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Sam Harris: ‘God’s Rottweiler’ Barks

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Posted on Sep 16, 2006
Pope Benedict XVI
AP/ Jens Meyer

Pope Benedict XVI waves to pilgrims as he climbs the stairs of a stage before celebrating Mass at a Munich fairground Sept. 10. The German-born pontiff visited his homeland Sept. 9-14.

By Sam Harris

The bestselling author of “The End of Faith” responds to Pope Benedict XVI’s speech on the interplay between faith and reason. Harris: “It is ironic that a man who has just disparaged Islam as ‘evil’ and ‘inhuman’ before 250,000 onlookers and the world press, is now talking about a ‘genuine dialogue of cultures.’ ”

Harris’ new book, “Letter to a Christian Nation” is available here.

Cross-posted at Huffington Post



The world is still talking about the pope?s recent speech?a speech so boring, convoluted and oblique to the real concerns of humanity that it could well have been intended as a weapon of war. It might start a war, in fact, given that it contained a stupendously derogatory appraisal of Islam. For some reason, the Holy Father found it necessary to quote the Emperor Manual II Paleologos, who said: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman….” Now the Muslim world is buzzing with pious rage. It?s a pity that Pope Benedict doesn?t also draw cartoons. Joining a craven chorus of terrified supplicants, The New York Times has urged him to muster a ?deep and persuasive’’ apology. He now appears to be mincing his way toward the performance of just such a feat.

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While the pope succeeded in enraging millions of Muslims, the main purpose of his speech was to chastise scientists and secularists for being, well, too reasonable. It seems that nonbelievers still (perversely) demand too much empirical evidence and logical support for their worldview.  Believing that he was cutting to the quick of the human dilemma, the pope reminded an expectant world that science cannot pull itself up by its own bootstraps: It cannot, for instance, explain why the universe is comprehensible at all. It turns out that this is a job for? (wait for it) ? Christianity. Why is the world susceptible to rational understanding? Because God made it that way. While the pope is not much of a conjurer, many intelligent and well-intentioned people imagined they actually glimpsed a rabbit in this old hat. Andrew Sullivan, for instance, praised the pope?s ?deep and complicated? address for its ?clarity and openness.? Here is the heart of the pope?s argument, excerpted from his concluding remarks. I have added my own commentary throughout.

“The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application. While we rejoice in the new possibilities open to humanity, we also see the dangers arising from these possibilities and we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them. We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizon….”

The pope suggests that reason should be broadened to include the empirically unverifiable. And is there any question these new ?vast horizons? will include the plump dogmas of the Catholic Church? Here, the pope gets the spirit of science exactly wrong. Science does not limit itself merely to what is currently verifiable. But it is interested in questions that are potentially verifiable (or, rather, falsifiable). And it does mean to exclude the gratuitously stupid. With these distinctions in mind, consider one of the core dogmas of Catholicism, from the Profession of Faith of the Roman Catholic Church:

?I likewise profess that in the Mass a true, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice is offered to God on behalf of the living and the dead, and that the Body and the Blood, together with the soul and the divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ is truly, really, and substantially present in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, and there is a change of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into Blood; and this change the Catholic Mass calls transubstantiation. I also profess that the whole and entire Christ and a true sacrament is received under each separate species.?

While one can always find a Catholic who is reluctant to admit that cannibalism lies at the heart of the faith, there is no question whatsoever that the Church intends the above passage to be read literally. The real presence of the body and blood of Christ at the Mass is to be understood as a material fact. As such, this is a claim about the physical world. It is, as it happens, a perfectly ludicrous claim about the physical world. (Unlike most religious claims, however, the doctrine of Transubstantiation is actually falsifiable. It just happens to be false.) Despite the pope?s solemn ruminations on the subject, reason is not so elastic as to encompass the favorite dogmas of Catholicism. Needless to say, the virgin birth of Jesus, the physical resurrection of the dead, the entrance of an immortal soul into the zygote at the moment of conception, and almost every other article of the Catholic faith will land in the same, ill-dignified bin. These are beliefs that Catholics hold without sufficient reason. They are, therefore, unreasonable. There is no broadening of the purview of 21st-century rationality that can, or should, embrace them.

“Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today….”

It is ironic that a man who has just disparaged Islam as ?evil? and ?inhuman? before 250,000 onlookers and the world press is now talking about a ?genuine dialogue of cultures.? How much genuine dialogue can he hope for? The Koran says that anybody who believes that Jesus was divine?as all real Catholics must?will spend eternity in hell (Koran 5:71-75; 19:30-38). This appears to be a deal-breaker. The pope knows this. The Muslim world knows that he knows it. And he knows that the Muslim world knows that he knows it. This is not a good basis for interfaith dialogue.

“In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures….”

Astrologers don?t like ?their most profound convictions? attacked either. Neither do people who believe that space aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Happily, these groups do not take to the streets and start killing people when their irrational beliefs are challenged. I suspect that the pope would be the first to admit that there are millions of people on this Earth who harbor ?most profound convictions? that are neither profound nor compatible with real dialogue. Indeed, one doesn?t even need to read between the lines of his speech to glean that he would place the entire Muslim world beyond the ?universality of reason.? He is surely right to be alarmed by Islam?particularly by its doctrines of martyrdom and jihad. He is right to find the treatment of Muslim women throughout the world abhorrent (if, indeed, he does find it abhorrent). He is right to be concerned that any Muslim who converts to Christianity (or to atheism) has put his life in jeopardy, as conversion away from the faith is punishable by death. These profundities are worthy objects of our derision. No apologies necessary, Your Holiness.

We might, however, note in passing that one of the pope?s ?most profound convictions? is that contraception is a sin. His agents continue to preach this diabolical dogma in the developing world, and even in sub-Saharan Africa, where over 3 million people die from AIDS each year. This is unconscionable and irredeemably stupid. It is also a point on which the Church has not shown much of an intelligent capacity for dialogue. Despite their inclination to breed themselves into a state of world domination, Muslims tend to be far more reasonable on the subject of family planning. They do not consider the use of temporary forms of birth control to be a sin.

“Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought—to philosophy and theology….”

This may have been where Sullivan found the Holy Father to be particularly ?deep and complicated? and ?profound.? Granted, questions of epistemology can make one sweat, and there are many interesting and even controversial things to be said about the foundations of our knowledge. The pope has not said anything interesting or controversial here, however. He has merely insinuated that placing the God of Abraham at the back of every natural process will somehow reduce the quotient of mystery in the cosmos. It won?t. Nearly a billion Hindus place three gods?Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Preserver) and Shiva (the Destroyer)?in the space provided. Just how intellectually illuminating should we find that?

“The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur—this is the program with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time. “Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God”, said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor….”

Please read that first sentence again. I hope it doesn?t seem peevish to point out that the West faces several dangers even greater than those posed by an incomplete epistemology. The West is endangered, primarily, by the religious fragmentation of the human community, by religious impediments to clear thinking, and by the religious willingness of millions to sacrifice the real possibility of happiness in this world for a fantasy of a world to come. We are living in a world where untold millions of grown men and women can rationalize the violent sacrifice of their own children by recourse to fairy tales. We are living in world where millions of Muslims believe that there is nothing better than to be killed in defense of Islam. We are living in a world in which millions of American Christians hope to soon be raptured into the sky by Jesus so that they can safely enjoy the holy genocide that will inaugurate the end of human history. We are living in a world in which a silly old priest, by merely giving voice to his religious inanities, could conceivably start a war with 1.4 billion Muslims who take their own inanities in deadly earnest. These are real dangers. And they are not dangers for which more ?Biblical faith? is a remedy.


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By Joan, July 9, 2007 at 3:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Harlon57,

Well Harlon57 let’s take Maani out of the spotlight…suppose Joe Schmo had the kind of conversion Maani has described and it were indeed proven to be true that this conversion occurred…what are the implications of such a conversion, namely from atheism to a religion, Christianity for instance…Let’s not make the issue about Maani per se but more about this type of conversion and what it may mean.

OR…. analogously I think Harris is a liar when he claims religions are responsible for inordinate amounts of cruelty in the world. As a case in point, clearly Harris is lying, given the antics of the former Soviet Union, Pol Pot and the current regime of North Korea that has starved to death nearly a tenth of it population to date on Harris’ watch and Harris bats nee’ry an eye, right?  And the nations Harris cites as the most civilized in his conception of “religionless” life like the Scandinavian countries it should be noted that these countries have histories deeply rooted in Lutheranism and Catholicism with Sweden also having the claim to fame of having the highest suicide rate, off and on… So Harris is a liar too??? maybe… but more interesting to me are the questions Harris raises rather then his relationship with the truth, which I personally think is thready, especially for one who is always claiming to be enlightening us by presenting himself as walking on the higher moral ground.  It seems to me if Maani were lying and I don’t believe he is, his sin is much less egregious than that of Harris who is running around the country, spewing out his misconceived viewpoints on the unsuspecting masses…so how do you rate Harris as opposed to Maani on the veracity/personal disdain scale?

Joan

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By Joan, July 9, 2007 at 3:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Richard,

Well, Richard, you seem to be doing a lot of homework during those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Basically your post is a response to Maani but just my 2 cents. Being we are such good friends and all, I was sure you would not mind.

Re: Leviticus…I will not challenge your assertion of the overview of Leviticus but I will still assert that a goodly part of that book is intended to give people the practical rules and “regs” of how to live, and much ado is made about proper hygiene with the intention of preventing people from getting sick etc. It sticks in my mind that way because Paul, a once upon time Jew, seemed to think he needed to organize Christianity into laws, a propensity of Judaism, as well even though Christ maintained only two… Love God and love you neighbor as you love yourself. And when I think of this attempt on Paul’s part through his endless lecturing letters to anyone he could find, Leviticus comes flashing through my mind like the flashing marquees in Times Square. So I may be playing fast and loose with Leviticus but the intent seems the same, quantifying a spirituality into law. And as for woman’s a worth, I wonder how Levi would feel today upon learning we can now produce artificial sperm using bone marrow stem cells, female bone marrow stem cells, as I understand it. Of what use will men be for the women of the future?

Re: Great floods…True the flood of “Noah” fame was described as wiping out the world…which world? the entire world or the world known to Noah? I think of it as the great flood but maybe not so great that it took out the entire world, just the world of Noah perhaps. How would we ever ascertain such a thing, this distinction?…maybe through science or research? maybe not. There seems to have been a great flood around Turkey at some point thereabouts. To me the point of the story is not how big the flood was but that Noah acted on trust and Yahweh regretted His destruction.

The inerrancy of the Bible though is a big deal. I agree with you there. That seems to be your concern. Why would people believe a book to be entirely true and live by it if it contains known errors? This is one reason the Catholic Church developed doctrine independent of the Bible. Personally I feel there is much in the Bible to be taken as true and wise. But there are errors too and who knows what further archeological excavation will bring to light (no pun intended) and throw aspects of the book into further question then. This is why I go along with a friend who put it well…personal spirituality is prior to any books. It is what you develop in you and these books help you out. If you rely on the Bible for instance as absolute truth, you will be very disturbed and threatened by errors in the Bible and that is understandable. I find most people I know able to accept errors in the Bible without having their faith threatened because they are listening to the morals the Bible expounds.  When the morals in the Bible conflict, we decide which position has greater moral value. For example Christians do not accept the Bible’s initial acceptance of slavery. The errors seem to me to be on the trivial side.  I think there will always be fundamentalist types who need to claim the literal truth of given religious texts.  I find most people I know are moderate and weigh the texts with their own knowledge of the world and implement the wisdom found in these books accordingly. As I accrue more wisdom, its seems the Bible carries with it more recognizable wisdom.

Joan

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By Harlon57, July 9, 2007 at 12:13 pm Link to this comment

Joan, since I caught him lying about his conversion, I’m not going to give further consideration to his lies..

No only did he change the age of his conversion, but he also changes whether or not he was ever an atheist. In one, he admits he wasn’t really an atheist, he was an agnostic, in the other, he started as an atheist, then became an agnostic. Don’t forget, he can’t remember from one post to the next when this oh so important conversion happened, in his late teens in one, his early twenties in the other.

“but I was an atheist (okay, agnostic.”
“until I was in my 20s, I was atheist, then agnostic”


He lied in an attempt to gain an advantage in our discussion on the “Jesus Love Bombs” thread.

I had to track his comments on several threads to prove it, but prove it I did.

Maani lies to make his point. He is in my opinion, a total fraud.

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By Joan, July 9, 2007 at 8:39 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Harlon57,

Suppose for a minute Maani is not lying…what are the implications of his conversion then?

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By Harlon57, July 8, 2007 at 10:02 pm Link to this comment

I believe I can show Maani is being disingenuous:

#64778 by Maani on 4/18 at 8:49 am, Truthdig, “Jesus Rides a Donkey”
“Not only was I not always a minister, but I was an atheist (okay, agnostic…) until my late teens; i.e., I was not “raised” in faith.”

#41309 by Maani on 12/07 at 9:56 pm truthdig, “Sam Harris: ‘God’s Rottweiler’ Barks”
“And until I was in my 20s, I was atheist, then agnostic”

For an event as life changing as becoming a believer in god, Maani doesn’t recall from one post to another when he said it happened.

Maani, in my opinion, was lying to pretend to have been an atheist to provide some false sense of understanding. As though it adds some credibility to have grown from atheist to evangelical christian.

One can sense Maani’s fake conversation: “Gee, I understand how you feel, I used to be an atheist too. But I had a spiritual awakening, blah, blah, blah.”

Maani also makes various and different claims in different threads regarding his specialty(s) in school. Sometimes its math, sometimes “hard science” sometimes, psychology. Whatever suits him at the moment, he becomes a specialist.

Why am I not surprised a proselytizing evangelical minister is a telling tall tales?

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By Richard, July 3, 2007 at 10:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Bible doesn’t just consist of the three broad categories of text you mentioned. It contains lots more – the law, mythology, anti-mythological polemic, history, love stories, poetry, songs, proverbs, lament, rants and raves, prophecy, apocalyptic (quite different from prophecy), letters, deliberate theological treatise. I’m sure I’m forgetting something. A lot of error and misunderstanding result from forcing the text into one of those categories. Most people really just attempt to homogenize the Bible, using a “proof text” method of interpretation.

The Book of Leviticus was not so much for hygiene and health (as we would think of those aspects of life, in today’s individualistic terms). It was intended to consecrate and separate Yahweh’s people, as a nation, from the rest of the world, who were considered inferior in every way. That’s why they were allowed to take other humans as slaves and property (Leviticus 25:44-46). Yet the book contains silly regulations like not trimming the edges of your beard (19:27) and not allowing handicapped people into the temple (21:16-23). It also reiterated in several ways that only Yahweh’s powers would be trusted in (20:27). There were also a lot of detailed regulations that specified how the society and economy were to be structured. For example, a female is worth half of a male (27:1-7; 12:1-5).

For a revealing look at just how foreign the Bible is, try the bible quiz:

http://www.ffrf.org/quiz/bquiz.php

If you get stuck, choose the most unbelievable answer and it will probably be the correct one (although there are a couple of traditional misconceptions carried forward).

Archaeological finds support the Bible completely when viewed very selectively. The faithful tend to applaud findings that support the Bible, and dismiss those that don’t as “mere human wisdom.” For example, China has written records going back 7,500 years. Why don’t they have a record of a supposedly worldwide flood?

There have been multiple localized flood events. A good understanding of the story looks way beyond that, however. The tale was borrowed from the Epic of Gilgamesh, which had limited distribution in Middle East. It was re-interpreted after the Babylonian exile, and made an illustration of Yahweh’s might. It is closely related to one of the creation stories (Genesis 1, not 2) in language, symbology, and cosmology.

The histories provide a good background for understanding the events of the period, definitely the best record for the society under study. However, there are a lot of inaccuracies. For example, the archaeological evidence suggests a people known as the “Hibaru” spent more than 100 years gradually moving into Palestine. Then there was the exile, and the lists of people who returned, in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, cannot be reconciled one with another. Attempts to reconcile the chronology of those books also inevitably leads to emendation of the text.

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By Joan, June 26, 2007 at 10:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maani,

Glad to hear you have been safe and sound on good old terra firma…


Joan

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By Maani, June 25, 2007 at 9:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Joan:

You are correct re the health/hygiene “regulations” in the OT.  And as noted, many of those regulations form the basis of laws and regulations currently in effect re food safety, health and hygiene.

Re the flood, it is true that many cultures have flood stories in their “spiritual” histories, just as almost every culture/faith/religion has a creation story.

Re my absence, the 48 hours I spent “ripped out of the world” during my “personal Pentecost” in 2002 was traumatic enough, thank you; I don’t need any UFO abductions or alien probes.  Besides, as a “petit claustrophobe” who does not even fly in planes, it is unlikely I would survive a trip in a spaceship…LOL.

Peace.

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By Joan, June 25, 2007 at 7:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maani and Richard,

BTW, Welcome home!!!???

re:rules and regs, or Leviticus.To my recollection this book was geared to giving rules etc. about hygiene and health to the benefit to mankind, given their living conditions. And it seems that many peoples have some great flood story…That’s what I hear, leastways.

And how can we be sure, Maani,that you were not abducted by those invisible beings that Richard referred to, or some other type of alien????

Joan

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By Maani, June 25, 2007 at 11:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

All:

No, not abducted by aliens; rather, abducted by the busyness of life.

Quick comment to Richard on the Bible.  The Bible consists basically of three types of texts: historical, allegorical (or interpretive) and revelatory (or prophetic).  If you remove the creation story and the flood (more in a moment), what you are left with in the OT is a combination of history (political, military, etc.), laws (i.e., spiritual rules) and regulations (i.e., behavior, ways of living).

Re the first, as Joan notes, there is little if any question that, with a few admittedly clear errors, the political and military histories in the OT are accurate, and that present-day archeological finds continue to support this.  Re the “laws,” that is a separate discussion.  However, re the “regulations,” it is worth noting that many of these - particularly those dealing with health, food, sanitation, etc. - were WAY ahead of their time, and form the bases of such regulations still in existence today.  So it is patently incorrect to suggest that the Bible provides NO level of “scientific” accuracy.  As well, most people (even most Jews and Christians) are unaware that the Bible is actually the first written documentthat suggests that the sun revolves around the earth; although I forget where the actual wording is, there is a clear suggestion in this regard.  (I will try to find it and post it in the future.)

Finally, re the flood, although there is some weak evidence suggesting that there was a cataclysmic water event at approximately the time suggested in the Bible, there is still no solid evidence for it, and much evidence to suggest that it was a more “localized” event than the Bible suggests.

Peace.

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By Joan, June 24, 2007 at 7:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Richard,

Part 2

You have referenced people who think there are angels that flit about hither and yon like an army of Tinkerbells, trying to influence the workings of the universe for the sake of the higher good. I’m one of them. But my angel is Michael the Archangel, not much of a Tinkerbell, more a warrior. You think it is nutty. (And I have to ask you something? Do you work in a monastery with all these people around you with these religious beliefs????)  Well, people from the beginning of time and all over the world have had a tendency to believe in something greater then themselves. Why? I think they find a direction, consolation, a hope and a meaning in existence that they cannot get from their fellow man. And I have tasted some things in life and I have learned that there are times that people and what they offer is just not enough. If you have not, more power to you, Richard.  Also I have experienced Something I know is other than myself and the material world, a sense or Presence that is distinctly not me. And others have relayed these experiences in writing and have spoken of them. So I know I am not alone here. I believe that we will measure the physiology of transcendence in the not too distant future. Check “Why God Does Not Go Away” by Andrew Newberg MD. The idea of something greater than man is common to all people, almost yearned for. So I don’t find it odd that people have their ideas about it and what is not verifiable at this point in time is not necessarily non existent.

I think it was Churchill who said that the greatest argument against democracy was talking to the average citizen for 5 minutes. He evidently did not think very highly of the analytic skills of the ordinary private citizen and maybe both you and Churchill have a point. But the inertia that a dull witted citizenry generates maybe in a way keeps us safe. People left to their own devices may be a tad dangerous and leave us with a very disorganized, not well functioning society. The uniformity this dull wittedness generates also keeps us perking along with not too many unmanageable surprises. So maybe there is a good reason that everyone is not set on fire with original thought. But I do think in the end, the road of life is filled with the great potholes of challenge so that we face challenge, eye to eye, to our basic assumptions about life. We can fight the necessary reconfiguration we should make. I have seen a lot of people trying to patch up those cavernous potholes and try to roll on past while they sink in that hole over and over.  Or we can change direction and ride over smoother highways to better places, if we will grow and change.  But making those choices I daresay is not an activity overseen in a chemistry or physics lab. This is where books like the Bible come in handy for some people, who lean on the stories and study the wisdom of the morals of those stories and how they can be applied to their own lives.

More to come.


Joan

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By Joan, June 24, 2007 at 7:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Richard,

Part 1

I am thinking here that your points are that political correctness is responsible for people adopting religious practices and that religions are full of errors about certain subjects and that these same people are too mindless to see these errors, the errors of religion’s ways, and it is impossible to accept both religion and science.

Well let’s start with the feasibility of being able to accept both science and religion. With the possible exception of fundamentalist Christians, namely those who adhere to the literal word of the Bible, a great number of Christians and Jews, as far as I know, accept both religion and science. Your contention that they cannot do so would be big news to these folks. Probably most of the doctors you visit are faith- based persons as are many researchers, nurses, science teachers etc. I was taught science in Catholic school including the science of evolution. So I have to say I do not see much support for your contention here, again with the exception of Christian fundamentalists. Here I agree with you, these extremists may not accept some science.  You are dead wrong about the papacy. The Catholic Church does not disavow science but feels it is appropriate to comment on how science is to be utilized.

Science as the arbiter of truth…that to me is not on track…Yesterday’s science is today’s error very often…For instance, just last week I read that, despite that it was accepted that DNA was well understood as the building block of life, according to an article last week in “The Economist”, RNA does much more than was thought previously and these new ideas about RNA necessitate an overhaul in the assessment of DNA. So there you have it, again a revision of what scientists once held to be the truth…and according to this article with respect to the new overviews of both DNA and RNA the differences between man’s brain and that of a chimp are more expansive than what was held to be the truth about these 2 brains and their likenesses. What do we really know at any given moment about anything???

As far as the Bible being incorrect about, well, almost everything, I have to disagree with you. Archeologists are always unearthing artifacts that seem to demonstrate that there were indeed cities the Bible discusses and the Bible seems to correctly identify certain prominent figures like Roman rulers and things that occurred under their rule, for instance. This is the kind of information that Maani was so well versed about but he seems to have been abducted by aliens and has vanished off the face of the blog universe! Earth to Maani. Come in please. Anyways there seems to be evidence of the great flood that goes with the Noah story. So there does seem to be some accuracy in the Bible but maybe not the kind that we would deem to be scientific explanations of the mechanics of the physical universe. And maybe this knowledge is not there. I don’t think for the most part it is there either. But that doesn’t make the other information in the Bible incorrect.  The knowledge that I think is in the Bible is more or less the mechanics of the spiritual universe. It is book that helps us understand that which is not part of the physical mechanics of the universe. It is a book with stories that have morals to them to help people negotiate through problems and circumstances in life that are not explicable through the scientific method. It is a book about the spiritual realm and how to maneuver in that realm.

Joan

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By Richard, June 24, 2007 at 8:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Joan:

Your words to Tebaldi, especially in Parts 2 and 3, were very wise.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to asia, and how that experience affected you. I recently went to South Korea and came back with a completely different view of the United States and its inhabitants. First of all, South Korea was an anthill—50 million people crammed into a piece of land the size of Indiana, more than half of them in and around the city of Seol. Single family dwellings were a very rare sight. Most everybody lived in high rises, and they dotted the landscape in large groups, even out in the “countryside.”

I get the feeling that a lot of the world lives like that, while Americans sit back and claim a right to our “way of life.” We have so much room. It left me wondering, why shouldn’t our country eventually be turned into a similar anthill, crawling with medium-height brown people as imagined by Isaac Asimov?  Why should we be entitled to large ranches and single family dwellings that we Trade Spaces in and re-decorate every few years just for fun, while so many people in the world are living elbow to elbow?

Secondly, there were no large vehicles in South Korea. Almost everybody drove a mid-size sedean or smaller, or a small clean burning diesel flatbed truck. In the inner cities there were a lot more bicycles and mopeds in use than we see in the US.  I only occasionally saw a vehicle as large as an Excursion. It was invariably in use hauling an enormous load. Again, why should Americans think they are entitled to a way of life that includes enormous gas-guzzling, environment wrecking SUVs? 

Try to picture the world 1,000 years from now (since the “Lord” is not coming to solve all of my problems, I have to think about this). Do I think it will be a world in which American borders are well defended, the flood of immigrants has been staunched, and my grand-children’s great-great-great grandchildren live in virtual castles and drive large luxury trucks? Meanwhile the rest of the world is piled up in towers (or underground columns), serving their needs? I can’t imagine that scenario will be perpetuated indefinitely.

