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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 Keith Henson, January 22, 2007 at 1:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Part 2

>It is a main concern you have expressed, too many vying for a limited amount of resources. Live well. Accept death, make room for the young to have a fair shot at a good life at life, leaving them ample space and resources to meet their needs. And ending death seems preposterous.

So did ending cholera epidemics at one time.

>Science does fail. SCIENCE DOES FAIL.

So does a baby taking its first steps.  Science, and particularly applied technology, has a long ways to go.

>It fails, and telling a patient he lived long enough because science protected him from cholera is really not an answer to the desperation of a stage 4 cancer patient. You are continually side stepping the psychological side of life that science is not able to address regarding illness or heartbreaking losses, immorality…major parts of life that science cannot wrap its hands around but are essential aspects of life… heartache, broken dreams .Why???

Science and technology has made such matters as dying from starvation rare in the advanced countries and less common in the rest of the world.  A lot of what you list that “are essential aspects of life” are really rotten in my view.  We indeed have very different perspectives.

>On the one hand you are saying that a group of you want to freeze people to live on forever, whatever being frozen offers about life’s experience. And yada… yada… yada… we awaken in a better time and place…Really? how does anyone know that and how will the universe accommodate all of these awakenings???

It’s a big place.  Technology up to restoring those who have been frozen can support them in style.  It’s also a gamble, we are fully aware of that.

>On the other hand, you are denying discussion about life and those things about humanity that make life worth living,

snip

You should look into my background.  I have put my life on the line and live under a constant death threat from the scientology cult—probably the most vicious anti Christian group in the US.  Look up the things Hubbard had to say about Christ.  (Try Hubbard “lover of” in Google.)

I remember one minister in Hemet, California who would not even speak to me when I went to his service because of his fear after he found the cult’s phone taps on his church and home phones.  It is bizarre that I defend terrified Christians in defending free speech.

>Almost bit the dust 3 times in 3 different MVA’s and this is my creed…Live well and prosper, in the here and now!!!

Ever been convicted for protesting the gruesome deaths of two women by a kangaroo court, told by a county official your conviction was “political” and read a public posting that you will die in jail?

Ever been jumped by 20 cops armed with assault rifles?

Or had your leg damaged by a private investigator trying to push you out of the way with his minivan?

If you don’t want to respond, don’t.  As you said, “we think on such different planes” that there is little chance of meaningful communication.

Keith

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By Keith Henson, January 22, 2007 at 12:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Joan wrote:

>Again Keith, I think Ockham’ s razor favors the Designer by eliminating volumes of science, hypothesized or demonstrated, as the answer to the question as to how the universe came to be. We have a Designer, an answer, on the one hand…we have all the stuff trying to offset the Hand of the Designer, on the other hand…the razor shaves away all those volumes to answer this one question, how did the universe come to be, including all the posts we have read thus far.

One of the many functions of science is prediction.  One of the things cosmology predicted in great detail and then was found was the cosmic microwave background.  Was a designer a necessary part of the science that predicted the cosmic background radiation?  No.

There is some thought that gravity leakage from adjacent universes may account for the “dark matter” that shapes the large-scale structure of the visible universe.  Does the existence of a designer help determine if this idea (probably testable) is true or not?

Our particular universe has the feature of causality.  Certain social primates living on a planet that circles an unexceptional star have noticed this and expanded the feature into places it should not go. 

The decay of radioactive atoms is random.  The existence of the whole part of the universe we can see might well be similarly random.  (At one point the universe was smaller than an atom.)  To be consistent, should you claim a designer mediates the decay of every radioactive atom?

It may eventually turn out that (by a process analogous to that of boiling water) uncountable universes are produced and for the same reason rocks roll downhill.

If you want to believe a designer has a hand in every bubble that forms on the bottom of the pot, be my guest.  But unless the presence of a designer leads to predictions, the concept of a designer is not useful to understanding the origin of our particular patch of the cosmos.

Keith

PS.  I don’t expect you to understand cosmology.  Can’t say I have more than a passing knowledge of it myself but I know it does not require spooky things like gods.  (Yet anyway.  If there is evidence I will change my mind.)

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By Joan, January 22, 2007 at 10:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maani and Rick,

Is it all right if I jump in for a minute???  Here is another possible take on your discussion. It occurs to me that there us an equivocation here perhaps. So here goes.

“...non- believers who are usually called scientists”…This is roughly the problematic, equivocal phrase…


Manni READS it more like this parallel…people who wear super bowl rings usually (obviously) are called football players. Here the term “usually “ is just a casual part of the sort of “slangy”, sarcastic, maybe, everyday lingo asserting that that super bowl ring wearers are always football players… “OBVI” (obviously, as my young, twenty- something daughter says).

Rick READS it …non- believers are usually (but not necessarily or not always) called scientists.

It seems to me that each interpretation is equally valid or justifiable but the equivocation must be resolved so the discussion can continue…

This is one reason why language analysis and, language and logic are such fascinating topics and disciplines currently in philosophy and how language analysis is a vital key to learning about the power of our language and how language itself molds our thinking and ultimately molds us and induces our actions.  My style is a result of this indoctrination and has been to speak/write very simply/basically, to avoid a lot of technical jargon whenever possible.


BTW…A worhips service was held in Athens recently for Zeus!!! Move over scientologists.

Joan

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By Joan, January 22, 2007 at 8:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Keith,

I am aware that this is Maani’s rendition of the theory, not Hawkings…seems accurate to me.

Again Keith, I think Ockham’ s razor favors the Designer by eliminating volumes of science, hypothesized or demonstrated, as the answer to the question as to how the universe came to be. We have a Designer, an answer, on the one hand…we have all the stuff trying to offset the Hand of the Designer, on the other hand…the razor shaves away all those volumes to answer this one question, how did the universe come to be, including all the posts we have read thus far. This is merely a theoretical analysis and not necessarily that satisfying but still in favor of a Designer from the view of the razor’s edge.

That being said science, is a wonderful endeavor that gives us a handle on and more control over our lives and helps us as Einstein says, understand how God thinks—whether He roles dice—and/or allows exploration of all these wonderful musings and curiosities we have. Through science we feel the majesty of creating and manifesting our power over things and people at times but our science has not ultimately changed the cosmos and has it limitations too.

Joan

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By Joan, January 22, 2007 at 8:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Keith,

Laws of nature present and operant from the beginning, especially ones that direct themselves to cultivating a universe that is hospitable to and generates life, are presupposed by a design and a goal. And the probability of such a universe occurring randomly is nil. That is the science here and the rational thought.  Rare occurrences, you say ??? Where are there any such occurrences of anything even much less complex occurring without design and direction?

People do not stop believing believe in God because they believe in science. People stop believing in God for other reasons and then appeal to science as a sort of crutch or justification for their lack of belief and for some kind explanation of the world. But there is too much of us that science is not designed to address.

If science produced God Himself in Person those who dot no want to believe will still be unconvinced.

Joan

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By Maani, January 22, 2007 at 6:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Keith:

I cannot find the exact quote I want from Hawking (it is at home; I am not), but will send it later.

In the meantime, here are a couple of others:

“The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.”

“If we find the answer [the unified theory], it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for we would know the mind of God.”

“The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?” (This is Joan’s basic question.)

“When asked, ‘What did God do before he created the universe?’ St. Augustine didn´t reply, ‘he was preparing Hell for people who asked such questions.’ Instead, he said that time was a property of the universe that God created, and that time did not exist before the beginning of the universe.”

“What I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began. This doesn’t prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary.”

“So Einstein was wrong when he said “God does not play dice”. Consideration of black holes suggests, not only that God does play dice, but that He sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can’t be seen.”

I am not suggesting that any of this means that Hawking is a “believer” in any significant sense.  But he is apparently almost as agnostic as was Einstein - and far more wiling to at very least ENTERTAIN the existence of a “God” than you or many other scientists.

Joan:

I was not speaking to illnesses caused by stress or other “actual” factors.  A psychosomatic illness is, by definition, one that does not have a physical cause, or indeed ANY cause but “the mind.”  For example, I know someone who was so certain that he was going to die of cancer that he created - by sheer force of unconscious will - a polyp under his arm.  His doctor removed it and found it to be completely benign.  But the doctor found no medical reason why it should have been there at all.  Rather, the doctor (who had been this person’s physician all of his adult life, and thus knew of his fear of cancer) knew almost immediately that it had been a product entirely of mind.

And that is only one of many examples I could provide.

Peace.

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By Joan, January 21, 2007 at 4:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Keith,

Part 3

“Transhumanists deplore death…”  Why do they deplore death? Death is a natural occurrence to rid the earth of too many people, especially those well beyond their prime. What is so special about man that he is entitled to such special treatment to be preserved for future endeavors? ? They have had their lives. There is a life’ s cycle that nature WISELY limits. The earth only accommodates so many. Surely you agree with this. It is a main concern you have expressed, too many vying for a limited amount of resources. Live well. Accept death, make room for the young to have a fair shot at a good life at life, leaving them ample space and resources to meet their needs. And ending death seems preposterous.

Science does fail. SCIENCE DOES FAIL. It fails, and telling a patient he lived long enough because science protected him from cholera is really not an answer to the desperation of a stage 4 cancer patient. You are continually side stepping the psychological side of life that science is not able to address regarding illness or heartbreaking losses, immorality…major parts of life that science cannot wrap its hands around but are essential aspects of life… heartache, broken dreams .Why??? On the one hand you are saying that a group of you want to freeze people to live on forever, whatever being frozen offers about life’s experience. And yada… yada… yada… we awaken in a better time and place…Really? how does anyone know that and how will the universe accommodate all of these awakenings???

On the other hand, you are denying discussion about life and those things about humanity that make life worth living, such as our feelings, reason and humanness which is more poignant to the average person than knowing about the spectacularly surprising intricacies of a human cell or the elegance of a balanced equation that suggests string theory. Who cares about this when you fall in love or are told you will die in a year? Is this what you tell your friend who is diagnosed…well, gee, isn’t it great that we know about how the Big Bang worked up to the last few milliseconds at least ???  Or at least you didn’t die earlier of cholera!!! Of course science does wonderful things but to everything there is its own season and telling an untreatable cancer victim that they would not have lived that long without science protecting them from cholera is out of season, to say the very least. It borders on unconscionably insensitive. I would think “first you cry”…and then you search for direction. And I do not mean directions to the nearest freezer… What do you say to your friend to help him know his life was worthwhile in some way, or to help him have the strength to deal with his demise, to help his family. People who are terminal cope of don’t cope…well that sums up the set of all possible answers but how human is it? What role do you play in helping them cope? OR…
“Perhaps those who are apt to die had better do so and decrease the surplus population.” Ebenezer Scrooge.

Almost bit the dust 3 times in 3 different MVA’s and this is my creed…Live well and prosper, in the here and now!!!

Joan

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By Joan, January 21, 2007 at 4:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Keith,

Part 2

Man and wars…. I see no reason for man to be preserved eternally. Why should mankind be frozen and take up our precious space and use any of our resources? Why worry about Irish women or any women reducing the number of offspring? If man is just primordial ooze that formed happenstance after an inexplicable explosion, who cares if, like certain ant colonies needing sustenance, men attack each other and carry off what they need, the strongest prevailing and the weak eradicated or enslaved and utilized by the interests of the stronger. Worked out pretty well for Rome. Right?  This is what Darwin and scientists in general say is the right-minded understanding of our world, namely nature finds a way and it is survival of the strongest, not the most ethical. If men, like ants, fight over resources when resources get lean, isn’t this nature’s way of decreasing the surplus population? What difference does it make morally if men die by other men’s hands as opposed to gazelles that are picked off by a pack of lionesses? To keep itself operating optimally, nature is doing what it does in the Darwinian context—-using whatever techniques necessary either promulgated by man, like wars or by nature, like typhoons. Based on what I have said… why, in your mind do we have a moral mandate to avoid war, Keith? Man is no different from anything else produced by the ooze, so why is war anything to be avoided if nature is just doing its thing here? You have given me the impression that you are very concerned that wars should be avoided. Why??? Why not just let nature take its course? By your theories, wars are fought primarily over sustenance depletion. So what? Why intervene and stop it? If there are too many people for nature to support, then nature through war does the right thing by letting wars occur. Why worry about women practicing birth control and why not just let women for once just do what they please? (Just an aside, you once wrote that women were enslaved and that has been the root problem for wars, implying that fewer children and education for women would ameliorate that root cause. That women are no longer enslaved is illusory. Today’s American female has more responsibilities than perhaps anytime in American history. They very often must now work outside the home as well to support any decent sort of standard of living while carrying most of the load at home and with childcare while looking like Jennifer Anniston and cooking and maintaining a home like Martha Stewart. And many are very angry and unhappy inside but cannot escape the bed they made for themselves to lay in. A great many American educated, married women with children are being worked to death, enjoying very little of any aspect of their lives, just too overextended and exhausted to appreciate all the good things that are there for them. I worry for my own daughters that they will not have the choice to even raise their own children, if the want to. So reducing the number of children does not mean by any stretch that we all will live happily ever after. I think it is time for both men and women to leave women alone to find their own way)

Joan

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By Joan, January 21, 2007 at 3:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Keith,

Part 1

I am really sorry…I utterly missed your last post to me and I do not know how I did that but I just did. Actually I was also waiting for your response too. I thought you were away on vacation or something. Again, so sorry. 

I ask you these questions now not to be argumentative. I have sorted through some the major questions of life, seen folks die too and have had some rough health problems, major life surprises to handle and I have come to certain conclusions that make sense and are also logically consistent to me as I worked through these situations. See my last response to Tebaldi for a little expansion of these ideas. I am now really trying to get a handle on how you and some others on this thread deal with these kinds of questions, the ones I asked, not for the sake of winning an argument but for the sake getting information.  So I am going to respond to your thoughts in that context, not perhaps as much philosophically as I have tended to do, but let’s say more person to person, out of curiosity. Please keep this mind when you read my responses.

I do not feel that you are really answering my questions. This may be because we think on such different planes that they do not seem to make sense to you.

Joan

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By Joan, January 20, 2007 at 7:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Tebaldi,

One reason discussion is so interesting that it teaches you about yourself. The questions and challenges people put forth to you make you examine your own ideas. You are correct in that for me in a way the Bible is something of the adventure of Huck Finn. Like most people who hit the early twenties, maybe for some people earlier, I wanted to figure out life for myself on the spiritual level. I did a Cartesian thing, suspended my previous assent or acceptance of what I had been taught about values and God. Over the decades I re- constructed them, the moral ones and the ones about God, including whether or not I believed. Moses had his journey, searching away and I had mine. Do I see the Bible the way the fundamentalist does? Not really. But, it serves me well as a book of people’s adventures with God and they get some of it correct and some of it not so correct, I think.  Their adventures affirm my experiences with the invisible God of Abraham and this help me know I am on the right track in my adventure. I have concluded that each person makes this journey in his own way and comes to his own conclusions. But these biblical figures are archetypes of various types of spiritual or psychological journeys that are a typical part of one’s life over a lifetime. I don’t think anyone but perhaps Christ has it all together or gets it all.

I do not know too much about scientology but Keith does. My brief dealings with it would have me reject it as a religion as I hold that a religion has Deity as its head not a popular person. To me that is a fan club. That such an ideology has appeal is really strange to me and to me it should be red flag to the major religions suggesting that they need to revise their activities and approaches. I think people are in need of spiritual relationships but not what I think are nutty ones involving space ships and clams??? Is Alan Shor (Boston Legal) really right about that????

Sadly, any ideology can be twisted. The Bible has been used to do harm, as has the Koran. I agree you that it is reader who is the danger.  Like you, I have directed my children to make their own judgments about moral values. I believe though that our intrinsic worth is derived from sharing in Divinity without that sharing, I contend we are not justified to expect special moral consideration, if we are nothing more than a spoonful of primordial soup, no matter how much mankind has screwed up what Divinity may mean. Walden Pond, the Bible, “The Little Engine That Could”, everything around us speaks the same moral lessons very often. Actually the problem in dealing with moral issues is often not that we do not know what is the correct morally course of action but undertaking doing the correct moral action. There are still times I definitely would like a little guidance, though. And here I just trust the guidance I get. It works, I find.

As far as my quote about teaching, I did have to teach whoever landed in my section, a few of them even scared me. My point is though, in my field you deal with dispute as matter of course. It goes with the territory. I have had to deal with ongoing dispute. Of the numerous definitions of philosophy, the one I gave my students was “Philosophy is the art of GENTLEMANLY disputation”. I have always had deal with dispute and think little of it. It is by definition in philosophy expected but this is not so in other walks of life in which dispute is considered impolite or a challenge to one’s ability. Disputing another’s bona fide differences is not grounds for denigrating them and should not be, however. I am perhaps not so much pious as I am perhaps seasoned. Maybe a smidge pious, though. LOL

BTW - The password that came up for submitting this post was “friend”.

Joan

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By Joan, January 20, 2007 at 5:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maani,

I think the “docs” accept the science but I think that given certain cultural expectations we place on ourselves as having to be being sort of masters of the universe, doctors are hesitant to tell patients that certain stresses or reactions could be contributing to their, say for example, cardiac problems or hypertension. To me it seems we have placed the expectation on ourselves that we must be able to confidently handle anything the worldor anyone dishes out to us, all little James Bonds, if you will. It’s a cultural thing, I think. And so if a doc suggests that the problems are from excess psychological stress, he maybe suggesting that the patient is in some way falling short as a person. That’s where I am coming from with the comment you cited. Descartes exploited this hypothesized duality that probably in fact is not the case.

Descartes was cool. To my recollection he proved God’s existence first so that he could convince the Church Fathers that he was a sincere believer not just trying to sidestep or minimize God. But he was so methodical, a real mathematician, and won the day with his proofs and getting the Church Fathers to back off so that scientific investigation openly pursued. Very cool.

Joan

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By Maani, January 20, 2007 at 5:29 pm Link to this comment
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Rick:

I am more than willing to “move on” from the theological standpoint.  However, this leaves the question of your command of English grammar.  LOL.

The construction of that sentence leaves ALOT to be desired re your now-stated intention of what it meant.  Yes, I can see that it COULD mean what you have said you meant.  But that is NOT how the average person would render the meaning of that sentence, and particularly your use of the word “usually” to express what you meant.

The only people “usually” called “scientists” are those who have studied science and earned a degree in one or another field.  The only people “usually” called “non-believers” are those who have statedthat they are, or who act like, atheists.

Thus, to ascribe the monikers “scientist” or “non-believer” - on a “usual” basis - to those who “focus more on natural, far less-errant truth that gets more clear (instead of less clear)” is extremely convoluted grammar. The proper sentence construction here should have been (and this is still FAR from perfect): “Scientists and non-believers are usually those who have focused more on natural, far less-errant truth that gets more clear…”

Note that this statement CANNOT simply be “reversed” (as you did) and remain logical, much less grammatically correct.

And yes, I was an English major for over seven years (long before I was a believer…LOL), so I feel very confident in offering this.

NOW we can move on (LOL).

Peace.

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By Joan, January 20, 2007 at 4:58 pm Link to this comment
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Keith,

Sorry… I evidently missed your response and was still waiting for from one you…I will look through the posts and get on it.

Joan

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By Keith Henson, January 20, 2007 at 3:28 pm Link to this comment
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>Tebaldi wrote:

snip

>When a well-adjusted reasonable person whose basic needs are being met relates to the Koran, then yes, it serves as an excellent tool for self-improvement/enlightenment.  In the hands of an impoverished pissed-off 16 yr old Muslim, it can be the rationale for participating in mass murder.

Bingo! 

I discuss this as an evolved mechanism in a paper you can find by Googling evolutionary psychology memes.

>It amazes me that our latest religion, Scientology, is replete with dogma.  It would seem to me that a religion w/o rules would be more attractive to folks these days.

Extreme cults such as scientology appeal to gullible people who are sensitive to the drug-like rewards from the intense attention cults provide.  Google for sex drugs cults if you want the long version. 

Googling for scientology dogma give you 216,000 pages.

Fortunately there are not that many extremely gullible people.  Someone who just escaped put the world wide number at 50,000 and US members at 30,000 or less depending on how you count them.

>Children need structure and a reinforcement of their intrinsic ethical divining rod. 

It’s a good question as to how much effect “religious instruction” has on them.  I know a fair number of young people and I don’t see a lot of difference in those raised with religious instruction and those without. 

Snip

Best wishes,

Keith

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By Keith Henson, January 20, 2007 at 2:25 pm Link to this comment
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Joan wrote:

>(1). Given - the eminent scientist of the day Stephen Hawking’s supports the anthropic principle, namely, ” the universe seems to have been created from the beginning in order to create and sustain intelligent, self conscious, thoughtful life.” Maani’s post # 48263. (True by inspection or observation)

That’s Maani’s restatement of the Anthropic principle, not Hawking’s.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle

“In physics and cosmology, the anthropic principle is an umbrella term for various dissimilar attempts to explain the structure of the universe . . . .

Snip

“The common (and “weak”) form of the anthropic principle is a truism or tautology that begins with the observation that the universe appears surprisingly hospitable to the emergence of life.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_universe

“Major possibilities

“If it is accepted that the universe is fine-tuned, there are a number of possibilities.

“Random chance: It could be that through sheer random circumstance, this universe is the one that was formed, and that there is no further explanation. Some believe that fine-tuning does not need any more explanation than that a particular roll of dice would result in a double six (i.e. an extremely lucky event). They argue that our universe had to have physical constants, and they just happen to be the ones that permit our existence, as opposed to no living creatures, or different ones, and suggest that, had there been other sapient and sentient beings in a totally different universe living in totally different bodies they would have asked the exact same apparently meaningless question.

“Multiverse: This assumes the existence of many universes with different physical constants, some of which are hospitable to intelligent life.

Snip

“Providence or Creation The universe may have been created with the special characteristics required to be biophilic. Variants on this approach include:

“Intelligent design: Proponents of Intelligent Design need not assume that only physical reasons exist for the constants of nature to be as they are. Therefore they are able to reason that the universe was purposely designed to support life by God (redesignated the “Intelligent Designer”).

Snip

“Such proponents generally dispute some of the scientific facts about evolution or the age of the universe.

“Other religious creation views.

Snip

“For example scientist-theologians such as John Polkinghorne emphasise the implications of Anthropic Fine-Tuning within an orthodox Christian framework whilst fully accepting the scientific findings about Evolution and the age of the Universe. This is also the position of the Roman Catholic Church and of most Anglican theologians, . . .”

snip

>(2). Given - the laws of nature did not evolve but were present and operant from the beginning, the Big Bang.  (True by inspection or observation)

“1998 - Controversial evidence for the fine structure constant varying over the lifetime of the universe is first published.

