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Chris Hedges: I Don’t Believe in Atheists

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Posted on May 23, 2007
Chris Hedges
Truthdig / Todd Wilkinson

Chris Hedges reads from his essay at the Truthdig debate “Religion, Politics and the End of the World” on May 22, 2007.

By Chris Hedges

(Page 2)

It is by the seriousness of our commitments to compassion, indeed our ability to sacrifice for the other, especially for the outcast and the stranger, our commitment to justice—the very core of the message of the prophets and the teachings of Jesus—that we alone can measure the quality of faith.  This is the meaning of true faith.  As Matthew wrote. “By their fruits shall you know them.”  Professed faith—what we say we believe—is not faith.  It is an expression of loyalty to a community, to our tribe.  Faith is what we do.  This is real faith.  Faith is the sister of justice.  And the prophets reminded us that nothing is exempt from criticism.  Revelation is continuous.  It points beyond itself.  And doubt, as well as a request for forgiveness, must be included in every act of faith, for we can never know or understand the will of God.

The problem is not religion but religious orthodoxy.  Most moral thinkers—from Socrates to Christ to Francis of Assisi—eschewed the written word because they knew, I suspect, that once things were written down they became, in the wrong hands, codified and used not to promote morality but conformity, subservience and repression.  Writing freezes speech.  George Steiner calls this “the decay into writing.”  Language is turned from a living and fluid form of moral inquiry to a tool of bondage.

The moment the writers of the Gospels set down the words of Jesus they began to kill the message.  There is no room for prophets within religious institutions—indeed within any institutions—for as Paul Tillich knew, all human institutions, including the church, are inherently demonic.  Tribal societies persecute and silence prophets.  Open societies tolerate them at their fringes, and our prophets today come not from the church but from our artists, poets and writers who follow their inner authority.  Samuel Beckett’s voice is one of modernity’s most authentically religious. Beckett, like the author of Ecclesiastes, was a realist.  He saw the pathetic, empty monuments we spend a lifetime building to ourselves.  He knew, as we read in Ecclesiastes, that nothing is certain or permanent, real or unreal, and that the secret of wisdom is detachment without withdrawal, that, since death awaits us all, all is vanity, that we must give up on the childish notion that one is rewarded for virtue or wisdom.  In Ecclesiastes God has put ’olam into man’s mind.  ’Olam usually means eternity, but it also means the sense of mystery or obscurity.  We do not know what this mystery means.  It teases us, as Keats wrote, out of thought.  And once we recognize it and face it, simplistic answers no longer work.  We are all born lost.  Our vain belief in our own powers, in our reason, blinds us. 

Those who silenced Jesus represented all human societies, not the Romans or the Jews.  When Jesus attacks the chief priests, scribes, lawyers, Pharisees, Sadducees and other “blind guides” he is attacking forms of oppression as endemic to Christianity, as to all religions and all ideologies.  If civil or religious authority enforces an iron and self-righteous conformity among members of a community, then faith loses its uncertainty, and the element of risk is removed from acts of faith.  Faith is then transformed into ideology.  Those who deform faith into creeds, who use it as a litmus test for institutional fidelity, root religion in a profane rather than a sacred context.  They seek, like all who worship idols, to give the world a unity and coherency it does not possess.  They ossify the message.  And once ossified it can never reach an existential level, can never rise to ethical freedom—to faith.  The more vast the gap between professed faith and acts of faith, the more vast our delusions about our own grandeur and importance, the more intolerant, aggressive and dangerous we become.

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Faith is not in conflict with reason.  Faith does not conflict with scientific truth, unless faith claims to express a scientific truth.  Faith can neither be affirmed nor denied by scientific, historical or philosophical truth.  Sam confuses the irrational—which he sees as part of faith—with the non-rational.  There is a reality that is not a product of rational deduction.  It is not accounted for by strict rational discourse.  There is a spiritual dimension to human existence and the universe, but this is not irrational—it is non-rational. Faith allows us to transcend what Flaubert said was our “mania for conclusions,” a mania he described as “one of humanity’s most useless and sterile drives.” 

Reason allows us to worship at the idol of our intrinsic moral superiority. It is a dangerous form of idolatry, a form of faith, certainly, but one the biblical writers knew led to evil and eventually self-immolation.

“We are at war with Islam,” Harris writes.  “It may not serve our immediate foreign policy objectives for our political leaders to openly acknowledge this fact, but it is unambiguously so.  It is not merely that we are at war with an otherwise peaceful religion that has been ‘hijacked’ by extremists.  We are at war with precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran, and further elaborated in the literature of the hadith, which recounts the sayings and teachings of the Prophet”  (P. 110).

He assures us that “the Koran mandates such hatred” (P. 31 ), that “the problem is with Islam itself” (P. 28).  He writes that “Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death” (P. 123).

Now after studying 600 hours of Arabic, spending seven years of my life in the Middle East, most of that time as the Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, I do not claim to be a scholar on Islam.  But I do know the Koran is emphatic about the rights of other religions to practice their own beliefs and unequivocally condemns attacks on civilians as a violation of Islam.  The Koran states that suicide, of any type, is an abomination.  More important, the tactic of suicide bombing was pioneered as a weapon of choice by the Tamils, who are chiefly Hindu, in Sri Lanka long before it was adopted by Hezbollah, al-Qaida or Hamas.  It is what you do when you do not have artillery or planes or missiles and you want to create maximum terror.


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By jonathan, June 20, 2007 at 5:44 pm Link to this comment

The Twelve district’s twelve “Non Government” Federal Reserve Banks, are private Banks, they may be owned by The Twelve Tribes of Israel. Our Constitution, demands Separation of Church and State. America, however is non the less, Governed, managed, financially controlled, by the “Judaic” Federal Reserve Board; In “Constitutional Subterfuge” - because Separation of Church and State is not applied, to the Judaic Religion. (The Poltergeist)
In Revelations chapter 22 verse 16 - Jesus says; I am the root and the off spring of David, and the bright, the morning star. Unquote!  “The morning star” (in the summer and fall season) is not a star’ at all, it is the planet Venus - in April, it is the “Evening star”. The morning star appears on the Eastern horizon in the summer and fall – a few minutes before sunrise - the Evening star appears on the Western horizon in the springtime. Ancients thought it was two different stars, but it is not a star at all, it is the same – plant Venus.The Twelve district’s twelve “Non Government” Federal Reserve Banks, are private Banks, they may be owned by The Twelve Tribes of Israel. Our Constitution, demands Separation of Church and State. America, however is non the less, Governed, managed, financially controlled, by the “Judaic” Federal Reserve Board; In “Constitutional Subterfuge” - because Separation of Church and State is not applied, to the Judaic Religion. (The Poltergeist)
In Revelations chapter 22 verse 16 - Jesus says; I am the root and the off spring of David, and the bright, the morning star. Unquote!  “The morning star” (in the summer and fall season) is not a star’ at all, it is the planet Venus - in April, it is the “Evening star”. The morning star appears on the Eastern horizon in the summer and fall – a few minutes before sunrise - the Evening star appears on the Western horizon in the springtime. Ancients thought it was two different stars, but it is not a star at all, it is the same – plant Venus.

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By jonathan, June 20, 2007 at 5:38 pm Link to this comment

