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Religion, Politics and the End of the World

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Posted on Jun 17, 2007
Harris Hedges and Scheer
Truthdig / Todd Wilkinson

Onstage: from left to right, Sam Harris, Robert Scheer and Chris Hedges debate religion and politics at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

For readers who weren’t able to attend the Truthdig debate between Sam Harris and Chris Hedges, we now have full coverage. So sit back, relax and enjoy the fireworks.

Essays:

Read Chris Hedges’ opening statement and Sam Harris’ response.

Audio:

Note: The audio recording has not been edited. For a slightly condensed version of the debate, check out the video below.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Sound by Mansoor Sabbagh / Global Voices for Justice

Video:

Videography by Sherwin Maglanoc / LA36
Note: The video has been edited for time.

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By jbatch, April 23, 2011 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment

Chris Hedges uses a standard bit of sophistry to bolster his argument—he
defines his way out of reality.

Specifically, he discards the vast majority of religious people and religious
beliefs by restricting his definition to a nearly non-existent subset.

I know of a few progressive Republicans—very few—so I could define out
the crazies who make up most of the Party and declare it to be progressive.

But that wouldn’t make it so. 

One can’t simply eliminate the segment of the group that is inconvenient to
your position—especially when that group comprises the vast majority of its
members—and expect anyone to take one’s argument seriously.  And Hedges
shouldn’t expect us to either.

His argument is pure poppycock, dressed in learned cloth.

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By Susan, October 5, 2010 at 5:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The ego of the moderator is completely out of control
and inappropriate. “Sure Sam, I’ll let you counter this
guy after I give MY speech”

Totally unprofessional

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By robinhood, May 17, 2010 at 3:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you very much Linda

A nice Post of you..
i will read it thoroughly

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By Sidwith, May 3, 2010 at 8:34 am Link to this comment

Robert Scheer is a terrible moderator.

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By M Khan, December 20, 2009 at 9:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The world (but not the universe) can end because of earthquake, tsunami, meteor strike, nuclear war, supernova, and some other natural or man made disaster. These are however just local ends that have nothing to do with The Day of Judgment. End will also not happen on any arbitrary date like December 2012. The end of the universe is an entirely different phenomenon that is built into the laws of the universe. The contraction of the universe with reversal of time and gravity will commence the beginning of the end which will last for thousands and possibly millions of years. We will be removed from the regressing effects of reversed time as we come back alive in our own time. We will the be taken across many dimensions to beyond this universe. A beautiful natural
mechanism that is based on the laws of physics will cause all that to happen. This real end has nothing to do with wishful thinking and predictions of priests or shamans.

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By Pedro De Mello, August 13, 2009 at 9:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sam was unbelievably great as always, Hedges was quite articulate and clear as well.

But the commentator is just awfully in-your-face impartial. What a true shame…

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By Chris, July 5, 2009 at 2:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Scheer: “...people will say Scheer was a lousy moderator…”

I found him impertinent. Sam was debating the two of them.

Regardless of Scheer tedious remarks, Sam Harris, especially in the second half, was staggering.

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By Zach, April 21, 2009 at 1:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

THIS GROUP WON A WEBBY?! THE MODERATION IS APPALLING.

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By BFskinnerPunk, February 14, 2009 at 6:46 pm Link to this comment

You write:
“Alexander the Great? that was not a virgin birth, in the story zeus posses his father to mate with his mother..”

I suppose we can debate the details of Zeus’s actions, but isn’t that like debating the music preferences of Unicorns?


You write: “About his little thing about Israel, the original progenitors of Zionism were strict secularists”

The intent of the “original” planners has nothing to do with the religious fever seen in the region today.

You write: “I have this to say of the bible if God had anything to do with it the people writing Gods words took alot of liberties in writing.”

Well, the people certainly DID take liberties as the entire project is man made through and through.

You think that there is some sort of grandfatherly “Zeus” guy up there?

Sam’s use of “pretending” is a way of saying that religious people are claiming to **know** something…but there is no evidence…AT ALL.  They are, in a sense, “pretending” to know something.

To believe in a celestial Superhero and then pass judgement on a guy who merely asks for evidence is downright spooky.

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By Peter Irving, February 14, 2009 at 3:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ghengis Khan born of a virgin? Thats in only one story and its a “virgin birth” on a technicality because his mother is not suppose to be married to his father and later admits sleeping with a glittering figure yet this story was never held in high regarded amongst the mongols of the time.


Alexander the Great? that was not a virgin birth, in the story zeus posses his father to mate with his mother..

Although Harris is probably trying to back up himself being in that abortion of a documentary the anti christian “The God Who Wasn’t There”

About his little thing about Israel, the original progenitors of Zionism were strict secularists, they wanted Israel for historical reasons not religious reasons as well as cultural reasons once again Mr. Harris shows he knows nothing what he is talking about.

I have this to say of the bible if God had anything to do with it the people writing Gods words took alot of liberties in writing.

Oh Iliad and the Odyssey were not claimed to have been written by the gods, once again Sam Harris doesn’t know shit.

How are they “pretending maybe they actually do believe? But extremists have a problem with anyone who sees differently then them.

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By john, December 13, 2008 at 9:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

sam harris =  remarkable, insightfull, humorous, witty and convincing.

hedges = reading off a prepared, tedious almost incomprhensible babble.  i really didn’t know what he was talknig about half the time.

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By BMK, August 20, 2008 at 4:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This was—without any doubt—the most poorly moderated debate I have ever seen. Complete objectivity is perhaps an unachievable goal, but functional objectivity is achievable and should be the basic goal of any debate moderator. Mr. Scheer has done a terrible disservice to this forum, and consequently, much needs to be done to repair the damaged image of truthdig’s integrity. What an absolute shame.

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By HilbertThm90, August 8, 2008 at 11:45 am Link to this comment

This is truly amazing. Chris is far far too smart to completely miss Sam’s point like that. Chris is doing exactly what Sam is criticizing without realizing it. Chris is making freshmen Philosophy 101 mistakes. Geez, that is the most blatant hasty generalization fallacy I’ve ever seen. You can’t appeal to your experience. I don’t care how long you’ve lived there.

This is precisely what Sam is saying. Sam says that we will grasp at anything in order to keep our faith. Chris proves this by making obvious errors in order to not blame the faith. Grow up and let’s have a serious discussion for once. Religion is at fault, and it is time to be morally responsible.

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By Nate Johnson, July 12, 2008 at 3:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What a horrible moderator

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By David, May 8, 2008 at 12:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hedges is certainly a well-intentioned and decent man and I listed his book on war in the bibliography of the just war section of the ethics course I teach.  However, he often, here included, substitutes eloquence and appeals to personal experience as an inadequate substitute for argument. 

This would have been a much better discussion if there were some structure, a few propositions regarding religion which were established as its subject, and the moderator moderated rather than advocated.

He claims that families in Gaza only grieve and do not celebrate the death of their children as martyrs but this is simply false.  There is an abundance of evidence from reliable journalistic sources that many do so and even lament that they have no more children to surrender to this suicide fetish.  Robert Graves included in his classic work on WWI, “Goodbye to All That” a very popular letter by an English mother who regretted that she didn’t have more sons to give to the war effort.  It is a sad fact, but a fact nonetheless, that ideology and foremost religious ideology devalues life on this earth in a way that no rational view ever could. 

Normally the role of a moderator is to moderate not to take sides and Robert Sheer came across as a biased halfwit to me.  He chastised the audience by reminding them that no Muslim had ever used a nuclear weapon against another nation but the United States has.  Never mind the fact that the United States was engaged in a just war against an imperialist nation that had attacked it and pillaged half of Asia.  A belligerent nation whose “imperial” army had tortured and mutilated the bodies of captured wounded soldiers, raped and killed thousands of civilians, and refused to acknowledge any of the rights of the Geneva convention.  I think in the end, when all is said, that the attacks on Japanese civilians were unjustified, but holding this example up, as some people are wont to do, as if it is some sort of clinching point, or moral knockdown argument is simplistic beyond belief and should be refuted every time any half asleep moralizer like Sheer comes forth with it.

And Sheer is so naïve that he believes that Iran, Iraq, Syria, and such nations wouldn’t use nuclear weapons against Israel or the United States or Europe if they had them.  They don’t have them and we can be thankful that they don’t and we need to keep that status quo.

Lastly, Sheer is stunningly ignorant when he attributes the rise of Islam in Iran and Iraq to Western intervention.  They have always been intensely religious cultures and that was never the result of any Western action.  And Harris refuted him on this point.  I see in Hedges and Sheer the kind of political correctness towards Islam which really flies in the face of evidence.  And evidence is the final word here.

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By BFskinnerPunk, March 27, 2008 at 1:18 pm Link to this comment

Timmy,

If having a prez with all the hip superficial-topographical features is what we’re voting for, then Barrack is the man.

McCain, I’m sad to say, will look like a pasty old white dude by comparison.  Too bad, I have been interested in him for a long time now.

I have to agree though.  Electing Obama may *help* with a variety of issues related to world opinion and our own race fetish here at home.

Jesse Jackson and that ilk will have to perform new and improved twists of logic to justify their rants of “the US is racist!”.  In a way, I would think that an Obama victory would disappoint Jesse.

Hopefully, Obama will soothe some of the open wounds overseas, too.

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By Timmy, March 27, 2008 at 10:47 am Link to this comment

Hey Skinner,

“but then again this could be foolhardy on my part as I am probably falling for the superficial stuff and not “the content of his character”.”

The superficial stuff is certainly omnipresent, but the content of his character seems to me to be more presidential than any candidate I’ve seen in years. Maybe since Kennedy. Barrack’s best line in the debates was when he was asked:

“if you are the candidate of change, how come you have former Clinton (Bill) advisors working for your campaign?”

Hillary jumped in and said ;“Yeah I want to know that too”

Barrack said:
“That’s okay Hillary. I expect to have you advising well also”

Brilliant!
Because it’s true. The smartest one, the most experienced one, is not necessarily the best choice for the top of the ticket. Who ever the President is, they will be surrounded by very smart, experienced and knowledgeable aids and advisors. The most important thing in these times in particular, is the inspirational leader, the orator, and yes, the black face and muslim sounding name. What could possibly make the people of the world give America another chance to wipe the slate of the last 8 years clean and restore her image? Electing a black president named Barrack Hussein Obama. It would be like smelling salts to the world. And jolt. A “what the hell?”

The folks in the middle east will have to perk up an ear, and second guess everything their leaders have been telling them about the west. Any future bombs that America drops, will no longer be seen as racist bombs. People will be forced to look at the real reason. Go Barrack go!

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By BFskinnerPunk, March 27, 2008 at 6:41 am Link to this comment

Linda,

“Along for the joy ride”... very funny, and I agree.

Timmy,

I am trying to avoid the racial undertones, but there is no doubt that our nation has a racial fetish which has produced bizarre views and policy.

Where else can a black man be the front runner for a position AS PRESIDENT! and *still* be able to worry about our “racism” problem???  He won in Idaho and the Dakota’s for crying out loud.

I, too, tend to like him because he would be a wonderful change of pace from Bush, but then again this could be foolhardy on my part as I am probably falling for the superficial stuff and not “the content of his character”.

McCain’s recent speech shows that he isn’t just a vote-grabber: he denied bail outs for mortgages and insists on maintaining our commitment to Iraq.  Very unpopular views… and saying those things in this election year is pretty surprising.

So yes, I agree that there is a default setting among liberals to choose favorites based on pigmentation. [isn’t that the very definition of racism?]

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By Timmy, March 27, 2008 at 4:23 am Link to this comment

Common guys, what are you baffled about? It’s simple.

Criticizing Christians is okay because they generally have while skin.

But Muslims are brown skinned. That makes criticism of them racist.

Add in poor, with brown skinned, and you are really being a disgusting racist for criticizing those poor poor muslims.

You must also factor in the feeling of smug superiority these people get when they accuse us of just being ignorant of different cultures when we criticize Islam. We are just afraid of what we don’t understand, where as, these Islamo apologist liberals are so much more cultured than we are. Obviously.

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By lindadugan, March 26, 2008 at 7:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hi BF: 

You said, “It’s baffling.  That’s all.  As far as I can tell, it is a demonstration of the “open minded” and sympathetic powers of a good liberal.  To bash ourselves, and then defend the “cultural views” of others is a sport among the left.”

I usually consider myself one of those open-minded and “good liberals” minus the “Christian” label that often is attached to it.  Sometimes “liberals” don’t ponder what “liberal” views mean. They are going along for a joyride because “liberalism” sounds good—a warm fuzzy, or it was the way they were raised.  Plus who wants to think of themselves as a “conservative” this day and age?  A liberal mantra “Defend the underdog” kind of mentality is what they cling to without really looking at what defending the underdog entails (especially if it is violent, religious “mad” underdogs.)  Like Timmy said, the heart is in the right place, but heart without reasoning is stupidity. 