“1998 - Adam Riess, Saul Perlmutter and others discover the cosmic acceleration in observations of Type Ia supernovae providing the first evidence for a non-zero cosmological constant. This is confirmed by measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation by the BOOMERanG experiment

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_cosmology

>(3). Therefore, design is inherent in the dynamics and functioning of the universe.

>The conclusion, statement (3), is true or false?

At this point, it’s random/multiverse against Providence/Creation/Intelligent design.

There is no certain evidence either way, but sticking in a “designer” when one does not help to account for the universe violates Ockham’s razor. 

>Why/why not?

See above.

Keith

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By Richard, January 20, 2007 at 1:19 pm Link to this comment
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Joan:

I’ve heard you complain many times about discrimination against women, and inequality. Is equality really what you want?

I think there really is a myth of male privilege in our society. We are privileged to die earlier from any cause—war, accident, disease, suffer higher rates of any disease you could name, [including phlebitis (sorry about that)], even if we don’t die.  Look at the statistics. Any F!@#ed up thing that can happen to a human being happens more often to men, not just in terms of raw numbers, but percentages (alcoholism, insanity, drug addiction, homelessness). To be sure, men get higher paying jobs and do more of the decision making. We pay dearly for the stress of carrying the responsibility.

Who is it that teaches a boy what it means to be a “real” man? Ordinarily, his mother. Fathers usually go along with what she teaches because it’s part of the role they play.

Nature has not predisposed males to being monogamous, for example. Oftentimes uncles and brothers encourage the opposite. During puberty and early adulthood, sucess and manliness are often equated to sexual conquest of multiple women. Then we meet a woman we want to satisfy in a deeper way, and we get married. It’s time to go against our nature, “grow up” and “be civilized.”

The prize is both in seeing her satisfaction and attaining that status which comes from the role playing—respect for grown-up, civilized behavior in the workplace and society, a good paycheck to bring home to her and to provide for the family with.

When it all falls apart, women get the advantage in every property settlement and custody arrangement. That is true whether she leaves him or he initiates divorce. He is beat to hell, defeated, left with fewer choices. His whole life is taken from his control.

We human males continue to play these roles, even knowing the risks, because we understand there’s a difference between what’s natural and what’s civilized. We seek to do what’s best for our family, the building block for the survival of our species. Apes just do what’s natural. We can reason otherwise. [There’s still a huge question mark over whether or not any of the rules of natural vs. civilized came from revelation vs. reason].

I find it ironic that one who insists on the traditional mode of thinking as a fundamental approach to life (the basis of trust in religion) would wish to tear down all of this role playing by establishing equal everything for women. Do you want equal longevity, disease, etc. to go along? Be careful what you wish for, Joan. You might just get it.

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By Maani, January 19, 2007 at 8:52 pm Link to this comment
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Joan:

Thanks for bringing up Descartes.  Let us not forget that he not only helped bring about the Scientific Revolution, but simultaneously provided the first ontological proof of the existence of God - and not just any “God,” but a “benevolent God.”  [Rick: Note that I did NOT say “Christian God.”  Thank you.]

Re the “mind-body duality” you speak of, and your comment - “Even though we know today that the chemistry of the mind impacts us physically, MD’s are still hesitant to discuss a patient’s health problems as mind-based but prefer the body-based model. The mind and body certainly impact each other and research into our biochemistry more and more unravels the relationship” - let us not forget that almost all doctors, medical scientists and psychologists accept the existence of “psychosomatic” illnesses - illnesses “created” by the mind, but that symptomatize in the body in very real ways.

Peace.

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By Joan, January 19, 2007 at 7:01 pm Link to this comment
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Rick,

I am doing OK, really I am, like the mailman, through rain, snow, sleet and any other general stuff that is lobbed at you… but, I am truth be told, having a bout with phlebitis that may eventually limit my time here…hopefully not…I am typing with one leg on top of my desk…
The chicken parmagania this week was not my finest culinary hour. Thanksgiving now that was my masterpiece…even brined the turkey..…but I would love to have everyone here over to eat…what a row it would be …like a symposium…everyone talking at the same time, no one agreeing, no one really listening to anyone else too seriously, everyone interrupting and everyone eating a lot…like the good old days in a philosophy department, everyone’s head spinning ...and everyone needing a drink…

Re: Francis Collins…you are most welcome…

Joan

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By Joan, January 19, 2007 at 6:39 pm Link to this comment
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Dave,

Don’t need Harris to speak for me, capable of that myself, quite evidently. I think some professionals have some fantasies or perhaps just forgetfulness about the way they have treated females. As a grad student in Houston in the late 70’s I was perusing the Princeton University Student Handbook which still prided itself that it only permitted a few women into its graduate philosophy program, a little like the medical schools to my recollection…so religions are just one venue of discrimination. AND let’s not forget the Founders who ignored Abigail Adams’ entreaty that “they remember the ladies”. These are your boys, right, the Founders, our indomitable heroes.

Joan

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By Rick Yel, January 19, 2007 at 4:22 pm Link to this comment
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Good question.  Who is the desperate one?

I guess the starting point of this now dreary dialogue was my statment:  “People who focus more on natural, far less-errant truth that gets more clear (instead of less clear) over time are usually called scientists (or non-believers).”

You then go on to respond with the following:

  >“No mention of a Christian God, no mention of “most” scientists.  Simply a claim that “scientist = non-believer.” How am I doing so far?” 

Not so well, if I may be blunt.  Writing that original statment, I recall knowingly leaving myself open to argument.  For just a response as yours I included the word “usually” so as not to include all scientists in the realm of atheism,  which obviously is not true.  I also explicitly claimed, in the survey noted, that not all scientists (present in the NAS survey) were non-believers. 

Maani, As long-winded as this response is, you have made it necassary to respond in such a way.  I think it was my Philosophy of Logic and Language classes junior year of college that taught me to be very, very careful with my wording.  Now if I said they are ONLY called scientists, you would have a strong argument.  But I didn’t and you don’t.

Again, scientist does not = non-believer.  However, in MOST cases it does as seen by AVAILABLE (I will caps lock these kinds of words from now on) evidence.  Again, I challenge you to set your own standards of finding evidence if not satisfied.  Read Carefully, you will see this in my original statment. 

In case you forgot, here it is in its original form, with no need of changing:  “People who focus more on natural, far less-errant truth that gets more clear (instead of less clear) over time are usually called scientists (or non-believers).”

No “backpeddling” here.  Just a drawn-out explanation.  It seems you have errored in reading my passage.  Or you are unaware of what the word “usually” means.  In either case the dust should be settled by now.  And as is common practice in discussions like this, I will leave you with a question:

Could it be subjective “rendering” of another authors original statement (such as the case here) that is the very reason we are having this 640+ columns discussion in the first place?

Eh, well enough mumbo jumbo.  I think this should clear things up.  If not, we can bicker even more, but im afraid it’s rather tedious and unnecassary for most people to be exposed to this sort of semantic struggle.  Let’s move on.

Best,

Rick

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By Keith Henson, January 19, 2007 at 3:07 pm Link to this comment
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On 1/11 Joan wrote:

>Keith,

>I feel like we are talking I circles. Before I take a more detailed look at you response. I would like your response to these three questions.

I responded.  It’s been almost a week.

Keith Henson

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By Tebaldi, January 19, 2007 at 2:53 pm Link to this comment
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Greetings Joan (et al).  Not to overuse the Twain references, but you make the Bible sound like the adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Most religions revere their Bible as if it were edited by God Himself.  When a well-adjusted reasonable person whose basic needs are being met relates to the Koran, then yes, it serves as an excellent tool for self-improvement/enlightenment.  In the hands of an impoverished pissed-off 16 yr old Muslim, it can be the rationale for participating in mass murder.
   
It amazes me that our latest religion, Scientology, is replete with dogma.  It would seem to me that a religion w/o rules would be more attractive to folks these days.

Children need structure and a reinforcement of their intrinsic ethical divining rod.  As an adult, I find such guidance to be condescending.  I value On Walden Pond as much as I do the Bible.  Neither should dictate my actions.

On a side note, your bias shows through when you (perhaps subconsciously) wrote “I have had to teach philosophy to many people who don’t hold my views…”  (as if it were a chore) – Just a friendly poke… Viva la difference!

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By Maani, January 19, 2007 at 2:22 pm Link to this comment
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Rick:

Methinks thou dost protest too much - and that thou also forgettest thy original statement, and thus the point of this discourse.  Because it is not what MY original point was, but yours.

The discussion started with your statement that, “People who focus more on natural, far less-errant truth that gets more clear (instead of less clear) over time are usually called scientists (or non-believers).”

No mention of a Christian God, no mention of “most” scientists.  Simply a claim that “scientist = non-believer.”  How am I doing so far?

I responded by naming half a dozen or more noted scientists who were, in fact, believers.  If by “those scientists could not or would not “reject such claims” you are suggesting that they were not believers, then you need to read more history and biography.  And this had nothing to do with potential “punishment” by the church.  As noted, Galileo remained an ardent Catholic DESPITE his punishment by the RCC.  That is historical fact.

Re the ~1750 cut-off, I admit it was somewhat arbitrary.  But I assumed that the “demand of obedience” you referred to was Middle Ages, since that “demand” lightened considerably after the Renaissance.  Thus, the “demand of obedience” would not have been nearly as much of an issue (if an issue at all) by the mid-1700s and later.

Who CARES that he is the founder of the Human Genome Project?  Why does that make him any more an expert on what every scientist - or even every prominent scientst - believes or does not believe?  Do you think Watson goes around asking every scientist he comes in contact with, “Hey, do you believe in God?”  Please.  Let’s be serious.  And as for “a survey on hundreds of scientists saying the same thing,” I repeat that your original statement EQUATED scientism with “non-belief.”  You did NOT qualify that statement.  That you do so now is backpedaling.

You then state “My argument all along has been that science uncovers truths normally reserved for organized religion.  Hence, giving less and less hold to religion over our understanding of the natural world.”  Here we agree completely - yet this was NOT what your statement vis-v-vis science and belief spoke to - unless it was simply a poorly constructed statement.

Finally, you say, “[I] see no reason why a person believing in something supernatural gives any substantial credibility to someone as yourself claiming the Christian God to exist.”

Setting aside the complete absurdity and illogic of wondering why what someone ELSE believes has even the slightest iota of relevance to what I believe, if you are now admitting that some (perhaps even many) scientists believe in SOME sense of the supernatural - up to and including a “personal” God (whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Zoroastrian or other) - this pretty much puts the kibosh on your original UNQUALIFIED statement that “scientist = non-believer,” doesn’t it?

So who is desperate here?

Peace.

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By Rick Yel, January 19, 2007 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment
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Joan, thank you for the Francis Collins reference. I had alluded to him in a recent post.  I hope you are doing well.  And when are you going to send me some of this great food you keep talking about???

Rick

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By Joan, January 19, 2007 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment
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Rick,

My understanding is that organized religion DOES NOT any longer make claims in the areas of science and has not done so since perhaps Descartes or even prior. In fact this was the point of the entire Cartesian exercise. Descartes argues in his six meditations, ultimately concluding that the mind and body were separate and by studying the body/material, scientists were not interfering, undermining or usurping the appropriate domain of religion and of the RC Church, whose purview is the mind/soul. When he successfully argued for this separation for the appropriate domains of religion and science, Descartes freed the scientists from the censorship and scrutiny the RC Church so that he and his fellow scientists could freely explore the material world without clerical interference or fear of punishment. He literally swung open the door to the Enlightenment.

This forthwith- philosophical mind/ body duality has had a tremendous effect on approaches undertaken in science, again clearly not that totally objective, culturally free, pristine endeavor people sometimes claim science to be.  The effects were mainly seen in the area of medical science that has hence historically treated the body/ material as operating separately from the mind/ immaterial/psychological and its operations. Even though we know today that the chemistry of the mind impacts us physically, MD’s are still hesitant to discuss a patient’s health problems as mind- based but prefer the body- based model. The mind and body certainly impact each other and research into our biochemistry more and more unravels the relationship. Perhaps there is no mind/body duality at all and it is again just a philosophical mechanism to achieve a desired goal, much like Jefferson’s ploy of appealing to a Creator in the Declaration to get what he wanted, freedom from another oppressor of mankind, England.

Bottom line - it is not correct to claim that the organized religions maintain that empirical science is their rightful domain. They do not in the Christian tradition, excepting for a few extremists who will always be with us. Golly, I had nuns who were taking advanced degrees in science when I was in high school and many priests are also scientists. We learned about Darwin in sophomore biology. Again I am not sure where these ideas about religion come from but it is not logical (to appeal to our beloved Mr. Spock) to take the positions of a few extremists and claim they are the position of mainstream religions.

Joan

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By Dave Summers, M.D., January 19, 2007 at 12:11 pm Link to this comment
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RE:  The Editorial Intent of Truthdig.com, the Supremacy of Truth & Reason and the Primacy of Free Inquiry in the Real World, its
    Galaxy & the Cosmos

Today Sam Harris has directed my attention to the “On Faith” reports of the Newsweek.WashingtonPost.com website, where he discusses “God’s Hostages” or females, who have been and continue to be mistreated by most religions. Along with my daily readings of “Freethought of the Day” by the editorial staff of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, publishers of “Freethought Today”, I enjoy the ongoing reports from Dr. Paul Kurtz & staff of the Ctr for Inquiry Transnational, Ctr for the Scientific Examination of Religion, Secular Humanism, etc.  Fortunately, as Dr. Kurtz reports, these efforts to uphold free inquiry and to spread the noble ideals of secular humanism are growing.  And, as Ruth Hurmence Green (1915-1981) wrote just before her death: “Freedom depends on free thinkers”, especially the liberties guaranteed by our Democracy, the survival of which depends on secular governance (to repeat, Ruth Green also noted “the time when religion ruled the world, known as the Dark Ages”).  Finally, thanks to A.L. Gaylor, Dan Barker, et. al. of the FFRF, I’m reminded that the mathematical prodigy, Auguste Comte, was born today (1798-1857) and noted that “All good intellects have repeated, since Bacon’s time, that there can be no real knowledge but which is based on observed facts” or what I’ve designated as “reality-based truths” in this dialogue.

What appears obvious in all science & religion discussions is an effort by faith-heads to re-define truth, to escape from reality, to guard even with their final breath existence of a “God”, a salvation in a nonexistent “heaven” to avoid eternal fire in a nonexistent, eternal “hell” and the immortality-delusion combined with a conviction that human morality w/o their invented “god” is nonexistent or faulty or impossible, and that humans are devoid of & incapable of doing justly, being kind and walking humbly, here & now, on this “tiny blue dot” in our vast Cosmos.  But the many books & articles by Paul Kurtz & others reveal that human experience alone creates & has created our morality, that invented faiths are not needed for exuberance in living and that the principles of the Humanist Manifesto and the affirmations of secular humanism are all the “perfection” humans need to enjoy meaningful, productive lives.

Exemplary of truth-evasion, subliminal or covert anger and retreats into the unknown or the unknowable or fantasy or denial of delusions, combined with perpetual brainwashing equalling that of temporary hypnosis, are the comments, rebuttals, attempted elucidations of nonsense and refusals to admit the unreason of all types of supernaturalism—all of which I regard as typical or highly characteristic of religion’s apologists, some of whom have contributed to these Harris-initiated and Dawkins-confirmed facts of & about America’s preponderance of “braindrenched” preoccupation with sectarian fantasies, unreason and nonsense.  That fantasy cannot be defended by truth and unreason will never be transformed into reason are and will continue to be the basis of or for science & supernaturalism conflicts.

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By Joan, January 19, 2007 at 11:29 am Link to this comment
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Maani, Rick and Everyone,

(1). Given - the eminent scientist of the day Stephen Hawking’s supports the anthropic principle, namely, “ the universe seems to have been created from the beginning in order to create and sustain intelligent, self conscious, thoughtful life.” Maani’s post # 48263. (True by inspection or observation)

(2). Given - the laws of nature did not evolve but were present and operant from the beginning, the Big Bang.  (True by inspection or observation)

(2). Therefore, design is inherent in the dynamics and functioning of the universe.

The conclusion, statement (3), is true or false? Why/why not?

Joan

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By Joan, January 18, 2007 at 7:13 pm Link to this comment
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Malini,

I love that particular quote of Kennedy’s and I find it inspiring and I hope it is inspiring to many, many others.

9/11 was certainly a turning point for the United States and I think for Islam in general.

I could not agree with you more that faith or any ideology has to be supported by some reasoning process. People cannot just go off doing heinous acts and then say their religion told them it was OK and God wants them to do those things so it is all right to kill thousands of people. That was the point of the Pope’s challenge to Islam. He was in essence saying that it is wrong to adopt certain actions the name of God who is Reason among other things and then execute these actions in the absence of all moral reason. This position of the Catholic Church, the largest Christian sect, is speaking to your precise objection, namely people just adopting faith and doing anything and everything, saying God told them to do it. Not acceptable says the pope, rightly. And this is the point that Harris, I think blinded by his prejudice, missed in his article.

I have had to teach philosophy to many people who don’t hold my views and I never taught people what to think but tried to give them skill to make their rational analyses more sharp and defensible. When doing that one takes care not to harass or diminish anyone even though I often did not agree or at times thought certain positions my students held were ridiculous. I take Harris at his word that he is disdainful of people who think differently than he does. And I find this disturbing and not a very good example to students, especially.  It would be easy for any of us who disagree to belittle each other but where will all that lead? World peace? I doubt it. I think across nations, it will lead to more tension and violence. Muslims are already angry and humiliated because they believe that we in the West think less of them and do not take them seriously.

Harris raised some very good points for discussion. I agree with you wholeheartedly that discussion has to take place but not just with people who think like Harris does, telling others who have religion that they are just too stupid or irrational to be helpful. (I do not see how anyone on this thread can think Manni or I are not rational or are stupid.) Harris needs to join hands with everyone who wants to stop the kind of violence that occurred on 9/11 and the terrorism that is assaulting people world- wide. If he really wants to be helpful, he will have to accept that there are many intelligent people who have faith and who do reason, not mutually exclusive activities, with mutual respect and courtesy in the context that no one has a monopoly on reason or truth, not Harris not the pope, no one. No matter our positions about God, we do all have the dream of peace that Kennedy describes so artfully.That’s why people of all viewpoints need to join hands.

So I do not think Harris serves his cause well by diminishing his opponents’ stature or dignity. It does not reflect well on him and it mars good discussion because when someone is essentially calling you a jerk you are not all that likely to really listen to the point he is trying to make and respect him and vice versa. And it is unreasonable to expect people to swallow that undignified treatment to make a point. To me that’s abusive. All Harris needs to do is be more objective and less judgmental. We are entitled to be passionate, certainly, but we need to be respectful. That’s where I think Harris could serve his cause better and get more of a following, treating people the way he wants to be treated. He needs to promote unity, not any more divisions or reasons for us to hate each other. That’s what got us into 9/11 etc. in the first place. His movement leaves me very concerned.

Joan

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By Joan, January 18, 2007 at 5:11 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

Borrowing from “The King” (I mean Elvis) “Thank you. Thank you very much.”  I appreciate your graciousness. 

Re: the Founders…We agree. Quite frankly I am too old to think they were deities. They were courageous and ambitious and were filled with foresight but they were manipulating many philosophies, like sailing us through a perfect storm of ideologies and they pulled it off. And we have the benefits of a silver lining, America. They certainly were subject to the prejudices of the day. They were like the rest of us with their good points and their less then finer actions like with the slaves and I am sure Franklin, the ladies man in France, may have had a bit of explaining to do with his live in, Deborah, upon his return.

You bring up a special point to me about the Bible…I too think it can cause problems between man and God, and between man and man. I have come over the years to see this book as a book of people’s adventures with God. In the Bible, men get some of the adventures right and they also err at times about what God is doing or saying. I learned that we often live the experiences of biblical figures like Noah, building an ark to protect ourselves from some unknown danger, responding to a whispering voice or an unquenchable urge that almost forces one to build that proverbial ark. Or we are Moses escaping some nightmare, left wandering in some wilderness, looking for relief in a place that promises fulfillment and safety. Or we are Abraham,  risking all, following some dream that is out there. Who has never been Job? So the Bible is an analog to life’s ways and nature. Some biblical writers get it right. Some do not but they are taking a stab at life with the invisible God.

Now there is Christ. Why get to know him? Christ is the one who modeled the relationship and journey one-on-one with the Father, Yahweh. Christ taught us that in order to have a relationship with God, you need but to strike up a conversation with Him, Yahweh. You need no rules or books or middlemen to be tight with God. You and God are enough to build a relationship and this is one great revolution that Christ undertook. This is why I think it is important to understand Christ if anyone wants to get involved with God, his Father. All you have to do is sort of pick up the phone… and dial in. Too, Christ offered us very simply a way of living, an ethic for any circumstance, that if practiced, we would have world- wide security and dignity for all mankind. His significance has nothing to do with virgin births etc.  He was a serious and insightful ethicist and he opened the door to God for men as was promised in the Old Testament, fulfilling the Scriptures interestingly. This too is his significance. I think Christianity is often too preoccupied with Christ over Yahweh and I agree with you that the focus should be to connect with God, the Father of Christ and you and me. This was Christ‘s mission as he was entirely focused on God as his center and in my mind we are best served when Yahweh is the center. When He is, the creation seems to light for me like a Christmas tree—- rich and beautiful and mesmerizing, something I wish to embrace rather than run from or just endure. 

Joan

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By Joan, January 18, 2007 at 4:10 pm Link to this comment
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Maani and Rick,

Just my two cents on scientists as believers…there are numerous unknown people of science like doctors and technologists, or computer jockeys, lab techs, engineers and researchers, and I know some of them who are believers and they earn their bread and butter from scientific work. For more formal representation of scientists who are believers, check “Language of God” by Francis S. Collins, the anti- Dawkins. He headed the Human Genome Project under the Clinton Administration. For immediate verification of scientists who are believers just look at the readers’ comments about this book on Amazon.com or better yet read the book. Maani’s point about the louder, unpleasant voices of those atheists intending to intimidate believers as we have seen attempted on this thread is noted there and should be well taken.

More to come, Tebaldi and Malini.

Joan

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By Rick Yel, January 18, 2007 at 12:05 pm Link to this comment
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Let’s assume these men were all “believers” in something.  Which, as you say, makes them not solid-atheists.  My argument all along has been that science uncovers truths normally reserved for organized religion.  Hence, giving less and less hold to religion over our understanding of the natural world. 