Observation;  This bright, “morning star” is visible to the naked eye, can be seen during summer and fall, a few minutes before sunrise. It appears as it has always appeared, on the horizon (5 or 6 AM) a few minutes before dawn, preceding the rising Sun, the Egyptian Sun-God-father, and Aton, son of the Sun God.  The supreme power on earth; was that of Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep.” The Amen! Used in religion, also derives from Pharaoh Amenhotep. Amen! means; let it be (or) so be it!  An absolute, final, Pharaoh’s Ruling. Some Bible Psalms are actually prayer chants, to the Sun- God-Aton, they were found in the Pharaohs tomb; such as Psalm 123 and 137, and another psalm titled “Man and Day” which says; ( When thou shinest as Aton by day, bright is the Earth when thou risest on the Horizon. Thou drivest away the darkness, when thou sendest forth thy Rays!  Ending with ( Their arms uplifted in adoration to the dawning ) then in all the World they do their work. ) Unquote!
Venus, Goddess of love & beauty - was called Aphrodite, by the Greeks and Ishtar by the Babylonians. It is one of the Moon’s Satellites, as is “Io” the I of the “Ion” and everything “Ionic.” the pyramid (Annuit Coeptis) on the American dollar.  Originally, Easter, had nothing, whatever to do with Jesus Christ and/or the sensationalism of the Crucifixion. Easter feasting was the   Festival of Spring Harvest. Venus is the Goddess of fertility - therefore, the Rabbits and the Easter eggs. ( sexual perversion in the corrupt Roman Holidays)
The Jewish Festival; of Shabuoth” on the 9th of June, is a celebration of “The Spring Harvest.”
To this very day the Jewish festival of the “Moon” on the 14th of June, is in memory of “The Passover” .The word “Festival”, derives from “Feast to Baal” the pagan Sun- God. The Spanish word phrase, “Baal gah me” means, amazing or astounding!  Also means; Baal, my god! And they use it so freely, without knowing it’s meaning. Nimrod, is the personification of the Sun God Baal, placed among the stars as the constellation of “Orion” The Great Hunter.
In our Christian Calendar, days are calculated from sunrise to sunset, our months by the Moon, our years, by the Earth’s orbit, around the Sun. (Earth, Orbits the Sun)  Galileo, was imprisoned, by the Roman Catholic Pope, for announcing the scientific truth about the movement of the stars & planets.
An Earth Year, is (365 days) the amount of time it takes Earth to make one complete revolution, around the Sun. One Year! Is the period of time used by “any planet” to make one complete revolution around the Sun. (see Astronomy)
One Year, is a period of twelve Lunar Months and/or One Lunar Year! The Twelve tribes of Israel were each, assigned, one of the Twelve signs of the Zodiac. Therefore; The Lion, is the tribe of Judah. It is quite definitive, that Astronomy and Astrology, were both foremost, in the original organizing, of the twelve tribes of “Israel.” The Judaic, “Religious dogma” was therefore, derived from a gathering of previous pagan practices and religious doctrines. Fables, designed to control multitudes of gullible, ignorant, superstitious, human beings; most of them could not read or write. (The Jewish, Primary Purpose on earth is the Accumulation of Wealth property and political Power.) The Judaic, theoretical basis, (as all religions are theoretical ) derives from “Adi” the “Lord Bull” India’s Lord God of Wealth. From the essence of King David, Lion of the tribe of Judah, comes The World Central Bank, and the non govt. unconstitutional “Federal Reserve Board” in the United States of America.

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By jonathan, June 20, 2007 at 5:31 pm Link to this comment

The fleeceing of the American working class, began, at “Mon Aton” - New York’s “Manhatton” Island, purchased with a string of beads (probably a Rosary) by the Dutchmen, who established “New Hampshire” as the first American Dutch Colony. American Indians, never knew what hit them! Never imagined that Earth could actually be sold, for sole possession by an individual human being.
No one can deny - the existence of the Spirit World, it is the only scientific fact, in Mankind’s Analogy of the Cosmic God theory. Therefore; The Spirit, is the third, person, of The Holy Trinity. Since nature is so scientifically & emphatically supreme, the word “Supreme God! for nature Is as good as any. As is the breath of life, we call “The Spirit.” There is no proof, that “Christianity” has ever brought Peace & comfort to any place on Earth! It is one religious war after another. In Jewish culture, they have two Selected Spirits; they are, “Golem and Guhulam”.
    “Maana” -  is the super natural power, to which ancient people attribute, the “accumulation of Wealth.” The temple tabernacle, was designed and built by King David for, Jehovah,  the Jewish Lord God of War!  Exodus chapter 15 verse 3 says’ God, is a man of War “The Lord” is his name.
Perhaps - Made of Stardust - We humans are such things as Stars are made of .  Some scholars say; we come from nothing! It seems reasonable that Naturally & Scientifically, Nature, is God and Godly!  Life, has a beginning and an end, and the Spirit returns, to the Spirit World. (Where ever that is) The unknown, about this Spirit World is the cause of mankind’s eternal perplexity, a passionate desire to re live, again - Re Lig Ion - to re live again. (The Mysteries of the hereafter).

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By jonathan, June 20, 2007 at 5:27 pm Link to this comment

It is quite definitive, that Astronomy and Astrology, were both foremost, in the original organizing, of the twelve tribes of “Israel.” The Judaic, “Religious dogma” was therefore, derived from a gathering of previous pagan practices and religious doctrines. Fables, designed to control multitudes of gullible, ignorant, superstitious, human beings; most of them could not read or write. (The Jewish, Primary Purpose on earth is the Accumulation of Wealth property and political Power.) The Judaic, theoretical basis, (as all religions are theoretical ) derives from “Adi” the “Lord Bull” India’s Lord God of Wealth. From the essence of King David, Lion of the tribe of Judah, comes The World Central Bank, and the non govt. unconstitutional “Federal Reserve Board” in the United States of America.
The fleeceing of the American working class, began, at “Mon Aton” - New York’s “Manhatton” Island, purchased with a string of beads (probably a Rosary) by the Dutchmen, who established “New Hampshire” as the first American Dutch Colony. American Indians, never knew what hit them! Never imagined that Earth could actually be sold, for sole possession by an individual human being.
No one can deny - the existence of the Spirit World, it is the only scientific fact, in Mankind’s Analogy of the Cosmic God theory. Therefore; The Spirit, is the third, person, of The Holy Trinity. Since nature is so scientifically & emphatically supreme, the word “Supreme God! for nature Is as good as any. As is the breath of life, we call “The Spirit.” There is no proof, that “Christianity” has ever brought Peace & comfort to any place on Earth! It is one religious war after another. In Jewish culture, they have two Selected Spirits; they are, “Golem and Guhulam”.
    “Maana” -  is the super natural power, to which ancient people attribute, the “accumulation of Wealth.” The temple tabernacle, was designed and built by King David for, Jehovah,  the Jewish Lord God of War!  Exodus chapter 15 verse 3 says’ God, is a man of War “The Lord” is his name.
Perhaps - Made of Stardust - We humans are such things as Stars are made of .  Some scholars say; we come from nothing! It seems reasonable that Naturally & Scientifically, Nature, is God and Godly!  Life, has a beginning and an end, and the Spirit returns, to the Spirit World. (Where ever that is) The unknown, about this Spirit World is the cause of mankind’s eternal perplexity, a passionate desire to re live, again - Re Lig Ion - to re live again. (The Mysteries of the hereafter).

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By jonathan, June 20, 2007 at 5:18 pm Link to this comment

If, we ever find life, on another Planet, we may better/determine who?  How? Or What? Created us. For now; Faith! is believing in something with absolutely no proof, no facts, whatsoever. No Genuine Veracity about any Religion.
. . .
We need not fear the non believers; it is the religious fanatics that will kill us and our entire family, with no more feeling or remorse than one would have for a fish, or a roach.  1st Samuel chapter 29 verse 5 - King Saul killed his thousands, and King David, his tens of thousands, for profit - killed them, because they were Non Believers. (because they were refusing to add their wealth, to “The Treasures of Zion”. It is quite definitive, that Astronomy and Astrology, were both foremost, in the original organizing, of the twelve tribes of “Israel.” The Judaic, “Religious dogma” was therefore, derived from a gathering of previous pagan practices and religious doctrines. Fables, designed to control multitudes of gullible, ignorant, superstitious, human beings; most of them could not read or write. (The Jewish, Primary Purpose on earth is the Accumulation of Wealth property and political Power.) The Judaic, theoretical basis, (as all religions are theoretical ) derives from “Adi” the “Lord Bull” India’s Lord God of Wealth. From the essence of King David, Lion of the tribe of Judah, comes The World Central Bank, and the non govt. unconstitutional “Federal Reserve Board” in the United States of America.
The fleeceing of the American working class, began, at “Mon Aton” - New York’s “Manhatton” Island, purchased with a string of beads (probably a Rosary) by the Dutchmen, who established “New Hampshire” as the first American Dutch Colony. American Indians, never knew what hit them! Never imagined that Earth could actually be sold, for sole possession by an individual human being.
No one can deny - the existence of the Spirit World, it is the only scientific fact, in Mankind’s Analogy of the Cosmic God theory. Therefore; The Spirit, is the third, person, of The Holy Trinity. Since nature is so scientifically & emphatically supreme, the word “Supreme God! for nature Is as good as any. As is the breath of life, we call “The Spirit.” There is no proof, that “Christianity” has ever brought Peace & comfort to any place on Earth! It is one religious war after another. In Jewish culture, they have two Selected Spirits; they are, “Golem and Guhulam”.
    “Maana” -  is the super natural power, to which ancient people attribute, the “accumulation of Wealth.” The temple tabernacle, was designed and built by King David for, Jehovah,  the Jewish Lord God of War!  Exodus chapter 15 verse 3 says’ God, is a man of War “The Lord” is his name.
Perhaps - Made of Stardust - We humans are such things as Stars are made of .  Some scholars say; we come from nothing! It seems reasonable that Naturally & Scientifically, Nature, is God and Godly!  Life, has a beginning and an end, and the Spirit returns, to the Spirit World. (Where ever that is) The unknown, about this Spirit World is the cause of mankind’s eternal perplexity, a passionate desire to re live, again - Re Lig Ion - to re live again. (The Mysteries of the hereafter).  If, we ever find life, on another Planet, we may better/determine who?  How? Or What? Created us. For now; Faith! is believing in something with absolutely no proof, no facts, whatsoever. No Genuine Veracity about any Religion.
. . .
We need not fear the non believers; it is the religious fanatics that will kill us and our entire family, with no more feeling or remorse than one would have for a fish, or a roach.  1st Samuel chapter 29 verse 5 - King Saul killed his thousands, and King David, his tens of thousands, for profit - killed them, because they were Non Believers. (because they were refusing to add their wealth, to “The Treasures of Zion”.