You “I often say that if you hate Jerry Falwell, you’d blow a vein if you knew the beliefs of even the most moderate Islamic cleric.  Of course, that doesn’t matter… because Islamist, apparently, have a “culture” that we couldn’t understand.”

That indicates to me the ignorance in those who coddle the Islamic extremist.  They don’t understand what they are coddling and they want to believe it can be wiped out with more education and wealth.  Even Obama (whom I support) has made some allusions to this in his speeches about diplomacy. As if simply talking to these nuts is going to change their views (I am not opposing diplomacy, only the belief it will change religious beliefs.)

The icing on the cake is when Liberals vent at Sam Harris when he calls a spade a spade. Hedges is right up there with the rest of them. He has a blind spot bigger than an elephant.

You’re right. It is baffling.

Linda

“Guys are just easy. They say what’s on their mind.” Rashida Jones

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By lindadugan, March 26, 2008 at 7:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hi Timmy:

You said: “ They take a wonderful, essential right (the freedom of religion) and they take that to heart as they should. And they protect it with mighty vigor. As they should. But they confuse it with a protective cloak against criticism for having wacko dangerous ideas. And then of course they end up defending that with a mighty vigor.
Their heart is in the right place. Their head is I don’t know where?”

Yes, that makes sense but it doesn’t explain why he ignores the Islamic wackiness and he criticizes the Christian wackiness.  He is protecting the right to believe (which we agree is a good thing to do)  but why does he have this protective cloak against criticism for Islam but not for Christianity?  I don’t know if you have read his book American Fascists.  I thought it was very good (not as good as Sam, of course)  and I thought to myself, “I’m down on this Hedges guy!”  And then I saw him in the debate with Sam (not knowing anything about his views on Islam) and it blew me away. I thought how can two people (Sam and Hedges) oppose Christian fundamentalism with such force and then he comes out defending Islam? 

If you look at it from a logical point, one would think Hedges would defend Christianity over Islam because at least the violence in Christianity is more benign (Christians just kill abortionists they don’t fly planes into building.)  Hedges’ whole argument is that Islamic fundamentalism is caused by poverty and lack of education which obviously is a blind spot and a way to rationalize it in a popular and “moderate” kind of way.

And he thinks America is moving towards Christian fascism (something he fears and loathes) but doesn’t seem bothered by Islamo-fascism (or whatever word you want to ascribe it.) And to be honest, I don’t agree his heart is even in the right place. How can it be?

Linda


“Guys are just easy. They say what’s on their mind.” Rashida Jones

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By BFskinnerPunk, March 26, 2008 at 6:06 pm Link to this comment

I believe I have said this earlier in this thread, and I certainly discuss it a lot with those who defend Islam while enthusiastically bashing right wing Christians.

It’s baffling.  That’s all.  As far as I can tell, it is a demonstration of the “open minded” and sympathetic powers of a good liberal.  To bash ourselves, and then defend the “cultural views” of others is a sport among the left.

I often say that if you hate Jerry Falwell, you’d blow a vein if you knew the beliefs of even the most moderate Islamic cleric.  Of course, that doesn’t matter… because Islamist, apparently, have a “culture” that we couldn’t understand.

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By Timmy, March 26, 2008 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment

Hi Linda,

It’s that damned belief in belief thing.
Hedges types can’t seem to distinguish the difference between honoring someone’s right to believe, and respecting one’s decision to believe. They take a wonderful, essential right (the freedom of religion) and they take that to heart as they should. And they protect it with mighty vigor. As they should. But they confuse it with a protective cloak against criticism for having wacko dangerous ideas. And then of course they end up defending that with a mighty vigor.

Their heart is in the right place. Their head is I don’t know where?

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By lindadugan, March 25, 2008 at 5:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Phil Dirt:
Your comment raises a question (I’ve often asked myself) and that is what is the deal with Hedges?  The guy is obviously intelligent and he has the Christian Right figured out to a “T”. He is more concerned about the rhetoric spewing from the Jerry Falwells of the world than the lethal, murderous killings of Islamic fundamentals. 

I don’t get it.

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By Phil Dirt, March 25, 2008 at 11:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hedges, having “traveled in the Muslim world after 9/11” cites “universal revulsion.” I cannot speak for the mood in places such as Cairo, but I was in Pakistan on Sept. 12, 2001. I can tell you that in places such as Quetta and Peshawar, there was glee. I wouldn’t claim it was “universal,” but it was widespread. Osama bin Laden t-shirts were sold in the streets were paired with publicly exhorted conpiracy theories about Mosad’s involvement in the WTC collapse. And these were NOT just fanatics, but educated people as well.

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By Phil Dirt, March 25, 2008 at 9:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As a journalist, you’d expect Hedges to have done his homework. Instead he passes along an old saw of the religious apologists, i.e., that the nominally secular Tamil Tigers (who are in fact nearly 100% Hindu Tamil aligned against the Buddhist Sinhalese majority and Muslim minority), “pioneered suicide bombing long before Hezbollah.” The truth is not even close to that.

Hezbollah’s first suicide bombing occurred in 1983:
http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-150356900.html

The Tamil Tigers didn’t begin until four years later:
http://www.tamilnation.org/ltte/00suicide.htm

Chris, please check your facts!

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By GP, March 4, 2008 at 4:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Linda:

It’s good to know that I am welcome, for that’s not what I thought certain posts indicated. It doesn’t help anyone to spread ideas as if one is blinded by totalitarianism. For it is totalitarianism which does not listen to facts or new information but holds tight to some of its dogmas and wishful thinking, hoping that remaining firm in this way is the only route to winning more adepts.

Let me ask again a question that has been asked before: What happened in Stalism, Chinese Cultural Revolution (should I add Nazism and many instances of Imperialism)? Was that certain religious extremists trying to take over the world?

And to Timmy, there is nothing that makes me believe that you don’t know the Kosova case. Just as there is nothing that makes me believe that you do.

And I did not call Harris a racist. I just think some of his statements are. And unlike you, I don’t easily classify people by what they say; I look at the bigger picture which is bigger than Sam Harris. That is, I owe him no apologies or retractions.

Timmy, this was my initial post (notice that I say “racist statements” and that’s not a euphemism because I don’t believe, until proven wrong, that Mr. Harris is racist):

“The problem with all the praise Sam receives is the inability to realize how non-rational the assumptions on which he bases his arguments are. His conclusions should make it obvious. And that he receives so many uncritical praises vis-a-vis what many anthropologists would agree are racist statements—his logic and rationality did not allow him to take into consideration the non-religious arguments offered by Edward Said in Orientalism—is surprising when it comes from so-called rational thinkers. I really see how so many things we do are not rational. It is sometimes ridiculous to reject what you call irrationality while at the same time offering policy recommendations that suggest something not so different from the irrationality you reject. That to me is the right definition of irrational actions!!”

Peace.

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By lindadugan, March 4, 2008 at 4:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

HI TIMMY:


Of course it was easy for me to make the connection since you use the same name. I’m just giving you a hard time. (And no, I don’t think you are lying).  I just think it is kind of funny, that’s all!

I never even thought about the situation (that you hadn’t made the connection) until you sent that last email (making the connection). It surprised me because like I said I had not given it any thought.

Anyways, it is kind of a small world isn’t it.

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By Timmy, March 3, 2008 at 9:06 pm Link to this comment

I’m sure that you did know that it was me. I’m using the same name. You however are not. and I did not put it together. I’m not sure why you think that I would lie about that. But whatever.

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By lindadugan, March 3, 2008 at 5:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Quetzalcoatl said:

“I look at demographic trends in the US and Europe and smile knowing that the era of the pale dinosaurs is rapidly drawing to an end. Enjoy the last days of your “civilization”, oh hypocrites without peer.”

You failed to disclose where you live and under what regime you prosper.  No civilization in the history of mankind has been without its wars and fighting over ideologies.  If you prefer to live in a jungle, a place where it consists of dog-eat-dog, with an absence of democratic ideals and values then you are free to do so.  But I would guess most people who live in such a place are not free to do so.

With the demise of “pale” dinosaurs it is possible the demise of all the freedoms, liberties and equality will go the way of the dinosaurs themselves.  I don’t want to live in a world without. To do so will thrust me ( a female) back into a form of slavery, torture and a misogynistic nightmare.  I’ll take the pale dinosaur life over your love for a repressive and hubristic authority any day. And my guess is the majority of the world’s population,  given a free choice, would do the same.

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By lindadugan, March 3, 2008 at 4:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Timmy said:

“You’re Lindajean?
I had no idea.”

Come on.  Get real. That is just BS.

I knew you were “Timmy” all along.

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By Quetzalcoatl, March 2, 2008 at 11:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Peckerwoods are such funny creatures. So full of self-righteousness, self-pity, self-delusion, hubris and bloodlust.

They spill oceans and oceans of blood, conquer and subjugate nation after nation, continent after continent (usually using the excuse of “civilizing the natives” to give a pseudo-moralistic veneer to what amounts to a project that is little different than that undertaken by Augustus), and then wail and whine about how they’re hated and how those guys over there are “trying to take over the world!!!”

I’m glad you guys have found your messiah in this ethnic chauvinist rootless cosmopolitan-cum-buddhist.

I look at demographic trends in the US and Europe and smile knowing that the era of the pale dinosaurs is rapidly drawing to an end.

Enjoy the last days of your “civilization”, oh hypocrites without peer.

Viva Aztlan

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By Timmy, March 1, 2008 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment

You’re Lindajean?
I had no idea.

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By JT, March 1, 2008 at 12:51 pm Link to this comment

Linda writes:
“BTW:  I do blog on some other SH forums.  I usually go by the name of “lindadugan”, “lindajean” and once in a blue moon “doggirl”. So if you come across those monikers, you are talking to yours truly!”

It seems those forums or threads are newspaper blogs.  Try going to Sam’s actual Forum.  You can find it here…
http://www.samharris.org/forum/

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By Timmy, March 1, 2008 at 4:30 am Link to this comment

I am at least that optimistic.
You are right, 75% of the world is religious. It used to be 100%.
It probably dropped down to about 90% around the time that the general population began to gain access to information, books libraries etc. Between then and now, as more and more people have gained access to more and more information, it has dropped down even more to around 75%. And now we have entire countries that have virtually become non-religious like Great Britain, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. This is a monumental turn around in just the last 100 years. The internet has only been around for 10 years. It is the most revolutionary breakthrough in world communication and access to information ever. Within 50 years, every man woman and child on this planet will have free access to the internet at all times, and therefore, free and easy access to all of the information that humanity has ever collected.

500 years is a very very very long time, Linda. Look how much our world has changed in the last hundred. The internet has only been around for 10. Heck we may answer the question of what the universe is and where it came from (if anywhere) by then. We won’t be around to see if I’m right five hundred years from now. but there’s not a doubt in my mind, humanity will have woken up from this religious nightmare by then. The power of the internet. Scientific discovery. The snowball effect. 100% to 90% to 75% to 45% to 22% to 0.123%. In 500 years or less. I believe!

Four Atheist books on the best sellers list. And more to come I’m sure. Imagine if Nietzsche had had a blog, and the whole world had access to it. Muslims are the second fastest growing demographic in the world right now. “Non-religious” is number one. Have faith Linda. Pun intended.

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By lindadugan, March 1, 2008 at 3:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hi JT:

It is nice to read your words on here as well.  It is unfortunate that GP seems to think this is an “exclusive” Sam Harris blog and his thoughts are not welcome. I make no judgments about who ought or ought not be blogging on here and I don’t see any indication that others are making such judgments either.  Perhaps he simply feels outnumbered by our passion and fortitude.

Be that as it may, I would suggest to GP that he not be intimidated by the likes of us.  And that if the GP’s of the world refuse to blog with us, then we will have no no but oursleves to talk to and that does not do us much good.  It takes the GP’s of the world to help us get our message and words out.

So bring on the GP’s of the world!  Without you our conversations will only go in circles and dead-end into obscurity.

BTW:  I do blog on some other SH forums.  I usually go by the name of “lindadugan”, “lindajean”  and once in a blue moon “doggirl”. So if you come across those monikers, you are talking to me!

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By lindadugan, February 29, 2008 at 5:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Timmy:
part 2 of 2…....

If we look at this pragmatically, by analyzing world population growth statistics, I think my point will be well taken.

In the year 1500 AD (500years ago)  the approximate population was less than 1/2 billion people (around 450,000,000). There were (at best)  less than 1/2 billion people who held religious beliefs.

Contrast that with today’s population of over 6 billion and growing.  If we (conservatively) claim 75% of the world’s population today is religious (it is quite possibly higher), then 4.5 billion people in the world are religious.  We ought to also consider that within the 25% who are not religious, there will be a large number of non-believers who defend the beliefs and actions of those who are, just as our blogger GP so steadfastly has done.

So, I beg to differ with you on this, Timmy.

Future trends will tend to favor more and larger numbers of religious people and disfavor the non-religious as long as population numbers continue to grow.  And currently, I have no reason to believe populations will drastically decline or stabilize any time soon (although I certainly hope they do.)

