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Sam Harris: ‘God’s Rottweiler’ Barks

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

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

By Sam Harris

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

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

Cross-posted at Huffington Post



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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By Maani, January 5, 2007 at 4:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mike:

Methinks you have watched Pulp Fiction too many times…LOL

Tebaldi:

Welcome to the conversation pit.  LOL.  You say, “So the solution to most of the world’s violence?  Don’t raise your child to believe in God.”

Like others, you seem all too ready to broad-brush.  There are tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of people who raised their children to believe in God, none of whom (parent or child) have resorted to violence of any kind - and, indeed, practice their faith quietly and privately.

Also like others, you suggest that “most of the world’s violence” was/is the result of “religion,” when that notion is soundly refuted by actual numbers: those killed as the result of religious wars, Crusades, etc. has been estimated at 25 million to 50 million in all of history, while those killed by committed atheists includes over 100 million by Stalin, Mao, Hitler and Pol Pot alone in just 60 years.

Keith:

Re the anthropic principle, you fail to note that, because it inexorably leads back to some form of “intelligent design,” it has been refuted by most major cosmologists and astrophyicists (with the startling exception of Stephen Hawking).  Indeed, here is some of the Wikipedia text:

“In physics and cosmology, the anthropic principle is an umbrella term for various dissimilar attempts to explain the structure of the universe by way of coincidentally balanced features that are necessary and relevant to the existence on Earth of biochemistry, carbon-based life, and eventually human beings to observe such a universe. 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, particularly complex multicellular life, that can make such an observation and concludes with that premise that in only such a fine-tuned universe can such living observers be. GIVEN THE EXTREME SIMPLICITY OF OF THE UNIVERSE AT THE START OF THE BIG BANG, THE FRIENDLINESS OF THE UNIVERSE TO COMPLEX STRUCTURES SUCH AS GALAXIES, PLANETARY SYSTEMS, AND BIOLOGY IS UNEXPECTED BY ANY NORMAL MODEL OF TURBULENCE DRIVEN STRUCTURING THAT SCIENCE HAS BEEN ABLE TO DERIVE…The anthropic principle also acts as a convenient category for physical and cosmological reasoning that takes into account the existence of a biosphere on Earth in an essential way. ATTEMPTS TO INVOKE THE “ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE” TO DEVELOP SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATONS HAS LED TO MORE THAN A LITTLE CONFUSION AND CONTROVERSY…Much of the controversy arises from the perception that some versions of the Principle re-introduce the Argument from Design for the existence of God.”

Indeed, the “strong anthropic principle” has as its first postulate a form of “intelligent design”:

“Weak Anthropic Principle (WAP).  The observed values of all physical and cosmological quantities are not equally probable but they take on values restricted by the requirement that there exist sites where carbon-based life can evolve and by the requirements that the Universe be old enough for it to have already done so.

“Strong Anthropic Principle (SAP).  There exists one possible Universe ‘designed’ with the goal of generating and sustaining ‘observers’...Or observers are necessary to bring the Universe into being (Wheeler’s Participatory Anthropic Principle (PAP))...Or an ensemble of other different universes is necessary for the existence of our Universe (which may be related to the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics).”

Finally, you say, “The problem comes from religions getting control of the political process and doing things that impact the non-religious.”  While I fervently support the separation of church and state, you seem to imply that the reverse is okay: that atheists and other non-believers have the right to control the political process to the point of negatively affecting the rights of believers.  If so, how can you justify this hypocrisy?

Peace.

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By Rick Yel, January 5, 2007 at 4:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re:  Joan

“It puzzles me as to why you blame God for the blood man has spilled. God specifically and unquestionably commands the very opposite, namely,” THOU SHALT NOT KILL” and this directive is understood by Muslims too. Why do you think God counseled thusly?  Just a silly arbitrary rule or could it be natural moral law because killing and violence is not in man’s survival interest and not killing was necessary for our overall safety?”

“How is it that man has no blame for what happened in Somalia, Ethiopia, Iraq, and on 9/11? Man was not following any orders from God here. Man undertook all these slaughters by himself. God did not tell mankind to kill one another but expected quite the opposite of us.”

  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. 

And Killing and Violence have always been around in all of human existence and before if for nothing more than lack of resources (look at where this is occuring and the poverty level there). 

Nevertheless, I am a big fan of both you and Maani, for I admire the tenacity and pursuit with which you both argue.  Live on!

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By Keith Henson, January 5, 2007 at 2:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Joan wrote:

>RE: Ockham’s razor: “That which can be said with few words is said needlessly with many”. I guess it depends on which edge of the razor you are working.

“. . . often paraphrased as “All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one.” In other words, when multiple competing theories are equal in other respects, the principle recommends selecting the theory that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest hypothetical entities. It is in this sense that Occam’s razor is usually understood.”

>Noting the editorial from “The Economist” that I shared with you recently all one needs to explain the universe simply is God’s love…not the billions of books, theories and dollars spent on science.

Sorry, I am an engineer.  God’s love does not help me in the slightest when designing a bridge, a water supply or an electronic circuit.  Science does.

>OooooR, working the other edge, if you think God is irrelevant to understanding the universe, again I say as a philosopher where is the proof of the truth of that position?

I am not making the extraordinary claim. 

>Support it. An everyday counterpoint to that view is the person who receives a diagnosis of stage 4 cancer.

That person is unfortunate enough to live in an age where we can name things like stage 4 cancer and not do much about it.  About all medicine can offer at this point is cryonic suspension.  That will change in the next few decades, there are already paths to general cancer cures being mapped out.

snip

>Why do we have laws of nature?

Anthropic principle.

http://www.anthropic-principle.com/primer.html

>How come they were imposed on the Big Bang aftermath? Isn’t it odd there are laws of nature?

No.

>Not just things hot one day, and cold the next, just chaos and randomness governing everything.

If that were the case, life as we know it would not exist.

snip

>As far as mathematical models describing universes popping up…let me see the universe that pops up from these models.…you cite or refer to theories but where are the “reality” counterparts to the theories? Theories are a dime a dozen.

The reality example is our universe, with physical constants such as the fine structure constant that are seemingly of random value.  Tweek that value one way or the other and the stars either don’t light up or go poof.

>Christians are as inquisitive about the universe as anyone else. That is my garbled last sentence. But on that note let me say that the universe is seen through a prism. Some see it best scientifically, some spiritually, some artistically, some mathematically. We each have a shred of truth we can share with others. But no one has all the truth. But this array enriches our experience of it. We do not have to beat each other over the head to force our views on each other as more significant than the rest but should realize the importance of the different perspectives we each contribute to overall understanding of such a magnificent occurrence.

Hey, if you want to believe in God or Allah, Oden or Zuse to account for the universe it’s not a problem.  The problem comes from religions getting control of the political process and doing things that impact the non-religious.  Such as teaching children nonsense in the place of evolutionary biology and invading countries to bring on “the Rapture.”  To the extent the pope has been successful in his anti birth control policy in Africa especially now Darfur, he is responsible for the deaths of millions.  I might add that I consider Islam far more of a problem than Christianity at the moment because the Christian nations mostly have their populations growing slower than their economies and this tends to moderate the more extreme xenophobic manifestations of religion.

Keith

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By Tebaldi, January 5, 2007 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Joan, your comments are lucid and oddly kind, considering you are a sheep among wolves in this forum.  You seem, however, to be missing the mark in your response to Rick.  He is not blaming God for death and destruction.  He blames mankind’s blind faith in God’s doctrine. The Bible is used by evil men to substantiate and embolden his nefarious acts.  What better way to perpetuate his transgressions than by the way of the Bible’s teachings (as interpreted by him).  Yes, most religious folk are ethically sound.  Those who are not have an abjectly dangerous weapon in their pocket.  Dangerous because both you and he carry it.  Dangerous because it’s warped translation alters a child’s mind in the name of God.  What a perfect weapon – I know of no child that would argue with God.  So the solution to most of the world’s violence?  Don’t raise your child to believe in God.  Then when some random zealot attempts to recruit him to sacrifice himself in the name of the Holy Bible or Koran, it would be like asking him to do it in the name of Huckleberry Finn.  Now you’ve saved your son and all his potential victims.  Peace through atheism.

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By Joan, January 5, 2007 at 1:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Richard,

You absolutely do not understand my thesis about Locke and Jefferson. First off, you need to understand that when philosophers make arguments they are to an extent spinning certain theories because they are expedient to a certain desired end. At times their theories are not based on their personal beliefs. I do not know if Locke was a Christian or a Buddhist or a scientologist, whatever. I do know he understood that if you wanted to give man rights that no one could take away, you had to make the source of these rights someone or something that no one could override, like God or the Creator. This source had to be stronger than the powerful king of England. So Locke settled on God.  Bush did the same thing when starting the war in Iraq, claiming that freedom was a gift from God. It’s just politics. Get it? I do not know if Locke or Jefferson personally knew one another but Jefferson certainly knew of Locke’s ideas probably just like you know about Jefferson’s ideas, by reading about them I would suspect. Jefferson saw a good use for the idea that rights come for the Creator as a way to give rights that no one could take, namely the king of England by citing what Locke argued, these rights come from a higher power. It does not matter what Jefferson personally believed. This was a good argument, politically expedient to achieve our independence from England. And I have said this several times. Jefferson was a Founder in the sense that he wrote the Declaration of Independence from England and he needed a very good irrefutable argument to make this document stick.

America is de facto a Christian nation given it is mostly populated by Christians and there certainly are threads of Christian ideology that run through our national thought process.  For instance, as a nation we do not follow the eye for an eye mentality we se other nations follow. This is a basic tenet of Christianity that Maani referred to recently. And I certainly stand by the position that it is Christian ideology that gave life to the idea that all men are equal when they certainly are not created equal. And they are equal because and for no other reason than they are equal in the eyes of their Creator despite their human condition. And the Declaration pivots on this idea of equality, as do our consequent human rights.  It may be mentioned here and there in obscure places but Christianity is the ideology that popularized this notion and made it commonplace and an idea the ordinary man understood, accepted and hence was usable by Locke and Jefferson to their own ends. 

Additionally, looking at you re cap of my position, even if Christianity was central to Locke, and I have no idea of it was, and even if Jefferson actually knew Locke, it does not at all automatically follow that Christianity was central to Jefferson and I would never argue this. Inalienable rights coming from a Creator does not imply Christianity. Equality of men because they are children of God however is a Christian concept that both Jefferson and Locke both used for political advantage and I do argue this position. I do not know what either of these men believed personally about God.

Joan

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By Mike, January 5, 2007 at 1:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The path of the holy man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.  Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill sheppard the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children.  And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers.  And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.

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By Maani, January 5, 2007 at 11:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Richard:

Why do you keep repeating something that has been clearly and continually rejected by Joan and myself: namely that we believe, based on your (erroneous) “5-step” synthesis of Joan’s position, that “this is a Christian nation?”

Joan never suggested that, nor did I agree.  Rather, Joan simply suggested (and I agreed) that the founders “used” the Christian notion of “Creator”-given “inalienable rights” in order to give those rights a “higher” authority than simply mankind itself.  Otherwise, it is unlikely that those rights would have had the necessary underlying “moral authority” to be accepted as such by the populace at large.

Neither Joan nor I believe that the U.S. is a “Christian nation” the way that it is being purported by the Religious Right and others.  It is an insult to both of us that you insist on painting us in the same light as them.

You also say, “Your arguments about Jesus are flawless. Anything distasteful that is pointed out from scripture isn’t what the real Jesus stands for. We should refer to the make-nice verses instead.”

Where did I suggest this?  There are plenty of “distasteful” things in Scripture, though the overwhelming majority are in the OT.  In this regard, I would be happy to be enlightened as to the “distasteful” things - much less those openly supportive of hatred, violence, war, suffering, greed, intolerance, arrogance, etc. - that Jesus said or suggested during His three-year ministry here on earth.  Believe me, I am all ears, and would consider it instructive.

Peace.

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By Richard, January 4, 2007 at 6:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maani:

I am well aware of the mystical Christian doctrine of the triune God of the Bible. There was a time when I believed in it wholeheartely and used the same anachronistic interpretations of scripture that you do. Then it occurred to me that the people who originally read or heard those passages got some meaning out of them, and it wasn’t Jesus. I wanted to know what it meant to the people who originally consumed the material. That is the same way we study Homer or Shakespeare. Why should the Bible be any different?

I must admit that the Genesis passages I cited did not lead immediately to the equality of man concept. However, they could have eventually, without Jesus being involved. In fact, it just was because I did it (I’m sure I wasn’t the first, however).

We could have arrived at that idea through an entirely different path. You and Joan both seem to disregard what I say about evolution of ideas, and moving past where we were to where we should be going. 

Joan’s argument seems to be:
1. Christianity was central to Locke’s ideas
2. Jefferson knew Locke
3. Therefore, Christianity is central to Jefferson
4. Jefferson was a founder of our nation
5. This is a Christian nation

She keeps going back to that, regardless of how many times the fallacy at step #3 is pointed out and #3 and #5 are shot down with quotations from Jefferson such as:

“I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth.”—Notes on Virginia.

Maani:

Your arguments about Jesus are flawless. Anything distasteful that is pointed out from scripture isn’t what the <u>real</u> Jesus stands for. We should refer to the make-nice verses instead. Doesn’t it strike you as dangerous to call the Bible your source of truth when it contains ideas civilized people can’t live by, and you have to pick and choose your truths that way?

Islam does the same thing with the Kuran. You say they stand for peace and brotherhood. Is that why 3/4 of a million have died in Afghanistan and Iraq? Is it just a handful of them that believe in the violence their holy book teaches?

Peace indeed,
Richard

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By Joan, January 4, 2007 at 4:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Everyone,

Regarding these incessant references to truth, reason and science…just whose truth, reason and science is the one and only truth, reason and science that is to be accepted to guarantee man’s salvation? Yours, mine, Plato’s, Jon Stewart’s, Noam Chompsky’s, Terrell Owen’s, Brangelina’s, Zeus’, Lassie’s, Steven Hawking’s, Don Rumsfeld’s, Seinfeld’s ...whose truth, reason and science? If you think there is available to us absolute truth, one unquestioned line of reasoning and absolute science, you should delve deeper into these subjects. All our knowledge to date is incomplete and relative to what we know at any given moment. It is subject to revision at any given moment as new knowledge is acquired. We do not know what we do not yet know and how dramatically new knowledge will impact us—our truth, reasoning and science. Forgive me for sounding so “Rumsfeldian”. Additionally there are uncountable valid but differing interpretations of what we do seem to know, if we really know what we think we,
in fact, know. Again forgive me for being so “Donald”.

Joan

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By Joan, January 4, 2007 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Rick,

It puzzles me as to why you blame God for the blood man has spilled. God specifically and unquestionably commands the very opposite, namely,” THOU SHALT NOT KILL” and this directive is understood by Muslims too. Why do you think God counseled thusly?  Just a silly arbitrary rule or could it be natural moral law because killing and violence is not in man’s survival interest and not killing was necessary for our overall safety? Was God trying to protect His creation with that commandment? Why do you think Christ gave his life trying to convince us to “TREAT OTHERS THE WAY YOU WISH TO BE TREATED”. Just a lot of fluff and romance??? Or are these commandments and pieces of wisdom the keys to our survival in the here and now?

If man would just follow these directives, we would be much, much better off. It seems quite obvious by inspection by any rational person that is the point of God and Christ giving us these commandments, to protect us here on earth. How is it that man has no blame for what happened in Somalia, Ethiopia, Iraq, and on 9/11? Man was not following any orders from God here. Man undertook all these slaughters by himself. God did not tell mankind to kill one another but expected quite the opposite of us. He commanded that we not kill one another because of the obvious suffering it causes. He is probably sickened and puzzled over why we are so stupid and narcissistic to undertake such bloodshed. So I am puzzled by your judgment of God as the party responsible for this aforementioned bloodshed.

BTW: Zeus and Yahweh are not the same types of gods. The Greek gods were not considered to have countenanced moral authority to the best of my recollection. The Greeks would not have turned to Zeus for moral guidance or necessarily expected moral behavior of him.

Joan

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By Joan, January 4, 2007 at 3:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Rick,

It puzzles me as to why you blame God for the blood man has spilled. God specifically and unquestionably commands the very opposite, namely,” THOU SHALT NOT KILL” and this directive is understood by Muslims too. Why do you think God counseled thusly?  Just a silly arbitrary rule or could it be natural moral law because killing and violence is not in man’s survival interest and not killing was necessary for our overall safety? Was God trying to protect His creation with that commandment? Why do you think Christ gave his life trying to convince us to “TREAT OTHERS THE WAY YOU WISH TO BE TREATED”. Just a lot of fluff and romance??? Or are these commandments and pieces of wisdom the keys to our survival in the here and now?

If man would just follow these directives, we would be much, much better off. It seems quite obvious by inspection by any rational person that is the point of God and Christ giving us these commandments, to protect us here on earth. How is it that man has no blame for what happened in Somalia, Ethiopia, Iraq, and on 9/11? Man was not following any orders from God here. Man undertook all these slaughters by himself. God did not tell mankind to kill one another but expected quite the opposite of us. He commanded that we not kill one another because of the obvious suffering it causes. He is probably sickened and puzzled over why we are so stupid and narcissistic to undertake such bloodshed. So I am puzzled by your tacit judgment of God as party responsible for this aforementioned bloodshed.

BTW: Zeus and Yahweh are not the same types of gods. The Greek gods were not considered to have countenanced moral authority to the best of my recollection. The Greeks would not have turned to Zeus for moral guidance or necessarily expected moral behavior of him.

Joan

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By Maani, January 4, 2007 at 3:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Rick:

Welcome back.  I hope your new year’s was happy, healthy and safe.

The concept - to say nothing of the practice - of agape (unconditional) love and forgiveness is unquestionably difficult.  Jesus never said it would be easy.  LOL.  He simply suggested that it is ultimately the best way to present oneself to others.  He knew full well that others might not present THEMSELVES that way, and, indeed, might go beyond mere “negativity” to outright hostility, violence, even murder.  But Jesus was simply underscoring the idea that one should not “fight fire with fire” - that violence only begets more violence, etc.  Indeed, this was cryytalized in his penultimate words on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Thus, He was “signaling” to his disciples that not even His own death - innocent of any crime, vicious, bloody, violent - was cause for violence, retribution or revenge.

Being able to “love one’s enemies” (and forgive them) - even as they kill one’s next door neighbor, or even one’s own family member - may seem utterly anathema to our ideas of justice, ethics, morality, right and wrong, etc.  And it is true that there are some people who one cannot “change” with love, peace, etc.  But there are many whom we CAN change that way.  And even if we cannot, how are we (individually and/or collectively) “better” than them if we simply resort to the same behavior, actions, tactics, etc. as they do?  If we “stoop to their level,” are we not as bad as them?

Jesus addressed this specifically in the same part of Matthew: “You have heard it said, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.  But I say to you, do not resist evil.  Whosoever smites thee on thy right cheek, offer him the other also.”

Loving one’s enemies, not resisting evil (people), offering someone who hits you the other cheek - all of this flies in the face of what we might consider “rational,” doesn’t it?  And yet Jesus knew exactly what He was saying.  He also knew how difficult it would be for people to actually live that way - but this did not change the truth and logic of His words.

It is true that religion has been used through the ages as a cudgel to beat and murder others (though no more or less than atheist or non-religious philosophies).  But, as noted, this does not change the fact that ethics, morality and peace start with each of us as an individual.

What Jesus was tacitly saying was: if we abrogate our duty to ourselves (and others) to live by the most ethical, moral and peaceful principles possible - no matter what is thrown at us - we have no one to blame but ourselves for the continuation and/or escalation of violence, war and suffering.

Peace.

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By Rick Yel, January 4, 2007 at 11:11 am Link to this comment
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Just imagine a conversation in Roman Antiquity - a time long before Christ - where 2 men sat around in their togas discussing God(s).

Patrikus:  “Why Clavicus, do you not fear the mighty hand of Zeus in your disdain for him because he allowed your stillborn child never to have a chance at life?” 

Clavicus:  “I fear not, why should I?  Zeus has shown me his ability to take but not to give.  Maybe one day a God will come where all is giveth and none taketh.”

Patrikus:  “You must obey the almighty Zeus, your creator, and all other gods and goddesses, for if you do not you shall spent eternity in Hades.  Now, I understand you have lost what is most precious to you, but if you go sacrifice 9 goats - one for each month your child lived inside your wife - you shall be saved and will join the Gods on Mt. Olympus.”

Clavicus:  “You have amused me greatly with your rhetoric, Patrikus.  Now, bring your child here so I can show you the power of Zeus by spilling it’s bllod as to show Zeus just how serious I am about salvation.  And then I shall dismiss all the bad things around me, so as to pretend they do not exist in corporeal reality.  Then, while excluding the millions who suffer daily, and only surviving out of necessity for themselves, I shall be Saved!  Why that is it Patrikus, I have found the answer I have been looking for:  ‘Dismiss and Exist in Bliss.’”

Patrikus:  “The Gods will not be happy.”


Maani wrote:  “Are there any ethics more human than those handed down by Jesus: love, peace, humility, forgiveness, compassion, patience, tolerance, charity, selflessness, service, justice?  Is this list missing anything?”

It is hard to find love and peace in a place like Somalia and Ethiopia where villages are literally whiped out of existence by a truck-full of militia men having little humility in their patient battle for power.  It is difficult for me to forgive the twisted compassion and tolerance of those warlords who think they are doing it for their country’s or religions’s own benefit, as if a selfless act of charity.  No doubt the service of these attrocious men and their crimes will surface.  But, it is humans who bring this justice to these twisted men , with no visual appearance of any Supernatural Being.  Just as it was a million years ago, and just as it is today.

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By Maani, January 3, 2007 at 10:15 pm Link to this comment
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Dave:

Once again, you show that you are either deaf or myopic or both.

You say, “We who propose humanistic ethics are not aiming to remove all Christians from the American scene, but we do indeed prefer that truth & reason & science be upheld while god myths, a heaven & a hell be abandoned.  It’s faith-delusions to which we object, not those who obviously need to be enlightened on the virtues of truth, reason & scientific progress.”

And therein lies the problem with Harris, Dawkins, Dennett et al and their most rabid acolytes, like yourself.

“Humanistic ethics?”  Can you define this for me?  Are there any ethics more human than those handed down by Jesus: love, peace, humility, forgiveness, compassion, patience, tolerance, charity, selflessness, service, justice?  Is this list missing anything?

You seem unable to understand, much less accept, that while many - and, yes, perhaps even most - Christians fail to adhere to and practice many or all of these, there are millions, maybe tens of millions, who do.

As well, you maintain a hopelessly stubborn adherence to the belief that “truth and reason and science” are mutually exclusive from “god myths, heaven and hell.”  Once again, there are millions, perhaps tens of millions, of Christians for whom ALL of these are fully and unapologetically compatible.  As well, I repeat yet again that what a Christian may believe about the “afterlife” (i.e., heaven and hell) has little or nothing to do with how they treat and interact with their fellow humans during THIS life.  Indeed, the “ethics” of Jesus as listed above are clearly meant as guidelines for living THIS life, since they are inapplicable to the afterlife.  And again, simply because many, and perhaps even most, Christians don’t “get” this does not mean that there are not an enormous number who do.

Finally, you say"It’s faith-delusions to which we object, NOT THOSE WHO OBVIOUSLY NEED TO BE ENLIGHTENED on the virtues of truth, reason & scientific progress” (emphasis mine).

This is not only patrician, imperious and condescending, but smacks of a dangerous totalitarian mentality.  Indeed, these words might have been spoken by some of the world’s greatest “humanists” - like Hitler, Stalin and Mao to those whom THEY felt needed “enlightenment.”  Moreover, they are prima facie evidence that you are as extremist in your view as those misguided Christians who claim the same thing about atheists, and whom you abhor.  In this regard, your position is no less abhorrent for its intolerance and dismissiveness than those you accuse of same.