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By jonathan, June 20, 2007 at 5:13 pm Link to this comment

Hebrews celebrated the killings by playing and dancing and chanting songs, in the streets, chanting; King Saul, killed his thousands, and King David, his tens of thousands!
Brings to mind the horrors of “The Holocaust” in that, two wrongs, do not make a right! We think of “The Holocaust,” remorseful, in that, millions have been put to death, for profit. (not only Jews) This! Is the Way of all Military Conflicts.
Theosophy, means; deep studies of religions.  Knowledge and understanding can pave the way to justice and World Peace.
We must encourage tolerance, for the beliefs of others, encourage, studies, by Comparison, reconfigure the facts, increase Scientific rationale, with intelligent, reasonable understanding, to pinpoint the source of all religions and continue peacefully with freedom and tolerance. (if the Fanatics let us). A recent poll determined that we have 47 Million Atheists in the United States alone.
Revelations chapter 1 verse 26 says; to him who overcomes, I will give power over all nations. The collection of “The Treasures of Zion” had one single purpose – the Financial control of all the world’s nations; It is clear, they make plenty of bones about it.
Revelations chapter 1 verse 28 says; To him who overcomes, I will give him “The Morning Star”.
Deuteronomy chapter 15 verse 6 says; thou shalt lend money to all nations, and never borrow from them, thou shalt reign over them, but they shalt not reign over thee. Israel
Bible says that God said; Thou shalt own Cities you did not build, and Vineyards you did not plant. (Where is Yahweh-God-Jehovah’s – God justice?  Where, is this vengeful, fearsome, awesome “Yahweh-God-Jehovah” - the Jewish God, that exempts himself, from his own rules?  Isaiah chapter 44 verse 8 says; Yea, there is no God! I know not any!
. . .
In the year 128 BC. -  Hipparchus; discovered the precession of the Equinoxes. In this year 128 BC. The Sun rose with the constellation of Aries (the Ram ) in its background. The Sun was almost moving away from Aries, towards Pisces!  This was/is Astronomy, scientific fact – whereas Astrology is fiction!
The popularity of the Mithra religion peaked about 67 BC.  At that time, the Sun no longer came up with the constellation of Taurus in the background. (Space movement maps, were suddenly questioned. )
The ancients linked Astronomy and Astrology, to determine Cosmic Faiths, to accordingly establish Cosmic Gods. Suddenly the Sun’s metaphysical changes meant there was a New & more Powerful God, more powerful than the Sun God, with power to move the entire Universe.  Perhaps, so much power as to spell out the end of the world.

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By jonathan, June 20, 2007 at 5:09 pm Link to this comment

The Sky is falling!  The Sky is falling! The World’s people, not able to cope with the Astronomical syndrome, unable to accept a perfectly natural death, as a natural occurrence, sought to devise an exit - to perhaps - even a better life in the hereafter - Heaven!  and why not, more than one? Like Seventh Heaven. Why not Seven, like the Seven stars of Orion and therefore, Seventh Heaven. (as/per Webster’s college dictionary). Seventh heaven, is a dark area at the topside of the constellation of Orion. (the Mighty Hunter)
No one can even guess, what we are going to do there - if we ever do, get there.
Mithraism & Christianity - became the Salvation scheme; for those expecting the end of the world. Just in case, the space changes, caused the world to collapse. In a Mithraic scheme, the son of the sky God came to earth, by a Virgin birth and they believed it was Mithra. (it was 600 BC ) also born in a cave during September.
Revelations chapter 1 verse 26 says; to him who overcomes, I will give power over all nations. The collection of “The Treasures of Zion” had one single purpose – the Financial control of all the world’s nations; It is clear, they make plenty of bones about it.
Revelations chapter 1 verse 28 says; To him who overcomes, I will give him “The Morning Star”.
Deuteronomy chapter 15 verse 6 says; thou shalt lend money to all nations, and never borrow from them, thou shalt reign over them, but they shalt not reign over thee. Israel
Bible says that God said; Thou shalt own Cities you did not build, and Vineyards you did not plant. (Where is Yahweh-God-Jehovah’s – God justice?  Where, is this vengeful, fearsome, awesome “Yahweh-God-Jehovah” - the Jewish God, that exempts himself, from his own rules?  Isaiah chapter 44 verse 8 says; Yea, there is no God! I know not any!
. . .
In the year 128 BC. -  Hipparchus; discovered the precession of the Equinoxes. In this year 128 BC. The Sun rose with the constellation of Aries (the Ram ) in its background. The Sun was almost moving away from Aries, towards Pisces!  This was/is Astronomy, scientific fact – whereas Astrology is fiction!
The popularity of the Mithra religion peaked about 67 BC.  At that time, the Sun no longer came up with the constellation of Taurus in the background. (Space movement maps, were suddenly questioned. )
The ancients linked Astronomy and Astrology, to determine Cosmic Faiths, to accordingly establish Cosmic Gods. Suddenly the Sun’s metaphysical changes meant there was a New & more Powerful God, more powerful than the Sun God, with power to move the entire Universe.  Perhaps, so much power as to spell out the end of the world. The Sky is falling!  The Sky is falling! The World’s people, not able to cope with the Astronomical syndrome, unable to accept a perfectly natural death, as a natural occurrence, sought to devise an exit - to perhaps - even a better life in the hereafter - Heaven!  and why not, more than one? Like Seventh Heaven. Why not Seven, like the Seven stars of Orion and therefore, Seventh Heaven. (as/per Webster’s college dictionary). Seventh heaven, is a dark area at the topside of the constellation of Orion. (the Mighty Hunter)
No one can even guess, what we are going to do there - if we ever do, get there.
Mithraism & Christianity - became the Salvation scheme; for those expecting the end of the world. Just in case, the space changes, caused the world to collapse. In a Mithraic scheme, the son of the sky God came to earth, by a Virgin birth and they believed it was Mithra. (it was 600 BC ) also born in a cave during September.

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By jonathan, June 20, 2007 at 5:02 pm Link to this comment

Closest to Earth, on the 24th of December, the sun marks the birth of the New Sun, and the Festival of the New Sun, as the Orbits, begin to place the Sun farther and farther away from Earth, with each passing day. (it is called the vernal equinox)
Jesus, disappeared for twenty years, traveling the Orient, etcetera. Everything Jesus did, was done during the last three years of his life.  By the end of these three years, his own Apostles, were denying any association with him, they were sincerely, doubtful.  (not true; that they saw him “float up”  towards Heaven.  Using Astrology, (not Astronomy)!  Hebrews assigned a symbolic Zodiac sign, to each of their tribes.  “Leo” the Lion, is the symbol of the tribe of Judah; behold King David, Lion of the tribe of Judah. Christianity, is based on half Mithra and half Jesus Christ. In 387AD – Theodosius “the great” and Constantine appropriately adopted the doctrines of Mithra and Jesus Christ; the merger changed the world’s destiny, and Jesus Christ (not his real name) finished his mission; created & installed The Christian religion. (The Seven Churches) of Christ.
Everything, in or about “Zion” is relative to, Astronomy and Astrology.
Astrology is mythical, no portion of Astrology, is scientific truth.
Since Mithra, was a Solar Sun-God, the deity clashed with that of Apollo another Roman Sun God. So, Apollo was worshiped on Sun-day rather than on the Jewish Sabbath, but still, allowing continuance of the Christian religion, and (non-Christian) Judaism. Also the Moon, on the Sabbath and Moon-day, with the Ionic, Io, (Moon’s Satellite) in the forefront! _ the eye on the Seal of the Dollar) “Annuit Coeptis.” Yes! They actually worshiped, the Moon, still do’ with a Jewish Festival, on the 14th of June. The spring festival of Shabouth is on the 9th of June. 
Reformed Jews and non-Catholics, celebrate Christmas, as we celebrate “Christ Mass” or a Mass for Christ, not believing, and not caring, about the history of Christmas or its traditional religious intent. ( to recruit people, to the Christian faith under Catholicism.).
The Pyramids of Giza, are placed, in a position, relative to the position of “the three stars” of Orion’s belt at that time! To enhance the worship of the sun-God and Aton, son of the sun God.