While I share your desire for a future with less religiosity I am not comfortable claiming it will be a reality.

end part of 2 of 2

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By lindadugan, February 29, 2008 at 4:50 pm Link to this comment
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part one of 2

Hi Timmy:

It is always a pleasure to read your ideas (as provocative as some of them can be…)

You said, “I wish oh wish that I was born 500 years from now, when God belief is a fringe cult that everyone looks at the same way they currently look at the Branch Davidians. Unfortunately I will not see this in my lifetime, which is so sad, given that we currently have enough knowledge to do away with this trouble making sky ferry cult.”

I think you are assuming that future “GP’s”  of the 26th century are going to take a logical leap and understand the words that you, I and the Sam Harris(es) of the world speak of.

What makes you inclined to believe this will be the case?  Just wishful thinking,  or hope?

As you know, for centuries religion has held an ironclad grip on denying “reasonableness”  across the globe.  And as you have so determinedly stated, “Religion poisons everything.”

I don’t have any real optimism this will change.  If we’re all genetically and culturally inclined to believe and subscribe to such nonsense, how do the masses (who obviously need the opium-fix of nonsense or need to defend those who need such a fix) get beyond these beliefs?

If we look backwards 500 years, we can clearly see how religious atrocities were perpetrated and one can argue religion was even more hideous then, than it is now (at least in Western culture).  One could also argue that even the most ignorant and illiterate among us in today’s world are more scientifically informed and sophisticated than our 500 year old predecessors.

Yet, the nonsense continues.

So, we cannot ignore the reality that in spite of our great scientific and technological feats and knowledge, ignorance and fallacious beliefs continue to permeate much of the world today.  It’s as though for every 2 steps taken forward, there is 1.75 steps taken backwards.  Will this pattern continue into the 26th century?  We will never know.

end of part one of 2…....

lindadugan 2/29/08

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By Timmy, February 29, 2008 at 10:41 am Link to this comment

You said:
“When I write here, I am not trying to win an argument. I am not competing with anyone. I am trying to be enlightened.”

Really? Somehow this sincerity was not clear when you first popped in to call Sam Harris a racist with nothing to back up this horrendous accusation. If you want to be enlightened, try knowing your facts before you start throwing around such hideous, baseless and inflammatory slander. I think you owe Sam Harris an apology, and a retraction. Sam’s brave and noble personal commitment to the protection of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, clearly demonstrates that his barbs are aimed a religion, not at a people. Only ignorance would see it otherwise.

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By JT, February 28, 2008 at 1:03 pm Link to this comment

GP writes:
“I agree with you when you state that ‘the answer is: fear’.  So why don’t you fight fear instead of religion?”

You are entirely missing the point GP.  Fear is the symptom, not the illness.  The real illness — the disease — is religion.

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By Timmy, February 28, 2008 at 4:43 am Link to this comment

Well said.

I just don’t understand the motivation of these (supposedly) non-religious people who have to stretch the truth and go out of their way to divert blame for all of this human conflict away from the obvious source, religion. People are claiming to know with certainty who the creator of the universe is and what he commands of all of us by threat of eternal torture. How the hell could that lead to anything but vicious war? How the hell could believing in something so inflammatory, that is not true, be good for anyone? Why would someone, who does not believe in such things, because they are aware of the obvious truth that is was all made up by primitive humans, decide to defend it as something that is helpful to society? How could GP possibly think that religion had anything to do with ending slavery, or advancing science, and the equality of women. I think that GP needs to read the Bible cover to cover, because he clearly hasn’t. Either that or he is incredibly blind. Could anything be more obvious than “religion poisons everything”?

I wish oh wish that I was born 500 years from now, when God belief is a fringe cult that everyone looks at the same way they currently look at the Branch Davidians. Unfortunately I will not see this in my lifetime, which is so sad, given that we currently have enough knowledge to do away with this trouble making sky ferry cult.

GP
Do you defend all religion or just your favorites? If you say all religion, this, of course, means the Branch Davidians and Charles Manson, David Karesh, and Scientology. Are you only defending the most established religions with a mass following like Christianity and Islam. If you are not defending the religion of David Karesh, why not? Is it just a question of numbers?

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By lindadugan, February 27, 2008 at 6:34 pm Link to this comment
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GP:
In reference to our conversations about Darfur (and your comments that I am wrong), I have a few words of my own to add.

You and I can agree that Darfur is a complicated situation. But it is very obvious, from historical facts, that the civil war in Sudan, beginning in the 1980’s and lasting about 20 years, between the North and South was a war explicitly about religion. The North is populated with Arab Muslims and backed politically by a (mostly)  Islamic government and the South is populated by black Christians.

Its current President, al-Bashir has basically hand-appointed the “Congress”  over the years, which is made up mostly of members of Sudan’s National Islamic Front known as a fundamentalist political group that was formed under the auspices of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1986.

The war was instigated by al-Bashir’s et al, views of intolerance towards infidels (Christians in the South.)  Around 2003 after almost 20 years of war a “peace-treaty” was ensured between the two groups, but almost simultaneously violence began in Darfur.  This violence was instigated from the Northern government who is basically still in power. The law in Sudan is based on both English common law and Islamic law.

Can one deny this fascist-like government has no religious or philosophical agenda to prop up Islam?  To deny its religious history and violence seems blindsided.

While Darfur is not exclusively a religious war, it is brimming with religious ideologies from it Islamic base with a history of brutality to quell dissension.

The Janjaweed is the government’s mercenary army and are hired to do its dirty work.  They kill indiscriminately because their compensation as hired killers is the spoils of war: raping, pillaging, killing, burning, stealing whoever. So they are not savvy enough to kill with any purpose or selection.  They kill Muslims, Christians,etc….as they deem fit. And meanwhile, the Islamic government hides behind denials of this heavy-handedness.

So yes, it is not exclusively a war of Muslim against Christian in Darfur. But I used the word “precisely” in a past comment because it is precisely the Islamic government who is creating this genocide and horror.

To ignore this obvious fact is like ignoring that Shias and Shites who are all Muslims and who kill each other in Iraq are not fighting over religious ideologies.  Muslims kill Muslims quite frequently for religious purposes.  And Sam Harris understands this point clearly when he says Muslims treat each other worse than they treat any other religious group.  It is Muslims who are suffering at the hands of Muslims.

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By GP, February 26, 2008 at 6:55 pm Link to this comment
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Timmy:

When I write here, I am not trying to win an argument. I am not competing with anyone. I am trying to be enlightened. Considering your two posts, I refrain from arguing with you at this point because I don’t know where to start or if you’re interested in enlightening me. Maybe I am way far off the truth so, let’s end my exchange with you in peace.

GP

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By Timmy, February 26, 2008 at 11:08 am Link to this comment

And before you start up with that whole “the US is the one who armed Bin Laden and and Sadam Hussien in the first place!” routine, go watch Charlie Wilson’ war. Sometimes you have no choice but to treat the enemy of your enemy as a friend. It’s called survival, not hypocrisy. But again, there you sit, typing on your computer, using the freedom of speech that was granted to you by the country that had to fight several wars for it, and maintain itself as the most powerful force in the world both militarily and economically, which means doing whatever it takes, and you use that freedom of speech to call their actions hypocrisy? Go ahead if you like. Just remember, those keys that you punch on your computer to spell out the word hypocrisy are made of OIL. Is the irony lost on you? I think it is.

GP said:
“Before you call one of my statements a “joke,” I would want you to read history. Think about rights to inheritance, the history of Indian Islam, etc.”

Been there, done that. What makes you think that I haven’t?

GP said:
“Don’t we have Biblical statements saying that women are to remain submissive to their husbands and that they are to learn from their husband only when they get at home?”

Uh, no WE don’t. Religious people do.
Who the hell are you talking about here when you say “we”. Do you know that you are debating with a secular atheist who has no such doctrines of horror. You are making my point here. Thank you.

GP said:
“Don’t we have women preachers leading megachurches today?

Again, no WE don’t. Religious people do. And I want nothing to do with that oxymoronish behavior.

GP said:
“I think it’s important to differentiate between the use of religion and the problem religion is used to address. I have the impression that where you and others see religion as the problem, I see religion as a tool.”

Yes, GP, that’s right, religion doesn’t kill people. People kill people. Just like guns don’t kill people. Here you are using the NRA reasoning for religion. Are you a member by any chance? Guns are just the tool right? We shouldn’t fear guns, just people, right? We should deregulate guns. They are clearly not the problem. Just tools.

GP said:
“If the war on Iraq was about oil, then I don’t see why I will want to condemn religion as the poison of everything”

Do you think that we would be fighting that war if George W Bush had not been elected?
Do you think that George W Bush would have been elected were it not for the religious right?
Religion is the only reason why George W Bush is president.
Just one more example of how “Religion Poisons everything!”


GP said:
“after religion inspired anti-slavery movements, civil rights movements, scientific discovery, etc.”

LOL! Never have more untrue words ever been spoken.

GP said:
“As a non-religious person, your statements about religion sound to me extremely religious”

Really? How so? Can you expand on that so we know what the hell you are talking about?

GP said:
“And yes, you can use Kosova after you learn what exactly happened there (not from CNN or Fox or even Bill Maher)”

lol. I know what happened there better than you do I’ll bet. What on earth makes you think that I don’t?

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By Timmy, February 26, 2008 at 11:04 am Link to this comment

GP said:
“I disagree completely with your analysis that there are people who hate to live in freedom. That’s a statement you cannot be certain about except by faith. People may prevent others from living in freedom for their own interests, but they themselves want to live in freedom.”

Uh, no they don’t. Religion is a dictatorship. They have chosen religion. They have chosen to believe in a celestial dictator who is a million times more brutal than Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot put together. No GP, you are way off on this one. I just don’t know how you can say that people who believe in, and worship, and bow down to the glory of a genocidal tyrant, love freedom as much as atheists, who reject such notions as impossible to reconcile with all that we feel is important about freedom. You must be blind or very very naive to think that religious people are about freedom. They have no freedom, and they like it that way. And they are constantly threatened by those who deny the existence of their beloved dictator and the rules that he has for us.

GP said:
“Bush did not attack Iraq because God told him to do so”

Uh, in his own words, he did exactly that. Do you ever read newspapers? Maybe that’s the problem here.

GP said:
“Haven’t you heard Greenspan talk about this war? What was the reason he gave: oil”

Too funny. Well if Alan Greenspan says so it must be so smile
In fact it is so, but not because Alan Greenspan says so. Because everyone and their dog knows it’s about oil. But is it just about oil? That’s it? Really? It’s about nothing but oil? Taking out a mad tyrant who habitually started wars that have killed millions, and who has used chemical weapons for genocide on women and children in his own country, in a world where these weapons could fall into the hands of those who want to form a new world wide caliphate. Is this war not about that at all? Is it possible, you suppose, that this war is about many things, oil and security being two of them?

But okay, let’s deal with the obvious truth that this is much about oil. Your problem, GP, is that like many religious apologists and Noam Chomsky minions, you don’t go that extra step and ask yourself what oil is about. Why do countries care so much about oil? You think it’s about Dick Cheney and his friends getting rich. That is just a side affect of a much bigger issue. Oil is about power, and the economy. Power that YOU need the U.S. to have, or YOUR freedom is toast. Like many peace loving, but naive souls, You think that we are all safe here in the 21st century from having our freedom taken away from us, so there’s no more reason for war right? Actually you are right that we are currently safe from losing our freedom, but only so long as the US stays the most powerful country in the world, both militarily and economically. We all agree that it’s not a good thing that the US economy is so dependent on oil, and they should move away from that situation as soon as they can. But for now, you better hope that the US stays strong by maintaining secure access to the oil that the economy survives on. Every day you enjoy the comforts of a life of freedom provided to you by WAR and OIL. Your holier than thou attitude is quite hypocritical. Just try getting through one day of your life without using 20 oil based products, GP. Just one day, give up all oil related products. Let me know how that goes. You’re damn right this war is about oil. Oil that you need to enjoy your life, and to secure the economy of the most powerful country in the world, and thank God for that, because it is the country that has secured freedom for everyone on this planet who currently enjoys it.

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By GP, February 25, 2008 at 10:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Linda:

Don’t worry, I sorted them out. It only took a moment. Thanks,

GP.

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By lindadugan, February 25, 2008 at 4:30 pm Link to this comment
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GP:  I trust you (and others) could sort through my disorganized posts.  It was more my fault than truthdigs.  I was cutting and pasting from a word document and it went awry.  Anyway, I will comment on the latest posts when I have a little more time.

Just to simplify.  The ones (2 of them) labeled Linda Dugan are mixed up.  The ones labeled lindadugan are not!

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By GP, February 24, 2008 at 11:48 pm Link to this comment
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Linda:

I am sure we will disagree completely on Sudan and may not even have a common starting understanding on the subject.