Finally, there were no fat Koreans. I was in the center of Seoul on a busy shopping day, people were pouring past me like a river. They were all medium-height, and all had narrow waistlines. I was there for a week and didn’t see a single fat person until I got back to the airport—it was the Ugly American. Now I notice fat people a lot more than I used to. They are all over the place. Foreigners really must see us that way. I don’t find it an attractive image, at all.

In summary, an American is person who believes he should occupy twice the space of anybdy else in the world, whether he’s at home or in public. It’s no wonder we’re despised.

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By Joan, June 23, 2007 at 1:24 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 3


How much mileage can some leaders generate or perpetuate promoting the notion of their victim-hood and hence blame their problems on other nations, teaching their children to hate and indiscriminately kill Americans and then to convince Americans they are the wrongdoers, succeeding so well in their propaganda campaigns that some Americans go as far as to even think America is responsible for 9/11?  America never taught its children to hate the Brits, now our closest friend. The world is a state of nature and one has to fight for life on all fronts and so do countries. So the countries best get on with it and stop blaming every one for their failures but move along smartly in the face of the obstacles and make some lemonade out of the proverbial lemons of life. And it is absolutely unacceptable to the world for a religion and God to be exploited as justifications to kill defenseless Americans as a way of dealing with your problems in life. We are all sitting at the grown- ups table here and have to accept grown up responsibilities, all of us. These are not new lessons about life but age old and peoples of all nations understand them.

Re: the 60’s….Knowing my age, I can believe Paul is 65, bless his heart. He is a great one in many ways too. Love of the arts is in the eye of the beholder. As adorable as Paul is, no one can deliver a song like Elvis and Paul’s voice quality doesn’t even come close to Elvis’ tone and sensuality…But I still salute Sergeant Pepper and may there be many happy returns of the day to him who as given us so much pleasure and enjoyment. And as we know from “Men in Black” the King is not dead, but has just gone home which brings us to another subject, the afterlife.

Joan

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By Joan, June 23, 2007 at 1:21 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 2

Re: Communism…Greece, Persia, Rome etc, great empires expand. They do so to remain great. Unlike our predecessor great empires, America has not done so by a lot of military conquest but there has been some like WW2 and the Marshall Plan that led to the conversion of Japan and Germany to democracy. Some of the tenets that led to the idea of spreading democracy to the Middle East are arguably decent enough analyses of mankind and his needs and the shortcomings of government systems of the Middle East.  “The Case for Democracy” by Natan Sharansky is one book that goes into this. But as we all know what sounds good theoretically does not always play well in the field and our government leaders should always be aware of this too. There is no shortage of well- trained scholars and advisors in the US. Their input has been summarily excluded by the Bush White House. Great empires want to expand in order to protect their own interests. As I see it as far as great empires goes, America, as a great empire, is often the sleeping giant as Yamamoto described us. Overall America has treated the world better and with greater generosity and respect than other great empires have done. We are far from being a brutally cruel hegemony.  As we climbed financially, we carried other nations to greater heights in prosperity along with us and elevated the standard of living of peoples of many nations, including Arab ones that at that time had no means to profit from their oil without Western know- how. I have no doubt that had Iraq accepted the gift of Hussein’s fall from power and worked for a decent government instead of indulging in tribal fighting and vengeance as did Japan and Germany, Iraq would be better off today for America’s intervention here. For the sake of overall world peace and order, Hussein and the other rogue nations need to understand that they cannot play the dangerous games Hussein, or Kin Jong Il or Ahmedinejad play, threatening the United States and the world with WMD and thinking there will be no consequences for baiting us with these threats. And then they point the finger at the Great Satan when the games get rough, NEVER taking responsibility for their own dangerous and provocative behavior.  The American people are the victims of a very astute propaganda game right now. America has a right to survive too and the survival of nations in conflict is a game of hardball. It is not pretty. Some Arabs are stone throwers and then cry foul when there is retaliation. For a study in a crucible of the Arab failure in the handling of political problems just look to the events of this week in Gaza and remember that a generous and workable peace deal was offered to the Palestinians while Clinton was in power and all this suffering could have been ended almost a decade ago. And now some poor Gazans are literally stuck in a tunnel, trying to escape from Hamas to ISRAEL! So what is going on here? Is it easier to accuse the West and America of hurting Arabs and throwing stones rather than accepting responsibility and doing the hard work of building your own nation, despite the competing interests of all the world players? The world players will never go away. America struggled against the mightiest power on earth 200 years ago in the clench of the fist of the war theater staged between England and France. And we courted the French, at least B. Franklin did, allowing ourselves to be used as a pawn by the French against the British to our advantage. We did not stand there crying and throwing stones and blowing ourselves up in protest of the Redcoats. 

Joan

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By Joan, June 23, 2007 at 1:07 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 1

Re: Denouncements…My comments regarding political correctness are not aimed at you per se. They are observations of our American social mood, glossing over things that are tricky to discuss or even spinning controversial ideas into some different meaning altogether. That being said, were you in my critical thinking class, I would ride you for not being willing enough to critique specific aspects of any ideology, making no exceptions for religious ideologies or practices. For instance, I think the Catholic Church, and Richard, listen up here, should absolutely be called to task for its reckless and criminal behavior regarding sexual molestation of children by priests. I don’t consider this demonizing Catholicism, unless the whole of the religion is improperly crucified as well and the critique does not stay on point. I may sound like Harris here but I deem it necessary for our safety to critique any ideology that impacts us be it applied by the United States that embraced Jim Crow laws or the Catholic Church or Islam. The critiques should be of specific points and should be well supported. So my question for you is—- when are we critiquing and when are we demonizing? I am looking here for a definitional difference between analyzing specifics and just trashing something other than our own beliefs. 

Re: Friendship…barroom buddies…well, that seems to me to be a very good encapsulation of our relationship. But I don’t need a few beers to BS endlessly, as is apparent from the length of my posts! Some study or other has indicated that for every word a male speaks, a woman supposedly speaks 7.  In the vintage years of the 60’s, we called this “rapping”. Today it is called blogging, I guess. Maybe I will try a few beers as I writeand we can see where that takes us.


Joan

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By Richard, June 21, 2007 at 4:49 pm Link to this comment
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Joan, the American penchant for political correctness also prevents a large number from acknowledging Catholicism’s destructive action upon the western mind. I have co-workers who actually believe that invisible beings are constantly buzzing around us, affecting the outcome of events, and that our prayers can have an effect on what the deity instructs the good ones to do or “allows” the bad ones to do.

Science and religion are most definitely in conflict for the minds and future of humanity. Only science provides an adequate way of understanding the world. The Bible is constantly wrong. It was wrong on history, biology, geology, cosmology, almost any subject you could pick. Nevertheless, the Papacy controls the lives of hundreds of millions, hanging all of its authority on misinterpretation of a single, obscure passage. I get the feeling that many allow their lives to be controlled just because it’s PC.

I know people who, in private conversation, say they don’t believe much of what’s taught, but they think it’s good to take their kids to church.

Conform to the Norm! Revere the man in the halloween costume above. Do what he says, even if it’s stupid.

Richard

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By Tebaldi, June 19, 2007 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment
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Re:  #78304 by Joan on 6/15 at 9:11 am

Hi Joan.

Re:  denouncements

You’ve made it clear that PC has tainted America’s thought process, and I agree.  I think, like anything else, PC should be taken in moderation.  It should be a consideration, not an overriding principle.  I’ve attempted to convince you that I don’t say things because it’s the ‘right’ thing to say.
As for my generalization, I was simply giving you my overall impression – Can’t rightly do that with out generalizing.

You hold accountability in high regard.  I feel it is essential, yet useless without effective communication.  When my son received stolen property, I grounded him thus holding him in account.  But more important than holding him accountable was understanding his thought process and explaining my position.  If holding people to account were enough, we wouldn’t have rampant criminal recidivism.

Re:  Our friendship
I guess I see us as barroom buddies.  We are from different walks of life and hang out with different crowds.  But get a few beers in us and we can bullshit for hours; may even wind up singing Slavic drinking songs by night’s end.

Re:  Communism
My point was that, like communism, we should be careful not to demonize Islam as an ideology based on the unethical application of it by others.
I recognize the imperialistic nature of America, not from Islamists, but from observation, and outspoken Americans from Twain to Zinn.  America has oscillated between expansionism and isolationism since its birth.  I read a comprehensive book on the subject a couple of years ago (The New Empire, I think), can’t remember the author. 
    I love my country, and have unquestionable faith in our Constitution.  Reality may necessitate immoral government actions, but I won’t adopt a ‘father knows best’ attitude or rely on the media/oversight committees.  From our children’s watered down history lessons, to lies on Capital Hill, Americans are getting duped. 
Of course we are not conquering and occupying in the traditional sense; Americans would not tolerate this.  Government has to surreptitiously reach their goals i.e. Bay of Pigs and the Iran/Contra scandal. 

Re:  OBL
Yup.

Re:  Democracy
I’m smart enough to know that I’m not smart enough to hold the key to initiating a fledgling democracy.  It seems, in retrospect, that it can’t work in a country divided.  It also seems that democracy needs to be ‘sold’ to the people, not thrust upon them.

Re:  The war
You raise a good point about our presence.  With very few isolated exceptions (Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, etc.), the military has been forthright.  No one wants a peaceful Iraq more than the average G.I. 

Re:  the best/worst of times
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  …or necessity is the mother of invention.
As for Elvis, I’ll give him his props, but The Beatles are heads and shoulders above him.  Happy B-day to Paul – can you believe he’s 65 today?

Ciao!  - Tebaldi

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By Joan, June 15, 2007 at 10:34 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Re: bin Laden… I have read some about him…I think he has deluded himself at times and underestimated American resolve and courage but I think he is smart and gutsy and I do not underestimate him and his supporters…I think they are smart and courageous too. Bin laden was a businessman and while in Sudan he used his expertise and wealth to build road systems. He is from a very successful business family, which I am sure you are aware of. He could have used his skills as a businessman to help Muslims develop economically and stop all the boo-hooing about American exploitation. There are, I am sure, other astute businesspersons the Middle East like those in Dubai and Qatar who are using peaceful ways to make the Muslim mark constructively on the international front. But bin Laden chose victim- hood and terrorism to showcase Islam. His actions have led to the deaths of thousands, the majority of whom are Muslim. I am not trying to compliment him. I am just calling it as I see it. He could have used his skills to elevate Islam and Muslims but he did not.

Re: democracy…yup…Rumsfeld had the gift to offer but bungled it tremendously…however Iraq was not atea drinking country whose citizens like the French of France hang out at their coffee houses and leisurely debate the awfulness of America under Bush. This was a horrible regime and all those Iraqis who drank tea knew it and probably suffered under it in one way or another. And democracy is not a gift that comes without bloodshed and courage. The Iraqis blew it too by hiding terrorists in their homes and falling under the spell of the “Sadrs”. Too many want vengeance and tribal dominance. Democracy is about commitment to ideals not bloodlines and past history.  There is enough blame to go around for the failures in Iraq.

Re:…the war fought on their turf…Is that wrong? I don’t know…Didn’t Hussein bring that war to Iraq as well as all the foreigners who came there to fight…Are these foreigners to blame at all? Who told them to go Iraq and fight America? Who told Iran to engage in a proxy war with America in Iraq? Is Iran accountable for all the oil pipelines that have blown up over and over again???? Does Iran deserve any of the blame for the problems in Iraq? Do the Sunnis who are streaming in through the Iraq’s borders to fight America deserve blame? All these players are at the grown ups table here and are responsible for their roles in Iraq and the damage they are continuing to cause the Iraqi people. America comes in uniforms and is public about its presence and our intentions. Can we say the same for the other players? When will the other world players hold themselves accountable for their roles with the same stringency they hold America to account for its behavior? Americans seem loathe to hold other nations accountable for their contributions to this quagmire of Muslim problems in the world. But if the family of nations is not forthright about the problems, it hardly seems likely that they will be addressed. Some Muslims were itching for a fight with America. There is nothing in the rulebook that says we have to have it on our soil. Personally I hate all of it. Muslims need a few peaceniks…Give peace a chance… 

I am a member of the Woodstock generation… didn’t listen to J Joplin…went to see her…In some ways the 60’s were the best of times like J Joplin and Fillmore East, The Beatles and The” Stones” and they were the worst of times like Kent State and the deaths of Hendrix, Joplin and Jim Morrison, the invasion of Cambodia and the whole Vietnam thing and then Watergate…

Elvis is still the king, though.

Peace out…

Joan

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By Joan, June 15, 2007 at 10:11 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Re: denouncements…I think you are getting a tad carried away by the conclusions you have drawn from my comments…I feel that sometimes you take what I offer as an academic critique with specific points and broad brush them into sweeping denouncements. Islam presents specific difficulties and America has made specific mistakes. But I feel due to the American penchant for the deception of political correctness we are not willing to hold the rest of the world accountable for its destructive actions on the world scene because there is a religion in play. Regarding the Trade Center attacks, damn straight I hold Islam accountable for them and its failure to rein in their terrorists. Trade Center attackers were promised by Islam a paradise for destroying the infidels. These bombs were aimed at my family members. It is personal when people aim bombs at my cousin and brother- in- law, not once but twice …or when they kill someone’s father or mother or daughter. If Islam did not bless this attack, how could these men have brought themselves to do such a heinous thing?

Of course we Americans don’t understand other cultures all that well and vice versa. Lately, I am beginning to think a lot of Americans don’t understand their own culture. It is all most people can to do cultivate their own little gardens what with all the weeding, planting, pruning and fertilizing we have to do to feed and clothe and house ourselves. But we all should know enough not to out of nowhere bomb people of other cultures as an introduction to some expected future diplomacy or lament that there was not a diplomatic response after the atrocity of the Trade Center attacks. To my recollection Pres. Bush did actually give the Taliban time to turn over bin Laden and avoid an American invasion. The Taliban declined. And likewise with Saddam Hussein. He too was given time to comply with UN resolutions on weapons inspections and he declined, banking on French support to offset American resolve. It did not. 

Regarding Americans acceptance of other cultures, of the many peoples of world, Americans are among the most welcoming of otherness i.e. with things like Chinese immigrants running delicatessens, building hoagies or grinders as you New Englanders might say, as we have here in my own little garden etc, even though Americans certainly have limitations and prejudices.

We do sort of have an odd friendship…how would you describe it?


RE: Communism…People who like power and who are good at coalescing it into their hands are often ruthless and can find ways to exploit ideologies as tools for their own ends…Communism as it was applied was very, very bad…I have seen no humane application of that ideology.  And my people fled communism. My paternal grandfather fled the Lithuane in 1917 because he… as he put it, knew he would have to fight in the First World War and the American army had shoes. The Soviet army or Red army did not. It’s always personal.  He came here as one of the tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free. All my relatives are Slavic and from behind the once so-called Iron Curtain. These countries were ugly, places.My relatives, the environment I grew up in, felt an utter sense of thankfulness to be in the safe arms of America. We were taught the utmost respect for the principles and safety valves in this country regarding citizens’ rights and freedoms, the hope for a decent future due to the economic opportunities. America was not a country that deserved to be bombed but respected as a liberator from the oppression and ruthlessness and imperialism of other nations. The political liberties of thousands, not only Americans, were won in these battles on beaches awash in American blood like Normandy.  Despite the twisted perception Islamists try to foist on America, we are not a people who conquer and occupy.

Joan

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By Tebaldi, June 12, 2007 at 11:15 am Link to this comment
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Re:  #76647 by Joan on 6/09 at 12:50 pm

Hi Joan, hope things are less dicey on your end.

Re:  denouncement
I don’t want to belabor the point here.  I agree with most of your views, but the overall impression I get from you is that Islam are the bad guys and poor America is doing all the right things and getting shit on for it.   
We are not accomplishing much by berating Islam.  Our leaders, both religious and political, need to hug their Moslem counterparts.  There needs to be a deep understanding between them.  Everybody beat up Pelosi for talking to Syria, but at least she is demonstrating the most important tool we have to promote harmony – communication and understanding. 
I think that Americans are generally stupid when it comes to other cultures.  Most have derived their knowledge of Arab culture from ‘The Cannon-ball Run’.  It is this ignorant mentality that feeds ethnocentrism.  I think that Arabs hold similar misconceptions about Americans.
  Look at what affected the Ireland conflict - Negotiation and accords.  Seems to me that if we have an example of how to overcome an impasse, we should… oh, I don’t know… emulate it!!  We need a focused, deliberate, and pervasive diplomatic approach. 
As I’ve said before, a rough road lies ahead; I’ve no illusions.  Irish factions had the benefit of the same religion (sort of), language and country. 

We need to look no further than our own relationship to recognize the power of diplomacy.  You and I disagree on several issues.  Our ideologies are dissimilar.  Through communication we’ve not only earned each other’s respect, but we’ve formed an odd sort of friendship.
 
Re:  communism. 
Ok, this is a pretty good analogy.  It shows how an ideology, improperly (criminally) applied, can distort the views of millions of people.  Communism (in theory), is a humane, peaceful, unselfish, just method for a society to prosper.  Marx, Stalin, et al created a totalitarian government that could only loosely be related to the intent and potential of communism.  To this day, ‘communist’ is a bad word in America.  It has been demonized through propaganda.  The difference between Communism (capitalized) and communism has become indiscernible. 
    So is communism evil?  No, it’s the unethical implementation of communism that merits criticism. 

(Continued)

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By Tebaldi, June 12, 2007 at 11:12 am Link to this comment
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(Part II) Re: #76647 by Joan on 6/09 at 12:50 pm

Re:  Bin Laden
I wouldn’t presume what that psychotic asshole thinks.  He’s delusional; why would you assume that he could behave in the best interest of his brethren? 
My version of Bin Laden?  What do you mean by that?  I see our depictions of him as complementary, not contradictory. 

Re:  Democracy
You make it sound like they are looking a gift horse in the mouth.  You have to look at how this ‘gift’ was presented.
    Iraqis were living their lives in relative peace, going to the market, taking tea, worshipping, etc.  Not a perfect existence, but basic needs were generally met and they were relatively secure.
    Within a three month time span, there were tens of thousands of soldiers with tanks, attack helicopters, battleships, howitzers, fighter jets, and rocket launchers at their border.  One month later, these soldiers killed their countrymen, occupied their country, destroyed infrastructure, blockaded their roadways, restricted their daily activities, and started to disrupt them in their own homes.
    Many accepted this destruction as a necessary means to dethrone an unjust regime.  But six months later, infrastructure was not repaired, the roadways were still bogged, their homes were still being disrupted, and as a bonus, sectarian violence was on the rise.  Adding to the dilemma, we precipitated the exodus of thousands of much needed Iraqi professionals.
    As if this weren’t enough, we created a battle ground for the ‘war on terror’ right in their backyard – prompting an influx of ‘freedom fighters’ (and their wares) from several countries.
    Regardless of good intentions, our ‘gift horse’ bears unfortunate resemblance to a Trojan horse. 

Re:  Defining terrorism
Very well.  From hence forth, we will presume that terrorism is an act that kills non-combatants either intentionally or with out regard.

Re:  Woodstock
First, Jimi Hendrix is one of my personal heroes.  I have a framed poster of him in my living room (along with Bob Marley).
    Second, I was a teenager during a bad decade for music (‘80’s), so I turned to Santana, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, CCR, The Who, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, in addition to other non-Woodstock bands from this generation. 
  Lastly, I’ve tie-dyed, experimented with drugs, grew my hair long, and played hacky-sack.  I was born in the summer of love, lived in Woodstock from ages 6 to11 (although my parents were not hippies), and believe that I have a mystical affinity with the hippie experience.
What do I know of Woodstock, you ask?  Test me.

Love, Peace, and Hair Grease   - Tebaldi

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By Joan, June 9, 2007 at 2:01 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 4

I believe that gratitude was short-lived because people don’t see the sweat and toil and loyalty that democracy demands. They see it as magical dream that was visited on us and forget the Revolutionary War and all the prior European wars that predisposed the Founders to undertake that war. They don’t see the Civil War and all the deaths that underpinned it, all the families divided. We did not get the blessings of democracy as a Christmas gift. So when our way of life was not delivered over night, we were disavowed too. But we gave the Iraqi people the gift of democracy and freedom from despotism, we offered the city on the hill, and they are foolishly squandering it, retaining the tribal mentality that has offered them centuries of hardship and violence and kept them left behind the rest of the progressing world that they rage against in frustration.

And what, my son, do you know of Woodstock????

Re: Unmoved Mover…The big “A has already scooped you…

RE; ”Z” wouldn’t you like to know…

Re: defining terrorism ….A little back up here…I inadvertently missed this in the first part of this post…I absolutely concur all war is terror, be it bringing out our war machines in public in the face of the gathering storm …It certainly would terrorize me to see foreign unfriendly troops gather along our border and ships sailing into American waters…I think terms like terrorism take on the meaning of the day rather than having eternal truth definitions. Today, “terrorism” refers to particularly violent and deadly assaults we are seeing on unsuspecting and defenseless citizens who are being used as pawns in asymmetrical warfare. I find this strategy is particularly reprehensible, as the people are given no way to defend themselves and/or have no reason to think they will be attacked.  As silly as the idea of rules of engagement in war seems, they offer the idea that soldiers be identifiable and should at least attempt to operate within certain ethical boundaries in the unethical climate of warfare.

Joan

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By Joan, June 9, 2007 at 1:56 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 3

I have some acquaintance with our relationship with the house of Saud and the Middle East that emerged after WW1 when the geologicals showed the vast amounts of oil in the Middle East. Really the aftermath of WW1, dividing territories and exploiting Muslims was unconscionable. If you have not viewed it, the movie, “ A Dangerous Man” does an excellent job of explaining the mess Europe made of the Middle East through the eyes of that mysterious character Lawrence of Arabia. Roughly, under Truman I believe we promised the house of Saud protection if they delivered the oil. The version I heard is that bin Laden, with his puffed up chest, after getting it into his head that he and the Afghan tribes defeated Russia with no help from America and its notorious CIA, offered to send his men to the kingdom and defend it in place of the infidel Americans. The Saud family declined the noble offer in favor of the greatest military power on earth. Surprise!…So bin Laden, humbled,  went off to lick his wounds, first in Sudan and was kicked out but welcomed by the Taliban in Afghanistan and the rest is history. Bin Laden according to Peter Bergen, a well- known bin Laden biographer, bin Laden is quite the astute businessman and could have really elevated his people economically by offering them his skill. But he decided it was better to go the route of destruction and terror and victim-hood.  So if your version of bin Laden is correct, I would wonder why with his skills he chose not to lift his people up economically as a response to American hegemony. That way he would have empowered his people.  Rather than do this, he chose to lead his followers into the bowels of hell and many more Muslims are suffering from his decision than do Americans. We pay much higher prices for our oil than do the Arabs. It is a marketable product. If anyone is bleeding the Arabs here, it is the house of Saud that seems to have taken the oil wealth of the kingdom for its own personal control, not Americans. 

Regarding those fearful of protesting…these folks seem quite fearsome. Bin Laden thought his people more fearsome than Americans and maybe he is right. We are a softer people, literally and figuratively, not hardened as much by deprivation and physical suffering. But the hardiness of insurgents is not only a trait of those who are anti American. And again there are very few bloodless revolutions.

Joan

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By Joan, June 9, 2007 at 1:52 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 2

It is no oversight that terrorism is not condemned by Islamic clergy and a brief look at Islamic theology explains why. All that is not Islamic for some Muslims is sub par. This built in doctrine must be revised for the sake of world peace. Bottom-line…I expected Islamic clergy, the very influential ones, on 9/12 or thereabout to publicly renounce 9/11, doing their part to prevent world war.  And …yes… other people and nations need to shoulder some responsibility for keeping the world peace. The renunciation for this kind of terror should have been spoken with an unequivocal Islamic voice loud enough to be heard around the world. If done, we may have seen a difference in how the last few years played out in Iraq and around the world. Well we waited and waited and waited and all there was was a deafening silence. Neither the pope nor anyone else should have to challenge Islam about its theology at all. The family of nations and all world leaders are right to proclaim zero tolerance for attacks like 9/11. And the house of Islam should have taken responsibility for cleaning up its own house. But it has not done so. So it is left to others to motivate it to do so. Any ideology, be it religious or political that endorses the kind of assault we saw on 9/11 has to be challenged by world leaders and the cloak of religion cannot make religions immune from accountability for its followers and its teachings under the purported guise of political correctness. I am 100% with Harris here about the dangers religions pose to world peace. Now people like to counter that most Muslims do not support this kind of terrorist behavior. Maybe so. I am not sure what the majority of Muslims think but I do see that it only takes a handful of people to start great, worldwide conflagrations. And this handful of Muslims are appealing to Islam for support and vindication of their heinous acts against defenseless persons and Islam is source of reward for the violence, offering heavenly pleasures to those who die committing them. The world is teetering on the brink of disaster due to the actions of a miniscule fraction of its inhabitants. So it is right to hold all Muslims accountable for their dangerous silence. I know they are afraid. But birth is a dangerous and painful process. If Islam is to sustain itself and the rest of the non-Islamic nations are to live in safety, Muslims need to be brave enough to reform their theology and birth a new and safer version of Islam. 