        “The Tacitus Angles”
Europe has a race called the “Angles” or Engles - the name of a German, Tacitus, “ Jewish, tribe “ of people that, expanded in Holland (Holy land) they founded the city of ” Leland ” (god land) and ” Leland University” an institute of higher Education. The Rothschilds (the financial wizards ) gradually expanded to Great Britain - where they founded the “Rothschilds, Bank of England” (The World Bank).  “Angle-land”, became Engle-land, to the present “England.”  There will always be - an England and England shall be free!  At that time, freedom was denied, to enslaved servants. Bonded black and/or white, men women and children, who were enslaved, for hundreds of years. There were one hundred and twenty Engle/English/Jewish merchants (ten from each tribe) aboard the settler ship that landed on Plymouth Rock, on one of the first landings. Later, there were hundreds of merchant Settlers, with letters of credit, from Czechoslovakia - (checks – the checking system).  The Pilgrims arrived more than a hundred years, thereafter, followed by the Puritans. The Puritans did not believe in the worship of celestial bodies - such as Orion, the Sun and the Moon and the stars.
Slavery was brought to America, by its founders.  The first Angle Settlers were called ” Old Comers ” - from there the United States Department of Commerce, and everything that is commercial.

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By jonathan, June 20, 2007 at 4:50 pm Link to this comment

The “Pope” of the Ecclesiastical religion of the Sun-God Mithra, was replaced, by the Roman Pope. Mithra had a cubicle for the Virgin mother of Mithra. The Persian-Roman Sun-God of Nature, Mithra; is the God of International Bankers.  Christianity was/is based on Half Mithra and Half Jesus Christ, configured for the populace, so they could “both” continue their religious traditions of Mithra and Jesus Christ. The Judaic “Yahweh-God-Jehovah religious culture continues to this very day. 
At the Fourth Century - the Pope ruled, from a converted Mithrareum Temple -
the Catholic Basilica was built on top of Vatican Hill, in Rome. The Seven hills in Rome are named;
> >
The false stories of Easter spring fest, Christ-mass, a Mass for Christ, supposedly born on the 24th of December, on the eve of the Sun’s renewed orbital path are false. There was a wishful desire for salvation and everlasting life; Seventh Heaven and all the other Heavens. All these things were lifted, from the religion of Mithra, including. Red robes and high-hats, identical to the present day Roman Catholic Church’s red robes. The same Mithraic people, with identical, religious traditions.  Romans, had been feeding Christians and Jews, to the Lions, to demean the Deities of King David and King Solomon, the “Lion, of the tribe of Judah.”
. . .
The Jesus Church did not get all its religious practices from Jesus!  The entire “Jesus” framework, was lifted, borrowed from “Mithraism.”  The temple of Zion, was for God-Jehovah only. The Jews, crucified Jesus Christ - though he never said, He! Was “the Son of God.”  Jesus, said; He! was “the Son of man,” and he said it emphatically, repeatedly!
. . .
A previous bible was the “Zoroastrian,” its Deity “Zoroastrianism” so ancient it is rarely heard of. Now we know, that theories in Mithraism, provide hundreds of religious variations for Christian propaganda. Most of which causes distrust, envy, hatred, intrigue. Above all! Anti Semitic feelings. Millions, would say; (not without just cause) that allegiance to the God of the Hebrew people, causes and builds up strong resentments among rich & poor Protestants, Catholics, Christians and non Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and Arabs, especially the Jihad hostilities, between the Muslim and the Judaic people and anybody that is not Islamic.
The constant fighting began long before, the Crucifixion, followed by the Roman/Jewish wars, during the first century.  Romans, were then feeding Christians & Jews, to the Lions, as a pun, against the “Lion, tribe of Judah.”  In the year 67 BC – Mithraism was the most popular, the most prevalent religion.
    Now at the Fourth Century, Roman Emperor Theodosius The Great and Constantine, accepted The Christian religion, as the state’s religion, thereby stamping out all the Egyptian and Roman and Greek and Hindu, Gods and Goddesses. Mithra ( with virgins ) and Nuns incarcerated for the service of God remained, intertwined with Christianity.  By the end of the Fourth Century, the world had a BC-AD after death, Christian Calendar.
Roman Emperor “Theodosius The Great” was trying to stop the mass religious killings, the constant, senseless, fighting!  As a result; Fairness, Loyalty, and Respect, with World Peace, reigned - for a long, long, long, time. (that is)
Until; the citizens of “Thessalonia” killed their Governor in a civil uprising.  Theodosius was so angry, so distraught, so beset by this crime, he invited all the “Thessalonian people” to a Circus - once gathered - he ordered his Army, to assassinate all of them. They did!  It is written; the bodies amounted to more than 700 casualties.

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By jonathan, June 20, 2007 at 4:42 pm Link to this comment

Hebrews could not possibly care less, about the world’s Peace Loving Nations, or the casualties.
Why?  Must America provide an Army, for the protection of Israel?  Above all, it is good, to understand, that it was they!  who initiated and wrote the book of Exodus chapter 15 verse 3 which says; God is a man of war, the Lord is his name!  It was they!  Who wrote, Ecclesiastes chapter 10 verse 19 which says; Money, is the answer to all things. It was they!  who wrote; Isaiah chapter 44 verse 8 where it says; Yea, there is no God; I know not any!  Isaiah Chapter 45 verse 5 says; There is no God!  As you see!  There is no one beside me.!
The promulgated notion that the Catholic Church (with all it’s Virgins and Saints) is two thousand years old,  is false! Catholicism was not launched, until Roman Emperor Theodosius The Great, accepted Christianity in 379 AD. The Pope assumed control over the new religion. A Half Mithra & Half Jesus Christ, “Christianity” with a combination of Astronomy & Astrology.
The Spanish, bible says; Jehovah, es Dios de los Ejercitos!  In English - Jehovah, is the God, of all Armies!  So; they are geared for perpetual war.
It is plain - Religious, War mongering ! It’s plain War for profit, in any language!  It is a never ending religious conflict. That is why? King Saul killed thousands and King David, his tens of thousands. That is why? Assassination of men, women and children, continues, to this very day.
That is why they wrote; Ecclesiastes chapter 7 verse 12 - Who? Hath formed a God, or molten a graven image (of a God) that is profitable for nothing?
Ecclesiastes in Greek or Hebrew means Preacher.  The bible book of “Ecclesiastes” was written by King Solomon. Iglesia in Spanish is church - In Greek, Ekklesia, is an assembly of citizens for political, purposes.  Kalein or Kale’ means, to summon or call to prayer, as with church bells - a call to prayer.  Ekklesia means, Iglesia-church in Spanish!
Spanish Flamenco gypsies, call their Ethnic Race “Kale.” Their very own language (which is also a mixture) is also “Kale.”
Kale’ is a white cabbage, vegetable that flourishes, profusely, in “Pakistan.”  From there’ the World’s Gypsies (as we know them) originated. The colored leaf ruffles on the Kale cabbage, inspired the ruffles on flamenco dresses.
In Hindu theology, “Brahma” is the creator, of the Universe; the chief member of the Indian Holy Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva). The Hindu scriptures are 18 Vedas’ Brahma, is the Atharva Veda (divine knowledge) written by Abraham; he was the first Patriarchal, father of all Betelgeuse/Jews who based their religion on the constellation of Orion, the assumed Sun-God – Nimrod. Abraham, in his day, was the wealthiest man on Earth, the founder of the “Yahweh-God-Jehovah” movement. In moving the first “A” to the last (as is done in their language) Abraham, becomes “Brahma.  Previous to his “God of War, Jehovah” – Abraham’s Hebrews had been worshiping “the Moon.” The Moon Goddess, was “Semiramis” the mother and wife of ‘King Nimrod; first of the Jewish Kings. Semiramis is the personification of ‘The Moon” The Queen of Heaven”. Nimrod was a pagan King, against all the Jehovah religions.  Hebrews were worshiping a virgin - Amos chapter 5 verse 2 says; The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise; she is forsaken upon her land; there is none to raise her up. Unquote!
A Jewish festival,  holiday, is celebrated to this very day on the 14th of June.

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By jonathan, June 20, 2007 at 4:31 pm Link to this comment

A Jewish festival,  holiday, is celebrated to this very day on the 14th of June.
(Shabuoth, (or) Hebrew Shabuoth) is a Feast for celebration of the spring harvest on the 9th of June.
Pentecost, means (pent) the five fingers of God’s hand; the first, five books of the Holy Bible. (written by Abraham) To “Repent” is to reaffirm, their Pentecost, contract with their “God of War” Jehovah. The Hindu, practice of worshiping “the Cow” lead to worshiping “Adi” the Hindu Lord Bull, (golden calf) the Hindu Lord God of Wealth. Hebrews are known as, the people of the book, also the “Golden Calf people.“A Flamen, is a Psalm chanting priest in a Jewish Synagogue. Flamenco chants derive from Egyptian and Jewish and Arabic chants, accompanied with an Aud or Lute or Psalter.  (accompanying Psalms) They were musical accompaniment, and exotic dance Rituals, to the Sun God, “Amon Rah” and his son “Aton” son of the sun God.  Later, Mithra became their Sun God.
A Flamen, is a Psalm chanting priest, that worships “Jehovah, sings in the Jewish Synagogues and Tabernacles. From there, derive the Spanish “Tavernas Cantantes that flourished in Spain, with Flamenco, Arabic wailing and Jewish Psalm chants for centuries; even after “the expulsion” of the Jews. 
From “Chants of Zion” - the Spanish word - Cancion. 
Present day, “Roman Catholic churches” have “Flamenco Mass” with singers, dancers and guitarists, dressed in full Gypsy costume, regalia. I, am one, of the Flamenco Guitarists at San Fernando Catholic Church.
Bizzare; that most Gypsies are decendants of Jews or Arabs (or) Atheists, while some are Christian Catholics and some are Protestant Pentecosts and some of them are Buddhists.
Spanish Gypsies are inveterate in their inert, Quality performance of “Flamenco Art.”
Obsessed with spiritual guidance in Flamenco, they are unhampered by “all” their superstitions.

