite our hitherto sexist histories, maybe we could do that.

But Voltaire's deism is simply not in question; and like all the satirists of his generation in France and England, he was very good at catching rigid rationalists in their many contradictions.

And Rousseau -- I am betting that Stockholm has not read Emile, eg, with its magnificent concluding "Profession de foi d'un vicaire savoyard," of which Voltaire, who didn't like Rousseau at all, said that he would rather have written that than all of his own works, something close to that.

Rousseau was deeply spiritual, something close to a mystic. Like all the philosophes, he detested the C18 French Roman Catholic Church, but for all of them, that was a political position, not a religious one. The French RC Church was a bloodthirsty, corrupt arm of the ancien regime and deserving of hatred. That never says anything about philosophy or spirituality.

Voltaire, btw, was a vicious anti-semite. That also was political, a way of undermining the Christian Bible, but it goes beyond that to sheer viciousness. Man, could he get ugly.

All the major philosophes worked very hard to have themselves buried in sanctified ground. Almost no major thinker of the C18 could fairly be called an atheist. Some of the more boring younger philosophes were, but no one pays them any mind any more.

When Stockholm and others say Enlightenment, they are thinking of the much thinner and less subtle, ideologized C19. There were lots of rationalist atheists around then.

The point to be made is one about culture, not just religion. Fundamentalisms arise in all cultures repeatedly over time; and they are followed, again and again, by more and more analytical or metaphorical or ironical takes on the same founding texts. Any brief consideration of the history of any tradition will demonstrate the cyclical form of that tradition, its collapses to fundamentalist, literalist stages and then its long slow crawl out of them. That can and does happen to any and every culture and religion. Our task is to figure out the particulars of each case.


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Jimmy Brogan
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posted 08 September 2004 01:44 PM      Profile for Jimmy Brogan   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Thanks josh. Reading that was like a cool swim on a hot day - very refreshing.

These delusional philosophies are still with us because, as always, in the hands of the cynical they are an excellent method of extending control and wielding power.


From: The right choice - Iggy Thumbscrews for Liberal leader | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
Secret Agent Style
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posted 08 September 2004 02:00 PM      Profile for Secret Agent Style        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by praenomen3:
No question about the damage done by religous zealotry, but they don't have a monopoly on carnage. Two words: Hitler and Stalin.

Hitler certainly used religion to justify his policies and gain political support. Paganism and the occult were part of the Nazis' appeal to Germanic tradition and the mythical primitive past.

The Nazis also worked with the church hierarchy in order to maintain mainstrem support. It's been said that the Nazi Party's anti-gay policies were introduced as a way to appease Catholic officials. Hitler didn't have a problem with having homosexuals in the SA until it became a political hindrance.


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praenomen3
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posted 08 September 2004 02:06 PM      Profile for praenomen3        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Agreed mostly, but those were just cynical tactics. Overall, it's tough to argue that National Socialism was a religious movement, which was my point.
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ronb
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posted 08 September 2004 02:13 PM      Profile for ronb     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Hello. Long time no see.

skdadl, I just wanted to say 'Amen" to your post.


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Anchoress
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posted 08 September 2004 02:23 PM      Profile for Anchoress     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yeah, that was really interesting skdadl.
From: Vancouver babblers' meetup July 9 @ Cafe Deux Soleil! | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged
britchestoobig
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posted 08 September 2004 02:26 PM      Profile for britchestoobig     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Hmm, I'm not sure if this line of thinking is very helpful. But before I get into that I'd start by saying I don't think its even right.

When Harris says:

quote:
They are not defaming or distorting their faith. To the contrary, they are taking their religion seriously, attending to the holy texts on which their faith is built. Unhappily for international comity, the Good Books that undergird the world's major religions are extraordinary anthologies of violence and vengeance, celestial decrees that infidels must die.