Is this blaming Islam??? I don’t know. But I am claiming that if an ethic teaches people it is all right to do things like the 9/11 attacks, I think it is right to challenge that ethic…just like I think it is right to challenge the ideology of communism and its godlessness that allowed Joe Stalin to kill some 20 million of Russia’s peasants. And yes, one should blame terrorist Catholics if they are living in violation of Christ teachings…are they to be considered even Catholics at all if they use car bombs to make their points?????  Aren’t you supposed to practice the teachings of your religion if you profess it? Is it wrong to call people on it of they profess a faith and yet live in flagrant violation of its teachings?


Joan

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By Joan, June 9, 2007 at 1:50 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 1

Re: Memorial Day…If my few words meant anything to you, I am grateful for that. They really do seem paltry in the face of what our soldiers live - what you have lived through and given.

The ayatollah analogy…if an ayatollah called Christians immoral (actually they do this all the time), my reaction would be to say that there surely are immoral Christians but that people living in accordance with the teachings of Christ are not immoral for being Christians as opposed to being Muslims.  Unquestionably, there certainly are immoral Christians but the teachings of Christ per se are not immoral. This would be my response. Now I would ask the ayatollahs if the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center, killing thousands of innocent people were in fact living in accordance with the teachings of Islam.

The Crusaders did not live in accordance with the teachings of Christ nor did the inquisitors and numerous Christian leaders failed to live the words of Christ. But Christians readily confess their sins to the world and even confess to sins they never committed as well. Everything wrong in the world is a Christian failure, including 9/11. Right? 9/11 is an American (a country composed overwhelmingly of Christians) failure to do all the diplomacy right, even in the face of a belligerent Israelis prime ministers like Ariel Sharon, a recalcitrant Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat and the Saudi kingdom that disseminates anti infidel propaganda in the name of Islam world wide while publicly shaking our hands and Americans are defending their so called sacred sands,  no matter our different life styles. Muslims, on the other hand, never sin, do they? 

Our soil is no less sacred than is Saudi sand. And had we not defended Kuwait and even ultimately the Saudi kingdom in the first Gulf War, America would have been condemned for that too ...I’ll wager you that. Some Muslims would have found a way blame us yet again no matter that we are protecting their bread and butter and make no mistake, preserving their oil is as much in their interest as it is ours, maybe even more so, given that oil is there only marketable product.

Joan

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By Joan, June 9, 2007 at 11:41 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Sorry for the delay. Things are a bit dicey here. Hopefully I will have a post responding to your last one in a few days. Please hang in there.

Thanks.


Joan

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By Tebaldi, May 31, 2007 at 3:12 pm Link to this comment
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Re:  #72936 by Joan on 5/26

Hello Joan

Hope your Memorial Day went well.  Many thanks for your kind words; they are certainly not “cheap” to me.  We in uniform thrive on laudatory remarks from our fellow Americans; something many of our Vietnam vets, sadly, did not enjoy. 

I agree that our views are not that far apart on the terrorism issue. 

I think you didn’t address my example (hypothetical ayatollah accusation) very directly.  Was this an unfair analogy? 

Re:  Your first axe (condemning terrorism outright)
This is far from a black and white issue.  *I don’t condemn terrorism (necessarily) any more than I condemn killing by other means. 
  The first problem we run into is how to define terrorism.  Webster says, “The use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes”.  Doesn’t this occur in most wars, by all sides?  When we lined up across the Iraq border and insisted that the regime give in to our demands, how does this not meet the definition?  Do we hold issue with terrorist acts because they are cowardly?  Don’t our vastly superior weapons and technology make us cowards?  Is a suicide bomber blowing up a checkpoint unfair?  That’s what the Brits said about our ‘asymmetrical warfare’ during the revolution.  I dare say that it is easy for me to fight IAW the Geneva Convention sitting in a reactive-armor tank (figuratively). 

  * Only when we add the killing of non-combatants to the definition of terrorism can I in good conscience vehemently denounce terrorism. 

Re:  Condemning religions
I get your point.  My suggestion is that we should tread lightly when we make sweeping statements about Islam.  I don’t blame the Catholicism or Christianity for the atrocities in Ireland; neither should we attack Islam for 9/11.

I don’t know how nonchalant Moslem leaders have been on the issue of terrorism.  You suggest that they are generally not vigilant in precluding such acts from taking place, but I’m not wholly convinced.

Here are some Moslem leaders, who publicly denounced terror.
http://www.beliefnet.com/story/111/story_11121_1.html

Some notable leaders include, Syria’s most senior Islamic leader, The Organization of the Islamic Conference (which represents 57 Muslim states), Moamer Qadhafi, Egypt´s mufti, Yasser Arafat, and a myriad of renowned Muslim scholars. 

Re:  Qatar and the Emirates
Be careful what you wish for.  These countries are like Vegas on steroids.  Opulence and gluttony fed by oil and built/operated on the backs of exploited 3rd world nationals (Although I agree that their liberal views set a good standard for other nations).  Does your support for these wealthy nations lend credence to my poverty/terrorist connection? 

(Continued)

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By Tebaldi, May 31, 2007 at 3:07 pm Link to this comment
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(Part II) Re:  #72936 by Joan on 5/26

Re:  The Pope’s speech
You tender a good defense of public criticism.  You may very well be right, but my gut still tells me that a more restrained approach might have produced better results.  You say that clergy could have “risen to the occasion …to denounce terrorism”.  Is reasonable to expect that a cleric would denounce their fellow Moslem at the behest of the Pope?  Perhaps the speech got some wheels turning in their heads, but surely they wouldn’t risk the appearance of acquiescing to the Pope. 
I agree that Muslim religious leaders have a responsibility to condemn terrorism.  But the Pope’s speech could not be expected to be an optimal catalyst to achieve this end.

Re:  Saudi involvement
  If you have time (and the inclination), read ‘Cronies’, Bryce, R. (2004), (or anything by Noam Chomsky)
We’ve been closely tied with the kingdom for over 60 years.  Security and oil.  Our troops that were pulled a couple years ago represent a fraction of U.S. involvement in Saudi.  We enjoy a symbiotic relationship with them, but some see Americans taking more than they are giving.  40,000 Americans live in Saudi.  There are over 300 American and Saudi-American ventures in the kingdom.  In Osama’s eyes (and it ain’t far from the truth), we are stealing resources, vying for political/economic position, and imparting a profane culture.

They are well-versed in protest as you have pointed out - As long as the protest is popular opinion.  Anti – American is a safe bet for them regardless of the circumstances.  I think there are a great deal of Muslims who think terrorism is unjust.  These folks lack the fortitude to stand up and denounce the perpetrator’s actions.  To be fair, speaking on behalf of the infidels and against their brethren is risky business over there.  I think it’s easier for us to berate these folks because protesting our government (et al) is a part of our culture.  Freedom of assembly, speech, and press is ingrained in our way of life.  We protect radical thinking. 
    They need a good old fashion counter-culture movement.  We should organize Woodstock ’08 in Baghdad, teach Bob Dylan (et al) how to speak Arabic, and crop dust the event with marijuana smoke.  We’ll have ‘em parting their hair down the middle, drinking grape soda, and bad-mouthing their country in no time smile

Re:  why was the gratitude so short lived
Let me count the ways…  I think you and I essentially agree on this.  Oddly, I think I am more cynical than you of our government’s methods and goals.  (Too much Chomsky and not enough Fox news, I deduce)

Re:  Poverty/terrorism
Again, “I speak of the recruits not the recruiters.  You’re right, the later are often educated.  These whackos should be taken care of by the military or more ideally, ousted by a grassroots effort.  If we can educate the laymen, perhaps we can mitigate recruitment.”

Re:  Unmoved Mover
Are you sure Aristotle came up with this?  I was going to publish.

Re:  Haven’t you just brought yourself back to square 1 with that proposal?
No, because preceding this statement, I reasoned that ‘nothing’ is impossible/unachievable.  ‘Something’ (the absence of nothing) must have always been (t)here.  Ergo, something + unlimited time + unlimited space = a pterodactyl (and other neat stuff). 

BTW, what’s the ‘Z’ stand for?

Ciao!  - Tebaldi

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By Joan, May 29, 2007 at 12:07 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

I sort of disagree with your approach. I think it was important for the world to hear this message about religion and violence. I could see it shelved by the few Muslim clerics who may have attended such a discussion. Done privately, they could deny it ever happened or spin it to their own point of view. What the pope was elucidating is not something these clerics are not fully aware of to begin with. I am certain they well understand the tenets of their religion. Also this violence is a worldwide problem and the discussion should be as public as possible to protect the players and bring into play peer pressure etc. It happened publicly and all Muslim clergy could have risen to the occasion, invited or not, to denounce terrorism. They have not, not a one has made the world its audience to renounce the violence in the name of Islam. This is not by happenstance or because the pope did not invite them to tea.  If Islam deems such behavior as unacceptable, I have no doubt that Muslim clergy would be shouting from the rooftops, condemning terrorism, invitations for private audiences with the pope notwithstanding. If the terrorism we are seeing today was unacceptable in Islam, Muslim clergy certainly do not need the pope or anyone else to enlighten them. 

Regarding Muslims and protesting…Given the reaction to the Danish cartoons which was certainly orchestrated and the response to the pope’s remarks, I think the Arab street is well versed in public protest. 

I think we did pretty much did pull out of Saudi Arabia due to 9/11…I did not follow this situation entirely so I may be incorrect but as I see it from where I sit I think 9/11 and the events that followed were the major motivations in getting us out of Saudi Arabia.

Well you enjoy a special perspective on the actual situation in Iraq in the first few months that few of us here in the states were privy too. And I certainly hope there was some appreciation but why was it so short lived? Some of it was our fault surely with certain tactics that the US employed but still after the fall of the likes of a “Saddam” why was the gratitude so short lived…how deep or authentic was that gratitude? Why do people liked Moqtada Sadr have so much appeal to say nothing of Zarqawi. I agree with Albright and I disagree with Sharansky that spreading democracy will cure the ills of the world. Perhaps it will theoretically but I am not sure I will see it in my lifetime. Democracy was a gift the US intended to give however the recipients must be wise enough and willing enough to cherish it. And evidently many Arabs, so tribally oriented are not so inclined. 

Poverty/terrorism…With all due respect to Bush and Bono and Tebaldi…I don’t see the poverty/terrorism connection as causally linked…the 19 Arabs who executed 9/11 were not poverty stricken and neither is Osama bin Laden…I think terrorism, at least modern day terrorism, was re-ignited by the Israelis against Britain to win the state of Israel. It was then adopted by Arafat and then the games heated up mightily…it is about nationalism, pride and humiliation and balances of power and a sense of powerlessness of a culture that was not designed to keep pace with an ever changing world and hence an ever menacing world. And the United States is mercilessly blamed for the fact that the world changes whether we like it or not. The poverty, if it is a factor at all, is somewhat self- imposed if anything. Terrorism is asymmetric warfare, which is the only warfare that Muslims in the Middle East can undertake in response to their frustrations.

Joan

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By Joan, May 28, 2007 at 2:39 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 3

Self-introspection is good for us all and in the best of all possible worlds I certainly hope it is done by all nations involved. Unfortunately there are massacres along the way as the world continues to birth itself. It seems to me that the American system, based on Greek and Roman ideas, lends itself to great deal of self-introspection…just check Borders and look at all the books on the topic about where we have gone wrong… Al Gore’s new book is good place to start.  But we need other nations to accept this challenge too. And that is hard in the Middle East that often succumbs to a psychology of victim-hood. Again look to Qatar and the Emirates to maybe becoming the city on the hill, a model for other Arab countries.  I don’t think our ideas here are all that far apart, “T”. 


Joan

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By Joan, May 28, 2007 at 2:36 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 2

I agree that we have to address underlying reasons beneath the attacks. But terrorism is no longer all that effective. It has led to quagmires that have resulted in the death of numerous Muslims. The head of the serpent has now begun to devour its own body. And it does not follow that because there are reasons underlying these attacks that these are valid reasons for attacking.

The family of nations has evolved enough to provide examples for “up and coming” nations or opportunities for aggrieved nations about how to govern and expand profitably, if these nations are looking for such answers to help themselves, or resolve differences through certain channels of negotiation. There are means available to negotiate between nations peacefully.  No nation gets everything it wants in a negotiation but we have to settle so we have worldwide peace. I think our Muslim brothers in certain parts of the world need to make a reality check.  The world moves forward not because America controls the world. America and Western cultures prosper and grow strong because they have governments, religions or ethical systems and economic policies that are fluid enough to accommodate these world changes. If Islamic nations are not growing and keeping up, it is not because the world is against them, as they like to believe and lament. I see several reasons like unprofitable dictatorships.Their leaders too often get involved in proxy wars. First, they are pawns of the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War and now they are pawns of America and Iran in Iraq, Lebanon, and with the Palestinians.  There are also problems internal to Islam such as the fact that Islam teaches its followers to accept cruel dictatorships as the will of Allah. If everything that happens to you, you explain away as the will of Allah, you have no responsibility yourself to make your life better.  This type of thinking is antithetical to Western thought. We believe we are captains of our destinies so to speak and we have an underlying spirituality or ethic that permits change as long was we do so within certain ethical parameters as well as political and economic systems that permit growth. These ethical parameters are also reflected in our constitutions.  Of course all of this is more complex.  But the reasons for 9/11 do not mean the bombings are justified or the reasons behind it are valid and that that approach to dealing with problems by bombing is rational, effective or instrumental in making the gains these terrorists hope to achieve, just because terrorists bomb people. Were the ayatollahs to condemn these acts, I believe we would have negotiated our way out of Iraq by now. The problem with terrorism as leverage is that people become inured to the atrocities and the acts become less effective. The terrorists then grow more provocative and Western countries are forced to stay in the conflict so as not to reward such behavior with perceived victories for terrorism. This is the very problem with the insurgency in Iraq and Israel. I fear this cycle and that none of this will end well if they do not sit down and earnestly try to resolve their differences. But terrorists and some Muslims believe in their bravado too much, a lot like the Southerners in the Civil War.


Joan

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By Joan, May 28, 2007 at 2:16 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 1

I agree—- it is tricky to condemn the actions seemingly permitted by another’s religion. That being said, I still as an ethicist, have 2 axes to grind here. First, the ayatollahs did not condemn terrorism outright and second, regarding any negative reactions they may have had to 9/11, they did not make shots heard around the world the way the pope did.  Now what happened on 9/11 doesn’t really pose any ethical dilemmas that I can see. It is a universal moral principle that we are not permitted to murder people. This is not some foggy ethical area that scholars have been trying to elucidate for centuries. It is pretty straightforward. So what is the hesitation of the Muslim clergy to condemn this act? To me their failure to do so makes a fair argument here in support of Harris. There seem to be religious teachings of their prophet that authorize killing defenseless, innocent people in the name of Islam, a likely reason the ayatollahs could not outright disavow the behavior of the terrorists involved in 9/11. And this is dangerous to world security. The world really cannot accept these kinds of religious teachings.

About condemning religions…give me a break here. Christians today here are still apologizing for the Crusades that were battles fought to retrieve lands lost by Muslim conquest in the first place. (It is Islam that began to spread its wings in the late 7th century trying to wipe out the experiment of Roman government and citizenship et al, spreading itself across Europe to Andalusia with great violence, destroying holy sites of other Abrahamic religions, building the Dome of the Rock out of destroyed Christian churches over the sacred Jewish Temple Mount, asserting unquestioned Islamic dominion over other religions, believing this is the rightful but unachieved destiny of Islam. This failed Islamic was alluded to by the article of the young Muslim male I mentioned in my previous post.)  How are the Crusades any different from the Palestinians trying to retrieve their lost lands?  But the overly apologetic, always guilt ridden Christians are still the only ones answering for these wars. If Christians undertook an act like 9/11 and their leaders like the pope seemed to condone this, there would be not the least hesitation to criticize such acts. For crying out loud, Christians are criticized for putting up Christmas trees and playing Christmas music in shopping malls, never mind bombing thousands.

Joan

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By Joan Z. Greiner, May 26, 2007 at 9:46 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

This Memorial Day weekend I think is a very appropriate time to salute you and thank you for your service to our country, meaning American principles and the American people like me and the others on this thread. It is the rare person who really puts himself on the line and his money where his mouth is. You evidently are one of those rare persons. Even though these words are really cheap in comparison with what you did in Iraq, thank you for the sacrifices you have made and the risks you have taken… very, very gutsy… and God bless, in keeping with the situation. (“A Christmas Carol”) LOL

Joan

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By Tebaldi, May 25, 2007 at 1:50 pm Link to this comment
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All,

Have a lovely Memorial Day weekend!

Remember the Alamo

- Tebaldi

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By Joan, May 25, 2007 at 8:52 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Let’s start with Part III…you are describing the issues connected to the Unmoved Mover. Aristotle, one of the greatest minds I have ever hard of, began this discussion in an attempt to answer the myriad of questions of our origin the like of which you have very nicely delineated.  What a hydra of questions immediately arises here and look at the infinite regressions these questions lead us to. Hence he proposed the idea of the Unmoved Mover, the mover of things for which there is no prior mover. Is this a God or a Bang? The Bang leaves us again with the question—- from whence did the Bang originate? So an eternal God answers the puzzle more effectively.

It seems man wants to fill in the blanks and hence God again comes on handy here…but man also, separate from the issue of our beginnings, experiences transcendence, a very sensual happening that is separate and distinct from the questions about our origins. These experiences presuppose the existence of another type Being that is in play and is involved with us in other interactions beyond creation. No matter creationism or evolution or some combination of both, we do not know exactly how we arrived here. We do know it is not of our own doing. Man did not create the universe or what lies within it.

For Aristotle this Unmoved Mover did not come with the baggage of imposing an ethical dominion, which I think is the major reason God is rejected today.  But to date we have not unequivocally answered the question of from whence we came…I have answered it for myself however.

As far as the Big Bang being generated by some physical properties of a preexisting universe rather than God…who generated this preexisting universe?  The Unmoved Mover? Haven’t you just brought yourself back to square 1 with that proposal?


Joan

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By Tebaldi, May 23, 2007 at 12:35 pm Link to this comment
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Re:  #71264 by Joan on 5/20 et al

Hello Joan.

Re:  Reagan/Gorbachev

Not a bad analogy, but I think that while there are egos and ideologies involved among political factions, criticizing a man’s religion is on a whole different level.  I feel that you can talk about Bob being a republican, a capitalist, a conservative, a member of the rotary club, and a country music fan; but when you talk about his faith, extra precautions must be taken.   

Re:  Where are the counter-speeches?

Here is a compilation of reactions from Moslem leaders:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5348436.stm

All these reactions, accuse the Pope of ignorance.  Interestingly, none directly condemned terrorism.  You claim this is irresponsible (I don’t necessarily disagree), but let’s look at this from a different angle. 
    If the ayatollah were to make a speech accusing Christians of being immoral, your reaction would be to say that his statement was ignorant.  Would you include a statement in your reaction calling for immoral Christians to change their ways?  On the contrary, wouldn’t this lend credence to the ayatollah’s uninformed remark? 
Having said this, I agree with all of your critical observations about Islam.  I believe that it is incumbent on Moslem leaders to ostracize those who use the Koran for evil exploits.
You touch on our political agendas that contributed to 9/11.  This act was obviously cowardly and abjectly unjust.  We’ve known how these guys operate for thousands of years.  Anyone who has read Lawrence of Arabia has a glimpse into this part of their culture.  Terrorism, however dastardly, is a very effective way of getting your point across to a superpower.  It’s impossible to justify their actions, but it is essential that we deal with their issues.  It’s easier for us to label them crazy terrorists and then blow up bunch of shit than it is to be introspective and self critical (I actually advocate a combination of the two).

    A large cog in this machine is greed and power.  Whoever holds the biggest slice of the pie in the Middle East owns a huge economic and political advantage.  The quandary is that if we bow out of the Middle East’s resource interests, China, Russia, Britain, etc. would fervently vie to fill that void.  The sad truth, I feel, is that governments are willing to suffer an occasional massacre as long as they are enjoying a slice of that pie. 
So while we are ranting and raving, outraged by the injustice, let’s turn some of that rage toward our own government and hold it to account as well. 

Having said all this, there are two points that must be made.  First, I am not advocating negotiation with terrorists.  Second, I am not saying that “we deserved it”. 

(Continued)

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By Tebaldi, May 23, 2007 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment
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(Part II) Re: #71264 by Joan on 5/20 et al

You continue to imply that I’m opposed to “ruffling feathers”.  It may seem that way sans of a deeper understanding of my point.  I suggested that a more effective way of communicating the Pope’s message, is via personal correspondence / talks with religious leaders.  I wouldn’t change the content, just the audience.  The goal is effective communication.  So if this approach ruffles fewer feathers, this merely a by-product of my approach, not an objective.  As far as the logistics of communications, I’m positive that with all of the resources of the Vatican, they could work out viable paths of communication. 

Re:  Marketing the Pope
Ha-ha!  I guess so.  I only hope that his message solves more problems than it creates.  Any communication that divides is a step in the wrong direction; it encumbers subsequent communications.
I essentially agree with you Joan.  I am also vexed by the lack of public indignation.  Especially in light of the fact that the American public has spoken against the war in Iraq (This dissension was punctuated by Carter’s recent remarks).  Perhaps the absence of protest stems from a society whose independent thought and freedom of speech is suppressed. 

As for your later postings:
I concede that it is “awfully hard to separate these acts of warfare from religion”.  When I mentioned that the Koran was a tool, I didn’t mean to dismiss it as unimportant.  On the contrary, it is pivotal. 
I don’t think we want to dissect the Palestine/Israel quagmire, fraught with senselessness, inequities, hate, and inflexibility on both sides.  The “path to peace” has turned out to be a road to nowhere. 
I hope that you’re not suggesting that we just up and left Saudi at the behest of protesters and have no direct involvement.  If so, you’ve got bogus information.


Re:  Not greeted as liberators
Au contraire, mon frair.  I’m not sure which battalion you were with as you crossed the Iraq border on day 1 of the ground war, but my convoy was greeted by elated children and their hopeful parents.  It was the high point of my first Iraqi freedom tour.  Of course this is overshadowed by the tragedies that ensued, but for six months or so, we enjoyed their appreciation and admiration.
Although I haven’t read those particular books, I am fairly conscious of the problems with imposing a different form of government on a country.  I agree with Ms. Albright - “imposing democracy is an oxymoron”.  This is a whole different discussion though. 

 
I completely agree that cultural values are central to a multi-pronged approach.  I believe I termed it, “learned behavior”.  Quite possibly the hardest issue to overcome.

Re:  Poverty/terrorism
You’re continued doubts about the poverty/terrorism connection prompted me to conduct a comprehensive, academic, and detailed study.  (Well, actually I just googled it and read a few articles.)  At any rate, I learned that my position is not popular opinion.  Also to my surprise, I learned that among the unlikely supporters of my position, I am joined by Bush and Bono. 

  (Continued)

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By Tebaldi, May 23, 2007 at 12:28 pm Link to this comment
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(Part III) Re:  #71264 by Joan on 5/20 et al

I already wrote the following paragraphs before you closed on the discussion.  If I don’t share it with someone, it ceases to have meaning - like the tree that falls in the woods.  After reading this, you may conclude that it has no meaning regardless smile.
I don’t know if this argument has been posed (I assume it has). 
When we try to account for why there is stuff, and we reasonably hypothesize that it was the Big Bang, why do people feel the need to postulate a cause for it?  Why create another level of ambiguity by conceiving God?  Why don’t we then conceive something else (possibly the flying spaghetti monster) that might have created God?  Hell, let’s add another level by conceiving a creator of the spaghetti monster – we’ll call it Quavstax (a close pronunciation, but its real name transcends earthly capabilities to articulate)…  How far should our imagination take us?  It is not very palatable to accept that a cold, unfeeling singularity was responsible for our existence instead of a sentient being.  But God and the Big Bang share an equal likelihood for existing from nothing. 
    The counterargument might be that it is just as likely that God was not created; He has always existed.  What was He doing prior to our creation?  Perhaps monitoring another ‘universe’ in a remote section of the greater expanse of time and space (possibly in a different dimension).  The concept of infinite space/time hurts my head. 
Nothingness eludes me as well.  Even if there were no matter, wouldn’t there still be space and time?  They are something, aren’t they?  Or is infinite space and time part of the definition of nothing?  How do you conceive of nothing?  If you were to exist in the midst of nothing, what temperature would it be?  If you can measure the temperature of nothing, how can it be nothing.  Wouldn’t nothing have no temperature?  How is this possible?  This also hurts my head. 
If I can’t conceive of nothing, is it reasonable to guess that nothingness can not be fully achieved (paradoxically - it can’t exist).  So through this babbling chatter, I’ve managed to transform, “why isn’t there nothing” into “there can’t be nothing”.  From this conclusion, we can now say that something was always there.  This solves a lot of problems.  Not the least of which is the assumption that we can fathom all these ‘somethings’ in various pressures/temperatures/dimensions over an infinite period of time exposed to unknown phenomena.  Now you apply the 100 monkeys rule… and shazam! 
From here, I need to modify my statement.  It can no longer read, “God and the Big Bang share an equal likelihood for existing from nothing”.  We’ll say … assuming that something has always been there, the Big Bang seems to have more of a likelihood of being spontaneously generated by physical properties of the preexisting universe than by the hand of God.  Or… this is some sort of elaborate cognitive dissonance on my behalf?