Ecclesiastes chapter 7 verse 12 says; Wisdom and money is a defense; but the excellence of “knowledge” is that – wisdom gives more life, to those that have it.
Ecclesiastes chapter 10 verse 19 says; A feast is made for laughter, wine to make merry; but Money is the answer to all things.
Isaiah chapter 44 verse 10 says; Who? Hath formed a God, or molten a graven image (of a God) that is profitable for nothing?
Be advised, that; Cyberspace information, “Theosophy” which is (deep studies of religions) and general knowledge, with understanding, is pushing “our age” towards Atheism,  in search of justice and World Peace;  whether religious Fanatics and Gentiles and Israel, like it or not.
To those who disagree with my research results!  I say; Religious theories are a very personal matter - conscience be your guide.  Shalom! 
This contribution, by Jonathan

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By Alan, June 20, 2007 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Norman, thanks for your thoughts. I would posit that the physics professor who exclaimed, “Now THAT is faith!” used the wrong word. It wasn’t faith. It was fact, based upon replicable, scientific evidence. Faith, on the other hand, is demonstrated by the NYC pedestrian who, upon seeing the traffic signal change in his favor, steps off the curb and proceeds to walk across the boulevard despite the knowledge that a garbage truck is still bearing down at him at 45 miles per hour. Thus faith becomes the intentional abandonment of reason in the face of some imagined authority or daydream.

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By Norman Doering, June 20, 2007 at 11:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

straight_talk_11, in post #79418, wrote:

He [Minsky] just implies it, buried in a complex flurry of technical verbosity, which makes its reality as an arbitrary assumption less obvious to those who are easily confused. This is precisely what you people have been accusing me of doing. He never justifies the assumption.

Arbitrary assumption? Do you even know who Marvin Minsky is?

Do you know what he is talking about when he notes “cybernetics” and people like Alan Turing? The computer you are using to read this post is built on the foundations established by cybernetics and people like Minsky and Turing. The programs and hardware you are using were called AI once, now it’s just computer technology. AI has moved on.

And tell me what is wrong with these ideas. If they’re sophistry, don’t just tell me that. SHOW ME SPECIFICALLY WHERE THE FLAWS ARE!!!

You really don’t know?

He makes the assumption that somehow the experience of consciousness arises from complexity of process, BUT NOWHERE DOES HE MAKE SENSE OF THAT ASSUMPTION OR DEFEND IT INTELLIGENTLY

Not just any complexity of process, a very specific kind of process and one we already know a hell of a lot about. True, he doesn’t say much about it there, but if you knew about things like cybernetics and what those people were doing no one would have to explain.

The first thing we have to do is start defining terms:

Consciousness: Self-aware, knowing you know, subjective experience, the opposite of UNconscious.

To say, as you do, that “consciousness is an axiomatic, fundamental property of existence itself” makes about as much sense as saying “car-ness is an axiomatic, fundamental property of existence itself.” It’s not exactly untrue—it’s just incredibly misleading. And the false lead takes you toward Deepak Chopra’s woo-woo.

Cars didn’t exist until the first one was built. Before that there was only a potential for cars to exist, a possibility for them to exist. What existed before them was metals that had to be mined and machined, rubber that had to be tapped from a tree or synthed in a factory, etc.. Things moved before there were cars. Things rolled before there were cars. But not until there was a horse drawn carriage did the concept of a fuel burning (horse’s metabolism) human steered vehicle with wheels exist; something new under the sun, but not entirely new—just a combination never put together before.

And not until evolution created the first nervous system and then a brain did anything resembling consciousness exist. The potential was there, but the first living creatures were unconscious.

You’re using sophistry about consciousness to justify a Mentally antropic God.

Mentally antropic God: Projecting your own human attributes onto non-human things (even the entire cosmos). It has nothing to do with whether god has a penis or arms or a white beard. It’s about projecting your mental attributes onto something that doesn’t have it.

Saying something like, as Hedges does, “we can’t know God’s will,” assumes God has a will. Will is one human mental attribute being projected by that statement.

More later…

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By Jim H., June 20, 2007 at 10:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re: 79486

Rev. Mike-

You say: “—-your ideas depend upon demeaning anyone(?) who sees things differently than you do.”(?)
WRONG!  This is an absurd misstatement of the ‘facts’!  Another LIE!

I say: you cannot read!

Except for my reacting to some fools’ unwarranted criticism of my position regarding the overt and obvious criminal activity of the thieving “fundamentalist” Godist “Religious Right” that enslaves innocent children and fools, has destroyed our once Democratic way of life and restructured it as a Theocracy!; I do not “demean” others!  So, your illogical assertion is a “DEMEAN”-ING lie!

You say: “—-your messages reveals an unspeakably painful tragedy—-”

I say: Bravo!  Finally!  You may be getting my message!  But, why must ‘I’ point out the ‘obvious’ to you?

Why can’t ‘you’ ‘see’ and comprehend the “TRAGEDY” resulting from our Country being ruled by a sadistic, “fundamentalist” Muslim religious fanatical Theocrat?  And ‘why’ don’t ‘you’ understand that the so called “Religious Right” have invaded, and undermined every level of our US Government, taken over the US Supreme Court, and a major part of the Media, and are responsible for ‘implanting’ that ass/hole criminal wartime deserter into the White House, instead of a “Peoples Choice” President?

Why can’t you understand that the above is what “—-  brings-me- to such a high pitch of displaced and righteous fury.” (?)

If ‘you’ too, are fully cognizant of these occurrences, why do you seem so ‘astounded’ at ‘my’ “—-messages reveal-ing—-unspeakable tragedy”?
Are you so mesmerized by the tragic showmanship of “The Religious Right”, that ‘W’ clown, and all his endless lies, that you “can’t see the Forest for the trees”?

You say: “I am not a member of any religion, and I am not advocating any belief system.(?)

I say: If that is so, why do you aid the sick religionists, and ‘Ggodists’ by implying some sort of similarity, and minimizing the wide diverse chasm that separates the reasoning of reality ‘thinking’ secular “atheists”, from those imbecile robotic slaves of the “fundamentalist” Religious Right who foist upon the unsuspecting the infectious plague-like disease ‘Godism’; by saying “Atheism and fundamentalism are similar—-”(?)

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By Norman Doering, June 20, 2007 at 10:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Alan, in post #79508, wrote:

I must say my “faith” in Chris Hedges took a tumble after reading his essay. Indeed, it was his personal and too-convenient redefining of what “faith” is that deflated my confidence in his thought processes and world view.

I noted that too back in post #78500.

The problem is that Sam slipped into using a religous euphemism in the title of his book and Chris switched the unspoken end of the euphemism on him.

When Sam said “Faith” he meant “faith in religious dogma, or faith in religious claims including supernatural ones.” Hedges removed the distinctly religious elements saying: “Faith allows us to trust, rather, in human compassion, even in a cruel and morally neutral universe. This is not faith in magic, not faith in church doctrine or church hierarchy, but faith in simple human kindness.

I wouldn’t put such faith in any strangers who knocked on my door with a little sweet fruit and love. I’d figure they were out to sell something. The love you get might be the “love bombing” of a cult.

On the other hand, I can’t agree with you either when you say:

... faith is the voluntary election to shove reason aside and to embrace as truth that which is unproven (and probably unreliable, maybe even unsafe and dangerous), he’ll keep on pontificating and quoting Niebuhr.

The unreliable, the magic, that’s just another thing people can have faith in, not faith itself. It’s just another euphemism.

Better to think about faith in the bigger sense, in everything that it’s possible to have faith in and why we have such faith or trust. In my post, #78500, I started getting at how faith and trust are earned, or at least should be earned.

There’s an old story about a physics teacher who, on the first day of class, showed his class a huge pendulum with a heavy iron ball on the end. He takes the ball, holds against his nose and then lets go. The pendulum swings back, the class gasps, sure the heavy ball will smash his face, and the ball almost touching his nose, starts swinging back away. The teacher never flinched. He looks at his class and says: “Now that’s faith!”