I myself am not a “solid-atheist” and from this point of view see no reason why a person believing in something supernatural gives any substantial credibility to someone as yourself claiming the Christian God to exist. 

If only we could post 5000 characters instead of 4000 per submission this would all go more smoothly.  Ha. 

Rick

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By Rick Yel, January 18, 2007 at 11:53 am Link to this comment
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Maani,

you said>

“Setting aside any “demand” of “obedience” (you mean to tell me that unbelieving SCIENTISTS would not or could not have rejected any such demand?), you are incorrect.  Only half were alive prior to the 1750s (Galileo, Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler).  Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) was on the cusp.  But Faraday (1791-1867), Darwin (1809-1882), Pasteur (1822-1895), Washington Carver (1864-1943) and Curie (1867-1934) did not live during that period.”

That is why I said “most,” and not “all,” when referring to your example.  And where does this 1750 cut-off come from?  I would like to know.  It is a petty attempt at you trying to dig your way out of a deep and wide hole. 

Secondly, it is a sign of being desperate to put words in one’s mouth, and then say they are wrong for words they never said.  For example, that those scientists could not or would not reject such claims.  I never said this, you only “rendered” it true for your argument’s sake; now that, Maani, is funny. 

They could have renounced religion on the whole and if so then definately would have been punished by the Church.  For one obvious example, read “Sidereus Nuncius” by Galileo and you will see my point.

You said>  “You accuse me of “lack of evidence” and “making up [my] mind without looking…at the facts.” You then turn around and use the claim of A SINGLE PERSON (Jim Watson) to support YOUR claim.  Does Watson know, or has he spoken to, EVERY scientist - even every prominent scientist - in the entire world?  And even if he knows many of them, how does he know whether some of them are, as I believe, unwilling to self-identify as believers?  You show an astounding hypocrisy here.”

The founder of the Human Genome Project, no doubt aware of many if not all scientists undertaking his brainchild would seem to be a good reference on their beliefs.  Maybe a better argument for my cause could be made if a third party got involved and did a survey on hundreds of scientists saying the same thing.  O WAIT!  That has already been done and documented.  I see no hypocrisy here. 

Yes, I do call that evidence.  What do you call it?  It is a tangible explanation by 2 very solid references who have been or are exposed to the sample on a daily and/or professional basis.  If you desire more then go begin your own study, I have a feeling you won’t be happy with the results. 

It’s over.  Just give up on this.  Anyone reading this can plainly see that you are making desperate claims yet again.  I think (and sometimes hope) you are joking.

Maybe we should let a third party chime in on this one.  For now, I will sit out and let our other friends go ahead. 

What was your original point again?

Rick

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By Maani, January 18, 2007 at 9:13 am Link to this comment
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Rick:

You say, “The fact that most of those men…were alive when the Church virtually…demanded their obedience is statement enough to disregard your claim…”

Setting aside any “demand” of “obedience” (you mean to tell me that unbelieving SCIENTISTS would not or could not have rejected any such demand?), you are incorrect.  Only half were alive prior to the 1750s (Galileo, Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler).  Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) was on the cusp.  But Faraday (1791-1867), Darwin (1809-1882), Pasteur (1822-1895), Washington Carver (1864-1943) and Curie (1867-1934) did not live during that period.

However, that is academic.  Who said anything about them believing in the “Christian” God? That was not the statement I was replying to: you simply claimed that scientists were/are not also believers, and that when people become scientists, they stop believing.  I named just over half a dozen or so out of of dozens that I could have, yet you nit-pick over time periods and now try to “narrow the field” by referring to “Christian God,” when that was not the understanding here.

Nor did I suggest that Einstein was a Christian - nor, again, was that the point.  The point was that he was NOT a “solid” atheist; i.e., “unbeliever.”

You then say, “But as time has gone by, those prominent scientists who affiliate themselves as religious are becoming harder…to find.”  Has it occurred to you that maybe, like gay people in a hostile socio-cultural environment, scientists are increasingly less LIKELY to self-identify as believers?  I am not joking here.  Given the fairly recent and increasingly contentious debates re evolution and ID, abortion (i.e., when “life” begins), stem cell research, and other science-based issues - and the increasingly strict “drawing of sides” - it might be professional suicide (or at very least professional ridicule) for a prominent scientist to identify as a believer.

You accuse me of “lack of evidence” and “making up [my] mind without looking…at the facts.”  You then turn around and use the claim of A SINGLE PERSON (Jim Watson) to support YOUR claim.  Does Watson know, or has he spoken to, EVERY scientist - even every prominent scientist - in the entire world?  And even if he knows many of them, how does he know whether some of them are, as I believe, unwilling to self-identify as believers?  You show an astounding hypocrisy here.

Re the survey of NAS members, even if we set aside the self-identification question, and even if we accept that single survey as reliable, the NAS represents only AMERICAN scientists (who, as noted, are probably LEAST likely to self-identify as believers due to the current socio-cultural and politico-religious climates in the U.S.): what about the thousands of other prominent and major scientists worldwide?

You say, “I still await anything more than your opinion to back up your claims.”  Yet all YOU have provided is YOUR opinion re the time period during which various scientists lived, the words of one single scientist about the entire world of scientists, and one survey of American scientists.  You call THAT “evidence?”

You have proved nothing except your own inability or unwillingness to follow the line of discussion - which was not about “Christian” scientists, but “believing” scientists - and to play the part of the pot calling the kettle black.

Peace.

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By Joan, January 17, 2007 at 7:42 pm Link to this comment
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Maani and Rick,

To follow up on my comments about teaching and the passages Rick has cited to, as a former teacher/adjunct professor I will tell you that when you approach an audience with a certain new viewpoint and you are trying to tell them something radically different from the norm, you do not right out of the shoot tell them the radical bottom line or you will loose them right off the bat. As the further verses in Romans indicate, Christ asserts that he comes to turn brother against brother with his radical ideas. Hence he knew how odd his ideas would seem regarding slavery or any forced servitude which was certainly common place because as we all know from reading Joan, Christian ideology is the one the that proclaims the equality of men as children of God, a heretofore unheard of and extreme idea as the people of his day and age had no intention of thinking of the poor or the lepers, Samaritans, women et al as equal to the patricians and the wealthy in any capacity, previously held religious beliefs notwithstanding. So Christ as shrewd as he often demonstrates himself to be is not going to teach with methodologies that will alienate, a similar point I made with respect to Peter. Both preachers were obviously good at keeping their audiences. Teachers lay their groundwork carefully and artfully. I agree with Maani too in that telling a story does not mean the storyteller endorses all the components of the story.

Sorry Rick…I absolutely disagree with you and Harris about scientists being non- believers. Just not so. Some believe, some do not. Some, come to believe or dis- believe based on their science. But scientists and believers are not mutually exclusive terms.

Seems to me Jefferson took his idea without crediting the more well known political philosopher, John Locke who is the founder of the most interesting thoughts that Jeff absconded with and put into the Declaration in my opinion.

Golly gee, Rick…when did I ever say God was on the side of policemen or judges??? Good grief!  I am saying that the legal systems of the world attest to our thirst for justice so if Christ was talking about Divine justice, he was talking about something we seem to intuitively understand as a species. The thirst for justice is a universal thirst. Even children barely able to speak will cry out in indignation when they perceive they are being treated unfairly. As an ethicist I have spent some time learning how ethical systems evolve and they evolve to serve the community, even systems of manners and general courtesy border on an ethic as general courtesy often seems to serve in averting… well, gang wars of sorts.  So telling me they evolve when Bong (man or chimp) bongs someone on the head for not contributing his fair share is not really anything new under the sun. Ethical systems keep order and give a common set of behavioral expectations that are acceptable or rejected by the community as a function of the community’s perceived self- interest. For instance, they likely evolve based on natural environments, i.e. putting old Eskimos on icebergs in the sparse nature of the Alaska to preserve the little bit of resources for the young seems less ethically dubious than putting them on icebergs off the coast of Maine.

But God on the side of policemen and judges…I don’t think so…I think God intervenes on behalf of His own interests…Really I am a little flabbergasted that you think I think God intervenes on the side of police. How did you come to that conclusion?

Also talking about ethical systems evolving in nature remember that male lions hunt and kill at times for the mere sport of it and the males kill the young cubs of their pride. So there is a long way to go in delineating the evolution of ethical systems throughout the animal kingdom. Is it just nature that prods their actions or higher order thinking??? They, animals, probably act in behalf of their perceived self interest…as do we all.

Joan

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By Joan, January 17, 2007 at 6:21 pm Link to this comment
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Wow, Guys!!! The sparks are really flying.I just took some time to make some chicken parmagiana for dinner and a whole virtually new text has been posted…give me little time to catch up..


Joan

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By Rick Yel, January 17, 2007 at 5:05 pm Link to this comment
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Part 2

If there were ever an indication that scientists who are the best at what they do and in turn the most respected in their fields were non-believers, the above examples would be that indication.  Is it hard to believe that even those not in the NAS who are scientists have similar beliefs?  I do not think so, for the blanket of religion today has much less coverage on today’s scientists than those who died hundreds of years ago that you exemplify. 

I still await anything more than your opinion to back up your claims on this: 
 
Again, you said, “the faith of scientists who are also believers is INCREASED as they learn more about the “natural order” of GOD’S universe.”  And again, you are quite wrong.  (Scroll up again, please)

It seems the more we can explain with our own minds the workings of our world, the less we need a religious God to fill in the blanks.  And no doubt, the examples above prove this.  Assuming you believe in numbers and such.

With much Emotion

Rick

PS. It is good to be back

P.S.S. Thank you for that last Einstein quote, it has remained printed on my favorite bookmark for years.

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By Rick Yel, January 17, 2007 at 5:03 pm Link to this comment
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Part 1

Maani,

The fact that most of those men you speak of were alive when the Church virtually (or literally in Galileo’s case) demanded their obedience, is a statment enough to disregard your claim of their religious affiliation having any significant bearing on our discussion. 

Second, Einstein was not a Christian, which does not make your case any stronger.  If you were an Agnostic making such claims, then maybe you would have a point, but since you are not I don’t see why someone saying there is A god, helps prove your Christian God.  Einstein was in awe of the natural world, just like I am and just like you are. 

Faraday was a Sandemanian, believing in a literal interpretation of the Bible.  Something you do not believe.  Most of the men you list called themselves “religious” at some point.  Nearly all, if not most people were all under the same belief not long ago.

But, as time has gone by those prominent scientists who affiliate themselves as religious are becoming harder and harder to find.  You may use the default example, Francis Collins as your posterboy Christian scientist.  After all he is the head of the official Human Genome Project.  And indeed there are these sorts of rare exceptions to every rule;

You said

>> “In addition to the fact that many scientists were and are believers - some quite devout - it should be noted that, in point of fact, the reverse of your statement is often true: that the faith of scientists who are also believers is INCREASED as they learn more about the “natural order” of GOD’S universe.  That is, they do not see “less-errant truth” as mutually exclusive from faith and belief and, indeed, the finding of those “scientific truths” only serves to further prove to them the mastery of the Creator.”

Again, you are wrong.  Wrong due to lack of evidence and wrong because it seems you have made up your mind without looking up the facts on this matter.  And since you lack any sort of reference of statistics in your case, I shall provide some in mine:

Jim Watson, the founder of the Human Genome Project, was interviewed by Richard Dawkins for a special on BBC about Gregor Mendel. 

Dawkins asked Watson if he knew many religious scientists today.  Watson’s reply?  “Virtually none.”  Dawkins goes on to add that in Britain, such scientists as Francis Collins stand out for rarity and are a subject of “amused bafflement” by their peers in the academic community.  I don’t sense a tone of “many religious scientists” in prominent positions here.  Well you know what, (yo u might be thinking) maybe Britain is a bad example.  What about good old USA.  Maybe something will show up here in your favor.

A recent survey published in the science journal, Nature may be of some help here.  A survey of all 517 members of the National Academy of Sciences showed that 93% of them did not believe in a personal God.  70% were atheists and the rest agnostic.  These scientists are the best at what they do and hold their position in the NAS b/c of their respect in the Scientific Community.  Here is a link, just scroll down a half-page; 

http://www.creationists.org/atheists.html

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By Tebaldi, January 17, 2007 at 3:57 pm Link to this comment
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Joan, your tolerance of the wolves (Dr Summers needs to relax a bit), and their venomous attacks speaks volumes of the benefits of a pious life.  I wholeheartedly agree with your statement “These atheists are not willing to permit full and unbridled discussion or exploration of all views.”  I also found wisdom in the reasonable assumption that “The Founders did not generate this country in vacuum of Pure Reason. They were influenced by the philosophies of times such as Locke and Deism as well as… Christianity.”  Some contributors seem to be fixated on Thomas Jefferson’s opinions, ignoring that he is but one of our founding fathers.  Additionally, it would seem that (ironically) some of the contributors to this forum portray TJ in as infallible as the God they repudiate.  Although TJ was a wise man with undeniable foresight, he was not impervious to bias, prejudice, and ego-driven opinions.

    I find the Bible-violence argument pointless.  The trouble is that the teachings of the Bible are like a set of statistics.  It can be manipulated to argue both sides of the issue.  I don’t understand the point of a Bible in the first place.  To me it serves as a complication in between God and me.  Do I need a manual written by man to define this relationship?  Why should I pursue a relationship with Mary, Muhammad, or Jesus when it is the Creator(s) I seek?

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By Maani, January 17, 2007 at 2:00 pm Link to this comment
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Rick:

I would actually like to add to my response to your comment that “People who focus more on natural…less-errant truth that gets more clear…over time are usually called scientists (or non-believers).”

In addition to the fact that many scientists were and are believers - some quite devout - it should be noted that, in point of fact, the reverse of your statement is often true: that the faith of scientists who are also believers is INCREASED as they learn more about the “natural order” of GOD’S universe.  That is, they do not see “less-errant truth” as mutually exclusive from faith and belief and, indeed, the finding of those “scientific truths” only serves to further prove to them the mastery of the Creator.

As an aside, I forgot to note among “believing” scientists that, although he is not a believer per se, Stephen Hawking is a major proponent of the anthropic principle - that the universe seems ot have been created from the beginning in order to create and sustain intelligent, self-conscious, thoughtful life.

Peace.

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By Rick Yel, January 17, 2007 at 10:59 am Link to this comment
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Joan, this is just a quick response to a statment about “justice” being served. 

In many, if not all, Evolution classes, a very strong theory about ‘natural justice’ is being taught.  In this theory, what we call “justice” is considered an evolved trait.  Since humans began evolving to what we call Homo Sapien today (around 7 million years ago), this sense of justice has always been around.  Any “cheater” in a group or clan, who attempts to gain advantage over others without contributing to the group on the whole is punished in one form or another.  Here is an example we see today in the Animal Kingdom today and presumably then:

  Studies have shown the following:  In a group of Bonobos, a generally egalitarian, peaceful group the sense of justice is apparent.  This also holds in many primate species.  Say a group of Chimps make a kill and the alpha male eats the entire kill for his own without sharing, what would be the consequences.  Well in practice, it has been shown that that chimp is more likely to be a)challenged moreso for his role as leader b/c he did not share or b) the group will leave him out of the next kill b/c they remember his act of selfishness. 

The theory claims that justice, law, our courts, whatever (like many other facits based on evolution), is just a complex system based on this sort of behavior.  I keep in mind that it is indeed a theory b/c of the difficulty in considering it absolute truth without 10,000 some years to study it.  But it is a strong theory nonetheless. 

More complex cheaters command more complex ways of punishing them.  Cheaters get punished naturally.  It is a beautiful thing and many more studies are being done on the subject.  Just bear that in mind when you say that God intervenes on the side of policemen and judges and whatever agents of justice you are referring to Joan.

With Care,

Rick

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By Joan, January 17, 2007 at 10:56 am Link to this comment
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Rick,

Have read both of Harris’ works and critiqued them some I think for you, actually. I find some of his analyses sloppy and cursory, to say the least. I stand by my interpretations of the quotes you cited.  Christianity is not just the literal application of everything in the Bible. Never has been. It is the philosophy and teachings of one major player, Christ. I have said this before …all religions are not created equal. They should be judged as to how they progress man’s human growth and development. And I think the Christian ethic does a good job in this area in general. Harris himself cites the Golden Rule as an insightful moral precept.

My reference to the word “Skeptic” is with regard to the article you posted and referred us to so I am puzzled by your comment…I thought “Skeptic” was a magazine and that was an article in that magazine. I was referring to its references to the Founders. Its INTERPRETATIONS of the biblical quotes are what I find arguable, not the quotes per se. Let’s stay precise here.

Joan

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By Maani, January 17, 2007 at 10:44 am Link to this comment
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Rick:

Thank you for your kind words, but by now you will have seen my post in which I rescind my belief that I was in error.  This, of course, must mean that I do NOT have “a quality not many have.”  LOL.

That aside, there is a difference between “error” and “contradiction.”  What most consider “contradictions” in the Bible are not; one must learn how to “compare Scripture with Scripture” - properly - in order to understand how and why seeming contradictions arise.  After all, even in secular life, “context” plays a part in determining whether something is actually “contradictory,” as does “intent.”  In this regard, the Bible may have “errors,” but there are few, if any, “contradictions.”

Finally, you say, “People who focus more on natural…less-errant truth that gets more clear…over time are usually called scientists (or non-believers).”

Really?  So how do explain why many scientists were or are ALSO believers:

Newton, Copernicus (an ordained Bishop), Galileo (who remained an ardent Catholic despite his set-to with the RCC), Kepler, Brahe, Faraday, Pasteur, Leeuwenhoek, Washington Carver, Curie, among many others.

Darwin earned his only degree in theology, and, despite “moments of doubt in faith,” remained a believer, becoming a deacon of his local church for the last 20 years of his life.  Even in “Origin,” he ascribes the processes of evolution (random mutation, natural selection) as having been “set in motion” by “the Creator.”

And Einstein was at least agnostic, and possibly Deist.  Just four of his many comments in that regard:

“Everyone who is seriously interested in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to man, and one in the face of which our modest powers must feel humble.”

“The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical.  It is the power of all true art and science.  He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand in rapt awe, is as good as dead.”

“Even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exists between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies.  Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up.  But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration towards truth and understanding.  The source of this feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion.  To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason.  I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith.  The situation may be expressed by an image: religion without science is blind; science without religion is lame.”

“In the view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God.  But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views…I want to know how God created this world.  I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element.  I want to know His thoughts.  The rest are details.”

Peace.

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By Joan, January 17, 2007 at 10:34 am Link to this comment
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Rick,

Re: # 47534

I am speaking strictly from my own personal experiences with God and/or my formal background in Catholicism. K-12.

Well, Rick, the NT is actually the revising of the OT. The New Testament is the new testamentary statement about God, a newer improved set of ideas about man and God as it seems that God and man did no get on as well as perhaps God had dreamed in the OT. So God made a new covenant with man and promised in essence to back off a little and send one who would teach man better what God was about and how man should behave to get the perks of having a God Who essentially hungered for a positive relationship with that which He created. This new covenant is what the prophets in the OT are rambling on about at times. And Christ understood himself to be the one sent to fulfill these promises of the new covenant. For Christians the OT will generally not bear the same weight as the NT. In conflicts of thoughts and ideas about God the NT will overrule the OT. The NT is the new way, as the promised Messiah came to lead and to fulfill the OT prophecies. This is Christianity and is why Christians often do not appeal to the OT—- the way chemists do not appeal to alchemy.  But certainly there are stories and ideas about God or His prophets in the OT that Christ and Christians do respect. So the OT is considered rich in its contributions to Christian heritage too.

Re: Romans 1…both quotes. I disagree with your reading. Paul is saying that those who commit heinous crimes deserve to die not those who do not believe in God per se. Those who go against God’s morality deserve to die, as do those who encourage such behavior.  I see these passages as the same as the one that I addressed about Christ and slavery in the sense that those who do wrong and evil, deliberately with malice aforethought, will face God and face consequences by His Hand. Seems reasonable to me. And I have to say were I God and had I found people being malicious even after I had bothered time and again to explain right from wrong, I too would be displeased to be disregarded.  He is not just whistling Dixie here. He expects that we behave morally. Immoral behavior   threatens our lives. It threatens our senses of justice and well-being. All nations have justice codes that deal with unacceptable behavior because it is inherently wrong and threatens the stability and safety of the community. Now does God punish the righteous man who does not embrace Him per se?  I think not, as one does not have to know His Name or Christ’s name to behave in accordance with their sense of morality. God is not stupid and truth of His love for mankind is exhibited by the awesome and beautiful and lush creation He has visited on us, by His sharing of His Divinity with us. His is certainly not out to get us as no Lover does that.

Re: Romans 2:5- 2:10 inclusive…Yes,again…God judges and it does not matter what you call yourself, Jew or Greek or even today Christian. (Actually Paul was Jew of Greek heritage who became a Christian, coincidently) As I said previously, it seems God judges you by your actions not your titles. It’s right in the quotes. You do not have to have certain name to please or displease Him sssooo…what’s the beef here????

Your interpretations are very arguable and hence so are the conclusions you draw based on those interpretations.

Just a little psychology and personal observation… I am often skeptical of Paul for a few reasons, one being that he was not a companion of Christ. But here Paul seems on track as he is just talking about justice. I am hard pressed to think Paul would give the message of God’s wrath you think he is delivering because Paul was trying to convert nonbelievers and this attitude seems not an inviting way to convince people to join a religion, just browbeating them with threats of God’s wrath. Who needs that kind of God?

Joan

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By Maani, January 17, 2007 at 10:12 am Link to this comment
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Amos:

Talk about succinct!  Bravo!

Rick:

I am rescinding my statement that: “I…admit that this is an instance in which Jesus tacitly condones the use of violence between two persons (and thus I am wrong that there is “not a single word” in the NT in this regard).”  And not just because, as Joan points out, the entire passage can be read as a “teaching device” in which the “master” is God, and thus we are back to the “wrath of God” and not the condoning of violence between two people.

Rather, I rescind my statement because I thought more about it and realized that, even if Jesus were NOT using this as a teaching device, He would not necessarily be condoning violence.

After all, do YOU, in relating an incident in which one person did something wrong to another - including violence - ALWAYS state at the end that YOU do not condone such behavior?  Or (and especially if the person you are relating the story to knows you) is your “position” on that behavior tacitly understood?

Thus, even were Jesus relating a “true tale,” or a potentially true tale, the fact that He does not, at the end, state, “You know, I personally do not condone that type of behavior,” does not mean that he condones it, either tacitly or otherwise.