In a limited sense this is true. But only if you cherrypick, if you select for violence. The Bible is repleat with contradictory messages, and from what I understand so is the Koran. Suggesting that these books are "anthologies of violence" is misleading because it ignores the opposing messages of forgiveness and peace.

I'm an atheist, but I've been reading a chapter a night of the New Testement and I get the sense that there are two separate messages interlaced: Jesus on the need to be good, and then Jesus on the need to worship God.

A lot of the vengefulness and violence comes in regards to the latter message. I cannot escape the notion that the Bible is a composite of the true words of Christ mixed in with later writers concerned with establishing and maintaining the Christian religion in the Roman Empire. (again: I'm an atheist, but I believe Jesus existed and, like Gandhi was a man of peace)At times the Bible makes me think of a Jesus frothing at the mouth - and I don't think it is a coincidence that these moments most often seem to be related to the message of the need to follow the one true God.

The importance of the mixed message is that it does allow for debate amongst religious people. The problem isn't I think religion, but rather the propensity within humankind to seek fundamentalisms. Which I think is the major irony of the article. Just as in different religions, atheists themselves fall into a spectrum between tolerance and a fundamentalism that is no less potentially pernicious towards liberty.

Religion isn't the problem, but rather philosophical fundamentalism which derides opposing views and builds logical constructions which demand conformity to ones own opinions...in this group it would seem Harris is included.

[ 08 September 2004: Message edited by: britchestoobig ]


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bittersweet
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posted 08 September 2004 02:30 PM      Profile for bittersweet     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
skdadl, that was like a hot soak on a cool day. But then, I believe in The Great Code.

Like many other kids back-packing through Europe in the late 70's, I had my tattered paperback of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and I still recall the way I felt when Phaedrus finally confronted the philosophy professor, that zealous believer in Plato and the Church of Reason.


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Jimmy Brogan
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posted 08 September 2004 02:48 PM      Profile for Jimmy Brogan   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Some parts I found particularly refreshing:

quote:
''We have names for people who have many beliefs for which there is no rational justification. When their beliefs are extremely common, we call them 'religious'; otherwise, they are likely to be called 'mad,' 'psychotic' or 'delusional.'

This has been said by myself and Tommy Paine among others here on babble and the overwhelming reaction here on babble could be best explained by:

quote:
''Criticizing a person's faith is currently taboo in every corner of our culture. On this subject, liberals and conservatives have reached a rare consensus: religious beliefs are simply beyond the scope of rational discourse. Criticizing a person's ideas about God and the afterlife is thought to be impolitic in a way that criticizing his ideas about physics or history is not.''

Sects that try to fit their ancient dogma's into 'modern life' ARE the dishonest ones. The fundamentalists more accurately reflect the tone and tenor of thier sacred texts:

quote:
They are not defaming or distorting their faith. To the contrary, they are taking their religion seriously, attending to the holy texts on which their faith is built. Unhappily for international comity, the Good Books that undergird the world's major religions are extraordinary anthologies of violence and vengeance, celestial decrees that infidels must die.

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Jay Pausner
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posted 08 September 2004 02:52 PM      Profile for Jay Pausner     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Bertrand Russell made a contribution on this topic in 1930. His "Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization? essay is thoughful and still mostly current.
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britchestoobig
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posted 08 September 2004 02:54 PM      Profile for britchestoobig     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Just started reading that Russel essay. Interesting link. Thanks Jay
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bittersweet
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posted 08 September 2004 03:14 PM      Profile for bittersweet     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I loved Bertrand Russell, read all his philosophical essays, and eventually came to sense that he might not have a bone of poetry in his body. He seemed to read the Bible with as little imagination as the fundamentalists, in order to come to the opposite foregone conclusion.

And then I read a letter he'd written in response to a girl's query, in which he confessed that one of his favourite words was "alabaster," which was one of mine too, so back in my good books he went.


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Rebecca West
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posted 08 September 2004 03:47 PM      Profile for Rebecca West     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The King James version of the bible is rather poetic, but considering it's long violent history as a rationale for crimes against humanity, I'll stick with Keats and Coleridge thanks.