Ultimately, your problem continues to be your willingness - even glee - to “throw out the baby with the bathwater,” and your inability or unwillingness to accept that there might be common ground between believers and atheists - and to work toward that - rather than fanning the flames and fomenting further hatred and intolerance as a result of your rabid atheist zeal.  If you had your way, you would be leading a “Crusades” against all people of faith.  And that is not just ironic, but truly frightening.

Peace.

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By Joan, January 3, 2007 at 7:01 pm Link to this comment
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Keith,

RE: Ockham’s razor: “That which can be said with few words is said needlessly with many”. I guess it depends on which edge of the razor you are working. Noting the editorial from “The Economist” that I shared with you recently all one needs to explain the universe simply is God’s love…not the billions of books, theories and dollars spent on science. OooooR, working the other edge, if you think God is irrelevant to understanding the universe, again I say as a philosopher where is the proof of the truth of that position? Support it. An everyday counterpoint to that view is the person who receives a diagnosis of stage 4 cancer. He does not revel in comfort from the elegance of a mathematical equation that suggests string theory as the grand unifying theory explaining all that we could ever want explained. He looks for something else to anchor him through the ordeal that he will live due to the failures in science as savior he will now experience until he dies, while hopefully well medicated with heroin, a very effective god-given analgesic instead of torture with overall unhelpful medical interventions.

As far as science delivering the key to DNA, you are the only one I am aware of who maintains that science has explicated how life came for that which is inert.  Lots of theories but no definitive answers to date on this is what the rest of us maintain.

You miss my point about snowflakes and design. What you described about snowflakes also describes an underlying law of nature. I am asking you why there should be any laws of nature and where do they come from? How is it they are in place at the time of the Big Bang, governing what came afterwards?? Why do we have laws of nature? How come they were imposed on the Big Bang aftermath? Isn’t it odd there are laws of nature? Not just things hot one day, and cold the next, just chaos and randomness governing everything.

Boiling bubbles are still governed by laws of nature, not truly random. As far as mathematical models describing universes popping up…let me see the universe that pops up from these models.…you cite or refer to theories but where are the “reality” counterparts to the theories? Theories are a dime a dozen.


Christians are as inquisitive about the universe as anyone else. That is my garbled last sentence. But on that note let me say that the universe is seen through a prism. Some see it best scientifically, some spiritually, some artistically, some mathematically. We each have a shred of truth we can share with others. But no one has all the truth. But this array enriches our experience of it. We do not have to beat each other over the head to force our views on each other as more significant than the rest but should realize the importance of the different perspectives we each contribute to overall understanding of such a magnificent occurrence.

Joan.

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By Keith Henson, January 3, 2007 at 5:28 pm Link to this comment
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Dave Summers wrote:

>But, back to Berman: “If a nation is unable to perceive reality correctly, and persists in operating on the basis of faith-based delusions, its ability to hold its own in the world is pretty much foreclosed”.

It would be in a world where at least one nation “perceive[d] reality correctly.”

But I can’t think of an example, can you?

And at the meta level, why do people have “faith-based delusions” in the first place?

If you buy into evolution, the answer has to come out of our evolutionary past.  I.e., what was it about having the capacity for faith-based delusions that helped those who had them reproduce in the stone age?

Keith Henson

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By Joan, January 3, 2007 at 4:02 pm Link to this comment
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Everyone,

Part 2

6.”Atheists are arrogant.” Religions base their beliefs on the experience of transcendence and revelatory knowledge and science traditionally has been based on objective empirical evidence. I would think Mr. Harris understood the qualitative difference between science and religion. I know of no revelations in religion about things like chemical equations or particle physics, although I feel at times we the faithful must have a great deal of faith to believe in absolutely unobservable things like anti particles traveling backward in time, (re: Dr. Richard Feynman, physicist, and Nobel prize winner). 

7.”Atheists are closed to spiritual experience”. If the atheist is enraptured as Mr. Harris admits, just exactly what is this atheist enraptured with? What is he doing? And if he does not want to make a religion out of his personal experience, so be it- but still what is this atheist enraptured about? Again, regarding things like virgin births, Mr. Harris must grasp the difference between revelatory knowledge of religion and the empirical disciplines like those in science. Harris too often criticizes an apple for not being an orange. Then again too this Christmas we witnessed the virgin birth of a litter of komodo dragons, didn’t we? So for science and religion given enough time, all will be revealed.

8.”Atheists believe there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding”.  That’s what it means to be an atheist, to believe there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding. Among atheists, there is no understanding or recognition of transcendence. This again makes me wonder what atheists are enraptured with as Harris suggests they are. Are these enraptured atheists in a delusional state?!? People of faith can accept there can be other universes with the hand of God moving about as God can do pretty much anything. Leastways, God can conjure up another universe given that He has conjured up this one in the eyes of the faithful. But an atheist by definition disavows transcendence. Hence, for the atheist, there is nothing but what is the human experience of it. That’s it, or they are suffering from delusions when claiming they are transcending themselves, enraptured.

9. & 10. ”Atheists ignore the fact that religion is extremely beneficial to society” and “Atheism provides no basis for morality.”  If we all lived by the seminal doctrine of Christianity, the Golden Rule that directs us to treat others as we wish to be treated, the good effects of implementing this seminal doctrine of Christianity would probably be world peace and that would definitely demonstrate the truth of religious doctrine, despite Mr. Harris’ failure to grasp this.
We can have morality using certain moral intuitions but atheism provides no basis for any morality per se. Atheism in and of itself has no moral authority and must always appeal to some non scientific doctrine as the guideline for moral behavior. And of course we can have some basis for good moral behavior in the absence of a religion. But it is noteworthy that the major religions value many of the same priorities such as love and charity and have a number of organizations that are designed to relieve world suffering. Where are those such organizations that have been founded by atheists who are highly motivated to alleviate the suffering of mankind that match in fervor or anything, even money those faith based organizations like the Red Cross etc? What does atheism contribute to the world situation except complaining and railing against believers? Where is the great atheist humanitarian effort to help mankind that would demonstrate atheism’s deeply held moral conviction that it is to ameliorate human suffering? I must be confusing atheism with Christianity. Atheism seems self- preoccuppied and overly interested in criticizing others for their beliefs. That seems to be its evangelical mission.

Joan

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By Malini, January 3, 2007 at 3:53 pm Link to this comment
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Dear Dr. Summers:

I applaud you for your strong, powerful reasoning!

Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

Malini

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By Joan, January 3, 2007 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment
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Everyone,


  Atheism Evangelism: 10 Myths and Fictions
                             
                                             
Part 1

Atheism evangelism is all the rage now with conferences convening here and about. Sam Harris, author of “Letter to a Christian Nation”, is one of the founding apostles and to draw attention to his campaign, he has during this holy time for Christians argued his platform on behalf of his cause with a recent op-ed. There he listed myths and facts about atheists and as I re-cap his stated myths or facts, I identify some myths, fictions and ironies Mr. Harris harbors about his own beliefs. Enjoy.

1. “Atheists believe life is meaningless.”
We humans are from the same ooze as all else. How can atheists logically conclude that human life therefore has more meaning or value in the grand scheme of the universe than the life of a horse or an ameba or a cockroach? From what does the special status of man derive itself?

2.”Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in history.” This seems right to me despite Harris’ double speak about atheism/communism being too much like a dogmatic religion, probably is, as if that were a vindication of the crimes against mankind under these atheistic regimes. It is atheists that propped up the likes of Pol Pot and Stalin et al. They needed a lot of atheists to carry out their unmatched murderous agendas.

3.” Atheism is dogmatic”. For support of this statement, see Harris’ argument in #2 when he claims that atheism/communism is dogmatic like religions and that is his explanation for slaughters that happened under the atheists, Pol Pot and Stalin. So for Harris, atheism is, or is not dogmatic?

4. “Atheists think everything in the universe arose by chance”. Mr. Harris, again which is it? The universe evolved by chance or through Design? Not by chance here and design there. If the universe arose by any smidge of design, Who or What is the Designer? It is interesting to hear Mr. Harris laud Richard Dawkins’ work. Mr. Dawkins proposes “meme” theory that is UN-PROVABLE. Harris in both of his books argues that we can only accept statements we CAN PROVE by which he rules out a number of scientific statements as well as religion, which openly admits that it does not submit to empirical review by definition but is very revelatory in nature. I am puzzled as to why Mr. Harris seems so unbothered by the contradiction of admiring Dawkins who proposes theories that are as un-provable as religious statements that Harris rejects because they cannot be proven. And he fails to acknowledge what has been the basis of religion by definition, revelation,  not empirical validation, faith as opposed to demonstration. This is the unusual logic and epistemology of Atheism Evangelism.

5.”Atheism has no connection to Science.” To my recollection, it seems that it was cellular biologists who proposed Intelligent Design after noting that the probability of the complexity of cellular design happening without deliberate intention was nil. Hardly seems that scientists are not involved with faith. Note Einstein. Harris seems pre-Enlightenment, unable to accept both science and religion. Some people today argue they are in fact the same thing at times.

Joan

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By Dave Summers, M.D., January 3, 2007 at 1:51 pm Link to this comment
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RE:  Comments, #44387 by Maani, 12/29/06

I had not read THE GOD DELUSION by Dawkins, Maani, but now I have browsed each chapter; additionally I’ve read the Dawkins reply to the EDGE query re: his optimism for 2007 & the future.  And, Harris, incidentally, published “10 Myths & 10 Truths about Atheists”, LA Times 12/24/06.  Gore Vidal also has criticized the Bushites in responding to Morris Berman’s, DARK AGES in AMERICA; The Final Phase of Empire, also following Vidal’s recent, autobiographical, POINT to POINT NAVIGATION: A Memoir.  Regarding “delusions”, Harris ridicules those who try to attribute a new meaning to the term, emphasizing, “There is a profound distinction between ... delusion & the truth”, and neither he nor Dawkins shares the theistic views which ignore truths, seem perpetually committed to fantasy and fail to admit the immorality of repetitive faith fabrications—a Resurrection, honoring a newborn Jesus, “the star in the east”, angels heard on high, etc.  Yet the absurdities of Judaism, Islam & Christianity are equally immoral & embarrassing in 21st c. America.  The Berman conclusion, quoted by Vidal, is pertinent regarding false beliefs in a monotheistic God & the dangers of commingling faith with governance by Bush & his Rapture-seeking, otherworldly, child-like clinging to what amounts to fairy tales or fables or myths (one freethinker advises full acceptance of Santa, attending “Mythmus Eve” services “for the hell of it” and full acceptance of the “Mythmus” commercialization, which essentially has secularized the “mythmus Christ-mass” anyway).
But, back to Berman: “If a nation is unable to perceive reality correctly, and persists in operating on the basis of faith-based delusions, its ability to hold its own in the world is pretty much foreclosed”. 

Dawkins, Harris, Vidal, Dr. Kurtz & others whose atheism & humanistic ethics & morals I fully share, are condemning the lies & associated backwardness of religion and the fabricated but perpetual adherence to the god delusions—Jewish, Islamic, Christian, Hindi & others infested - yes, infested - by the myths of supernaturalism.  I have not wondered, Maani, why some refuse my collaboration on atheism, agnosticism (I’m a “temporary agnostic”, by the Dawkins analysis), skepticism or freethought; instead, my reason for recalling the anger & mind-closure demonstrated by some Christians, was precisely why I predict similar reactions by all who have a “god delusion”.

“To become a popular religion, it is only necessary for a superstition to enslave a philosophy”, said Wm Inge, 1860-1954.  And my former LDS friend of SLC observed that many faiths, including Mormonism “bind the mind and drown the conscience”, a problem that continues, as expected, when ideas from antiquity are still, beyond truth, reason & science, concurred with in 21st c. America.  And “women in America are unhealthily obsessed with religion”, as Harriet Martineau observed in 1830 or thereabouts.  “Twas only fear - FIRST in the world-made gods”, said Ben Jonson (1572-1603), and that fear remains in our 21st c.  But, to avoid repetition from Jefferson or Madison or Spinoza or Paine, etc. I’ll close with a truth from the daughter of freethinking Jonathan Young, Marilla Y. Ricker, 1840-?1920:  “A religious person is dangerous ... he[she] may not become a thief or a murderer but ... is liable to become a nuisance ... possessed with the notion that it is his/[her] DUTY to to give ... superstitions to others”.  We who propose humanistic ethics are not aiming to remove all Christians from the American scene, but we do indeed prefer that truth & reason & science be upheld while god myths, a heaven & a hell be abandoned.  It’s faith-delusions to which we object, not those who obviously need to be enlightened on the virtues of truth, reason & scientific progress.

Peace & Best Wishes

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By Maani, January 2, 2007 at 9:42 pm Link to this comment
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Richard:

You say that, “Those events were said to occur before ever there was a nation or a government, and thousands of years before Jesus.”  You make a common mistake in your understanding of Jesus’ role in Judeo-Christianity.

The belief in a “triune” God presumes the existence of all three - Yahweh, Jesus and the Holy Spirit - from the very beginning; i.e., from the Creation forward.  So there was no time “before Jesus.”

As well, in citing the Genesis passages, you are simply reiterating that God CREATED all men and women - NOT that all of them were created EQUAL.  Indeed, the OT is rife with passages making it quite clear that all people were NOT equal: not simply that the Israelites were God’s “chosen” people, but that God “hated” quite a few peoples.  Consider just a few choice cites: “I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me”; “And the LORD will take away from thee all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee; but will lay them upon all them that hate thee”; “And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee.”  There are dozens of others.

It was only with Jesus’ ministry that this concept was turned on its ear: after all, Jesus was, if nothing else, a major heretic, which is why the Temple Priests plotted to have him killed.  Setting aside such obvious “equalizers” as “Judge not, lest ye be judged in equal measure, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone,” and “Take the log out of your own eye beore you take the mote out of another’s,” proof of the OT-NT “split” on the “equality of man” is in Jesus own words in Matthew 5, which includes both the Beatitudes and, for our purposes, the “you have heard it said, but I say to you” statements, which concludes with:

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

There has never been an “equalizer” like it, and it remains as radical today as it was then.

Thus, while I have the deepest respect for the Jews and their faith, one cannot look to the OT for the kind of equality among ALL that Locke and Jefferson spoke of.  As Joan, notes, that concept came out of the Christian tradition - whether or not that tradition AS A WHOLE informs our Constitution and polity.

Peace.

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By Joan, January 2, 2007 at 6:43 pm Link to this comment
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Richard,

I am at a loss to clarify what I have written any better and stand by all of my positions as I have stated them. If you disagree, so be it.

You can quote from Genesis with ideas confirming thoughts about man and woman but basically the ideas about equality of man as children of God that I have referred to were spread, made famous and put into practice by Christianity. Christ, the Son spoke the intentions of the Father, Yahweh /Elohim, and Christ is the one who sold this idea of brotherhood etc. It is through the institution of Christianity that these ideas were spread on a mass scale, not any other political ideology or religion that I have ever, ever heard of. 

Your notations about Yahweh/Elohim etc talking about the dignity of man only further supports the thesis that these (inalienable) rights were as potent as they were hence cited by Locke and Jefferson, for the very reason that they come from a Diety. You are supporting Jefferson and Locke further, namely we have and need a Diety to be the source of these kinds of rights for them to have any political clout.

After you read Locke, you will realize that he was the inspiration for the ideas Jefferson used in the Declaration regarding inalienable rights. In fact, it appears that “Jeff” literally took Locke’s ideas on inalienable rights verbatim. Re: Locke and empiricism he was just conversing on the philosophical topics of the day. David Hume may appeal to you as some of Hume’s empiricism is the precursor of some of Harris’ ideas about verification to the best of my recollection.

And yes, I do think that freedom of religious expression is in question when for instance school children are told they cannot select a religious song to sing in a school variety show as they were told in my home state. Fortunately, the court ruled against the school and in favor of the child’s right to freedom of religious expression.  Less directly but more surreptitiously minimizing the freedom of religious expression, yes, I do think stores have toned down their music and Christmas displays in the face of pressure while at the same time happily listening to the ca-ching of their cash registers. And that is sleazy and hypocritical in my book. Christians have supported merchants quite handily at Christmas since this country began. Any merchant that wants the cash ought to have the guts to put up the trees and say “Merry Christmas”. That is the holiday that is the boon of the retail economy in the last quarter.


Re: “Jeff’s” religious beliefs, I will make two points. First… “Jeff” may say he is a deist or whatever but neither you, nor I really know what “Jeff” believed inside the very depths of his soul, his innermost feelings about God. Second, as a politician, he was arguing to win a lot and perhaps maybe what he argued was more geared to win freedom more than to reflect his innermost ideas about God and religion. I am not sure what “Jeff” personally believed about inalienable rights. I do believe he said what he needed to, what was popular and what was designed to win American freedom from Britain. He was a political mover and shaker and revolutionary more than a spiritual leader. I doubt that he intended his Deism, religious beliefs or lack thereof to set the spiritual tone of this nation or to play any role in this nation or anything else.

Joan

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By Richard, January 2, 2007 at 9:58 am Link to this comment
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Joan:

I still find your basic premise fallacious. Your whole article for central NJ continues to strain at a point that’s quite a reach – the “Christian” idea that all are equal before God, because we are all His children and “No other political ideology . . . .”

The point isn’t that we are all equal in ability. The similarity of all people is only in our rights.

If rights came from God, who ever needed Jesus? There’s an unspoken, implied argument here. The basic similarity of all people does not rest on Christian ideas alone. It can be based on the OT: “Elohim created man in His own image, in the image of Elohim He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). In a separate account it says, “Then Yahweh God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being“ (Genesis 2:7).

Those events were said to occur before ever there was a nation or a government, and thousands of years before Jesus. Everybody who ever lived supposedly descended from the humans created in Genesis, and thus became an image of the God Elohim and/or shared the breath of Yahweh.

From these verses alone it can be inferred that all people are brothers and sisters. The fact that governments failed to uphold the concept does not mean it is unique to Christianity and Locke.

Locke may have done so, but Christian theology didn’t take the concept of rights any further than Yahwism when you consider the threat of death coming from the issuing deity.

Calling Jefferson Locke’s “soul mate” is glossing over differences between them and an important evolution of thought. That evolution should be continuing, yet your message seems to be an appeal to a more primitive way.

I have started reading Locke, and he uses NT quotations right from the get-go. There are still the statements of Jefferson such as this one to contend with: “Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.”

Locke was in the service of a British Earl at a time when it was important not to question NT scripture. His preface was an appeal to that Earl to preclude censure. He cites Paul for authority. Jefferson moved on, referring to Paul as “the first great corruptor of the teachings of Jesus.”

Jefferson was a Deist at best, not a Christian. He and was not appealing to Christian principles, but “self-evident” truth. To Jefferson, Jesus had no divinity, and the rights of man were not linked to him. Those rights cannot properly be called a Christian idea from the Jeffersonian standpoint.

I’m really looking forward to a deep understanding of Locke’s arguments in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. The back cover calls it the basis of empiricism, showing how people over-reach the limits of human understanding, and then employ dogmatic statements for (at best) nonsensical purposes, and (at worst) “fig leaves” that cover up religious and political agendas. Sounds very familiar.

Then there’s the fallacy that Christians are being persecuted. I don’t believe in Santa Claus, but his likeness was all over my house this season. I don’t believe in Jesus either, but we listened to all of the Christmas songs. Telling Macy’s I don’t want to see a tree would be silly. Opposing the commercialism of Christmas would help keep me out of debt but piss off my wife.

There are good arguments for keeping Jesus dogma out of our Government, so I pitch in with the Beltway Atheists and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Arguments against Christian dogma were much more important to the Founders than the “Christian thought” which you continue to imagine out loud. It wasn’t Christian ideology that brought us freedom, but resolve to distance our Government from all religious ideology, backed up with the business end of a gun.

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By Keith Henson, January 1, 2007 at 5:23 pm Link to this comment
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Joan wrote:

>Below is the response I received from one of my scientist friends.

Snip

If you want to believe that God tweeked the physical/chemical properties of our universe back at the big bang so that life could come about and then didn’t interfere for the next 13 plus billion years, that’s ok with me.  It violates Occam’s razor, but it doesn’t lead to any different predictions from no God at all.

“In the philosophy of religion, Occam’s razor is sometimes applied to the existence of God; if the concept of God does not help to explain the universe, it is argued, God is irrelevant and should be cut away (Schmitt 2005). While Occam’s razor cannot prove God’s nonexistence, it does imply that, in the absence of compelling reasons to believe in God, disbelief should be preferred.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam’s_Razor

As to where complicated molecules like DNA/RNA came from, there is a ton of such information on the web.  If you will read them, I can find you some URLs.

Snip

>What if after the Big Bang, one day things are randomly hot, the next day they are cold, the next day they disappear, the next day the grow exponentially, no order…is this what happened?

The universe seems to have initially inflated “exponentially.” and is still expanding.

“In physical cosmology, cosmic inflation is the idea that the nascent universe passed through a phase of exponential expansion that was driven by a negative-pressure vacuum energy density.[1]”

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

>  . . .  shaking things up in a bag and out pops what we need??? I have never been able to make something from nothing

Did you shake the bag a million years?  How about a hundred million?  Geological time is hard for people to imagine.  And so is the sheer number of bags being shaken for all that time on a planet covered with primal soup.  (Actually, if you put in parts that are selectively sticky (like molecules) you can shake them in a bag and get out items in a few minutes.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-assembly

Snip

>Given that the overwhelming majority of Americans profess to have some faith or belief in God, why is it surprising that I know hardly any atheists?

It is not as large as you think.  In spite of the rise in fundamentalist Christians (or perhaps because of them) the number of people who self identify as atheists is on the rise.  In some professions they are very common.  Interesting data here: http://www.adherents.com/rel_USA.html

snip

>But what people on this thread have said about believers is what concerns me. The comments on Christians have been less that flattering.

I don’t believe Christians are singled out.  In my opinion Christianity is a long way from being the silliest religion.

snip

>After the Big Bang, order emerged more and more from disorder and the laws of nature did not evolve but seemed to be in place instatnly. This implies pre-conceived design.

No more so than a snowflake.

>Nothing that operates this well comes about spontaneously. And nothing produces material things. They come from other material things and energy. Material things, big bang elements, are not brought forth from void and vacuum.

Why not?  Bubbles form in boiling water because they are in a lower energy state when they pop into existence.  Similar mathematical models describe universes popping into existence like bubbles.

>Athis th nature of the reality we live and know. I think Christians are very more demanding of explanation.

Could you try again on these last two sentences?

Keith Henson

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By Keith Henson, December 30, 2006 at 8:42 pm Link to this comment
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Maani wrote:

>Keith:

>You said, “It is entirely possible it came about more than once because the earth in those early days experienced some really hard knocks, like the impact that generated the moon.”

>Are you serious?  Or are you being tongue-in-cheek?  The theory that the moon was originally part of the earth was completely dispelled when the rocks brought back from the moon showed it to be of non-similar composition to the earth (although there was SOME similarities, it was clear that the two bodies are of largely dissimilar composition).  Indeed, there is not a single scientist today (at least any who want to retain any level of respect) who still supports that theory.  One might as well believe in a flat earth.

You can find this by searching Google for “moon” and taking the third link.