- Tebaldi

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By Joan, May 21, 2007 at 8:43 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 2

Why is there a failure to thrive in some swaths of the world? Not because money or opportunity has not been offered. Regarding poor African nations there is what “The Economist” calls donor fatigue among the wealthier nations. Millions of dollars and tons of grain et al have been given in assistance over decades. To what end????  So much of it is seemingly wasted. Is the Christian based notion of the helping hand underpinning Western culture unhelpful in getting countries up and running and ultimately self sufficient?  Or is it what one young Muslim male argued in the LA Times during the Danish cartoon fiasco…namely Muslims were told Islam was to supercede the other religions as the final testament and Muslims were to be the leaders of the world, not some Christian hyper power and now some Muslims are humiliated and disappointed at their current place under the sun and are making war with the West out of a jealousy. Is it both or other factors?  I don’t really know.

Solutions…a spirituality is the making or breaking of a person and perhaps also nations. But as far as nations operating in ways to uproot terrorism and to procure our world wide peace, treating others the way you wish to be treated, whether you take these words as those of the Son of God or the son of man, they mean the same thing and if applied on a nation-state level, we may have a shot at avoiding annihilating one another. We have long way to go.

Joan

PS..sorry for the multiple postings… I was being told the posts were being rejected…go figure…

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By Joan, May 21, 2007 at 8:38 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 1

The roots of terrorism…our communication difficulties are a function of the complexity of this subject and the limitations of blogging.  For the sake of discussion when I am discussing terrorism, I am really just talking about those acts aimed against the US, and our interests, not including the Tamil Tigers of whom I have only scant knowledge.

Certainly Islamic terrorism is asymmetrical warfare fought to secure several agendas that are not related to religion directly. On the flip side of the coin, it is awfully hard to separate these acts of warfare from religion. Suicide bombing done by Palestinians is a good case in point. It is done in response to Israeli policy. Because of this, it is blessed by Islam as an act of martyrdom.  As I understand it, the Koran directs that only soldiers can be attacked. But to make these bombings more effective, more horrifying in other words, all Israelis are now considered soldiers, women and I guess, children as they are all at some point to serve in the Israeli military. That Islam blesses this type of bombing is pivotal to war strategy. So at times in this region of the world that is so dependent on asymmetric warfare tactics, religion cannot be separated from warlike behavior for very long. Christianity with its sense of humanitarianism under girds some of the war discussion about torture and its unacceptability. Hence our challenges to the government about torture.

Some Muslim clergy disavowed bin Laden because he did harm innocent civilians but their voices were not loud enough stop the crown of sainthood he acquired in the eyes of other Muslims. If bin Laden’s attack on 9/11 had been collectively and roundly condemned by Muslims, what would our world look like today?


How to resolve problems underlying terrorism…I don’t know. Ehud Barak virtually offered Arafat a Palestinian state. The offer was refused. The US left Saudi soil and acts of terrorism did not stop when we withdrew. The Saudi kingdom, not impoverished by any means, was itself attacked.  We were not greeted as liberators when we overthrew Hussein, an abomination of a person and the main reason we planted ourselves in Saudi Arabia to begin with,  and offered these Iraqis control over their lives, a way to live without solving every dispute with bloodshed. The UN and NGO’s are assaulted. Without the insurgency in Iraq the US would be long gone I suspect. The insurgency itself keeps the US there. I don’t think there are any obvious answers about how to stop terrorism. Fighting poverty is always a good idea but I don’t see poverty as the root of terrorism. I see more cultural values as the issue to be addressed.  Natan Sharansky wrote a book called “The Case for Democracy” in which you will find ideas like correcting dictatorships and all will be well etc. argued but the aftermath of the fall of Hussein challenges these arguments. Also Fareed Zakharia, the editor of foreign affairs for Newsweek, wrote a book, “The Future of Freedom” which discusses the difficulty of spreading liberal democracy in third world countries. Both authors offer good insights into the complexties at hand.

Joan

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By Joan, May 21, 2007 at 8:24 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 2

On the last hand, no other world leaders had the gumption to address the faction of Islam that is not a peaceful ideology. Maybe for the best. Maybe the pope was the guy who it was decided would and could take the hit. Built into the spirituality of Islam is the talk of spiritual supremacy and conquest by the sword and this is a component of the terrorism and the asymmetrical warfare the jihadis employ. For the sake of world peace this aspect of Islam needs to be addressed and my hope is that it will be.

All in all when I assess events like 9/11 I cut world leaders a fare amount of slack. I don’t think they can be expected to know exactly how to handle these catastrophes.  If their approach seems reasonable, I cannot fault them for the consequences which is basically why I reject moral systems that make rightness a function of results. In this case ruffling Muslim feathers should not be a deterrent. We cannot not say what needs to be said because some people will get annoyed. Raising teenagers taught me that little lesson in life. And you have no way of determining that your approach would have even gotten anyone’s attention at all. His certainly did.

Joan

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By Joan, May 21, 2007 at 8:12 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 1

The pope could have handled it better…well, maybe. But here I have the octopus response…

On the one hand, in a 90 minute period 3,000+ defenseless Americans were horribly killed in front of the world and many rescuers were left with lung disease et al. by the actions undertaken by Muslim jihadis who actually were not economically disadvantaged but were the educated and religiously devout cream of the Saudi crop for the most part…the mastermind, an Egyptian engineer, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, was educated in America to my recollection. BUT of course we in the West when responding to this horrific act should say nothing to ruffle feathers of a certain contingent of Muslims who have God’s permission to… well, you know…. kill thousands of people who are not to blame for the problems of the Middle East compared to the ones initiated by one Muslim in particularly Saddam Hussein with his excursions into Muslim countries that led to our military presence in the Middle East. 

On the other hand, could the pope have been more subtle? Perhaps. But no matter what he said all people are responsible for their behavior. And it seems to me there is a certain contingent of Muslims who are not willing to hear any other perspective no matter what is said and believe they are entitled to rampage and intimidate, if someone challenges them or disagrees with them. I see this as having nothing to do with economics or deprivation. There are literally millions of poor and uneducated Chinese or Indians who never behave this way. 

On another hand, did the pope use a cannon to kill a mosquito? No.  Given the magnitude of the assaults and the threats of future ones, he was entitled to fire a shot heard around the world. You are looking for the precision of a sharpshooter whose aim would not ruffle feathers while being consummately effective. Well that would be nice. I am not sure he or anyone else for that matter could figure out the message that would be delivered with the accuracy of a sharpshooter. And why think any Muslim cleric would go to the Vatican for a talk about a problem with Islam? How do you know he did not try this and was unsuccessful? After he did fire his shot, however, Muslim clerics met with him almost immediately because he delivered a message they could not ignore. His message, I suspect, will always be remembered by Islam. So from a marketing perspective, he was perhaps very successful. 

Yet on still another hand, factions of Islam declared war on the US and Western culture on 9/11. Jihadis threw down their gauntlets. This declaration was never pervasively disavowed by the leadership Islam does have. Wars are sloppy and our new sanitized way of fighting these wars with computer tracking surgical hits only takes you so far. We cannot really think wars will be fought by sharpshooters alone as is obvious by the mess in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s’ “enamoration” with sharpshooting as opposed to Powell’s overwhelming force is at the bottom of this mess. It is a certain faction of Islam that is making war on the West.

Joan

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By Joan, May 20, 2007 at 11:32 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 1

The pope could have handled it better…well, maybe. But here I have the octopus response…

On the one hand, in a 90 minute period 3,000+ defenseless Americans were horribly killed in front of the world and many rescuers were left with lung disease et al. by the actions undertaken by Muslim jihadis who actually were not economically disadvantaged but were the educated and religiously devout cream of the Saudi crop for the most part…the mastermind, an Egyptian engineer, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, was educated in America to my recollection. BUT of course we in the West when responding to this horrific act should say nothing to ruffle feathers of a certain contingent of Muslims who have God’s permission to… well, you know…. kill thousands of people who are not to blame for the problems of the Middle East compared to the ones initiated by one Muslim in particularly Saddam Hussein with his excursions into Muslim countries that led to our military presence in the Middle East. 

On the other hand, could the pope have been more subtle? Perhaps. But no matter what he said all people are responsible for their behavior. And it seems to me there is a certain contingent of Muslims who are not willing to hear any other perspective no matter what is said and believe they are entitled to rampage and murder others, if someone challenges them or disagrees with them. I see this as having nothing to do with economics or deprivation. There are literally millions of poor and uneducated Chinese or Indians who never behave this way. 


On another hand, did the pope use a cannon to kill a mosquito? No.  Given the magnitude of the assaults and the threats of future ones, he was entitled to fire a shot heard around the world. You are looking for the precision of a sharpshooter whose aim would not ruffle feathers while being consummately effective. Well that would be nice. I am no sure he could figure out the message that would be delivered with the accuracy of a sharpshooter. And why think any Muslim cleric would go to the Vatican for a talk about a problem with Islam? How do you know he did not try this and was unsuccessful? After he did fire his shot, however, Muslim clerics met with him almost immediately because he delivered a message they could not ignore. His message, I suspect, will always be remembered by Islam. So from a marketing perspective, he was perhaps very successful. 

Yet on still another hand, factions of Islam declared war on the US and Western culture on 9/11. Jihadis threw down their gauntlets. This declaration was never pervasively disavowed by the leadership Islam does have. Wars are sloppy and our new sanitized way of fighting these wars with computer tracking surgical hits only takes you so far. We cannot really think wars will be fought by sharpshooters alone as is obvious by the mess in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s’ “enamoration” with sharpshooting as opposed to Powell’s overwhelming force is at the bottom of this mess.

Joan

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By Joan, May 20, 2007 at 11:29 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 1

The pope could have handled it better…well, maybe. But here I have the octopus response…

On the one hand, in a 90 minute period 3,000+ defenseless Americans were horribly killed in front of the world and many rescuers were left with lung disease et al. by the actions undertaken by Muslim jihadis who actually were not economically disadvantaged but were the educated and religiously devout cream of the Saudi crop for the most part…the mastermind, an Egyptian engineer, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, was educated in America to my recollection. BUT of course we in the West when responding to this horrific act should say nothing to ruffle feathers of a certain contingent of Muslims who have God’s permission to… well, you know…. kill thousands of people who are not to blame for the problems of the Middle East compared to the ones initiated by one Muslim in particularly Saddam Hussein with his excursions into Muslim countries that led to our military presence in the Middle East. 

On the other hand, could the pope have been more subtle? Perhaps. But no matter what he said all people are responsible for their behavior. And it seems to me there is a certain contingent of Muslims who are not willing to hear any other perspective no matter what is said and believe they are entitled to rampage and murder others, if someone challenges them or disagrees with them. I see this as having nothing to do with economics or deprivation. There are literally millions of poor and uneducated Chinese or Indians who never behave this way. 


On another hand, did the pope use a cannon to kill a mosquito? No.  Given the magnitude of the assaults and the threats of future ones, he was entitled to fire a shot heard around the world. You are looking for the precision of a sharpshooter whose aim would not ruffle feathers while being consummately effective. Well that would be nice. I am no sure he could figure out the message that would be delivered with the accuracy of a sharpshooter. And why think any Muslim cleric would go to the Vatican for a talk about a problem with Islam? How do you know he did not try this and was unsuccessful? After he did fire his shot, however, Muslim clerics met with him almost immediately because he delivered a message they could not ignore. His message, I suspect, will always be remembered by Islam. So from a marketing perspective, he was perhaps very successful. 

Yet on still another hand, factions of Islam declared war on the US and Western culture on 9/11. Jihadis threw down their gauntlets. This declaration was never pervasively disavowed by the leadership Islam does have. Wars are sloppy and our new sanitized way of fighting these wars with computer tracking surgical hits only takes us so far. We cannot really think wars will be fought by sharpshooters alone as is obvious by the mess in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s’ “enamoration” with sharpshooting as opposed to Powell’s overwhelming force is at the bottom of this mess.

Joan

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By Joan, May 20, 2007 at 11:15 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,


The pope…We think the pope should do different things… I think he, as a public figure, was speaking to Muslim theologians and Muslims in general. This not much different to me than President Reagan, referring to the Berlin wall, challenging Gorbachev publicly, to tear down this wall.

Islam and violence…I did not say Islam was bad…please be careful with my wording…I say only what I mean to say.


Two points….

First,  I agree with you that for some jihadi there are political, economic and a panoply of motivations for their actions. To use the kind of violence some Muslims are using in their asymmetrical warfare they need an ethic that says it is OK. Islam is the ethic being used to do so. That is my first point… the moral agent cannot operate in conflict with his morality so in this case Islam is the morality that permits things like suicide bombing of innocents. Recruits for this deed are honored for being martyrs. It is particularly hard for any ethical system to bless the killing of the defenseless regardless of how just the warfare. Only Allah could ever absolve someone of such a crime against humanity as blowing up a school and killing kindergartners, if anyone could ever find a rationale to absolve such an act.  Saudi religious police did refuse to let little girls out of a burning school because the little girls could not get into the abayas etc. Many little girls died in that fire. You have made my point beautifully—the problem with Islam not taking a firm stand against such acts. God is better used to condemn such acts.

Second point…bin Ladin and some of his serious followers are extremely religious, extremely so and are attendant to a school of thought in Islam with theological backing for conquest of non Muslims and the restoration of a caliphate. The second point is that religion is at the bottom of certain jihadis’ ambitions and their violence on behalf of their religion is not being officially denounced.

Although Islam does not have a single centralized figure like the pope, it has many influential religious leaders whose words are held to be as sacred and where are their voices? If our conception of Islam as an ideology (and not specific Muslims who are not violent and abhor such behavior) is that Islam is violent is incorrect why is there no counter speech to the pope about the peaceful Islam?

The Koran is not like the Bible. The Koran is the actual word of God for the Muslim. The Bible is not the literal word of God for the Christian.  This is a crucial distinction as to how the books must be approached by their respective followers. From where I sit, Islam has a problem and I am not alone in recognizing the dilemma—- either renounce the violence Islam seems to condone in the Koran or renounce the actual word of God in the Koran.

Who gives the message about violence and Islam…Well it seems to me the pope delivered the message that we don’t want religions being violent in the name of God. But for the reasons you explained, you think the pope missed the mark. I think he was a perfect messenger. He is a public figure, a world player and a prominent theologian. I think these are pretty good credentials for addressing the world about using God to condone violence. I don’t believe the idea is for us to engage Islam in talks but more for the talks to be held within Islam itself, much like the Saudi project of deprogramming soft jihadis, as I explained in my previous post.     


Joan

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By Joan, May 17, 2007 at 3:57 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

I am wrapping up some responses to you re: terrorism and the pope and will post them soon…regarding to believe or not to believe, I really have no other words for you. I am sure one day you will be able to satisfy yourself here.

joan

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By Tebaldi, May 17, 2007 at 8:28 am Link to this comment
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Hello Joan

Re:  unwilling to accept…
Got it.

Re:  God/Chameleon
Hmmm… Got it. 

Re:  Why this world
Interesting argument, albeit a bit fanciful.  Beauty is relative.  If the world were half as beautiful as it is, we would still say that is beautiful.  Conversely, the world could be twice as beautiful.

Do I believe that there was no Deliberate Intention?  Uh, I thought we’ve already been this route.  Shall we revisit our old arguments?  If the world wasn’t stable, balanced, and precise, we wouldn’t be talking about it.  The universe is infinite in both time and space.  Somewhere in the middle of infinity something extraordinary occurred.  But when we look at ‘extraordinary’ with in the context of infinity, is it really extraordinary?  Put otherwise, if you get a hundred monkeys banging on typewriters…  Again, the only thing I can’t wrap my arms around is… why is there stuff?  This simple query negates the preceding point (Thus, the duality of my thoughts).  My feeble mind can’t overcome this impasse.  One attractive hypothesis is the nihilist/zero ontology/zero sum approach, but I am apprehensive about accepting the premise (Partially because its architects appear to have partaken in LSD).  Many see this question as unanswerable.
If I were to postulate that stuff = God, I would have to wonder if anyone can know Him – an ancient argument.  Despite your remonstration, it seems He has no overt desire for me to know Him.  Does He really want us to praise Him?  Perhaps he is more humble that you give him credit for.  What tool or avenue shall I pursue to know Him?  I have to relegate the ‘word of God’ to the word of man – to me, this is evident.  What does that leave?  Shall I accept your ‘knowledge’?  The Pope’s?  After all, we both know what Joan Doe says. 
I am prepared to accept that God made the universe.  Beyond this, He is enigmatic.  (Your lovely explications notwithstanding)

Your retort to Roberts, “why limit your gods?” confuses me.  He is saying that he doesn’t believe in the flying spaghetti monster god.  If you understand why he doesn’t believe in him (her?), you can understand why he doesn’t believe in your god.  Now you are saying that he should indeed believe in the pasta deity? 

For the record, I don’t wish to reduce nor eliminate God.  Further, I have no desire not to know Him (pardon the verbiage).  These “walls” that you speak of are not intentional, as you suggest.  I’ve said this countless times, I have no reason not to believe in God, save my perceptions.  I have no reason to block Him out.  What could I possibly have to lose?  If you wish to put holes in my perceptions, have at it.  But don’t suggest that I actively resist Him.  You are morphing my situation into a Tebaldi v God conflict; do you take me for a halfwit?  I most assuredly place the “Pick a fight with God” idea in the things-not-to-do column.  Incidentally, I never said that God was ignoring me, just not responding on my wavelength.  (Yes, I know.  I’m not on the right channel.) 

I suggest that you are vexed because you see a thoughtful, semi-intelligent, caring, and moral (not to mention modest) man not receiving (you would say I’m not open to receipt) the bounty of God.  Instead of shrugging your shoulders, you conclude that I am at fault.  Why does it have to be somebody’s fault?  Why can’t this simply be an enigma?  How can you know what God’s plan is for me?  Perhaps He is conducting an experiment.  As you’ve said, God doesn’t want/expect you to go through this angst. 

Re:  Miracle
Mayhap.  At a minimum it is a wonderful journey.

Ciao!  - Tebaldi

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By Tebaldi, May 16, 2007 at 8:31 am Link to this comment
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Re:  #69151 & #69434 by Joan on 5/10&11;
Hi Joan,

There seems to be a great deal of miscommunication here.  I don’t hold fault with the Pope’s message, I just don’t like the delivery.  I’m all about the theologians “slugging it out” (metaphorically).  Incidentally, I have the utmost respect for the Vatican.  I think it is probably the least corrupt large organization in the world.  Although I disagree with some of the Pope’s positions, I have a profound respect for him.

Re:  “Catholicism has a rich legacy of religious debate among its theologians and what Benedict was doing is commonplace within religions.”
What he was doing was addressing a serious problem to the wrong audience, in front of the whole world.  If you’ve got a problem with someone, have the fortitude to look them in the eye – or the wisdom to conduct the dialogue through personal correspondence. 

Here’s what I meant by you accepting terrorist’s claims:  A terrorist blows up a kindergarten.  He says that he did it on behalf of Allah, and you say that Islam is bad.  I’m pretty sure you won’t find anything in the Koran that would substantiate this atrocity.  He committed this evil using the Koran as a tool and a scapegoat. 
Of course I agree that the Koran (and the Bible) have counterproductive messages, and should be taken less literally. 

How much of this terrorism is purely in the name of religion, and not mired in politics?
“…overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign—over 95 percent of all the incidents—has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw.”  – Robert Pape, University of Chicago http://www.amconmag.com/2005_07_18/article.html

I agree that the world has a responsibility to demand that innocents are not threatened.  This and a quarter will buy us a cup of coffee ($3.50 if you want Starbucks).  Of whom will we demand this?  Who will deliver the message?  Why would they listen to him/her?  How will we enforce our demands?  How will we reach our intended audience?
There is no central figure among Moslems as there is with Catholicism.  Religious leaders / scholars differ in their ideology from Mosque to Mosque, village to village, country to country.  They range from the oppressive Saudi Arabian ideology to the comparatively lax Kuwaitis.  Their hierarchy is obscure.  Initiating a comprehensive communication network is not an easy task.  The average Middle Eastern Moslem is, at best, going to be distrustful of a U.N. representative (or a Pope) making demands on behalf of the world leaders. 
You’re right, I don’t have formal religious training, save philosophy 101, and the spattering of church services I’ve attended.  But I’ve read enough, and seen enough, to know that engaging Islam in talks would be extremely convoluted.  The efficacy of such an undertaking is all but unknown.
Having said this, I completely agree that we need to maintain dialogue with Islam as one tine of the aforementioned multi-pronged effort.  Communication is the key to understanding and tolerance.

(Continued)

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By Tebaldi, May 16, 2007 at 8:29 am Link to this comment
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(Part II) Re:  #69151 & #69434 by Joan on 5/10&11;
You seem to have the impression that I don’t grasp the gravity of the problem.  You think that I’m offering a touchy-feely solution.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The point I’m trying to make is that opposition begets opposition – which not only gets you precisely nowhere, it can push you deeper and deeper into the hole that is hard enough to get out of in the first place.  The Pope’s message is vital, but needs to be made clear through dialogue with wisely specified leaders.  His speech was a shotgun blast, not aimed fire.  You can measure it’s effectiveness by the results – a bunch of pissed off Moslems.  I share your hopes, that some pivotal Moslems got the message and are mulling it over; if I were king for a day, I would make damn sure that I did everything in my power to effectively communicate this.

Where is the collective rejection?  This is a complicated question – countless factors.  Not the least of which is personal responsibility.  Obviously there are some who are glad to see the infidels loose political ground.  Those who object to terrorism may not speak out because they fear reciprocity.  They may feel like they can’t have any effect.  They may be embarrassed by it and wish not to call it to light.  The aforementioned disorganized structure of Islam probably plays a part.  I’ve spoke with average Joe’s in three different Middle-Eastern countries; cultural and ideological differences notwithstanding, they are pretty much just like you and me.  Many of them do indeed renounce their brethren’s actions, but not on an organized scale.  They tend to see things on a tribal level not national, and certainly not global. 
  On this note, you accuse me of ignorance (and I agree), but having hugged an Iraqi child in the holy land, and exchanged pleasantries with local goat herders – I think I bring a very personal element to our table. 

Re:  Terrorists are not the lower rungs of society
I speak of the recruits not the recruiters.  You’re right, the later are often educated.  These whackos should be taken care of by the military or more ideally, ousted by a grassroots effort.  If we can educate the laymen, perhaps we can mitigate recruitment.

Re:  You sociological analysis is pretty far a field
Of the following causes, “Economic stress, lack of education, perceived injustices (real or unreal) and learned behavior”, which are in dispute?  What am I missing? 
You follow this with a lesson on injustices, the bulk of which I was already familiar.  Do you have the impression that I think everything is peaches & cream over there? 

I respect your zealous reaction to this monumental issue, and I agree with the bulk of your comments.  I feel that a less militant, approach is in order.  Indeed, these are desperate times, but let’s not resort to desperation just yet.  I’m advocating a scholarly, thoughtful and comprehensive solution that aggressively attacks the issue from every angle - Wiser utilization of resources and money, no bullshit dialogue, emboldening prudent Moslem leaders, a goal towards ending manipulation/occupation by governments and corporations, and an effective education campaign.  Above all, leaders need to spend a lot more time in an effort to understand the mindset of the different factions.  Know (and love) thine enemy.  Idealistic?  Perhaps, but I guess it makes me sleep better at night.

Ciao!  - Tebaldi

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By Joan, May 14, 2007 at 5:35 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 4


I have learned by dialoging with you for months that it is particularly hard for you to open up to new lines of thought about things you discuss. You are a word warrior and battle to the death for your ideas and beliefs. Me too. Maani too. We are all pretty much like that, unwilling to yield, aren’t we? Because of what I have tasted in life however I had to change my ideas and I did. I learned that we all do have a story worth listening to and we can learn something good from anyone. So now for me it does not take drama to learn about things from some else. While doing this, I also learned that most people, all things being equal, when looked at with an open mind and an understanding heart really sparkle in their own ways. I have also learned that God too has His story.

Didn’t see the debate…wish I had. I don’t think Sharpton is a match for Dawkins. 

This last week I have inundated you. Take your time. I am not going anywhere.