I'm happy to defend each individual's right to their own spirituality, and I'm not so ready to heap scorn on rituals that have meaning to people who believe. My problem is when those religious beliefs become enshrined in law, when they start proscribing to me how I should think, who I should love and how I should live my life. And when they become a smokescreen, protecting the perpetrators of horrendous crimes against innocent children from ansering to those crimes.

Yeah, I have a bit of a problem those things. But if you want to believe that an omnipotent supernatural being created the universe and has some particular interest in our species...knock yerself out.


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Rufus Polson
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posted 08 September 2004 04:37 PM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
One thing I find interesting is the constantly recurring spiritual renewals that religions always have in pockets, sometimes in large movements. They start with an emphasis on the personal spiritual, on more direct encounter between the individual and God, on the individual conscience. They tend to evolve away from that. This is true from some of the initial Puritans and Quakers in England to certain hip sixties churches. Over time most of these movements end up as dogmatic and hierarchical as whatever they rebelled against.

This is perhaps a political as much as a religious thing. It happens to political movements too--but religions tend to be worse IMHO because they don't really acknowledge the political, and they mostly start from very hierarchical basic assumptions (i.e. there is a supreme being; we should worship it). Buddhism doesn't have that same assumption.

It's also true that most of the world's religions' basic texts are profoundly contradictory, so that it's unfair to dismiss them as merely gore-fests. But that brings the question--should people be taking seriously, as more than interesting poetry, profoundly self-contradictory texts? How can a belief system really be built out of this stuff? In fact, I think belief systems generally *aren't* built out of this stuff. Quite the reverse. People use holy books on an ethical level as validation for whatever they already believe; there's enough different stuff in there to act as a mirror for a wide variety of ethical approaches. That's why they're successful--they're like the Liberal party, good at being all things to all people. Doubtless somewhere there are religions with founding texts which are morally internally consistent. Doubtless they are very small religions. But while mirroring everyone's pre-existing ideas and biases (on every issue except whose supreme being exists) is a very successful approach, that doesn't make it right. I find it very difficult to take any major religion's basic texts seriously for reasons similar to why I find it very difficult to take the Liberals seriously (and various extra reasons).

Assuming this mirroring/validation of people's existing ideas to be the case, then religion isn't *the* problem by itself. But it can make all the other ones worse by giving people divine confidence in their petty prejudices. Some people are sufficiently arrogant that they have nearly that much confidence anyway (looks around--I don't know anyone like that, do I? whistle, whistle . . . take that mirror away!) but I think many have their beliefs bolstered sufficiently by their belief in religious sanction that they become much more annoying or dangerous than they might otherwise have been.

Of course even if religions contain no real ethical precepts that aren't contradicted by other ones, most of them are still exclusive on that one issue: Whose supreme bean is the real one? Polytheisms are IMHO a lot less dangerous in that respect. The Vikings were violent, but you didn't see them going to war to spread the word of Thor. And I'm sure if they saw that as a remotely comprehensible concept, they would have done it; they didn't need a lot of excuses for fighting. On the other hand, the Vikings are a fairly clear example that people can be pretty violent without being pushed into it by religion.


From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
Baldfresh
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posted 11 September 2004 03:18 PM      Profile for Baldfresh   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Whats the pword for the times again? 'babble' and 'audrarules'? Didn't seem to work.

Nonetheless, from what's shown here:

quote:
Sam Harris presents major religious systems like Judaism, Christianity and Islam as forms of socially sanctioned lunacy, their fundamental tenets and rituals irrational, archaic and, important when it comes to matters of humanity's long-term survival, mutually incompatible

Absolutely; the major religions in the world today all have something very deep rooted and important in common: the underlying assumption that this planet is ours, was made for us by some benevolent power, and that we can do with it as we like. Of course, the gods were lazy and made us flawed, so only thru redemption by faith can we be saved. At the same time, we are free to try and remake the world as we see fit, albeit in a state of perpetual torment.