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

[After explaining the problems with other models of formation of the earth-moon system]

“Today, the giant impact hypothesis for forming the Earth-Moon system is widely accepted by the scientific community. In this theory, the impact of a Mars-sized body (which has been referred to as Theia or Orpheus) into the proto-Earth is postulated to have put enough material into circumterrestrial orbit to form the Moon.[1] Given that planetary bodies are believed to have formed by the hierarchical accretion of smaller to larger sized bodies, it is now recognized that giant impact events such as this should be expected to have occurred for some planets. Computer simulations modeling this impact can account for the angular momentum of the Earth-Moon system, as well as the small size of the lunar core.[17]

A link from that article takes you to:

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

And a further link takes you here:

http://www.psi.edu/projects/moon/moon.html

Planetary Science Institute: Giant Impact Hypothesis

“Thus, the giant impact hypothesis continues to be the leading hypothesis on how the moon formed. Is it right? Can it be disproven by more careful research? Only time will tell, but so far it has stood up to 25 years of scrutiny.”

and I recommend this article:

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/solarsystem/moon_making_010815-1.html

>It shocks me that a person of your depth and articulation in science and scientific subjects would bring up this long-rejected theory.  It makes me wonder about the rest of your scientific beliefs…

Google is your friend.  grin

Keith

PS.  Don’t hesitate to call me on anything you think might be wrong.  New research comes along and I don’t always remember even the old stuff correctly.

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By Joan, December 29, 2006 at 7:11 pm Link to this comment
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Keith,

Part 4

I do not think you are following memes and God arguments. I am doing a mere logical analysis that has nothing to do with what anyone actually believes per se and ask you to think in that mindset. What does one buy into given certain positions one takes? I will try again. … there are memes and God. …memes for you and let’s say, God for me: neither can be demonstrated or perceived directly but are both known by their effects. Therefore, they are in the same sort of metaphysical category, namely those things that are not able to be placed under a microscope to determine exostence. How can you be logically consistent and reject God because He cannot be directly perceived but is known through His effects but accept memes that cannot be directly demonstrated but are known for their effects? And again how are memes different from what is already discussed in anthropology? What is Dawkins’ agenda increased scientific understanding or anti religious bias?

It is a good question you ask. Why do so many people and have so many believed in God? I think you might look beyond memes and get to know what believers have to say instead of what atheists have to say about God as a place to begin to sort out the answer, instead of dismissing us as a bunch of wrong- minded people. It is unbelievable the sense intellectual superiority such a broad indictment of purported stupidity made against the bulk of humanity this bespeaks. I was shocked to discover this here on this thread.

Philosophy is always concerned with the truth of any statement that is asserted or conclusion drawn otherwise we have no interest.

I agree with you that religion is not primarily the cause of wars, a factor at times. Uneducated women are a factor too among others.

Neither of us is about to change our positions and that is to be expected. But these last few weeks I have been doing something here I am reluctant to do and that is to throw formal reasoning into the mix because it is not really very fair to put another person on the receiving end of such a demand if they are not trained. I have done this to offset the dearly held fantasies of atheists that Christians do not know how to reason and that their ideas are unexamined. More than demonstrating God, this has been my agenda, offseting fantasies and bringing atheists back to reality. I think I have demonstrated my reasoning skill here and I have refuted these rather naive claims made by some atheists. We do not blindly believe. There are those who are uneducated in general or don’t have the natural ability for advanced reasoning. I have been blessed with both natural ability and education. It seems to me Harris makes an induction that from these less fortunate persons who are very basic in their ideas about religion that all Christians are so likewise limited in their scope. Induction is not considered a good argument form even though it is often the best science has to offer at times. Deduction is the top of the line.
So I leave you with these ideas: we may not believe the same thing about how life works in the spiritual realm but both Christians and atheists are blessed with the same curiosity and demands for answers and both are entitled to pursue their own paths in dignity with respect that was insured by the wisdom and sacrifices of the Founders.

Joan

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By Joan, December 29, 2006 at 7:04 pm Link to this comment
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Keith,

Part 3

Neither of us has much faith in scientology for any insight so, for Keith, what’s wrong with Kim and Vlad, Pol Pot and Stalin, given their higher position on the food chain, running the show and annihilating their people as long as nature is culling out over population? Again I am asking you why should man, of the same primordial ooze as the slug, get any better treatment than the slug that I squash or the gazelle gets in a pack of hungry lionesses? As long as nature is working to support her population, why is war a wrong minded way for this to occur? For me it’s wrong because I believe man is “infested” with Divinity and hence is entitled to a certain dignity and consideration. You do not believe in Divinity. The ball of reasoning is in your court here. Man not being entitled to special treatment seems the product or consequences of your thought process, what you buy into given you thought processes. Not divine, how can man claim that he should get better treatment from those who govern him etc. than the gazelle logically speaking, as man and the gazelle are both a product of the same glob. From what does this preferred treatment that you seem to think man deserves, derive itself?

What one says about memes, religious memes or otherwise is not too important to me as I don’t give any weight to this idea without seeing them on a slide under a microscope as is done in bona fide science. But what people on this thread have said about believers is what concerns me. The comments on Christians have been less that flattering.

I would speculate that the universe evolving without design would be filled with far more mutations than one evolving with design.  This unintelligent design quipping strikes me as real pride and again a false sense of superiority of some atheists seem to have in themselves that they would know how to make a better universe. Really? One can see in medicine for instance how primitive we are at design when looking at man made hearing aids or joints. What do any of us know about making a universe in general? From our own self- centered position we, on the one hand, would want no disease or death or pestilence and the Designer is challenged all the time for His failings here. But on the other hand, the history of thought and romance and poetry attest that the best growth and most magnificent art come from our melancholy and angst and our drive to overcome. The ancient Greek adage is wisdom comes through suffering not pleasure. This challenge we face as humans makes us one up on the slug. But the laws of nature are typically immutable and fail to prevent mutations at times, as these are the natural consequences of nature, not tampered with for one’s personal agendas. To me this is more in our interest than the laws of nature being changed at anytime to appease each individual’s self -centered position. Such a design would be chaos even though an individual would be spared suffering perhaps. The universe was made for you and me but not for you and me alone. It serves numerous purposes in my estimation. But mostly it serves to satisfy the intention of its Designer who does not make sustaining human life paramount but makes our relationship with Him paramount. And for this He will with His own Hands move mountains.  After the Big Bang, order emerged more and more from disorder and the laws of nature did not evolve but seemed to be in place instatnly. This implies pre-conceived design. Nothing that operates this well comes about spontaneously. And nothing produces material things. They come from other material things and energy. Material things, big bang elements, are not brought forth from void and vacuum. Athis th nature of the reality we live and know. I think Christians are very more demanding of explanation.

Joan

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By Joan, December 29, 2006 at 6:59 pm Link to this comment
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Keith,

Part 2

Re: elegant snowflakes generated from water vapor…this is order and reflective of laws of physics. Snowflakes will follow this process all the time all things being equal, not one day do this and another day do something else like ascend upwards back into the sky…explosions are a disorder of a sort…you know, explode some dynamite and then there is not much order… but explosions are a minimum of order insofar as there is gravity all the debris will fall to the ground. This is order. How did this order come from disorder i.e. an utter lack of design ???? What if after the Big Bang, one day things are randomly hot, the next day they are cold, the next day they disappear, the next day the grow exponentially, no order…is this what happened? Evidently not. There was order and increasing order from disorder and progress into something and then there was life. There were laws of physics right on the spot. Viole’ out of disorder… you know the way everything happens to us…no plan, no forethought, no study, no defined goal …all we do and have just is a result of… well, I don’t know??? shaking things up in a bag and out pops what we need??? I have never been able to make something from nothing and make something that is not designed or the result of forethought or without a specific end but the universe just happened by happenstance was full of order from disorder and generating life etc. What a lucky break for us all since nothing else has ever happened that way!

Re: the pope…I am making a specific point, namely that atheists are not of superior logical skill…not Harris, not others…the pope is doing what Harris said needs to be done and Harris ridicules him. I am not proposing any of us will bring world peace just that Harris should be more logical before he criticizes others for their lack thereof and ridicules others for doing what he said needed to be done just because it is the pope. If Dawkins had said the same things, Harris I speculate would be genuflecting before him. For all his criticism of Christians for their lack of logic, I expect, Harris’ thought patterns to be logically consistent and as logical as he claims himself to be.  That he does this indicates a prejudice that undermines his credibility and sincerity. My argument here is about thought patterns and what follows from them and I think this is fair as atheists are telling me how much more rational they are than the rest of us. Now you are the one who said that the pope’s criticisms could maybe start a war which is why Harris was right to criticize him. So along this line of reasoning Harris too should stop writing books that are in fact more inflammatory than what the pope said, lest Harris and Dawkins start wars. That is logical consistency. Right? When you a position what do you buy into?

Given that the overwhelming majority of Americans profess to have some faith or belief in God, why is it surprising that I know hardly any atheists?

“Acquired” seems like a good word, if you still believe in memes after my logical analysis of the logical inconsistency of such a belief for the atheist. I am hesitant to offer the word but it is at least a neutral one and available to Dawkins who I am sure has mastered the Queen’s English. So why does he choose such an emotively charged words as “infested” et al?  Because his science is infested with ulterior motives. More to come.

Joan

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By Joan, December 29, 2006 at 6:52 pm Link to this comment
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Keith,

Below is the response I received from one of my scientist friends. I know more of them than I do atheists also. He recently retired from the Princeton University Nuclear Plasma Physics Institute. The last line is poignant…”this inert matter is magical stuff”…again how does that which is inert become life…What are the details “G” refers to? From whence does DNA derive itself and, Why? Again you will notice that this believer is a scientist, challenging Harris’ misrepresentation of believers as not believing in evolution or science. It is such a silly and unsupportable claim. Christians are enjoying the same adventures in scientific discovery as you are.


>To: “Joan”
>Subject: Re: life begins
>Date: Fri, 29 Dec 2006 10:30:15 -0500
>
>Joan,
>
>A subject dear to my heart!  I read a book about 10 years ago;
>“Vital Dust” by Nobel Prise winner and cell biologist, Christian
>DuDuve.  His most famous quote: “Life is the obligatory
>manifistation of the combinitorial properties of matter”. His book
>outlined a “plausable scenario” for the creation of the primordial
>soup of life, based on chemical, random events, and survival of the
>fittest algorithms.  At that point I was convinced that the creator
>would have impowered matter with this amazing capability.
>
>Many people think that the 4.5 billion years age of the earth is not
>enough time for this to have happened.  However, since the age of
>the universe is now shown to be in the order of 13-14B, the
>combinatorial properties of matter had a much longer time to develop
>and perhaps “seed” the earth in the creation of life.
>
>I think the details will be discovered over time, but this inert
>matter is magical stuff!
>
>—-G


Joan

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By Maani, December 29, 2006 at 6:33 pm Link to this comment
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Dave:

You say, “In this & the Atheist Manifesto dialogues of Truthdig.com, it is apparent that all desire peace and an improved human condition worldwide, goals which Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, et. al. share.”

Really?  Harris and Dawkins have asserted that if we get rid of religion - and, indeed, all people of faith - most, if not all, war, violence, suffering and terrorism would cease. Setting aside the insupportability of this belief, their position shows a level of intolerance that is NOT, and never has been, shown to atheists by believers: I have never heard any believer suggest that the world would be a better place if all the atheists just disappeared, much less openly wished for - even hoped for - their disappearance.

Thus, Harris and Dawkins (and others) are not simply “critical” of faith and religion, but every bit as extremist, dismissive and intolerant as those they accuse of same.  If they truly desire “peace and an improved human condition,” then wishing that more than half the world’s population would simply disappear is a truly bizarre way of expressing it.  Indeed, true “peace” and an “improved human condition” require humility, patience, tolerance, possibly compromise and perhaps even self-sacrifice on some level.  I have not seen one iota of humility, patience or tolerance from Harris et al - I have not seen them attempt to find common ground with believers, or even be willing to meet them halfway.  I have not seen any indication that they want to work WITH believers to create that peace and that improved human condition, but rather they want to work AROUND them.  I see no room for compromise, much less self-sacrifice, on the part of Harris et al.  Rather, I hear them expecting ALL compromise and self-sacrifice to come from the other side.

And you think THIS is a prescription for “peace and an improved human condition?”

You add, “But what…is essential to uplifting the human condition in a world of sustained peace is…a universally sincere, individual & group regard for others, wherein the sole requirement is membership in the Homo sapiens species…This universal “humanhood” could then replace that “by & by”, illusory & otherworldly idea by which theists manipulate noncritical followers and exploit the yearnings of a majority of the masses.”

Once again, you show how hopelessly, myopically black and white your worldview is.  What of those who agree with you - who believe in a “sincere, individual and group regard for others,” a “universal humanhood” - yet still believe in a creator and even in a redeemer?  Why do you see these as mutually exclusive?  Why could not someone believe in both?  And, indeed, why could both not be true?

Broad-brushing, stereotyping, intransigence, a “black and white” worldview with no shades of gray - these have been your tools and approaches on this thread from your very first post.  While all the other regular participants in this thread - Joan, Malini, Richard, myself, even Keith - have “learned” things from each other, and even made modifications - however slight - to some of their positions, you are the ONLY one who has not budged a single centimeter on anything, preferring to snipe from your trench.

And you wonder why a person would choose to cease interacting with you here?

Peace.

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By Dave Summers, M.D., December 29, 2006 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment
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RE:  America’s “Wolf in Sheepskin” aka Religion, the Immortality where Truth alone abides & the Humanistic Secular & Ethical Path to World Peace

In this & the Atheist Manifesto dialogues of Truthdig.com, it is apparent that all desire peace and an improved human condition worldwide, goals which Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, et. al. share.  But despite a history of peace-disruptions among “believers in a supreme creator”, the human yearning for other- worldly guidance still prevails, especially in America.  Although human nature or behavior clearly indicates that gods were & remain inventions by folk in antiquity who were handicapped by fear & ignorance, current theists remain braindrenched in those same, antiquated faith doctrines, augmented by the human idea of “divine revelation” as the only source of ethics or morality.  Moreover, theists refuse to believe that any “God” is a mere figment of human imagination & yearning, even though the idea that a “God” is a monotheistic being for all faiths is obviously false, perpetuated by pretense & supported by retreats into mysticism or magic or longing for miracles or the stubborn refusal to believe, with Paul Kurtz, that no Deity will save nor guide us, we must save ourselves and follow the ethics or morality which human experience has revealed.  Meanwhile both male & female “believers” ignore the centuries of religious persecution, claimed to have been a god’s “will”, when, as observed by Susan B. Anthony in 1896, “what God wants to do to the fellows [of people who claim to know her, his or its will] always coincides with their own desires”.  And any “proof” that a God does indeed reign supreme is limited to the hopes, longing, needs, wishes & the false idea that a Creator is “out or over there—somwhere”, the more mysterious the claim the more convinced such theists seem to become.

But what, in my view, is essential to uplifting the human condition in a world of sustained peace is, not tolerance devoid of prejudice nor even the absence of “intolerance” in a domain of deliberate “tolerance” (both are “despotisms”, as Thomas Paine correctly observed), but instead a universally sincere, individual & group regard for others, wherein the sole requirement is membership in the Homo sapiens species.  A worldwide adoration of all males & all females would become paramount thereby, not a fraternity or brotherhood nor a sorority or sisterhood but an all-embracing human bond of both genders, all biologically-ordained sexual preferences and indeed all of the anomalies that are known to occur “out of the Deep” of human evolution.  This universal “humanhood” could then replace that “by & by”, illusory & otherworldly idea by which theists manipulate noncritical followers and exploit the yearnings of a majority of the masses.  History, scientific enlightenment, biochemical spontaneity & neurochemical evanescence are the “all conquering” truths, identical with reality-constrained “facts”, to which both nontheists & theists must eventually surrender, after which either individual accomplishments or one’s children or both will become the only means of assuming an “immortal” or continuing realm.  And theistic or religious wishful-thinking will never reverse, disprove nor annihilate these inevitable truths, even though Rumpelstiltsken, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Santa Claus, Harry Potter and the invented God of Antiquity remain in the minds of “[those] who wrap the drapery of [their] couch about [them] and lie down to [the] pleasant dreams” of their own hopes, desires and yearnings.

Peace, Best Wishes, Prosperity & Happiness to All, 2007 & Beyond!

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By Maani, December 28, 2006 at 3:06 pm Link to this comment
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Keith:

You said, “It is entirely possible it came about more than once because the earth in those early days experienced some really hard knocks, like the impact that generated the moon.”

Are you serious?  Or are you being tongue-in-cheek?  The theory that the moon was originally part of the earth was completely dispelled when the rocks brought back from the moon showed it to be of non-similar composition to the earth (although there was SOME similarities, it was clear that the two bodies are of largely dissimilar composition).  Indeed, there is not a single scientist today (at least any who want to retain any level of respect) who still supports that theory.  One might as well believe in a flat earth.

It shocks me that a person of your depth and articulation in science and scientific subjects would bring up this long-rejected theory.  It makes me wonder about the rest of your scientific beliefs…

Peace.

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By Keith Henson, December 27, 2006 at 8:50 pm Link to this comment
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Part 1

Joan wrote:

>Please tell me how life came for the inert…not using non descript terms like “primal soup” but basic terms like carbon and hydrogen,

snip

>Please connect the dots.

What level are you at in chemistry?  I.e. do you understand pi bonds and s bonds?  My last formal course was before the big change that came in with quantum chemistry but I studied it again close to 40 years later when my daughter took chemistry in high school.  “Carbon and hydrogen” is a bit below the level it takes to discuss this.  If you are serious I will generate a list of URLs that cover much of the background.

But the significant thing is that life (of the most primitive sort to be sure) came about quickly.  It is entirely possible it came about more than once because the earth in those early days experienced some really hard knocks, like the impact that generated the moon.  The temperature for that event was limited by silicate rocks *boiling.*

>Please tell me how order is derived from a lack of order as well.

Sure.  In a lot of situations order is a lower energy condition.  Look at the exquisite order of a snowflake.  That’s at a lower energy than the disorganized water vapor that froze out to make it.  There is a strong tendency for systems to move toward lower energy states if energy can leak away.  The ultimate in order is a Bose-Einstein condensate.

snip

>What I know about atheists I learned solely from this thread.

Amazing.  There may well be more atheists in the US than there are blacks.

>Hence, Harris should stop writing books etc. Or it is just the pope who should shut up??? 

Harris, the pope, Dawkins, you and me, none of is us is likely to have a positive effect.  The pope’s influence on population growth is massively negative, but even he were to endorse birth control as an alternative to wars I don’t think it would have any effect on this generation.  It’s far too late.

>You have used negative emotive terms and then say you meant no negativity just being technical, like hysteria was once a technical term when connected to women and their pathologies, I suppose. Dawkins deliberately chooses negative terminology for the negative effect it spins otherwise he would choose more neutral terminology as do scientists.  Saying people with religion are infected connotes that they are diseased that you readily feel, depicted by comparing us to TB victims. You may be fooled but I am not.

Well, suggest other word to diferentiate a person who has acquired some meme from the pre-exposed person.

It’s not like memes are all good or all bad.  Some microorganisms make us sick, other make beer and cheese.  We could not live without some of them as symbiotes.  Same with memes.  Dig around, I have said good things about religious memes years ago.

snip

>What’s wrong with Kim Jong Il and Putin? They are clearly better at getting what they want than the rest of us and they seem to enjoy a preferred position on the food chain of life so who are we peasants to confront them? They are superior. This is just evolution doing its job.

As the scientology cult would say, you have a misunderstanding of evolution.  Now had you used Ghengis Khan as an example and cited recent genetic studies . . . but I don’t know if either of those you did name have descendents at all.  Certainly not 32 million of them.

Snip

>...do you honestly hold that if we evolved by mere random/ natural select there would be fewer and fewer ugly mutations than the number that occurred by an Intelligent Designer. Or in other words, random/natural selection would have clearly delivered the perfected species

I can’t follow what you are trying to get at here.  Are you arguing for an incompetent ID as the source of harmful mutations?

>Medical intervention can be a blessing and it can be curse.

No argument on this point.  But the curse part is because medicine is still primitive.  Next 20-40 years should see real advances.

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By Keith Henson, December 27, 2006 at 8:37 pm Link to this comment
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Part 2

snip

>Ideas having a life of their own… Are you suggesting that ideas, like us, are sentient beings in and of themselves

Of course not.  The vast majority of living things that have a life of their own are not sentient.

>or that they just energize us into action that breeds more activity on their behalf?

IN PHILOSOPHY WE STUDY IDEAS FOR THEIR WORHTINESS AND THEIR WORHINESS IS A FUNCTION OF THEIR TRUTH. WE DO NOT ACCEPT IDEAS AS VERY VALUABLE IF THEY ARE NOT TRUE OR WE ARE NOT WORKING TO FIND EVIDENCE FOR THEIR TRUTH.

Memetics is concerned with the truth of some meme (idea) only when there is some meta-meme acting to aid or inhibit it spreading out to other hosts.  Thus the BS in astrology goes its merry way, but phrenology didn’t pass the science meta-meme and died.  (Except as an example of near dead meme.)

That is not to say people interested in memetics are not very concerned about the truth of some meme.  It is just that some memes spread in human populations for reasons other than the truth of the meme.

Snip

>I do not know which is worse given his [Harris’s] crusade.

It is useless to rail against religions as a cause of war.  The real cause lies elsewhere, partly in the enslavement of women.

Snip

>I can equally argue that we can accept God because His existence has not been dis-proven.

You kind of miss the point.  There is no doubt that billions of people believe in God in spite of there being no evidence.  The question of lethal interest (it is fairly likely to kill you and me both) is *why*.

>This line of reasoning still should be rejected by argument ad ignorantiam but we’ll play by your rules for the moment. Therefore, belief in memes, puts believers in the same category of people who believe in God.

That’s kind of silly.  Memes are information and you can see the effects of information.  Memes are a way of thinking about ideas, and I am sure you recognize that ideas exist.  Memes are elements of culture.  You called them “markers” which is ok by me as being the same as ideas or memes or elements of culture or culturgens or replicating patterns of information.

>Others on this thread some could then logically categorize such people, believing in memes, as delusional as they have categorized those who believe in God as delusional. How ironic given that the name of Dawkins’ book is “The God Delusion”. 

A much more important book would be “Why We Have a God Delusion.”

>Being logically consistent, some could re- name Dawkins’ work ” The Meme Delusion” and Harris is one such person as he says we can only believe what we can verify.

Google for meme baseball island and see if you can find anything wrong with the thought experiment.  If the result isn’t completely obvious, then maybe we do need to run the experiment.

Memes are a minor point anyway.  Memes, usually religious memes, are on the path to war and mega death, but not the root cause—unless you count the pope’s teachings about birth control as being a really influential meme.  The evidence out of Italy indicates that Catholics don’t have to let this meme influence their behavior.

Best,

Keith

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By Joan, December 26, 2006 at 12:44 pm Link to this comment
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Keith,

Part 3

Ideas having a life of their own… Are you suggesting that ideas, like us, are sentient beings in and of themselves or that they just energize us into action that breeds more activityon their behalf?

IN PHILOSOPHY WE STUDY IDEAS FOR THEIR WORHTINESS AND THEIR WORHINESS IS A FUNCTION OF THEIR TRUTH. WE DO NOT ACCEPT IDEAS AS VERY VALUABLE IF THEY ARE NOT TRUE OR WE ARE NOT WORKING TO FIND EVIDENCE FOR THEIR TRUTH. Philosophers are not people who just worship ideas in and of themselves, spinning them at will. We are a little like scientists. We get an idea and we look for support. Philosophy pivots on the argument which consists of premises and a conclusion supported by these premises. We philosophers ideally are to give premises that are true, in order to hopefully validate our conclusions that should follow logically from the given premises and be automatically true given the demonstrated truth of the premises or else we just talking about a world full of flying winged horses or fire breathing dragons. Our ideas in philosophy are functions of a very carefully put together argument with very well chosen terminology. These arguments are constructed to depict the state of affairs in the world, not fairy tales or ideas of a certain anti- religion professor at Oxford who cannot present a smidge of evidence to validate his claims. Philosophers should be more in depth in their analyses than Harris,as he is easily knocked down in his positions, like wanting all statements to be verified which for the sake of logical consistency and good reasoning, (something atheists claim they are superior to Christians when undertaken) would take out science as much as it would religion. And this is why this line of reasoning was dropped from philosophic discourse- it is overly exclusionary, limiting discourse so drastically that it is self- defeating, a little glitch Harris neglected to mention to his readers or did not understand. I do not know which is worse given his crusade. Again, see the Robinson article in the November 2006 Harper’s.