On the question of Darfur, I will tell you that you are wrong because I’ve been with survivors from Darfur. The vast majority of Darfurians are Muslim as I mentioned, and the factions fighting there are led by Muslims. You may raise the issue of Arab-Fascism and I will be happy to discuss it, but not religion (certainly not Islam).

Perhaps the other Sudanese conflict (the North/South conflict) had an Islam/Christian dimension but not this one. I recommend a book on the subject by Ruth Iyob and Gilbert Khadiagala. You may also read Gerard Prunier’s. Both of their books on the Darfur crisis and the Darfur survivors I’ve talked to make it very clear that it’s not Muslims killing Christians as you have suggested. It’s Muslims killing other Muslims (and it’s not because they are Muslims that they kill each other, I have to add).

GP.

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By GP, February 24, 2008 at 11:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Linda:

Thank you. I will check the links.

GP

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By GP, February 24, 2008 at 11:29 pm Link to this comment
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JT:

I agree with you when you state that “the answer is:fear”. So why don’t you fight fear instead of religion?

As to your question of what makes me think that these problems become a problem when people attack Western targets, I don’t think you read the context in which you took that statement. I think you should read first what I wrote before you respond. Also, please inform me if this blog is supposed to be for supporters of Sam Harris and I will happily stop posting!

My argument was not that the issues I listed are not a problem or become a problem sometimes and not other times. My argument was that you should ask yourself why these issues tend to become a problem/threat only when a Western target is attacked. So, for instance, militant political Islam won’t be an issue when it is fighting the Soviet Union and, in fact, it is encouraged! Women oppression won’t be a problem in Wahabbism as long as Wahabbism helps to provide needed oil, etc etc!

As to having Western influence stay out, I think it is impossible. The world is one. What should stay out is the belief that somehow the West has something to teach the Muslim world which people inside the Muslim world are incapable of teaching themselves. People inside that world are capable of picking what they need from the West and also to call for help when they need to. But only when they need to.

In my opinion, criticism of religion will succeed only when it exists without double standard. While I don’t like to involve myself in problematic moral equivalence, I would not be surprised if I find that a larger number of human right abuses committed after World War II were a result of either Western policy or Godless communism and not Islam, even political Islam.

GP.

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By JT, February 24, 2008 at 3:43 pm Link to this comment

Hi Linda and Timmy, so good to see you still at it keeping people honest.  I hope to see the two of you on the Sam Harris’ Forum threads sometime soon.  The discussions there are often very good and could benefit from your writing qualities, compelling insights, and sharp intellect.  (If you go there, PM me at JETurnbull, let me know your screen name, and I’ll watch for your comments). 
As for GP who writes…

“As to where religion becomes a problem against progress, I think you have touched upon the main points. Most religions are against women, lesbian/gay rights. Some are against scientific improvement (although, if I was an inhabitant of Nagasaki or Hiroshima I would be confused of what’s better, science or religion). These problems are NOT benign. They certainly lead to deadly conflicts, but what is interesting is that they become a problem only when they attack Western targets often in response to Western policy.”

What makes you think that these things become a problem “only” when they attack Western targets?  Are you stating that the issues you cite (women’s rights, gay rights, scientific improvements) are never a problem for women, gays and the scientific community within the boundaries of the theocratic governments who rule over them?  Are you actually inferring that as long as Western influences (e.g., cultural, aesthetic, political), stay out of these regions, no problems exist?  Somehow I don’t think the repressed, marginalized communities we are talking about would agree. 

In fact, to infer that everything is just hunky-dory as long as there are no Western policies or influences, is not only naive, it raises another important question:  If this is so, why would it be so?  And the answer is: fear.  As with most religions, fear is the driving factor…  Fear of outside influences, unwanted competition, differences in ideology, and mostly the fear of losing power.  In the muslim world, the violence we see is truly a reaction to the inevitable loss of control and power that all religions face in the futile effort to isolate, oppress, and subjugate it’s masses from the truth.  Nowhere is this phenomenon more evident than in religion, and nowhere is threat to the truth more egregious than in the muslim religious world.

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By GP, February 24, 2008 at 2:11 pm Link to this comment
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Timmy,

I disagree completely with your analysis that there are people who hate to live in freedom. That’s a statement you cannot be certain about except by faith. People may prevent others from living in freedom for their own interests, but they themselves want to live in freedom.

Bush did not attack Iraq because God told him to do so. Haven’t you heard Greenspan talk about this war? What was the reason he gave: oil. Do you think the Cheneys, the Wolfwitzs and the like care about religion? Do they really base their policies on religion? Aren’t they the architects of this war, too (if not the only architects).

And no, I don’t give reason to Bin Laden tactics, but I don’t think the hypocrisy and double standards most people use to respond to his tactics will solve any problem. I just think many hawks, and even some people who think they are liberal like Bill Maher, give Bin Laden more reason and sometimes make him look like a saint.

Before you call one of my statements a “joke,” I would want you to read history. Think about rights to inheritance, the history of Indian Islam, etc. Don’t we have Biblical statements saying that women are to remain submissive to their husbands and that they are to learn from their husband only when they get at home? Don’t we have women preachers leading megachurches today? I think it’s important to differentiate between the use of religion and the problem religion is used to address. I have the impression that where you and others see religion as the problem, I see religion as a tool.

If the war on Iraq was about oil, then I don’t see why I will want to condemn religion as the poison of everything after religion inspired anti-slavery movements, civil rights movements, scientific discovery, etc. As a non-religious person, your statements about religion sound to me extremely religious.

You may want to answer the following questions: In the name of what kind of freedom was US foreign policy fighting against liberation theology? In the name of what freedom was the West sponsoring Saddam Husein and Iran at the same time? GIVE ME A FEW EXAMPLE OF WHERE WESTERN POLICY HAD BEEN FREEDOM as you say and I will refrain from calling your statement that Western policy is “freedom” a joke.

I don’t think I made the equivalence you assign to me. I cannot compare an entire country to a person such as Bin Laden. By doing so, I would have wrongly included people such as Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, Senator Hagel and many others who understand better what I am talking about. Nor do I make moral equivalence between Bush and Bin Laden: they are different and harmful in different circumstances.

And yes, you can use Kosova after you learn what exactly happened there (not from CNN or Fox or even Bill Maher).

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By lindadugan, February 24, 2008 at 12:39 pm Link to this comment
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GP:

A few more sites to check out about Darfur.  These come from the PBS show Frontline.  If you haven’t seen the episode on Darfur I highly recommend it.  You can watch the video of it online.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/darfur/interviews/traub.html

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/darfur/

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By Timmy, February 24, 2008 at 10:45 am Link to this comment

GP said:
“These problems are NOT benign. They certainly lead to deadly conflicts, but what is interesting is that they become a problem only when they attack Western targets often in response to Western policy.”

You mean like Kosovo?

And when you say that these attacks are “often in response to Western policy”, dose this mean that you accept Osama Bin Laden’s reasoning for doing what he does? Because that is the reason that he gives, and now here you are giving that same reason. Do you often think exactly like Osama Bin Laden?

Jail riots are a direct response to warden policy. Does that make them righteous to you? Or the warden’s policies wrong? Some people don’t like living in a free world. They think that everybody should have to listen to their God or the imams and follow their rules, and they will do anything to achieve this goal, with every last breath of life that they have. You say “often in response to Western policy.” That policy that you are talking about is freedom. That is what they oppose. They oppose anything that will make their people question Islam. That is what they are against. And they will happily use oil and opium sales to fuel their mission to achieve a totalitarian islamic empire, just like we use oil money to fund our mission for democratic ideals. Gee I hope we win and not them. I still can’t tell which side you are rooting for.

GP said:
“By the way, Islam advanced women rights long before Christianity”

LOL!, What a joke. Did they change the Koran, which states quite clearly that women are second class citizens who are to be completely subservient to their husband/owners? Did they take all of those words out of the Koran? Are you kidding me with this one? 

Bill Maher has a great consciousness raining line about, and for, people like you, GP.
“Let’s not be so tolerant that we tolerate intolerance”
That is what you are doing sir. Your heart is in the right place, but God only knows where your head is at?

Here is a classic example of your confusion. In the very same breath as saying that religion is not the main problem, you rail on and on about the horrors of George W Bush, who was told by God that invading Iraq was the right thing to do. Don’t you think that if we had a more liberal government with far less religious influence that our foreign policy would be a million times better than it is today. RELIGION POISONS EVERYTHING! EVERYTHING!

GP, you are right that George W Bush is no better than Osama Bin Laden.
You are grotesquely and irresponsibly wrong that the United States is no better than Osama Bin Laden.
Get it straight!

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By GP, February 23, 2008 at 9:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Linda:

I noticed the problem. I did not see some of your posts and I kinda got lost a little bit before I saw the other part. My email told me that you posted something, but I couldn’t find one; I thought there maybe a problem with truthdig blog!!! I hope it works fine and that I am some kind of unregistered member or something!!

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By lindadugan, February 23, 2008 at 6:15 am Link to this comment
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part 2 of 2

GP,  to continue….

2.  This is from /www.religionlink.org/tip_061024.php:

  * The problems in Sudan and Darfur include religion but are inextricably bound up with ethnicity, race and abuse of government power, as religious conflicts throughout the world tend to be. Sudan has endured a two-decade civil war between the Arab Muslim north and the south, where mostly black Africans who practice Christianity or animism live. Violence escalated in Darfur in 2003 when rebels increased attacks and the Sudanese government sent militias to stop…..

3. This one comes from Frontpage Magazine ( a very conservative medium) but please note the degree of expertise these men have and their qualifications.  These men have superb credentials. (Including a very moderate Muslim).  I will quote a very short passage to get you started…


http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=6560F4B3-DCE5-4609-8845-4CD1BF0FE115
Why is it that—yet again—another Arab League member is massacring its minority populations? Why is the Western media reluctant to identify the religion and ethnicity of the mass murderers and rapists?

To discuss these and other issues on Frontpage Symposium today, we welcome:

Thomas Haidon, an advisor to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Khartoum, Sudan in 2003. An American lawyer who was raised in the Catholic faith but converted to Islam, he is a member of the Board of Advisors and President of the New Zealand Chapter of the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism;

Jon Lewis, a Mid-East expert whose works on the Arab world’s persecution of minorities have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Forward, In the National Interest, Middle East Quarterly and other prestigious publications;

and

Walid Phares, Professor of Middle East Studies and Religious Conflict at Florida Atlantic University and a Senior Fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He serves as an Analyst on Terrorism and Conflicts with MSNBC;

FP: Walid Phares, Thomas Haidon and Jon Lewis, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.

Mr. Lewis, let me begin with you. I would like to start with something that has puzzled me: many of the roots of the Darfur genocide reside in Islamic jihad. On many fronts, this is a holy war led by Muslims. How come we almost never hear about this in the mainstream media?

Lewis: Hi Jamie, Walid and Thomas. 

The media in the United States is very uncomfortable in attributing religious motivations to violence. We see this in the case of the Palestinian suicide bombers who are often described as motivated by poverty and frustration, rather than by religious ideology.  In Darfur, there is indeed a religious component to the violence; after all, the Khartoum government is an Islamo-fascist one.

What bothers me more about the media coverage of Darfur is its lack of historic context -Darfur is but one example of Arab racism toward non-Arabs within the broader “Arab world.”  The Darfur genocide, I believe, must be viewed not solely as a case of an Islamic jihad, but also as a case of Arab racism and should be seen as parallel to Saddam Hussein’s genocide against Kurds and the Algerian government’s repression of the Kaybles. ......................

end quote.

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By lindadugan, February 23, 2008 at 6:13 am Link to this comment
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part one of 2

Hi GP:

You and I are obviously going to differ on aspects of Darfur. While you may be correct about Congo (I do not have much knowledge about the cause of its wars—only an understanding of the sheer brutality that is occurring there),  Darfur is indeed a war at least in part about Christian and Muslims. it is also a war pitting black against black and African against African,  and government against its people. But religion is a decisive factor in the conflict and to ignore that is to simply ignore facts.  If you do a google search with the words “darfur religious war” you will find articles explaining this dynamic.

I will say it is controversial and you will find in your google search that people are not agreeing on this. It is unfortunate that the “left” tends to deny the religious wars and the “right” does not.  I tend to be a “lefty” on most political discussions, but I do not agree with the Left’s analysist of this (or lack of).

Here are some sites I posted.  Numbers 2 and 3 will be posted in part two of 2:


1.  This is from Wikipedia: The current crisis in Darfur began in 2003. After decades of neglect, drought, oppression and small-scale conflicts in Darfur, two rebel groups - the Sudanese Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) - mounted a challenge to Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir. These groups represent agrarian farmers who are mostly non-Arab black African Muslims from a number of different tribes. President al-Bashir’s response was brutal. In seeking to defeat the rebel movements, the Government of Sudan increased arms and support to local tribal and other militias, which have come to be known as the Janjaweed.[1] Their members are composed mostly of Arab black African Muslims[2] who herd cattle, camels, and other livestock. They have wiped out entire villages, destroyed food and water supplies, and systematically murdered, tortured, and raped hundreds of thousands of Darfurians. These attacks occur with the direct support of the Government of Sudan’s armed forces.


end of part 1 of 2

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By lindadugan, February 22, 2008 at 5:38 pm Link to this comment
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Hi GP:

You state:  “....But I also think that honesty starts at home. As long as American weapons continue to kill more than religion, his message will be lost. For instance, most small weapons sold around the world come from here. Most dictators who kill more people than “terrorists” have been supported by the US (It was funny to see Bush calling for openness in Cuba while congratulating Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame!).”