The teacher had faith in the laws of science. We don’t really know that god won’t give that ball an extra boost of energy and smash the teachers nose.
He just believes a pendulum can never return to a point higher than the point from which it was released. It must fall short because of friction and gravity, when the pendulum returns to its origin point. Each time it swings it makes less and less of an arc, until finally it is at rest. This point of rest is called the state of equilibrium, where all forces acting on the pendulum are equal.

Why do you and me have more faith in that than we do in stories of magic and miracles?

Science earned our faith. Religion didn’t.

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By Alan, June 20, 2007 at 5:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I must say my “faith” in Chris Hedges took a tumble after reading his essay. Indeed, it was his personal and too-convenient redefining of what “faith” is that deflated my confidence in his thought processes and world view. Clearly, he is well read. He knows and loves to quote philosophers and great writers. He isn’t afraid to remind us of his length of stay in troubled venues where Christians and Muslims tangled. But those quotes and those poignant anecdotes fail to override my observatin that as long as he can get away with defining “faith” as narrowly or persoannly as he wishes, he’ll never be intellectually wrong. (Francis Fukuyama does that again and again in his books.)
  Until Hedges agrees that faith is the voluntary election to shove reason aside and to embrace as truth that which is unproven (and probably unreliable, maybe even unsafe and dangerous), he’ll keep on pontificating and quoting Niebuhr.
  But ultimately none of this would matter if we all just subscribed to the Rodney King doctrine: Can’t we all just get along? In my ideal world, it ought not matter what Chris Hedges thinks, or Sam Harris, or Osama bin Laden. Think what you want, guys. Just don’t force me to go along with it. Leave me alone. And don’t tax my labors, or draft my sons into the military, to further your “faith.”  If you do (and it seems more and more you are), I’ll argue, I’ll resist, and I will fight you tooth and nail.

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By Mike-G/WestSide, June 20, 2007 at 2:03 am Link to this comment

What compassion, Jim.

But I am not a member of any religion, and I am not
advocating any belief system.  I am open to understanding
anything that works for anyone else.  The reason I disagree
with you is because your ideas depend upon demeaning
anyone who sees things differently than you do.

That is a psychological illness, not science or philosophy.

In your need for an ememy to rail against, you have invented
an image of me in your own mind which is inaccurate, or as
you might say, a lie.

You seem to need to believe that you are superior to someone,
so why not let it be me.  Imagine me any way you need to, and
let the poison spew out of you until finally, you are able to clearly
see what it is that brings you to such a high pitch of displaced and
righteous fury. I’m willing to bet that the person you think I am
is a version of that person in your own history who terrorized you.

You should be aware of the fact that the more you attack others,
the more you reveal of yourself by using that same voice of intolerant,
outraged false-authority which must have warped you so ruthlessly
when you were too young to defend yourself.

Bullies always scream the loudest just as they realize that there
is no one left to hide behind or blame for their fears. I respond
to your posts out pity now, rather than anger.  What I have seen in
your messages reveals an unspeakably painful tragedy.

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By Jim H., June 19, 2007 at 8:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re: 79330

Rev: Mike

You say: “I think you’re wrong” (?)

I say: Your writings are the simplistic ravings of a warped and twisted mind.

I say: anyone who “reads through these posts will clearly see—-” that ‘I’, have expressed more interest in the “Report” topic, (discussion?) “faith, religion, god, etc, than any other ‘poster’!  And it is ‘I’ who am being attacked for my forthright and succinct appraisal and criticism of the subjects at hand.

You say: “—-opportunity for—-discussion- (is) -derailed—-”(?)

I say: I have been offering to all you absurd “fundamentalist” religious Godism fanatics, an “opportunity” to “discuss” the value and benefits of a ‘reality’ existance conception of the real world we live in, as opposed to the MAKE-BELIEVE, FAIRYTALE, “Creation-Godist”, ponzi-racketeering, charlatan scheme farce; dubbed the “Religious Life”, that is an infectious plague-like disease you-all are apparently aflicted with. But all you brainwashed indoctrinated puppies, suffering ‘brain cancer’, are enslaved robots, unable to think a sensible critical thought about religion lest you “commit a sin”; can only ‘parrot’ worn-out homilies, and ask others to disprove something never proven true.

You imply you are “genuine” in your “searching” for “new understanding”(?) But you are really seeking more re-enforcement of your mesmerizing indoctrinated fanatical religious views! And a new prayer? And you are not at all capable of ‘entertaing’ any idea that conflicts with your ‘pig-in-a-poke’, “Santa Clause” mentality!

You say: “I—-hope you—-suvive—-?

I say: That’s much, much nicer than “I would rather punch his lights out—-”(!)
Perhaps “One day you will understand this—-”, and mend your evil ways?

Your immature, and naive writing is indicative of jejune youth, so, no doubt ‘you’ will “survive” to see the day when ALL religions are OUTLAWED as vicious enslaving, slaughtering, criminal enterprizes they are.

And, if you are very lucky, you will soon awaken from that predatory induced coma, overcome the suffering to your ego, accept that you have been ‘MORON’, and, (like a cocaine addict getting the ‘monkey off your back’ ) ‘go’ “cold turkey”, and arriive in the REAL WORLD, cured of that infectious plague-like disease “RELIGION”!  And WHEN this happens I hope you ‘then’ have the integrity to ‘promote’ “reality thinking” as   fervently as you are presently promoting your ‘fairy godfather’ evil,“fundamentalist” criminal ponzi-racketeering plague-like disease ‘Godism’!

I FORGIVE YOUR STUPIDITY!

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By straight_talk_11, June 19, 2007 at 8:26 pm Link to this comment

Doering, I just looked at Minsky’s thoughts about consciousness at the link you gave. It is the usual something from nothing argument. He doesn’t even defend it. He just implies it, buried in a complex flurry of technical verbosity, which makes its reality as an arbitrary assumption less obvious to those who are easily confused. This is precisely what you people have been accusing me of doing. He never justifies the assumption.

He clearly believes that the experience of consciousness could be duplicated with complex artificial intelligence, and you know what? I think he is probably right! But if it is true and we ever do it, what we have proved is that consciousness is an axiomatic, fundamental property of existence itself. “Processes” alone cannot explain the experience of consciousness. That makes no sense.

As I’ve already stated before, if the physical universe is hierarchically structured as we know it is, and the experience of consciousness is associated with some parts of that reality (e.g., us) as it manifests from a single unified field, as physics clearly indicates and upon which premise all serious research in theoretical physics is based, then you and Minsky have to explain to me why consciousness and intelligence “happen” in a clearly and precisely lawful physical universe and are not correspondingly hierarchical, intrinsic to and implicit in the global laws that govern it and which communicate these natural attributes to their local products.

And tell me what is wrong with these ideas. If they’re sophistry, don’t just tell me that. SHOW ME SPECIFICALLY WHERE THE FLAWS ARE!!!

Minsky’s pretty smart, but he didn’t even come close, and it’s not my fault. He makes the assumption that somehow the experience of consciousness arises from complexity of process, BUT NOWHERE DOES HE MAKE SENSE OF THAT ASSUMPTION OR DEFEND IT INTELLIGENTLY !!!!!! He simply states it! Period! That’s what atheists say theists do with the bible.

Well some do, but I don’t, and I’m not alone. Minsky’s got his own little bible that he made up and he just stubbornly quotes it with no defense. But his assumption is never stated clearly for what it is: something from nothing. It’s no different in principle from the crackpot schemes like the water turbine under the sailboat that runs the generator that runs the motor that drives the propeller.

How can intelligent people mentally short-circuit like that? Because their own consciousness is poorly integrated. The hole in their thinking reflects their fragmented awareness. The signal-to-noise ratio in their own mental processing is lousy, to be more technically specific.

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By straight_talk_11, June 19, 2007 at 7:01 pm Link to this comment

Doering, I know that you SAY you know that I’m full of sophistry and BS. I think you know better, pal! No doubt in my mind at all, unless YOU are the one full of undiluted sophistry and are actually fooled by it yourself. “He that accuseth…”

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By Norman Doering, June 19, 2007 at 5:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

straight_talk_11, in post #79286, wrote:

All anyone has to do who does is read these posts to figure who does and who doesn’t.

Yep. You might con Cat and some other suckers, but you know that I know that you’re full of sophistry and BS.

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By Mike-G/WestSide, June 19, 2007 at 3:51 pm Link to this comment

I think you’re wrong, Jim.

I think that anyone who reads through these posts
will clearly see that the opportunity for an interesting
discussion was derailed, and that the potential for new
understanding between genuine searchers was thwarted
by the selfish intolerance of one very immature and
hateful person.

One day you will understand this, and I hope you will
somehow be able to survive the deep embarassment
you will experience upon seeing yourself clearly.

Please - go in peace, and let us have our discussion.