And if you can argue that we can accept memes because they have not been dis-proven, I can equally argue that we can accept God because His existence has not been dis-proven. This line of reasoning still should be rejected by argument ad ignorantiam but we’ll play by your rules for the moment. Therefore, belief in memes, puts believers in the same category of people who believe in God. Others on this thread some could then logically categorize such people, believing in memes, as delusional as they have categorized those who believe in God as delusional. How ironic given that the name of Dawkins’ book is “The God Delusion”.  Being logically consistent, some could re- name Dawkins’ work “ The Meme Delusion” and Harris is one such person as he says we can only believe what we can verify.

Joan

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By Joan, December 26, 2006 at 12:36 pm Link to this comment
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Keith,

Part 2

Given that atheists believe in a version of evolution that lacks God’s fingerprint, I am still wondering how atheists justify man’s special status above all else. Without God to give you special status as Jefferson and Locke so masterfully exploited, how does the atheist, you as a case in point, justify man having any special place on this earth? Why shouldn’t those more powerfully evolved be allowed to dominate us according to their whim? What’s wrong with Kim Jong Il and Putin? They are clearly better at getting what they want than the rest of us and they seem to enjoy a preferred position on the food chain of life so who are we peasants to confront them? They are superior. This is just evolution doing its job. Letting the stronger survive and letting the weaker ones, you and me, fade away as soon as possible. Also, given that atheists deny God’s skill in evolution and literally hold that mankind is the slime of the earth and given that war and disease and famine are good ways to control population, from what rationale is the moral imperative derived that makes it morally necessary to save mankind from these occurrences, anymore than we are required to save other slime of the earth, lions or minute viruses from such a demise? Nature finds its own way to procure what it must. Why should we interfere to save mankind in the face of natural developments, like wars for the maintenance of sustenance?

Re: random/ natural selection, whatever the preference of the day is ...do you honestly hold that if we evolved by mere random/ natural select there would be fewer and fewer ugly mutations than the number that occurred by an Intelligent Designer. Or in other words, random/natural selection would have clearly delivered the perfected species with no ugly mutations at all rather than oodles and oodles of severely imperfect beings through its trial and error methodology, as life undirected found its way along in time, right? Re: mutations… furthermore, does it occur to you that God for your safety and well being does not alter the laws of nature at will or on whim and that has the double effect of giving you the wonder of scientific investigation and the joy of discovery. But more importantly not suspending the laws of nature willy-nilly gives mankind stability in life that we need to function. At times there are sad consequences of nature taking its course that I guess you think God should just abort and often if nature was allowed to take its course without the interference of aggressive medical intervention, God would mercifully let these lives die away. We too often keep people alive long after they are worn out and I speak having a 100 year- old mother in law and a father who went through medical hell to keep him going and it is routine practice, these bypasses on 80 plus persons. Medical intervention can be a blessing and it can be curse. This is also true for neonatology. Don’t even get me started on our practice of depriving mankind of god-given effective and cheap pain- killers as we let people suffer interminably.

Joan

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By Joan, December 26, 2006 at 12:32 pm Link to this comment
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Keith,

Please tell me how life came for the inert…not using non descript terms like “primal soup” but basic terms like carbon and hydrogen, for example, and specific chemical reactions or heat levels or whatever and then tell me how this specifically combines, interacts and viole`, makes an independent living thing. Please connect the dots. Please tell me how order is derived from a lack of order as well.

Note the below editorial in “The Economist” January 21, 2006,

“Sir,

“I am amazed at your faith in evolution. It far outweighs my faith in creation. My faith requires only one mechanism: God’s love. Yours requires three: that something can come from nothing (the Big Bang), that rocks can spontaneously spawn living things (life from inorganic elements) and that genetic mutations can turn a flat worm into an Einstein. You win: there is no doubt that your faith far outweighs mine.”

Stephen Brahm
California

What I know about atheists I learned solely from this thread. Please read the posts and identify for me the ones that when speaking of Christians accord them the dignity and respect atheists claim man deserves because of their intrinsic worth, the caring code referred to. Note again that man caring for one another is a seminal Christian tenet.

Your response re the pope is hard to understand. Harris argues in both his books that dangerous aspects of religion rightfully should be challenged. You say Harris disparages the pope because Harris thinks the pope will start a war, which I incidentally have observed has already begun. So Harris/ Dawkins etc. in your mind to be logically consistent with this position, namely not saying bad things about religions, should not be saying things against Islam because these people, atheist evangelists, could start a war. Hence, Harris should stop writing books etc. Or it is just the pope who should shut up???  Why… because the pope is just a stupid Christian, the leader of people who fought Crusades over 600 years ago which somehow has direct bearing on today. If this is the reason, then it seems that Harris reacts more with anti Christian bias than the pure logic he paradoxically claims for himself, not from a position of reason that is superior to all Christians. Or is it more like what I say…namely, Harris is logically inconsistent for saying dangerous religious precepts should be challenged but he disparages the pope for doing so.  Here is another case in point, Harris renounces Christianity while simultaneously citing Christ’s signature statement, the Golden Rule, treat each other as you want to be treated, as a bit of moral genius and at the end of his first book claims that love and meditation will deliver us from evil. He failed to notice that Christ preaches love as the guideline for Christian behavior and was in constant communion with his Father, the Transcendant, which many call meditation. This speaks again to my point that atheists are not more logically consistent in their thought processes. They do not exhibit any sort of superior reasoning skills than Christians. What I conclude is that it is not superior reasoning or science per se that makes one reject God but something else and it, on this thread, presents as an ugly prejudice, the root if which I don’t know but suspect that it is rooted in personal disappointment with religion or Divinity. You have used negative emotive terms and then say you meant no negativity just being technical, like hysteria was once a technical term when connected to women and their pathologies, I suppose. Dawkins deliberately chooses negative terminology for the negative effect it spins otherwise he would choose more neutral terminology as do scientists.  Saying people with religion are infected connotes that they are diseased that you readily feel, depicted by comparing us to TB victims. You may be fooled but I am not.

Joan

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By Keith Henson, December 25, 2006 at 11:23 am Link to this comment
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Maani wrote:

Part 1

[Keith] said, “There is little doubt the origin of life could be replicated, given a spare planet or perhaps even a few tens of thousands of gallons of nucleotide monomers and an appropriate recirculating reactor.”

>Really?  That’s a pretty bold statement, given that many evolutionary biologists, as well as thousands of other highly respected scientists, do not concur. 

It would have been attempted already if the project was thought to fit into a graduate student’s tenure (8 years or so) and budget. 

>As well, even were your first sentence true, the “ingredients” you admit would be required have a gagillion-to-one chance of being found together - and then it would be an additional googleplex-to-one chance that the mere presence of those ingredients would, in fact, create life.  Dream on!

We know that life on earth came about in a very short time.  It might have taken a million years or a few tens of millions, but it didn’t take very long in geological terms. 

There was a *lot* of organic chemicals in the water at the time, all the carbon that is now in coal and oil, on the order of a strong cup of bouillon and no oxygen to eat it up.  If and when we explore the rest of the galaxy I expect wet planets will be found to have life.  The interesting thing is not that life came from the primal soup but how amazingly long it took life to become more complex. 

That was partly due to the need for oxygen to support more complex life forms—and it took a *long* time for that to accumulate.  For one thing, the oceans were full of reduced iron in solution and vast amounts of oxygen were required for it to turn to rust and precipitate out.  (That’s where all the big iron deposits come from.)

>I also want to say that it is very big of you not to “insult or ridicule” Christians as you compare us to people having a disease like TB or leprosy!

Sorry if you take a statement like that as an insult.  Everyone who has learned any elements of culture is “infected with memes.”  It’s just a technical description.  I am infected with “the meme about memes.”

And I hope you agree that it is pointless to insult or ridicule people for having beliefs or diseases no matter what they are.

>Finally, you call the alternative to random selection,

There is no such thing as random selection. Please get the terms right.  (You came closer below.)

Evolution by natural selection is variation and selection.  The selection part is very non random, like people did to breeds of dogs.

>“A sadistic god that produced life, indeed all of geology, designed to mislead people into thinking life was billions of years old…”

>First, even were your statement true, I don’t see why such a god would be “sadistic.”

Ok, he’s just a joker who laughs at us.

>However, you ignore the fact that many believers do not believe in the 6000-year-old earth, or that God created rocks to “look” old;

And many of them do.  And some people believe their “thetans” (spirits) were brought to earth in DC8 rocket ships by Xenu.  The ability of humans to believe nonsense was plumbed by Hubbard.  He didn’t find the bottom.

>rather, they accept the scientific fact of a universe billions of years old, but do not see a conflict between that and the notion that God created the universe and everything in it, including life.

The last time I dug into cosmology, the process by which the visible universe came in existence (and perhaps an uncountable number we can’t see) is analogous to bubbles forming in a pan of boiling water.

Life seems to be inherent in the chemistry of water, carbon and other elements.  The very existence of those elements depends to a fine degree on certain physical constants that seem to be arbitrary.  But we are not just lucky to live in a place that is conducive to life, if we didn’t we would not be here as observers.

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By Keith Henson, December 25, 2006 at 11:20 am Link to this comment
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Part 2

>As for the latter, again, many believers accept Darwin’s theories of random mutation

Variation.  The ultimate source of variation may be genetic mutations, but that understanding is far post Darwin.

>and natural selection, but - like Darwin himself - believe that God created “life.”

It is hard to say how much of what Darwin said was for political considerations, but in any case we are a century and a half from _Origin of Species_.

From Wikipedia: “His belief dwindled, and with the death of his daughter Annie in 1851 Darwin finally lost all faith in Christianity.”

>Remember, Darwin did not set out to disprove that God created life - he set out to disprove the theory of “special creation.” He was successful in doing so, but continued to believe that “life,” and the “processes” that made it possible, were “set in motion” by “the Creator.”

That explains everything and therefore nothing.  But if it were true, the prime character of “the Creator” is patience, ten billion years to cook the elements in stars, at least 2.5 billion to get up to multi celled animals and 600 million to get to apes.

And why?  So apes could worship him?  Give me a break!

>Ultimately, while it is true that many Christians still believe in Biblical inaccuracy, even regarding geology, you are stuck in an old paradigm in this regard.  Because while the media would have you believe that fundamentalism (and the concommitant belief in Biblical inaccuracy) is on the rise, the reality “on the street” is quite the opposite.

Can you cite polls or something to back up your statement?  There are evolutionary psychology reasons to think fundamentalism is on the rise.

>Peace.

Unfortunately, peace is not in the cards.  I don’t agree with Harris, Dawkins and all that religion is a *cause* where wars are concerned, but the rise of religious fanaticism is a step on the path to war in that perception of a bleak future turns up the gain on circulating xenophobic memes.  (Often religious memes or ones in a larger class that included religions.)

Just like getting epidemic disease under control depended on a correct understanding of what really caused these diseases, peace, in the sense of no wars, will require understanding the human psychological mechanism that turn on “war mode.”

Understanding these mechanisms takes evolutionary psychology.  The fundamentalists who oppose evolution are not likely to ever understand why they are marching off to war or what could possibly be done about it.

Unfortunately.

Best wishes,

Keith

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By Joan, December 25, 2006 at 10:31 am Link to this comment
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Everyone,

Below is an editorial of mine published today on Chritsmas Day and publishend in antoher central Jersey paper this week.


December 25, 2006
Sr,

“‘Tis the season to be jolly”, or to again become perplexed over whether or not to put that tree up and say “Merry Christmas”. Some of the confusion seems to center on whether or not we are in fact a Christian nation. Well, when over 80% of the citizens say they are Christian, I guess one can conclude we are Christian nation. But for me there is more to this story, a lot more.  Although our laws cannot rightfully be pivoted on Christian theology, America in fact embodies Christian thought from its very foundations and in its basic ideologies.

“All mean are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.  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 made by Jefferson’s soul mate, the British political philosopher of the day, John Locke. And that twist brought forth a nation based on equality of rights of man before law based on the Christian idea that all are equal before God, because we are all His children.  No other political ideology or otherwise had ever claimed that all men were equal, except the Christian one. In fact, all other political ideologies were based on the idea that men were clearly not equal. So this nation, America, that blessed us with so many liberties and protections based on equality of rights before the law was founded in precepts that are the cradle of Christianity. And I say this especially to those who now feel that they are so enlightened that they can attempt to deny Christian freedom of expression, hassling Christians over Christmas trees, nativity scenes, season’s greetings, and songs. The Founders themselves appealed to Christian thought to win our freedom and win the day for all of their descendants. And a certain respect should be shown for the ideology that delivered this magnificent nation that blessed all with freedom and dignity whether or not you personally embrace Christianity. To disrespect Christian tradition is to disrespect the tradition that gave you so much.

And to those stores that want to capitalize in those Christian bucks but are too hypocritical to say “Merry Christmas” or put up a Christmas tree, think about how sleazy it is to bite the hand that feeds you. Christians are our nurses, teachers, ironworkers, policemen and firemen and soldiers. So instead of trying to diminish them, the next time you see a Christian thank him for the wonderful country they built with their labor and ideology. We are a Christian nation that welcomes all, another Christian precept.

Merry Christmas.

Joan

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By Maani, December 24, 2006 at 8:04 am Link to this comment
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Richard:

You said re Islam: “Their values are faith, self-sacrifice, mindless obedience, primitivism and theocracy…While those fools succumb to every silly word their clerics spew out…blowing themselves up…”

Talk about a broad brush! Has it occurred to you that while you may have seen a few thousand, perhaps even tens of thousands, of Muslims dancing in the streets after 9/11, you did NOT see the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS who did not?  And that is because the average Muslim is happy to simply practice their faith quietly, without rancor or confrontation.  And just as millions of Catholics do not accept every word the Pope says, millions, perhaps tens of mnillions, of Muslims do NOT “succumb to every word their silly clerics spew out.”  To say nothing of the fact that for every Muslim who “blows himself up,” there are hundreds of millions who do not, and indeed would not support those who do.

Have you ever read the Qur’an?  My guess is no (though I could of course be wrong).  If you haven’t, what right do you have to say what their “values” are?  Do you even know?  Let me give you a primer, Islam 101.

The five main “values” of Islam - the ones that come up most frequently in the Qur’an - are peace, tolerance, forgiveness, community and brotherhood.  Surprising, huh?  And not too far removed from some of the basic precepts of Jesus’ ministry.  And although it is certainly true that many Muslims do not necessarily apply those values to their lives DESPITE their Holy Book (just as many Christians do not necessarily apply Jesus’ actual ministry to their lives and interactions with others), most do.

The second part of the primer is the word “jihad,” a word that has three meanings in Arabic.  The first and primary meaning (in about 75% of the Qur’an) is “internal spiritual struggle” - the same type of struggle ALL believers go through AS believers.  The secondary meaning (in about 15% of cases) is “holy war.” However, it is critical to note that the vast majority of THESE uses (over 75%) refer to general and past situations, NOT to some ongoing and future “war” against Jews or anyone else.  This is not to say that the Jews and others are not mentioned within this context, but simply that it is not NEARLY as prominent or “direct” as most believe.  (The tertiary meaning of “jihad” is obscure, and has no bearing on this discussion.)

Oh, and I should note here for the record that Harris is as much an expert in taking the Qur’an out of context as the Religious Right is in taking Judeo-Christian Scripture out of context, so I would not bank on the cherry-picked passages he uses in his books.

You say, “There is no beautiful religion.”  Perhaps.  I would say that a religion is as beautiful as one makes it, vis-a-vis how one applies it to one’s interactions with one’s fellow humans.  However, I would add that Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and, yes, Hitler, prove that atheism can be no picnic either.

Finally, you say, “Christianity stinks” because it leads to “living out our lives in an archaic, stereotypical way.”  Really?  Would you say that Joan and I display archiac-ness or stereotypicality?  Are we un-“reason”-able?  Ir-“rational?”  Again, you broad-brush an entire system of belief and everyone who follows it without considering that such an approach is as intolerant (to say nothing of incorrect), if not moreso, than the approach you and others ascribe to believers.

Peace.

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By Maani, December 24, 2006 at 7:27 am Link to this comment
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Keith:

You said, “There is little doubt the origin of life could be replicated, given a spare planet or perhaps even a few tens of thousands of gallons of nucleotide monomers and an appropriate recirculating reactor.”

Really?  That’s a pretty bold statement, given that many evolutionary biologists, as well as thousands of other highly respected scientists, do not concur.  As well, even were your first sentence true, the “ingredients” you admit would be required have a gagillion-to-one chance of being found together - and then it would be an additional googleplex-to-one chance that the mere presence of those ingredients would, in fact, create life.  Dream on!

I also want to say that it is very big of you not to “insult or ridicule” Christians as you compare us to people having a disease like TB or leprosy!

Finally, you call the alternative to random selection, “A sadistic god that produced life, indeed all of geology, designed to mislead people into thinking life was billions of years old…”

First, even were your statement true, I don’t see why such a god would be “sadistic.”  However, you ignore the fact that many believers do not believe in the 6000-year-old earth, or that God created rocks to “look” old; rather, they accept the scientific fact of a universe billions of years old, but do not see a conflict between that and the notion that God created the universe and everything in it, including life.

As for the latter, again, many believers accept Darwin’s theories of random mutation and natural selection, but - like Darwin himself - believe that God created “life.”  Remember, Darwin did not set out to disprove that God created life - he set out to disprove the theory of “special creation.”  He was successful in doing so, but continued to believe that “life,” and the “processes” that made it possible, were “set in motion” by “the Creator.”

Ultimately, while it is true that many Christians still believe in Biblical inaccuracy, even regarding geology, you are stuck in an old paradigm in this regard.  Because while the media would have you believe that fundamentalism (and the concommitant belief in Biblical inaccuracy) is on the rise, the reality “on the street” is quite the opposite.

Peace.

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By Keith Henson, December 23, 2006 at 11:43 am Link to this comment
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Part 1

Joan wrote:

>Here’s another mystery…it seems not to bother atheists at all when dealing with evolution that that which is life comes from that which is inert. They see no logical problem here. Right????

No.

There is little doubt the origin of life could be replicated, given a spare planet or perhaps even a few tens of thousands of gallons of nucleotide monomers and an appropriate recirculating reactor.

We know life arose almost as soon as the planet cooled enough for water to exist, we know what was dissolved in the soup so it isn’t hard to put numbers on what it would take to do it again.  Google “origin of life” and read a few articles.

>Harris, our host, makes his name as one of the leading apostles in the atheist evangelical movement by arguing that certain precepts in religion should be challenged, especially because they pose danger to the world community. Then he proceeds to ridicule one of the world’s largest voices for challenging Islam and its propensity to violence!!  Where is the cool and detached logical consistency in thought and action?

You don’t get these traits from humans, especially ones who feel they are under threat.  Harris worries the Pope will set off war.  Some event *will set off a conflagration eventually, and people may blame the Pope or some Danish cartoonists for a war, but they will be wrong.  It is not the spark, but the preexisting “pile of fuel” conditions-like WW I.  “There is a time for war,” and when people feel it is time for war, I am not sure there is anything any of us can do to stop it.

>My feelings towards atheists

snip

>And I am not trying to offend but give feed back as a professionally trained philosopher. 

I am surprised you oppose memetics with a philosopher background.  “Ideas have a life of their own” encapsulates memetics.  I tried to trace this saying a few years ago and virtually all the philosophers from Plato on said something closely related.

  “On the other hand, it is in the nature of Western philosophy that ideas have a life of their own, even if they also betray some deep concern of the philosopher. By contrast, the stories told about Confucius and the Buddha are hardly separable from their philosophy. Confucianism and Buddhism are about Confucius and Buddha in a way that Greek philosophy is not about Thales and his followers, or even Socrates, the most exemplary of them all. Philosophy was, from the first, about the ideas, and so it should be no surprise, in the centuries to follow, that the ideas should take on a life of their own and become the center of focus.”

Page 31

_A Short History of Philosophy_ by Kathleen M. Higgins, Robert C. Solomon;
Oxford University Press, 1996

Kierkegaard’s _The Concept of Irony_, which comments on ideas.

  “The World-Historical Validity of Irony, the Irony of Socrates

“If we turn back to the foregoing general description of irony . . . .

Snip

“But insofar as the _idea_ is concrete in itself, it is necessary for it to become continually what it is-that is, become concrete. But this can occur only through generations and individuals.”

Kierkegaard here treats the idea as a thing in itself.  It has a goal, and it pursues its self-fulfillment by way of human minds.  In granting agency to the idea in place of consciousness, Kierkegaard anticipates Dawkins with memes modeled off his “selfish genes.

“It may be an illusion to believe that ideas are the esssence of social life; but it is not an illusion to believe that they are relatively autonomous of it, since this is itself a material fact with particular social determinations . “

Terry Eagleton, Ideology, An Introduction 1991 page 75.

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By Keith Henson, December 23, 2006 at 10:55 am Link to this comment
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Part 2

>I have found that atheists have no compunction about insulting Christians and ridiculing them,

I don’t insult and ridicule Christians (or even scientologists) any more than I would insult and ridicule someone with a disease like TB or leprosy.  The memetics view is that people are “infected” with ideas, some good, some bad and some that may be silly but are neither good nor bad.  Insult and ridicule isn’t a way to cure disease or to convert people to insightful thinking about world problems or themselves.

Snip

>As a case in point . . . . namely without God to elevate the status of man, why give man any special status for special consideration as nature takes it course, in this case keeping the human population at a level that nature can support?

Why give man special status?  We are what we are, close cousins to the chimps.  It seems to me people could understand the need to keep population growth below economic growth if that would prevent the conditions leading to outbreaks of xenophobic memes and wars.

I am not a scientist or a philosopher but an engineer who was intrigued by memetics and wondered into evolutionary psychology as a side effect of being a free speech advocate.

But as an engineer, I can tell you that “a level that nature can support” is almost entirely a function of technology.  Neolithic farming allowed 250 times as many people to live on the same area of land as hunter-gatherers.

The resources of the solar system would allow for a population of at least a thousand times the current level to live in comfort.

>This is a question that logically arises when man is conceived of as just the product of random selection . . .

We are the product of nonrandom selection, but so what? 

Consider the alternative, a sadistic god that produced life, indeed all of geology, designed to mislead people into thinking life was billions of years old and all related.

>This is the bed atheists make but now do not want to lay in…why should man get any special consideration?

As someone who values information, all life is information and therefore valuable.

>Atheists like to answer because man has intrinsic worth…really?

snip

You seem to know a lot more about atheists than I do.  My opinion for what it is worth is that in man life has reached the level of appreciating the universe including itself.  And man is not the ultimate in this ability we can foresee.

>Dawkins is particularly ugly toward believers, so ugly in fact that this own cohorts at the recent “Beyond Belief” Conference called him on the carpet for it.

I think Dawkins takes the wrong approach.  *Understanding religion in the light of evolutionary psychology leads me to conclude that that it is counter productive to attack people over religion.  Being attacked and attacking a function of religions.