Joan

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By Joan, May 14, 2007 at 5:31 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 3

How many gods…man was wired to believe in gods, place his faith and salvation in what is bigger then man is … be these gods be science, money, ambition, ourselves like the Hollywood set, being thin or having low cholesterol, doctors…(When I get a chance, I am going to investigate something called neuro- theology) …to Stephen Roberts I would ask…why limit your gods? This discussion will bring us back to reductionism. Unfortunately the major religions have reduced God to the equivalent of a morality beat cop, Who is always lurking over your shoulder trying to find ways to whack you with a club. God has been reduced to the One who made you with many flaws and then is “johnny on the spot”, always ready to knock the “bejesus” out of you if you are flawed. What a demonic plan.  When I say the major religions need major overhauling, I really mean it—for God’s sake as well as man’s. God is all the blood and diversity coursing our veins. At any given moment He is the joy and trepidation and inquisitiveness and excitement and mischief and potential harm we can do. And we are expected, like He exacts of Himself, to choose to do no harm, as it is hurtful to the species that is designed to survive.  We are His little godlettes whose strings He will not pull like a master puppeteer. He has given us the instinct of conscience to help us along but we decide parallel to the way He too also decides a course of action. To those who want to reduce and eliminate God, have it at. But I think it is their lose. But for those with any interest in getting to know Him, maybe it is a better approach to walk through doors that are open to Him rather than the ones that are closed in His Face, while musing about not being dealt the card of faith. Is He supposed to deal the card of faith through all walls intentionally built to keep Him out? Run an obstacle course?  Isn’t that expectation a little much? Are you just more or less putting it to Him, making Him jump through hoops. I don’t think He will engage with you in that kind of relationship. I think He has opened the doors wide open for you at this brief moment on time. As for dealing cards of faith, I believe that He visits moments of transcendence and union with Him on us all.  We have to begin to recognize them too. I have to honest with you here. You don’t seem to have too much warmth for Yahweh. Although He is the epitome of dignity and humility, He is not going to dance around you with rings of fire while you tell Him to entertain you with burning bushes and to enrapture you as a condition for you to take Him seriously. I see Him taking your interest in Him very seriously here, more seriously than you are taking it.  But your seeming demand that for you to believe He should execute some almost miracle through which He enraptures you is a lot to ask of Him. With Him anything can happen, that’s for sure. But as much as He is a loose cannon and is creative in His approaches, He is very often every day and mundane as He works us for reasons already explained. But I really don’t think I can ever hear from you that He is indifferent to you.  Personally through this dialogue, I think you have had your miracle.

Joan

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By Joan, May 14, 2007 at 5:21 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 2

Why this world…what I am meaning to ask is (granting for the sake of discussion that there is God) why would God make this world like it is, namely basically man- friendly…it is beautiful (or initially was) to look at, taste and feel and hear, with birds singing in the morning and misty melancholy rains and icy ocean water, splashing your toes, and those warm breezes across your face that comb your hair. Actually the breezes generally muss my hair up but…oh well. The universe is filled with mysteries that when unlocked open the door to far more knowledge than we need in order to survive…knowledge that we just acquire for the hell of it. Project universe is cohesively designed to keep us growing cohesively in every way - emotionally and intellectually and physically and spiritually. And it can be a wondrous experience for those who do not believe in Him. He does not keep it under lock and key just for those who take up with Him or find their way to Him. The fruit (or chocolate) of the universe is open to every living human being, believer or non- believer. But my question then centers on what is His rationale for making this particular kind of universe? This universe is designed to bring us into another universe of the same order but yet a higher level of this order, His Universe - the God Dimension. This universe is an analogue to His realm, His Eternal Mind, Extraordinary Spirit and Emotion and Unlimited Power. But a kindergartner cannot understand or value the work of a Ph.D. There has to be some growth, labor and education in the years to come for the kindergartner to value or comprehend the level of sophistication the Ph.D. offers. For me this is why we have the universe we do. It is a set of human courses such that if we live through them successfully or even fail a few, we can get of glimpse of His Awesome Majesty and remember what I told you- He is like an opiate, physiologically (something Marx got right).  You will need to taste Him forever, once you have done so…so my dear “T”, we are all invited to boldly go where no one has ever gone and lived to tell about it. We are here in a specifically designed universe, a master plan, through which He walks with us whether we ask Him to or not, with the end purpose of Him sharing Himself all the more with us as an ultimate end to our endeavors here. This is totally His gig.  As someone prone to science and empiricism, I cannot help but wonder how you are not filled with a profound respect or reverence for the Genius behind the unity and precision of this work of art. You really believe seriously that all this was pulled out of the magic hat of random/natural selection without the hand of Deliberate Intention waving its Wand over it first?

Joan

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By Joan, May 14, 2007 at 5:14 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 1


Thank you for your kudos…probably ate more chocolate than usual that day…If it was a good post, I will thank the Muses…they like chocolate too.

No apology necessary…” speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others…they too have their story”...Desiderata. I am pointing out the differences between us, being more explanatory rather than taking you to task. On the one hand, God is a public figure so He is up for review as are all public figures. On the other hand, Yahweh, Christ are minimally friends of mine. And when people are in my home, I want them to respect me by respecting my special friends, whether they believe or not.  And again I do not see difference of opinion or differing of ideas as disrespectful either, just natural. 

Yahweh (as opposed to the more impersonal God) can sort of carve out a niche in your heart if He sets His Mind to it. Perhaps I am as perplexed about why He would do so for me as you are about why He did not deal you this so-called card of faith.
If you are in earnest about answering your question, to believe or not to believe, you absolutely have to get rid of your ideas about Him and let Him educate you about what He is like because He is not like what you would expect Him to be. And He may let you take Him or leave Him, which is more typical than what I experienced. But in His defense I think He has been attentive to your quandary and has been trying to let you see Him through a prism of viewpoints - the traditional image of Him and a bold new image. So I can certainly accept your deciding to table the discussion or saying I can’t see Him your way etc. What I am unwilling to accept is you maintaining Yahweh is ignoring you. 

I see that all spiritualities/religions capture SOME of Him but no spirituality or religion captures ALL of Him. And, yes, He is a bit of a chameleon. He becomes what we need Him to be while He keeps the Aristotelian “essential” qualities, meaning… He has those qualities that make Him Almighty God and those essential qualities will never change. But we, His little “godlettes”, are like this, too. We are what those we love need us to be, consoling or demanding, silly or serious whatever those around us drain out of our souls at any given moment while we have a certain essence that will not change.  Unfortunately, He is exploited by those who want to exercise ultimate power over people and use the fear of God to control the masses.  And I think there will be hell to pay for those engaged in this activity from the parent who manipulates their fearful child that God is watching and carries a big stick to the highest order clergy who use God to their own selfish ends but do not really have Him in their hearts.

Joan

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By Joan, May 12, 2007 at 9:09 am Link to this comment
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Malini,

Thank you for your good wishes…I have 2 twenty something daughters who were the making of me. My dad told me years ago when they were little that we sacrifice now for the rewards we get when our children are grown and I think he is right on. Watching the seeds you planted blossom into to lovely bouquest is very exciting.

Best wishes to you and all for a wonderful day…be good to your mothers. You may never know what they sacrifced or faced to give you what you have.

Joan

PS…here is a mystery… I have no idea how my unedited response to Queen Noor of Jordan at the CNN.com site found its way to truthgdig…but if you have not heard her Mother’s Day speech, it is worth checking out…I would guess at CNN.com

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By Malini, May 11, 2007 at 4:47 pm Link to this comment
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Hello Ladies:

Happy Mother’s Day to all of YOU!

Hello Gentlemen:

May all the LADIES in your lives have a wonderful Mother’s Day too!

With love,

Malini

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By Joan, May 11, 2007 at 3:36 pm Link to this comment
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Tebalsi,

Part 3

“Men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the others, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because Allah has guarded them.  And for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. ” Surah 4:34 of the Koran.

“Women are your fields. Go, then into you fields as you please.” Surah 2:223 of the Koran. 

You sociological analysis is pretty far a field. Surely the Iraqis need their basic needs met but poor people are not necessarily wife beaters. Wife beaters need a morality that permits wife beating, rich or poor. Iraqi women are just as poor and they are not husband beaters.

A goodly number of insurgents in Iraq are foreigners to boot. And finally nothing but Islam explains why in Iran after the return of Ayatollah Khomeini to power, the age for a female to be married was lowered to 9. That is because the prophet married a 6 year- old girl, Aisha, and consummated the marriage when she was 9.  He was in his 50’s. Today in Iran it is not uncommon for a 9 year- old girl to be married off a man in his 50’s. This is utterly unconscionable but a way of life in which women are permitted to be beaten for not toeing the line and are just fields to be plowed for male pleasure, even to the extent that they are gang raped to settle feuds between tribes or lashed or stoned for adultery, if they cannot produce 4 male witnesses to rape. These things have occurred in the last few years. All you have to do is follow writers like Nicholas Kristof of NY Times etc, which you can get for free online…www.nytimes.com .

Check “The Trouble with Islam Today” by Irshad Manji and/or “The Caged Virgin” by Ayaan ali Hirsi. Both women are/ were Muslim.

Muslims are not being starved or badly treated by the US and Europe economically. Many have a product to market and benefit from Western petro dollars. To function in 2007, Muslims need to educate both their men and women in subjects other than the Koran and develop domestic demand and the means of production to meet demand. They need domestic markets to employ their undirected and restless male populations in order to support themselves like all the rest of us. This means they have to loosen up and let women wear pretty clothes and let people listen to music and buy CD’s etc. to develop markets for products other than nuclear reactors that lead to the development of nuclear weaponry and develop employment opportunities. We all can’t live off the fat like the Saudis have been doing. And their money is drying up. Look to Qatar and Bahrain and the Emirates to lead the way here. But I think your views here are way off base, out in left field.  Check into getting the “Economist”, instead of Time or Newsweek. It is excellent. 


Re: His eminence… Christian and Muslim youth both today will inherit this small, small world and all need to be as informed as much as possible about each other. I think it would however be a very good idea for the pope and other Christians to be more aggressive in dialoging with Islamic scholars and vice versa and I hope they do just that.

Joan

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By Joan, May 11, 2007 at 3:30 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 2


And I highly suspect that for all the righteous indignation that followed Benedict’s challenge that Islamic theologians are quietly wrestling with the theological problem their sacred text has placed in their lap. I think it is happening in Saudi Arabia, for instance, not because of 9/11 but because of the terrorism in Saudi Arabia which still provides more than its fair share of foreign fighters in Iraq as I understand it. Here is what is happening in the Saudi kingdom according to an article in June’s “The Atlantic”.  As a response to the large number of terrorist acts against the kingdom, the Saudis are disengaging their softer members of al Qaeda from terrorism as a pious act by imprisoning them but giving them access to their families and the community and having these al qaedettes debating mullahs about a kinder gentler Islam. This is monumental for a kingdom that still hangs, beheads, lashes and cuts off body parts in its athletic fields on Friday afternoons. Reason vs. violence, finally. And this is a venue for shifting the primary focus of how Islam should be applied by reason instead of resorting to torture and violence in general. It had to happen and Saudi Arabia is just an excellent place to start the ball rolling to boot. This program seems moderately successful and offers the world a real ray of hope that maybe we can resolve these cultural differences without an armageddon that conceivably no one may win or walk away from in tact.

Terrorists are not the lower rungs of society at all…Many are quite educated, some educated here in the good ole USA …

Joan

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By Joan, May 11, 2007 at 3:27 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 1

Holding a religion accountable…I unquestionably accept the word of Muslim terrorists??? That’ll be the day. In general I think I have done more in depth exploration of this issue than you may have done thus far. Of course there are many Muslims who do not condone actions of Islamic terrorists. Where exactly is their collective rejection of terrorist behavior? Why hasn’t it occurred…Whoops???!!!! Maybe because no Muslims can be bothered to address the issue that has brought us possibly the doorstep if WW3? I doubt that very much. Sacred Christian figures throughout the Western world are desecrated. There are no destructive riots and deaths when that occurs and these desecrations are then elevated to being called art, to add insult to injury. Should we expect any less decorum from the Muslims of the world or are we to defer to their religious beliefs, or else? Were the pope to issue a call to arms of any kind, I predict that there would not be the least hesitation to denounce him rabidly and any Christians who answered the call. It would resonate around the world, loud and clear, without a second thought.  Christians in Muslim countries are legally persecuted with nee’ry a peep from the Muslims. Yet no one is supposed to dare question the behavior of Muslims. Why is it that Muslims are not to be held to the same standard the papacy and Christians are held to? Certain and numerous surahs in the Koran are literal calls to arms against infidels. Again, where in the Muslim world is the collective rejection of such passages by those Muslims who oppose Islamic terrorism?  Certain unacceptable passages in the Bible have been ignored and rejected by the commentary of the New Testament and this is vital to understanding the revolution that the gospels were to mankind. This theological reconstruction has not happened yet in Islam despite all the recent carnage and the possibility of Islamic nuclear war that is on our horizon. Do you think this is just a slip up on the part of the Muslim people and their leaders? Reckless behavior on their part? I don’t think it is. I think Muslims are trapped by a book that they believe is the literal word of God and because the Koran is thought to be the literal word of God,  Muslims are not readily able to disregard the calls to arms against non Muslim people any more than Christians can disavow the precepts of Christianity. Either way Muslims will face a revolution, within their faith or a bloody one in the world that you and I ,”T”, may not escape.  Again I opt for Benedict’s approach, namely theological dialogue, ruffling Muslim feathers notwithstanding. Their terrorists have little compunction about brutal slaughter against defenseless and innocent people, women and schoolchildren for God’s sake, to make their point, secure their agendas.  And we are worried about hurting people’s feelings. PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE!!!! I am all for the theologians slugging it out,  even if a Christian theologian had to get the ball rolling.

Joan

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By Joan, May 11, 2007 at 12:53 pm Link to this comment
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My congratulations to Queen Noor for reminding us about the dignity of motherhood and how we as mothers have incredible feelings for the safety of our children that transcend home and hearth. All mothers around the world are joined in a special way under God’s gaze as a part of His plan for His people, giving His children love and safety on His behalf. Let us join againn and tell our world leaders we are tired of seeing our children being threatened and dieing. This is not why we labor for them with our loving arms and our unselfish hearts. Thank you, your Majesty,  and make sure your voice is not silenced by the bombs and gunfire and rhetoric. All mothers want the same thing for therr children, the promise of a safe and happy life. We expect our world leaders not to fail us.

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By Tebaldi, May 11, 2007 at 12:34 pm Link to this comment
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Re:  #68848 by Joan on 5/08

Joan,

What a great post.  I wore a broad smile from start to finish.  In typical Joan fashion, you express yourself poetically.  While you usually keep me reasonably captivated, this commentary flowed especially well. 

Re:  God
“insensitive to God”, “out there icon” – Excellent.  You smell what I’m stepping in. 
I apologize for speaking insensitively about God.  This is why you shouldn’t discuss religion or politics with friends.  Have you ever been talking with someone who puts down an acquaintance, not knowing that you have a relationship with the targeted individual?  The speaker feels, at worse, like he is gossiping, but you feel that the speaker is insensitive for speaking ill of your acquaintance.  I think that this parallels the dynamics of our conversation. 
It is not the intent of the orator; it is the perception of the listener that should be taken into account.  So, again, I’m sorry that my examinations offend.

Re:  3 observations
I comprehend, and can appreciate observations 1 and 3, but am a little confused with #2.  You wrote, “…think about the Mind and intent of the Author of the science you admire. Why this world?” 
First, Darwin (unless he had an ulterior / unexpressed motive) wasn’t on your blacklist of Godless scientists.  Many anthropologists I reference are not either.  Second, I don’t get your query, “why this world”; please elucidate.

Re:  what act He needs to perform
I guess the short answer is, I don’t know.  I really hate to pass this one off to the Big Guy again, but shouldn’t He know what it would take?  You say that I pass or fold, but I really don’t know what to say here.  I am a very empirical person.  I can’t help it.  It seems that I would need something… empirical.  A transcendent experience, a burning bush, a conversation, a talking llama… any one of these and a thousand more would do. 
You and Maani have given a lot of yourselves in an attempt to make me understand.  I appreciate your efforts.  You’re a trooper, tirelessly fighting the adage, “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.”  Many moons ago I said that this was not the forum for such endeavors, but I’m glad that we explored this.  I have a greater understanding. 

With all of your challenges aimed at me, I ran across this interesting quote which sort of puts the ball in your court – not my words, just food for thought:  “I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” –Stephen F. Roberts

I have a parting query for you.  How is it that peoples ideas about God can be so different?  Why do their ideas often correspond with their personalities?  A stern and serious believer feels that God is unyielding and somber.  A more lighthearted and convivial believer tends to see God as having mischievous and playful qualities. 
Put another way, “God is an artifact of the way we think about nature and the universe.” – Unknown

BTW, what did you guys think of the Sharpton – Hitchens debate?  I was impressed with the reverend (that is, until he made his bigoted remark about Mormons).

Ciao!  - Tebaldi

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By Joan, May 10, 2007 at 9:46 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 2

Re: enemies…I find that to be a strong word. I live within a profession in which disagreement is commonplace and is not threatening but I have learned that many people outside my field think if you disagree with them, you do not like them or are an enemy or think they are stupid. Not so for me. But if you are being poetical I can cut you slack here…I don’t lose any sleep over Harris. Believe me. But I was really shocked to see some of the nasty anti- Christian and anti- religion sentiment expressed on this thread. Some were directed at me personally. It was an ugly display and Harris is just fanning these flames of prejudice with his brand of so called intellectual enlightenment. The anti -religion sentiment in some people seems deep rooted and I tend not to be too cavalier about this kind of prejudice. Where will it pop up its ugly head someday? 

Harris and the Pope…I would certainly censor neither…I hope I am not giving the impression that I think Harris does not have right to voice his opinion. He does and I have a right to take him to task for purporting to present a scholarly work that is really one about prejudice and filled with sloppy scholarship. As too does the pope have right to speak authoritatively about theological issues and all the Muslims of the world should not be permitted to censor Benedict or the rest of the world for that matter. Muslims don’t have it all knocked either, from the great present day philosopher, Joannie Doe.  I don’t believe Benedict attacked Islam. He discussed the violence in Islam and the importance of our “Gods” being rational and not capricious or vicious towards mankind. Well does Islam condone violence or not? If so, how did the pope pointing this out attack Islam? If not, why doesn’t the Muslim community roundly disavow Islamic terrorists?  I don‘t see the pope and Harris doing the same work. I explained in my last post the difference in the pope’s work, giving it context. You don’t see the difference. All I can really say to your response is that although I am not generally a fan of the papacy, I realize that this pope is not a stupid man. He leads one of the top ten international corporations. I think the Catholic Church may be the 4th largest corporation in the world.  He did not rise to the top of such an institution by being stupid or politically inept. 

More to come.


Joan

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By Joan, May 10, 2007 at 9:43 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 1

So this is how you spend you lunch…heavy stuff…yes, that certainly would be me…

Re: Harris…he has left his mark on the new religion, atheism. His books may be worth a read. They are short and not difficult. You may get an idea of how flimsy his reasoning is. And you will get a good snapshot of the number of surahs in the Koran that exhort the followers of Muhammad to attack the infidels. There are numerous passages in this text that would bless the work of today’s Islamic terrorist. Contrary to your position that these folks are deviants from Islam, they have a number of passages they can appeal to derive religious acceptance of their acts. Hence the failure of the Muslims to collectively condemn acts like beheadings and 9/11. I have read the Koran years ago for job related reasons and there are some general calls for peace and exhortations for not assaulting particularly the people of the book, namely Christians and Jews as well as calls to wipe out infidels. For perspective however some Islamic terrorists claim peaceful Muslims are the ones not living in accordance with the Koran. These discrepancies are issues the Muslims must iron out internally. And the world must demand that Islam not be a threat to world safety, you know with a hostile Iran on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons and a president of Iran who believes in the return of the Mahdi, or a sort to armageddon scenario needed to accomplish that return. I don’t think Harris is off base about the dangers we are facing from religious zeal. You certainly would not be so blasé here if it were the pope calling Christians to arms against infidels, would you? Would you think you should remain silent here? I doubt that very much.

I sense that you don’t have much formal training in any religion or the humanities and are not aware that religious concepts are routinely dissected for meaning and interpretation or doctrinal debate. Probably every university humanity department has a comparative religion class. The work of Talmudic scholars probably is the largest work in this area. Catholicism has a rich legacy of religious debate among its theologians and what Benedict was doing is commonplace within religions. His bold move was pushing for such discussion across religions. Desperate times call for desperate measures. (If you remember the last Ecumenical Council stressed dialogue among all Christian sects, joining in them into a Christian brotherhood, uniting over similarity rather then alienating over doctrinal difference.) There is no automatic equation in discussing religious precepts and attacking a religion. The debates of religious precepts will rage on until the earth passes, I think. 

Joan

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By Tebaldi, May 9, 2007 at 1:41 pm Link to this comment
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Re:  #68600 by Joan on 5/07 at 9:23 am

Hello Joan

Re:  How did I wind up here?
I was screwing around on my lunch break and ran across, what seemed like an interesting article about the Pope.  After I read it, I noticed that there was a forum where folks were enthusiastically commenting about some pretty heavy stuff.  I made a couple of smart-ass comments, and the next thing I know, you guys graciously accepted me into your ka-tet.  The rest as they say…

Re:  Harris
Didn’t know he had that much of a footprint.  No one I know of knows of him (then again I run with a pretty unsophisticated crowd).  I’m still working on the classics; I have neither the time nor the inclination to read books by authors that don’t turn me on. 

Re: enemies
I used the term flippantly.  Is he not a rival of sorts?  As for my indignation, I think that dismissing Harris as a radical and not worthy of serious consideration is worse than indignation; I don’t consider him potent/credible enough to have any effect.
Of course I’ve heard of, and read some Dawkins, originator of the meme.  Although he has regrettably become increasingly less tolerant of religion, he is leaps and bounds above Harris in the credibility department.  Having said this, I was disappointed when I read his hateful comment about religion in the wake of 9/11. 
Am I incensed by their intolerance?  You betcha.  But to share my frustration with you would only be preaching to the choir. 
I empathize with you regarding the surge in, what I call militant secularism.  I share your concern of folks like Dawkins, Michel Onfray, and that British dude whose name escapes me (starts with an ‘H’).  These guys are using 9/11 as a stepping stool to turn the tides of harassment.  From the execution of Socrates to the persecution of a prospective cub scout for his refusal to swear his allegiance, non-believers have been oppressed.  Now that they enjoy somewhat of a ‘following’, they are guilty of this same sort of bullying.  It gives non-believers a bad name.  Carl Sagan should be our mentor not folks like these who perpetuate intolerance. 

You touch on an excellent point about constitutional rights that I wanted to make a while ago (but forgot).  This is essentially Freedom of Religion v Freedom of Speech.  Our forefathers, for whom I have the deepest respect and awe, came up with some fabulous ideas on how people should run their country.  I love our constitution so much, in fact, that I defended it for 20 years (Ironically, I actually ended up defending freedoms for Kuwaitis, Bosnians, and Iraqis, but that’s a tale for another forum).  So there is a conflict of constitutional rights here, which makes this a particularly difficult circumstance.  Here is how I see it:

I respect Harris’ right to print whatever the hell he wants to, as long as he is not directly putting the public in danger.  I condemn him for attacking the right for people to practice religion. 

You defend the Pope for speaking out against Islam, yet cry foul when Harris/Dawkins attacks religion.  Or is it ok to attack religion, as long as the religion is Islam?  The Pope recognized that his words were inflammatory and wisely diluted his rhetoric.  Did he realize his words could ‘incite prejudice’, as you have condemned? 

Re:  psychoanalysis
Ok.  I see how you could have construed this.  Not my intent to employ trickery, just pointing out that reductionism is not convincing enough to persuade the masses. 

(Continued)

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By Tebaldi, May 9, 2007 at 1:40 pm Link to this comment
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(Part II) Re: #68600 by Joan on 5/07 at 9:23 am

Re:  Science
I understand your views on scientists for the most part.  However, I still contend that you’re issue with scientific reductionists is an overreaction.  It is my opinion that there are enough believer and intellectually honest non-believer scientists to quantitatively refute bogus hypotheses before they become accepted theory.  Name one theory that threatens the existence of God that has not been gone over with a fine tooth comb.  You have every right to be suspect of scientists and speak your mind; but you are stating the obvious – scientists should conduct themselves honestly and with out bias.  I am consoled by the fact that scientists are bound by verifiable evidence. 
Having said this, scientific discovery often begins with, “what if?”  What drives some one to formulate this query?  If a scientist doesn’t have personal ideas (an agenda), I imagine a lot of what-ifs wouldn’t be conceptualized.  We are careful in America not to stifle religion, yet you resist extension of this sort of consideration to scientists. 