Very good points and I agree that the US policy on this is egregious.  The public ought to be raising holy hell for the way our government and corporate America conduct their sleazy business deals often at the expense of innocent people under the thumb of ruthless dictators.  You seem to suggest that Harris is in cahoots with this policy, supports such policies and does not question such shenanigans.  But if you read his first book, EOF he goes to great lengths to deconstruct and criticize American foreign policy.  He just does not go so far as to say we are the “terrorists” in this scenario.  Allow me to quote his exact words:

“There is no doubt the US has much to atone for, both domestically and abroad….....[We can] start with our genocidal treatment of the Native Americans, add a couple hundred years of slavery, along with our denial of entry to Jewish refugees fleeing the death camps…..stir in our collusion with a long list of modern despots and our subsequent disregard for their appalling human rights records, add our bombings of Cambodia and the Pentagon Papers….....We (USA) have surely done some terrible things in the past.  Undoubtedly we are posed to do terrible things in the future.  Nothing I have written in this book should be construed as a denial of these facts or a defense of state practices that are manifestly abhorrent.  There may be much that Western powers , and the US in particular should pay reparations for. And our failure to acknowledge our misdeeds over the years has undermined our credibility in the international community.  We can concede all of this, and even share [Noam] Chomsky’s acute sense of outrage, while recognizing that his analysis of our current situation in the world is a masterpiece of moral blindness.”

And when you claim, “His message gets lost in what is called hypocrisy. I think he should start by cleaning his own house before trying to clean others’. He should read the definition of a hypocrite given in the Bible.”.......

....his words do not sound like those of a hypocrite to me.

Perhaps you could explain what you mean by wanting him to “clean his own house…”

This implies he is being disingenuous.  I do not see that at all.

You say, “You know . . . my alarm goes off when he starts to offer policy recommendations such as his approval of and proposal for what I call modernization by force. I start to see a person using an anti-religion ideology to advance imperialism…”

This seems inflammatory.  What is this “modernization by force” you speak of?  How is he advancing imperialism?

You say, ” And his science is a little bit of extreme positivism by the way. He seems not to see the recent advance in complexity studies, which, to a certain extent, may help sharpen his arguments.”

What is “extreme positivism” in regards to science?

And explain his lack of understanding “complexity studies.”

Sorry, GP, but this is all very vague and ambiguous.  If you can shine some light on these words and give some specific examples of what Harris has said to justify your criticism of him, I would find that very helpful.

You say, “I must say that I enjoy this and his discussions!”
I agree with you on that one.

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By GP, February 22, 2008 at 4:19 pm Link to this comment
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Linda:

Thanks again. Before I answer your other questions (or attempt to do so) I wanted to point out something that shows how people confuse religion with other issues. It shows, in my opinion, unacknowledged bias against Islam.

You stated:

“Well, wrong! They would have died for nothing but not because religion isn’t the issue.  Religion is most definitely the issue.  Just look at the circumstances in Darfur, Sudan for example.  You have Islam massacring Christians, killing their own Sudanese people, and this is the precise reason they are killing them (because they are Christians).”

That’s not true and, in fact, I am very surprised by your use of “precise”. If you check Darfur, you’ll find that all groups fighting are virtually all Muslim groups. So it is Muslims killing other Muslims but political propaganda has made it seem different. I believe I mentioned that in the Congo, where, by many accounts, more people have died of war than in any other conflict since world war II, the killers and the victims share religion.

As to where religion becomes a problem against progress, I think you have touched upon the main points. Most religions are against women, lesbian/gay rights. Some are against scientific improvement (although, if I was an inhabitant of Nagasaki or Hiroshima I would be confused of what’s better, science or religion). These problems are NOT benign. They certainly lead to deadly conflicts, but what is interesting is that they become a problem only when they attack Western targets often in response to Western policy.

But it’s interesting to also realize how religious people have contributed to progress, especially in the area of human rights. (By the way, Islam advanced women rights long before Christianity.) I am amazed when I read about US foreign policy against religion in Latin America especially because religion (Liberation theology) was leading to progress and human freedom.

There is a need to shift the focus away from religion and towards certain foreign policies that favor militant religion and ethnocentrism. Otherwise, I always argue, it would be like fighting Tuberculosis in an AIDS patient when you have an AIDS cure. It’s true that Tuberculosis is a serious problem to be cured, but it would be a waste of time and resources to try to cure it without curing AIDS. I’ve seen, in the case of AIDS, that other maladies pop up.


The comparison between Bush and Saddam Hussein or Hitler. . . umm there can be no equivalence in such matters. This doesn’t mean that one is better than the other. To think about it, I quoted a short passage on Alexander and a Pirate in my previous post. Now let me quote Mark Twain to tell you what I think about the difference between those three men:

“Civilization largely consists in hiding human nature. When the barbarian learns to hide it we account him enlightened.”

“The only very marked difference between the average civilized man and the average savage is that the one is gilded and the other is painted.”

“There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man’s notion that he less savage than the other savages.”

Certain criminals among us are lucky because they have so many other criminals, states, and technology doing their dirty businesses, so much so that, even in their honest belief, they remain convinced that they are better than Saddam or Hitler. If one would attach to many Western Presidents every weapon sold around the world (you wouldn’t say that they don’t know what those weapons are for), every dictator that they support, etc . . . at that point you may end up even more confused than the Nagasaki inhabitant I briefly discussed.

GP.

(excuse any mistakes. I am running!)

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By lindadugan, February 22, 2008 at 3:54 pm Link to this comment
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(this is the 2nd of 2 parts of the revised version—-see below)

to GP:

You stated: “Could it be that religion is becoming a serious threat because some young fundamentalist….killed about 3500 people?”

Yes, it could very well be the case and that is the nature of powerful countries such as the US.  We tend to open our eyes (at last) when the atrocities hit close to home. To heck with the rest of the world’s problems.  But don’t come knocking on my door.

It may seem cruel to turn our eyes away from all the suffering in the world, suffering that we may be directly or indirectly responsible for in some cases, but the times we live in.  But we live in precarious times. With the use of WMD at the possible fingertips of some not-so-stable religious nuts,  such as the fine gentlemen types who believe it is God’s will to blow us all to smithereens, then perhaps it is time that we open our eyes a little bit wider.


You said, “I certainly agree that religion has sometimes been a problem opposing progress but I don’t think it’s what someone who claims to be heroic should make a priority (In fact religion helped progress, perhaps more progress than secularism). I just think it’s easy to attack the weak evils while leaving out the more powerful evils.”

Perhaps you would care to expand on that.  What benign problems has religion been responsible for?
Because this is not about poverty, race, illiteracy.  It is about the power and the delusion of a religion that believes martyrdom will bring you to the beds of 72 virgins.  And it is not about why people go to war and die and how their deaths are “celebrated” for people have been going to war forever and acknowledging the deaths of their own flesh and blood. It is about fanatical beliefs which suppose that God is on your side and God wants infidels eliminated.  Killing us is what it is all about.

How is it that religion may be a “problem” to world peace, but in its most extreme , exaggerated and delusional forms it is not a danger to world peace. Please explain this to me…...

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By lindadugan, February 22, 2008 at 4:02 am Link to this comment
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GP:

Those last two posts got mixed up in content.  I am going to try this again and see if it improves.  Sorry for that.  Somehow when I hit the submit button it mixed up some of my words….

this is part one of 2 again.


You stated, “I am sorry if I misunderstood the purpose of the debate. I am assuming that I did not because I think both sides of the debate agree that religion is a problem (as I do). I think the difference between you and me, and Harris and Hedges is on what is more dangerous.”

You are obviously not missing the point of the debate, just the points Sam Harris is trying to make about religion.

You stated, “I maintain that religion is not [more dangerous] and that a certain certainty, which certain hawks tend to steal from religion while thinking that they are propagating ideas from secular freedom, makes their side (that is, the self-proclaimed side of reason) more dangerous.’

Well, I am not in alignment with “hawks.”  I opposed the Iraq War even before it began and I still do not support it, so if you want to make statements about US foreign policy I will most likely agree with you to some degree.  I think the Bush Administration is arrogant, dangerous and a disaster.  But I would not equate him with Saddam or Hitler as many “lefties” have been known to do.

You stated, “If religion was THE problem, the president of the United States wouldn’t be calling Saudi Arabia its main ally. If religion was THE problem, the United States wouldn’t have helped recruit and encourage fundamentalist young Muslims who had nothing in common with the beliefs espoused by many in the United States…..

That is a simplistic view of US policy overseas. Our relationship with the Sauds is based on oil not any religiosity or criticism of it.  It is difficult to bite the hand that feeds you (with oil resources and revenues.) Saudi Arabia is a country we are figuratively in bed with and they have a long record of human rights violations and ignoble treatment of women.  It shows you how pervasive our “addiction to oil” (Bush’s words not mine)  and what extreme behaviors we will tolerate to fuel ourselves.  So we continue to close our eyes to their own intolerance of our tried and true values of liberty, freedom, separation of church and state and equality because to criticize them or boycott them would be economic suicide. And we (Americans) all seem to go along with it complicity as we fill up our gas tanks, drive gas-guzzling vehicles and complain about “high” fuel prices.

You said, “Could it be that religion is becoming a serious threat because some young fundamentalists, some of whom Christian money helped train, managed to penetrated the US and killed about 3,500 people?”


Well, wrong! They would have died for nothing but not because religion isn’t the issue.  Religion is most definitely the issue.  Just look at the circumstances in Darfur, Sudan for example.  You have Islam massacring Christians, killing their own Sudanese people, and this is the precise reason they are killing them (because they are Christians). That the US and the rest of the world is yawning through this war and ignoring the tragedy of it only indicates our own lack of interest in what happens to people in far away places, who live in poverty, are people of color and who have no natural resources that we value.  If Sudan had a rich oil reserve would we not be sending military to “protect our interests?”  So instead the victims of the war succumb to Islamic barbarism because their oppressors can get away with it, they know they can get away with it and they will continue to get away with it. There is really no reason for them not to get away with it. And this is a big surprise to anyone?

end of part 1 of 2

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By Linda Dugan, February 21, 2008 at 6:45 pm Link to this comment
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to continue, part 2 of 2


You stated: “Could it be that religion is becoming a serious threat because some young fundamentalist….killed about 3500 people?”

Yes, it could very well be the case and that is the nature of powerful countries such as the US.  We tend to open our eyes (at last) when the atrocities hit close to home. To heck with the rest of the world’s problems.  But don’t come knocking on my door.

It may seem cruel to turn our eyes away from all the suffering in the world, suffering that we may be directly or indirectly responsible for in some cases, but the times we live in.  But we live in precarious times. With the use of WMD at the possible fingertips of some not-so-stable religious nuts,  such as the fine gentlemen types who believe it is God’s will to blow us all to smithereens, then perhaps it is time that we open our eyes a little bit wider.


You said, “I certainly agree that religion has sometimes been a problem opposing progress but I don’t think it’s what someone who claims to be heroic should make a priority (In fact religion helped progress, perhaps more progress than secularism). I just think it’s easy to attack the weak evils while leaving out the more powerful evils.”

Perhaps you would care to expand on that.  What benign problems has religion been responsible for?
Because this is not about poverty, race, illiteracy.  It is about the power and the delusion of a religion that believes martyrdom will bring you to the beds of 72 virgins.  And it is not about why people go to war and die and how their deaths are “celebrated” for people have been going to war forever and acknowledging the deaths of their own flesh and blood. It is about fanatical beliefs which suppose that God is on your side and God wants infidels eliminated.  Killing us is what it is all about.

How is it that religion may be a “problem” to world peace, but in its most extreme , exaggerated and delusional forms it is not a danger to world peace. Please explain this to me…...

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By Linda Dugan, February 21, 2008 at 6:42 pm Link to this comment
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I’m having trouble posting on here—-sorry if it results in double posts.  This is part one of 2

Hi GP:

You stated, “I am sorry if I misunderstood the purpose of the debate. I am assuming that I did not because I think both sides of the debate agree that religion is a problem (as I do). I think the difference between you and me, and Harris and Hedges is on what is more dangerous.”

You are obviously not missing the point of the debate, just the points Sam Harris is trying to make about religion.

You stated, “I maintain that religion is not [more dangerous] and that a certain certainty, which certain hawks tend to steal from religion while thinking that they are propagating ideas from secular freedom, makes their side (that is, the self-proclaimed side of reason) more dangerous.’