>Well he offers this meme theory. Is this bona fide social science

Social “science” isn’t science.  If it was, it would merge at the edges with the rest of science the way physics, chemistry and astronomy do.  Science, like the world it tries to understand is one piece.  Social “science” floats out there with no foundation, no roots, no connections. 

>or just a re-casting of anthropology in such a way as to slander and denigrate people who follow religion, a definite ulterior motive.

Dawkins is right about religions being used as a “reason” for one tribe or nation to kill vast numbers of people with another religion.  And he is correct that religions (religious memes) inhibit clear thinking.  Where I think he is wrong is not recognizing those are evolved *features.

>This makes a big difference, Keith, is as to how much his work should be respected as a scientific endeavor or viewed as a work to further religious prejudice, masquerading as science.

Dawkins has done excellent original research, but his main claim to fame is for bringing an understanding of evolutionary science to the lay public. 

snip

Keith Henson

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By Joan, December 23, 2006 at 9:54 am Link to this comment
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Dave,

One more thing… I noticed that you have copied Maani’s sign off “Peace”. As imitation is the sincerist form of flattery, I think it is reasonable for me to conclude that there is something of Maani’s demeanor that you admire.

Joan

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By Joan, December 23, 2006 at 9:25 am Link to this comment
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Dave,

Part 2
Now here is the glitch that separates the everyday Christian from the psychotic or delusional person…as you say the patient hearing voices COMBINED WITH THE CLASSICAL SYMPTOMS or as I stated in my last post to you, not functioning within the parameters of normal behavior markers, as opposed to the praying Christians with NO classical symptoms and functioning within the parameters of normal behavioral markers.  Hence the everyday Christian is not delusional or psychotic, as you have labeled them in previous posts that I am currently too busy to research but will if pushed. And you, Dave, cannot conflate these 2 different types of people, the everyday Christian and the deluded psychotic and be accurately depicting truth or the state of affairs. Despite your anti faithful agenda, there is no difficulty in separating those who have faith from bona fide psychosis because as you stated earlier, you must have bona fide symptoms of psychosis, not conjure up make believe psychoses, mass hysteria or schizophrenia, to fit Harris’ theories for your personal agendas against Christians. As I told Keith about Dawkins, this is not good science. It is purported science with a religious prejudice agenda. And I respond to you has I have to Keith in the Dawkins framework- given that the overwhelming majority of mankind experience a higher power, perhaps the handful of atheists were are harboring “dremes” that give them the delusion that there is no God. Keith would have to accept this as true until it is proven false.

I think it is dangerous to promote religious friction in the name of science and enlightenment. There is nothing enlightened about persecuting people for their beliefs. It disrespects the Founders and it will only cause tension and violence. It always does. This is something hard realists need to ponder. Think Waco here. I think Harris’ strategy generates animosity and divisiveness, not peace and national security.

Again for the record I support the total separation of church and state and think there probably are grounds of impeachment and charges also should be brought against Gonzalez too.  But this may not be in the best interest of our national security…too much a victory for terrorists…then again maybe not…it’s a tough call…here again reasoning leads us down two very valid but different pathways.

Joan

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By Joan, December 23, 2006 at 9:15 am Link to this comment
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Dave,

Part 1

Why would I care about the Winter Solstice? Do you care about the celebration of the Immaculate Conception? Most Christian holidays I think were brought into play to offset the power of other non- Christian celebrations, just good corporate maneuvering. Don’t you think?

Let me explain to you, Dave as an analytically trained philosopher, I do not acknowledge standard facts…are standard facts, facts that are different facts from facts? And what are facts anyway? Let me also remind you, Dave, that what doctors and scientists call facts one day are considered heresy the next day. Regarding prayer issues and facts I am not sure these two topics are metaphysically in the same realm of understanding insofar as facts, I would think would require some objective standard to be demonstrated, like water boiling at 100 degrees C and prayer would resist such a standard of measurement of its consequences by psychiatrists or anyone else.
Yes, there certainly are paradoxes in prayer, like 2 enemies praying to the same God for opposite outcomes. So??? If God is there, let Him sort out the problem. I find in such cases, being one who actually prays in a strange sort of way and observes His responses over a period of time, giving Him a chance to handle things the way He thinks is best, I find God is rather Fatherly as Christ depicted Him and His answers are what is good for our growth and development in order to understand Him, not to especially to sort out our politic difficulties here in the homeland. He is not just a slave to His people but moving them to a certain end to His agendas nor is He a genie granting wishes on command. Let me remind you, Dave, to understand God you have to engage Him and not slam the door in His face. You need a relationship for Him to have chance to show His stuff just like with anyone else.

Paradox is not a problem. You yourself are also paradoxical as we all are. We want to eat a lot but we want to be thin. We want a new boat but we want money in the bank.  We want our stroke victim wife to live but we want her to die to end her suffering. So harboring paradox is a very common human phenomenon

Joan

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By Richard, December 22, 2006 at 8:12 pm Link to this comment
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Joan:

Atheism(or at least secular agnosticism) is the only “cool and detached” logically consistent dismissal of Islam. I have stated this before. The Catholic voice for challenging Islam comes off very squeaky, considering the fact that Christian-governed society has had an equal propensity for violence and dismissal of reason.

Americans are only safe realizing that we have absolutely nothing in common with Islam. We are not on a parallel path through the woods towards their supposed meadow, which is a swamp. Their values are faith, self-sacrifice, mindless obedience, primitivism and theocracy. Ours are the opposite – reason, individualism, selfish pursuit of happiness, secularism and capitalism. These are the rights the Founders guaranteed us. The Bible equates them with sin.

While those fools succumb to every silly word their clerics spew out, bowing five times towards Mecca, and blowing themselves up, we should be doing exactly the opposite—deciding for ourselves, standing up to superstition, and building better lives for ourselves and our posterity.

We cannot make depictions of their prophet without offending, but it’s not even necessary to do so. Just take a look at them. They turn themselves into silly cartoons.

Our president said Islam is a beautiful religion. He gave it too much credit. There is no beautiful religion. My Christmas tree is beautiful. Christianity stinks because it turns us into a mirror image of Islam, living out our lives in in an archaic, sterotypical way.

Reasons Greetings,
Richard Cranium

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By Malini, December 22, 2006 at 7:59 pm Link to this comment
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Hi All!

Wanted to share some important thoughts before the end of the year…

Here’s my Wish List for our world, for everyone, for the New Year…

  Good Health
  Food, clothing and shelter
  Lots of unconditional love to go around the globe and showered on everyone
  Politically and Spiritually honest, uncorrupt,  selfless, global welfare focused Leaders
  Safety for all
  Respect and regard for all life
  Freedom to move, think and act as responsible citizens
  Tap into the unconditional love, compassion, kindness, that we inherited at birth to help, and heal the world

Good Luck Everyone!

With love to all mankind,

Malini

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By Malini, December 22, 2006 at 6:43 pm Link to this comment
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Dear All!

Merry Christmas, Season’s Greetings, and Reason’s Greetings to all!

Hope your holiday will be a safe and a very happy one!

Will keep in touch again in the new year!

Bye for now…

With love to all,

Malini

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By Joan, December 22, 2006 at 12:52 pm Link to this comment
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Keith,

It must be the sugarplums dancing in my head as Christmas draws so near-
how could I possibly missed this one?! Harris, our host, makes his name as one of the leading apostles in the atheist evangelical movement by arguing that certain precepts in religion should be challenged, especially because they pose danger to the world community. Then he proceeds to ridicule one of the world’s largest voices for challenging Islam and its propensity to violence!!  Where is the cool and detached logical consistency in thought and action?

Joan

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By Joan, December 22, 2006 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment
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Keith,

Part 2

Dawkins is particularly ugly toward believers, so ugly in fact that this own cohorts at the recent “Beyond Belief” Conference called him on the carpet for it. Well he offers this meme theory. Is this bona fide social science or just a re-casting of anthropology in such a way as to slander and denigrate people who follow religion, a definite ulterior motive. This makes a big difference, Keith, is as to how much his work should be respected as a scientific endeavor or viewed as a work to further religious prejudice, masquerading as science.

And this idea of holding something to be true until it is falsified, is …well not good logic or reason. With this idea I can equally propose dremes to offset the meme theory. But that is not good science or reason either. It is spinning fantasy. Claiming something as true until it is falsified, is an informal logical fallacy with its very own name, argument ad ignorantiam.  You seemed to have rejected that rebuttal.

Szasz having a God is not my point. My point is what follows from his words. I speculated based on his statement, and only speculated, and then it must be investigated to determine if I am correct. This is how formal reasoning works. It does not accept any statement as true until it is shown to be false. It hypothesizes and then investigates its conclusions to determine truth or falsity. I think good scientific investigation works similarly.

What I have observed here these last few months is that atheists pick and choose their logic and are not rigorous or self critical enough in their analyses. They often do not think through the many implications of their positions near as much as theologians do. I conclude that they are not superior in their reasoning process to anyone else. We all have a lot to learn and understand and I think in general atheists could be a lot more open minded and respectful, realizing perhaps there are things that they do not understand too.

Joan.

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By Joan, December 22, 2006 at 12:26 pm Link to this comment
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Keith,

Part 1

My feelings towards atheists- let me start there. I generally do not classify people per se, but take them each individually and make judgments on an individual basis. Participating on this thread as vigorously as I have I have made few observations. And I will be very candid here. And I am not trying to offend but give feed back as a professionally trained philosopher.  I have found that atheists have no compunction about insulting Christians and ridiculing them, claiming to be intellectually superior on all fronts, appealing to their more brilliant skills in reason and citing science as the deliverer of all truth and knowledge, with a faith that surpasses that of those who believe in God.

Given this superior reasoning skill of atheists , I, as one who has been formally trained, have these last few weeks made very good philosophical cases about the fragility of science as an empirical endeavor and the problems with reason as the way to one world view that once elucidated all will agree upon as the ultimate truth. I find that my interlocutors cannot seem to understand the implications and short sightedness of their own positions, always presuming I am some little girl who needs to be enlightened. I have argued from their own positions at times and posed the logical consequences of the positions they hold. But I find them unwilling to embrace these problematic consequences or even follow the analyses. As case in point, the one that disturbed you and is admittedly disturbing about war and overpopulation- FYI as discussed as an implication of atheism, and this is the tone used when these subjects are dissected in ethics seminars- namely without God to elevate the status of man, why give man any special status for special consideration as nature takes it course, in this case keeping the human population at a level that nature can support? This is a question that logically arises when man is conceived of as just the product of random selection with no deliberate design and no special status in nature, the implication of the atheistic position that man is just an evolved unplanned creature like all the others. This is the bed atheists make but now do not want to lay in…why should man get any special consideration? Atheists like to answer because man has intrinsic worth…really? From where does that worth derive itself? …Because he is more noble perhaps, my daughter’s yellow lab pup is more noble than some people I know. Or are they derived from some mystical, magical immutable rights that Jefferson and Locke and Rousseau made up to win our freedom from a king??? And the slippery slope begins.

Here’s another mystery…it seems not to bother atheists at all when dealing with evolution that that which is life comes from that which is inert. They see no logical problem here. Right????

Joan

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By Keith Henson, December 21, 2006 at 9:20 pm Link to this comment
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Joan wrote:

Snip

>I still don’t see how you can reject Scientology and accept memes,

Memes or cultural markers if you want to call them that, make sense.  Being infested with the sprits of murdered space aliens brought to earth by the galactic overlord Xenu doesn’t.

>whatever they are. If they are nothing different than culture markers, then that’s what they are. And that is what they should be called.

You can call them that if you like.  Do some of the make the jump from generation to generation?  Do they come and go depending on the environment?  (Like buggy whips.)  If you answer yes, these markers have the characteristics of replicators, which puts them in a class with genes and computer viruses.  It’s not rocket science, just a way to look at markers or elements of culture.

>If they are different, then how are they different and can their existence be verified?

The real question is can you falsify their existence.  Do we name days of the week like our parents did?  Do we make shoes in somewhat the same way they did?  If there was no continuity of culture, then memes or elements of culture or cultural markers would not exist.

>War is good for over populated societies, if it insures the survival of the rest of its members and the fittest.

“Fittest” in wars went out with the machine gun.  Let me assure you that a nuclear blast does not distinguish between the fit and the unfit no matter what criteria you use for fitness. 

>Isn’t that evolutionary theory?

No.

>If one does not believe in God and hence sees no sanctity of human life as His progeny, why is war such a bad way to deal with overpopulation?

You don’t need to believe in God to believe people have the right to live or that war is a really bad idea.  In fact, people with a really intense belief in God (Allah) are where suicide bombers come from.  If you object that Allah isn’t really God, then consider the IRA and the people they killed.  If you insist the Catholic God is different from yours let me know.

>If people are nothing more than evolved thingamajigs, then what’s the big deal here???

Snip

>The fit will survive and the weak will die off and that is to the overall benefit of an overpopulated planet and human evolution…Right?

For a starter, human evolution by natural selection is close to the end.

You seem to have a particularly nasty and dehumanizing view of atheists.  This is the kind of belief/meme/cultural marker that when it builds up in a population causes the target segment for that population being murdered like Jews and Tutsi.  In Cambodia the Pol Pot went after the “intellectuals” and killed everyone who wore glasses as a marker of “intellectualism.”  Can you see that happening to atheists?  Do you think it is a good idea?

The fact that I warn people about the consequences of population growth in excess of economic growth does not mean I think war is a good idea. 

As I said “Not only do people get killed, but valuable infrastructure gets trashed.  Engineers can [fix the infrastructure], but we had much rather be building new stuff and not having to repair war damage.”

>Don’t know Szazs.  Based on the quote Dave offered, Szasz seems to think praying is a normal behavior marker…

snip

>If praying is considered by him to be normal, I inferred from the quote that perhaps Szasz believed in God.

There are over 12,000 web pages Google finds for “Thomas Szazs” atheist. 

>That’s it. Szazs would have to then verify my inference as correct or not so. From your Wikipedia source I can see how Szazs gives aid and comfort to Scientology however. You have a point there.

Szazs is more of a menace than just supporting the convicted criminal cult.

In _Night Falls Fast_ [pp. 253-54] Kay Redfield Jamison tells about Thomas Szasz telling a patient with depression to get off his medication. The patient committed suicide.  Szasz was sued and ordered to pay damages to the widow.

Keith Henson

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By Dave Summers, M.D., December 21, 2006 at 8:26 pm Link to this comment
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RE: #42978, 12/20/06 by Joan

Please be reminded, Joan, that today is the historically ancient Winter Solstice celebration which freethinkers share, that it preceded Xmas by 1000’s of years and that much of its late- December recognition was borrowed (imposed upon?) by the late-comers called “Christians”; so, Happy Winter Solstice/Christmas Salutations!!

It’s also appropriate for me to remind you of a bit of history in the profession, psychiatry.  The Szasz remarks ca. prayer and schizophrenia are standard facts, certainly beyond rebuttal for prayer & recognized by laymen & well-educated theists alike but also known as appeals to a god for miracles or whatever is desired, such as slaying “the enemy”, some of whom were brothers, by both North & South praying “to the same God” during the American Civil War.  But psychotic or schizophrenic symptoms have been observed probably since antiquity, although not well described until the mid-19th c. (Morel), first detailed as a specific diagnosis by Kraepelin (?1898) and named “schizophrenia” by Bleuler about 1910 or 1911.

Such patients, then, are well-known in psychiatry, their delusions originate within their psyche and the fact that voices to which they respond are a “God’s” is what they repeatedly claim & believe but falsely so or they are rendered thereby delusionally preoccupied.  Szasz merely repeated the facts, known to psychiatry at least since the 19th c. but still recorded in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM IV).  Just as mid-chest pain in men often denotes myocardial infarction, the voice of a God directing a patient’s actions, when combined with other classical symptoms, denotes the grandiose delusions of one form of schizophrenia.  Neither psychiatric literature nor Dr. Szasz has suggested mass schizophrenia among all religionists, but it’s a fact that one form of grandiose schizophrenia presents among some mentally-ill folk who already were “believers” before becoming delusional.  Either in this or Sam’s “Atheist Manifesto” dialogue, I’ve mentioned the prospect that zealous or fundamentalist Christians may be difficult to separate from psychotics - the same being problematic among Jewish, Hindi, Islamic or other “believers”, but that separation must be left with Dr. Szasz & his colleagues or perhaps with future analyses.  Yet all Americans should be uncomfortable in this, our secular democracy, when “W” is sufficiently either deceitful or delusional to have believed he was “saving the world for Christ” when he naively started the Iraq War, subordinates the Constitution to his faith & readily admits his directives from “a higher power”.  Such commingling of faith w. governance violates the First Amendment and in my view & that of Ramsey Clark & many others, is a prime reason this President should be impeached. 

Peace

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By Joan Z. Greiner, December 21, 2006 at 2:23 pm Link to this comment
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Keith,

I think there will be more challenges to the First Amendment in the near future given the anti -religion sentiment sweeping the country and the legal challenges it is instigating, such as children singing Christmas carols at school concerts. Eventually, if this trend continues I think the SC will have to define religion and measure the specific cases against its definition of religion and pronounce when certain actions, like singing a Christmas carol in a school concert, constitute the practice of a state religion. Hence I foresee that the SC will face this challenge unless people embrace the meaning of the First Amendment and honor it as the freedom of religious expression as it was intended as much as it was intended to prevent the establishment of a state religion. It is not by any error in judgment that the SC has wisely tried to sidestep doing too much aggressively in this area just as Jeff’s appeal to the Creator was not slip of the tongue when he asserted that the gift of inalienable rights was from God. I have said this before, some people in this country naively think that Christians will allow their freedom of religious expression to be denied to indulge a certain narcissism. They fail to accept the diversity that is the seminal political point of Project America. There are people who are incorrectly re-casting the work of the Founders, claiming they were trying to establish an atheistic country. I think some people in the country are really too insulated from religious warfare as we have only known religious peace since America’s founding. These folks seem to be itching for a fight and I believe they will get one that is as surprising in vigor as 9/11 was to so many of us. For what there is to gain and what there is to lose, I don’t see the point of the exercise. But I do not think this will be pretty if religious wars are fought here over such silliness as we have seen instigated as opposed to real religious persecution.

The mark of a religion, as I proposed, is a Deity/Diviniyy that is not a human person but a transcendent being. We are talking about religion here not a fan club.

I still don’t see how you can reject Scientology and accept memes, whatever they are. If they are nothing different than culture markers, then that’s what they are. And that is what they should be called. If they are different, then how are they different and can their existence be verified?

War is good for over populated societies, if it insures the survival of the rest of its members and the fittest. Isn’t that evolutionary theory? If one does not believe in God and hence sees no sanctity of human life as His progeny, why is war such a bad way to deal with overpopulation? If people are nothing more than evolved thingamajigs, then what’s the big deal here??? I for one would like to see people live peaceably and have their overpopulated countries handle their problems kindly but that is because I place a very high value on life as a part of divinity and the life process as a design to cultivate our ultimate divinity.  But if it is not so, as atheists believe, so what if people like other species naturally die in wars and from famine, drought, heat or freezing whatever, etc, etc …What’s the big deal here???? The fit will survive and the weak will die off and that is to the overall benefit of an overpopulated planet and human evolution…Right?

Don’t know Szazs.  Based on the quote Dave offered, Szasz seems to think praying is a normal behavior marker…the quote implies that it is normal if people talk to God and psychotic/not normal if people hear God talk back… have not a clue to his faith or lack thereof. If praying is considered by him to be normal, I inferred from the quote that perhaps Szasz believed in God. That’s it. Szazs would have to then verify my inference as correct or not so. From your Wikipedia source I can see how Szazs gives aid and comfort to Scientology however. You have a point there.

Joan

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By Joan, December 20, 2006 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment
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Everyone,

Omigosh…a virgin birth…Flora, a Komodo dragon, living in a British zoo, who has never mated or even seen a male dragon has fertilized 8 eggs herself, is pregnant and is due around Christmas…A VIRGIN BIRTH!!!!

Nature finds a way to achieve what it needs to achieve. So perhaps God, the Creator, can also do that which is contradictory. He in fact does this all the time as we harbor internally many contradictions in our thoughts and feelings. We naturally are the convergence of opposites.

Like the faith in the unquestioned scientific axiom, given enough time ALL WILL BE REVEALED, to be logically consistent, we must also accept that given enough with religion- ALL TOO WILL BE REVEALED. (See http://www.CNN.com, “Virgin Komodo dragon is expecting”, Dec. 20, 2006).

Merry Christmas!

Joan

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By Keith Henson, December 20, 2006 at 2:45 pm Link to this comment
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Part 1

Joan wrote:

>I have read your post several times and I think we have come to a very interesting point, namely what will we Americans accept as a bona fide religion. I believe this will be addressed as more challenges are made to the First Amendment. Thus far the Supreme Courts have been able to keep the delicate balance between allowing the freedom of religious expression and safeguarding us from a state religion.

More like they have dodged the issue for over 200 years, why address it now?  grin

>I agree with you that scientology poses a good example of why for the sake of an effective government we as a people are entitled to be protected [from?] anyone who decides to found a religion and the enjoy unlimited benefits. The unsuspecting too, those who need a little more paternalistic care, need to be protected from self- serving religionists. 

Ah . . . yes.  In the case of scientology it would be enough if the government simply enforced the laws.  But as it is, nobody in law enforcement wants to “lift the tail of a skunk.”  If they do the scientology cult will stalk their kids and flood their basements *and* sue them and they know it.

>Yes, undoubtedly the catastrophe at Waco has probably made the government a little shy about venturing into such an endeavor but on the other hand we cannot have anyone just proclaiming religion at will.  I believe that by definition, religion has certain properties. It centers on a Diety. So for me Buddhism for example would be a philosophy or way of living, not a religion, as also would Taoism and scientology.

Scientology has a deity, sort of, L. Ron Hubbard.  At least the cult members worship him like one.

>Religion centers on salvation and some means of attaining it through ritual and dogma.

There is a religion (though it pays taxes) that will pay you triple your money back if you don’t achieve salvation.

http://www.surfingtheapocalypse.net/cgi-bin/forum.cgi?noframes;read=149469

>It centers on transcendent experience, not self- actualization per se. Religious truth is to some extent understood through certain revelations. As an American citizen to protect us from exploitation from shysters, I would propose that tax- exempt status be denied until the religion as been established for several hundred years so those who propose the religion could not in fact benefit financially.

That’s an idea.  It is widely believed that scientology got their religious status by blackmailing high IRS officials. 

http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Cowen/essays/hatewatch.html

>This is a beginning in trying to explicate the concept of religion.

>As far as the other things you addressed…

>I do not think that world leaders have the presence of mind to deliberately fight wars for the purpose of population control either. And I roughly agree with you that wars center on sustenance and threats to it.

Good.

>I have a hard time swallowing Dawkins’ meme theory because quite frankly this meme idea is a little like scientology both of which seem like something that just sprang out of Hubbard’s and Dawkins’ head,

snip

Meme theory is simply too obvious to be wrong.  You don’t have to use the word “meme,” I am not hung up on terms.  “Culturgen” (Lumsden and Wilson, _Genes, Mind and Culture_) is an alternate term, use that if you wish. 

Do you accept humans have culture?  Do you accept that culture comes in particulate elements, such as the ideas (concepts) of forks, diapers, and gunpowder?  Do you think some elements of culture change over time?  I.e., can you think of cultural elements or ideas that have become more or much less common over the last 100 years?  If you answer yes . . .

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By Keith Henson, December 20, 2006 at 2:41 pm Link to this comment
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Part 2

>The more young Saudi males at home, given polygamy, the more the birth rate increases exponentially.

The facts of biology should tell you that the number of men isn’t going to have much effect on the birth rate in a polygamous society.  OBL has how many?  47 kids?