    Religious fanaticism is ubiquitous.  In my opinion, it captures weak-minded people way more efficiently than agenda-driven scientists.  There are websites designed by religious nuts that employ deception to steer the reader toward their god-related rhetoric.  They mask these sites in the veil of science, give it a scientific sounding name, suck you into the text, and… Bam!  I’ll be reading about scientific studies on monkeys, and the next thing I know, I’m being told how Darwin was wrong. 
    The worst part of this is that they target school aged kids.  How sick is that?  This is warped propaganda.  At least the scientists require evidence to support their claims and don’t target unsuspecting children. 

Re:  Holding a religion accountable
Many Muslims lament that violent acts are committed in the name of Islam.  Fanatics use Islam as their rationale, and you unquestionably accept their assertions.  If terrorists attack people in the name of Christianity, will you assault your own religious leaders? 
What do you believe is the root of terrorism?  I say it’s the terrorist.  What makes a terrorist?  The same thing that makes a wife-beater.  Economic stress, lack of education, perceived injustices (real or unreal) and learned behavior.  Instead of recognizing these CAUSES, we superficially look at a TOOL of terrorism (the Koran).
Absolutely nothing will happen until Iraqis’ basic needs are met.  You can’t reverse the violent cycle until everyone is educated to some degree.  Finally, we can’t eliminate ill-will without addressing their concerns.  Zinn, Chomsky (et al) think that we eliminate terrorism by adjusting our foreign policy – we are at fault.  This is only partially true.  Politics (which includes engaging Islamic leaders), education, and economic growth are the solution to terrorism.  One of these elements alone is not going to be effective.  A multi-pronged approach, tempered in tolerance and understanding will win the day.  I’m not discounting the effect of military action; it has its place as well. 
I’m not idealistic.  Too much damage has been done to turn this around in the foreseeable future.  A long, hard road lies ahead.  It can mirror the Israel/Palestine quagmire, or we can take a path less traveled.
Instead of holding Islam accountable, let’s engage them in dialogue.  Less wagging of fingers - more wagging of tongues. 

Re:  His eminency.
To be fair, I don’t think the pope’s words were all that incendiary.  Ill-chosen words perhaps, but clearly not malicious.  The problem, I think, lies in the forum.  These words should best be spoken in a peer setting among Islamic leaders.  Not addressing Christian youth at his alma mater. 

Have a pleasant day smile

- Tebaldi

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By Joan, May 8, 2007 at 5:13 pm Link to this comment
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Tebadi,

Part 2

I believe we are all wired for transcendence. So I do not think He dealt you out of the hand of faith. I don’t think it works that way. I believe He is always trying to ignite that little spark of Divinity within each of us. We often try to blow it out. Sometimes God comes softly, integrating Himself into our lives without fanfare and major drama. Sometimes we only notice that Hand when we need Someone bigger and stronger to help us along. And there will be waves out there we will have to ride that will be the proverbial tsunamis of our lives. But it is great to be with Him when the seas are quiet as He is a party Boy and loves celebration too. He loves to see the glint in your eye over a happy life. The first miracle Christ performed publicly was changing water to wine at a wedding, you know that which precedes sex and all, just for making it a helluva good party.  In this excitement we say things like… because of this joy, we know there is a God, too. I wish everyone could know this joy with Him and I believe it is there for the taking. 

Aeschylus, the Greek tragedian, says wisdom comes through suffering. Tribulation endured without God seems empty and futile. Tribulation is one thing seen through your eyes and another thing seen through His. Shared with Him, He again gives you a physiological peace but you additionally get a wisdom that allows you to understand the universe with much less struggle than learning all of the science. The universe understood through His agendas makes it far more meaningful, despite the beauty of learning about its nuts and bolts and basic mechanics. He answers the question “Why bother? “. You have to taste being with Him in order for being with Him to be a satisfying answer. It is not logical to deliberately make your road all the harder. (A Spockism)

I agree with you that we are here on planet Earth to immerse ourselves in its beauty. This earth, this universe is incredibly beautiful and learning of its beauty, is a way to learn about the Author of this beauty. He likes color and intricacy and bounty and starkness, calm and frenzy, rhythm and chaos. He loves all kinds of sexual behavior and all kinds of life. He makes so much of it and shares so much with all manner of being. He loves the mind and creativity for its own sake.  Relating to others is a precursor to relating to Him. The entire project is very cohesive and directed to one end, preparation for knowing and interacting with Him as fully as possible. In the end, there will be the Big Crunch when all is once again compressed and subsumed into His Oneness, remembering that for Him hell is an eternity of living with those who do not love Him.

Resolving this issue about belief is your activity. It has nothing really at all to do with me. It is a question you brought to the table and I have tried to respond to it. But in the end, it is not for me to resolve for you. I couldn’t possibly. Believing in God has helped me relate better to others. I learn from Him and also know I am not ultimately responsible for solving all human problems and meeting all human needs. Human life is lived in partnership with Divinity and He bears ultimate responsibility for human life in the end. It is easier to live knowing I am not supposed to be God. Believing in God is not a prerequisite for anyone to be my friend. I, for the most part, keep my spirituality under wraps because it is so unusual.

Joan

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By Joan, May 8, 2007 at 5:08 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 1

I feel like you are more insensitive to God rather then wishing Him bad fortune.  For you, God is an “out there” icon…for me, He is Yahweh Who is kith and kin…I use words that are based on my reaction to your comments, not necessarily the same words you use. 

I have come to realize that the world really feels it owes me nothing, literally and what I get out of the kindness of another’s heart and good will to me is a treasure. And for me this Yahweh seemingly came out of nowhere and flooded me with His attention and so many gifts I cannot manage them at all. It is His focus that has immersed me in the union with Him, not my quest for Him. I would never know how to dream of the things He gives me. From you I hear little value of what He does out of love for His people and that you can really take Him or leave Him because He has not dealt you the card of faith.  Well this is certainly your own journey, which I respect, but understand that you speak insensitively at times about Someone Who is personally dear to me so I feel for Him and the way He is treated.

I have learned that we find God in our own way. And I certainly do not feel adequate to lead someone to God. God Himself doesn’t accomplish that with all His people, even though I firmly believe that we are on the journey to Him with Him whether we choose it or not.  You have said that you don’t spend any inordinate amount of time cogitating about believing in Him. Sometimes you think He exists and other times He seems not to exist. I think that is pretty much how it goes. He doesn’t try to monopolize all our attention or make us fanatical. He wants us to enjoy our lives, learning of Him along the way. But I sense you are at a stalemate perhaps. Here I can tell you a few observations about God that might break that stalemate. You can fool with them and maybe make a few mid course adjustments and see where they lead you, maybe putting the question of belief to bed once and for all so you can live your life knowing where you stand and reaping the consequent benefits. First, I think you have some very firmly held beliefs about God and would be wise to be little more open-minded about Him. You are not a blank slate.  He is not what you describe at times. You might look into the mystics to see their snapshots of God. Second, think about the Mind and intent of the Author of the science you admire. Why this world? And lastly I think you might realize that He has not been indifferent to your interest in Him. I see Him very much responding to your inquiries or perplexities, i.e. you are there for the taking but He seems to pass you by. Why, you ask? I have asked you several times what act He needs to perform for you in order to show He is interested in you? You pass or fold here. It seems to me that He has responded to your interest in Him by hooking you up with me and Maani, two people who see God equally strongly but from behind different hands. As I see it, God heard you and He responded very specifically to you with people who will share things they know about God, with whom you can speak with utter anonymity. Think about it, though…He did hear you, ”T”, MA, USA and He found a way to let you know He heard your every word. In the end, He responded to you. From our dialogue I think you need more clues about how to identify Him and that is why He has people trying to talk you through it. Quite frankly, thinking about how He found me and very specifically addressed me led me to a certain fear of Him. What does He know about me and how did He know it? Absorbing that sobered me up rather quickly about Him. He is here in our midst and is dead serious that we come to Him one way or another.

Joan

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By Joan, May 7, 2007 at 10:26 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 4

BTW, to my recollection, the Pope is quite learned in Islam specifically and he no doubt was speaking authoritatively for the largest Christian sect, as a theologian, trying to open discussion with other prominent theologians. And I heartily believe that influential Muslim theologians are capable of tamping down terrorism if they are so inclined. To do the brazen, horrific acts undertaken by Islamic terrorists there must be an underlying ethic that allows it, for the terrorist and those who support them. Again, it is telling that Islamic terrorists are not being openly condemned, repeatedly by influential Muslim clerics. I do not believe questioning a religion about its stance on world violence is an attack. It is a reasonable response of reasonable people, better than the bombs and blood. Islamic clergy declined in favor of slugging it out in combat.  Religions are systems of ethics and ideologies that we have to assimilate into the world community. The remaining non-Muslim world is quite reasonable in its expectation that Islam find a way to live peaceably within the family of nations. I agree with Harris here. I see no immunity from scrutiny for any religion or any influential ideology. It is fair to analyze Christianity in the context of whether or not it is an ideology that makes the world safe for all people. There are global problems here and we cannot shrink from them because analyzing religion is a very delicate matter. Killing thousands of innocent Americans is a very delicate matter too.  I am far more inclined to critique an ideology than condemn a people because you are right, we really don’t know the people personally.

More to come.


Joan

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By Joan, May 7, 2007 at 10:23 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi

Part 3

Holding a religion accountable…Surely, the family of nations cannot be expected to tolerate murderous assaults in the name of any religion because we are going to take the position that we cannot understand the religion. Nor can the family of nations be intimidated from standing up to murderous acts done in the name of religion. To allow this is reckless and irresponsible. We would I think feel very free to critique Christianity or Judaism were they the religions in question.
We understand being bombed as a beginning of the inquiry. In my mind, the accountability of a religion for its theology is best addressed by theologians. I have little doubt that Benedict’s remarks (Benedict, being a world player) were basically addressed to the Muslim clergy, challenging them to clarify for the Muslim community their stance about the use of violence. Benedict is right to assert that the God any clergy champions cannot be a god who orders violent attacks on innocent people around the world. Man cannot serve murderous and arbitrary gods we submit to without question. I believe the Muslim clerics understood the challenge to their theology. And tellingly the Muslim clerics did not assert unequivocally that Islam renounced the spread of its faith by violence.  I find your analysis very permissive, i.e.. how can I know what Islam is… or how it operates in Africa. What you do know is that somehow Islam was interpreted by some Muslims to spiritually/ethically permit them in the name of Islam to attack America brutally, expecting a reward from Allah in the next life. You understand this because the Muslim world did not unequivocally disavow 9/11. A little reading of history divulges the conquests by Muslims beginning with Muslims ending project Rome with its notions of citizenship and representation, a basis of Western heritage, on or about 600+ AD, spreading Islam by the sword. This is a precedent for 9/11, regardless of how American Muslims practice their faith or African Muslims practice their faith. It was Islam under the direction of Muhammad that began to uproot not only Christianity but also the political system that Christianity under girds, Western culture’s liberal democracies. Islam asserts that it is the final testament of God and is entitled to assert itself over other the other Abrahamic faiths, evidenced by building its third most sacred site, the Dome of the Rock, right smack on top of the most sacred Judaic site, Temple Mount, forever prohibiting the re-building of this sacred Jewish site, sacred for thousands of years before the birth of Islam.  The gestalt of this assertion of supremacy is unequivocal. These are some reasons for the collective Muslim silence.  Some Muslims interpret their faith to permit violent jihad. This interpretation has not been collectively disavowed by influential Muslim clergy, namely because it is permitted by the Koran which is for the devout Muslim the actual word of Allah. So we have a problem here in Islam and Islam accepting diversity in the family of nations. I realize of course not all Muslims will follow these violent exhortations in the Koran and I suspect many wish to see debate of their scriptures as is done in the other Abrahamic religions and wish to see peaceful Muslim integration into the family of nations. But significantly others are threatening the world order, perhaps soon to be armed with nuclear weapons,  and they don’t get a free pass because they are wrapped within the cloak of Islam.

Joan

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By Joan, May 7, 2007 at 9:58 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 2

Re: Science and reductionism and being threatened…on this particular post in general you seem to be doing a little bit of psychoanalysis on me…I ask you to tread carefully here.
The view that all of science is objectively free of cultural or intellectual influence and totally validated by evidence is naive. Do you have any idea about how much of science is not validated by direct evidence???? Do we call that science? Or how much of science is changed in the face of new evidence??? i.e. Newton/ Einstein or medical science? So methinks science is not a static compilation of information that is all empirically validated once and for all, or an endeavor in which we can pronounce at any given moment or definitively say what we truly know for certain. Science is an ever changing dynamic whose information is relative to what is known or unknown at any point in time. The science of cosmology or particle physics may never be verified empirically. Science
as an epistemological system, one that gives man knowledge of his universe, is limited by what we know and do not know by how we ask our questions and the route we take to answer our questions and maybe by a mischievous God Who at will regroups the mix of phenomena as well. But we must still function in the absence of complete knowledge day to day, not knowing what we do not know for instance.
I certainly cannot champion a scientific model that reduces the grandeur of humanity to biochemistry if that model fails to account for all that man is. One quality we affirm of man is that he is not deterministic. Science requires determined outcomes, ie water boils @ 100 degrees C, no deviation from determinism other than quantum mechanics which talks about probabilities. But that too I believe still operates within certain boundaries, ie carbon always acts like carbon and not like hydrogen.  How is something a good epistemological schema or scientific model if it does not account for all properties? Would you accept a scientific model that reduced other species or objects of inquiry to fit a biochemical model but did not fully explain those objects of inquiry that transcended the model?  However, we explain man, man’s capacities should not be reduced of his grandeur to fit into a model. And I do believe that man is a whole greater than the sum of a mind/body duality, if there even be such a duality. And I am concerned that some scientists do have other agendas such as Richard Dawkins.

Joan

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By Joan, May 7, 2007 at 9:50 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 1

Because this thread is a response by Harris I thought you had completely read his works. So my mistake. This brings me to the question that given you have not read his work, how did you wind up here?  In his works, Harris exhibits pre- conceived notions about faith- based people that are false impressions; for instance he preaches that the majority of Christians reject science in favor of biblical explanations. As a member of Christian community all my life, I know this is blatantly false. I read both his works and was initially enthusiastic about the first book, “End of Faith” until I got further into it. At that point I concluded it was not well done and was essentially a highly prejudicial work masquerading as an academic one. The main lesson I walked away with was that to my great dismay there are many Americans, in this land that champions religious freedom, who are very hostile to faith- based people. Harris is spreading a disease, once only incubating, trying to ignite an epidemic of prejudice.  My hostility is toward another colleague who is using purported academic means, philosophy, to spread prejudice. I would think you could understand why I would find that particularly unpalatable. Harris did his undergraduate work in philosophy and is using my profession, his background in philosophy, to spread his prejudice. BUT…………you are mistaken to think that I think those who disagree with me are my enemies. I usually call these people colleagues because in a phil. dept. there are few if any philosophers who agree with each other. You are foisting stereotypes on me… re: O’ Reilly etc.. I see none of the those who disagree with me as the enemy including Harris…I really don’t think in terms of enemies save al Qaeda types… and I am not against the social (secular) progressives whoever they may be….  I am appalled to see phil. exploited to sow the seeds of prejudice to a fertile audience of uncritical thinkers. Don’t you think I should raise an eyebrow here, you who are going to bat always for the underdog? Where is your indignation???? Were Harris targeting gay persons with prejudice you would be incensed, wouldn’t you? I don’t think Harris is harmless but is part of a bigger movement of religious prejudice taking root. Heard of Richard Dawkins? But as far as being an enemy to those who disagres with me, this is off base. All I ask is of others is that they make a case for their positions and that they do not reject me because I see things differently. I find that judgmental. I have had to learn to live with constant disagreement because that is the nature of my profession. I am not threatened by it but more seasoned for it. I am threatened by movements that incite prejudice. Who knows what danger that will expose all of us to? I do not underestimate the danger of hate and prejudice. 

Joan

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By Malini, May 4, 2007 at 6:03 pm Link to this comment
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Hi All!

Anyone in the group interested in animal rights?

With love & best wishes,

Malini

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By Tebaldi, May 4, 2007 at 12:59 pm Link to this comment
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Re: #67983 by Joan

Hi Joan

It’s peculiar how you extract things from my words that I never meant.  Where did you come up with, “…foist on me stereotypes about faith based people” and “It is ludicrous to suggest that faith based people fear science”? 

Seems you’ve a lot to say about Mr. Harris.  I only read a few tidbits here and there.  So I am wary to offer anything but my initial impression.  Although I don’t share the same animosity you harbor for the lad, I sense that he doesn’t present viable solutions.  He doesn’t come across as a particularly amiable fellow as he rants, and defames people to push his agenda.  It seems to me that he has broad brushed believers and holds a deep distain for them.  Perhaps this is a knee-jerk reaction to 9/11.  Perhaps it was a premeditated attack, using this tragedy to give his agenda a thrust.  I don’t know.  I just don’t condone his approach; it is malicious and counterproductive. 
    You seem awfully worried about Harris’ effect.  I don’t see him as threat any more than a religious fanatic.  Give folks more credit.  They know a duck when they see one. 
You lend credence to Harris by seeming threatened and addressing his clamor - Stick with your closing comment, “In your dreams Harris”.

On the other hand, lets take a look at your agenda.  You are calling for a cultural awakening, a spiritual renaissance.  You are rightfully disheartened by an increasing hedonistic populace, and the effect that this is having on our children.  You’ve recognized the enemy - “the secular progressives” (Pardon the O’Reilly-ism).  So you and Harris have labeled you’re perspective foes, and roll up your sleeves to do battle.  You blame Harris for trashing religion, and he blames you for trashing seculars.  You are both threatened by each other’s position.  Why can’t we coexist peacefully?  After all, you and I seem to be getting along famously.  Your solution doesn’t seem to fit with my situation.  I am not on Prozac, I am not promiscuous, I don’t take drugs, I share the bulk of Christian values… and I’m agnostic! 
Conversely, Harris’ solution (obviously) doesn’t work necessarily either. 
Different strokes for different folks, live and let live, lets all hold hands and sing kumbaya (or perhaps secular song instead). 

Re:  Scientists
The beauty of science is that it relies on evidence which is presented to all who wish to validate, or invalidate it.  In a perfect world, I suppose it would be nice to have scientists without agendas.  Keep in mind that even people with agendas are limited by the facts.  Yes they can hide and distort them, but at the end of the day all we have to do is look at the evidence and call bullshit. 

You seem threatened by reductionism as well.  You’ve got God on your side.  What do you think a hand full of scientific reductionists can accomplish?  Let them conduct their science, they may come up with something interesting. 

You say, “We cannot be afraid to address a religion and call it to account for being violent.”  I consider this irresponsible and reckless.  Is it Islam that is responsible for violence or is it some of the people of Islamic faith?  Is it cultural, or is doctrinal?  Is it a sociological issue or religious issue?  How do politics and economics play a role?  Is it a convoluted conflation of all of these? 
Compare Islam in America with Islam in the Middle East.  Compare Islam among the educated v uneducated.  Compare a Mosque in Africa v one in Europe.  Can we make a sweeping statement that encompasses the broad spectrum of Islam?
I know next to nothing about the Islamic faith.  I do know that there is a prevalent tribal mentality.  I know that they don’t take kindly to other religions imposing their judgment on them.  Expecting Islam to police its extremists as a result of the Pope’s remonstration is naïve.  I’m not convinced that the Pope did his homework before issuing his statement.  Attack the people, not the religion. 

Ciao!  -Tebaldi

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By Tebaldi, May 4, 2007 at 7:30 am Link to this comment
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Re:  #67585 by Joan on 5/01 at 5:59 pm

Hi Joan.

I’m sorry that I continue to frustrate you.  It seems that I’ve inadvertently pulled you out of the analytical philosopher mode, into a more personal/emotional one. 

You still insist that I harbor ill will toward God.  You use words like betrayal, rage, lament, dismiss, complaints, and unfair.  I haven’t used these words; you shove them in my mouth.  I can’t divorce you from your ideas regarding my attitudes about God, regardless of my statements to the contrary.  I have the distinct impression that you are not listening to me.  Read my last post again (and all the others for that matter) and prove me wrong.
  I am in earnest when I say such things as, “who the hell am I to presume what God thinks”, and “How can I can I reasonably have an issue with something (God) I have little knowledge of?” 
  To your credit, after I mulled over you’re position, tossing it around this way and that, I surmised that you’re attacks have a morsel of substantiation.  I believe that this onslaught stems from a misconstrued question I posed earlier.  I think that you understood it as a whine, not simple curiosity.
  When I ponder the existence of God, and suppose that He is out there, a question bears to mind – Why not me? (as in why don’t I feel Him)  Know this:  THERE ARE ABSOLUTELY NO MENACING FEELINGS THAT ARE ASSOCIATED WITH THIS QUERY (save a rare tinge of jealousy).  I DON’T FEEL SLIGHTED IN THE LEAST BIT. 

    My thoughts are divided.  Not a 50/50 division, though.  I live the bulk of my life my life supposing there is no God, yet there are times when I conjecture He does exist.  The fact is that I don’t dwell on it at all.  I completely get that you have to immerse yourself in the pursuit of God.  To you, this is comes naturally – It feels right.  To me, it feels like I would be tricking myself, yielding to fantasy – It feels somehow… amiss. 

Re:  Darfur
I’m almost sorry I brought this out in the first place.  As you will recall, when I mentioned this it came with a caveat (“this is a sophomoric, cop-out argument on my behalf”).  You won’t recollect this, but after you and Maani offered your response to this, I took note and dropped the issue.  I grow weary of reiterating this, but I don’t blame God for Darfur… or anything else.  As a matter of fact, in my last post I specifically mentioned what’s to ‘blame’. 
 
What I meant by ‘clean slate’ is that I have not been indoctrinated by religion. 

(Continued)

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By Tebaldi, May 4, 2007 at 7:28 am Link to this comment
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(Part II) Re:  #67585 by Joan on 5/01 at 5:59 pm

Re: Never once have you said…gee… I never thought of that before
Perhaps.  But I always read and try to understand your point of view.  I can recall quite a few times where I used such words as, “interesting”, “beautiful”, and “eloquent” in response to your explications. 
You’ve painted a comprehensive and sensible picture of the way He operates.  You’ve addressed every angle, left no stone unturned.  Some of my guesswork jives with your assertions on the nature of God.  Many of your views are truly insightful.  Not the least of which is your perception on man-God relationships (Him wanting the burden of conveying Himself to man).  Your view is antithetical to the culture of Christianity, but commensurate with my distain for those who push their religion on folks.  So if I hadn’t said it before (and I’m not being a smart-ass) - Gee, I never thought of that before. 

I think the gist of this long, strange trip is to immerse yourself in the beauty the world.  Be some one special to someone who is special.  Have a blast.  Learn and grow.  Teach and provide.  As the guy on NPR says, “be well and do good work”
Maybe it’s God’s design that I struggle through these endeavors without knowing him.  Perhaps I’ll arrive in His kingdom after all is said and done, and He’ll clap me on the back and say (good naturedly), “Ha!  You stubborn bastard.  It would have been a lot easier if you had let me help you.” 
You have to play the cards you were dealt.  I wasn’t dealt a faith card (again, I’m not bitter for this).  Perhaps, as you suggest, I will draw it from the deck later on in the game… Either way, your cards aren’t worth a dime, if you don’t lay ‘em down (that’s two Grateful Dead references in one paragraph!).

You say that addressing tribulation put us on the path of righteousness.  What better way to invite tribulation than to deal with life sans God’s assistance?

Isn’t it ok that I don’t believe in God?  Would I be less of a friend to you?  Less of a father to my son?  Would you necessarily hold your relationships with believers dearer than ours?  You see at this point, I’m much more concerned with my bonds with earthly folk than with those in heaven; I’ve only got 30 more years to work on them.  I figure I’ve got all of eternity to develop my extra terrestrial relationships (if indeed, such relationships are available). 

I just previewed your latest posts…  Step aside!  She’s on a roll!  More to follow.

Ciao!  - Tebaldi

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By Joan, May 3, 2007 at 1:37 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 3

So what to do with a religion that seems to turn on mankind as Islamic terrorists have. Well this is very touchy a subject. But it doesn’t help to throw up smoke screens and avoid the really tough question on the table here by appealing to an unworkable epistemological schema and ridiculing the faith based community which includes the overwhelming majority of the earth’s population in the fantasy that religion will disappear and somehow the enlightened elite will lead us to moral nirvana. In your dreams, Harris! 

First, we defend ourselves from attack no matter that it is led by fanatical religionists. We have a right to protect ourselves. And we must make clear to the world that we will defend ourselves.

Second, religious leaders specifically must unequivocally condemn these assaults in the name of God. This is what Benedict was doing for which Harris ridiculed him. We cannot be afraid to address a religion and call it to account for being violent. There were hopes in the beginning that Muslims themselves would rise to the occasion here and internally address the problem of terrorism in Islam. They have not, at least not collectively. In face of this silence, we cannot be intimidated from rejecting violent behavior in the name of God.  Zero tolerance is appropriate here.