Well, I am not in alignment with “hawks.”  I opposed the Iraq War even before it began and I still do not support it, so if you want to make statements about US foreign policy I will most likely agree with you to some degree.  I think the Bush Administration is arrogant, dangerous and a disaster.  But I would not equate him with Saddam or Hitler as many “lefties” have been known to do.

You stated, “If religion was THE problem, the president of the United States wouldn’t be calling Saudi Arabia its main ally. If religion was THE problem, the United States wouldn’t have helped recruit and encourage fundamentalist young Muslims who had nothing in common with the beliefs espoused by many in the United States…..

That is a simplistic view of US policy overseas. Our relationship with the Sauds is based on oil not any religiosity or criticism of it.  It is difficult to bite the hand that feeds you (with oil resources and revenues.) Saudi Arabia is a country we are figuratively in bed with and they have a long record of human rights violations and ignoble treatment of women.  It shows you how pervasive our “addiction to oil” (Bush’s words not mine)  and what extreme behaviors we will tolerate to fuel ourselves.  So we continue to close our eyes to their own intolerance of our tried and true values of liberty, freedom, separation of church and state and equality because to criticize them or boycott them would be economic suicide. And we (Americans) all seem to go along with it complicity as we fill up our gas tanks, drive gas-guzzling vehicles and complain about “high” fuel prices.  You said, “Could it be that religion is becoming a serious threat because some young fundamentalists, some of whom Christian money helped train, managed to penetrated the US and killed about 3,500 people?”

You said:  “....If religion was THE problem, 5.6 million people who share Christianity in the Congo and at least 300,000 people who share Islam in Sudan wouldn’t have died for nothing.”

Well, wrong! They would have died for nothing but not because religion isn’t the issue.  Religion is most definitely the issue.  Just look at the circumstances in Darfur, Sudan for example.  You have Islam massacring Christians, killing their own Sudanese people, and this is the precise reason they are killing them (because they are Christians). That the US and the rest of the world is yawning through this war and ignoring the tragedy of it only indicates our own lack of interest in what happens to people in far away places, who live in poverty, are people of color and who have no natural resources that we value.  If Sudan had a rich oil reserve would we not be sending military to “protect our interests?”  So instead the victims of the war succumb to Islamic barbarism because their oppressors can get away with it, they know they can get away with it and they will continue to get away with it. There is really no reason for them not to get away with it. And this is a big surprise to anyone?

end of part 1 of 2

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By GP, February 21, 2008 at 11:18 am Link to this comment
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BFSkinnerPunk:

Thank you. I agree that Harris’s bold. But I also think that honesty starts at home. As long as American weapons continue to kill more than religion, his message will be lost. For instance, most small weapons sold around the world come from here. Most dictators who kill more people than “terrorists” have been supported by the US (It was funny to see Bush calling for openness in Cuba while congratulating Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame!).

I just think Harris’s way is not the best approach to solve the problem of organized religion. His message gets lost in what is called hypocrisy. I think he should start by cleaning his own house before trying to clean others’. He should read the definition of a hypocrite given in the Bible.

You know . . . my alarm goes off when he starts to offer policy recommendations such as his approval of and proposal for what I call modernization by force. I start to see a person using an anti-religion ideology to advance imperialism. And his science is a little bit of extreme positivism by the way. He seems not to see the recent advance in complexity studies, which, to a certain extent, may help sharpen his arguments. And that may be one of his major problem: it seems that he uses certain scientific concepts he hasn’t mastered yet. Alright, that may not be a major problem, but it’s something that he has to work on.

I must say that I enjoy this and his discussions!

Best,

GP

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By BFskinnerPunk, February 21, 2008 at 4:54 am Link to this comment

GP,

Religion isn’t of course “the” problem, but it is certainly a very special problem the demands that we keep our heads very clear about it.

Sam’s work is one that is directed at shaking off our old polite and “open minded” ways of apologizing for religious belief.  He overstates this point in every one of his speeches, so I won’t go into it here. Youtube has a variety of his debates and speeches.
Every one of them is fascinating to me.

His debate with Azlan is yet another example of the smugness of the left-leaning intellectual… always resorting to name calling and accusations while Sam sits politely and reacts only be referring back to the actual *topic* under discussion.

There is something to be said about someone who risks their life for a cause.  I wouldn’t obsess to much on whether we call them terrorists or heroes or whatever.  Remember that we (including you) are the infidels.  Who cares?  Name calling isn’t killing anyone. If they want to call me Satan’s spawn.. fine.

A little money, tiny-but-powerful weapons, and a belief that you can do God a personal favor… this is a bad combo! 

Side issue: When Saddam was toppled, people did dance in the streets as they ripped various images of him, stomped on his statues, etc.

As much as many of us despise Bush, I doubt any of us would literally dance in the streets if he were killed.  Apparently, this Saddam guy did **very** bad things.  Perhaps we could have removed him in some different way.

When I see lefty folks bashing the Christian American, I always want to suggest that these same folks go live a few months with a *moderate* Muslim.  After that experience, Bush looks like a flower child.

We need to open an honest dialoge about religion.  This is Sam’s point.  We should be able to question religion in the same way that we question bad biological theory: openly…. not just in a formal, staged debates.

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By GP, February 20, 2008 at 3:53 am Link to this comment
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Thank you to BFskinnerPunk and Linda for your response to my response.

Allow me to say that I am confused a little bit because I thought the main objective of the debate between Sam Harris and Chris Hedges was to discuss the most serious danger to peace in the world. I am sorry if I misunderstood the purpose of the debate. I am assuming that I did not because I think both sides of the debate agree that religion is a problem (as I do). I think the difference between you and me, and Harris and Hedges is on what is more dangerous. I maintain that religion is not and that a certain certainty, which certain hawks tend to steal from religion while thinking that they are propagating ideas from secular freedom, makes their side (that is, the self-proclaimed side of reason) more dangerous.

If religion was THE problem, the president of the United States wouldn’t be calling Saudi Arabia its main ally. If religion was THE problem, the United States wouldn’t have helped recruit and encourage fundamentalist young Muslims who had nothing in common with the beliefs espoused by many in the United States. If religion was THE problem, 5.6 million people who share Christianity in the Congo and at least 300,000 people who share Islam in Sudan wouldn’t have died for nothing.

Could it be that religion is becoming a serious threat because some young fundamentalists, some of whom Christian money helped train, managed to penetrated the US and killed about 3,500 people?

I certainly agree that religion has sometimes been a problem opposing progress but I don’t think it’s what someone who claims to be heroic should make a priority (In fact religion helped progress, perhaps more progress than secularism). I just think it’s easy to attack the weak evils while leaving out the more powerful evils.

There is a great story I heard about Alexander where, to quote one version,  “Alexander the Great [356-323 BC] admonished a pirate who responded that because he uses only a small ship he is called a robber [terrorist?] while Alexander commands a fleet and so is called emperor [of civilization!].” Don’t we know that the most atrocious killings have happened in the age of reason where race rather than religion was used and in relatively less religious countries?

In my opinion, those who are saying that religion is THE problem are like those who go against the weak robber while forgetting the most dangerous robber.

Perhaps in 3 years, this (http://www.physorg.com/news122663575.html) study will help us.

As to the problem of celebrating war heroes (whether “terrorists” or “non-terrorists”) . . . I don’t see a difference between one who believes in religious lies and because of it celebrates the death of his son for it and one who believes in national lies and celebrate the death of his son for it. Only the latter does it by reason (or so she/he thinks), and it does not help knowing the result.

GP

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By BFskinnerPunk, February 18, 2008 at 6:58 am Link to this comment

Linda did a great job as usual!

GP,

It is a marvel to watch your ilk twist and flex to make your argument work for you.  The stereotypic Liberal has been forced to test his “all cultures are valid!” dogma in completely unexpected ways.

No one could have imagined that we would see the day when “open minded” people come to the defense of a culture that makes Jerry Falwell (on his worst day) look like Bernie Sanders!

One of Linda’s points truly stands out in light of your comments.  Sam is only “absolute” in the sense that we should absolutely oppose any culture/religion that condones savagery against women… to say nothing of the openly stated goals of the muslim extremists (and many “moderates”).

A Muslim believer would celebrate the death of her suicide bomber son because of her belief that he has done God a personal favor… and has earned himself and his family special favor with God.  This has been well documented in the media with such mothers dancing after such brutality.  Their is no analogous comparison here in the US (as flawed as we may well be).

These behaviors would be almost impossible without their literal belief in the Koran.

That said, I am sure sadness is the overwhelming experience of most mothers of fallen sons.

Their are plenty of flaws in all of our national histories.  I don’t think Linda, Sam, or anyone else of that sort is pretending otherwise.  Sam does a heck of a lot of U.S.A. religion bashing which I’m sure you would enjoy.  But with respect to Islam…
“Houston, we have a problem!” and it is very much *now*.

If you like having an open mind, if you like to be thoughtful about the opinions and cultures of others, trust me, you do not want the likes of Islam to have a seat at your table.

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By lindadugan, February 17, 2008 at 2:17 pm Link to this comment
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part 2 of 2

to continue, GP:

You state: “Let me say that you could apply the same racist statements to American mothers if you thought that American mothers were inferior. How would you otherwise justify the celebration (with flags) of the death of a soldier who died in Iraq for a war that was based on lies? ........”


The celebration of flags, in America is not based on a religious ideology to justify war. The reason mothers in America will wave the flag when their sons have fallen has more to do with honoring the democratic ideals of the US, not any religious ideals (however I will argue that Christian beliefs about the world may indeed have been a factor in deciding to go to war. )  You may ask, what is the difference since both circumstances end in the death of young people? But the difference has to do with secular ideals (democracy) verses religious (Islam).  And I would surely trust you would understand the difference between democratic ideals and Islamic fundamentalism. And the American mother can always speak out against the war as Cindy has done.  This cannot and will not be occurring in Islamic states anytime soon.

You state: “The statement that his criticism applies to all Muslim including White Muslim doesn’t prove racism. Demonization against Black people applied to those who marry them. Demonization of Tutsis in Rwanda included all Hutus who marry Tutsis.”

I think you are confusing Sam’s criticism with Islam with being Arab.  He has been very outspoken about the treatment of women in the Islamic religion with its stongings, female genital mutilations, forced marriages, burka, etc…Would a racist defend the right of Muslim women to not be treated like chattel?

Sam is criticising religion, not a race of people. Just as he criticizes Christianity not blacks who are Christian or whites who are Christian or Asians who are Christian. There is a big difference here.

You state: ” That is why I say that his arguments are non-rational because if they were rational, he wouldn’t be advocating something worse than what he is fighting against. He should see that Western hawks rejoice in fundamentalism and, in fact, always fuel it.”

I don’t think he is advocating something worse than Islamic fundamentalism.  I think he is weary and wary of how fundamentalism is being played out in the 21st century with the increasing use and development of WMD. I think he is forcing people to have conversations about these realities and he is saying “hawks” seem to be a little more aware of the situation more than the “liberals” who as he says “hide their heads in the sand.”  There is nothing at all non-rational about any of this.

You state: “By the way, I am not religious at all, and that’s probably why I see Sam Harris’s ideas as tending towards a certain unstated religion. The deadliest weapon of religion is absolutism, and I see Harris’s certainty tending towards absolutism. Perhaps the most dangerous part of Harris’s absolutism is that he thinks it’s not there.”

I think Sam’s absolutism stems from his understanding that fundamental religions are a very potent and dangerous reality in the world we live today.  I think he has a genuine fear that this movement could cause some great damage to the world and these ideologies needed to be harshly scrutinized. Sam is pretty subversive in some ways. But I argue adamantly that he is not a racist and he is not dogmatic. He is talking about ideas that challenge people to the core and such reactions to him are usually knee-jerky and the same labeling of racist and dogmatist that you are arguing.

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By lindadugan, February 17, 2008 at 2:12 pm Link to this comment
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Part one of 2

GP: Thanks for your detailed response to my question.  You are not alone when you say you are non-religious but find Sam Harris offensive, racists, non-rational, etc..

First of all let me begin my response to you by saying that my views are very different than yours and I am often accused of “reading too much into Sam Harris” or trying to twist his words around or appearing to be able to read his mind. So my answer to that is—-if you begin to look at it that way—- these are my own personal beliefs and understandings and I do not claim to have any inside knowledge, mind reading abilities, or any other nonsense. I just have my own interpretations and perspective as anyone else would.

You state,  that Harris thinks, “for instance, Arab mothers are so irrational to the point where they celebrate the death of their sons.”

I think he is clearly trying to make a point here that once again it is the Islamic religion that is the culprit and not that Arab mothers don’t love their fallen sons. It is the religion that coerces these mothers into this role. Do you agree that religion can be used to justify the killings of the sons and the suicide bombings?  If you can understand that, then why is it any more difficult to understand that religion condones the deaths as a celebration? And what would happen to an Islamic mother who defied any of this celebration and spoke out against the death of her son? What options does this mother really have?  After all, there are no Cindy Sheehans in the Arab world, are there?