Indeed, Jesus’ “position” on violence, hatred, revenge, etc. was already well-known to the people of His day, and is found in a variety of His most critical statements:

“Judge not, lest ye be judged in equal measure.”

“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

“Take the log out of your own eye before you take the mote out of another’s.”

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

“You have heard it said, Thou shalt not kill.  But I say to you that whoever is angry with another without cause will be in danger of the judgment.”

“You have heard it said, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.  But I say unto you, do not resist evil.  But whoever shall smite you on the right cheek, offer them the other also.”

“You have heard it said, love thy neighbor but hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

I could go on, but these should suffice.

Peace.

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By Rick Yel, January 17, 2007 at 9:32 am Link to this comment
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Joan,

I fail to understand how you deem the word “Skeptic” to someone who is quoting the book word for word.  In reality, it seems while your Catholic upbringing did indeed emphasize the golden rule and love and non-violence, the simple truth is that in the Bible the opposite is so.  You could read Sam’s book, “The End of Faith” or the article above and say that he truly does - contrary to the statments written down in plain view - enjoy ‘Faith’.  This, however would be completely miscontruing the words’ original intents. 

Maani,

The quote from Luke you make, however much “rendering” you wish to do it, is still extremely violent, not just a little bit violent as you have changed it’s wording to be. 

I am glad you have admitted yourself in error, for that shows a quality not many have. 

But Maani, as you know the Bible along with its good words, is chalked-full of contradictions.  Contradictions that can be spotted with the amazing ability of Hindsight.  I’m sure you know of these but I will move on (unless we need to discuss more of them as we have above). 

The point here is not that you were quite wrong in your last two posts, and that I indeed never even “ironically” proved your point; the real point I have been striving towards all along is that the Bible is as you say, errant (‘not-inerrant).  And these errors are glaringly obvious when looked into just a slight amount. 

People who focus more on natural, far less-errant truth that gets more clear (instead of less clear) over time are usually called scientists (or non-believers).  They are not willing to accept a tale - however manipulative - full of reasons not to believe it based on our current knowledge. 

There is a reason Thomas Jefferson, one of the great thinkers of his time and founder of the University of Virgina, said the following:

    “A Professorship in theology should have no place in our institution.” 

He then went on to replace those positions with non-religious areas of study.

Be Well,

Rick

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By Joan, January 17, 2007 at 9:02 am Link to this comment
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Everyone,

In my last post to Rick #48070, I referred I to Catholicism as the main Christian sect. I meant to say it is the largest Christian sect. My apologies for any disturbances this may have caused.

Joan

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By Joan, January 17, 2007 at 8:55 am Link to this comment
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Amos,

I salute you for your succinct rendition of Harris…no believer can do anything right and yet somehow we believers muddle along carrying a great nation forward both in thought and action.

Joan

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By amos_hart, January 17, 2007 at 12:53 am Link to this comment
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Harris skewers the Pope for disparaging Islam, which he has done himself in no uncertain terms. I guess Pope is wrong whatever he says, like George Bush. Frankly, Harris acts a lot more like a rotweiler than does Benedict XVI.

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By Joan, January 16, 2007 at 7:16 pm Link to this comment
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Rick,

I am working on a response to you but I just had to jump in after your last post.  Re: Luke 12…I read the passages before and after the verses you cited…AND I want to say that your interpretation and those interpretations in Skeptic are not in accordance with the main Christian sect, Catholicism.  I went to Catholic schools from K-12, day in and day out. And this passage would never be construed as Christ endorsing slavery and beating slaves or anyone else at all. The Golden Rule prevailed eternally in our daily lessons—-treat others the way you want to be treated- and love God, Christ in a nutshell so to speak. That clearly rules out slavery and furthermore beating them. These stories Christ told were teaching devices, a commonly used method, not true accounts but pedagogical in intent, allegorical, in the vernacular of the times. This story would be interpreted as a story of the wrath of God (the master) that would be visited on one who in God’s absence would knowingly do grievous injury to another, like a policemen or supervisor abusing an underling for instance, or think Hussein or Hitler etc. It is a story that reassures the more helpless that justice will be served by a greater Power and we all search for this kind of justice, punishment for crimes, just payment. We have a legal system, not much of a justice system at times, that attests to that very human thirst for justice. That is what this is about in my Christian tradition. That’s all. This is why it is such a misrepresentation to interpret these stories out of context of an entire philosophy and this is why I have refused to comment on philosophers like Nietzsche, as I do not have enough background in the existentialists to make accurate or meaningful comments.  Nowhere is the intent here for Christ to endorse slavery. He is storytelling for the purposes of teaching. If you think he endorsed violence, I remember his saying that the one without sin should cast the first stone even if punishment is deserved or called for. Additionally, Yahweh Himself gruffs out at one point “Vengeance is Mine.” And Christ re-states that position of his Father…the Purported Master in Luke 12…, namely justice will be served.

But some Founders as Skeptic says did have slaves and when the discussion came up to freeing them, they declined, believing that they could not get the Constitution ratified if that was done. This goes to my consistent argument that they had to come up with ideas that generally appealed to the general public who had to endorse the Constitution and in doing so endorse the revolution and be willing to bear arms against the most powerful nation on earth, England. At least that is what I recall standing in Constitution Hall and hearing that lecture. And they certainly did not “Rmember the ladies,” as Abigail Adams entreated her powerful husband.!!!!.  So these men were manipulative and ambitious and sold others down the river at times, not really treating others the way they certainly wanted England to treat them. Yet we respect them and should continue to respect them even though some of them in fact did exploit their slaves.

Joan

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By Maani, January 16, 2007 at 5:00 pm Link to this comment
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Rick:

You ask why Jesus would not take numerous opportunities to decry “slavery.”  Hoever, the word rendered “slave” in the NRS (and used in the essay) is mis-translated from the Aramaic.  As noted, the word s/b “servant.”  This goes a long way to explaining why - from both the logical and theological standpoints - Jesus did not decry “slavery”: because He did not SEE it as slavery, but servanthood - no more “slavery” than hiring a maid, cook, chauffeur or other “servant.”

Re Jesus’ comment in Luke 12, properly rendered, that passage reads as follows:

“Blessed is a servant who, when the master of the house returns, shall find him a faithful and wise steward of the house in his absence.  In truth, I tell you that he will make the servant ruler over all that he hath.  But if the servant says in his heart, “My lord delayeth his coming,” and begins beating the other servants, and eating and getting drunken, the master of the house will return when the servant does not expect, and will take away all of his privileges, and will cast him out as an unbeliever.  And that servant, which knew what the master of the house wanted in his absence, but did not do it, will be whipped.”

Jesus is saying that a servant who acts properly in the absence of the master of the house is not only “doing the right thing,” but may end up as the heir to the master’s estate.  But if that servant starts to “laud” his temporary position over the other servants - especially if the servant inflict violences - then the master will take all privileges as a servant (“cut him in sunder” does NOT mean literally cut him in half) AND whip him (“beaten with many stripes”).

While I freely admit that this is an instance in which Jesus tacitly condones the use of violence between two persons (and thus I am wrong that there is “not a single word” in the NT in this regard), it is a VERY rare instance, and the violence discussed is “civil” (an oxymoron? LOL) - i.e., “crime and punishment” - and not war, hatred or spirituo-religious in nature.

Finally, re “Do you really think that it is OK for God to kill people and damn them to hell for not believing in Him?...If so, then you openly admit to find it “OK” for 3-4 billion non-Christians in this world to perish without a second thought because a few sentences in a book written over 1500 years tells you to…Something worth getting out in the open for discussion I think.”

It certainly IS something worth getting out in the open, and I will touch on it briefly.  But it will open an enormous can of worms that leads to a very intense, scholarly and theological debate - one which even I would be loath to engage in, despite being relatively knowledgeable about it.

The quick answer is: just because Paul said it doesn’t make it so.  Indeed, there is a growing number of scholars (including “deep Christian” ones) who speak openly about “Paul’s errors.”

This, of course, leads to two very controversial questions: (i) If Paul was “divinely inspired,” how can ANY of his words be “wrong?,” and (ii) if Paul was in error re some things, how do we know he was not in error about others; i.e., how do we know what of his writings is “correct” and what is not?

As noted, this is a VERY complicated and scholarly discussion that may well be appropriate here, but cannot be engaged in without a VERY solid knowledge not only of Scripture per se, but of linguistics, history and Scriptural interpretation and “revelation,” among other areas.

Suffice to say that I (among a growing number of scholars and others) do NOT believe in the ABSOLUTE inerrancy of Scripture - but, on the other hand, do not consider them simply a bunch of oral traditions, wishful thinking and superstition.  On balance, I believe the Judeo-Christian Bible to be far more “true” than less, and, as some would have the acronym “BIBLE” to mean, the “Best Instructions Before Leaving Earth.”

Peace.

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By Joan, January 16, 2007 at 4:50 pm Link to this comment
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Richard,

Part 3

Re: ID…it is not science perhaps…but if you look at it probabilistically, namely the probability of such an occurrence of a cell forming with its very unexpected intricacies (as some cellular biologists who are scientists have maintained) through natural selection is virtually nil, so extrapolating, the probability of an entire universe occurring through natural selection is nil, perhaps ID is more science than you perceive it to be. But for the sake of discussion I will say ID is not entirely empirical science but perhaps more mathematical science, as are many of the scientific propositions that are of so much significance and interest today. They are not the type of propositions that Locke hoped for with verifiable statements which is why Locke and Hume, his philosophical soul mate, were out-argued by later philosophers. Their empiricism, the same of Harris expounds on, essentially, in the Aristotelian sense of essential, ruled out too many statements in other important subjects, including science. This particular empiricism was determined therefore to be too unhelpful in explaining the world which was the idea—- to explain the world, not explain away God or rule out other important methodologies for explaining the world, very open-minded explorers back then. (Out of the failure of empiricism came language analysis which has been the focus of contemporary philosophy and of which I am a student which is why I use language and select my words so carefully.) But ID should be part of the scientific discussion, as empiricism is not sufficient to exclude it as it would exclude a lot of current talk in physics, ethics etc too and science by no means has explained it all or may ever do so. NO ACADEMIC DISCSUSSION SHOULD BE CENSORED.

Just out of curiosity, why is it you think that a God should provide a world with no suffering???? What in fact does He owe you after giving life? Additionally, if I went to Steven Hawking and told him his ideas were out there and unsupportable and because of that I thought his theories were a lot of hooey, he might respond by asking me if I had ever taken the time to learn what I needed to know to understand his work or he might think I lacked the natural abilities to grasp him, as all but .001% of the population have any inkling of what he is saying. My point here is, if you do not put in the time developing a relationship with God, one to one, you can find a lot of reason to dismiss Him as I can Hawking.  i.e.. God doesn’t do things the way I think they should be done, etc. But if you open you mind or let Him get a word in edgewise you might see some method to His madness. What make you think you really know anything about God?

Been on a campus these last 20 years? Classes are not just filled with 18 year olds. As a teacher, my mission was never to tell students what to think just to help them learn for their own sake, how to think on their feet, hopefully to save them for harm. No one has to think the way I do. I am perfectly at ease with that state of affairs. I have said this before, in a philosophy department no two people think alike and that includes the students.

Joan

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By Joan, January 16, 2007 at 4:47 pm Link to this comment
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Richard,

Part 2

It strikes me from my own little bit of exploration that some of these men were exploring religion and God, two distinct ideas, for themselves and believing that they were finally entitled to make judgments about God or religion instead of following without question the teachings of a clergy. Like a lot of people perhaps they were just maybe trying to find God on their own in the context of the religious books they were familiar with. They perhaps challenged organized religion and its un-rightful authority in the state, which by the way was counter to the teachings of Christ as I explained to you. But to say unequivocally they were atheists is maybe a stretch of the imagination. People who challenge organized religions are not automatically atheists and I am one of them. Again I maintain it is really hard to know what these men believed in the end about God or religion given their public and private writings. Washington himself was evidently a Grand Master of the Freemasons, recognized world wide for his prestigious position in that lodge or brotherhood. At the same time he was evidently literally a revolutionary when it came to separating church and state.  To believe that the separation of church and state is an attempt by the Founders to eliminate religion or install an atheist platform in the government I think is also a stretch. I agree they found theocracies to be wrong forms of government for many reasons but I think the idea was to form a government that did not base its laws on theologies rather then attempt to eliminate all religions or God which would be a very dangerous thing to attempt as such a cause would probably have led to their very downfall. Or in other words, Jeff and his comrades probably would not have survived if they forced an atheistic nation on the citizens. I thin the same may be true today.


I am enlightened about theocracies…. well at least there is some hope for me I guess! Christ too, as I attribute the wisdom to Him.  Given that you seem to understand Locke as I do, you might have some confidence that I may have a little expertise in understanding how the major thinkers have threaded together ideologies and started revolutions insofar as I spent a lot of time pouring over these ideas and listening to my cohorts go on and on about them.

Joan

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By Joan, January 16, 2007 at 4:44 pm Link to this comment
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Richard,

Part 1

You seem to think, no matter how I explain it, that if I say Jeff appealed to certain ideas in Christianity or appealed to the Creator to get the revolution off the ground that I am saying the Jeff was a Christian or religious whatever. I have no idea what he was, I have said this before and I personally do not care all that much about Jeff and his ideas about religion. I can make up my own mind here for myself. But I know the mechanics of how certain ideas evolved and how they are applied. All men being equal as children of God is basic Christian ideology that Jeff snapped up as politically expedient. There’s no quantum leap here. His exploitation of the idea is there in black and white in the Declaration. You seem to have the idea that the Founders transcended all time and space and history and ideas etc to give us America but it does not work that way. They were more a culmination with along history behind them, not new inventors of anything. All that was new was the way they put it all together at a time when a new nation could be formed. The idea I hope for you to grasp is that the Founders appealed to some Christian ideology and the Creator to get this country off the ground and that there are Christian trends running through this country that benefit you, making it a far better place to live in than N. Korea and that you should respect that even though you do not embrace Christianity yourself. Why this is so hard for you, I can only hazard the guess is that you are just prejudiced and will hate Christians because you do. I do not address these prejudices as I think they are undignified and uncalled for. I am not ever saying they were founding a theocracy, intended to found one or should have founded one. And I am glad that they did not found one. But it is interesting that the nation got off the ground appealing to Divinity, pretty open-minded for bunch of so-called atheists or were they just a bunch of irreverent hypocrites, appealing to a Creator and Christian ideas that they wanted to trash …just hypocrites, I guess by your analysis. 

After perusing the “freemason” Bible which is the King James version together with Masonry ideals included in the anniversary edition of Washington’s birth, I learned that the freemasons have 6 pillars of belief, among them are the following

“There is one God, the Father of all men.
The Holy Bible is the Great Light of Masonry, and Rule and Guide for faith and practice.
Man is immortal.
Love of man is, next to love of God, man’s first duty.
Prayer, communion with God, is helpful…” source -Holy Bible. Freemason, published 1932, Anniversary of Washington’s Birthday edition.


Joan

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By Rick Yel, January 16, 2007 at 11:11 am Link to this comment
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This person’s essay I found especially moving:

http://www.inu.net/skeptic/slavery.html

Maani,

You may want to read it before responding.

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By Rick Yel, January 16, 2007 at 10:35 am Link to this comment
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Maani,

I thought you were more than what you have just shown.  Do you really think that it is OK for God to kill people and damn them to hell for not believing in Him?  Honestly, do you really believe that?  If so, then you openly admit to find it “OK” for 3-4 billion non-Christians in this world to perish without a second thought because a few sentences in a book written over 1500 years tells you to.

You said

“Second, you mention Scripture’s alleged condoning of “slavery.” Actually, the Bible mentions “slavery” only twice in the King James version (four times in the NRS).  And in all these cases, it is NOT an acceptable thing.

Rather, the Scripture refers to “servants” - a word that can cover a host of relationships, from fully financially compensated (maid, cook, etc.) to quasi-indentured.  However, NONE of the passages that refer to “master” and “servant” together (Eph 6:5, Col 3:22, Col 4:1, Titus 2:9, 1 Peter 2:18) can readily be construed as referring to a “slave.” Indeed, Col 4:1 is an admonition to masters to “give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven” - an indication that God DOES see all people (i.e., master and servant) as “created equal” in HIS eyes.  It was a nice try, Rick.  (LOL) And I give you enormous credit for the research.  But you have not shown that a single word in the NT condones or supports the use of violence, war or hatred by one human being against another.”


Let us ponder Luke 12:43, 45-47

    “Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives.”

    “But if that slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will CUT HIM IN PIECES, and put him with the UNFAITHFUL.  That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating.”

Jesus then goes on to give even more detailed instruction on how to physically punish the other slaves.

I don’t know about you, but to me this looks like the condoning of violence and slavery - human to human.  And despite your attempts to justify the above claims, Luke clearly shows how brutal Jesus was willing to be to those of slave status.  I don’t know of too many “maids” or “servants” (as you say they are in the bible) who are OK with being beaten “severely.”  Given your knowledge of scripture, you seem to have left my exampled passages out of your list of excuses above.

How do you explain all of this? 

And do you really believe 4 billion others will be sent to Hell for not believing in Jesus?  Something worth getting out in the open for discussion I think.

Rick

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By Maani, January 15, 2007 at 8:57 pm Link to this comment
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Rick:

Ironically, you have proven my point.  Because the challenge was NOT to find passages that spoke to the “wrath of God” toward humans (whether now or at some future time), but passages that spoke to “the condoning or support of war, violence or hatred TOWARD ANOTHER HUMAN BEING.”

Not one of the passages you cite speaks to this issue.  And despite your contention that “It is not difficult to see how such words as ‘wrath’ and ‘Godless creatures deserving to die’ can be construed as messages of destruction of non-Christians by Christians,” you have not shown - nor can you - that a single word in the NT condones or supports such behavior by one human to another.  Indeed, it is as much a leap for you to make the CLAIM of “construing” as it is for Christians to actually CONSTRUE those words and phrases in that manner.  Because those words and phrases CLEARLY refer to God’s wrath against humans, NOT humans’ behavior toward others.

Indeed, you add, “Nowhere that I found does God (or Paul) say, ‘But leave all this wrath and death to God, do not partake in any of it.” Given your apparent knowledge of Scripture, I am surprised that you are unfamiliar with one of the most well-known statements in Scripture: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, VENGEANCE IS MINE; I will repay, SAITH THE LORD.” (Romans 12:19; emphasis mine)

Thus, the NT (and Paul specifically) CLEARLY DOES state that “vengeance” - including “how…those who ‘deserve to die’ [are] going to be killed…before the day of Judgment” - is exclusive to God.

Second, you mention Scripture’s alleged condoning of “slavery.”  Actually, the Bible mentions “slavery” only twice in the King James version (four times in the NRS).  And in all these cases, it is NOT an acceptable thing.

Rather, the Scripture refers to “servants” - a word that can cover a host of relationships, from fully financially compensated (maid, cook, etc.) to quasi-indentured.  However, NONE of the passages that refer to “master” and “servant” together (Eph 6:5, Col 3:22, Col 4:1, Titus 2:9, 1 Peter 2:18) can readily be construed as referring to a “slave.”  Indeed, Col 4:1 is an admonition to masters to “give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven” - an indication that God DOES see all people (i.e., master and servant) as “created equal” in HIS eyes.

It was a nice try, Rick.  (LOL)  And I give you enormous credit for the research.  But you have not shown that a single word in the NT condones or supports the use of violence, war or hatred by one human being against another.

Peace.

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By Malini, January 15, 2007 at 6:46 pm Link to this comment
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Thanks Joan for your response and comments!

I really do appreciate your views and the quote from John F. Kennedy!  The quote makes so much sense, and I hope our mankind will soon achieve that long term peace goal he was referring to!

As you said, we will never see the day when all humanity will unite or gather under one system of belief.

At least to understand each other, there should be more accessible common tools and avenues available for all, in order to safeguard mankind’s own safety and survival.  The more honest and direct communication people have with each other, the less likely that they will attempt to destroy one another.

If one was taught to practice their faith with additional awareness to reasoning and questioning from their own inner conscience, an incident like 9/11 may have never happened.  Reasoning within our own selves, and with our own conscience, gives us that additional, personal responsibility for our actions.  For instance, 9/11 may have just remained a dream, a concept of a very sick, solitary, mastermind, if only his supporters were taught moral reasoning from within… beforehand.  The mastermind may have been totally discouraged by the lack of followers or accomplices who were willing to go along blindly.  Faith only added fuel to the 9/11 participants’ built in hate and anger, and it did not have enough power to calm the situation down.
 
Sam’s controversial books have given us a golden opportunity to share our honest, personal views, ideas, opinions, etc., on different topics and issues with each other…  This has broken the ice and the communication barrier is somewhat lifted.

As for opposing hurtful comments, it generally is not a personal assault; but only a reaction to some event or an idea and a writer’s way of emphasizing, stressing his own strong opinions. The message buried under that harshness is what really matters.

Thanks everyone for your very interesting articles! 

Best regards to all,

Malini

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By Dave Summers, M.D., January 15, 2007 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment
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RE:  Jefferson’s Primacy of Reason, Freethought & Disdain for Anglican & Christian Church Impositions (to Joan & Maani)

I was reminded of another TJ statement from his 1776 “Notes on Religion”: “I cannot be saved by a worship I disbelieve and ABHOR”.  Moreover, the scholarly & thorough analysis of “the rise of faith & the fall of reason” by Charles Freeman in The CLOSING of the WESTERN MIND (Knopf, NY 2003) must not be disregarded by “faith-heads” who repeatedly ignore, suppress, destroy & both consciously and subconsciously obscure reality-based truth, as exemplified by the Pope, by “moderate” Christians, by fundamentalist zealots, etc.  As Dawkins has emphasized in The GOD DELUSION, the danger to science, freethought & reason is the fostering of more widespread fanaticism & absolutism by the religious nonsense which a majority of American Christians believe.  And in Congress, faith fanatics consistently influence governance via their sectarian delusions, ever threatening the First Amendment’s establishment clause.  Also, the taboo against criticizing religious nonsense & the undeserved respect that our society allows faith to have, facilitate every danger that sectarianism entails.

Jefferson was well aware of such dangers, as was Paine.  Paine understood the trickery of suggesting religious tolerance as opposed to intolerance, referring to both as “despotisms”, & naming toleration the counterfeit of intolerance; “the one is the pope armed with fire & faggot, the other is the pope selling or granting indulgences”, and TJ concurred with that analysis.  Jefferson most definitely rergarded religion as “dictatorial & tyrannical” and did not use the term, “brainwashed” but the connotations on religion from books or articles on or about him, unequivocally portray his views of religion as “brainwashing”.  But brainwashing implicates a superficial effect, hence my preference for the completely entrenched religious delusions by which faith-heads argue their BRAINDRENCHED resistance to truth, reason & scientific progress.     