Third, and I have called for this before for numerous reasons, there must be a reformation in all the major religions, re- defining them so they are useful in the world today and in meeting the needs we have today, leading the faithful in more meaningful ways while not losing their eternal unchanging message about God. In this Prozac, multi marriage, promiscuous, lonely- laden culture the spiritual is what is missing. Rather than as Harris suggests eliminating major chunks of it, like religion, we need to begin to embellish it, to get some satisfaction in our minds and hearts so we can be fulfilled. We want our cups to run over and that requires spirituality. We need to spend a little more time with our souls instead of looking to gyms and diets and low cholesterol levels to fulfill as man.

Well, enjoy, ”T”…take your time…I’ll be waiting.

Joan

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By Joan, May 3, 2007 at 1:32 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 2

In the meantime I will address reductionism. The mind/body duality that fathered the Enlightenment was a philosophical maneuver made by Descartes to allow man to wrest from an audacious Catholic Church total control over all knowledge. The argument over pursuing knowledge was settled when Descartes successfully argued that the rightful purview of the Church was over the mind/soul and the man was permitted to investigate the material/body. I support Descartes’ strategy but there has never been any scientific support that such a duality as in fact real or the state of affairs.  I think it is not. I believe we are a single unit not a dichotomy.  And I have always stated that my mystical experience has a physiology to it. And furthermore I believe that God has a physicality to Him even though He does not seem to be material per se. He loves the physical and this is clear by His making so much beauty that is physical. Attainment of much of our knowledge is physical, through our senses. He makes the act of procreating life a physically pleasurable act, not a matter of the soul alone. And the life giving energy is transmitted through being physical. But as the reductionism is occurring, attempting to explain all through biochemistry, I question the motives. Some scientists give the impression that they not discovering science for the sake of getting new knowledge but more like trying to squeeze science into a paradigm intended to eliminate God from the picture. I cannot trust the work of scientists with ulterior motives. Philosophically speaking, the mind and body as one unit gives us a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, which this reductionism does not speak to. Man resists the deterministic model. So this reductionism is actually the attempt to fit a size 11 universe into a size 9 explanation. Science is supposed to advance knowledge, with no preconceived agendas, not reduce it. That was the major complaint of scientists of the Enlightenment made about religion, if you recall. Now knee jerk science is falling into the same trap. With God and man together you have the possibility of the Limited (namely Joan and Tebaldi) joining or partaking of the Limitless, namely Yahweh. I don’t know about you “T” but I will not be bound by the limited. I don’t like confinement. I will not be limited by the scared and bigoted of the world, like Sam Harris and his attempt to undress man of his greater side so he can feel safe.

Now I do certainly sympathize with Harris to the extent that religion has no right to terrorize us and we are absolutely entitled to defend ourselves against fanaticism and outright murder. He is correct that religion has caused some trouble not all the problems of the world but certainly some. His understanding of religion seems simplistic. I know of no Christians who wake up each morning thankful they are in religion in which there is a virgin birth. Maybe being presumptive, I would wager a bet that few Muslims are in their religion because Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse. For people of faith religion attends to far more serious matters and needs. Eliminating all discussion of things we cannot prove empirically is ludicrous. This demand not only eliminates religion but it eliminates much of science and daily discourse in which we must make decisions and direct our lives based on information that we cannot verify. Philosophers long ago let go of this type of empiricism because it is an unworkable criterion of how to function in life. We will not actually function if we only accepted what is verifiable.  So Harris arguing that religion should be eliminated because its statements are not always verifiable is moot, a straw man. And I dare say that some meaty parts of religion such as the Golden Rule are verifiable as a wonderful system of ethics. 

Joan

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By Joan, May 3, 2007 at 1:01 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 1

Well, “T”, I hope you were a Marine because I may now begin to ram through some of the more commonly held views about science etc…I do this because I think you strike me as really authentic and sincere about your perplexities about God and I am trying to address them, no holds barred.

Science…I ask that you be careful not to foist on me stereotypes about faith based people and science because some crusaders like Harris are foisting myths on believers about their rejection of science. I say this as I down a handful of pills I take daily made in the legal labs of drug companies. So, yes, I do value science. It is ludicrous to suggest that faith based people fear science. Most of our doctors, nurses, lab techs, science teachers and a goodly number of scientists are in fact Christian. I adore science when its stays in its appropriate parameters, subjecting the material world to scrutiny, for our understanding and the benefits that understanding visits on mankind. I am as a matter of fact married to a scientist of sorts and even invite them for dinner.

But I see a movement afoot among some scientists, of which Harris is one, after 9/11 to declare science as the forefront of all knowledge and as the only reputable source of any knowledge. This is a knee jerk response to religious fanaticism run amok. In truth, science together with religious fanatics put the world into the hands of possible annihilation. It is the scientists who have given us the gift of weapons of mass destruction, allowing these fanatics to endanger the world in ways not possible before the inception of such wondrous gifts.  And it is some scientists in the new movement to make science paramount like Harris who are pointing the finger at religious fanatics for endangering mankind without taking responsibility for the irresponsibility of the scientific community. Scientists are not exempt from moral responsibility. They are not given a free pass to do what they want, excusing their behavior as a merely scientific activity. In my mind Harris is a California pretty boy, very sheltered, who woke up on 9/11 and realized that the world is a dangerous place and he wanted his security guaranteed. I have news for Harris. As a woman I realized that the world was a dangerous place long ago. For decades, I have wondered every time I or one of my daughters goes out if we will be rape statistics. He and others need a group to blame and a way to eliminate that threatening group. So he wrote a fairly un-academic book and presented it to a group of people who don’t do much in the way of critical reading or critical thinking. I have number of specific criticisms of Harris that I posted to Rick Yel this past fall. If you are interested I will hunt them up and direct you to them or you can find them yourself back tracking on this thread.

Joan

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By Joan, May 2, 2007 at 10:41 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 2

For all my genius, you know given all the creations I have brought forth and managed, I am still in awe of the simplicity of His ideas and the eagerness of His love and the joyful way that He virtually works Himself to death for me. He is optimistic in the end that His dream for us to be with Him will prevail. He is a hungry God Who today is under vicious attack by a hubristic mankind who thinks it will tame His nature and course it to mankind’s liking or discard it as useless or quaint. God particularly likes being God and will never let the reigns He holds over His creation be taken from His control.  He will not diminish His nature to suit us. He will not be relegated to the role of master puppeteer. Even though He knows He is superior, He will elevate you to an equal level, wanting you not at His Feet but looking at Him Eye to eye when you address Him. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He cuts mankind a lot of slack but He will pull the plug too if He decides the experiment is no longer yielding the results He wants.

This frustration and consequent eruption on my part is not analogous to the slug/man stand off. I was pretty clear that I was NEVER OPEN to the idea that man and slug, of the same primordial stew, had no significant difference. I used the term qualitative difference. Man and slug were qualitatively different. Never will I budge from that stance. But you are telling me that you ARE OPEN to a relationship with God but that He is failing you with His indifference to you and He is failing as a God to boot. I have been giving you snapshots of God and ideas, trying to roust you from your dogmatic slumber here, letting you know He has heard you and is trying to address your interest in Him, trying to respond to you, Tebaldi, MA, USA. I have asked precisely what He should do…host a tea perhaps for you. Or create a universe and name it after Tebaldi. Have you told Him what you need of Him and the waited see how He responds? I think He is showering you with interest but you seem to want a grand audience and I don’t think that will happen for one reason, you want to call the shots and that will not work in the grand scheme of things with Him. He is not willing to bow to our limited visions. He offers grandeur with His relationship with us and if we don’t want His gifts, He will let you muddle through life pretty much on your own, free not to choose Him. You have to be willing to yield to Him for Him to off lead you to greener pastures.  I guess we call that having faith in Him.  And you need to have some faith, a little faith to get the ball rolling, after which your faith will turn into knowledge of Him. I do not see Him as failing you but you not being willing to take the chance with Him. He is sending you oodles of help but in the end you have to decide if you will cross the river into His lands.

Joan

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By Joan, May 2, 2007 at 10:34 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 1

Well it seems that I am not yet finished about God. Violence is a part of the natural order. There are volcanoes, and hurricanes that blow off pent up energy. There are shifting plates that grind the edges of the continents and there is man and beast that have at each other. As Aristotle notes, there is generation and corruption of all things in nature. Then there is Joannie Doe… And you being a former military man I am sure can handle my eruption here.

I take God as He is, not as I think He should be. I learn about Him as He comes along, not telling Him He should do better… something He never tells me BTW…that I should do better. After almost 2 decades of watching Him play His Hand with the events of my life, I have come to realize 2 important things about Him. First, if you are patient and cut Him enough slack in the end you will see an expression of His absolute sense of justice. His sense of timing maybe off and not to your liking initially but be patient.  Second, He will love you even if you kick Him in the privates, analogous to Jacob who did so with the angel he wrestled with all night.  Been there, done that. We humans too wrestle with God and kick Him where it really hurts but He will love you through your most bitter rage. He sees your rage at Him as your love for Him betrayed. And He feeds off your love and will quell the rage as Christ calmed the stormy waters, both psychologically with insight and physiologically inducing a physical peace in your body.  It is awesome, the power of interaction with God, or maybe prayer. I really don’t pray too often. I just talk to Him like am talking to you now.  Now you speak of me as if I am some anomaly…maybe I am, but for me I was shocked that the few crumbs of love and interest I offered God, He snapped right up and turned into a banquet of love to be shared by both of us. Only a God could be so gullible and optimistic to take my pittance and elevate it to such heights.  He still believes in His dream of Eden where man lives in the flow of Divinity and gets to really know Him the way we get to know each other. I think what happened to me is a matter of course there for the taking for all mankind. If He sees any glimmer of interest, He will virtually capture you for Himself. But you will have to walk the walk into a whole new world.  So if you are in earnest and want to know Him, take Him as He is first off and let Him explain His behavior or account for it. He is the only god around. He is much more breathtaking then He is described. Let Him explain His behavior before judging Him.  And understand that you are not the only lily He has to cultivate in His Garden. But He will deliver justice and love to all. Know that if you offer Him an inch of interest He will lay down miles of sweetness and gifts in your soul, God type gifts. But unlike Superman He will not change the course of mighty rivers or reverse the order of nature for you. You are to live in the context of nature within the parameters of natural law perhaps to teach you to ultimately live in the parameters of Divine law later because He believes this context is best suited for you to come to Him, and that’s the plan, your suffering notwithstanding.  The creation out of the context of Eden is filled with tribulation and addressing tribulation is how a soul is best honed so it can return to Eden.

Joan

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By Joan, May 1, 2007 at 7:03 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 2

Why do you blame Him for Darfur? He says to us not kill or do violence to others, doesn’t He?  He gave us pointers (commandments), a great teacher, Christ, and respects man enough not to be a puppeteer because if He pulled strings every time there was a war, other humans would be whining about the God Who treats us like dolts. For the most part He just always fails to please His children who are much better at being God than He evidently is. He will be damned no matter what He does. 

Now that I have finished decapitating you …I will say that… yes …I think you should feel a little guilty about your feelings about God and I am elated that you finally said things the would be inviting to Him, giving Him a warm feeling about you, Tebaldi of MA, USA. You noticed Him and what He does and what He offered you. And that ‘s the beginning of a beautiful relationship for Him as much as you. He clamors for us more than we do for Him, you know.  He too often stays silent, helping and nudging us along without a word, anonymously. Say more of these things, little things in your heart as you look at the sky and the powerful roaring ocean, spewing out His Energy and His peace… and ponder the beautiful Mind that conceives of such a thing as the ocean…the ocean or a flower or a people that bear His resemblance just for the hell of the good ride it will be for both you and Divinity…What kind of being is He…Our God is an awesome God….

I thank you for the defense…I always welcome chivalry…He worries more about ridicule than I. He just wants me to know a sweetness through Him and not take on the burdens of conveying Him to man because He assures me that He works with everyone single one of us…you can see who well I obey…

I’ll deal with Harris et al. tomorrow.

Joan

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By Joan, May 1, 2007 at 6:59 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 1

Speaking candidly, I think there is nothing anyone can say to get you to put your ideas on hold about God and suggest ways for you to explore God from another perspective. I don’t see anything in your responses that lead me to believe you are the tabula rasa you see yourself as. Never once have you said…gee… I never thought of that before or is God really like this. Even if you don’t change your point of view, I have offered enough ideas that would be new and different and worth toying with. You have defined God in a way that puts Him into a no win situation and will be damned before you let anyone extricate God from your damning depiction of Him. Then you lament that He does not open His Arms wide and embrace you. I have been dancing on the head of a pin to let some fresh air into your suffocating perspectives as He probably has been too, I would think. You dismiss them with ne’ery a second thought. So please don ‘t suggest to me anymore how unfair God is to you. What about how unfair you are to Him? 

Like with understanding particle physics you have to be immersed in God’s agenda and you, my darling, see only as man because you have not opened to the realm of the extra- rational or cut Him some slack so He can explain His plan and strategy and see your life through another’s mind’s eye, namely the Eye of the Creator and His intent.  From God’s view, as best as I have learned for Him…what is good is whatever brings man to Him, no matter the suffering involved. His ethic is not similar to ours. His is macro, with an eye to an eternal life in union with His Being. So if you are ill and you find Him on that path, He is pleased because you will share life with Him. He gives Himself to those who want Him. Those who want Him have to walk a path that will instruct them through their experiences to really get a grasp of what He is. Our very human design and life on earth is designed with the paths that lead to Him…illness, hardship, marriage, sex, child-bearing, parenting, labor, grief, joy, struggle, desperation, success and degeneration, death, wisdom. He lives these experiences and so we too will we live them. If, as we live,  they are more than our human capacity can sustain, if we are union with Him, He will blow His strength through us and we will feel His unending depth of strength and know that our Almighty Father will never cut the umbilicus binding us to Him, even if we do not survive earthly trauma. Of what loss is it to Him, if we leave this earth? We will endure with Him, fulfilling His agenda. Wisdom and good character, so of His nature, come through overcoming adversity, not living in La-La Land with everything coming to us on silver platter. We are on these paths to Him whether we consent our not. He laid out the game plan. God wants what He wants and God plays hardball to get what He wants, as does man.  Your conception of God and what He is about needs more investigation and if you don’t take my word for it, find out for yourself by going after Him with your complaints and insisting He account to you for His behavior. He will teach you in His own timetable in His own way but you have to be wiling to open your eyes beyond what you have been willing to see until now. You have to be willing to enter a whole new world.

Joan

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By Tebaldi, May 1, 2007 at 11:54 am Link to this comment
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Re:  #67201 by Joan on 4/29 at 5:17 pm

Hi Joan

You are frustrated by what seems to you as my blocking out God.  I don’t see it this way.  I merely live my life.  I don’t ignore signs / revelations etc., they just aren’t there for me.  It must be hard for you to imagine, because you feel His touch.  I’ve assured you repeatedly that I believe it would be to my benefit (and His, to hear you tell it), that I know Him. 
As for my ideas about God… they are just that – ideas.  They are wishful thinking to me, a product of my imagination. 
You have indeed shared with me some very profound and personal experiences that you’ve had with God.  I appreciate the time that you’ve taken to do so.  (I imagine it has been valuable for you to reflect on these things as well).  Not open to new ideas?  Horseshit.  I’m a clean slate – open as a child (but not as trusting). 
    I don’t accuse or blame God.  I can’t disabuse you (and Maani) of this notion.  But consider this – I have no reason to lie (to you or myself).  The arguments I make about Darfur, leukemia, etc. are not out of anger or frustration, they are used for the application of reason.  I think, actually, it’s harder for a believer to come to terms with these atrocities.  As for me?  I just chalk it up to cultural, sociological, and biological errors/shortcomings. 
    Your comment about particle physicists is quite astute.  By the same token, I really don’t have the desire to learn about particle physics either.
    The comparison to my attitude about gays is not very analogous.  I give them the benefit of the doubt based on my experiences.   

Re:  Scientists…
This is a grey area. You hold issue with scientists who have an agenda.  While I also don’t think it’s appropriate for these folks to preach to us, I don’t harbor ill will toward them for their passions.  Scientists are not machines who operate in a vacuum.  Their convictions motivate them to conduct research to prove or disprove a premise.  As long as they apply sound scientific practices, we shouldn’t condemn their work. 
    Harris and I share a similar thought process.  The difference is that I believe that we shouldn’t ‘reject’ an unverifiable notion, rather accept it as improbable.  I’m all about philosophical / spiritual conjecture and exploration, but scientists are limited to that for which they can reasonably provide evidence.
Assaulting God and those that follow Him is unacceptable.  Seeking to prove or disprove the likelihood of God is ok (albeit somewhat futile). 
  So while reducing life to chemistry and the idea of determinism may leave you with a bad taste in your mouth, we can not rule out that this may very well be reality.  You refuse to take this accept this, and that’s ok.  For those who have, some find solace in their daily endeavors and loved ones, others hack and cough – a constant reminder of the jagged pill lodged in their throat.

(Continued)

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By Tebaldi, May 1, 2007 at 11:51 am Link to this comment
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(Part II)  Re:  #67201 by Joan on 4/29 at 5:17 pm

Re:  Atom bomb
From what I recall, Einstein made a pacifistic statement, against the war machine.  I believe that he offered his input after learning that Germany was perusing the creation of the bomb.  He also did this knowing that your immediate ancestors had just been run over by the blitzkrieg. 
You present a black and white answer to a very grey problem.  I obviously don’t absolve scientists from social responsibility.  I don’t agree with the groupthink mentality that governments have used to ‘solve’ world problems.  That being said, I can’t wholly blame Einstein for his agonizing decision to assist in the Manhattan project. 

Re:  inequities
Got it.  I concur.

Re:  Forgive me
No apologies necessary.  I understand that it must be frustrating for you.  Like watching a child listlessly whack a piñata, knowing he will not reap the reward.  I can sympathize - Your aggravation is much like mine throughout the worth v ooze discussion. 
As you know, people’s truths are virtually irreversible.  Twain said it best:
“I have seen several entirely sincere people who thought they were (permanent) Seekers after Truth. They sought diligently, persistently, carefully, cautiously, profoundly, with perfect honesty and nicely adjusted judgment—until they believed that without doubt or question they had found the Truth. That was the end of the search. The man spent the rest of his life hunting up shingles wherewith to protect his Truth from the weather. If he was seeking after political Truth he found it in one or another of the hundred political gospels which govern men in the earth; if he was seeking after the Only True Religion he found it in one or another of the three thousand that are on the market. In any case, when he found the Truth he sought no further; but from that day forth, with his soldering-iron in one hand and his bludgeon in the other he tinkered its leaks and reasoned with objectors.”
There was an equally wise philosopher who succinctly captured the essence of Twain’s observation:  “No one has it all knocked.” – Joan Doe. 

Re:  God’s viewpoint
Wow. 
Oddly enough, you made me feel a little guilty.  You blame me for this relationship not getting off the ground.  Hmm.  Here’s my response:

I am awed by the universe.  If is You who are responsible for this, I am eternally grateful.  If it is You who endowed me with freewill, creativity and (quasi) intelligence, You are worthy of my immutable gratitude and praise. 
I do not resist You, that I know of, I simply don’t have enough information to know You exist.  I most certainly don’t condemn you.  I don’t discount You – I welcome you.  Stabbed with prickly needles?  Most assuredly not.  I’ve demonstrated my capacity to love and selflessly sacrifice.  I need love.  And sadly, yes – I scarcely know Thee.
     
I’m not sure who would ridicule you.  This is obviously a personal conversation; an intelligent person wouldn’t dare interlope.  But I’ll defend you if this occurs.  I’m sorry that this is disconcerting for you, and I am grateful for your genuine concern for me.  (I’m keen on you too smile )

Ciao!  - Tebaldi

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By Joan, April 30, 2007 at 11:59 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Forgive me if I seem harsh. That is not my intention. But these thoughts keep churning over in my mind and the only way to settle them out is to get things off my chest.  As we delve into issues pertaining to God, I am left with a feeling of frustration. So were I His mediator, these are some of the things I would say on His behalf or from His point of view. 


Throughout this discourse, you strike me as sitting there and saying “Gee, God, you are supposed to be loving and here I am sitting here waiting to be gathered up in you arms if You would just show some interest in me, show me you noticed me. “

And here is my perspective of God’s viewpoint…”Son, I have made a lush universe for you to enjoy. You see little magnificence in the creation or My genius and generosity toward you manifest through this creation. Out of love and desire for companionship, I shared with you My most personal powers, endowing you with creativity, intelligence and the power to create life or destroy it. You see mankind on whom I have lavished My Own Persona as no greater than a beast of any sort. Like Myself, I give you freedom to choose within certain boundaries. I place you in the care of people who will open doors about Me for you and you resist their insight and knowledge while saying I do not hear your entreaties or respond. You condemn of Me what you do not understand. Son, I offer love to my people as a way to live life but I am not in love with every one of them. You sit there and tell Me that all you really need from Me is to complete a puzzle about where all this “stuff” comes from - otherwise you have it all knocked and brush Me out of the canvas of your life. You do not open up to Me and share together what I have done for you and how you will manage My gifts, celebrating together and consoling each other in our sorrows.  I wonder if I embrace you in My Arms, will I be stabbed with prickly needles or have nails driven through My Heart or will I be embraced with love that will protect My Heart? For all I have done for you, HAVE YOU LOVED ME BACK? WILL YOU LOVE ME BACK, NOW?  I can think of no greater hell than to spend eternity with people who don’t love you. For all My opulence, I feel that you have barely noticed Me and have little use for Me. What do you offer Me in appreciation and to show respect for all I have given? The seeds of love in My Heart grew into the creation and life for a mankind that shares in My Personal Divinity. What of the seeds in your heart?Will they grow into love for ME?” 

He, in His very masculine/warrior way, does not want me to defend Him or fight His battles because of the ridicule it exposes me to. But I feel at this point He is really getting the raw end of the deal here. It is hard for me to remain silent.

Joan

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By Joan, April 29, 2007 at 6:17 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Forgive the mish mash of order…My brain is currently ruined by a plethora of earthly matters, more like a scrambled egg than the hallowed intellectual orderly mind of an analytic philosopher…but oh well…this post is a good way to relax… 

Re God…what specific act must He perform for you to believe He is extending His Hand to you???  A tea in your honor?  He comes to us through others, through meditation, through insight that feels transcendent, a burning bush or two. You reject the usual routes… You are insistent that He comes to you on your own terms. How do I know that in His own inimitable way He has not been dancing circles around you that you categorically reject? What action do you want Him to do precisely? You have very definite ideas about what God should do or how He should behave, which I predict you will deny. I have taken a fair amount of care to describe God as I experience Him to you but you do not seem open to any new ideas about Him. God is a loose cannon and may want more latitude than you are willing to extend to Him. I cut Him a lot of slack. You accuse Him of a lot of indifference and apathy that suggests to me that you do not really know Him. Analogously, one who has not immersed himself in physics, will at a glance think that particle physics is really out there or silly and not relevant. Particle physicists think particle physics makes sense. Things about God become more comprehensible if you actually spend time learning about Him, with an open mind and accepting spirit, perhaps giving Him the same benefit of the doubt you give to gay persons. 


Scientists…They do wonderful things, just as you describe. I have no bone to pick in general with scientists…until they try to fit all phenomena into the empirical model and PREACH that we should discard what defies the empirical model as irrelevant and nonsensical. This is a major theme of Sam Harris, our host. He harps on this notion that what you cannot verify empirically, you should reject.  Philosophy evolved away from this stringent epistemological criterion because it denied some of the things most dear to mankind, i.e. his spirituality and morality, his resistance to determinism that is demanded by science, for starters. And there is a push today by some scientists for this reductionism, assaulting ideas like God and the need for spiritual satisfaction. They are seemingly reducing all man’s behavior to chemistry, hence determinism. Do we really want to go there?
No matter who developed nuclear weapons, and maybe if Einstein had not, we would not have them…you don’t know for sure anyone else would have done this but another “Einstein”, a rare person… But this is begging the question. Whoever did this…shouldn’t they have considered the morality of uncovering these secrets and the consequences of doing so? Why absolve scientists of the responsibility of knowledge and ideas they introduce into the world? Dr. Kahn of Pakistan may in deed be James Bond’s Dr. No. 

Inequities… our inequality is a part of the nature of humanity…I am addressing more of a   metaphysical notion here. We will experience inequalities in our lifetimes… it is best to rise above the adversity as best as you can and not let the inequality/unfairness stop you from going after the life you want as best you can. Despite the inequality that seems built into the human experience, life is full of plot twists and turns that make it worth living.

Joan

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By Tebaldi, April 27, 2007 at 1:33 pm Link to this comment
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Re:  #66602 by Maani on 4/26 at

Hello Maani.

Thank you for pointing out my blunders.  It seems that I am falling into traps, spewing silliness, and suffering from selective skepticism.  …and I thought I was simply sharing my perspective. 