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By straight_talk_11, June 19, 2007 at 1:27 pm Link to this comment

Doering:

Theoretical physics is not physical. It is metaphysical, not to be confused with the use of the term to mean non-rigorous metaphysical speculation. Metaphysical in this sense simply means whatever is not physical reality, but is about physical reality, just as meta-mathematics is not mathematics itself, but about mathematics.

Physics is precise, yet it is intellectual abstraction. Such abstraction is an intellectual reflection of what it models imperfectly. However, just as it is true that evolutionary theory is not perfect (a fact creationists love to reiterate eternally), yet evolution is a fact, so it is that theoretical models aren’t either, but their hierarchical levels of abstraction reflect the essential structure of physical reality or they wouldn’t work at all.

This understanding is not at all in conflict with what Einstein says. It’s your interpretation of both Einstein and me that is in conflict with it.

By the way, I got an award for the highest grade in undergraduate physics at university and I’ve been an engineer. I’m semi-retired now and work part time as a musician. So don’t tell me I don’t understand abstraction. All anyone has to do who does is read these posts to figure who does and who doesn’t.

That would not include anyone who thinks like you, of course. Your entire last post is just bits and pieces of utterly uncomprehending verbiage. The quality of one’s knowledge is a direct function of the integrity of one’s awareness, and it’s the lack of the latter that causes the mental short-circuit called atheism.

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By The Dom, June 19, 2007 at 12:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The impression I got from listening to Chris Hedges is that he thinks the Middle Easts problems lie squarely at the feet of the USA’s imperialist machinations in that area. And also the dreadful conditions under which they are forced to live, as well as having invading forces in their midst, is driving them to become suicide bombers
I just want to confirm I was hearing this correctly so is this the impression that others got from listening to CH, or an I alone in thinking this?

It seems a one sided accusation from such an obviously otherwise intelligent person to make, and certainly the Iraq war has been a disaster, I think most of the world would agree with him on that.
And he believes in a christian sort of style god is this correct? again I dont know his history very well so if someone could clue me up. Does he think Jesus came back from the grave and all that. Or is his supreme diety beyond description kinda out there some where but also internal.

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By Jim H., June 19, 2007 at 12:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re: 78977, 79029, 79078, 79088

Thank you all for reading some of my posts!

Why don’t ALL you childish “fundamentalist” Godism Fanatic gripers face up to the fact that Mike succinctly admits, i.e.,

Rev: Mike says about “Jim”:  “—-the rest of us are imbeciles who must be taught by him.” (!)

Whether you realize it or not, sometimes the only way to get the attention of you ass/hole ‘Godists’ is to raise the hackles on the nape of your necks! Which ‘I’ (a “12 year old”?) have successfully accomplished!

And, Rev: ‘Crazy’ Mike has finally flipped his lid, i.e., “—- I have reached this point with Jim H. I would rather punch his lights out than listen (?) to another word from him.

I say: this is a perfect example of the religious fanatical bigotry and the hypocrisy, encompassed in the pornographic “Bible” teachings, and the LIES the followers of the FAIRYTALES Jesus live by!

Doesn’t it go something like this: “TURN THE OTHER CHEEK” ?

Any commenter who is so affected by the WORDS of others that he, or she? sinks to the level of violent threats in response thereto displays the mentality of a villain, or “imbecile”(!)

Yet, I am deeply flattered, by the knowledge my very limited abilities with words are capable of causing so much consternation, and sentiment to effect such rousing interest, and response!

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By Norman Doering, June 18, 2007 at 8:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

straight_talk_11 in #79023 wrote

I’m referring to a very rigorous, mathematical application.

No. You’re injecting irrelevant seventh grade algebra in order to claim the rigor of a math you never used in post #78744.

y=x+1 ...
I can substitute any value I wish for x and get a different y.

Then make y=infinity? Consider the other form of the equation, x=y-1, is infinity-1 not infinity?

What about y=consciousness? Do you have a mathematical model of consciousness? Do you have a mathematical model of God?

And after you plug a number into your algebra the answer is still an abstraction. As Einstein said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.

Mathematical abstractions are grounded in the kind of “dictionary” rules you’ve despised. Whatever rigor math has doesn’t carry over into your abstractions in English.

... knowledge that would never have existed if someone else had not had the essential and utterly practical skill to construct abstract theoretical models on which to base what’s in the cookbook.

Unfortunately you don’t have those skills. Your skills are sophistry and BS which only makes you qualified for theology or marketing.

The abstract theoretical models you admire are not sophistry. If there’s a mathematical model it’s because there were also measurements made in the real world and those mathematical models are merely descriptions of real world phenomena. A theory is an attempt to figure out what the math means.

Interesting table but it’s not what you need to support this #78744.

Atheists have trouble even with context and connectivity, not to mention unity, which is what consciousness is all about ...

That unity of consciousness is an illusion. We know it because of experiments like Michael Gazzaniga’s split brain research.

Your concept of consciousness is an illusion. But to say it’s an illusion doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, it means that consciousness is not what it seems to be.

Here is Marvin Minsky discussing consciousness. [click here]:

There are two quite different reasons why “something” might seem hard to explain. One is that it appears to be elementary and irreducible-as seemed Gravity before Einstein found his new way to look at it. The opposite case is when the ‘thing’ is so much moe complicated than you imagine it is, that you just don’t see any way to begin to describe it. This, I maintain, is why consciousness seems so mysterious. It is not that there’s one basic and inexplicable essence there. Instead, it’s precisely the opposite.

Consciousness, instead, is an enormous suitcase that contains perhaps 40 or 50 different mechanisms that are involved in a huge network of intricate interactions. The brain, after all, is built by processes that involve the activities of several tens of thousands of genes. A human brain contains several hundred different sub-organs, each of which does somewhat different things. To assert that any function of such a large system is irreducible seems irresponsible-until you’re in a position to claim that you understand that system.

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By straight_talk_11, June 18, 2007 at 7:00 pm Link to this comment

Look, let me suggest that we back off, let Jim H. rant and rave all he likes, and just quit responding to him. If he’s not under twelve physically, he is at least emotionally. He apparently has no intellectual recourse other than to stubbornly repeat what at least one of his parents seems to believe. It’s probably that simple.

On a side note, he is listed as an unregistered commenter. Their comments are supposed to be mediated, but I suspect they are not or they would never have made it into this discussion. That blurb about mediation is likely similar to signs warning falsely that a property is under electronic alarm protection.

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By straight_talk_11, June 18, 2007 at 6:28 pm Link to this comment

I would be amazed to find that Jim H. is not a semi-bright kid under twelve years of age.

The End

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By Jim H., June 18, 2007 at 5:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re: 79029

Dirty-mouth-Mike;

Your long-winded attempt to “discredit the messenger” in the hope of erasing the idiocy of your childish naive asinine assertions and lies, is more demonstration of how far you are willing to stray from reality in your infantile attempt to make a misstatement of facts seem possible!

And your gross vulgarity is not unexpected from one who is an inveterate liar, and has no other means of diverting careful evaluation from the woven untruths aimed at mesmerizing any who happens on those deceits!

Bring a note from your Psychiatrist!

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By Jim H., June 18, 2007 at 3:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re: 78977

Rev. Cat said: “Atheism and fundamentalism are similar—-”(?)

I say: This is a BOLD FACED LIE!  An absolute misrepresentation of the TRUTH!

I say “Atheism” is a refusal to accept liars as truth tellers, or fairytales as truth!
And Aethists are people who live in the “Secular” world of reality!
Whereas “Fundamentalists” are religious fanatics who prey on innocent children and fools!

Cat says: “Leaving out the second part of that sentence is a lie”.

I say: Cat is WRONG! This is another LIE!

I say: It is an insult to any intelligent person to suggest any similarity describing “Aethism”, and “fundamentalism”, and some type of effort to bring discredit on ‘Secular Aethists!

I say: When you start a statement with a LIE, you are trying to put something over on whoever reads the balance of that statement, which cannot be true!

DICTIONARY:  fundamentalism:
A RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT characterized by INTOLERANCE to SECULARISM(!) (BIGOTRY)

And it therefore follows that anything based on this LIE, is also part of this LIE!
For any intelligent person; someone who is accustomed to using LIES to convey and support their idiotic notions is not to be trusted, nor permitted to begin a statement with a LIE in a ‘bold faced’attempt to prove a lying assertion!

When a ‘sentence’ is begun with a LIE, it invalidates the balance of the sentence PERIOD!

Even ‘some’ of you fools should know this!

Cat , You should have a ChAT with your shrink!

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By Mike-G/WestSide, June 18, 2007 at 3:12 pm Link to this comment

I guess there is a point in every argument,
after neither side is willing to concede a point
or admit that some answers remain beyond
agreement, where it seems that the only option
remaining is to do violence to the opposing side.