While he was Governor of VA, TJ “abolished the 2 professorships of Divinity” at Wm & Mary College, substituting law, chemistry, modern languages, nature, fine arts, a “moral professor”, etc.  And in his Statute of VA for Religious Freedom he referred to “the impious presumption of legislators & rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who…have assumed dominion over the faith of others…and established & maintained false religions…that to compel a man to furnish…money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful & TYRANNICAL…”  This Statute, with the Declaration of Independence & the founding of the Univ. of VA were the accomplishments by which he “wished most to be remembered”, choosing them for his epitaph.  In his First Inaugural Address he said, “If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form [meaning the Brownbacks, Falwells, naive-conservatives of today, etc.], let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety w. which error of opinion may be tolerated [but only] where REASON is left free to combat it”.  And he subsequently referred to the new government as “the world’s best hope” and “the strongest on earth”, fully knowledgeable that governmental “freedom FROM” & individual “freedom OF” religion are the foremost contributions of America to human liberty & progress.  “What has been the effect of coercive Christianity?”, he asked; “To make one half of the world fools & the other half hypocrites [supporting] roguery and error all over the earth”. 

With Jeffersonian “pursuit of truth & reason”

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By Rick Yel, January 14, 2007 at 10:22 am Link to this comment
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Sorry about the length

Re:  Maani

  “Rick: I challenge you to find A SINGLE WORD in the NT - and particularly in the ministry (words and actions) of Jesus - that speaks to the condoning or support of war, violence or hatred toward another human being.”

Maani and Joan, I remain steadfast here.  It is a very common argument to completely disregard the Old Testament- even though it discusses God and the beginning of and end of the World. Although it is difficult for me to put that argument aside;  for now, I will.  For we all know the atrocities God demands of Christians in the OT. 

However, if one is asked to find words supporting WAR, VIOLENCE and HATRED in the NT, he need not look too far. 

Disclaimer:  All of this is read directly from “New Revised Standard Edition” (whatever that means, not concerned about it though) of the “Holy Bible.” 

Paul, an apostle of Jesus, is speakng to Romans about Jesus and god.  I found the following in Romans:

Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.”  - interesting, but maybe unstatisfying to some for our causes here, so I will go on.

Romans 1:30-1:32 “Slanderers, Godhaters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents, foolish, faithless heartless, ruthless.  They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die - yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.” 

  -What Paul is saying here is that those who don’t believe in God deserve to Die.  DIE!  I deserve to die because I don’t practice God’s decree.  It is not difficult to see how suchs words as “wrath” and Godless creatures deserving to die can be construed as messages of destruction of non-Christians by Christians; which indeed has happened over history in horrid amounts.  OK, moving on.

Romans 2:5 - “But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”

Finally, Romans 2:8 - 2:10 “While for those who are self-seeking [Godless] and who obey not the truth but the wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.  There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek.”

Accoring to this authoritative text, I think it is pretty clear that God is going to punish those who do not believe in Him when the day of Judgment arrives.  But how are those who “deserve to die” going to be killed on Earth before the day of Judgment - something that God has demanded many times? (I can hear the counterarguments here already)  No doubt Christians have this duty to spread the Word of God. 

In conclusion, the scripture above is a blueprint for those wishing to justify the killing and murdering of non-Christians - esp. the Jew and Greek (but not the Mayans, or Eskimos or Hindus or   Incas or Aborigines.  No, not especially them.  We can see why this is the case given the geographical and mental limitations of the time.)  Nowhere that I found does God (or Paul) say, “But leave all this wrath and death to God, do not partake in any of it.”  Even so, if such a meatless claim exists in Romans, we can see by our history that very few have ‘read the fine print’. 

Yes, the Bible has many good moral standards to live by.  But I cannot simply believe that scripture condoning wrath, fury, slavery (occurent in other parts, showing that indeed not all men are created equal) - just to name a few - doesn’t hold any water in those who believe it.  To me, it is scary that one of the greatest apostles of Jesus is saying this to the world’s superpower of the time. 

Salamu Alaikum,

Rick

p.s. Read the scripture above again.

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By Richard, January 13, 2007 at 5:56 pm Link to this comment
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Joan and Maani:

I get a little excited. I am not angry. I continue to be flabbergasted at your quantum leap from “Created equal” to “tenant of Christianity.” Your 18 year-old Philosophy 101 students might swallow it. I don’t. I have quoted more than one Founder saying the nation was in no way founded on Christianity. You “wrest” their scriptures.

You continue to dodge the evolution of ideas. No matter what the progress of ideas was (equality not recognized in Hebrew theocracy; recognized 1600 years after Christ), that famous quotation only mentions a plain vanilla Creator, then the U.S. Constitution got rid of Him/Her/It. Even if “Creator” was necessary to “get the revolution started,” it ceased to be important to what we have as a nation over 200 years ago. It is important to some people, and will never be denied them. Increasing secularism does not threaten that, but guarantees it.

Your assertion that Christians should not create theocracies is very enlightened. Perhaps you should tell that to Rome. While you’re at it, ask them to put their spin on this one: “Nor is it a small power it gives one man over another, to have the authority to be the dictator of principles, and teacher of unquestionable truths.” – John Locke

Was your comment about “interfering with academic freedom” aimed at the teaching of evolution, without also allowing ID? ID has no science behind it. Science classes are for teaching science. And if people want to discuss talking snake theory, they can go to Sunday school.

I put the assertion about Freemasons and the Volume of the Sacred Law in my pipe and smoked it. It didn’t get me buzzed at all. They probably couldn’t find a copy of Hammurabi. The insinuation you make with it is also a quantum leap. Some of the founders were Freemasons. The lodge had a Bible open at the doorway. That doesn’t mean it’s a necessary aspect of life in the U.S. or a book that I need to pay any respect to.

You can believe in whatever book you want. The fact is that Jefferson called the King James Version of the “Volume of the Sacred Law” a “pile of dung,” and then he took a pair of scissors to it.

Joan said (of Deists), “. . . moral law should have a basis in nature or perhaps reason as opposed to strict, unquestioned adherence to ideas with no obvious support by the workings of the world. “ That is what I’m getting from Locke so far. For instance, “Perhaps it is the affectation of knowing beyond what we perceive, that makes so much useless dispute and noise in the world.”

Yes, Locke also considered it natural to believe in God. The empiricism he helped establish gives us a foundation for suspending judgment about the existence of God until there is proof. The goings on in the world make me doubt it, personally. The problem of suffering is a strong argument against.

Dr. Summers is right. We seem to have reached an infinite regress.

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By Maani, January 13, 2007 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment
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Dave:

It is a HUGE presumptive leap from Jefferson’s actual statement - “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man” - to claiming that “no institution was more dictatorial or tyrannical or, my preferred term, brain-drenching, than religion.”

You don’t know that.  His statement does not say that.  For all you know, there were plenty of other “institutions” and/or philosophies, etc. that he considered far more “tyrannical” than religion.  Indeed, his statement is prima facie evidence that you are incorrect, since Jefferson swears his hostility against such tyranny “upon the altar of God.”

As an aside, adding to Joan’s recent comment about the fact that many of the founding fathers were freemasons, it might interest you (and Keith and Richard) to know that, although the only “spirituo-religious” requirement of being a freemason is “a declaration of belief in a Supreme Being,” the following is from Wikipedia:

“The Volume of the Sacred Law is always displayed in an open Lodge. In English-speaking countries, this is frequently the King James Version of the Bible or another standard translation.”

Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it!  LOL.

Peace.

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By Joan, January 12, 2007 at 10:21 pm Link to this comment
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Dave,

It is unbelievable to me, this denial about one of the most famous quotes in our history, “All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…”.  God created all men. God created all men to be equal and God personally gave men certain rights. It is there in black and white, a basic tenet of Christianity about the equality of man i.e. as children of God, men are equal and special, and Locke’s arguments for inalienable rights with the direct appeal to the Creator, written freely by Jefferson of his own hand. Yet some atheists find any Christian influence in this country anathema to their narrow and unique conception of the Founders and hence will still deny the obvious, the appeal to Divinity to help get the revolution and up and running. Additionally the conclusions you draw about religion from the quote you attribute to Jefferson are not inferred by Jefferson’s words at all. No doubt that Jefferson like the rest of his fellow revolutionaries opposed a theocracy but the quote states Jeff would stand against anything that would tyrannize people, not religion per se. The citing of religion here speaks about your feelings not Jefferson’s. So the idea now is to fit the Founders into a thought process to bolster your atheism and atheism in general rather than understand their thought process. One would wonder, given your interpretation regarding the quote, about Jefferson’s interesting choice of words…”…swearing upon the altar of God…”. He publicly refers to God, as did the other Founders. Given the hatred of religion you profess of Jefferson, I am afraid that I cannot rely on your interpretations alone for accuracy.  It seems to me one cannot be entirely sure how Jefferson thought with regard to religion’/God given his public writings and his private ones.

The Founders did not generate this country in vacuum of Pure Reason. They were influenced by the philosophies of times such as Locke and Deism, as well as the deeply rooted ones like Christianity and the prejudices of the day towards blacks and women. But I am getting the unsettling idea here that certain groups of people are trying to rewrite the ideas of the Founders on both sides of the extremes. The Religious Right has asserted that this country was founded for Christians. And this is diametrically opposed to the founder of the Christian ideology, Christ who commanded to render unto Caesar and God respective to their own differing kingdoms. So Christians are not to generate Christian states in the form of theocracies. Alternativley, some atheists are attempting to cast the Founders as rabid atheists who were trying to rid the country of religion altogether, not tolerate but condemn any individual who has a religion as committing an act of lunacy. These people tacitly promote the idea that the Founders were founding an atheist nation, in fact. There are now atheists who are even interfering in academic freedom trying to impose their scientific ideologies on the rest of us. These atheists are not willing to permit full and unbridled discussion or exploration of all views. None of this behavior is in concert with the Founders. No laws shall be made to establish religion or abridge freedom of religious expression. That is their official position. I find both movements un- American and reprehensible. One each end of the pendulum both groups are doing the same thing, bastardizing the philosophies of their venerable leaders and hence messing up the masterpieces their leaders envisioned and jeopardizing what could be.

Joan

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By Dave Summers, M.D., January 12, 2007 at 1:24 pm Link to this comment
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RE:  Joan’s comments on Jefferson’s “deism” & Christianity (1/12/06)

As you know, Joan, I’ve refrained from contributing to this dialogue recently (circular dispositions & repetitions are part of the reason), but thought you might wish to ponder this from “Jeffersonia”:

During the election of 1800, Jefferson wrote to Dr. Benjamin Rush re: the attacks by religionists, accusing him of atheism, which of course, he did not regard as prohibitive to his run for the Presidency.  Emphasizing his devotion to freethought and his insistence that religion not be imposed on democratic governance, he said:  “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man”; to him, no institution was more dictatorial or tyrannical or, my preferred term, brain-drenching, than religion.

Peace (not monopolized by Maani) & Best Wishes

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By Joan, January 12, 2007 at 10:13 am Link to this comment
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Richard,

In the wee hours of the morning I watched a show that was detailing the origins of the eagle insignia on the dollar bill and low and behold it seems that Washington (I knew he was a freemason already), Hancock, John Adams and most likely our boy, T. Jefferson, were freemasons. They were thought to have influenced the back of the eagle insignia. Now I learned that the freemasons had two major tenets to their philosophy. One was the belief in the Father as the Creator.

My curiosity piqued, I did a little of my own homework and I checked further into deism.  As I understand it, this philosophy does not exclude Christianity per se. There are several strains of thought here. What seems to hold these differing ideas together is the idea that moral law should have a basis in nature or perhaps reason as opposed to strict, unquestioned adherence to ideas with no obvious support by the workings of the world. This seems like a natural and appealing thought process for people who are starting a revolution to end the tyranny of religious domination they and others had been subjected to. It’s what philosophers and revolutionaries always do, namely find new ideas to justify the new revolution they want to ignite. Now it seems deism gives a lot of leeway about what to believe about religion and morality.  But some prominent deists like Matthew Tindal identified Christianity as the natural religion. So there is no reason to think that deism in and of itself is mutually exclusive to beliefs about Christianity or its ideology which is definitely the impression you have been giving - Jeff’s deism automatically excludes any attachment to Christianity per se. I stand by me position all the more, I don’t know Jeff’s very personal beliefs about God etc, but he definitely, and now I daresay very comfortably, appealed to a Creator and Christian ideas about equality of man to bolster his arguments.

Joan

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By Joan, January 11, 2007 at 5:49 pm Link to this comment
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Malini,

I think you have said the magic words, DIALOGUE, DIALOGUE AND DIALOGUE. We do need to dialogue with international community and with each other. But we need to dialogue in the context of being open, taking new and differing ideas seriously and with the goal of achieving understanding of another’s point of view and accepting differing ideas but still working together. We will certainly not agree with everything we hear but I have come to realize over the decades that there pretty much are a lot of ways to skin a cat, not just one valid solution or just one way. I think despite our differences, we, all people share some unifying commonalities. But I think there are some very common denominators all humanity share with each other, no matter their country.  It’s something like this quote says…

“What kind of peace do we seek? I am talking about genuine peace. The kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, not mere peace in our time: peace in all time. Our problems are man-made. Therefore, they can be solved by man. For in the final analysis our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future and we are all mortal.”  President John F. Kennedy


Harris makes some points I think are on track but as I said, I differ with some of his ideas and think he is mistaken in some of his positions. However he now is in the public eye and can play a role in dealing with some of the problems he raised that I also hope will be addressed, such as certain aspects of religion that are endangering the peace and safety of the world community. In a philosophy department no one really agrees with anyone else too much of the time. But when papers are presented for instance it is not done with the idea that everyone will agree with your point of view. Pretty much people have vested interests in their positions and don’t relinquish their viewpoints after hearing a position paper. But what does happen is that people evaluate the reasoning and ask their questions and there is a constructive exchange of ideas. Often positions are modified or errors in reasoning addressed. But there are very few out and out converts to a new point of view. Now that Harris has the floor, I hope he will be realistic in understanding the idea is not that everyone will begin to think the way he does, as I think realistically they will not. But I do hope there will be an exchange and dialogue in which errors are corrected and perhaps common ground found without the unrealistic expectation that everyone will now think the way Harris does. I think the problems he raised can be addressed to an extent if there is mutual respect for the differences but common ground expressed in the Kennedy quote, so that we can find ways to join together and solve problems. This is what concerns me about Harris. He seems only able to work with people or willingto deal with them if they think exactly as he does. To me that will not be an effective way to deal with the problems of dangerous aspects of a religion that he raises.

In dealing with people especially on the international level it is a given that people will disagree and one still has to make things work in the context of differing ideas. I believe that we can. For Harris to be successful he too will have to accept diversity in viewpoint. He as a great opportunity to make changes for the better now that he has gotten people’s attention. I hope that he will use his voice wisely.


Joan

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By Keith Henson, January 11, 2007 at 4:41 pm Link to this comment
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Maani wrote:

>You say, “What you consider logical is the product of human evolution…We are wired up to think that way and it is very hard to think about truly random events such as radioactive decay.  It may be impossible for human logic to deal with aspects of the universe such as quantum mechanics or its origin.” You then follow this with “Do you really think a god who made this universe better than 13 billion years ago is going to be concerned with your personal activities?”

>Do you not see the…logical inconsistency in these two statements? 

No.  For one thing the second one is a question.  Joan could have answered yes at the cost of seeming a bit egotistical.  But the point is that human logic came out of our evolution.

> how much MORE impossible it would be for human logic to deal with aspects of the “mind of God.”

We can’t even deal with the mind of God as imagined by other humans.  When people are asked to repeat back a story about God where God is in multiple places at the same time, they modify the story so that as to remove the omni- aspects.  That experiment is in Pascal Boyer’s book _Religion Explained_.  Can’t find my copy right now so can’t give you a page number.  (Dr. Boyer doesn’t really explain religion, but he goes a long way in that direction.)

>You also claim that “What we feel is “moral” behavior depends on the environment.”

>Poppycock.  Moral relativism, like a vacuum, is abhorred by nature.  Morality - at least between humans - is NOT relative or mutable.  You try to support your position by saying that, “What is considered moral in peace time changes in the run up to war.” But that is fallacious logic,

It’s not logic, just thousands of years of observation.  You should read the baffled accounts of the Rwandan machete killers.  Using evolution, evolutionary psychology, and Azar Gat’s excellent work on hunter-gatherer warfare, I understand the ultimate and proximate reasons people can enter such a murderous mind state.  It’s as mechanistic as bears flying south or ducks hibernating.

>and moral relativity: if WAR is morally wrong - and it is, in ALL cases - then the killing (and other immoral behavior) that takes place during war is JUST AS IMMORAL as any killing that takes place in peacetime.  Murder is murder, no matter what the justification or rationale.

Given what you wrote about the OT God directing the Jewish people to go to war and kill neighbors, that must make you uncomfortable.

I want to end deaths, and not just those caused by wars.  It’s a big task.  A way to start on wars is with a clear, science based understanding of why humans have wars, much as Pasteur and Koch used science to work out why and how humans get infectious diseases.

Unfortunately, it’s a hard understanding for people to get, partly because it requires a deep understanding of evolution and for religious reasons a lot of people don’t accept that at all.

Keith Henson

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By Keith Henson, January 11, 2007 at 4:36 pm Link to this comment
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Joan asks:

>First, do you or do you not think man is entitled to preferred treatment that makes it morally unacceptable to allow wars merely for the sake of population control?

People don’t “allow” wars.  Wars happen by a natural process and the origin is rooted in the stone age.

>It is all right for people to die without looking into alternate means to avoid war, like birth control, in order to protect life. If so, why? If not, why not?

I make the point in the EP, Memes and War paper that the Irish women ignoring the pope and cutting their birth rate was what eventually shut off support for the IRA’s terror campaign.  If you have any ideas about how that happened and how what they did could be exported to other cultures, particularly Islamic cultures, please speak up.

>You took exception to my harsh judgments of atheists when I asserted that if man is just one more apostrophe of the primordial ooze, that wars as means of population control are not all that abhorrent as nature is doing what it should, decreasing the surplus population to it’s own ends, the Scrooge argument so to speak. Is man’s life more special than that of the cockroach whom we exterminate at will or not?

I have been called an ur-transhumanist. 

http://www.life-enhancement.com/neofiles/neofile_print.asp?id=15

Transhumanists (and related folks such as extropians) deplore all deaths, not just ones due to wars.  They anticipate the end of involuntary human deaths within a generation and a lot of them are actively working on the technology required.

>Second, where does the stage 4 cancer patient turn when science fails him/her?

He lived long enough to get cancer because he didn’t die of cholera from dirty water—so to that extent science/engineering didn’t fail him.  But unless he is willing to try something as drastic as being frozen, he is out of luck, just like his dead ancestors back as far as you want to go.

>By the immaterial let me clarify, I mean what does the patient do with his fear, despair, anger and heartache…

People with terminal illness cope or don’t cope.  Been there, seen people die.  Helped freeze 18 of them, learned how to put cryonics patients on cardiac bypass after we had to freeze our surgeon.

http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/dsp.cgi?msg=1621

>let’s not get off into a discussion of dogs and cats with souls. We have enough on our plates.

Computers too.  Spirit though, not detachable souls.

>Three, how do you account for the laws of nature, especially their presence at creation?

As I said, if we didn’t have finely tuned laws of nature this would be a completely lifeless universe.  This universe has observers (us) so by default it has finely turned laws of nature.  Like 1/137.

The current thought is that universes that can harbor life are rare.

Keith Henson

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By Joan, January 11, 2007 at 2:52 pm Link to this comment
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Richard and Maani,

As I have previously said, I cannot and will not deal with prejudice. I think Americans should know better.

As for Jeff’s deism and Christianity, you do not distinguish between what Jeff believes privately and what he is willing to do start a revolution. I do. You are the one conflating the two, not I. I have said repeatedly that Jeff’s appeal to Christianity probably has nothing to do with his private beliefs but had everything to do with what he knew was politically expedient. He appealed to Christian ideology to get the revolution off the ground and up and running. How can you possibly deny this? The Christian sentiment of equality is as plain as day in the Declaration, even if Jeff himself unconsciously appealed to it. He needed a basis to claim equality for man who had not ever had that status politically just religiously and he needed a Power or Source for rights he wanted to be irreversible. Your problem with my argument has to do with your absolute refusal to admit there is anything good that comes from Christian ideology, not my logic. And to me there are times one has to agree something is good even if it is not your cup of tea. 

It is hard to accept the pain and suffering in the world especially when we escape so much of it here.  But that is the way the world is and I accept the universe for what it is not for what I think it should be. That is humility. What do I know about running a universe? And what do you know about running one? You presume to know a lot more about running one than I certainly do. But I do know that there is a Power Who is very interested in the nitty- gritty of your life and you would too, if you would stop slamming the door in His face. Through an ongoing more open-minded relationship, you might get some more satisfying answers to your quandaries. Re: tsunamis and certain natural disasters,  I have heard that some native people, like the Native Americans for example,  decided not to live in areas where there are tsunamis and forest fires that routinely pound those areas. So maybe we could do a better job of protecting our interests than we think. We maybe should stop thinking we can outwit nature and live more in accordance with its more powerful upheavals. Again this is humility.

I also know at this stage of my life that wisdom comes through suffering and that man peaks the most when he is challenged the most. We would probably be mindless one- dimensional mush if we lived your vision. And I also do know that it is wasting the life you have been given to be filled with anger over the fact that other people do not have it as good as you do.  With your gifts, make your life great because you never know when it will be your turn to be deprived of all your blessings, your health or good fortune, your job. It happens even to Americans. And if you can in any way ameliorate the pain of another by all means do so but remember charity begins at home and be sure your loved ones are well cared for before saving the world. In humility I have learned that I can barely get by myself with the challenges I have to deal with. I know for sure I cannot and will not save the world. I was not meant to do so. I know, in the end, God must be accountable for His creation and the pain that comes sometimes with living in it. I think He is more than willing to face us with these questions. But it the relationship one has with God that makes this universe make sense and worthwhile living in, even with the painful aspects of it. If you let Him, He will manage anything with you together. When you live like this, in this union, you will begin to see His utter power and mastery of anything you face. And then you will see how awesome an event He is.