Re:  Silliness
Blaming it on God?  No.  I’ve said this before.  I bear no ill feelings. 
Overpopulation - wouldn’t it be more benevolent to control the fertility cycle than to let children die? 
I’m not sure what is so silly about my comment.  (Although, admittedly, I didn’t really wish to enter this debate.)  If He has no control over the child contracting leukemia, it seems He is not omnipotent.  If He doesn’t know that a child is dying from leukemia, it seems He is not omniscient.  If He is omniscient / omnipotent and allows the child to die, it seems He is not benevolent. 
   
Re:  absence of evidence
I’m simply relating a reasonable (albeit imperfect) thought process - in the absence of evidence, we must withhold judgment. 

Re: Selective skepticism
I don’t understand how I’m being selective.  Is there something that I advocate which holds no evidence? 

Re: Implausibility
Again, the only thing I’m stuck on is my “why is there stuff” argument.  This is the main reason that I guardedly entertain the possibility. 

On a personal note, I hope that you aren’t offended by my perspective.  I realize that my words are considered blasphemy, and I am sensitive to this.  I am not attacking / discrediting you, or God; I am relating MY position. 

I’m sorry to hear that you’ve discarded the Spaghetti God.  I find Him much more entertaining than you’re current deity (no offense). 

Ciao!  - Tebaldi

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By Maani, April 26, 2007 at 4:38 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi:

Hi.  You say, “It seems reasonable to say that God can not be omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent conjointly - or children wouldn’t die of leukemia.”

You fall into the same trap as so many others; the old “why do bad things happen to good (or innocent) people?”  Suppose no one ever died of anything except old age.  How long do you suppose humankind would exist?  We would overpopulate within decades, if not years.  People have to die.  At all ages, of all types of things.  It cannot be otherwise.  If you insist on blaming it on God, the only reasonable response I can come up with is: at least it is completely random; i.e., God does not “pick on” any one gender, age group, religion, nationality, etc.  I’m not sure what else there is to say to such an ultimately silly comment.

You also say, “There is a part of me that is extremely suspicious of things outwardly implausible.  If there is a lack of reasonable evidence that points to his existence, isn’t it reasonable to label a God implausible?”

Sorry to be cliche, but “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”  Even atheist scientists know this. 

You add, “I trust that tomorrow the earth will still be here.  It might be sucked into a black hole, but I assume it won’t.  So I accept that which might be false, but reject that which might be true – a reasonable position considering that I don’t have the time or resources to pursue the improvable.”

This is a perfect example of “selective skepticism,” and is not surprising; we all “suffer” from it. (The current issue of Skeptical Inquirer has an article on this very issue.)

Re “implausibility,” I will state yet again that, even were I still an atheist, God would be FAR more plausible to me than particles that are in two places at once or spin in both directions simultaneously.

Finally, please note that I no longer believe in the flying spaghetti monster.  I am now a devotee of His Uber-Holiness Lord King God Bufu.

Peace.

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By Tebaldi, April 26, 2007 at 8:51 am Link to this comment
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Re:  #65484 by Joan on 4/21

Hello Joan

Re:  Scientists & moral imperatives
To be honest, I don’t know what your beef with scientists is.  You’ve entered this discussion with out clearly stating your position.  How are they ethically/morally different from M.D.s or architects?  If you want to throw stones at a profession, you should be hurling them at those parasitic lawyers.  I agree that the pursuit of knowledge can become consuming, driven by ego and blind to the greater good of the community.  I would prefer to believe that these ‘mad scientists’ are the exception, not the rule.  You fail to mention an important antagonist – the folks who resource the scientists.  Be it government or drug companies, if scientists want to feed their families, they need to throw their bosses a bone every once and a while. 
The difference between scientists and lawyers is the extent that they do good or bad.  That is, unethical scientists kill, and unethical lawyers don’t serve justice.
Science extends peoples lives, and it kills people.  It comforts, and tortures us. 
You say that scientists invent stuff and let others sort out the moral implications.  Shouldn’t it work like this?  I’d rather a panel of ethicists make a decision on stem-cell research than I would a scientist.  Or are you suggesting that they shouldn’t be messing with stem-cells (for example) in the first place? 
Unfortunately, the advent of the a-bomb was unavoidable.  Even if Einstein kept his secret initially, he would have volunteered his services after Russia and China developed the weapon – or we would have done it with out him. 

Re:  …the wisdom to discern the difference
I’m not sure where you’re going with this que sera, sera narrative.
Accepting inequities goes against the very foundation of this country.  You suggest that wisdom dictates that the war not is not worth waging.  The battle has been won in a couple states already, indicating that it is not an unchangeable condition. 
You wouldn’t give this advice to Fredrick Douglass, would you?  What you are witnessing here is cultural evolution.  This is how we pass on lessons learned from one generation to the next.  Accepting inequities is giving up on our quest for utopia.  We must not give up for our children’s sake (pardon the drama).

(Continued)

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By Tebaldi, April 26, 2007 at 8:50 am Link to this comment
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(Part II) Re:  #65484 by Joan on 4/21

Re:  ID
Scientists don’t want to disprove God necessarily.  They just want to know how things work.  Science has shattered religious dogma through the years; this may be why you hold this impression. 

Re:  Evolution v homosexuality
If you feel we must argue this, the link below offers several counter arguments
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB403.html

Re:  Burning bush
Wow.  I’m a little taken aback at the effort you take to break this down for me.  Your explications are lovely… poetic.  I can’t help to think that they are a bit fantastic, though.  Things that sooth the soul and rationalize horrible events are questionable to me.  It’s supposed to hurt.  That’s how you know it’s real.  Religion is a method of making sense of the senseless. 
    You are curious of my curiosity.  If 80% of the world believed that Maani’s flying spaghetti monster god existed, would you not be curious too?  You wouldn’t spend a lot of your time searching for this starchy god though, because it would appear to you unreasonable.  And so the 80% would say that you haven’t devoted enough of your time and energy into seeking this pasta deity.  You can’t open your mind and heart to him. 
  It seems reasonable to say that God can not be omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent conjointly - or children wouldn’t die of leukemia. 
  It also seems that if I can not sense Him, but can explain why other’s do, than three conditions exist.  He has prohibited our interaction, He doesn’t exist in the way that everyone says He does, or He doesn’t exist.  (You say He is ‘waiting in the wings’)
    There is a part of me that is extremely suspicious of things outwardly implausible.  If there is a lack of reasonable evidence that points to his existence, isn’t it reasonable to label a God implausible?  I trust that tomorrow the earth will still be here.  It might be sucked into a black hole, but I assume it won’t.  So I accept that which might be false, but reject that which might be true – a reasonable position considering that I don’t have the time or resources to pursue the improvable.
But God transcends reason.  Apparently, finding God requires more than curiosity - it requires a search in earnest.  I don’t have the inclination for this type of exploration.  And so I find myself in a catch 22 – I won’t search for that which does not seem discoverable, and it doesn’t seem discoverable because I don’t feel Him. 
It seems to me that the onus is on God (the God that you know) to reveal Himself to me.  If He seeks my companionship and love I can tell you that it is free for the taking – not just to Him, but to all who touch my life.

Ciao!  - Tebaldi

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By Joan, April 21, 2007 at 10:23 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 3

I am different from you here. I did not think God Himself would personally give me the time of day. I thought my requests would be more or less outsourced.  So I was not thinking He would set Himself ablaze before me to get my attention. In reality that is exactly what eventually He did. And He is hot in every conceivable way. But I heard Him in songs and other people’s words, in Bibles stories that seem to be versions of my life, in the ocean and nature, in the couple holding hands, in the glitter and glitz of holidays and celebrations and in the silence. His nature is reflected in nature’s workings and dynamics and in us. We are literally tripping over Him at every turn. And you realize this once you realize what channel He is on in the radio of your heart and mind…that’s right “radio”??!!!  You can turn up the volume and switch stations but cannot fully tune Him out because there is a rhythm in your soul and He is a dancer looking for a partner. 

God, it seems to man, lives on mountains…Sinai, Olympus, the Himalayas for starters …He is placed in these settings because He is not readily accessible on a person- to-person basis, so it seems. So if you are interested, you better be willing to climb. But you do not have to climb alone. He will assist. He will turn your ideas about life and Him upside down. He is not what Iexpected at all.
 
These are some of my observations. This is now about transcendence and ecstasy, the extraordinary connections with God. Here, God is like a very powerful opiate. Once you have tasted Him, you will not know how to live without tasting Him again and again.  So being with Him will be the central focus of your life. It is a more demanding and encompassing relationship than your marriage. He is a sage but He has feelings too. In this unusual relationship, He has desires. And He will want to shower you with what He has to offer. This will take time and effort and CONCESSIONS on your part to get these gifts from Him. He will INSIST on giving them. He will certainly indulge your wants but will want you to indulge Him too. Here is where the compromise of your free will begins.  He transcends what you understand and are interested in, nudging you so very gently, pushing you up that divine mountain for you to have what is His. You have to be willing to give in to Him. This overrides your free will. It is time consuming and really very hard to do this while you are raising a family, holding a job etc..  I was already in need of assistance and willing to accept a helping hand so I was willing to give over my reins some.  I was shocked that He gave me His Hand, personally. There is a reason why those who want to be close to God withdraw from the world. It is hard do manage both. Typically He works with us at a pace that will generally not interfere with what we are doing with our lives, our choices.  He shows a consummate respect for our lives and choices to a certain point.  Typically He hungers for us but for most people He stands in the wings, letting us have shot at the life we want and like Himself, making a go of what we have to work with. Once He has set His cap for you, the relationship will be unstoppable. We, it seems, are as powerful an opiate for Him as He is to us, if not more so. BTW He is not much for intellectualizing. He is more of the heart but will win any argument or debate with you hands down, then will move onto what He wants to do with you, which is always in your interest. He is selfless and enslaved by His people.  If in your heart you can find any love for this type of person, than you are opening up to Him. I doubt you will get a burning bush, but He informs. You just have to open Channel G and identify that Voice in the din that is His.

Joan

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By Joan, April 21, 2007 at 10:10 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi

Part 2

Re:  ID… The way I see it is that God got the ball rolling roughly through several mechanisms of which natural selection is one,  et al. Then it was discovered that cells turned out to be so much more complex than Darwin could ever imagine because of which cellular biologists proposed that natural selection could not explain them entirely, and again proposed that there was a plan/design involved in creation. They rejected that the theory of evolution alone was comprehensive enough or equipped to account for the complexity of cells. A plan implies a Planner as argued in Paley’s watch. So there you have it, very simple.  It seems to me that when scientists insist there is no God in this equation, they give us the Swiss cheese theory of creation. It seems to me that if the scientific agenda is now to disprove God that the endeavor is now tainted with a prejudice.

I perhaps cannot say definitively that homosexuality is not conducive to the survival of the species because I clearly do not have perfect knowledge. If I were charged with having to keep the species afloat however I think it would be reasonable to discourage en masse homosexual behavior. Also, I think the origin of homosexual behavior is germane to understanding it and ultimately to deciding how to manage it. The article I mentioned discusses homosexual behavior as a function of the segregation of the sexes in Saudi Arabia and not a gay lifestyle or genetically based. It is used by some until the male takes a wife. They do not feel drawn eternally to male partners. This is important to understand. This behavior en masse and built on by society should be understood and of concern. Saudi society should address the ramifications of its extreme views of sexuality, so should Catholicism. 

Guilty conscience…  my point here is for people to operate in the real world. This is not Nirvana. We should address the inequities as we go along as best we can. We should also just live our lives, doing all we can to not let inequities deprive us of our lives.


Burning bush…through humor you deflect the question and bounce it back to me like swatting away a tennis ball…but I am in earnest here…I am wondering what specifically God needs to do to satisfy you that He is interested in a relationship with you. You strike me as clearly curious about Him and a little miffed maybe at what you think is His indifference to your curiosity.  Before I go further, for the record here, as I may be explaining some of my observations about God, I am only talking from my personal observations and I am not trying at all to spin out new dogma. Each of us must decide for ourselves and I respect the individual and unique journey we are all on whether we consent to it or not. It’s what we do on earth- figure out God. I believe that God does answer our curiosity in many ways other than the burning bushes. They are a little intimidating those burning bushes. Remember poor Moses (Charlton Heston) returning from Sinai with gray hair.  What does He need to do to satisfy your curiosity?

Joan

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By Joan, April 21, 2007 at 10:04 am Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 1

Let’s start with scientific findings carrying no moral imperatives… Why do you think Einstein was wringing his hands after he shared the secret of nuclear power with us… science is a supposedly objective endeavor that does not operate within the constraints of ethical parameters. Einstein or another poor scientific soul let’s the cat out of the bag…Whoops???!!! These scientific pursuits have endangered the world and where was the moral imperative to stop? How did these scientists shoulder the moral obligation well, you know, not to give as you say a fickle people the power of the life and death over our entire planet.

Also we don’t feel compelled to change behavior based on scientific finding alone. In the face of science, we feel we are entitled to make our own judgments. For example, sexual promiscuity clearly runs counter to scientific finding that it is a very unhealthy and life threatening way to live. I would speculate that if science demonstrated that life began at 2 weeks, people would still support abortion.  For some reason that defies understanding, they support partial birth abortion, crushing skulls of fetuses or possibly little people. Of course there are ethical scientists. But science as an inquiry does not necessitate that certain discoveries require us to respond in certain ethical ways. Scientists often expect others to sort out the things they put on the table and do not see this as a part of their jobs, the objective purists pursuing knowledge that they like to see themselves as, unhampered by ethics and culture and religion. 

No one ever suggested that we treat gay persons or any other persons cruelly…not at all. But I am suggesting that people be willing to do the work it takes to solve their problems instead of turning the United States into one big guilty conscience.  I think this approach has backfired. Inequities are a fact of life and it is good to learn to accept that, you know- change what you can, accept what you can’t change and have the wisdom to discern the difference.  Were I consoling a gay person, I would share a bit of understanding about life that has helped me. We all have been on the receiving end of inequity but if you can love what you have, its richness and build on this, you can have a satisfaction in life that your life is bountiful. If you don’t do this, your end of days will be filled with painful regret. I speak from observing the 100- year old member of the family who never enjoyed or saw the beauty of what she had despite her significant hearing loss. It is a loss for her and her entire family that she never could smell the roses in her own garden. In retrospect she can see her losses now. It is very painful to her.

Joan

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By Tebaldi, April 20, 2007 at 7:29 am Link to this comment
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Re:  #64850 by Joan on 4/18

Hi Joan.

Re:  burning bush
Yes, that would suffice – I would prefer not to have to climb a mountain, though – somewhere in my backyard would do nicely.
Resistance?  No, unless I do it subconsciously.  What would I have to gain by resisting God?  Why would I be threatened / afraid? 
I don’t understand how my freewill would be affected; I imagine God wouldn’t work like that.  Freewill would be God’s greatest gift to mankind.  I envisage Him more a sage than a dictator. 
Quite the opposite, I imagine that I would be elated to know God.  Among other goodies, I would gain additional strength to resist temptation.  Why would I set up road blocks that prevent a powerful ally from entering my life?  Hell, I need all the help I can get.

Re: Guilty conscience
Of course one’s relationship with God is paramount.  Having our fellow man to assist us in this journey is important too (to include the church).  My point here, and since the start of this discussion, centers on inequities and acceptance. 

Re:  Homosexuality v Darwinism
Like I told Maani, there are a few hypotheses that explain how they logically coexist; some make more sense to me than others, but I won’t commit to any of them.  Joan Roughgarden (great name) wrote a book that actually challenges Darwin’s sexual selection concept. 
I don’t think that you can say definitively that homosexuality is not conducive to the survival of the species, although I agree that outwardly, it seems counterintuitive.
When I began this discussion, I wrote, “I won’t argue what causes someone to be a homosexual.  …The important things to recognize are that they are who they are and that homosexuality doesn’t hurt anyone.”  Now, obviously you guys have sucked me into this argument, but this doesn’t change what I consider to be the focus of this discussion.  Gays are here to stay.  Let’s deal with it the right way (which, coincidentally, is MY way smile ).
I disagree that Science carries no moral imperatives along with its discoveries.  Just like in business, ethics is mandatory subject matter.  Ethics were uppermost on scientist’s minds when they discovered cloning methods (et al). 

Re: ID
If you accept them all, you don’t accept them wholly.  This is fine, but when you mesh theories, the result is not a new theory – it’s a hypothesis.  So it’s easy for me to stand on the shoulders of a giant (Darwin) and regurgitate the fruit of his efforts.  You, on the other hand, have a lot of work to do.  You must clarify / detail your hypothesis, collect supporting evidence, and staff it to the world for acceptance as Darwin has.  Why? - Because at the risk of sounding jejune, Darwin’s theory trumps your hypothesis. 

Re: migration book
I agree.  I think that affirmative action (AA), nowadays, is more divisive than it is a useful device for society.  However, “wishing and hoping” is not fair; neither Blacks, nor gays were/are resting on their laurels, wringing their hands and whining.
Moreover, AA and gay rights are two different animals.  A while back I wrote this on AA:
“…frequently concepts have a way of out-growing their usefulness.  But while blacks will not always need the doors of opportunity opened for them, homosexuals will always have the desire to commit to monogamous relationships.  There is a temporal factor that differentiates the two scenarios.” 

Aspire to inspire before you expire! - Tebaldi

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By Joan, April 18, 2007 at 2:49 pm Link to this comment
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Maani,

Interesting…Also, another little tidbit about Bernard of Clairvaux is that he was a mystic who believed he understood that very mysterious book in the Bible, the Canticle of Canticles. He held it was about Christ’s erotic love of the bride/church. So how did Dan Brown miss out on that one?

Joan

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By Joan, April 18, 2007 at 2:47 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Part 2

Guilty conscience…I did not fall into the comfort of other Christian sects.  In fact I stayed away from organized religion for a few decades and struck out on a path with God Almighty in my own Joan-God Almighty way and He likewise struck out on a path with me in His own God Almighty-Joan way..…He likes honesty and really understands us more gently than we understand each other, cutting us a lot of slack. I cannot imagine that He would not know how to manage with love anyone and their own problems, no matter what churches think about them.  Is it God or a church that matters? I agree it is tough when the church that you love, let’s you down. Man- made churches do let us down, however. And we still have to play our hands. I am not all that welcome in churches as one who claims to, well… you know…hang around with God Almighty…but, oh well…being true to yourself is not necessarily all that easy… but it again is being a little like Divinity. We learn to stand on our own two feet. It is worthwhile.  He makes these losses up to you anyway with a little extra wisdom for one thing. All in all, placing all your faith in mankind is a risky business.
It is vitally important that the gay person sort through the morality of his actions for his own peace of mind. Following up on Maani’s comments, again I reiterate that gay behavior in American society is always presented as biological. I have pointed out that this was not so in Greek culture and the article I noted in the May edition of “The Atlantic” discussed gay behavior as a function of or maybe backlash to certain aspects of Arab/Islamic culture. If it is by choice, it is fair that it be subject to moral evaluation. Maani and I have both noted that en masse gay behavior is not conducive to the survival of the species. This may be one basis for the moral prohibitions. Moral prohibitions are meant to protect man and are not just arbitrary directives. Nature does not support an across the board gay lifestyle nor see fit to pass it on genetically, if it is genetic. Science carries no moral imperatives along with its discoveries. Note also that science indicates it is very unhealthy to have multiple sex partners but again no moral imperative attachés itself to our understanding of the unhealthy consequences of such behavior. Hence the necessity for morality or ethical theory or religions for those not inclined to intellectual evaluation. 

Re: nothing of significance happens randomly …Maani ‘s rendition on his last post regarding distinction of terms like ID and creationism, etc.  is quite excellent. In addition, accepting Intelligent Design and evolution and the Hand of God in creation are not for me mutually exclusive propositions. I accept them all simultaneously.

Re: migration book… here my point was like the author’s final ones…minorities may be far better served by doing the hard work of contributing to the community to improve their status rather than wishing and hoping that the community will save them through enlightenment and self remorse over previous unkind treatment. This latter approach may prove to work to their disadvantage. 

Joan

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By Joan, April 18, 2007 at 2:41 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Re: WW2…Okee-Dokee

Re: Mentoring…Okee-Dokee

Re: social approval…OK there, too.

Re: God’s lethargy…What do you want? a knock on the door? a burning bush? an email or a post on this thread, maybe? How would you know if He asked you to volunteer or that He has not? I observe that He has been open to connecting with you since we have been on this forum. It seems to me that you resist ideas Maani or I offer about Him. If I were His mediator/barrister, I would suggest that you want Him to engage with you but when He tries, you seem to close the door to His entrance. You need to give Him the kind of open-mindedness or cut him the kind of slack you do regarding the gay issue. For you to see God, you, “T”, I would think need to see God as an oppressed minority, which today He is.
Daily contact with God is a full time experience, which is why I think He waits until after we are actually dead for the most part. This intense relationship would intervene in a lot of things that you would consider your free will and He does not override that without much pause. I believe in my case when He saw my health declining, He came to the rescue of a long time and ardent secret admirer, among other things like my adventurism, and that action on His part played a major role in my transcendent experiences.

Re: discrediting someone’s reason…again, OK

Joan

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By Tebaldi, April 18, 2007 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment
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Re:  #64670 by Maani on 4/17 at 7:01 pm

Hi Maani – I knew it wouldn’t take much rousing.  smile

Re: 1st failure
Long ago I spelled out what I think the requisites for “naturally occurring” are (post #50874), and have repeated it since.  No one has disputed my opinion.

Re: 2nd failure
Excellent point.  There are many hypotheses on this (one person actually wrote a book on it from what I recall); I can’t say that I endorse any of them.  Not because they lack logic, rather they lack strong supporting evidence.  So, yes I can fathom a place for homosexuality within the context of Darwinism – It’s just not a very concrete argument. 

Re:  Immoral
If “immoral” is not quite what you mean, I would be quite interested in the correct word(s).  Clarifying this is critical to this discussion.

Re:  ID
You are correct in assuming that I have limited knowledge of ID.  I do, however, know the fundamental differences between creationism and ID.  How exactly did I make a “mistake”? 
How I elicited your warning, “Don’t get stuck in the phony media frenzy”, is beyond the realm of my understanding.
  You should note that I wasn’t assuming anything – just associating her diction with ID, as any reasonable person might. 
Incidentally, I think that evil and altruism, in their purest form are extremely rare, possibly anomalous, or possibly non-existent. 

Ciao!  - Tebaldi

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By Maani, April 17, 2007 at 10:03 pm Link to this comment
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Joan:

Just an aside.  You use the phrase “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  Actually, like “let them eat cake” (she actually said, “let them eat rolls”) and other common misquotes, the actual line (from Samuel Johnson, by way of John Ray and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux) is “hell is paved with good intentions.”  To this day, no one knows when the phrase “the road to” was added to the original line.

Just one of those obscure pieces of useless trivia I keep in my head (like the fact that sneezes travel as average of 105 miles per hour…).

Peace.

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By Maani, April 17, 2007 at 8:01 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi:

You don’t need to “stir me up”; you know I’m a pretty opinionated fellow anyway…LOL.

Re hetero/homosexuality, your comment (that if one is not a choice then the other is not either) fails for two reasons.

First, even if I cannot provide an answer here, there must be some “legitimate” (for lack of better term) reason why the ratio of straight to gay is so high (both nationally and globally); i.e., it would suggest that the latter is the “aberration,” not the former.

Second, you cannot on the one hand argue for Darwinism/evolution and all that it entails, and then suggest that behavior that flat-out negates procreation of a sepcies would be a “natural” outgrowth of evolution.

It is in these senses that I use the word “immoral,” though I admit that there may be a better word.  However, semantics aside, homosexuality is clearly not the “natural” behavior in either regard.

Re ID, you make the same (understandable) mistake that many do.  There is a difference between creationism and ID, and it is NOT a semantic one. ID simply suggests that Darwinism does not explain the ENTIRE diversity of life (and, for some, has holes big enough to drive a truck through).  This does not mean that evolution is not the legitimately prevailing theory, or that it is not supported by a plethora of evidence.  Nor does it suggest that the universe was created in six 24-hour days, or that humankind was created by “special creation.”  It simply notes that there continue to be “problems” with Darwinian theory, and that, if one is going to be intellectually honest, one must accept this without relying on “scientific faith” that, given enough time and study, it WILL explain “everything” about the evolution of species.  [At very least, Darwin fails utterly in explaining the existence of evil and altruism (though some evolutionary theorists have some ideas on the latter), since neither of these would be natural outgrowths of evolution or survival of the fittest.]

Indeed, the entire statement of the now 800-scientist strong “Dissent from Darwin” is simply this: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life.  Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”  Period.  No mention of God, much less creationism.

Don’t get stuck in the phony media frenzy in which ID and creationism are the same; they are not.  The latter IS an attempt by the Christian Right to have creationism taught in the schools (which I do not support); the former is an attempt to get the scientific and educational communities to be more intellecually honest with themselves.

Finally, here is an article I thought all would find interesting:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/17/science/17chimp.html?pagewanted=print

Peace.

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