>So war is good for Saudi population control as well as Palestinian population control,

War is a rotten way to limit populations.  Not only do people get killed, but valuable infrastructure gets trashed.  Engineers can do that, but we had much rather be building new stuff and not having to repair war damage.

>as they are right up there with Saudis re:high birth rates. Perhaps an invisible hand.

More like a jail time offense to import birth control devices into Saudi Arabia.  They are exporting oil and importing food to build up a population that in the long term can’t be supported.  Eventually the butcher’s bill will come due.

It already has for the dirt poor Palestinians.

>I think you and I are fairly close in viewpoints on several issues excepting that of religion as a motivation for war…

I think expansions of religions or related memes (beliefs, culturgens) are a *step* on the road to wars, but not the root motivation.

>I think, for instance, that if a certain small percentage of folks here push too much to have God removed from “the Pledge”

Along with most of those who saw the famous Realists cartoon of Uncle San being buggered by this monstrous god I think the phrase “under god” should be kept for the humor.

Snip

>I think if there were no religions, sustenance would still be the prime motivator for war as our drive for survival is probably our most fearsome drive.

I agree with your last point. 

Keith Henson

PS Re Szasz

“An anti-Scientology website calls Szasz a “useful idiot” and suggests that he played right into the hands of the Scientologist anti-medicine agenda.”

From Wikipedia

“Together with the Church of Scientology, Szasz co-founded the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), in 1969, to fight what it sees as human rights crimes committed by psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, and remains on CCHR’s Board of Advisors as Founding Commissioner, as well as attending their annual awards dinners as recently as 2004.[1] Szasz, himself, is an atheist, without any membership in Scientology. Thus, he declared ‘The plague of mankind is the fear and rejection of diversity: monotheism, monarchy, monogamy and, in our age, monomedicine.’”

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By Joan, December 20, 2006 at 8:04 am Link to this comment
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Dave,

Once again I think Szazs has no more a clue as to whether God talks to anyone than you or I do, because he is not an expert on the subject of to whom God speaks any more than you or I or the pope is, for that matter. Who can definitively say God does or does not talk to people? I think He talks to me all the time in one way or another…who is Szasz to say God does not in fact talk to Joan? How would Szasz know? …...Della Reese says that the face of God is everywhere, we just don’t recognize it. Who is to say she is wrong? Appeals to authority/experts in areas in which they have no authority are considered informal logical fallacies or arguments ad verecundiam, and Szasz is clearly not an authority on to whom God speaks and if God speaks to anyone. No one is. Szasz quips a clever quip but has no way to substantiate his claim so it is nothing more than his cleverly stated opinion. A good argument is a function of what is said and how well it is supported not who said it.

Now clearly in the cases of bona fide psychosis, diagnosed mental illness, and if this is the only context of your response to me, any person could be substituted for God like a patient talking to Einstein or Napoleon and the psychotic could claim to be talking to each or all…the psychosis is not necessarily a matter of whom the patient is talking to. Hence God is not of significant relevance. There are people who are not psychotic and commune with God. They operate within the parameters of normal behaviors whereas psychotics have odd behavioral markers and different physiologies. What is relevant is that the psychotic patient is delusional about the actual presence of that which is not present, namely God, nor Einstein nor Napoleon. But here again, there is no definitive way to rule out that God is not involved, just opinion, unless it can be ascertained that the psychotic is deliberately invoking God to gain advantage/privileges or is claiming things like God told him that he is a locust, again out of the range of the normal parameters of behavior. This is one reason that Benedict’s challenge to Islam is so poignant- God must be seen to be commanding rational behavior not willy–nilly violence against His own creation or informing people that they are locusts, in fact. One has to be very careful to follow the fine twists of reasoning.

But you cannot conflate the earnest or devout person looking for communication with God with a patient who is psychotic. I think you are attempting to conflate these two types of people and that will not fly…Szasz can diagnose the patient no matter the delusion. But to attempt to term all Christians as delusional because they talk to God and God responds is to classify the overwhelming majority of Americans as psychotic. But then that diagnosis becomes so loose that the terms “psychosis” and “delusional” are essentially meaningless. I am not sure this is in the best interest of good medical practice or truth.

Given that Szasz only sees aberration in God talking back and not in the act of praying, you may be jumping to conclusions by thinking he is an atheist. One can conclude from his quip that he sees praying as normal.

Joan

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By Joan, December 20, 2006 at 8:00 am Link to this comment
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Maani and Everyone,

Re:“Times article”

The idea that God must have a rational nature was the point of the Pope’s speech and the appropriate challenge to Islamic theologians for whom these comments are most poignant. In my response to Dave today I argue again why this is important from a different angle.

Joan

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By Maani, December 19, 2006 at 5:37 pm Link to this comment
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Thought y’all might find this topical…

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/19/world/europe/19pope.html?pagewanted=print

Peace.

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By Joan, December 19, 2006 at 2:02 pm Link to this comment
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Keith,

I have read your post several times and I think we have come to a very interesting point, namely what will we Americans accept as a bona fide religion. I believe this will be addressed as more challenges are made to the First Amendment. Thus far the Supreme Courts have been able to keep the delicate balance between allowing the freedom of religious expression and safeguarding us from a state religion. I agree with you that scientology poses a good example of why for the sake of an effective government we as a people are entitled to be protected anyone who decides to found a religion and the enjoy unlimited benefits. The unsuspecting too, those who need a little more paternalistic care, need to be protected from self- serving religionists.  Yes, undoubtedly the catastrophe at Waco has probably made the government a little shy about venturing into such an endeavor but on the other hand we cannot have anyone just proclaiming religion at will.  I believe that by definition, religion has certain properties. It centers on a Diety. So for me Buddhism for example would be a philosophy or way of living, not a religion, as also would Taoism and scientology. Religion centers on salvation and some means of attaining it through ritual and dogma. It centers on transcendent experience, not self- actualization per se. Religious truth is to some extent understood through certain revelations. As an American citizen to protect us from exploitation from shysters, I would propose that tax- exempt status be denied until the religion as been established for several hundred years so those who propose the religion could not in fact benefit financially. This is a beginning in trying to explicate the concept of religion.

As far as the other things you addressed…

I do not think that world leaders have the presence of mind to deliberately fight wars for the purpose of population control either. And I roughly agree with you that wars center on sustenance and threats to it. I have a hard time swallowing Dawkins’ meme theory because quite frankly this meme idea is a little like scientology both of which seem like something that just sprang out of Hubbard’s and Dawkins’ head, respectively (and is not nearly as attractive as Athena, who sprang out of Zeus’ head, as the story goes). Dawkins is not verifiable and to say he is not falsifiable is not really good science, or even good social science, to me. This is another informal fallacy in reasoning, argument ad ignorantiam or, namely, the conclusion should be accepted because it has not been disproved. This is weak support for a given a position, to say the very least. And I must say I am a little surprised that you can accept something like Meme theory while at the same time rejecting scientology. Neither can be verified, so why accept the one and not the other? You seem like too much a concrete realist to accept Dawkins. 

The more young Saudi males at home, given polygamy, the more the birth rate increases exponentially. So war is good for Saudi population control as well as Palestinian population control, as they are right up there with Saudis re:high birth rates. Perhaps an invisible hand.

I think you and I are fairly close in viewpoints on several issues excepting that of religion as a motivation for war…I think, for instance, that if a certain small percentage of folks here push too much to have God removed from “the Pledge” or taken off coins there will be warfare of sorts. Neither of those expressions constitute a religion as I have explicated it and I think the Court’s explication will be along similar lines as the Courts borrow so much of their reasoning practices from basic philosophy … this scenario is not related to material sustenance but perhaps to spiritual sustenance, a suppression of religious expression. I think if there were no religions, sustenance would still be the prime motivator for war as our drive for survival is probably our most fearsome drive.

Joan

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By Joan, December 18, 2006 at 5:30 pm Link to this comment
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Malini,

We seem to have the same assessments of the value of faith based initiatives. Some of the volunteers have indeed had their lives endangered. Additionally too there are problems in that because they are faith based they are rejected and American help is also rejected because some world leaders do not want America to get the credit for bailing their people out of bleak situations.It is not just faith- based organizations that are a problem but it is also a problem about which nations offer help. For instance, after its last earthquake Iran refused to accept Israeli help. Some nations would rather their citizens suffer and /or die rather than accept American help that is not faith-based. And this is astounding to me that world leaders could do this to others, those who are so helpless.

You bring up another issue that is of particular interest to me and I have hinted at this before. The major religions of the world were established at a time when most people were illiterate and had to give most of their day to the tasks that would insure their survival. There were a few literate clergy around hammering out the religion’s ideologies and then preaching them to the laity who were not really qualified to challenge the teachings of the more educated clergy. But this is no longer the case. We are a literate laity, capable of reading religious texts and analyzing them for ourselves. And I think many do just that, modifying the dogma and former teachings and updating them to current interpretations.  But it is long past due for the major religions that wield so much influence to undergo a complete overhaul, reviewing their dogma and addressing a far more sophisticated laity and a whole new world. In America we need spiritual help and the rampant use of anti depressants speaks to that. Harris touts the Scandinavian countries as the epitome of secular nations to be held as an example to all but he neglects to note that they also have the highest suicide rates and have had them for a while. The citizens of the Western nations are a spiritually lost generation and so are the ones following us, in many ways, weak of character and basic moral standards. We are a people who no longer value taking the time and making the effort to give comfort when those around us need it. Instead, we are given a little pill and this is to content our emotional needs and longings. So I think religion for some can fill these voids and religions are failing to do their jobs to keep themselves current with the new literate population and meet the needs of their people. And of course any religious teachings that are dangerous to the well being of the world community need to be forcefully challenged.

You are so very spirited and I get a lift when I read your posts and I look forward to them. We are having a wonderful holiday season and I hope you and yours are also having a good time. This time means a lot to me as I see it as a celebration of the importance of loving each other and freely giving to each other because we grow when we are nurtured and loved and we die when we are neglected, abuse and abandoned. To me that this is the primary message of Christ. The key to a life well lived is to treat others the way you wish to be treated. Practiced on a one to one basis, this is the most satisfying way to live as we are so designed. On a nation- to- nation basis, this is the way to international safety. To me as a professional in the field of ethics, this counsel of Christ is not just fluff or a nice platitude. Following it is the way to insure our very survival and the way to make our lives livable in the here and now…that’s right, the here and now. Christ was very concerned about earthly life, his first miracle was changing water to wine to further party at a wedding. So I celebrate that Christ popularized this ethical tenet and did in fact show the way to our earthly salvation as best as I can determine. 

Joan

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By Dave Summers, M.D., December 18, 2006 at 3:07 pm Link to this comment
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To Joan, re: Thomas Szasz, M.D.

A common presentation of psychosis, Joan, is the grandiose or God-related, delusional behavior in which the patient responds to voices of a God (i.e. her or his recognized or believed “god”) by bizarre or homicidal or even suicidal acts; hence the Szasz claim, “when God talks to [the patient, that person is] schizophrenic”.  The Szasz statement, “when you [the patient or not] talk to God, you [or the person so verbalizing] is praying”, is the traditionally accepted perception, although I concur w. Ingersoll that, rather than aiding a victim or victims of disease or trauma, “all prayers [merely] end in the air which they uselessly agitate” (yet, like poetry, may console the reader or those hearing the words, including victims, but medical expertise, not prayer, is the means to & of success).

Thus, Szasz, a freethinker, is an authority in/of psychiatry whose concept of a God, I suspect, is atheistic or ?agnostic or certainly skeptical, and would perhaps acknowledge his authority on delusional behavior as purely in the psychiatric realm.  Only if acknowledged as a Mother-Goose-rhyme or fantasy or fallacy or myth “authority” would he acknowledge being an “authority” on that which does not exist, such as a monotheistic or any other “god”.  His statement reflected commonly observed patient-claims (those w. grandiose delusions as opposed to paranoid delusions) along with the almost universally acknowledged fact that “pray-ers” address “Father”, “Lord”,  Jehovah, etc. who is always invisible, otherworldly, cloaked in mysticism, etc.  “Mystery is the essence of divinity”, said Hurston; “Gods must keep their distances [& their faces, bodies, recognition, reality & truth itself] from men” - where “men” meant all humankind.

Peace & Best Wishes

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By Joan, December 18, 2006 at 12:22 pm Link to this comment
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Keith,

One thing this thread teaches us is that there are numerous ways to explicate religion and the role it plays in the world from a personal experience and code to perhaps an evolutionary role as you propose…religion,it seems may be that which is in the eye of the beholder to some extent…

Joan

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By Joan, December 18, 2006 at 9:25 am Link to this comment
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Richard,

It occurs to me that you want to reject God and the way you want to validate your rejection is to argue that religions have an overall highly negative or deleterious effect on the world, very “Harrisonian”. This is by inspection or observation an untenable position as religions behave like all other manmade constructs. If nothing more you have not a clue as to what the world would look like in the absence of religion. Religions probably do some evil and they do some good…there is no black and white…If you want to deny God, I think you need a better reason to validate that stance. Painting the work of churches, as all bad or that the world would have been better off without religion is an un-winnable position to argue from, whether or not you believe in God.

Joan

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By Keith Henson, December 18, 2006 at 9:17 am Link to this comment
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Richard wrote:

>I see you are still going at it. How long can this one article keep a discussion going?

Heh.  500 postings is nowhere close to a record.

>I have gone and consumed more Sam Harris since this. I found his talk at the Salk Institute very insightful. He made a very good point that it is only in the realm of religion that we allow a reversal of normal thought processes to be considered acceptable.

That’s true.  It is also a hint that something important is going on.  Like when strange noises come from your car engine, it’s a reason to look under the hood.  What motivates these hairless social primates?  Does it change with changing conditions?

There is nothing in the below I have not said, but he said it better than I did, especially his second point:

“What Wired magazine last month called the “new atheism”-I prefer to think of it as “atheist chic”-has a tripartite thrust: First, what might be thought of as the argument by cosmology of Sagan and Susskind.

“Second, the argument of evolutionary psychology-faith is a naturally selected faculty and neurophysiological phenomenon arising because it was, in pre-modern societies, advantageous; this hard-wired argument is advanced in Daniel C. Dennett’s recent book “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.”

“Third, rationalist and textual refutations of the old cases familiar to anybody who took philosophy in college, such as Thomas Aquinas’ dusty proofs. These refutations have taken on special urgency because, according to neuroscientist Sam Harris in his new book “Letter to a Christian Nation,” religious fundamentalists tend to be crazy and dangerous and a lot of them would be very happy to blow up the world. I’m paraphrasing, but accurately.”

http://www.latimes.com/features/printedition/magazine/la-tm-neil51dec17,1,7888798.story?coll=la-headlines-magazine

I make the case that while religions might have other functions, the evolved purpose of the psychological traits behind them was part of the way humans limited their numbers to what the ecosystem could support—by wars.

If you have not read this paper, it might amuse you.

http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2006/4/17/194059/296  (also in a print journal)

Keith Henson

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By Joan, December 18, 2006 at 8:29 am Link to this comment
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Richard,

The key to understanding my discussion and Maanis’ is first, it has been accepted throughout history that religion and faith are of a different category than certain aspects of science (that may in fact turn out to be the more trivial side of knowledge in the grand scheme of things) and certain forms of reason. So Harris” insight is nothing new and not even an insight. He is essentially criticizing an apple for not being an orange. Second, it is crucial to separate Christian thought from any church, and with you specifically the Catholic Church. It is unclear that Christ even intended a church like the Catholic Church to be formed in his name. Churches are man made organizations. They are not organized by God. I often call organized religions God clubs made by men, for men. But I do know that that is a bit cynical as many good ministers and priests are out there serving man with the best of intentions and I have known some of them personally. And despite your recitation, faith based organizations do far more to ameliorate suffering on a world wide basis than atheist organizations, if there even are any atheist organizations that even undertake this mission in life. What are the atheist organizations that lend a hand to help earthquake and tsunami victims?  To date atheism, probably a religion itself, seems very self centered, with one main mission—belittling people of other faiths. That is the only agenda I see them promoting. And last, certain political ideologies function like religion as is some science to an extent, in that they purport to lead man to all salvation as religions do. The discussion continues because of the nature of the subject matter that seems unequivocally insoluble. You nor I nor Harris nor Dawkins will have the last word here. The beat goes on.

As far as the involvement of the Catholic Church in Hitler’s reign remember that without the support of the common everyday German, our citizen counterparts, Hitler would never have had the power he did , nor would Pol Pot or Stalin or Kim Jong Il. It is the everyday citizen who props these leaders up as much as any organization. We are the ones who run the daily political machinery of leaders, the democratic ones and the tyrants. So if you want the blame to be inclusive, then blame everyone. America did not intervene as quickly as it should have, denying reports of the assault on the Jews as preposterous, as I understand it. 

Joan

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By Joan, December 17, 2006 at 6:08 pm Link to this comment
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Keith and Dave,

Keith,

Right out of the shoot I have to say that you and I share some common ground here in questioning what constitutes a religion. I predict that the Supreme Court will be examining this issue at some point in the near future. It seems questionable to allow any wacko out there to make up a bunch of self- serving stuff and then call it a religion to their own advantage. For the common good this may have to be addressed, among other reasons. It will be a very tricky analysis and will probably allow a far amount of latitude; maybe the way around some of the fraud is to end the complete tax- exempt status for instance. More to come. Alternatively, maybe this is the small price we pay for the Pax Romana we have enjoyed, nothing comes without a price…


Dave,

Remember that Christ himself counseled against theocracies in his famous pronouncement to render unto Caesar, what is Caesar’s and to God is God’s, when he was questioned by those with the ulterior motive of trying to get him to endorse theocratic government forms. Christ categorically rejected theocracies. AND…

Who is this person that harbors the Truth through all time and all space…no philosopher has ever come across this person and they have been searching unrelentingly. More to come, perhaps…

Joan

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By Joan, December 17, 2006 at 5:36 pm Link to this comment
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Hello Malini, Keith, Richard and Dave,

It seems as though all the responses came in at once. This week on my end there is a lot of work with tinsel and tissue wrap and cookies etc. but I want to answer everyone as carefully as you have addressed me, so please bear with me and I will answer your posts as soon as possible.

Joan

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By Dave Summers, M.D., December 17, 2006 at 12:13 pm Link to this comment
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RE:  Maani’s input #42043, 12/13/06

Yes, Maani, Dr. King succeeded in motivating Americans to acknowledge the unjust effects of racism by emphasizing the gap between Christian rhetoric & “Christian” practices, by what he termed “God’s moral law” as opposed to human law & by Biblical quotes allegedly supporting his God’s law. Moreover, the noble Constitution supports the rights which had been denied to Black Americans—the reason King had accused the Government of having written “a bad check” or defaulted on the Constitutional/Declaration of Independence “promissory note” to its Black citizens—augmented by “we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters & righteousness like a mighty stream’ “, by “...let freedom ring from [KKK Hdq’s] Stone Mtn of Georgia”, by refusing to believe “the bank of justice [was] bankrupt”, and by closing w. the Negro Spiritual words, “free at last, thank God almighty, we’re free at last”.  These quotes show the power of Biblical & patriotic language to motivate; yet I’ve used “his God” to reflect my conviction that all gods are man-made or human inventions, but MLK succeeded because of his nonviolent tactics, used against brutal state tactics; by TV transmission to millions; by Christian beliefs already instilled but not practiced; by raising guilt to more conscious levels, etc.  Faith, the God concept, demands of justice, etc. surely convey power, as I’ve claimed before, even if/when false, due to the human need for hope.  Thus, nothing I’ve stated is “ironic”; I respect the MLK teachings & singular accomplishments but remain atheistic and I still believe secular humanist affirmations exceed all faith doctrines because they lack sectarian “baggage”.

Although faiths have been responsible for many types of beneficence, the simultaneous delusions have not been rendered less false; where a God has been thanked or praised, humans & their morals might have been praised instead or human cultural experiences & ethics should not be disregarded—nor must a God be credited w. good human acts of “mercy, pity, peace & love” (Wm Blake) or Micah’s, “...to do justly, to love mercy & to walk humbly [not w. “thy God” but in our Cosmos]”.  To disagree that “no hatred exceeds religious hatred” means that you don’t concur w. many philosophers, etc. who made the claim long before I quoted it.  In closing I wish to request your identification of my “accusations” or characterizations of religion or of theists that you regard as “wild”; remember, reality-based truth must prevail & all known errors of opinion, expressed in our democratic republic, should enter w/o impediments into combat w. reason. 

Peace & Best Wishes

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By Richard, December 17, 2006 at 8:41 am Link to this comment
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Correction:

My remark below should have said, “However, atheism was NOT a common trait.”

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By Joan, December 17, 2006 at 7:28 am Link to this comment
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Dave,

Why should I think Szasz is an authority on how God operates any more than the rest of us? Who is Szazs to say God does not talk back to you or not?

Have to go Christmas shopping maybe more later…
Joan

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By Richard, December 16, 2006 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment
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I see you are still going at it. How long can this one article keep a discussion going? I have gone and consumed more Sam Harris since this. I found his talk at the Salk Institute very insightful. He made a very good point that it is only in the realm of religion that we allow a reversal of normal thought processes to be considered acceptable.

There was also a very interesting article in Reason magazine (the Libertarian monthly) relating to this discussion. It seems that Big Government and Big Charity both fell on their asses in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. There goes your democratic argument for taxation to feed social programs, and along with it your argument that churches are so much better at helping people than atheists.

Who actually helped the victims? Not the well-funded bureaucracies. It was people who showed up uninvited, organized themselves, ignored the instructions of FEMA and the Red Cross, crossed security barriers they had set up, built temporary cities of tents, and started serving meals and rebuilding homes. They did so much good that law enforcement had to look/sniff the other way when the smoke of marijuana came up from behind a lunch counter or construction site.

I see that Maani is still at it revising the history of Hitler, and creating a false dichotomy between Hitler, Stalin and Atheism on one side and Christianity, Religion and Jesus on the other. Having researched Hitler quite recently and read Mein Kampf, I cannot agree about Hitler.

Hitler’s actions may not coincide with the Jesus you imagine and try to teach. The fact is that he used his messianic status and ties to the Church to further his policy of hatred. The Church lent itself nicely to that purpose then, always has, and will continue to do so in the future, until people stop giving their hearts to the phony priests in their halloween costumes.

I do agree that Hitler belongs in the same camp with Stalin. However, atheism was a common trait. The dangerous thing they had in common was that neither of them allowed an open society. Hitler wanted to “bring great masses of the people into an organization which is constructed as rigidly as it could be.” What could be more helpful than the Church, keeping people on their knees in fear of the invisible? Stalin was a totalitarian who learned his ways through an ecclesiastic education at Tifflis Theological Seminary.

Under Stalin, the scientists were confined in the Institutes of the Academy and their contact with the youth was restricted.

George Soros actively helped bring about reform among the Soviets and in Eastern Europe by contributing millions of his own dollars. He said, “Economic activity under the Soviet system is simply not economic; it is better understood as the expression of some sort of quasi-religious dogma.”  How very interesting!

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By Keith Henson, December 15, 2006 at 8:44 pm Link to this comment
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Part 1

Joan wrote:

>Keith,

>>Joan says “...too many people, too few resources according to your position …this is a formula for war…”

>Keith says “Actually it is anticipation of such a situation that is more important.”

>Hence, Joan says, that the perceived threat is equally a cause of war as is actual circumstance.  Here “equally ” means for me that perceived threat can cause war as much as actual circumstance. Do not follow your disavowal in last post. Perhaps you are implying that the threat is more a cause of war????

I see your point.  I was thinking of threat from an active agent such as another tribe.  But you can also have “threat of famine.”  Ultimately though the reason your tribe feels a threat from another tribe (or is attacked) is that the other tribe is anticipating starvation.  In the modern era I claim maps into economic decline—falling income per capita.