This, of course, is an egotistical crock of $#!T, with no apologies to anyone who holds with one of these sects. This world belongs to us no more than it belongs to the fish in the sea or the birds in the sky, or the blades of grass under our feet. Mankind as a species is NOT, I repeat NOT inherently flawed; we got along just fine with this planet for a couple of million years, just as all other life did and continues to do (when we let it)

Only in the last 10k years or so, since the agricultural revolution, have we started ignoring the rules that govern all life (us included) on this planet. Our unchecked growth and resource use is suicidal not only to our own species, but, as evidenced by the damage around us, to most other forms of life as well. The major religions of today sprang up AFTER we had been living like we were kings of the earth for a few dozen generations; no surprise then, that they have as their unspoken basis the idea that we are made to rule.

The problem, then, is not so much the religons that we have, but the culture that spawned them which fails to follow the basic laws of life and nature.

[ 11 September 2004: Message edited by: Baldfresh ]


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Debra
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posted 11 September 2004 03:48 PM      Profile for Debra   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Whats the pword for the times again? 'babble' and 'audrarules'? Didn't seem to work

it's babblers8 audrarules


From: The only difference between graffiti & philosophy is the word fuck... | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Baldfresh
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posted 11 September 2004 03:49 PM      Profile for Baldfresh   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Debra:

it's babblers8 audrarules


Thanks!

eta: from the article:

quote:
The danger of religious faith, he continues, ''is that it allows otherwise normal human beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy

Of course; if God put us here, and made the world for us, then why shouldn't we cut down all the trees to make extraply toliet paper to wipe our collective butts with?

[ 11 September 2004: Message edited by: Baldfresh ]


From: to here knows when | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged
Agent 204
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posted 11 September 2004 04:49 PM      Profile for Agent 204   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Baldfresh:

Only in the last 10k years or so, since the agricultural revolution, have we started ignoring the rules that govern all life (us included) on this planet. Our unchecked growth and resource use is suicidal not only to our own species, but, as evidenced by the damage around us, to most other forms of life as well.

While I agree that the consequences of the agricultural revolution and other things that have followed it are extremely dangerous for us and many other lifeforms, I disagree that this is a case of "ignoring the rules that govern all life". It was simply another adaptation that produced a short-term advantage for humans. In this case, the adaptation was larger brains, which enabled us to make tools and to plan ahead, which in turn led to the agricultural and industrial revolutions. Any organism can develop such an adaptation- it just happened to be us. And when it does it will move sharply in that direction, even if it's not in its long-term interest. Many instances of "sexual selection", for instance, are probably disadvantageous to the species as a whole. More dramatically, there's the example (which I've cited in other threads) of the first organisms to develop photosynthesis, which eventually poisoned most organisms with too much oxygen. In discussing the concept of an "evolutionary stable strategy", Richard Dawkins sums it up quite nicely- "If a population arrives at an ESS that drives it extinct, then it goes extinct, and that is just too bad." (The Selfish Gene, p. 186).

The difference between our adaptation and others is that it might also allow us to extricate ourselves from the situation we've gotten in- though that remains to be seen, of course.

[ 11 September 2004: Message edited by: Mike Keenan ]


From: home of the Guess Who | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged
CMOT Dibbler
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posted 11 September 2004 05:02 PM      Profile for CMOT Dibbler     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Sects that try to fit their ancient dogma's into 'modern life' ARE the dishonest ones. The fundamentalists more accurately reflect the tone and tenor of thier sacred texts:


Yes indeed. But then you have to ask yourself whether you'd actually want all these hypocritical moderate sects to interpret their religion honestly. I wouldn't want them to. I don't think want to live in a world with no Tom Harpers or Cardinal Romeros.


From: Just outside Fernie, British Columbia | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 11 September 2004 05:10 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
He seemed to read the Bible with as little imagination as the fundamentalists, in order to come to the opposite foregone conclusion.

bittersweet: precisely.