Re: Science or religion…again, this “either/or” but not both controversy is new to me…I think it is a dream Harris and Dawkins are having and it is, at its worst, unhelpful spin, propagating ignorance.

Joan

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By Joan, January 11, 2007 at 9:02 am Link to this comment
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Keith,

I feel like we are talking I circles. Before I take a more detailed look at you response. I would like your response to these three questions.

First, do you or do you not think man is entitled to preferred treatment that makes it morally unacceptable to allow wars merely for the sake of population control? It is all right for people to die without looking into alternate means to avoid war, like birth control, in order to protect life. If so, why? If not, why not? You took exception to my harsh judgments of atheists when I asserted that if man is just one more apostrophe of the primordial ooze, that wars as means of population control are not all that abhorrent as nature is doing what it should, decreasing the surplus population to it’s own ends, the Scrooge argument so to speak. Is man’s life more special than that of the cockroach whom we exterminate at will or not?


Second, where does the stage 4 cancer patient turn when science fails him/her? By the immaterial let me clarify, I mean what does the patient do with his fear, despair, anger and heartache…let’s not get off into a discussion of dogs and cats with souls. We have enough on our plates.

Three, how do you account for the laws of nature, especially their presence at creation?


You take certain positions that lead to certain implications and I want you to expound on these implications.

And yes, obviously I do think that which brought forth the universe does interact with me as even you as a scientist know that the universe itself is a living dynamic, not a static, limited occurrence interacting with us and vice versa. So hence is its Designer. Remember Gaia. Oh yes, again, the universe is the effect of God which goes to my acceptance of a Designer and I have explained why this is my position. Seems reasonable to me and many others.

I know of no Christians who oppose science or equate it with atheism. It is the atheists who are now pushing these ideas and for censorship. It is abhorrent.

Joan

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By richard, January 10, 2007 at 10:32 pm Link to this comment
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“Hail Mary pass” is used flippantly by the color commentator. “IN GOD WE TRUST” and “under God” were done by people who should know better. This Government has nothing to say about the possible existence of a god.

It took effort to capture four SD Chargers holding hands and praying. I can imagine. … “Are you getting this, Mr. Photographer? I sure hope so. This is a great human interest piece.”

It’s a POS—guys praying over a football game when hundreds of thousands of good people are dying in tsunamis, floods, landslides, famines and epidemics. Holy war is ever on our minds. That’s nothing compared to what your supposed Creator and protector God allows. More human beings have died from mosquito bites than from all of the wars in history combined. But I’m supposed to believe He is watching out for me, helping me win a ball game? That is just asinine.

Do you have any answer to what I said about geocentric theology as compared to millions of galaxies, countless billions of stars in each, surely some with planetary systems? The possibility that a miniscule percentage has life is cause to abandon geocentric theology.

Older systems have had much more time to evolve than ours. But where did Jesus die? Do other planets have their own Jesus? If so, perhaps there are quadrillions of different sects. It would fit nicely with the theology of One True God, the “triune God of the Bible.” The rest of the universe would have to be engaged in holy war in His/Their name also [never could figure out how 1 = 3]. But death from those wars would be nothing compared to suffering from other causes, as you keep counting planets and lives, moving towards infinity and back in time.

If there is a creator or creators of it all, there isn’t an ounce of humility in thinking I am special, given talent, allowed to survive and win football games while others die, or worse, listen to the their own children screaming and dying in trailer fires.  There is no sense in believing that a God, in any way changing outcomes, allows those things but helps me put one through the uprights. Darwin rightly noted that the problem of suffering is the strongest argument against creationism.

Until now I have primarily focused my remarks on issues of Separation and religious discrimination. Tonight I’m saying the heartfelt belief of those chest-thumping, sky-pointing athletes is stupid. There is no God who cares about professional athletes or their games.

I’m not saying they do no good. They would do that regardless; they have good hearts and a lot of money. But the two best examples of heart and money are atheists – Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. George Sorros, Karl Popper’s student, is also a very wealthy atheist hero. The efforts of those men are better focused and resourced than those of the NFL subset of United Way.

I was referring to Matthew 6:1 – “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them.”

I was just explaining my own bias – anti-religion, steadily reinforced by repulsion from force-fed “inspiration” that doesn’t make sense. There was no other point in my rant. Again, you both have sidestepped my appeal to move forward with secularism instead of back towards government-encouraged bias the other way.

Joan continues to mix apples and oranges, making a quantum leap from Jeffersonian Deism to Christianity; also, from “creator in general” to “[Christian] creator whose children we are.” Chapter and verse, please (Jefferson or Locke). I have quoted Jefferson, many times, as despising religion, Christianity and the Church.

Comparing me to a Holocaust revisionist is groundless. Look back at my comments about Hitler’s anti-semitism and rigid society.  Saying I would enjoy anything about totalitarian North Korea is groundless.  Those things are way off subject. I told you I am a Libertarian, and you’ve sidestepped that also.

If you can’t befuddle them with brilliance, baffle them with bulls$%^!!

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By Maani, January 10, 2007 at 9:30 pm Link to this comment
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Keith:

You say, “What you consider logical is the product of human evolution…We are wired up to think that way and it is very hard to think about truly random events such as radioactive decay.  It may be impossible for human logic to deal with aspects of the universe such as quantum mechanics or its origin.”  You then follow this with “Do you really think a god who made this universe better than 13 billion years ago is going to be concerned with your personal activities?”

Do you not see the…logical inconsistency in these two statements?  If it is difficult for humans to grasp scientific concepts such as radioactive decay and quantum mechanics, don’t you think it would be even MORE difficult for humans to grasp why a God who created the universe 13 billion years ago would nevertheless be “concerned” with the activities of human beings collectively, much less individually?

How can you so quickly dismiss the latter without equally dismissing the former?  And we are not talking here about “proof” of either the scientific or “theological” concepts - we are only talking about their relative “graspability” by the human mind.  To MY human mind, it is absurd to state that “It may be impossible for human logic to deal with aspects of the universe” from the scientific viewpoint, and then ignore, much less dismiss, how much MORE impossible it would be for human logic to deal with aspects of the “mind of God.”

You also claim that “What we feel is “moral” behavior depends on the environment.”

Poppycock.  Moral relativism, like a vacuum, is abhorred by nature.  Morality - at least between humans - is NOT relative or mutable.  You try to support your position by saying that, “What is considered moral in peace time changes in the run up to war.”  But that is fallacious logic, and moral relativity: if WAR is morally wrong - and it is, in ALL cases - then the killing (and other immoral behavior) that takes place during war is JUST AS IMMORAL as any killing that takes place in peacetime.  Murder is murder, no matter what the justification or rationale.

Peace.

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By Keith Henson, January 10, 2007 at 7:42 pm Link to this comment
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Maani wrote:

snip

>So it was with surprise (and even glee…LOL) that I found the following in an article about Sagan by one of his closest colleagues and friends:

>“While vigorously advocating the concepts of scientific skepticism, Sagan also raised questions about strategy.  He wrote that ‘The chief difficulty I see in the skeptical movement is in its polarization: Us vs. Them - the sense that we [skeptics] have a monopoly on the truth; that those other people who believe all these stupid doctrines are morons.’ He was especially troubled by anti-religious attitudes.  While not a believer himself, Sagan had constructive interactions with religious leaders, including the Pope and the Dalai Lama.  He wrote ‘There is no necessary conflict between science and religion.  On one level, they share similar and consonant goals, and each needs the other.’”

Snip (Einstein)

>It seems to me that neither Keith nor Richard is even willing to accept the position of these two giants of science - both of whom were clearly more open-minded than either of them.

Carl Sagan was very much rewarded by publicity and status, both of which were increased by meeting with famous people such as the Pope and the Dalai Lama and doubtless that colored his writing.  However, I happen to agree with him that there is no *necessary* conflict.  The conflict was brought to science by such religious beliefs as “creation science” and “intelligent design” attempting to replace science teachings with religious nonsense.

If you have been following these threads, I have several times expressed my own misgivings about the methods of Dawkins and Harris.  Direct anti-religious attacks are almost certainly counter productive if my model of the function of religions as a step to conflict is close to accurate.

Trying to understand the evolutionary origin of the psychological traits that are expressed as religions might be much more productive.

Keith Henson

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By Malini, January 10, 2007 at 6:43 pm Link to this comment
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Hi Joan!

Thanks for the compliments and for sharing your wonderful experiences as a long distance runner.  That is truly an enlightening tale!  I wish we had more activities of this kind to unite and get all of our groups together!

Adding Zoloft to our planet’s water system is a great idea!  May be spraying it on those beautiful clouds that float by so that happiness, peace, and love in abundance will shower on each and everyone in all corners of our planet…  Our worldwide morale definitely is in need of urgent uplifting!

I personally feel that Sam Harris has opened a very timely, healthy and a wholesome dialogue/debate!  It is great that he has reached the general public regarding the current concerns through his books and is welcoming everyone into the discussion.  Direct communication with each other is the only avenue that we can utilize to make our world a safer place for all mankind.

In my observation, right now, with all the advancement in technology, our society is being dragged into a very primitive state…  Even with all the resources in abundance, it is a shame that our most powerful nations too are trapped in this negativity.  It is very sad to watch nations, communities, and families suffer all over the world.  There has to be a better way…

As the world has become so very sensitive to the existing labels of our faith systems, may be our present day intellectuals will come up with a new label/terminology and an ideology that will unite the world. 

Just an idea…  We do celebrate many Religious Holidays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, Halloween, Earth Day, etc., etc.  May be we should have a day dedicated to our very own priceless species and their existence on this planet… Just a day of celebration for everyone on this earth to enjoy in unison…  If our present political and religious leaders give it a start, it will sure make it easy for the rest of us to follow…

I must say that I thoroughly enjoy following the philosophical, intellectual conversations among each other, and sharing of all the views!  This is truly great!

Joan, with good hearted, balanced souls like you around, we definitely will be able to make this world a better, safer place for everyone.  You are excellent at communicating and getting in touch with all those around you as you have demonstrated all along in this thread.

You are spreading tremendous goodwill with your knowledge, honest views, and contributions… so please keep it up!

Our beautiful planet needs you, and we all thank you!

With love & best wishes to all,

Malini

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By Keith Henson, January 10, 2007 at 2:35 pm Link to this comment
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Part 1

Joan wrote:

>Note you words in comment #45772 re: God’s relevance to understanding the universe.

Snip

>I have lived with an engineer and been graced by their company for some 30+ years. There is lot they do not understand about the entirety of the universe. And as I hear their discussions, the more it seems we know scientifically about the universe, the more we seem to need to learn.

>The electron, for instance, is no longer the tiniest particle but somehow this particle has led us to a dozen more tiniest particles.

The electron hasn’t been considered the smallest particle since 1930. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutrino

>So what does one at any given time know about the universe, the material one to say nothing of the immaterial one? Do you deny the immaterial?

Close to it.  The exception is that I consider humans as well as dogs, cats, and computers to have “sprit.”  That’s the property you can interact with.  Where does the spirit of a computer go when you turn off the power?  It’s just *gone.*  Same for dead humans, dogs and cats.  (Just examples, all animals have the property.)  “Spirit” in this sense has to be supported by information processing material.  I understand why people believe they have immaterial, immortal spirits (souls) and consider the belief to be bunkum, useful bunkum, especially in the past, but bunkum all the same.

>As for proving God exists, I will borrow the argument you make consistently supporting meme theory, namely we know there are memes by their effects as they are not directly perceivable. So I know God by His effects. If it’s good enough for proving memes, why isn’t it good enough for proving God?

I can set up an experiment (baseball island) that demonstrated the transfer of information (memes) to children.  I don’t think you can propose an experiment that demonstrates any effect attributable to God.  If you can I will be most impressed.

>Personally I believe in God for 2 major reasons. First, it seems illogical to think that this complex and amazing universe could just pop up out of nowhere, out of nothing, sans any logic or forethought, without any method to its madness because nothing occurs in such a way. This is not the nature of how things are made or how they come to work. What we make is designed and requires work and direction, methodology. So why think something like this incredible universe could occur so differently than the way anything else occurs?

What you consider logical is the product of human evolution where (most of the time) there were causes and it was a good idea to think the noise in the brush was a bear.  We are wired up to think that way and it is very hard to think about truly random events such as radioactive decay.  It may be impossible for human logic to deal with aspects of the universe such as quantum mechanics or its origin.

>Second, my personal experiences in my life attest to the actions by Another on my behalf.

Snip

Comforting as that may be, if you stop and think about what you are saying, do you really think a god who made this universe better than 13 billion years ago is going to be concerned with your personal activities?  Again, people are wired up to think there are causes.  We are not the only animals with that trait; pigeons are perhaps even more extreme believers in cause when events are actually random (amazing Psych 101 film).

Snip

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By Keith Henson, January 10, 2007 at 2:29 pm Link to this comment
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Part 2 (reply to Joan)

>Sorry if I incorrectly classified you as an atheist. It was my impression. My question still is unanswered, however - for the atheistic viewpoint and possibly yours, why is war morally unacceptable as a means of population control

First, you need to understand where “moral” comes from.  Like every other psychological trait, our feeling of what is moral is a product of evolution. I.e., in the Stone Age those who had what we consider “moral” left more offspring than those without it.

Second, what we fees is “moral” behavior depends on the environment.  What is considered moral in peace time changes in the run up to war.  Again, this change is the product of evolution (a behavioral switch).

From the viewpoint of hunter-gatherer peoples (or their genes) who have no birth control war is the morally correct way to control population.  (Though I doubt they would state it that way.)

Since my behavioral switch is not in war mode, moral to me does not (at present) include killing enemies.  If it was flipped into war mode . . . better not to go there.

My other objection to war is purely practical.  Here in the post Stone Age war damages infrastructure that takes lots of work to repair.  That wasn’t a problem for hunter-gatherers.

Snip

>How can one deny God and elevate man to a special status, entitling mankind to an expectation of moral treatment greater than the rest of what just popped up by happenstance (?) or magical laws of nature that were just conveniently in place from out of nowhere, concurrent with the happening of the Big Bang?

You are conflating too many levels, cosmology, physics, chemistry, biology and evolutionary psychology for a comprehensive reply.  But no, I don’t elevate man to a special status.  We happen to be at the top of the local food chain and the smartest creatures around, but I expect our creations to displace us as smartest within a generation.

snip

>I have a major problem with any group taking control of academic discussion, be it the Religious Right or atheism as the one and only truth. The mind should be encouraged to explore and students should be taught how to think NOT WHAT TO THINK. Censorship by either side is equally abhorrent to me.

Science is not atheism even though a lot of atheists embrace it.  You would not expect schools to teach phrenology or phlogiston because the evidence does not support these ideas.

“Intelligent design” is not science but repackaged religion.

Keith Henson

PS If you post the second half first, it will come out in the right order.

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By Maani, January 10, 2007 at 11:15 am Link to this comment
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All:

Among the dozens of periodicals I read or peruse is The Skeptical Inquirer (“The Magazine for Science and Reason”), a scientific (and anti-faith/religion) magazine founded by, among others, Carl Sagan.

So it was with surprise (and even glee…LOL) that I found the following in an article about Sagan by one of his closest colleagues and friends:

“While vigorously advocating the concepts of scientific skepticism, Sagan also raised questions about strategy.  He wrote that ‘The chief difficulty I see in the skeptical movement is in its polarization: Us vs. Them - the sense that we [skeptics] have a monopoly on the truth; that those other people who believe all these stupid doctrines are morons.’  He was especially troubled by anti-religious attitudes.  While not a believer himself, Sagan had constructive interactions with religious leaders, including the Pope and the Dalai Lama.  He wrote ‘There is no necessary conflict between science and religion.  On one level, they share similar and consonant goals, and each needs the other.’”

In this final comment, Sagan was, of course, paraphrasing Einstein, who famously noted that:

“Even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exists between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies.  Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up.  But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration towards truth and understanding.  The source of this feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason.  I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith.  The situation may be expressed by an image: religion without science is blind; science without religion is lame.”

It seems to me that neither Keith nor Richard is even willing to accept the position of these two giants of science - both of whom were clearly more open-minded than either of them.

Peace.

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By Joan, January 10, 2007 at 9:18 am Link to this comment
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Keith,

Part 2


Never said engineering was irrelevant but it is not the alpha and omega either. Many things engineering does not address.

Mathematical models are just models and are a far cry from generating a universe that is a quantum leap, I daresay.

Sorry if I incorrectly classified you as an atheist. It was my impression. My question still is unanswered, however – for the atheistic viewpoint and possibly yours, why is war morally unacceptable as a means of population control if man has no spark of divinity and is nothing more than the primal ooze that is the rest of the universe? How can one deny God and elevate man to a special status, entitling mankind to an expectation of moral treatment greater than the rest of what just popped up by happenstance (?) or magical laws of nature that were just conveniently in place from out of nowhere, concurrent with the happening of the Big Bang?

My references to the pope are in the context of Harris’ article which is hypocritical, not the pope’s position on birth control which is an entirely different can of worms.

I have a major problem with any group taking control of academic discussion, be it the Religious Right or atheism as the one and only truth. The mind should be encouraged to explore and students should be taught how to think NOT WHAT TO THINK. Censorship by either side is equally abhorrent to me.

Joan

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By Joan, January 10, 2007 at 9:14 am Link to this comment
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Keith,

Part 1

Note you words in comment #45772 re: God’s relevance to understanding the universe. This is why I say you ARE making the extraordinary claim that He is not relevant. Even though you have been sidestepping questions I have raised about the human predicament and the limitations of science we routinely must face, as a case in point,surely you realize that understanding the universe means addressing more than the material universe as such. And surely your experience of the universe transcends that which is the material or solely what is the purview of engineering. Note my last paragraph in comment #45418. I have lived with an engineer and been graced by their company for some 30+ years. There is lot they do not understand about the entirety of the universe. And as I hear their discussions, the more it seems we know scientifically about the universe, the more we seem to need to learn. The electron, for instance, is no longer the tiniest particle but somehow this particle has led us to a dozen more tiniest particles. So what does one at any given time know about the universe, the material one to say nothing of the immaterial one? Do you deny the immaterial?

As for proving God exists, I will borrow the argument you make consistently supporting meme theory, namely we know there are memes by their effects as they are not directly perceivable. So I know God by His effects. If it’s good enough for proving memes, why isn’t it good enough for proving God? Or and I kid you not, and I know you are old enough to remember that phrase, I will demonstrate God exists after you demonstrate that you exist. And I will save you the trouble of appealing to the Cartesian “Cogito”. This proved to be an impermissible argument because Descartes presumes the existence of the thinker, in the premise, in order to prove the existence of the thinker, in the conclusion. The so-called proof is logically circular or the reasoning is circular. Descartes has demonstrated nothing here but a clever attempt on his part and his work I think is clever.

Personally I believe in God for 2 major reasons. First, it seems illogical to think that this complex and amazing universe could just pop up out of nowhere, out of nothing, sans any logic or forethought, without any method to its madness because nothing occurs in such a way. This is not the nature of how things are made or how they come to work. What we make is designed and requires work and direction, methodology. So why think something like this incredible universe could occur so differently than the way anything else occurs? Second, my personal experiences in my life attest to the actions by Another on my behalf. There are too many such direct occurrences here for me to think it is just coincidence. So I have satisfied myself re: God’s existence. I too denied and ultimately over my own personal wonderings- psychological, logical etc. figured it out for myself. I believe that ultimately we each answer the question about God’s existence in our own way.

Joan

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By Joan, January 9, 2007 at 5:58 pm Link to this comment
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Malini,

Years ago I was a distance runner. And one of the really uplifting highlights was the camaraderie of the runners. No matter the sex, the age, the size, the speed or the race, everyone encouraged and helped the runners. When you started to drag a little, some other runner might slow down and run with you and it helped to pick up your tempo.  A really great race was a half marathon in Lancaster County when the Amish, who are very shy about mixing with the public, set up their tables outside on the race course and stood on their porches, watching and waving to the runners. Their little children came out with water cups that were on the table in front of the homes of the Amish farmers and then the little Amish kids would run with you for a few steps or grab your hands to shake them. It was a real show of brotherhood. And it does give you a rush. I was reminded of that by your account of your super experience of Thanksgiving. It is a great moment when all the barriers come down and we are just glad to be with each other, celebrating and enjoying some sort of happening.  And I just don’t now why we can’t live more like that. It is how I think we are meant to live. I don’t get it with all the animosity. I really don’t. We all seem to be longing for it in our hearts. Sometimes I think it would be good idea to dump Zoloft in to the water systems all around the world and get us world wide in a better mood, my recipe for world peace after the Golden Rule that we seem too lazy and too without character to live by. Be that as it may…….

RE: Harris initially I was excited by his work as I agreed that we really do need to overhaul the world religions to better serve us and make us safe from any of their dangerous ideas. But as read more I came to think he did not do nearly enough research and he did not certainly understand Christianity very well. I began to feel he was just crusading in an unhelpful way, ridiculing people with faith and that is when I thought he was probably stirring up more problems than he was solving. But in my critiques of him I have maintained that I do hope his serious questions about obviously dangerous aspects of religion are discussed by those who can have impact on the outcome of these questions.

Thank you for your enthusiasm and recognition of my background. I feel I am rusty. But my training does maybe give me a different twist on some of the ideas discussed on the thread about religion which I do at times view as one of several systems of ethics. And there are a number of ethical systems that are not based on Divinity.

All the best to you in 2007!

I wish I had your effervescence.

Joan

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By Keith Henson, January 9, 2007 at 4:04 pm Link to this comment
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Maani wrote (in response to Joan)

>Re God-directed war (and the murder that comes along with it), there is actually quite a bit in the OT.  There are dozens of instances in which Yahweh sends the Isrealites into foreign lands to “conquer” them, including slaughtering not only the men, but the women and children as well.  It is not a pretty sight - and clearly does not put Yahweh in the best of lights.

However, it’s a great example of a tribal people’s “population control.”  Too much population growth for the local ecosystem to support and evolved-in-the-stone-age psychological mechanisms synch the warriors up to fight.  Win or lose the population gets cut back.

In “Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War” I used the Book of Numbers, King James version Chapter 31 vs 7-18 as an example.

This is one of the few places were people recorded this kind of behavior about themselves.  You can see almost the same behavior on a smaller scale in Napoleon Chagnon’s studies of the Yanomami. 

>However, Yahweh’s “behavior” in this regard - i.e., his DIRECT “participation” - was limited to just over a couple of hundred years of Jewish history.  Any other war and violence in God’s name in the OT was not “directly” condoned or “ordered” by Yahweh (though that does not excuse it, of course).