>“Invisible hand”… I am aware of its role in economics but it is borrowed by other disciplines. For instance, Robert Nozick, a libertarian/ethicist uses it in his classic work “Anarchy, State and Utopia”.  I am invoking this concept here wondering if these warring acts that deal with overpopulation issues are acts deliberately and consciously undertaken

I doubt it in most cases.  The exceptions I can thing of were Pope Urban II in 1095, on the eve of the First Crusade, and Nazi Germany “Lebensraum.”

>or are they a sort of not directly perceived interplay here between events that juxtapose themselves into warring scenario… Or stated another way—- are rulers so present to overpopulation that they are starting wars or feeding young males into wars to regulate population?

Generally speaking humans are not aware of their deep motivations.  Often they will deny the obvious and attack people who do understand why (for example) people seek status. 

>Saudis being the main supply of insurgents…. heard and read this from several sources over the years but it was pronounced again last week by AP, toward the end of the week…TThe oil coffers are handsomely filled and brimming again so perhaps young Saudi males will stay home …and reproduce some more…

With polygamy legal, it hardly matters how many of them stay home.

Snip

>As an academic, I do not accept scientology or Lyndon LaRouche as an effective religion or effective politic respectively. Hopefully both will die out with their founders’ demise.

Hubbard died more than 20 years ago.  What is a religion anyway?  I came up with a way to measure how some much some meme such as communism was like a religion some years ago.  If it keep people out of things we normally consider religions, then it’s a member of the class (or a super class that included religions and competes with them).

>But given the loose standard you cite, accepting something to be true until it is falsified, well then OK, perhaps you have no other choice but to legitimize both.

Yes.  Scientology is a religion *and* organized crime.  (That the way the FBI lists them.)  And LaRouche went to jail for credit card fraud.

snip

>As an American, for the sake of the common good I have to live with scientology and LaRouche and promoters of other ideologies and philosophies that I personally do not espouse. I do agree with Harris to the extent that religions in and of themselves can ignite armed conflict

That’s where I disagree with you and Harris.  I think it takes a “bleak future” (usually caused by excessive population growth) before xenophobic religious memes get amplified up to the point there is bloodshed.

>and it will be incited if religions are attacked or there are continued attempts to suppress its free expression,

There are religions, scientology being one of them that should be suppressed.  Consider the Thuggees.  Did the Brits do right in wiping them out?  There is no doubt they were a religion.

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

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By Keith Henson, December 15, 2006 at 8:42 pm Link to this comment
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Part 2

>even here where we are enjoying a real Pax Romana because of common sense adherence to the First Amendment. This is the wisdom of the Founders in a practical application. I would not upset this delicate balance we have here and have cautioned people about this before. We need to live and let live for the safety of all.

This is the “MetaMeme of Tolerance.”  But take scientology: when L. Ron Hubbard made a religious out of a quack psychological “treatment” he did it specifically to take advantage of the legal status of religions and get away from the FDA and prosecution for practicing medicine without a license.

“In late 1962, Hubbard issued the “Religion” policy letter while pursuing a tax exemption in England and the US:

    “For information of the London and Commonwealth offices, they will soon be transferred to Church status when the Founding Church of Washington DC is given full tax exemption, and HASI Ltd. and HCO Ltd. shares will be converted to equally valuable Church certificates.

    “Scientology 1970 is being planned on a religious organization basis throughout the world.

    “This will not upset in any way the usual activities of any organization. It is entirely a matter for accountants and solicitors.”

    HCO PL October 29, 1962, RELIGION

“The conversion of Scientology from a secular self-help group to “applied religious philosophy” began in earnest in 1975.  . . . “

http://www.ezlink.com/~perry/CoS/Theology/metamorf.htm

This very recent news story might also be an eye opener:

“I expect the evening to have something a spiritual dimension - after all, Scientology calls itself a religion - but what happens next is truly eye-opening.

“Up front, David Miscavige is dramatically - and somewhat bizarrely - attacking psychiatrists, his words backed by clips from a Scientology-produced DVD are broadcast on four giant high- definition TV screens and sensationally called: Psychiatry - an industry of death.”

“A woman is safer in a park at midnight than on a psychiatrist’s couch,” booms Miscavige, backed by savage graphics of psychiatrists - or “psychs” as he calls them - being machine-gunned out of existence.

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4153/is_20061023/ai_n16798948/pg_1

One of the things that amazed me is that scientology is off limits to investigation by the FBI—no matter what they do.  A friend of mine speculates that this order was the result of the government’s embarrassment at Waco.

Keith

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By Malini, December 15, 2006 at 7:15 pm Link to this comment
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Thanks Joan for the very pleasant note!

I totally agree with you on the countless, endless humanitarian services that the organizations you mention offer our world.  A while back, Maani pointed out the same facts you mention in your article.  As it is, these organizations undoubtedly offer the best, most organized, humanitarian services for the human race during any disaster, and at peace times too.  I too am very appreciative and eternally grateful for their selfless service towards our fellow beings!

Here’s another side that is worthwhile mentioning…

When these organizations reach other different parts of the world with help, due to the faith based origin of the organizations, questions/doubts about the intentions of these organizations arise.  As we have seen in the recent times, the well intending humanitarians become victims of violence at times in some parts of the world.  Also, most often, in reality, at the other end, the intended help does not reach each and everyone in a fair way.  The distribution of help is often decided by local groups/organizations that are involved… who are most often faith based. 

My point is, if the organizations did not have any faith tag attached, some needy parts of the world may welcome the helpers, the well wishers with complete trust and open arms.  As we all experience today, the division among faiths is getting wider and wider.  The ultimate result will be very scary.  To build trust among each other under the present circumstances and conditions will be extremely difficult.

The irony of the current faith trend is, the faithful are missing the present moment.  They either fast forward to an unknown future, or flashback to the ancient times.  We need a balance…  and need to focus more on the present moment and the current issues…

There is a dire need, a pressing urgent need, for interfaith dialogues where all parties are involved.  The mission will never be complete, if even one small group is left out.  There should be more interactions and debating among the faiths… not with the intention of converting anyone, but to understand another’s way of thinking .

Joan, I’m glad to know that you feel somewhat the same way as I do about our world leaders.  What you said about the duties of each individual citizen is very true.  After all, we are a part of this beautiful universe and the planet earth!  Fortunately, we can control our own minds along with the deeds… however big or small they are…  So good citizenship is a must I agree!

I’m very sorry to hear about your Dad’s passing away!  What you mentioned about your personal experience is very interesting! 

As for the after life, I haven’t a clue either Joan.  I lost my parents some years ago; and often I do feel their close presence…  As for the explanation, I can only wonder???

Thanks for this great discussion everyone!  It is very inspirational!

Have a Merry Christmas with your loved ones Joan!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

With love,  Malini

PS:  I feel that I’m in the company of some caring, well wishing intellectuals here…  Good luck everyone!  Hope you will bring real “Peace” to our good earth and soon!

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By Peter Gruen, December 15, 2006 at 4:43 pm Link to this comment
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You are an american Idiot!

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By Dave Summers, M.D., December 15, 2006 at 11:11 am Link to this comment
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RE:  #42185, 12/14 by Joan (& 40043 by Maani, 12/13)

Apparently, Joan, we misinterpret each other in some but not all respects, but the pertinent comments I’m electing to omit or ??defer).  Both psychiatry & neurology are cerebral domains, hence I elected to be exposed to psychiatry early in my education/training, while essentials of psychiatry had been instilled already from medical school years.  Dr. Thomas Szasz, Emeritus Prof. of Psychiatry, w. whom we collaborated, & who remains active, having received ongoing honors via the Independent Institute for his devotion to libertarianism (author: The MYTH of MENTAL ILLNESS, etc., yet he did indeed practice psychiatry for yrs), has observed:  “If you talk to God, you’re praying; if God talks to you, you have schizophrenia” (meaning you’re delusional in a grandiose way when falsely believing a non-entity, God, talks as well as that Garden of Eden reptile when “sheheit” or “it” talks to you).  Never is it my intention to pretend “superiority” over fellow humans (the reason I quoted from “My Soul Preached to Me” by Gibran to Maani), nor do I intend to perceive as “inferiors” my human-siblings. The educated [human], said Dewey, “neither cringes before superiors nor looks-down on inferiors but recognizes his[her] equals in all”, a motto I quoted at age 18 & I’ve retained it since then.

But, I referred to the eloquence of the 19th century’s JR Lowell & also to the “eloquence [by which MLK, Jr.] set fire to reason” because both cherished truth (as I try to do).  Dr. King also, to his phenomenal credit, honored the Constitution, never subordinating “Caeser’s laws” to religion UNLESS those laws are/were unjust, in which case, “the moral law of [his] God” was allowed deliberately to prevail.  Here, of course, he was correct, because morality must be based on human experience.  His use of Biblical quotes had powers of persuasion via a “believing majority”, repetition, the people’s “opium” for hope irrespective of falsehood & the fact that hope is always essential to life.  So your impression of an ostentatious bent in my being is incorrect, at least in my view.  Making truth “my Shepherd…” is & has been my intention—with you, w. Maani or w. any & all choosing to follow this dialogue.  Yet, my experience shows that the great majority of Christians & Islamists resist truth, to the point of being, not uplifted/inspired by it but instead defensive, angered, paranoid to a degree, & even homicidal in their wishful thinking if not in their reactive intentions (such “faith” bases for war persist, unfortunately).

For Maani, I believe my answer to your rhetorical query re: MLK’s success has been answered by my agreement that religion would fail to appeal to the masses w/o its otherworldly fabrications—“no brag, just fact” or what I perceive as “reality-constrained” TRUTH; but I’ll elaborate at a later time, duties of the “Winter Solstice” celebration, later imposed-upon by Christianity, now demanding my attention.

Always, “Peace & Best Wishes”

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By Joan, December 15, 2006 at 7:11 am Link to this comment
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Malini,

I agree with you that we do not seem to have any inspirational leaders, none, and we are really paying the price for it. I well remember Martin Luther King, a Baptist minister, and Bobby Kennedy and some of the leaders at that time that tried to help us realize the high ideals of America. We are a nation that had to still grow into these ideals for the different races and for women. We have certainly become materialistic and self- centered, wanting money and preferring advancement and personal gain. The leaders who seem inspired to change the world are those not with the best intentions like that dangerous president of Iran and al Qaeda sorts. I really am a little terrified as to where this will all lead. I learned one thing from studying ethics and that is corrupt leaders of countries or corporations etc eventually bring their countries or corporations down. A county or corporation can only absorb so much corruption before it begins to crumble internally. I worry about our country and the corruption we see in our own government. How long will our country endure being run by so many people who do not put the needs of the people before their own political ambitions?
But I am puzzled by your thought that faith based organizations do not make contributions to relieve world wide suffering. It has been my experience that churches do a lot of charity work to help people around the world.  For instance the Presbyterian churches have world wide Blanket Day each year, a day in which the denomination collects money to buy blankets for and distribute them world wide.  And most churches have similar charitable programs. I believe that the Red Cross is a Christian organization and the largest one to offer world- wide disaster relief, as is the Salvation Army. They offer help to however needs help, no matter the race, color, or creed. i agree thatt this is not enough. I think you are right, we need good world wide leadership. What I would add to your good leadership observation is we need leaders and citizens alike to be more moral and ethical in our dealings with each other…Maybe this begins to address some of my recent comments to Keith about how do we get people to solve the problems that lead to war.

I do not know exactly what is in store for us after death but I can tell you this there are times when I feel and sense my Dad who died several years ago. It seems as though he is right here with me. I don’t know, go figure…

Joan

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By Joan, December 14, 2006 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment
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Dave,

There is no one who will disagree that doing good works, as we perceive them to be good works, (as the road to hell is paved with good intentions), is a good thing to do or a good way to be. You seem like a good guy at heart with a lot of passion for what you believe. Therefore I am puzzled as to why you cloak yourself in the robes of venom and stifle the debate you clearly want to have by telling people that they are delusional etc or twisting what they say or just venting hostility at them. Be careful with your choice of words.. “Delusional” is a term used to describe very mentally ill people who suffer from delusions, Dave. Since the chances of people who disagree with you actually saying, “Yes, Dave is right, to be a Christian is to be psychotic”, are extremely remote; I do not see how you can possibly think you can have a worthwhile discussion. There is no debate here, just you dismissing opposing interlocutors out of hand as of lesser intelligence. When people debate, they address specific points on the table and give the rationale for their viewpoints. But if one sweeps every response off the table by claiming it is just absurd or some delusion and that is the end of the issue, there is no discussion. And I think in the end you are here for good conversation with others who may like to have one with you.  Merry Christmas.

Joan

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By Joan, December 14, 2006 at 8:22 am Link to this comment
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Keith,

Joan says “...too many people, too few resources according to your position …this is a formula for war…”

Keith says “Actually it is anticipation of such a situation that is more important.”

Hence, Joan says, that the perceived threat is equally a cause of war as is actual circumstance.  Here ”equally “ means for me that perceived threat can cause war as much as actual circumstance. Do not follow your disavowal in last post. Perhaps you are implying that the threat is more a cause of war????

“Invisible hand”…  I am aware of its role in economics but it is borrowed by other disciplines. For instance, Robert Nozick, a libertarian/ethicist uses it in his classic work “Anarchy, State and Utopia”.  I am invoking this concept here wondering if these warring acts that deal with overpopulation issues are acts deliberately and consciously undertaken or are they a sort of not directly perceived interplay here between events that juxtapose themselves into warring scenario… Or stated another way—- are rulers so present to overpopulation that they are starting wars or feeding young males into wars to regulate population? 

Saudis being the main supply of insurgents…. heard and read this from several sources over the years but it was pronounced again last week by AP, toward the end of the week…TThe oil coffers are handsomely filled and brimming again so perhaps young Saudi males will stay home …and reproduce some more…

I have no idea about how to improve the performance and status of Arab males but I was asking—- if it could be done, would that not help with sustenance issue and hence help in avoiding war. It seems to me that it was reasonable to think that spreading democracy was a good way to stem violence and protect America and reduce the possibility of war as argued by Natan Sharansky in “The Case for Democracy”…was it doable? I do not know. Surely it was not doable the way it was undertaken by our current administration.
I am trying to address Malini’s point—-how do we get from theory to a workable plan?

I guess until scientology as a religion is falsified, then we must accept it by the same standard invoked for accepting “memes” theory until it is falsified, if we are to maintain logical consistency here. OR…in Dawkinsonian sense can I claim there are ”dremes” to be true until falsified?

As an academic, I do not accept scientology or Lyndon LaRouche as an effective religion or effective politic respectively. Hopefully both will die out with their founders’ demise. But given the loose standard you cite, accepting something to be true until it is falsified, well then OK, perhaps you have no other choice but to legitimize both. More conservatively, I think it safer to propose hypotheses and work for verification rather than accept statements as true until falsified or until demonstrated to be false. In these latter cases winged horses can fly. And how do you know there are no winged horses. Just because you have not seen them does not rule them out, does it? We have actually seen black swans. Maybe too we will see winged horses eventually or they are not seen, like anti particles traveling backward in time as proposed by the Noble prize winning physicist and all round character, Richard Feynman.

As an American, for the sake of the common good I have to live with scientology and LaRouche and promoters of other ideologies and philosophies that I personally do not espouse. I do agree with Harris to the extent that religions in and of themselves can ignite armed conflict and it will be incited if religions are attacked or there are continued attempts to suppress its free expression, even here where we are enjoying a real Pax Romana because of common sense adherence to the First Amendment. This is the wisdom of the Founders in a practical application. I would not upset this delicate balance we have here and have cautioned people about this before. We need to live and let live for the safety of all.

Joan

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By Joan, December 13, 2006 at 5:45 pm Link to this comment
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Keith,

Re: Saudis as providing the greatest number of foreign insurgents, please check ...www.CNN.com today, 12/13/2006, re remarks of Saudi King Abdullah, “Saudis to Back Sunnis if US Leaves Iraq” making their support of this insurgency official should America withdraw prematurely from Iraq. I have another post for you coming soon.

Also Everyone,

There is very good documentary ”Why We Fight” available now about the reasons for our more current wars. Some of the ideas are logically consistent with Keith’s in that it informs us of reasons for fighting our more current wars, namely to stave off actual or perceived threats to our sustenance, in this case, oil. It is a must see if we are to remain diligent in understanding what is happening with respect to the role of the development of science and technology and how these developments play a central role in the recent wars and in changing the world politic and shaping American foreign poicy. For instance, would we choose to fight certain wars if we were not developing constantly new military technologies because that industry is an integral part of the American economy? Here science plays the dubious role of influencing us a great deal as a nation, about our place in the world and the possibility of American domination. Again, would we in the absence of certain scientific developments and technologies fight wars or do more through diplomatic chains of command? Is this military –industrial complex so wedded to science and technology indeed instigating an arms race with North Korea and Iran and what will be the resolution of many nations having nuclear weapons? Isn’t this clearly a side of science that must be monitored and re-evaluated, a very dangerous aspect of science that could ultimately contribute to the demise of our world, literally?

Also I find these explanations for current wars more convincing than what Harris and Dawkins offer.

Malini,

I am also working on a reponse to you.

Joan

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By Maani, December 13, 2006 at 11:28 am Link to this comment
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Dave:

I find it ironic that you should mention MLK not once but twice in your most recent post.  You are aware, of course, that MLK spoke with a Bible in one hand and the U.S. Constitution in the other.  Let me ask you something: do you think that MLK would have been as successful as he was if he had had ONLY the Constitution?  The question is largely rhetorical.

As well, following on that line, the “delusional” people you speak of - the hopelessly irrational and unreasonable faith-based folk - are the ones who started the abolitionist movement, the child labor movement, the suffrage movement, and the civil rights movement, among others - often at risk to themselves and their families.  You seem to ignore this.

As well, as I have noted before, Christians and faith-based people and organizations have created more schools, universities, orphanages, hospitals and community centers than any other group, and are (and have been for over 100 years) at the forefront of providing global non-sectarian aid in times of war, crisis, etc.  Indeed, I am not going out on a limb by stating that they do so in FAR greater numbers percentage-wise than atheists.  I’m not saying that many atheists have not been involved in major social movements, or providing aid in times of crisis, whether financial or actual. But there is no question whatsoever that the faith-based community is the vanguard.

I also disagree with your statement that “No hatred exceeds religious hatred.”  This is not to say that religious hatred cannot be, and has not been in the past, particularly virulent.  But there were few greater haters in the world than Hitler, who, contrary to his occasional claims, was NOT a Christian, but an atheist (or, at best, a pagan).  As noted, he not only murdered 6,000,000 Jews, but 5,000,000 others, including Christians, communists, trade unionists, blacks, homosexuals, the elderly, and the physically and mentally handicapped.

And, of course, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Genghis Khan and other mass murderers were all committed atheists.  Indeed, the fact that more people - over 100,000,000 - were murdered by Stalin, Mao, Hitler and Pol Pot in only 60 years than were murdered in all of the religious wars, witch burnings and pogroms IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD speaks volumes more than your wild accusations.

Peace.

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By Dave Summers, M.D., December 12, 2006 at 9:42 pm Link to this comment
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RE:  A Recapitulation (of sorts) to anyone interested

Throughout my career, w. interchanges on truthdig.com being no exception, in JR Lowell’s words, “truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne” often but not always (hopefully not “forever”) has been upheld, verified or confirmed, at least to a degree.  Lowell’s poetry, however, like the eloquence of MLK, Jr, often invokes the supernatural, whereby the word, “God” elicits a distant, mystical & authoritative power, needfully superior to human limitations & augmented by repetition, fear, & codes such as “the sacred” or “the divine”.  Thus the question arises:  Would faiths maintain their appeal w/o the otherworldly element?  My answer is no, since statements of truth that Christianity & other faiths are sustained by corpse-worship, fantasy, pretense (one God is pretended as singular even though Yahweh, Allah & any Trinity cannot possibly be one & the same) & by the human resistance to rebuttals to individual beliefs—delusional or not.  In religion, objective or reality-based truth is essentially forbidden; as noted by Harris in LETTER to a CHRISTIAN NATION, sorrow, anger, insults, etc. are expressed as vehemently as possible to mere truths antithetical to religious beleifs.  No hatred exceeds religious hatred.

I’ve stated before, from Ingersoll, that “malice is the weapon of little souls” or as Emerson observed, “little divines”.  Those who disagree may wish to attack their corpses in the same fashion in which they adore other corpses.  Although Gibran, Jefferson, Lincoln, Hurston, Sagan & others have been quoted, the theistic reaction evades their truths, similar to the tendency of most Christians whom I’ve encountered to ignore responses to well known, commonly accepted facts.  Yet, in this dialogue, I commend the Editors for accepting multiple views; that mine have been included with many others at least supports freedom of expression.  For those who are offended by my views, I invite them to review similar opinions, beliefs, etc. in the dialogue on Sam’s ATHEIST MANIFESTO (see #41772 by archeon, dated 12/11, who in my view states facts primarily).

“Delusional” to many sectarians seems to have the same connotation as insult, vulgarity, profanity or worse, yet it depicts only a false belief, dereistic thought or sometimes the acts induced by those beliefs.  “Pseudologia fantastica”, now obsolete, depicted such behavior, but the term seems appropriate for religion because of overwhelming fantasies.  The examples of Jesus may supersede some but certainly not all OT wisdom, and therein lies the Bible’s problems.  “Good” folk must select its beneficence, as MLK did, but unlike “bibles” of science, faulty or immoral aspects remain in print to appeal to delusion-inclined people or criminals or the Hitlers of society.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to have a Paul Kurtz debate the issues expressed in this thread?  He has aleady, of course, and the affirmations of secular humanism are, in my view, far more practical & definitely superior goals to religion’s long history of Dark Ages nonsense.  All humans have the same fate, hence here, now & the joys of helping others should be our goals “before we leave” to join the elements.

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By Malini, December 11, 2006 at 7:39 pm Link to this comment
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Thanks Joan for your sweet words!

I agree with you on the difficulties one faces while trying to save the world. 

Well, in my view, taking care of our fellow beings is a collective, global responsibility.  This needs to be shared by everyone involved.

Unfortunately, we do not see any leaders with the moral fibres of Gandhi or Martin Luther King around at the moment.  There are leaders and leaders… countless places of worship… sermons, presentations, and speeches… feasts and more feasts… but the true, active practice of caring for those around us seems to have disappeared.  Most are actually blinded by faith.  Love, kindness, compassion, honesty, integrity, etc., are simple words that have lost their meaning…  Our society has taken a very selfish turn.

I’m not a scholar in philosophy; but I have witnessed, experienced and observed different faith practices.  Generally, rituals take priority over the deeds.

The competition among faiths seems to add to the confusion, distrust and chaos in our world today.  It may be a good idea to have some faith-free humanitarian services organized by the privileged to help all mankind.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of visiting the Griffith Park Observatory.  It simply dawned on me that I was nothing more than a wee bit of that recycled star dust they talked about…

So before we end up in dust again, while we enjoy this human form, it may be a great idea to do our best for those around us. 

After all, none of the dead have returned to tell us their story.  Just like the way we all (man and animal) started breathing the same air at the time of our birth… kept laughing, crying, eating, drinking, socializing, etc., etc., during our lifetime, the end has to be the same for everyone…

Wishing everyone the best,

An insignificent bit of that recycled star dust labeled, Malini

PS:  I also believe that there is spiritualism in everyone, whether it has a brand label or not.

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By Keith Henson, December 10, 2006 at 8:58 pm Link to this comment
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Joan wrote:

>I agree that the perceived threat is equally a cause of war as is actual circumstance.