Well, we students of history and Northrop Frye have to put an oar in here periodically, don't we, just to warn all the literalists that we haven't shrivelled up and died yet.


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Baldfresh
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posted 11 September 2004 05:12 PM      Profile for Baldfresh   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Mike Keenan:
[QB]I disagree that this is a case of "ignoring the rules that govern all life". It was simply another adaptation that produced a short-term advantage for humans. In this case, the adaptation was larger brains, which enabled us to make tools and to plan ahead, which in turn led to the agricultural and industrial revolutions. Any organism can develop such an adaptation- it just happened to be us. And when it does it will move sharply in that direction, even if it's not in its long-term interest. Many instances of "sexual selection", for instance, are probably disadvantageous to the species as a whole. More dramatically, there's the example (which I've cited in other threads) of the first organisms to develop photosynthesis, which eventually poisoned most organisms with too much oxygen. In discussing the concept of an "evolutionary stable strategy", Richard Dawkins sums it up quite nicely- "If a population arrives at an ESS that drives it extinct, then it goes extinct, and that is just too bad." (The Selfish Gene, p. 186).

While I agree about your summation of short-termed (if overly effective) adaptations, I would still argue there is a law in effect:

"You may compete to the full extent of your capabilities, but you may not hunt down your competitors or destroy their food or deny them access to food. In other words, you may compete but you may not wage war." [Ishmael, pg 129. Or, spend a little time studying 'natural' populations of other species)

It goes along with what you said about certain designs not being in a species' long term interest, and its why we don't find a single species dominating an entire ecolevel: not just one superior avaian creature, nor one champion fish species in the ocean: any species that has ever gained such a tremendous advantage and thus exempted itself from the above rule has ended up crashing and burning like we will, because its not stable, because there is a law in place - and its very similar to "what goes up must come down"


quote:

The difference between our adaptation and others is that it might also allow us to extricate ourselves from the situation we've gotten in- though that remains to be seen, of course.

Yes; but not by us 'thinking' our way around the rules mother nature sets down. The idea that we can survive long enough to outsmart mother nature's population constraints is as egotistical as our way of thinking this world is ours, and maintains the inherent bullshit idea that she is something to be fought and ocnquered. Our only hope is to realize the rules as the are, as we are subject to them, and to start obeying them.


From: to here knows when | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged
CMOT Dibbler
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posted 11 September 2004 05:44 PM      Profile for CMOT Dibbler     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
In order to get rid of religion, we would have to get rid of The Fear of Death which is nearly impossible. Human beings don't like the idea of the void. We simply can't cope with the concept of nothing. It's difficult to imagine.
Humanistic rationalism can answer many questions, but it can't answer the ultimate one.
I'm a secular humanist. I was raised and still live in a very atheistic household. My dad's nonbelief is very much influenced by Marxist thought (religion is the opiate of the masses, it's designed to keep the workers down etc.) and while I agree with much that he says, I'm starting to question the philosophy of humanism. I still believe in the basic philosophy, but I'm uncertain about atheistic aspects of the philosophy. There's something cosmically unfair about it. You work your whole life to be a good humanist, to be a decent human being, and in the end you decend into nothingness.
I want a reward God damn it!

[ 11 September 2004: Message edited by: CMOT Dibbler ]


From: Just outside Fernie, British Columbia | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
Baldfresh
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posted 11 September 2004 06:07 PM      Profile for Baldfresh   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by CMOT Dibbler:
In order to get rid of religion, we would have to get rid of The Fear of Death which is nearly impossible.

Yessss . . . . from our own cultural p.o.v. Spend a few hours reading up on 'primitive' societies, ones that to us are wholly 'savage' and untamed. Do they usually think of themselves as inherently flawed? As requiring salvation to come from pious acts and deeds? Do they think of their lives as tormented, as our major religions do? Do they have such a sharp fear of death? Not usually at our levels, if at all. This is not to say they don't have spirituality, or beliefs in the afterlife, but its wholly different from our system.