You stated,

“He also advocate policy recommendations such as modernization by force. This type of advocacy suggests a superiority (racist) attitude towards Arabs. It is as if the Arab world is reduced to fundamentalist Islam, and that what all Arab people spend time thinking about is, as E. Said said, how to destroy the West…..’

Whoa…slow down a minute.  What modernization by force are you referring to?  I am lost with that one….I need some examples here, please.

You state: “He doesn’t think about the internal dialogue inside Islam led by people such as the late Benazir Bhutto.”

I completely disagree with this statement and her death precisely proves Harris’ point about moderate Islam.  He says that moderates cannot be moderates because they will be killed or threatened into silence.  Bhutto is a perfect example of exactly what Harris is arguing. The Islam religion cannot tolerate people like Bhutto and that was made perfectly clear at the time of her death.

You state: “...... His arguments are non-rational in that they are based on the “clash of civilizations” thesis which many academics have dismissed a long time ago. He seems not to realize that and thus he is unable to answer the question of where was Koran when people were voting for secular or “moderate” Arabs.”

I think his point is that “secular or moderate” Arabs is an oxymoron.  While there are a few “moderate” states, how moderate are they really?  And many “moderate” states are still influenced greatly by Imans and other religious law. Do you really believe there is such a state as a moderate democratic state in the Arab world where our type of democratic rule of law is exercised?  And where is he making any denial that Christianity is destroying the Middle East?  I assume by “Christianity” you mean preemptive war with Iraq from a Christian nation.

end of part one of 2

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By GP, February 16, 2008 at 1:31 pm Link to this comment
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Lindadugan:

I called Sam Harris’ comments’ “non-rational” for a lack of a better word. I wanted to point out the unstated assumptions on which he bases his arguments. One of the racist arguments he makes—in his book—as Chris Hedges has pointed out, is that Harris thinks
that, for instance, Arab mothers are so irrational to the point where they celebrate the death of their sons.

He also advocate policy recommendations such as modernization by force. This type of advocacy suggests a superiority (racist) attitude towards Arabs. It is as if the Arab world is reduced to fundamentalist Islam, and that what all Arab people spend time thinking about is, as E. Said said, how to destroy the West. He doesn’t think about the internal dialogue inside Islam led by people such as the late Benazir Bhutto.

Sam Harris dodges some questions about the use of religion. You certainly know that Christianity was used to destroy Native Americans, Africans, and that, although not stated, it’s being used to destroy the lives of people in the Middle East. His arguments are non-rational in that they are based on the “clash of civilizations” thesis which many academics have dismissed a long time ago. He seems not to realize that and thus he is unable to answer the question of where was Koran when people were voting for secular or “moderate” Arabs.

Let me say that you could apply the same racist statements to American mothers if you thought that American mothers were inferior. How would you otherwise justify the celebration (with flags) of the death of a soldier who died in Iraq for a war that was based on lies? How would you celebrate the death of a soldier who died in Vietnam? How would you even call someone a hero when the person is fighting for the wrong reasons thinking that he is fighting for a right cause? Wouldn’t you say that many soldiers who are dying in Iraq are dying because they believe in America’s desire to spread democracy or some kind of American goodness? What’s the difference between that belief and religious beliefs? If people were rational enough in the case of, for instance, American wars, wouldn’t they be as brave as Cindy Sheehan and say “My son died for nothing?” But the power of the collective idea makes it impossible as it does for mothers in the Middle East.

The statement that his criticism applies to all Muslim including White Muslim doesn’t prove racism. Demonization against Black people applied to those who marry them. Demonization of Tutsis in Rwanda included all Hutus who marry Tutsis.

I see no difference between the destruction Sam Harris advocate through “securalism” (saying that there is “no alternative”—reminds me of Tatcher’s TINA!) and the religious destruction which he claims to criticize. That is why I say that his arguments are non-rational because if they were rational, he wouldn’t be advocating something worse than what he is fighting against. He should see that Western hawks rejoice in fundamentalism and, in fact, always fuel it.

By the way, I am not religious at all, and that’s probably why I see Sam Harris’s ideas as tending towards a certain unstated religion. The deadliest weapon of religion is absolutism, and I see Harris’s certainty tending towards absolutism. Perhaps the most dangerous part of Harris’s absolutism is that he thinks it’s not there.

GP

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By lindadugan, February 15, 2008 at 3:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

GP:
Would you like to give one or more specific examples of Sam Harris’ irrational and racist thinking? And then we can discuss it. Thank you.

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By GP, February 8, 2008 at 4:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The problem with all the praise Sam receives is the inability to realize how non-rational the assumptions on which he bases his arguments are. His conclusions should make it obvious. And that he receives so many uncritical praises vis-a-vis what many anthropologists would agree are racist statements—his logic and rationality did not allow him to take into consideration the non-religious arguments offered by Edward Said in Orientalism—is surprising when it comes from so-called rational thinkers. I really see how so many things we do are not rational. It is sometimes ridiculous to reject what you call irrationality while at the same time offering policy recommendations that suggest something not so different from the irrationality you reject. That to me is the right definition of irrational actions!!

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By lindadugan, December 12, 2007 at 7:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Jason:
For some, apparently, life is a where’s waldo puzzle.
The operative word is “think”  (in your statement) as in: we “think” we have a creator.
Think=belief=creator=god
I think therefore I believe. I believe there is a god,  therefore there must be one (because I want there to be one).

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By Jason, December 11, 2007 at 4:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Body-Spirit-Creator
Expression-Loves-Source
Dies-Eternal-Infinite
Human=Body+Spirit (+Creator?)

Is life a great where’s waldo puzzle where we are all present, seeking the creator?  Did we all just get lost somewhere by focusing so much on the body that in neglect we forgot about the spirit and therefore lost (or think we have) a connection to the creator?

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By BFskinnerPunk, October 22, 2007 at 6:06 pm Link to this comment

Yes, it was brilliant.

In fact, I was concerned about Sheer’s manner of plucking the strings of the audience… yes, very much like a preacher or politician. 

I thought, “oh crap, how do you respond to those cheap statements succinctly?”.  Then, Sam unloads with one of the most efficient responses I have ever seen.  It was both right on the money, funny, and it had just the right amount of a disrespect to hurt without causing an explosion.

It was pure sweetness.

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By TomG, October 22, 2007 at 4:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sam made such a great statement when he said to Chris “Happily we do not assess public opinion by having New York Times journalists go out and live in the Muslim world and make friends and get a vibe. A single well-run opinion poll would be worth a thousand years of you wandering around the middle east.”  LOL!
I am so often amazed at the emotion-based ranting (it amounts to preaching, really) to come out of the mouths of well respected journalists (in this case, a journalist for America’s ‘Newspaper of Record’) who are so obviously and baldly campaigning for a moral position engendered by their familiar friendships. Is journalism in the 21st century ever more than editorial around which the writer gathers his favorite supporting “facts”? Robert Scheer’s almost comical overreaction to Sam’s comment would seem to tell the tale best.

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By lindadugan, October 6, 2007 at 9:11 am Link to this comment

BF:  Sam Harris articles, debates, videos, etc… are archived on his website at “samharris.org” with direct links available.

In addition, if you provide your email address to the website all future samharris deliveries will be sent to you directly via Sam.

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By Timmy, October 5, 2007 at 9:20 pm Link to this comment

BF and Linda,

You two are awesome!
I should have to buy your books to read such good insightful writing.
It takes great knowledge and intelligence to be so tactful and blunt at the same time on such touchy issue.

Kudos

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By BFskinnerPunk, October 5, 2007 at 5:34 pm Link to this comment

I went to a few UU church service with a girlfriend.  I appreciated the soft smiles of the cool and open minded people, but the entire time I was there, I was baffled by the purpose.

On one day, many people brought their pets to be blessed in some way.  It was some sort of special pet day.

Anyway, it all had the look and feel of a typical church.  Someone would say some stuff… then there would be singing… then someone would say some more stuff.. repeat.

The only “reason” I could imagine for all of this was that secularized people want to have a church like they had when they were kids… but without the less savory teachings.

I can also imagine that they want to avoid the feeling of outcast feeling of staying home Sunday morning.

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By lindadugan, October 5, 2007 at 5:22 pm Link to this comment

Hi Alan:

Your posts, along with recent others, Marx and Cat, all have mutual points with which I can agree.

But more importantly, BF’s post earlier this week makes the pivotal point that most people fearfully ignore.  He states,  “ They [religious moderates] are still working very hard to explain the actions of the burka covered Muslims in ways that don’t include religious beliefs.”  This is one of the “optical” blind spots Sam Harris refers to.

What—-other than the fact you have deemed it “valid” by its own properties of being poetic—-gives religious language any validity at all when discussing the inanity or incongruity of many religious beliefs?    We, as humans, may use two different types of language to experience religion (in a poetic reference) and to study it objectively (in a prosaic reference).  But whether science can confirm religious language has poetic properties—-or not—- and that those properties can enhance or improve our consciousness,  has absolutely no relevance to the realities of suicide bombers and airplanes flying into buildings.

I would argue, more importantly and more relevantly, that the beliefs generated by the language and meaning of religion—-whether poetic or mundane—-  and the actions representing those beliefs,  is the crux of anything worth debating.  And it is the bedrock of what we must agree is valid and relevant to our discussions.  Religious language can form into religious beliefs, and those beliefs, when turned into action, can quickly become life and death issues.  Period.  As BF has insinuated, what you “choose to digest in the privacy of your own home”—-in regards to the language of religion—is moot and incidental when juxtaposed with beheadings and genital mutilations done in the name of God.

Is anyone arguing the Bible lacks poetry, metaphor, lyrics and beauty as found in certain passages in the Song of Solomon?  Is anyone questioning that such beauty can be transcendental for some people?  (It is annoying I have to continuously quote Sam that there are “diamonds in the dunghill.”) Whatever “beauty”  an individual happens to stumble upon in the “language of religion”  does not address the other side of the coin—-and when that coin lands heads up—- somewhere God has ordained an adulterous woman to be stoned to death.

I happen to believe Rumi is a stunning poet.  His “language” is exquisite and his use of metaphors brings me to my knees.  When I read his words he takes my breath away and sends chills up my spine.  I feel as though literally I am in a different time and space.  He speaks to my heart.  He is transcendental and spiritual.


There probably is a “scientific” explanation for at least part of this experience.  Physiologically, my blood pressure is lowered, my brain waves change and I become more meditative and contemplative after reading him.  I feel happier and less anxious.

And there is no argument that for numerous religious people, religious writings and rituals can have similar effects on them.  But this “positive” effect, whether religious or secular—- originating from Rumi, the Bible, Mozart, Picasso or a plethora of other sources—-does not authenticate or give credence to the metaphysical beliefs held, the literalness that is embraced,  or the harmful and violent actions a religious belief can perpetrate and precipitate.  However poetically religious language or experience may intertwine with an individual on an aesthetic level, it can never substantiate nor justify—-in the mind of a reasonable and civilized individual—-fallacious and sophistical religious beliefs.

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By lindadugan, October 5, 2007 at 4:23 am Link to this comment

BF and Timmy:  Are we surprised about Marx?  He enters our conversation full of his “knowledge” which the three of us deconstructed rather effortlessly.  Does this indicate a change in his views?  Hardly…..only an increase in his church attendance to help him waylay any doubt.

PS:  Sam’s article from the Atheist Conference spoke volumes.

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By Timmy, October 4, 2007 at 4:38 pm Link to this comment

Hey BF,

Here it is.
http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/sam_harris/2007/10/the_problem_with_atheism.html

He created quite a controversy.
Enjoy

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By BFskinnerPunk, October 4, 2007 at 3:15 pm Link to this comment

Timmy,
Can you provide a link to the article.  I did a google search, but I didn’t get a specific Sam Harris article.

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By Timmy, October 4, 2007 at 11:44 am Link to this comment

I think we learned enough about Marx’s position to understand the motivation behind his original tirade against Sam Harris.
It turns out he is the epitome of what Sam Harris is talking about when he has a go at the religious moderates. He claims to be not as wacko as the fundies because the god he believes in is so much more abstract and allegorical than the deity God that most theists believe in. But his inability to pull completely away from the bible shows the same kind of irrational base belief as the rest of them, and does indeed provide aid and comfort to the evil that is bible-based religion.

There will be more Marx’s on other boards.
We’ll straighten them out too.

Did you guys see Sam’s article from the Atheists Alliance Conference?
Very interesting.

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By BFskinnerPunk, October 4, 2007 at 4:20 am Link to this comment

Marx, before you go…

Could you recruit someone from the UU church to replace you?
You probably have too much in common with us anyway.

Send in another intellectual psuedo-religionist please!

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By Marx, October 3, 2007 at 7:40 pm Link to this comment

Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to post and don’t imagine that I will for quite awhile. So, I think it’s best that I excuse myself from the discussion. I’ve enjoyed talking to all of you.