It’s a really good question as to why the Jewish writers of the OT stopped.  As you say, there were lots of other wars, and, if modern history is any guide, they were fought with the priests blessing the warriors and telling them God wanted them to fight.

>Re the Qur’an, it is true that there are passages that imply that killing “infidels” (literally “non-believers”) is sanctioned, it is critical to note that many of these passages (like passages in the Bible) are taken out of context and (mis)interpreted by those with ulterior motives and hidden agendas. 

If a group (tribe to nation to entire culture group) feels the need to fight, they will find some “justification” often a religious one.  It’s the fault of evolving in hunter-gatherer bands where conflict was a population control mechanism and not the fault of gods imagined or real.

>Yes, there are a handful of passages, the interpretation of which seems to be exactly what Harris et al purport.  However, many others that SEEM to support such violence do not read as such when read in context.  [N.B. In this regard, Harris is no less guilty of “taking Scripture (in this case, the Qur’an) out of context” than those on the Religious Right who “take Scripture (the Bible) out of context” to serve and support narrow-minded, unloving, unforgiving and un-Christian views.]

Like above the “fault” lies not in the Christian religion or even in the “narrow-minded, unloving, and unforgiving.”  The fault lies in the perception (and reality) of so many who have fallen out the US middle class and have seen the future prospects for themselves and their children turn sour.

Of course future prospects in the US look pretty good compared to vast parts of the Islamic world.

>Ultimately, Mohammed would no more have condoned suicide bombings and terrorism (especially against innocents) than Jesus would have condoned the Crusades and Inquisitions.

That’s speculation, but it doesn’t matter.  Religions get used this way, and I have come to see that as a function.

Keith Henson

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By Keith Henson, January 9, 2007 at 8:23 am Link to this comment
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Joan wrote:

>You ARE making the extraordinary claim that God is irrelevant to understanding the universe.

To the best of my knowledge, not one of the scientific theories such inflation that accounts for the cosmic background microwave radiation require or assume a god.  If I am wrong please point me to example(s).

>So prove it.

I believe the rules of debate require the person presenting the more extraordinary claim to prove it.  Besides, it is impossible to prove something does not exist without examining the entire universe.  God might be hiding under a leaf in a forest on a planet around a star many light years away.

>Philosophers do not just make statements. They make statements they will argue for or demonstrate as true.

Great.  Demonstrate that God exists.

It is not that I am opposed to the idea, I just find it unsupported—in the same category of beliefs as the tooth fairy.  In fact this very argument played out in the last few days on alt.religion.scientology between an ex-scientologist who still believes out-of-body-experiences are proof he has a “thetan” (spirit/soul) and Dave Touretzky, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who hosts a number of anti scientology web sites:

http://groups.google.ca/group/alt.religion.scientology/msg/aea3e024da4002d6?hl=en&

“I can never PROVE there’s no unicorn under the bed, I can merely show that any such unicorn must be completely undetectable by natural means.”

http://PerkinsTragedy.org (“This web site reveals Scientology’s true role in the death of Elli Perkins and the destruction of Jeremy’s life.”)  I.e., Elli Perkins died because of her religious convictions against the mental health profession.

>I am a spiritual and philosophical. Sorry, engineering is just sometimes a practical endeavor that fails to answer many of life’s great questions.

Without engineering, water, sewage, roads, energy and communications to name a few, there wouldn’t be nearly as many people to ask such questions. 

Snip

>Generating a universe from mathematical models…can this or can’t this be done?

Mathematical models will no more generate a universe than a mathematical model of a super nova will explode.  In both cases they help us understand physical processes.  (Some people have used these models to propose a method to create new universes.  Seems pointless to me since, if it did work, we could not communicate with a new universe.)

Snip

>However given you profess to atheism,

I don’t remember having said that.  If pressed, I say I am Druid or SubGenii.

Snip

>So how is it you have such a moral problem with the pope’s position?

I don’t know that it so much a moral problem as a practical one.  Wars do vast damage, and the pope is setting up conditions for war by his stand on birth control.  Fortunately the people in most civilized countries don’t take him seriously.

>In addition to evolution, Intelligent Design should be debated in the name of academic freedom, as evolution still does not explain everything.

“Intelligent Design” is no improvement on “creation science.”  The point of both is to intellectually cripple children by religion taking control of the political process and teaching nonsense.

Keith

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By Maani, January 8, 2007 at 7:55 pm Link to this comment
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Richard:

Like a long-time smoker or drug addict who quits and then becomes the #1 anti-smoker or anti-drug person among their family and friends, your rabid and zealous atheism saddens but does not surprise me.  Let me respond to some of your comments.

You say, “Yes, I have developed an anti-Christian bias. One reasons (sic) is that I’m repulsed by how often it’s stuffed in my face. The “hail Mary pass” and “holy roller fumble” are trivial examples.”

You admit these are trivial examples, but seem to consider the “In God we Trust” on money and the phrase “under God” in the POA to be non-trivial.  Given that, as Joan points out, the mere phrase “Hail Mary pass” does not make those who say it Christian, why are the other two any more trivial?  After all, they neither “establish religion” (as that phrase is understood) nor is everyone who spends money or says the POA thereby a Christian.

You say, “The bias is more obvious when they show athletes thumping their chests and pointing to God after a good play. I’ve always been a Steelers fan, but really dislike Ben Rothlisberger for doing that.”

In doing this, Rothlisberger and others are simply expressing their feeling that God gets the credit for the result of their talents.  It is the same as those at awards ceremonies who thank God for giving them the talent that allowed them to win the award.  That is their honest, heartfelt feeling.  Why should it be so off-putting to you?

You say, ” I was cheering against him once this year, and then they showed four SD Chargers praying in the locker room at halftime. It spoiled the whole game for me [millions are DYING around the world].”

Again, if they believe their gift or talent comes from God, why should they not pray before the game, thanking God and, yes, even asking Him to allow them to win?  Do you really believe that if they lose, they go back and CURSE God? Of course not!  As for “millions dying around the world,” although it would be easy to dismiss this as hopelessly irrelevant to anything, I would hazard a bet that, as a direct result of their obviously strong faith, these players are probably doing more in their personal lives to assuage this problem than most of the atheists watching the game.

You say, “The new QB for Tennessee came skipping onto the field pointing to the sky.  Perhaps he hasn’t read Matthew 6:19.”

I fail to see what Matthew 6:19 has to do with this.  Indeed, the admonition to not “lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” seems quite apt here, as, again, these players are giving God the credit for their gifts/talents and the results thereof.  Thus, they are not “laying up treasures on earth,” but, through gratitude to God, are laying up their treasure in heaven.

Finally, you say, “Any way, the point is that the photographers and producers make a point of showing this garbage. This weekend they repeatedly showed Romo’s grief over the fumbled hold. They never once replayed Grammatica crossing himself before the kick. They only show that after a successful try.”

Well, what exactly IS the point?  Is it what these players actually do, or what the media chooses to show?  If the former, you have failed to support your point.  If the latter, then why are you blaming the players, their faith, and Christianity in general?

Peace.

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By Joan, January 8, 2007 at 7:34 pm Link to this comment
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Richard,


If you understood the precision of analytic philosophy, you would be more at home with my precision. It is endemic to my discipline and people like Locke and Jefferson and careful thinkers.

What specific teachings of Christ did Hitler embody? Until you can answer this question accurately, you should consider toning down your utterly ridiculous position. You sound like Ahmedinejad claiming there was no Holocaust. And as I said, if you are so miserable hearing terms like “Hail Mary” pass, there is always that veritable atheist paradise, North Korea.

As a courtesy, again and last time…Jeff argues …“All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…”

He means…All men are created by a Creator to be equal. (even though we and Jeff know that history tells us all men are not created equal).  Being made by a Creator is not by itself sufficient as a Christian concept as many Jews and Muslims believe that we were created by a Creator. What is Christian in Jeff’s idea is the idea that A CREATOR MADE US EQUAL INSOFAR AS WE ARE ALL HIS CHILDREN OR THE CHILDREN OF THE CREATOR. In the Christian view we are equal because we are all children of God/Creator. This is different from just believing that we were made by a Creator. That is the distinction I am making between the notions of a Creator in general and the Christian notion of a Creator whose children are equal because He made them thus, as Jews and Muslims may not have the same doctrines of equality.  Hence believing in a Creator per se is not sufficient to claim that this is a Christian concept alone. OK??? It is my position that Jefferson appeals to this Christian notion of man being equal as the children of God as just intuitively understood by the basically Christian audience Jeff addressed. Seems like it is written like that in the document pretty clearly. This in no way implies to me that Jeff is Christian or is proselytizing for Christianity or anything else. He is maneuvering politically.

Why does a man with Jeff’s religious beliefs or lack thereof appeal to such a Christian claim as men were created equal by a Creator and then that this Creator endowed us with certain inalienable rights? BECAUSE no matter his personal feelings about God et al,  he had to sell these ideas to get our freedom. To do this, as Maani reiterates of my position, Jeff had to sell this idea to 2 different audiences…the first audience are the common people, who were mainly Christians and would believe that we, all previous political evidence to the contrary, are equal at least as children of God. Remember, Jeff et al were leading these people into probable war with the greatest military power of the day over such ideas….  The second audience was the royalty. Jeff had to get these inalienable rights from a source more powerful than a king, the most powerful man on earth probably. So the Creator as the source of inalienable rights and equality of men because they are children of the Creator were pivotal ideas in this maneuvering and America’s ultimate creation.

Contrary to your views, Jeff did use the “Creator stuff et al” at the time so evidently he felt he needed the Creator to his ends. Hence, I speculate he thought few would have bought this idea of inalienable rights etc. if he had said “Look, we have inalienable rights because I, Thomas Jefferson or John Locke say so.”  No one prior to this moment in history had had inalienable rights. So where did these purported rights all of a sudden come from? Manna from heaven???!!! They essentially came from the imagination of John Locke and other thinkers. From what real authority did these rights derive themselves to allow men to rebel? Well God seems like a good idea here, a sort of patsy for the revolutionaries, right?

Your anguish is sad and puzzling to me. 

Joan

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By Richard, January 8, 2007 at 5:54 pm Link to this comment
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Joan and Maani:

Yes, Hitler was attempting to further the Aryan bloodline. The statement, about plans to wipe out Christians, is obscure. I am skeptical about its authenticity. Do you have information regarding its pedigree? [I have already seen one quotation in this thread that is known to be bogus].

I rely upon the majority of Hitler’s statements, indicating that he was a Christian. He may not have been the kind of make-nice Protestant Christian that’s in vogue today, but he was practically messianic, and was in league with the Papacy. Had he succeeded, the result would probably have been a society consisting of Aryan Christians, headed by an Aryan Pope, worshipping a supposedly Aryan Jesus, seated at the right hand of an Aryan Old Man in heaven. 

Leaving aside where Hitler’s heart really was, look at his goal, to “bring great masses of the people into an organization which is constructed as rigidly as it could be.” Look at where he learned that idea – from his ecclesiastical upbringing. Look at the ultimate reference Book of the Church, and look at how nicely the whole construct played into Hitler’s hands. As a strong Libertarian, this has been my primary point all along regarding Hitler.

I think that by championing Christianity, you two just hearken back to an archaic reference that does much less to further individual rights than it does to further the sort of construct Hitler sought.

Yes, the U.S. populace would have embraced the notion of inalienable rights backed up only by human beings. John Adams said Thirteen Governments did exactly that, and he was closer to the key events than we are.

Even if there was a hint of Christianity left in that construct, we no longer base our rights upon superstition, belief in miracles, and the requirement for blood sacrifice. I am moving forward with the idea of rights, abandoning religion as Jefferson did, and I appeal to others to do the same. It weakens support for the cause of so much violence. There is currently a holy war on every continent of the globe. What, except unbelief, will ever make it stop,the second coming of Jesus? Sure, that’s any day now.

Joan, your arguments absolutely require painstaking detail before they can be comprehended. They remind me of John Kerry’s habit of slicing an argument incredibly thin. My citing of your own words from your New Jersey editorial definitely show how closely you linked concepts that did not belong together. It absolutely boggles the mind how you could come away from reading Jefferson and link him to “the cradle of Christianity.”

Yes, I have developed an anti-Christian bias. One reasons is that I’m repulsed by how often it’s stuffed in my face. The “hail Mary pass” and “holy roller fumble” are trivial examples. The bias is more obvious when they show athletes thumping their chests and pointing to God after a good play. I’ve always been a Steelers fan, but really dislike Ben Rothlisberger for doing that. I was cheering against him once this year, and then they showed four SD Chargers praying in the locker room at halftime. It spoiled the whole game for me [millions are DYING around the world]. The new QB for Tennessee came skipping onto the field pointing to the sky.  Perhaps he hasn’t read Matthew 6:19.  Any way, the point is that the photographers and producers make a point of showing this garbage. This weekend they repeatedly showed Romo’s grief over the fumbled hold. They never once replayed Grammatica crossing himself before the kick. They only show that after a successful try.

My bias is pitted against a stronger, more pervasive bias toward ancient superstition. Don’t worry, your freedom to express that superstition hasn’t come close to being abridged. It’s too easy to talk to and sell to.

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By Joan, January 8, 2007 at 5:32 pm Link to this comment
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Maani and Rick,

Thanks for the lesson. I knew that you knew this stuff.…I am not surprised by your info as Yahweh seems to have little trouble or few moral qualms about ending life, recalling the great flood and Sodom and Gomorrah sagas as well as current day earthquakes and tsunamis. I would not venture to speak on His behalf but it is apparent from observation that for Yahweh/God, human life itself is not of paramount or ultimate value to Him. I clearly do believe He takes sides and sides with those who share His agendas. There are some positions we humans take for which I would guess He harbors little support. Nevertheless I recall He does seem a little regretful after the great flood and at least He says He will not wipe out His disappointing humanity again with any more flooding. It is my personal sense that what Yahweh does hold to be paramount is His personal relationships with people for which He will go to the ends of the universe to develop and maintain, lavishing Himself on those He is close to. Some of those relationships are traced in the OT—Abraham, David, Moses, for instance.  But it seems clear that the Yahweh/Father with whom Christ engaged and explained was far more openly in love with the general population perhaps in addition to just a few people and through Christ’s modeling we learned to engage Yahweh more directly, and how to relate to one another or how we as a civilized people with that spark of divinity are supposed to live with each other. At this point in Yahweh’s evolution or our perception thereof, there are no suggestions at all that we should kill one another at Yahweh’s behest but quite the opposite and that has been the sole position of Christianity for over 2000 years now. So I am, to respond to Rick, hard pressed to see why Yahweh should be continuously blamed for killing that is done with great disregard for what is considered to be Yahweh’s current position on the matter of taking human life in the Christian tradition at least. Here is just a curiosity… I wonder if those who blame Yahweh for killing and bloodshed believe that abortion and embryonic stem cell research are morally acceptable.

I do believe that even though Harris has taken certain passages in the Koran out of context that Islam technically does accept the spreading of the faith by the sword and that this was part of the justification for its great expansion that ultimately resulted in the “take back the lands” Crusades, and even some current day hostilities. But I would not say I could defend this unequivocally. From my reading I do sense some Muslims believe the Koran has morally justified their actions, such as suicide bombings and animosity towards non believers but there seem to contradictions in the text itself regarding these actions and these actions may not have been the intentions of Muhammad himself. In other words there seems to be cherry picking to find the passage you wish to exploit. It would help if there were more uniformity in the interpretations of the Koran and I think some of this must come given the ethical stances that are taken for granted in 2007.  We essentially in this day and age will not ethically permit in any religion taking life in the name of spreading or upholding a religion and I think the great majority Muslims understand this and agree with this in general. So I think Harris’ barbs here towards Islam are ill conceived.

Joan

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By Maani, January 8, 2007 at 2:34 pm Link to this comment
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Joan:

Re God-directed war (and the murder that comes along with it), there is actually quite a bit in the OT.  There are dozens of instances in which Yahweh sends the Isrealites into foreign lands to “conquer” them, including slaughtering not only the men, but the women and children as well.  It is not a pretty sight - and clearly does not put Yahweh in the best of lights.

However, Yahweh’s “behavior” in this regard - i.e., his DIRECT “participation” - was limited to just over a couple of hundred years of Jewish history.  Any other war and violence in God’s name in the OT was not “directly” condoned or “ordered” by Yahweh (though that does not excuse it, of course).

Re the Qur’an, it is true that there are passages that imply that killing “infidels” (literally “non-believers”) is sanctioned, it is critical to note that many of these passages (like passages in the Bible) are taken out of context and (mis)interpreted by those with ulterior motives and hidden agendas.  Yes, there are a handful of passages, the interpretation of which seems to be exactly what Harris et al purport.  However, many others that SEEM to support such violence do not read as such when read in context.  [N.B. In this regard, Harris is no less guilty of “taking Scripture (in this case, the Qur’an) out of context” than those on the Religious Right who “take Scripture (the Bible) out of context” to serve and support narrow-minded, unloving, unforgiving and un-Christian views.]

Ultimately, Mohammed would no more have condoned suicide bombings and terrorism (especially against innocents) than Jesus would have condoned the Crusades and Inquisitions.

Peace.

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By Maani, January 8, 2007 at 2:18 pm Link to this comment
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Richard:

You say, “The idea of rights stands on its own without Jesus or reference back to Christian ideas. It does no damage to the concept to deny God altogether.”

Let me ask you: Do you think that the U.S. populace would have embraced the notion of “inalienable rights” if those rights had been backed up by no other “moral authority” than human beings themselves?  If so, you are in a “non-God delusion.”  At very least, Jeff’s deism informed his use of the term “Creator.” However, Joan is simply asserting that he also knew full well the Christian background and/or leaning of those he was “talking to,” and “used” that in order to “sell” the notion of inalienable rights.

Thus, it does indeed do damage to the concept of inalienable rights to deny God altogether.

Re Hitler, I really wish you would do more study on this, since you are repeating age-old canards that have long been refuted by most historians and Hitler scholars.  Hitler “used” Christianity to further his anti-Jewish agenda, and would have turned on the Christian community next had he not been stopped.

Remember that Hitler’s stated goal was a “master race” of “Aryans.”  But Aryan is a bloodline, NOT a religion (thought its spiritual leanings are pagan).  And there was little overlap between Christians and Aryans.

Indeed, if, as you quote, he “regard[ed] Christianity as the foundation of our national morality,” how do you explain the more than 2,000,000 Christians he murdered?  Or his statement to the party faithful in 1933 that “It is through the peasantry that we will finally destroy Christianity?”  Indeed, how can you buy your cited statement at all when he uses the phrase “national morality” while attempting to wipe out an entire race of people?  Where is the morality - ANY morality - in that?

Peace.

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By Joan, January 8, 2007 at 1:08 pm Link to this comment
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Richard,

I have explained in painstaking detail my arguments and justifications for them on more than one occasion. You play fast and lose with my arguments and comments, threading them together in your own way instead of accepting them as I explain them as my positions. So my clarifications of my positions make no difference to you. I never use terms like “Christianity” and “Creator” interchangeably. They are so obviously are not interchangeable. Think Muslims and Jews here, right off the bat. The burden of proof is on you to substantiate your claims that I use them interchangeably. You disagree with my ideas and that’s fine but my arguments are simple and straightforward with no hidden agendas.  And I am perfectly free to submit my ideas in editorials to my newspaper. Here in my neck of the woods we believe in freedom of the press, expression and religion and accept that all Americans do not think as we do as a matter of course. Editorial pages are forums for debate.
That particular editorial ran in 2 newspapers.

That you cite Hitler as an example of a Christian regime leaves me virtually speechless. That’s as nutty as saying the best way to avoid getting AIDS is to move to Africa. Get serious. I take time and care with my responses to you. In what way does Hitler’s regime demonstrate the teachings of Christ, specifically? Which specific teaching of Christ did Hitler utilize? What did Christ teach that would be congruent with the actions Hitler and his cohorts? You seem to have a block against ideas like political expediency. Again the burden of proof is on you here to substantiate this astounding assertion. All I can conclude here is that your motivation for making such a preposterous claim is anti Christian bias. And as I have said before, I have no skill in addressing prejudice, just in philosophical analysis. Methinks, too, the Founders with whom you are so enchanted would not smile on this prejudice, as one of their missions was to have those of differing religious beliefs live in peace, not beating each other to death with weapons or words. Enough blood had already been shed and damage done by religious prejudice. They wanted an end to such vile behavior as they birthed this new nation.

If you think there is no de facto Christian influence running though our nation how do you explain such everyday comments like the ”Hail Mary pass” which is a deeply entrenched concept in the real state religion of America, football. Does using that term make football players and fans Christians? Gee, I guess so???!!!! If you like totally atheistic countries sans all Christian influence, why not try life in North Korea? Or maybe just a vacation there for starters?


Joan

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By Richard, January 7, 2007 at 8:41 pm Link to this comment
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Joan:

It still seems like a real pretty way of arguing to mention Locke, then Jefferson, then conclude with, “So this nation . . . was founded in precepts that are the cradle of Christianity,” when Jefferson says, “Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than on our opinions in physics and geometry…. it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god.”

John Adams agreed, saying, “The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” He referred to “...thirteen Governments thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone. . . ” as a “great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.” Adams said this WRT the real “cradle of Christianity” – “I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved—the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”

How could the Founders say those things if rights are a Christian idea? They could not. The idea of rights stands on its own without Jesus or reference back to Christian ideas. It does no damage to the concept to deny God altogether.

You constantly use “Creator” and “Christianity” or “Christian idea” almost interchangeably. You do the same with “children of God.” No matter how you weasel-word your position or pull a thread through history (after I object), you are insisting upon a close association of ideas that don’t belong together. You know right well how easily people can misinterpret those phrases if they accept your intellectual prowess.

You further stretch it with the request that “a certain respect should be shown for the ideology that delivered this magnificent nation.” It was not Christian ideology that delivered the nation. It was the natural authority of the people alone, backed up with the point of a gun. No wish or prayer to the Christian God or any other made that happen. It was human will and a terrible amount of bloodshed.

If you want a fine example of a nation in which the Christian ideology demanded respect, you need look no further than the Third Reich. Its founder, Adolph Hitler said, “The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and co-operation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality….”

I’ll let up on accusations of demagoguery. Perhaps (using Hume’s words) you made a believer of yourself first and then set out to convert the rest of the world. I think you do have an agenda, and employ fallacies to achieve it. You have not convinced me that Jefferson and Christianity should ever be mentioned in the same context, but you took pain to get the construct published in a New Jersey paper.