The religions we have today flourished and grew because of the loss of hundreds of generations of cultural evolution and heritage that was taking place in the tribal system. When we abandoned our past, we lost what answers we had to life's problems, rules ingrained in society that of course had been proven to work, as evidenced by the existence and relative flourishment of our species. When left with this spiritual and cultural void, some enterprising individuals eventually set themselves up as having 'knowledge from on high' and the people, lacking real answers, took to the ideas as you would expect.


From: to here knows when | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged
Frac Tal
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posted 11 September 2004 06:27 PM      Profile for Frac Tal        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
In order to get rid of religion, we would have to get rid of The Fear of Death which is nearly impossible. Human beings don't like the idea of the void. We simply can't cope with the concept of nothing.

Out of nothing, nothing comes. The void is that all purpose placeholder where the futilities and absurdities get parked. Death becomes nothing,the unanswerable disappears without so much as an echo.

That which is, is, and cannot not be.

I know many will vehemently disagree, but the view that death is dissolution into the void makes little sense. It's tempting to think so, but I don't think we get off that easy.

[ 11 September 2004: Message edited by: Frac Tal ]


From: I'll never sign it. | Registered: Sep 2004  |  IP: Logged
Baldfresh
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posted 11 September 2004 06:52 PM      Profile for Baldfresh   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
You have the pm function turned off Frac? We're off course a bit, but I like the drift.

quote:
Originally posted by Frac Tal:
[QB]

Out of nothing, nothing comes. The void is that all purpose placeholder where the futilities and absurdities get parked. Death becomes nothing,the unanswerable disappears without so much as an echo.

That which is, is, and cannot not be.


"To sleep--perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause."

What of when I sleep and wake up? In the morning I am aware of having been "gone" for a while; the egofear is that one day I will go and not return - which from my own limited pov in this 3d existence happens to everyone soooner or later.

quote:

I know many will vehemently disagree, but the view that death is dissolution into the void makes little sense. It's tempting to think so, but I don't think we get off that easy.


probably not, no.

So: Who wants to talk about Apparent Communication with Discarnate Entities Induced by Dimethyltryptamine?

[ 11 September 2004: Message edited by: Baldfresh ]


From: to here knows when | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged
Agent 204
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posted 11 September 2004 07:38 PM      Profile for Agent 204   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Baldfresh:

"You may compete to the full extent of your capabilities, but you may not hunt down your competitors or destroy their food or deny them access to food. In other words, you may compete but you may not wage war." [Ishmael, pg 129. Or, spend a little time studying 'natural' populations of other species)


Examples exist in nature of things very similar to what you're describing. I don't know any specific examples of one species denying another access to food, but they probably exist. I do know of examples of animals denying their competitors access to nesting sites, which is pretty similar in effect. Starlings, for instance, aggressively drive other bird species (notably Red-headed Woodpeckers and Eastern Bluebirds) out of their nesting holes, to the considerable detriment of the other species.

"Ah," you're saying. "But Starlings were brought to North America by humans." Certainly they were. But do you think they would have acted any differently if they had been brought here by continental drift? Something like that no doubt has happened in the past, and will happen in the future. Nature has no morals.

quote:

Yes; but not by us 'thinking' our way around the rules mother nature sets down. The idea that we can survive long enough to outsmart mother nature's population constraints is as egotistical as our way of thinking this world is ours, and maintains the inherent bullshit idea that she is something to be fought and ocnquered. Our only hope is to realize the rules as the are, as we are subject to them, and to start obeying them.

I don't disagree with that. Of course we can't expect to get around, say, the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I wasn't saying we should try to do that. All I was saying is that the same intelligence that has enabled us to compete more effectively might also enable us to restrain our urge to compete even more effectively.


From: home of the Guess Who | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged
Baldfresh
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posted 11 September 2004 07:50 PM      Profile for Baldfresh   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Examples exist in nature of things very similar to what you're describing. I don't know any specific examples of one species denying another access to food, but they probably exist.