I don’t believe I have ever made this claim, which in any case is not true.  The threat of war had nothing like the effect of Pearl Harbor (an actual attack).

>It seems that the Arab and other Muslim populations are already in the scourges of war due to perceived religious differences and actual political differences. Is this an invisible hand example of your idea that overpopulation leads to war (think Palestinians and Saudis here)?

“Invisible hand” is a term from market theory.  I don’t use it.  “Overpopulation” is a muddy term; I use “falling income per capita” or the prospects for the same as the means to trigger higher gain of xenophobic (often religious) memes within a population.

>The Saudis provide more insurgents then perhaps any other Arab nation since the Russian/Afghanistan war began.

Can you cite a source for this?  I don’t necessarily doubt you, and it is true for 9/11, but I would like to use it and cite a source.

>Do you think again that these Arab kings are deliberately attempting population control or again is it an invisible hand action?

I don’t have numbers on the Palestinians, but between the peak price for oil and 9/11, the Saudi income per capita had declined by 75%.  About half of that was due to falling oil prices and the rest to population growth.

>Now you have talked about raising the status of Islamic women as a way to manage population but perhaps raising the status of Arab men would help. These men seem to have been neutralized from action by powerful sheiks and they are with an utter lack of political power. The average Arab male seems to have virtually no say over his life and his destiny or the destiny of his country and people. Would Arab men assuming more responsibility for their destinies help raise the awareness of their rightful role in assuming responsibility for the problems of their countries ie. the lack of productivity and real world politik experience?

I have no idea.  I don’t have any ideas as to how to improve the standing of either Arab women or men.

>Given the rise of China and India and our political problems with the Middle East, I would welcome a technology that could deliver low cost, clean energy. Is this a real possibility, what you mention here?

It depends on the performance of an early nanotechnology product, carbon nano tubes.  Theory says they should be strong enough, but who knows?

snip

>I am not clear how you are connecting the “swan’ statements to “memes”. I would argue that “meme” statements are different from “swan” statements because “meme” statements are not inherently verifiable and are probably not inductions.

Both statements about swans (all are white) and statements about memes (memes such as baseball can be transferred) can be falsified.  The statement about swans *has* been falsified by the observation of black swans.  The statements about memes (such as baseball island) have not been falsified—yet.

That doesn’t mean that meme theory—that human culture consists of elements of transferable information—is correct, just that it has not yet been shown to be wrong.

>Wouldn’t political differences function similary as religious ones in your “meme” model?

Political memes and religious ones shade into each other.  Is scientology a religion?  Or a political entity bent on taking over the world in the guise of a religion?

How about LaRouche?  Is he operating a religion or a political organization?

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

Keith Henson

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By Joan, December 10, 2006 at 7:49 pm Link to this comment
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Dave,

I am writing this post to you and only this post as a courtesy to Maani who took the time and care to explain why I terminated discussion with you and rebutted the absurd conclusions you drew about me and my posts. I will not debate this or anything else with you. 

Everyone on this thread has different ideas but found dignified and respectful ways to express them. But you are verbally abusive in your posts. I grew up with verbal abuse and know how it works. The first thing you do is list the deficiencies in your victim that you deem present and use them to justify your verbal assaults. They deserve the abuse because they are delusional or brainwashed or believe in fantasies. You in your superior position of wisdom and brilliance are entitled to belittle and denigrate your stupid victim. And if your victim objects, it is not because of the ugly way you behave, it is because they again are just deficient and inferior to you on so many levels. Then you deny your role in the abuse as an unfair accusation against you made by people of obviously lesser grandeur. That is why I will not engage with you. It is destructive and damaging behavior for all involved. And this why I hope too Maani will disengage with you as patient with us all as he is. After all the only person whose opinion matters to you, is you.

Joan

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By Joan, December 10, 2006 at 3:44 pm Link to this comment
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Maani and Jack,

Maani has made my general point, ideas in today’s discussions in science are a far cry from the empirical evidence verifiability construct Newton, Sir Francis Bacon and Hume expected to be able to put on the table. Today, as a matter of course in science, constants are plugged into seemingly incomprehensible equations and viola’, we have string theory, in theory. How to verify in Hume’s sense which is the idea of science as an epistemology, differing from religion and its epistemology which is revelatory, traditionally? That is the question. And why even think there is a grand unifying theory, just because Einstein had this unfulfilled dream and quest? Eventually in science we may have to realize that the verifiability standard will not be met as simply as it is when demonstrating that H2O boils at 100 degrees C. Such discoveries as these may have indeed been the more trivial ones of science compared to string theory ideas and their magnitude. And heavy-duty scientific knowledge may more and more fall into categories more similar to religion, not physically demonstrable.

My point is, as Maani is saying, physics, the least culturally influenced science other than math, is offering ideas that are contra- intuitive, highly speculative and seemingly out right contradictory. And yet scientists discuss them with the same straight face the clergy do when talking about religious precepts. On this thread we have Harris and others here telling us how silly these religious ideas are but at the same time embracing without doubt these scientific expeditions and the course they are charting. I say cut both science and religion the same slack in their endeavors because I think our knowledge is in its infancy. We cut this slack with the caveat that neither science nor religion endanger the community. Should they, it is the state’s rightful role to deal with these dangers accordingly. If you are going to cut science slack, to be logically consistent you need to do the same for religion. This is how reason works. Again some here have said they give great preference to reason.

Joan

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By Dave Summers, M.D., December 10, 2006 at 3:01 pm Link to this comment
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To Maani #41309, 12/07/06 (& others following this dialogue)

Maani:  Your input to this thread has been that of a Christian, the varieties of which are multiple, yet its underlying thrust, appeal, connotation & value are based on the Bible—not exclusive of its Old Testament (certainly not when Matthew of the NT was fabricated to confirm OT prophecies, simultaneously thereby appealing to believers via apparent fulfillment of those prophecies) but inclusive of both the good & the atrocious of Books comprising ca. 75-80% of your sacred text.  Although you, Harris, Dawkins & I desire “world peace”, my concern (w. that of Dawkins & other freethinkers) is that all forms of supernaturalism - Christianity, Islamism & Judaism especially - are faiths based on fabrications, unreason, falsehood, yearning, etc., still defensive of sacred-text errors, still rationalizing & even intellectualizing nonsense and invoking mysticism or a “God’s will” or what’s conceived as unknowable yet portrayed as
beneficence, omnipotence & the moral authority for 21st c. humans.  The Harris & Dawkins books w. secular atheistic views draw attention to the absurdities of mature humans who still teach their children to believe religious nonsense or the mixture of fib & fantasy with real-life issues.  I agree that the untruths & unreason are detrimental to sound intellectual & moral development so I merely state the facts to support my opinions.

When facts & reason are ignored a common effect is avoidance of critical analysis, whether begun in infancy & the formative years or later in life, hence I don’t see your family background as a deterrent to the brainwashing which most Christain apologists display; the mere matter of accepting unreason & fantasy to justify beliefs underlies all followers of otherworldly nonsense.  Thus belief in a talking snake, resurrection, immortality of humans, etc. equates with belief in all the talking creatures of Aesop’s fables or Mother Goose Tales or even Sesame Street characters, since all are unreal & untrue.  I also regard you as intolerant of me & other freethinkers when you choose to resort to use of derogatory words or pretend seeing anger or hatred in my statements of fact or opinion re: my experiences with other Christians or my reading of what’s common among faith defenders or apologists.

Jews, Islamists, Christians & others who use antiquated, false & fantasy texts as “sacred & moral words of wisdom” promote the perpetuation of unreason & nonsense; this statement expresses neither hatred nor anger nor intolerance but instead fact or truth.  That you are offended by my views - all devoid of invective, insult & degradation toward you personally - renders you not only “Christian” but also defensive or self-centered or narrowminded or all 3, while my finding “common ground” via fallacies, nonsense & unreason as opposed to truth, critical analysis & reason is not possible.  What “the faithful” seem to ignore almost 100% of the time is their antithetical view to scientific methodology, to reality, to reality-constrained truth & to reason.  If you & they desire a common ground for science & faith, I believe 75-80% of your Bible should be abandoned but more importantly, truth & reason should be upheld and not repeatedly & perpetually evaded.

Still, “Peace & Best Wishes”

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By Joan, December 10, 2006 at 2:57 pm Link to this comment
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Malini,

You have expressed these wonderful sentiments before and we all here I think share your hopes. I am just at a loss to know how to implement these solutions which is one point I am getting at with Keith…as a child I remember the world trying to solve the problem of world hunger…then I learned that we the, US, would ship the grain to Africa and see it rot in the ships in ports because of the politics. There are solutions but how do we convince others to accept these solutions? I am with you here 100% but I think many of these problems are still with us not because of a lack of desire to see them resolved but for other reasons, namely others would rather we not get credit for assistance, as one case in point. There are Muslim clergy in Africa telling their followers that they should not get certain health vaccinations for smallpox (?) or polio (?) because the US is trying to sterilize their women. So there are outbreaks again. It seems that at times you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make them drink…For all our well being, I dream what you dream and support all work to these ends

As for critical thinking, I may have a different meaning. I am thinking of it more in its philosophical, academic sense.

And I think too the kingdom is within, as Matthew, the gospel writer, says. We should find the Divine in ourselves. I believe it is within us all which is why we should all treat one another with dignity and respect.

You seem like a lovely person with a very high-minded heart and soul.

Joan

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By Malini, December 9, 2006 at 12:10 pm Link to this comment
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Hello Everyone!

It is with great interest, enthusiasm and pleasure that I follow this conversation on faith.

What I see in my simple mind is that we are all discussing our built in, set in, moral/ethic values originating mainly from our childhood learning/teachings, or the exposure to one system of belief, or another later on in life.

May be it is high time, in fact way overdue, that we thought “out side the box” for some answers that we all long for and have them synchronized with our own inner conscience, where in my view God resides.

In one of the articles I read; with no disrespect to God, or any faith, “Am I God? When I pray, I find that I talk to myself”.  This in my view is critical thinking… digging very deep into ones own soul, and analyzing ones own innerself.

There are extremely, important, urgent, dire needs on this planet earth right now that are very visible to all of us here, i.e., starvation, wars, malnurishment, educational neeeds, etc., etc., to name a few, that needs be addressed and acted upon immediately.

Doesn’t it make sense to face reality, address and take care of these issues while we can?  Have a heart and help the needy around us (globally I mean) regardless of their faith?

It is pointless relying on “faith” only to help our fellow beings!  If one soul starves on this earth, I feel that morally and spiritually, we are all starving together.

We are extremely fortunate to live in this gentle, wonderful, gracious, beautiful world.  Let’s think of the others too…

Thanks everyone for sharing your knowledge, expertise, and inner feelings with all!

With love and wishing everyone the best,

Another soul lucky, and happy to enjoy this human form.

Malini

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By Maani, December 8, 2006 at 11:11 pm Link to this comment
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Jack:

Choosing to open your first post here with insulting sarcasm - especially when you know nothing of me or what I know - is not the way to make friends and influence people.  Or even start a gentlemanly debate.  However, let me parse your self-defeating argument.

You say, “‘Spin’ is a label applied to quantum particles, it has nothing to do with the word ‘spin’ we use in normal conversation.  It describes a property of subatomic particles, they do not actually ‘rotate.’”

Actually, some subatomic particles do, indeed, rotate, as a result of the quite literal “spin” (axis rotation) of their constituent parts; only “point particles” do not rotate.  And although they do not rotate, the word “spin” does in fact apply to angular momentum, which is a type of “rotation,” just as the earth going around the sun is a type of rotation (as opposed to the literal “spin” of the earth around its axis).  As well, the “spin” property of various point particles can differ greatly, and even this aspect of quantum physics is hotly debated, to say nothing of dual simultaneous spin.  Indeed, even by the definition of “spin” vis-a-vis quantum mechanics, the suggestion that a point particle could “spin” (have angular momentum) in two directions simultaneously is hopelessly insupportable at this time.

You say, “Furthermore, the two places in once idea is a bit more abstract and complicate (sic) than that…”

Which is exactly why Joan keeps asking why we should simply accept that such “abstraction” and “complication” amounts to a “truth” rather than simply a (unproved) theory.  If only a tiny group of scientists even understands the mathematics associated with certain “theories,” why should the rest of humanity be expected to simply believe them?

You add, “Quantum mechanics as a theory has well documented and confirmed predictive power.  It works.”

...sometimes.  That is, it may have “well documented and confirmed predictive power,” but to assume that that power is “absolute” in any way - i.e., that because it is predictive in some cases, it will be predictive in others, especially in any “absolute” sense - is, as Joan has noted, as much a matter of “faith” as faith is.

Ultimately, you have not done your position much justice with this particular line of defense.

Oh, and by the way, I studied nuclear physics and quantum mechanics with Michio Kaku for two years.  As you may know, Dr. Kaku is not only a pre-eminent nuclear physicist, but was an early researcher and proponent of the super string theory, and the author of numerous books on atomic, quantum and astrophysics.  And I have supplemented my academic learning by continued reading in hard science of all types, particularly physics.

So before you make assumptions about people, you might want to find out who they are and what they know.  Not every believer is a stone-age thinker.

Peace.

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By Joan, December 8, 2006 at 6:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Keith,

I agree that the perceived threat is equally a cause of war as is actual circumstance.

It seems that the Arab and other Muslim populations are already in the scourges of war due to perceived religious differences and actual political differences. Is this an invisible hand example of your idea that overpopulation leads to war (think Palestinians and Saudis here)? The Saudis provide more insurgents then perhaps any other Arab nation since the Russian/Afghanistan war began. Do you think again that these Arab kings are deliberately attempting population control or again is it an invisible hand action?

Now you have talked about raising the status of Islamic women as a way to manage population but perhaps raising the status of Arab men would help. These men seem to have been neutralized from action by powerful sheiks and they are with an utter lack of political power. The average Arab male seems to have virtually no say over his life and his destiny or the destiny of his country and people. Would Arab men assuming more responsibility for their destinies help raise the awareness of their rightful role in assuming responsibility for the problems of their countries ie. the lack of productivity and real world politik experience?

Given the rise of China and India and our political problems with the Middle East, I would welcome a technology that could deliver low cost, clean energy. Is this a real possibility, what you mention here?

Don’t follow about the swans and memes…
All swans are white.
1.For the set of all ”x”, if “x” is a swan, then “x” is white.
2.“X” is not white and “x” is a swan.
3.Therefore, for everything that is “X” that is a swan, then everything that is x is not white.

Yes,  a black swan is a counterexample to statement #1. But all these “swan” statements are theoretically able to be proven true or false, or are verifiable. But there are some statements that seem to defy the assignment of truth- values, i.e. true or false, such as “The sun will rise tomorrow”. This is an induction and what we believe to be true. Induction type statements make up significant part of the set of statements made in science that we use but are difficult to verify or not verifiable. I am not clear how you are connecting the “swan’ statements to “memes”. I would argue that “meme” statements are different from “swan” statements because “meme” statements are not inherently verifiable and are probably not inductions.

Wouldn’t political differences function similary as religious ones in your “meme” model?

Joan

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By Jack Mott, December 8, 2006 at 11:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maani, I wouldn’t let your ignorance of quantum mechanics influence your decisions about religion and God.

“spin” is a label applied to quantum particles, it has nothing to do with the word “spin” we use in normal conversation. It describes a property of subatomic particles, they do not actually “rotate”

Furthermore, the two places at once idea is a bit more abstract and complicate than that, and quantum mechanics as a theory has well documented and confirmed predictive power. It works.

Lastly, physical theories are nothing more than predictive models. They don’t necessarily say anything about how the universe actually *is*. They do say something about how it tends to behave though. 

Scientists understand that.

“Adding to Joan’s recent comment about “how much science is religion,” since we “accept” many scientific “theories” that are not verifiable:

I am told by quantum physicists that a particle can (i) be in two places at once, or (ii) spin in both directions simultaneously.

Given a choice between believing those two things or believing in God, it seems God is the more…logical choice.

LOL.

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By Joan, December 8, 2006 at 10:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maani,

Those are moving quotes. These are keepers. I wish I had your mind for quotes. Have you read Alan Lightman’s “Einstein’s Dreams”?
Joan

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By Joan, December 8, 2006 at 9:52 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Rick, Richard, Maani, and Everyone,

Reason, a god often mentioned here, requires logical consistency in thought or in lines of reasoning.

As Maani points out scientists with a serious face hypothesize that particles spin in two directions at once and/ or can be in two places at once and scientists hypothesize alternate or parallel universes also to sort of make sense of their theories. All will be revealed given enough time. This is the act of faith we are required to make in order not consider these ideas nonsense.

Well it seems first of all, that the more science advances there is more and more to be revealed. Science itself seems like the expanding universe. There may never be enough time for all to be revealed as the questions are increasing exponentially. Second, and more importantly, science itself for the sake of advancing its inquiries, asks us to accept these self- contradictory, counter- intuitive ideas. How is this different from religions asking us to accept notions like the virgin birth, resurrection and the after life? Given enough time all too will be revealed. It does not seem logically consistent to accept this free play for science but reject it for religion. How much of a religion is science today given how it is conducted, a seemingly different science at times than the more empirical science of Newton?  This is a question I asked a few days ago. It is question scientists in certain of its disciplines are asking, especially in the areas of cosmology.

Furthermore, is it logically consistent to accept “the Declaration” with its appeal to a Creator for all the benefits of equality of man and inalienable rights the Dec. bestows on man as a virtually sacred text of reason and to reject the invisible hand of Divinity as a guiding force in evolution, a Designer of sorts? By accepting the Creator both as the giver of inalienable rights as Jeff. himself proposes and as a, you know, Creator/Designer, at least Christians are logically consistent.

The god of reason expects logical consistency. I know this much having served as priestess at its altar.

Joan

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By Maani, December 7, 2006 at 10:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dave:

Though I realize I might as well be talking to a wall, I will try once again to address certain absurdities in your comments.

“Your labels…are typical of other “Christians” whose brain-drenching in the…Torah & Bible are so profound you’re simultaneously ‘sorry’ and intolerant of any & all who disagree with the fabrications…”

First, I point out once again that, far from being “brain-drenched,” I was raised in a rabidly atheist household by a Marxist father (“religion is the opium of the masses”) and a scientist mother (“religion is just so much hooey and superstition”), both of whom were of the rational, scientific, empirical bent.  And until I was in my 20s, I was atheist, then agnostic, but completely a rationalist steeped in hard science and psychology.  And I have never rejected that upbringing, or my “rational” side, but simply added my faith to it.  So you are barking up the wrong tree here.

Second, at no point during this discussion-cum-debate have I expressed even a modicum of “intolerance” for your positions.  I have disagreed with them - sometimes strongly - and I have corrected your theology.  But I challenge you to find a single statement or comment that I made that expresses “intolerance” for anything you have brought up.

However, YOUR intolerance for ANYTHING of a faith-based or religious bent is not only extremely apparent, but borders on hostility. So who is the intolerant one here?

“Do you wonder then why I remain perplexed by seemingly intellectually brilliant clergy referring constantly to their Bible for advocating both love and hate, compassion and violence?  Genocide, murder, rape and every conceivably violent act are embraced by the Bible along with all the good advocated by Jesus.”

You are clearly referring to the bad theology of what we call “Old Testament Christians.”  But you obviously don’t know your Scripture well enough to know that there is nary a single word of “hatred” or “violence” in the NT (with the sole exception of the allegorical Revelation) - particularly with regard to Jesus’ life and ministry, or how He teaches us to live in THIS world.  Yes, “genocide, murder, rape” et al appear in the OT.  But how many times must I remind you that Jesus’ ministry (and that of the apostles and disciples) was based on love, peace, forgiveness, compassion, humility, patience, tolerance, charity, selflessness, service, justice and truth?  And are these not the antitheses of rape, hatred, genocide et al?

You seem all too willing to buy into and regurgitate the bad theology of the very types of Christians you seem to abhor.  Yet you show no interest whatsoever in learning from those Christians with whom you might find common ground - and, yes, who might be able to teach you a thing or two about WHY the “Christian Right” is neither.

As I noted, your hostility is palpable, and you obviously cannot help yourself from writing in invective diatribe form, rather than actually engaging in a true discussion/debate.  All you do is attack, belittle and demean, with not even the most minimal attempt to understand, reach out, or even play nice in the sandbox.  And if you can’t at least do that, why SHOULD anyone play in your sandbox?

Sure, go ahead and make the same accusation yet again: “You only say that because I am questioning/challenging your views and Christians simply cannot handle that, so they simply walk away and refuse to engage.”  If that is what you think, I cannot relieve you of your delusions and myopic derision.  But that is not what is happening, no matter how much you convince yourself otherwise.

Peace.

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By Dave Summers, M.D., December 7, 2006 at 4:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

RE: Maani’s typically “Christian” diatribe, dated 12/06/06

Maani:  Like the truthfully perceptive Z.N. Hurston, “I LOVE myself when I am laughing…and then again when I am looking [or conceived as] mean & [unimpressive]”.  And, like “the Duke”, I love myself and guard #1 in order to meet my obligations to my loved ones.  Your labels of “self hatred, anger & ignorant” therefore are your misconceptions, yet they’re typical of other “Christians” whose brain-drenching in the lore/thesis-antithetical Torah & Bible are so profound you’re simultaneously “sorry” and intolerant of any & all who disagree with the fabrications (still “lies”), “double meanings”, obvious unreason, fantasies and the Menckenisms: “Puritanism [aka religion] is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy” & that Sunday is “a day given over by [religionists] to wishing that they themselves were dead & in [a] Heaven and that their neighbors were dead and in [a] Hell”. 

My statement that Jesus allegedly said, “not peace but a sword” was given as an ex. which the multitudes (not well educated theists) read and take literally (they’re not “ignorant” but obedient to their delusion that the words are those of a “god”). 
And I used “allegedly” emphasizing that words attributed to Christ were recalled or invented or imposed by his followers, years after the alleged resurrection.  Moreover, you & other contemporary theists are free to use whatever meanings you desire for making points.  By contrast scientific texts undergo continual revision, discard error when detected, are interpreted in identical fashion among worldwide science-minded readers & they almost always offer reality-constrained & scientific-method-constrained TRUTH.  Christians far & wide are ultra or super-conservative devotees to antiquity, to Biblical unreason, to “sacred” nonsense & to the ignorance of the Dark Ages of religious rule or to the pre-Enlightenment darkness of burning not only books but also humans.  Do you wonder then why I remain perplexed by seemingly intellectually brilliant clergy referring constantly to their Bible for advocating both love & hate, compassion & violence?  Genocide, murder, rape & every conceivably violent act are embraced by the Bible along with all the good advocated by Jesus.  How do you steer laymen from the atrocious to the merciful?  Even when you’re contented by your “successes”, laymen prefer their own meanings of texts, faith “nuts” in America pledge money & their lives to saving “the chosen” of Israel, & jerks like Falwell & Dobson contaminate brains of millions via “biblical inerrancy”, against multiple facts unveiled by science.

I’ll close with the Gibranian, “I am neither more than the pygmy nor less than the giant…[before] my soul preached to me I looked upon humanity as 2 [persons]: one weak, whom I pitied & the other strong, whom I followed or resisted in defiance.  But…I [am] as both are & made from the same elements.  My origin [Africa] is [your] origin, my conscience is [your] conscience, my
contention is [your] contention & my pilgrimage is [your] pilgrimage.  If [you] sin, I’m also a sinner.  If you do well I take pride in your welldoing [whether theistic or medical].  If [you] rise, I rise with [you].  If [you are] inert, I share your slothfulness.  ...for you & I are one, and there’s no variance between us…”  So when you extend peace & best wishes, I in utmost sincerity, also wish you peace & serenity, devoid of deceit, devoid of bigotry, devoid of malice.

“Peace & Best Wishes”

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