Several times I have concluded my remarks with an appeal to move on with freedom from religion. I don’t remember you saying that would be a good thing. Efforts to remove religious symbols from Government places and Government-funded activities are part of a necessary evolution. It’s the obvious continuation of what was started by the Founders. Removing a nativity from in front of the Capitol building, for instance, would just show America that politicians truly understand the principles of secularism. The nativity can still be displayed down the street in front of a church. Nobody is harmed either way.

I practice friendly indifference towards individuals I don’t know. Respect is a thing to be earned. Nobody gets my respect because of their ideology, and no ideology gets it for the sake of tradition [please don’t revert to the argument about great people who did respectable things while revealing Christian beliefs; those people get my respect for what they did; their religion gets none].

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By Joan, January 7, 2007 at 6:37 pm Link to this comment
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Rick and Maani,


I have got give you a few points here as much as it may pain me. LOL, as Maani would say. As far as I know God has given no commands to kill people in Somalia or Ethiopia but I do not profess to know the minds of Muslim warlords. When I speak, I am speaking from the perspective of the New Testament. Now I am not thoroughly familiar with the Old Testament but I think there are times that God took sides in wars or He Himself killed as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, floods or He challenged Abraham to kill his son, something I think maybe was a problem Abraham was having. I am not recalling a time when God told anyone to go out and do his killing for Him though. But here I would have to defer to the biblical scholar on the thread, Maani, for input. I do know in the New Testament that God evolved and comes out strongly against killing anyone and the 10 Commandments are reaffirmed by Christ who even went further making the rules more stringent and demanding, telling us to treat others the way we want to be treated. This rules out killing as none of us wish to be killed. The Koran does however allow killing to spread the faith and the pope was right to challenge Islamic scholars about this position. And if Islam does not revise, I think current ethical standards will override this Islamic position and ultimately this aspect of Islam will be disavowed. But I certainly think like you, that this tenet of Islam is exploited, the right to kill is justified by the Koran which I have read. My faith rejects this unequivocally. This brings us to an interesting subject. I maintain that all religions are not created equal.  We must evaluate religions, and determine if they are in the interest of its followers. Does one’s religion enhance their human growth and development? I think barring Christian extremists, that Christianity followed as Christ instructed in fact not only develops us well but is a recipe for world wide security, namely we would be safe if we treated others the way the we want to be treated. I think Islam is in need of great reform and theological review as it is threatening world- wide security as much as it is threatening certain of its followers. Please read my response to Tebaldi for further expansion. And I do apologize to you for misreading your post.
Views about religion responsible for killing though have several strains. First the Crusaders were not in concert with the teachings of Christ whose teachings are morally sound despite the actions of certain so- called Christians. As I said to Tebaldi, people who want to kill will find a spirituality that gives them permission to kill whether or not that spirituality is God- centered. Atheists, like Harris, who preach that atheists have no blood on their hands and are more morally high- minded are just in denial. They certainly do have blood on their hands. Also, ask any North Korean how happy he/she is, suffering in a way that is so unnecessary today. Kim Jong Il, is evil personified. This atheist has no conscience whatsoever and thousands of his people have been tortured and starved due to his policies. So I am hard pressed to admit the inherently greater moral conscience of atheists that Harris proclaims.

Thank you for your support now and again and I enjoy your posts too.

Joan

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By Joan, January 7, 2007 at 5:23 pm Link to this comment
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Richard,

You continue to take great license with what I write.The newspaper editorial was essentially, not opinion, but a detailed breakdown of the argument made by Jefferson in the Declaration, as if I were teaching it to my students. That’s all those quotes you refer to are- examinations of Jefferson, Locke and history. The only personal opinion I offer in the editorial that has you so riled is that given the major contributions to America that Christians make and have made, whether or not you embrace their ideology or theology (and I differentiate between the two sometimes but not here or in the editorial), one should have the maturity and decency to respect Christians and not mistreat them as I have seen done on this post and by Harris. I have said this repeatedly on this post. In fact, I rarely state my most personal opinions. What I state is a product of my rational thought processes though. There are things about God or other subjects I too would never share with people whom I do not know very well as I am sure that you do not share all of your most private thoughts for the very reason that people misconstrue or do not respect what you say.

To follow my line of reasoning you cannot be switching words, such as “Creator” and “Christianity”. They mean different things and are not interchangeable. I, the author of the editorial told you the use of the term “soul mate” which means someone with whom one has a strong affinity, (Random House Webster’s Dictionary, copy write 2001) i.e. Locke and Jefferson had a strong affinity in their political philosophical positions pertaining to inalienable rights. You interpreted it to mean they knew each other. That is not my position and I clarified that for you. You misconstrued what I wrote. That’s all. To accuse me virtually of deception is…well very hostile. I did not intend to mislead anyone as much as being an interesting editorialist.

Now do I believe that Jefferson said what would get the job done no matter his personal views? Yes, I do. I do not know Jeff”s personal feelings about inalienable rights, God etc and I have said this before. Similarly B. Franklin courted the French court for years to get their military and financial support for the cause of the America Revolution. And I am not inclined to think that Ben, in doing this, told the French his inner most feelings as much as he told the French what they needed to hear to lend us their support. Demagoguery? Yes, probably there was a bit of that in their work but I think Ben and Jeff fervently believed in the cause of the freedom all men and the right to self-determination because they were risking their lives for these causes. I think they were morally upright and utterly sincere and using the ideas in political philosophy of the day, playing on the tensions of the French and British perhaps, using what they could to get the job done as best they knew how with what was available to them. Jefferson, Locke and Franklin are heroes in my book.

Many positions I take in philosophy may not have much meaning with respect to what I personally believe as I argue the line of reasoning, following it as if it were a path and then matching it to my personal experiences. That’s all. I don’t tell people I believe what I don t believe. I do argue lines of reasoning to assess their weaknesses and strengths. Given that reason is one of the gods of this thread, I feel it is all right be to be pretty merciless about the lines of reasoning offered because I often think these lines of reasoning are not well examined for the consequences they imply. I do not mislead people as to my positions and offer the best and most authentic analyses I can ascertain. As for me being a demagogue, I have no agenda but to insist that we treat others with respect regardless of their spirituality, again something I have said repeatedly.

Joan

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By Maani, January 6, 2007 at 8:54 pm Link to this comment
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Rick:

You say, “Joan I must disagree wholeheartedly with the above statements.  There is also plenty of scripture in both the Bible and Quran to support the antithesis of what you claim.”

I challenge you to find A SINGLE WORD in the NT - and particularly in the ministry (words and actions) of Jesus - that speaks to the condoning or support of war, violence or hatred toward another human being.

Peace.

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By Joan, January 5, 2007 at 8:56 pm Link to this comment
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Richard,

By de facto Christian nation, I mean that we are made up of a majority of Christians, a fact of life. I will repeat again and you will find this statement by me again on my last post to Keith. I never, ever have supported Christianity as a basis for laws. NEVER. I do not know how anyone could conclude this. For the record, God does not belong in politics, not yours and not mine. There should be no laws to eliminate Him or to use Him as a basis for law. I do not know how else to convey my position.

Joan

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By Joan, January 5, 2007 at 8:43 pm Link to this comment
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Tebaldi,

I agree with you that I missed the mark some with my response to Rick’s post and I apologize to Rick and our readers for hurrying too much. Actually I am a little unsure upon my last reading as to exactly what Rick is saying but I think he is saying that religion seems to blind us with a bliss that does not keep us in touch with the reality of the suffering in places like Ethiopia or Somalia, etc. Perhaps Rick will clarify. What is equally strange to me is that my response was posted twice! What magic! Oh well… maybe too much eggnog and not enough noggin’, so to speak.

While it is true that it should be obvious to man that rampant killing is wrong, it evidently is not so obvious as evidenced by the behavior of warlords and bin Laden. As for religions, I do stand by my comments that it is God and Christ who have told men not to kill and to treat others the way one wishes to be treated. And I think these divine directives must be acknowledged by atheists who claim that religion is the source of all evil. Specifically in Christianity, God does not direct the “janjaweed” to slaughter fellow citizens, and implicit to Rick’s comments is that the religion/God was behind this misery because believers are divorced from reality. But these divine directives are exactly what address the reality of the suffering caused by men slaughtering one another, specifically telling people not to do this because of the unspeakable suffering this causes. So I do not see validity to Rick’s conclusion that those who have religion are impervious to these horrible human occurrences, given commands that if followed would protect mankind from the misery of these horrific murders. These directives are meant to keep us safe. These slaughters were all done by people who disregard natural moral law and divine directives- not because men were told by God to do such things or because believers are impervious to human suffering. In fact, it is believers who run the major world organizations that are attempting to ameliorate human suffering. Darfur happens and continues because of political difficulties not impervious Christians.

Tebaldi, it is kind of you to call me kind. I suspect there are people on this thread who probably would like to strangle me. As far as being lucid, which I too think I am, I have been called delusional among other things. So thank you for your recognition. I do try.

That the Bible and Koran et al have been used to wreak destruction on mankind is very, very true and very, very sad. But I think that those who hate and want to destroy will find some doctrine that will ultimately give them permission to do so, even in “Huckleberry Finn”, I mean look how that black Jim, made Huck laid back or lazy etc. Those with twisted minds are gifted at twisting what needs to be twisted to their own advantage. So to me it is not these books per se but I do regret there is some truth to what you say, namely, that if you claim that God backs your murderous tendencies, you are playing a trump card as I think jihadists are doing today. So in sense I can see your point about religious texts being particularly dangerous under certain circumstances. The power of these books can influence people to behave more morally because God commands them to be good.This is the flip side of abusing these books for evil purposes.  They are powerful enough to generate good behavior too.

Joan

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By Richard, January 5, 2007 at 8:42 pm Link to this comment
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Mike:

Yeah. I saw Pulp Fiction too. That is some trippy S!@# to say to a brother before you shoot him.

Joan:

Of course you can never get into somebody’s mind and judge what they really believed. Maani tried to do that with Hitler before, saying he wasn’t really Christian, and I objected.

I give the philosophers the benefit of the doubt, assuming they said what they believed. Do you judge them by your own motives? Does Joan make an argument towards a desired end, using things she doesn’t believe or implying things she knows to be untrue? That is called demagoguery, particularly when you address people you think will accept the idea because they don’t know any better. That is just how your diatribe for the New Jersey paper came across, and why I revived this subject.

Here were, your exact words: “‘All mean are created equal . . . [Jefferson Quotation].’ This means that the Creator made us; He made us to be equal, despite that men are clearly not ever equal to each other; and the Creator gave men certain claims to dignified treatment. Because the Creator gave men these inalienable rights these rights can never be taken from man because they came from God. This was not just a happenstance idea of Jefferson. This use of the Creator to give certain rights to man that could never be rescinded just because they came from God was a twist in political thought <font color=“crimson”> made by Jefferson’s soul mate, the British political philosopher of the day, John Locke</font>. And that twist brought forth <font color=“crimson”>a nation based on equality of rights of man before law based on the Christian idea</font> that all are equal before God, because we are all His children.”

This contains the Locke—>Jesus—>Jefferson fallacy outlined below. You did not say “America is a de-facto Christian nation because of the population.” That is a different argument. You clearly imply a connection from Jefferson to Christianity through locke, and you have done it more than once in this thread. You have said that no ideology other than Christianity would have worked. However, the United States Constitution evolved further in a decade than you have in 220 years. It does not contain any Christianity, but you constantly hearken all the way back to Locke.

People are equal in rights, which was the context of the statement in the Declaration of Independence. You have repeatedly said people are actually not equal. You can only say that if you are talking about people’s abilities. That wasn’t the context, so its also a fallacy you repeatedly employ. It is a distraction.

You called Jefferson Locke’s “soul mate” and now you equivocate about whether or not they even knew each other. You also equivocate about Christianity being central to Locke. Looking back at your newspaper article, this appears to be doublespeak and demogoguery. 

I think people popularized the idea of equality because they wanted to do so. The New Testament was commonly known, and parts of it could be interpreted that way. It could also be interpreted Hitler’s way, and there’s still the impending destruction of human lives in Revelation to anticipate. You merely dismiss that prophecy as “just one book.” It’s one very important book from a political point of view, and I want to distance myself from the whole ideology that endorses it. Who knows what new “covenant” will be used to make it self-fulfilling.

Ok, I get it. You don’t believe all of the Bible, just the parts you want to. That approach can be turned on it’s head at any point, and your demogoguery is just supporting the cuase.

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By Joan, January 5, 2007 at 7:21 pm Link to this comment
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Keith,

I understand Ockham’s razor. We have said the same thing.

You ARE making the extraordinary claim that God is irrelevant to understanding the universe. So prove it. Philosophers do not just make statements. They make statements they will argue for or demonstrate as true.

I am a spiritual and philosophical. Sorry, engineering is just sometimes a practical endeavor that fails to answer many of life’s great questions.

Four years down the road does not help the cancer patient in Sloan Kettering right now who needs it today, nor the patient 4 years down the road who has another incurable illness or trauma.

Re: Why are there laws of nature? It seems to me you did not answer this one.

Generating a universe from mathematical models…can this or can’t this be done?

Agree with you fully that God has no place in politics, not yours, not mine, not anyone’s and if you saw my letter in the LA Times you would realize that I am appalled as an ethicist over the pope’s recalcitrance over the birth control policy of the RC Church in the face of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. This could be reversed and should be reversed in 5 minutes. It is morally unconscionable. However given you profess to atheism, I still uphold that you have no rational basis to claim that people are entitled to special treatment or care in the face of epidemics. Epidemics hold the population at a level that the earth can support, a major personal concern of yours. So how is it you have such a moral problem with the pope’s position? In addition to evolution, Intelligent Design should be debated in the name of academic freedom, as evolution still does not explain everything. It should be debated in terms of probability as per my comments on the “10 myths” post. Do atheists believe in academic censorship?

Some religions like some ethical systems are better than others. I think Christianity is the best insofar as it provides best for the human growth and development of its followers who as a matter of fact accept both science and religion, and not science or religion as Harris mistakenly preaches. This is evidenced by the overall success of many Christian countries as opposed to non Christian countries or countries without Christian roots. My specialty is meta ethics which is the study of the comparison of ethical systems.

Joan

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By Richard, January 5, 2007 at 7:05 pm Link to this comment
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Mike:

Yeah. I saw Pulp Fiction too. That is some trippy S!@# to say to a brother before you shoot him.

Joan:

Of course you can never get into somebody’s mind and judge what they really believed. Maani tried to do that with Hitler before, saying he wasn’t really Christian, and I objected.

I give the philosophers the benefit of the doubt, assuming they said what they believed. Do you judge them by your own motives? Does Joan make an argument towards a desired end, using things she doesn’t believe or implying things she knows to be untrue? That is called demagoguery, particularly when you address people you think will accept the idea because they don’t know any better. That is just how your diatribe for the New Jersey paper came across, and why I revived this subject.

Here were, your exact words: “‘All mean are created equal . . . [Jefferson Quotation].’ This means that the Creator made us; He made us to be equal, despite that men are clearly not ever equal to each other; and the Creator gave men certain claims to dignified treatment. Because the Creator gave men these inalienable rights these rights can never be taken from man because they came from God. This was not just a happenstance idea of Jefferson. This use of the Creator to give certain rights to man that could never be rescinded just because they came from God was a twist in political thought <font color=“crimson”> made by Jefferson’s soul mate, the British political philosopher of the day, John Locke</font>. And that twist brought forth <font color=“crimson”>a nation based on equality of rights of man before law based on the Christian idea</font> that all are equal before God, because we are all His children.”

This contains the Locke—>Jesus—>Jefferson fallacy outlined below. You did not say “America is a de-facto Christian nation because of the population.” That is a different argument. You clearly imply a connection from Jefferson to Christianity through locke, and you have done it more than once in this thread. You have said that no ideology other than Christianity would have worked. However, the United States Constitution evolved further in a decade than you have in 220 years. It does not contain any Christianity, but you constantly hearken all the way back to Locke.

People are equal in rights, which was the context of the statement in the Declaration of Independence. You have repeatedly said people are actually not equal. You can only say that if you are talking about people’s abilities. That wasn’t the context, so its also a fallacy you repeatedly employ. It is a distraction.

You called Jefferson Locke’s “soul mate” and now you equivocate about whether or not they even knew each other. You also equivocate about Christianity being central to Locke. Looking back at your newspaper article, this appears to be doublespeak and demogoguery. 

I think people popularized the idea of equality because they wanted to do so. The New Testament was commonly known, and parts of it could be interpreted that way. It could also be interpreted Hitler’s way, and there’s still the impending destruction of human lives in Revelation to deal with. You merely dismiss that prophecy as “just one book.” It’s one very important book from a political point of view, and I want to distance myself from the whole ideology that endorses it. Who knows what new “covenant” will be used to make it self-fulfilling.

Ok, I get it. You don’t believe all of the Bible, just the parts you want to. That approach can be turned on it’s head at any point, and your demogoguery is just supporting the cuase.

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By Malini, January 5, 2007 at 6:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hello My Pals in Cyberspace!

Here’s an experience I would love to share with everyone:

Recently, during the last Thanksgiving, I had a spiritual experience that made me extremely happy… and here’s the story… 

It was an inter-faith Thanksgiving celebration held at a local church in a comparatively small town.  There were Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Zen Buddhist, and Red Indian representatives present. 

They all greeted, hugged and embraced each other; and there was excitement everywhere.  There were genuine, beautiful smiles on all the faces.  The church hall was packed.  I felt that there was great spiritual bonding among each other in a congregation that consisted of all faiths.

All the kids were in a different area under the supervision of adults.  They, ran, jumped around, played games, concentrated in arts & crafts, ate and drank together. 

There was so much of excitement, joy, peace, happiness, tranquility and togetherness all round…  Felt I was living in this very real, idealistic, spiritual world.

Each faith had a short religious service, and then explained what “Thanksgiving” really meant for them.  The entire congregation was in deep concentration, absorbing everything, right through all the services. 

At the end, they all enjoyed a scrumptious, hearty Thanksgiving meal together.

I was so happy with this experience.  It was one of the best spiritual experiences that I have enjoyed in my life!

I congratulate, compliment, and thank all those in this forum for their priceless input and participation!  This I feel is of vital importance for our own safety, survival and existence…today…tomorrow…and forever…

It is concerned folk like you who will make this world a better place, and my sincere thanks extend to each and everyone of you!

Wishing you a wonderful Year 2007,

Malini

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By Malini, January 5, 2007 at 6:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hello Ladies & Gentlemen!

Thanks everyone for make this discussion very interesting, balancing and fascinating!

The pen/PC/keyboard/internet definitely is mightier than all the swords/guns/bombs/missiles etc., that are out there!

We all arrived on this earth as babies the same way.  Along the way, we have taken different paths depending on our birth, education, personal experiences, etc., and now we are discussing the different paths that are available and the best spiritual path one could follow or select/practice in order to receive maximum benefits and opportunities on the other side…

Hmmmmm…  Frankly, Sam’s honest approach and articles make so much sense to me.  I applaud him for addressing a very sensitive subject like “Faith” where the slightest remark makes most of the world go insane, as it is a sacred topic that most of us find embedded in our very own souls.

So here we are in the 21st century, but still practicing the same old, ancient rituals, traditions and still believing in the age old myths and mysteries.

In reality, we have access to any form of information we seek…  We are very closely connected with the rest of our world, and our communication network systems are at their best and expanding every moment…

All aspects connected to mankind have progressed, developed and changed from the ancient times… except for faith.  I strongly feel that the debates among all faiths will one day lead us to a completely civilized, understanding, tolerant, peaceful world…  Lack of communication among the faiths, and their arrogance, pride, and stubbornness to listen to another’s point of view, has contributed to unimaginable devastation, misery and destruction in our world.  Ultimately, we have lost respect and value for life… PERIOD… 

As we are living in this wonderful electronic age, there is a great opportunity for us to conduct our faith discussions in a harmless, productive way through the internet.  May be those in the higher seats of learning, the universities, faith based educational institutions, all places of worship, etc., etc. from all over the world will be able to have their communities participate in the discussions, and give everyone an opportunity to express their own views, opinions, suggestions and contributions.  Luckily, we are equipped with all the modern tools to reach the public for their support.

It is high time we reevaluated our faiths and headed towards a spiritual direction that did not create any harm or destruction to anyone on this earth.  Just place value for life as the highest priority in every nation. 

We all love our families, our freedom, and all the bounty that surrounds us…  Let’s allow others to enjoy the same privileges too!  After all, we all belong to the same human race… and share the same beautiful planet with its bounty.  Let’s be fair, and just…  After all, our goal is the same…

Malini, with love to all,

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By Malini, January 5, 2007 at 6:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Greetings Everyone!

Hi Joan,

Sorry for being so late in responding to some of your concerns!  I’m glad that an Ethics professional is involved in this discussion!  It is a pleasure attempting to reason the present day realities of life with you and the rest of the group.

As you say, our youth definitely needs spirituality to build, mold, focus, and guide their lives.  It is some of the current faith practices and belief systems that direct our youth onto a war path that affects the entire globe. 

Generally, the educated do use their knowledge and common sense to analyze the ancient practices.  Unfortunately, there are also those leaders who take every word in their texts so literally, accept and believe in every word without any analysis or reasoning, and then mislead and guide the truth seeking, naive, honest, energetic, inexperienced youth onto a senseless, violent path.  Until some of our religious leaders seek a practical balance in their faith practices and teachings, humanity will have every reason to shudder with fear in their own lands and abroad.

Thanks Joan for bringing up the subject of our individual responsibilities as citizens…  You are right, to ease the present day tension and to take care of the current global confusion, there are simple but important things that we could do from our end as individuals for a start.

As a civilized society, we seem to have failed, and disappointed our youth.  What you say about current state of our younger generations is very true.  Why did such a large number of people fill up our jails, and the prisons?  What happened to our moral values?  Where did we go wrong?

If we all, the entire global community, parents, teachers, extended families, friends, (in fact the entire human race) worked harder in order to get closer, bond with each other; and give our young ones the privilege of experiencing the built-in unconditional love that one could share with each other… regardless of the visible differences… we are bound to make this world a nicer place for the youth and everybody else to live in.  Building trust, being kind, compassionate, helpful, honest, setting a good example, etc., may be a few ways to approach the restless youth as well as win the hearts of the entire global community.

As this is an international concern, all nations will have to join hands and work very hard on building trust among each other, in earnest and with absolute honesty.  We are all involved, the large and small, the rich and poor, the educated and the non-educated, the bright and the not so bright, etc.  It is through continuous discussions, dialogues, and debates that we will be able to reach a stable balance, understanding and finally attain peace and happiness for all on this earth. 

Thanks for doing everything possible to make this a better world!

Malini

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