Yes, I'd agree. But the key to keep in mind is that those would be exceptions rather than the rule; at present, our system is set up such that any species of organism which exhibits high levels of "disobeying" the law is putting itself (and others) at tremendous risk: destruction of the environment it depends on, genetic bottlenecks, etc.

Fungus would be a good example of a partial exception to the rule: in a petri dish they'll eat up all available resources untill they have nothing left, and then they eat themselves. This is replicated in nature somewhat - but again the fungus that eats up everything in its path will usually only manage to send off a few spores to continue the species elsewhere. I think most of us would like to see more than a few hundred homo sapiens survive to keep the genes going.

quote:
Originally posted by Mike Keenan:
I don't disagree with that. Of course we can't expect to get around, say, the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I wasn't saying we should try to do that. All I was saying is that the same intelligence that has enabled us to compete more effectively might also enable us to restrain our urge to compete even more effectively.

I hope so as well, and there are signs of progress. But as simple as what we're talking about is, at the same time its a very large paradigm shift in cultural thinking, and putting our place in this world as no more important than the rest of the creatures living here is a hard one for our way of thinking and living to accept. Its not a bandaid solution that has any hope: a program for global birth control will never work untill we rethink our place as a species on this planet.


From: to here knows when | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged
CMOT Dibbler
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posted 12 September 2004 03:24 PM      Profile for CMOT Dibbler     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
The religions we have today flourished and grew because of the loss of hundreds of generations of cultural evolution and heritage that was taking place in the tribal system. When we abandoned our past, we lost what answers we had to life's problems, rules ingrained in society that of course had been proven to work, as evidenced by the existence and relative flourishment of our species. When left with this spiritual and cultural void, some enterprising individuals eventually set themselves up as having 'knowledge from on high' and the people, lacking real answers, took to the ideas as you would expect.


Perhaps reward is the wrong word. All religions, whether they promise paradise or not, tell believers that the consciousness continues in one form or another. Even Buddhism, which is the most skeptical of faiths, pomises a sort of immortality. That's all I want. I don't need a uber happy ending.


From: Just outside Fernie, British Columbia | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
Rufus Polson
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posted 12 September 2004 06:44 PM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Mind you, not all religious answers to the life after death question have been pleasant ones.
The Greeks and Romans thought *everyone* went somewhere nasty after death. My mother told me about a philosopher--Lucretius, I think it was--who had come to atheistic conclusions, decided there must be no gods and no afterlife. What struck her was how *relieved* he seemed to be. Compared to Hades, nothingness was a positive boon!

Meanwhile, both the Greeks and the pre-Christian Germanic and Scandinavian people seem to have largely considered that the important thing in terms of what happened after death was being remembered. You were toast, or at least not up to anything much fun. The only thing that might live on was your fame, and possibly the effects of your accomplishments. Do great deeds and your name would be remembered in tales. Build something to last and with luck all would know it as your work. Doesn't have to be a huge thing--my great grandfather, for instance, was big in the founding of the Saskatoon public library system and now there's a library with his name on it. For hundreds of years, I expect there will still be a few people who know who he was, a few people who ask the librarian, for a class project on local history or out of vague curiosity, "So who was this J.S. Wood person anyway?" and get answered.

There was a major traitor ratfink somewhere in Greek history, and the people of his city when they made a historical account of the events said "We know his name, but we will not record it". Nobody knows who the scumbucket was--that was their revenge.

. . . meanwhile, I'm vaguely bummed that nobody commented on/replied to my previous post. Wanders off muttering self-indulgently . . .


From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
paxamillion
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posted 12 September 2004 09:04 PM      Profile for paxamillion   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Rufus Polson:
. . . meanwhile, I'm vaguely bummed that nobody commented on/replied to my previous post. Wanders off muttering self-indulgently . . .