Linda, I’m sorry I couldn’t find the time to reply to your post, but you made a number of very good points which I’ll be sure to consider.

It’s been an enlightening discussion.

Thanks.

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By BFskinnerPunk, October 2, 2007 at 4:09 pm Link to this comment

And it’s annoying that I can’t stop it with the typos.  I wish this forum had the option of going back to re-edit!

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By BFskinnerPunk, October 2, 2007 at 3:53 pm Link to this comment

Hedges (and Sheer..the “moderator”) do attempt to frame the differences of merely “language”, but they tell on themselves as they continue on by excusing various types of nutty religiously-pumped behavior as something else.

Of course, Aslan loves to portray religion as a kind of poetic language full of meanings as well.  And these meanings are somehow over-the-heads of rationalists like Harris.

Regardless of how Aslan, Hedges (and Sheer) like to digest religion in the privacy of their own homes, they are still working VERY hard explain the actions of burka covered muslims in ways the don’t include religious beliefs.

So while they may indeed enjoy their religion-lite to such an extreme that it’s unrecognizable as religion, they do seem to maintain a rather odd penchant for defending the more worrisome versions of religion.

That the point:  Offering comfort and cover for the more dangerous magic beliefs is a bad thing.  I don’t care if you, individually, see religion as a bunch of poetry.

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By Alan, October 2, 2007 at 8:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What I think is most frustrating about the debate between Harris and Hedges (at least insofar as religion goes) is that, unlike the debates between “atheists” and “believers” in the nineteenth century, it appears to be primarily a debate about language.  Harris is no more a 19th century atheist than Hedges is, and Hedges is no more a 19th century liberal Christian than Harris is.  That is, both Harris and Hedges acknowledge the incorrigibility of mystery, making both more humble than their counterparts of a couple of centuries ago.

So the debate comes down to this, at least for Harris: does religious language serve any useful purpose, or should such language be jettisoned and replaced with more precise claims that can be subjected to empirical testing?  Harris seems to insist that religious language - including that of Buddhism - serves no useful purpose and should be jettisoned.  This is where his position is simplistic, in my opinion.

Let me advance an analogy, which is really more than an analogy.  Over the past couple of centuries, literary criticism has made a number of advances.  We understand a lot more about poetry and how poetry achieves its effects on our consciousness.  While literary criticism is far from being a hard science, its language is increasingly precise and while its claims cannot be tested in the same way as claims about gravity, for instance, they can be tested against our observations of changes in our inner states as poetry is being read. 

I would say that the relationship between literary crticism and poetry is akin to the relationship between philosophical theology and religious language and ritual.  Religious language is, in fact, a kind of poetry of consciousness and because of this IT HAS ITS OWN VALIDITY QUITE APART FROM THE MORE PROSAIC LANGUAGE WE MAY USE TO “EXPLAIN” ITS EFFECTS.  This is what Hedges seems to be saying when he says that the important question is not whether God does or does not exist but rather how we are responding to the mystery of the reality in which we find ourselves, which we did not ask to be a part of, and which we do not ultimately control.  Religious language and ritual express our relating to this mystery, and in expressing it, can lead to changes in the way we relate to it.  We can and should do our best to explain how this language and ritual achieve their effects (so I agree with Harris that scientific principles can and should be brought to bear on what have been regarded as religious phenomena), but doing this does not amount to a “better” way of doing the language and ritual even if it does lead to improvements in language and ritual (which we have every reason to believe it will).

Having said this, I think that the religious “moderates” (a rather large catch-all category into which Harris incorrectly places Hedges) must take responsibility for having coddled fundamentalism for much too long.  As Hedges himself argues in his American Fascists book (which Harris ironically appears not to have consulted before criticizing what he asserts is Hedges’ position), religious people who are not fundamentalists or supernaturalists must vigorously oppose supernaturalism and fundamentalism rather than defending what is really cowardice by imagining that those who are under the spell of these movements are their “brothers in the faith” or some such garbage.  The truth is that sincere and honest Atheists like Harris and Dennet are much more our “brothers in belief” than people who blow themselves up in crowded markets or lob bombs into lesbian bars and abortion clinics in the name of their absurd and malicious Sky God.

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By Marx, October 1, 2007 at 1:25 pm Link to this comment

So much for replying to everyone before Monday.

I’ll try to post a few responses before Thursday.

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By lindadugan, September 30, 2007 at 6:13 pm Link to this comment

Marx:
Glad to hear you are back in the mix. I have a few busy days ahead of me so I certainly understand the time issue and the need to shorten your posts. Will look forward to hearing from you again.

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By Marx, September 30, 2007 at 3:52 pm Link to this comment

Timmy,

  My responses are going to become shorter and shorter as all of yours are becoming longer. You are three and I am one and I do not have the time to give thorough replies to all of you. Do you really expect that I have so much free time on my hands that I am going to reply to your reply to my reply to Linda as well as reply to Linda’s reply to my reply? Again, when I reply to you I am going to keep it as brief and concise as possible. You might be unsatisfied, but that is the only way I can reply to all of you.

  I will get to you shortly, but I will only reply to Linda’s response to my reply, though I appreciate your opinion on it.

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By Marx, September 30, 2007 at 2:15 pm Link to this comment

I’ll try to respond to everyone before Monday. Between numerous weekend family activities, going to church twice (Catholic church on Saturday evening, UU church on Sunday morning), and finishing Alicia Erian’s “Towelhead” (which I did last night), I’ve been quite busy.

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By Timmy, September 29, 2007 at 5:12 pm Link to this comment

To all,

I would like to retract every criticism that I ever leveled at Adolph Hitler and the Nazis. It seems that I had no business commenting that whole affair because I am not educated enough on the finer details of Naziism and the doctrines of the Thousand Year Reich. I haven’t even read “Mine Kompf” for Christ’s sake. I am embarrassed that I ever criticized Hitler or the Nazis.

For the same reason, I would also like to retract my criticisms of:
The KKK
Charlie Manson
David Karesh
The Branch Dividians
The Black Panthers (especially them. I was such a racist)
Mao
Stalin
Pol Pot
Milosevic
Etc.

I have not spent years studying the doctrines of these ideologies and am therefore too ignorant to comment.

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By Timmy, September 29, 2007 at 2:18 pm Link to this comment

The way that Marx describes the god that he says was revealed through the person of Jesus Christ, is so abstract that one has to wonder, not only why someone would form a religion around it, but how? And for what purpose?

The god he has described so far is not an entity that can be aware of our individual actions and thoughts, and so it certainly can not care about our actions and morals and thoughts. Jesus described god and HIS will, and HIS intentions for us in great detail. But Marx can not provide any of this detail while at the same time claiming that Jesus revealed this god.

By Marx’s rationale, Jesus, while being a vessel for the revelation of god, was also wrong about so many of the details about god. I just don’t get it. How that incredibly detailed bible can be the revelation of such an abstract god is absurd. Talk about a stretch.

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By BFskinnerPunk, September 29, 2007 at 1:21 pm Link to this comment

Linda,

Your last few posts have been VERY nicely done… actually good reading.

The last Sam-as-Ballerina post was short, but on the money.  An excellent point, indeed!

The requirement that Sam say what he means and yet come off as pleasing to the religionist is a tall order! 
We can talk about my taboos, but don’t offend me!

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By lindadugan, September 29, 2007 at 1:06 pm Link to this comment

Timmy:

Sam is elegant but bare bones; he’s confrontational but exquisite and civilized.  Marx and friends want Sam to dance around religious issues and bless them with a bouquet of flowers all in one graceful motion. Sam isn’t a ballerina, a florist or Martha Stewart. We can all thank the gods for that.

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By lindadugan, September 29, 2007 at 12:41 pm Link to this comment

part 2 of 2
Marx:

RE:  Azlan/Harris debate.  I don’t think Sam dismissed anyone. The debate was a long time ago and I am going on memory so forgive me if I miss the point. You say he dismissed Kirsch’s statement about the creation of the state of Israel.  What exactly did he dismiss?  I remember Harris trying to make a hypothetical point stating if Israel were located in British Columbia there would be no conflicts between them and the Palestinians. I think that is a very moderate and accurate statement.  His point being:  they are fighting over land they both deem “sacred” because the Bible, God, Koran, etc… says it is. Underlying message:  it is absurd –and immoral—-that they are killing each other over a small (and rather insignificant) piece of desert because of their errant beliefs.

“Harris didn’t even seem to momentarily consider the possibility that he (Harris) might be wrong and Kirsch might be right.  This seems to me like pride and arrogance, not good reason.” 

Marx, this (with all due respect) is bordering absurd.  You have no idea what Sam was thinking or feeling in that particular moment and you are beginning to sound like you are omniscient. The fact Sam did not make a grand statement supporting Kirsch does not mean he is arrogant and prideful—or that he is not thinking reasonably. You have no evidence of that and I will not accept your statement as anything close to the fact.  This was a debate after all.  He is responsible (to the audience) to present his views, not support someone else’s, especially when that person’s views are in opposition to Sam’s.

You state, you are not demeaning Sam Harris and that you, “disagree with some of his views, sure, but I don’t have any personal animosity towards him…I have a feeling he’d gladly demean me if he got the chance, even to the point of calling me ‘the bearer of a terrible dogma’.” 

Well, this does sound a bit personal……. But….. ok.  Fair enough, you don’t agree with “some of his views” and you have made your case.  I will suggest Sam would not call your dogma “terrible.”  I will take a reasonable leap and say he would call it   “unrealistic” and “dangerous if taken to the extreme.”  After all, you are a moderate and not a fundamentalist, and one might ask,  what is so “terrible”  about that?

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By lindadugan, September 29, 2007 at 12:36 pm Link to this comment

Marx:
to continue…..............

part one of 2

I agree with many points you have shared with us on this thread.  Unfortunately, the nature of the game is to discuss those ideas we hold in opposition to each other, so I will segue in that direction. (It is unfortunate because we will most likely never come to an agreement on these ideas and it would be so much pleasant to talk about points in agreement.)

All pleasantries aside….I maintain you don’t understand what Sam Harris is espousing. You seem to perceive him as a threat to the innocent,  unknowing reader who is swayed by his tainted “New Atheist” philosophy—-you are not giving the reader much intellectual credit; and/or you perceive him as some   rebellious bad boy.

You state: “Now I have a feeling that you would obtain information on how fetuses develop… from a medical professional, right?”

Yes, I absolutely would obtain such dire knowledge from an expert.  But let’s consider that the field of medicine is a body of knowledge based on science and evidence.  The field of medicine has come into existence through the trials and tribulations of reason.

Religion, religious doctrines, the Bible, the Koran or religious “experts” (whom you state Harris is completely ignorant about) all lack reason and intellectual sensibilities.  Sam is not ignorant of the unjustifiable nature of religion and that is the basis of his argument and the crux of the point I endlessly am trying to make.  Dennett discussed (on page 220)  the “division of labor in religion and science.”  In religion (unlike science)  (he states) “…the experts are not exaggerating for effect when they say they don’t understand what they are talking about.  The fundamental incomprehensibility of God is insisted upon as a central tenet of faith….” And…….”although we can go along with the (religious) experts when they advise us which sentences to believe, they also insist that THEY THEMSELVES (his emphasis) cannot use their expertise to prove—-even to one another—THAT THEY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT” (my emphasis.)

I go to experts because they can give me evidence that gives credence to their own practices and beliefs. When my doctor says, “A developing fetus requires from its mother, a healthy diet including a,b, and c; moderate exercise and fresh air; adequate sleep and no exposure to drink, drugs and smoking while its mother is pregnant; these ideas are grounded firmly in science and evidence.  Rest assured, Linda Dugan, this professional knows what she/he is talking about. 

That is the reason I seek out an “expert.”  If my doctor told me a fetus needs to attend church weekly, needs to be prayed to daily for good health, needs to be read the Bible to twice weekly and needs to have religious hymns sung to him/her frequently, (and if I did not acquiesce to these suggestions the “fetus” or I would go to hell), or…if my doctor simply stated, “I have no idea how a fetus develops or what actions need to occur to keep it healthy…it is all a mystery to me…only God has the answers….”  my doctor would be sued for malpractice and lose his/her license and ( I would be a wealthy individual with an unhealthy child)

end part one of 2

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By Timmy, September 29, 2007 at 12:20 pm Link to this comment

Thank you Linda!

Your contribution here is invaluable.
I was too lazy to go through those books again to pull quotes, but I remember that Dennet had virtually the same condemnation of moderates as Sam Harris.

I don’t know why Marx praises Dennet and condemns Harris?
Perhaps Harris is slightly less apologetic, but like Harris, I don’t see the need for the use of kid gloves here. People, especially the moderates, just need to grow up. If a friend of mine is being an asshole in public, I don’t try to gently let him know about it so as not to hurt his feelings. We’re in public, there’s no time for that. I say “Dude! You’re being an asshole!” “Knock it off!”
Because I’m his friend. If I didn’t care, I’d just let him sink his own ship.

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