I agree with you that there is much intertwining of politics, culture and theology in religious life -- and it seems always to have been that way. To set aside religion as the problem seems to overlook the interplay of all three.

Science got entangled with politics and the military; the bomb resulted. I have to wonder what Marx might have thought about what Stalin and Mao did in the "real world applications" of his theories.

Ghandi, King, Wilberforce, and others have worked the intersections between religion, culture, and politics very differently than many of the characters of today's religious right.

As for the believability of some dogma, I suggest that some people still believe that the governments they elect are going to be accountable for meeting their needs and wants.


From: the process of recovery | Registered: Jul 2002  |  IP: Logged
Vansterdam Kid
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posted 13 September 2004 02:22 AM      Profile for Vansterdam Kid   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Didn't notice this thread until now so I'm just going to jump right in.

I would have to take the position that I don't think religion or spirituality is necessarily 'the problem' I think it's a way of answering what we can't answer and when others hijack it then it can become a 'problem'. Obviously when used in conjuncture with someone who has a negative political, economic or other very narrow and self-serving [ie: at the expense of others] goal then yes it can be a problem. Then again no one (reasonable) really disputes this and it's not a problem that is confined to religion, for instance the tactic of questioning the loyalty/patriotism of those who would question President Bush -- the classic "you're either with us or against us" falsity has been used in a similar way to religious doctrine that one is simply a heretic if they disagree. To be fair has been used throughout history by many people.

I don't think it's overly realistic to expect religion or even more precisely spirituality (in the sense of believing in supposedly 'mystic' things such as a spirit) to go away, or to actually want that as a goal. Now granted one can believe whatever they want, including the view that when they die their consciousness or whatever equivalent (i.e: 'spirit') just disappears into nothingness -- heck the belief that thereís no such thing as a soul is legitimate so long as such a person respects other beliefs. As a liberal, or even if what some people have stated what their goal is a democratic socialist, society this is something that is of the utmost importance. But IMHO the view that you live and die and suddenly cease to exist is not one that is either comforting to the vast majority of the population or is it likely to take hold. Of course I'm mentioning this from the standpoint of someone who doesn't accept the position of when you're born, you live, you die, and you cease to exist save the impression you left on the world and the memory that people have of you. But just because of that I don't think I'm suddenly un-able to address religious matters after all even atheism is a belief it's not the lack of beliefs.

The reason that I think this is an impossibility is because of just how unique and impressive humanity actually is. Now I admit it's a bit of species chauvinism on the part of myself to mention this, but as far as we know no other species (on this planet at least) has accomplished as much as we have (for better or worse) has the intelligence that we do and the clear cut ability to demonstrate that we really are sentient beings. From what I understand only four other species are evil self away enough to pass the so-called mirror test (the ability to recognize themselves in the mirror and not think that the image is another animal) those animals are Dolphins, Chimpanzee's, Gorillas and Orang-utans. Now what does this have to do with anything one will surely ask.

It relates to the fact that regardless of all this, regardless of the will to knowledge and of course too understand what we don't understand there's a certain amount of information that we simply don't know and is very unlikely to be found out while we exist in the form that we exist in now (i.e.: while we are homo-sapiens-sapiens). And that as a species there will be a certain propensity to delegate the un-answerable to a higher being of some sort. Specifically why are we here, and no not because of evolution, but why are we sentient how and how did this develop? I suppose I'm also trying to say what created the process -- that created the processes -- that created us in the first place? How did we come from nothing if we are clearly something now?

If religion (and spirituality) in some ways is a sort of delegating process of coming to terms with things we donít understand or necessarily believe (i.e.: the something from nothing). And beliefs that things donít end when we die arenít only because of a fear of death but because of a desire for something more meaningful then simple contemplation and existence. So yeah I suppose that means I think humans are special and arenít just another organism on this planet, but I think the fact that we can even contemplate this must mean something. How many other animals can?


From: bleh.... | Registered: Apr 2004  |  IP: Logged

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