Colin Powell referred to this as “the failure
of diplomacy” (I think that’s how he put it)
and it inevitably leads to war, because neither
side is willing to compromise to keep the peace.

I feel like I have reached ths point with Jim H.
I would rather punch his lights out than listen
to another word from him.

Nothing seems to awaken him to the rudeness
and cruelty he uses against the other people who
post here. This is a sign of a severe anti-social
sickness within him, the kind where a person gets
their sense of membership in society from the level
of anger they are able to elicit from others.

Well, I’m fed up with giving him any more of my energy
or attention. He has proved he is not worthy of a response. 
He seems to think he is the only person who has seen the truth
and that the rest of us are imbeciles who must be taught by him.

His behavior is typical of delusional soiciopaths.
And even though he uses different ideas, the style of his thinking
is typical of closed-minded fundamentalists, who want others to
think as he does, instead of thinking for themselves.  He doesn’t
seem to see that he is behaving like a tyrant.

I wonder how many contributing voices to this debate have been
squelched or driven away because of the toxic hatefulness he has
brought here?

I tend to feel that he is one of those “spoilers” funded by the
religious right to thwart any intelligent discussion of these issues
and drive people away from Truth-dig. His intolerant and mostly
incoherent rants make us all look bad, and divert everyone from
exploring the complexities of the issues.

If he really cares about communicating his ideas,
if he really wants other people to respect and listen to him,
he will have to demonstrate that he respects others, and learn
to interact constructively rather than destructively.

Do you get it Jim? This isn’t about Godism or atheisim or GWB
or the government.  It’s about YOU being an asshole. Stop it.

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By straight_talk_11, June 18, 2007 at 2:46 pm Link to this comment

Norman Doering Re: Comment 78982

Norman, your linguistic application of abstraction is an extremely non-rigorous connotation of the word. I’m referring to a very rigorous, mathematical application. For example:

y=x+1

This equation has an infinite number of possible solutions, so it is not concretely soluble by itself. I can substitute any value I wish for x and get a different y. However, it is not devoid of information. If I represent it graphically, with y on the vertical axis and x on the horizontal, it tells me that a line moving upward through 1 on the y axis at a 45 degree angle (a slope of 1) represents all possible solutions to this equation. This is an example of something general, abstract, relatively global and non-specific that nevertheless constitutes something real and practical that I can use to solve for any specific value of x I wish.

This is rigorous and non-wishy-washy, in contrast to your attempt to characterize all abstraction in an opposite way. I used the term value to indicate its usefulness, not to specific values. I used the word value in its global, general sense and you interpret in its local, specific sense. (Funny thing, huh?) This is, of course, a very elementary example simply to show that you are using a very non-technical definition of abstraction.

All physical theory is abstraction, but it is extremely precise, rigorous, and represents a highly accurate intellectual model of physical behavior that enables us to perform all kinds of very high-tech feats and conduct research, from astronomical to subatomic, that yields highly reliable results. In fact subatomic theory and astronomical research are intimately linked, since subatomic theory is essential to discovering across trillions of miles the material constituents of the macrocosm.

People typically view abstraction as impractical, and belittle its importance as compared to the practical skills typically used in engineering, maintaining, and troubleshooting equipment, for example. Such people fail to recognize this is cookbook knowledge that would never have existed if someone else had not had the essential and utterly practical skill to construct abstract theoretical models on which to base what’s in the cookbook.

Here is a table I’ve constructed, as best I could with this funky interface, to help clarify the contrasting characters of abstract and concrete:

Abstract_____________ Concrete

int1 + int2 = 10_____ 4|6,  3|7, 9|1,  -10|20,                                       
_____________________ 13|-3, 2|8,…

Global_______________ Local
Theory_______________ Data
Explanatory power____ Isolated perceptions or
_____________________ non-integrated fragments of
_____________________ knowledge; rote
_____________________ “understanding”

General______________ Specific
Comprehensive________ Limited
Unity________________ Diversity
Stability_____________ Change
Gravity______________ Object trajectories
Silence, stillness______ Activity
Axle_________________ Wheel rim
Awareness____________ Point where ”wheel” touches
_____________________ “ground”; object of directed
_____________________ attention, focused awareness

Knower_______________ Known
Non-spatio-temporal,  ___ Space-time
transcendent reality

Metaphorical ocean_____ Metaphorical ocean surface
Artistry_______________ Craftsmanship

Mythological, intuitive, or spiritual insight
Sees, understands fundamentalist.     
_____________________ Superficial, literal-minded,       
_____________________ narrow interpretation
_____________________ (fundamentalism)
_____________________ Plugs up only one hole in the          
_____________________ dike at a time; never can see  
_____________________ the big picture or understand
_____________________ anyone who does.

Universality____________ Xenophobia
Mutual identifi-_________ Mutual exclusion
cation

Communication_________ Isolation
Infinity________________ Point

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By Norman Doering, June 18, 2007 at 12:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In comment #78744, straight_talk_11 wrote:

Abstraction is the general, stable, unifying value that always underlies the specific, changing, local, diverse instances of its application.

Instead of explaining what an abstraction is you’ve revealed that you don’t know what an abstraction is.

Abstractions aren’t a “value” and they’re not really “stable”—Abstractions are the most fluid and unstable part of language there is and that’s why machine translation of languages is so hard. All of language is a combination of abstraction and convention. Anyone who really couldn’t handle abstraction couldn’t understand any language.

Consider the word “ball,” you abstract a bunch of different things that have some similar property in common. There are baseballs which are fist-sized with stitched cloth coverings and solid cores, there are bigger inflated leather soccer balls, there are even larger rubber basketballs, fuzzy tennis balls and other completely different types of objects of different sizes and made of different materials that we call balls. At first one might assume that ball meant “sphere” because that’s the first pattern you might notice that all these different objects have in common. Then someone comes along with a football and people call that a ball too and now the reference is different, the abstraction changes, it’s not the spherical shape that makes a ball, it’s what you use it for—you play certain types of games with a ball.

That’s the problem with words and assumed abstractions, the pattern being referenced can shift to a pattern you hadn’t anticipated. Those first balls had more in common than just being spheres. And it really never was the spherical property of the balls that people referenced so fast and easy because if you were playing a game of basketball and you told someone to “toss me the sphere” you’d probably stump them for a moment while they tried to figure out what you meant by “sphere” and unless you were pointing at that sphere in their hands they’d probably give you a weird look and shrug their shoulders. And then someone comes along with a badminton birdie and no one calls that a ball. Then the whole pattern recognition system that underlies the assumed abstraction is now on the verge of disintegrating into a mere cultural convention because in the end habit and convention trump abstract meanings because that’s we humans do best. Don’t look for a unifying pattern, it may have started with a pattern recognition operation, but different people saw different patterns and their different usages conflict. Mix those varying perceived patterns in a single culture and what’s left is only convention with just a mere shadow of whatever abstractions were being referenced.

Thus the claim that abstractions are some “stable, unifying value” is pure BS from someone who doesn’t understand the workings of either language or abstraction.

You can’t claim the pattern I described above only happens with concrete things like balls because the problem is actually worse when you get further and further from the concrete things you can point too. Words like “faith,” “freedom,” “evil,” “abstraction,” and so on which do not refer to physical objects suffer even more from the conflicting meanings and patterns we observe being referenced.

What abstractions really are is a type of generalization and data compression. It’s rooted in how the brain’s neural networks function as a pattern recognition system.

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By Cat, June 18, 2007 at 11:56 am Link to this comment

Jim H.:

Leaving out the second part of that sentence is a lie. Here is another simple example of why leaving out the second part of a sentence is inaccurate: “Scott is always angry when he is at work.” If you said “Scott is always angry…” that would be a lie.  He is angry when he is at work. I know that it is a very simple example, but it works.
 
In conclusion, his is the last time I am addressing any of your comments; and I would encourage Straight_Talk_11 and Mike-G/WestSide and anyone else who is reasonable to stop responding to Jim H. How can we talk to someone who says to us “All your idiotic blatherings only plunges you-all more deeply into the slime of that cesspool life of “Godism” fantasy!”?  Read Karl Popper and you will understand why people like you are dangerous to the Open Society.

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By Jim H., June 18, 2007 at 9:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

RE: 78829, 78843, 78852, 78857

Thank you all for reading some of my posts!

But you-all are too, too long winded, and use too, too many words to support asinine assertions!

Now, ABOUT THE LIE?  “Atheism and fundamentalism are similar—-”(?)

When a ‘sentence’ is begun with a LIE, it invalidates the balance of ‘it’!

Even ‘some’ of you fools should know this!

And, any of you simple minded idiots who: ‘are not’ ‘RILED UP’ to the point of exasperation over the invasive undermining influences and constant harassment from the BIGOTRY of the so called “RELIGIOUS RIGHT”,
that has included the ‘installation’ of a war-time deserter as President, the destruction of our once great Pledge of Alegiance, the dismantling of the US Constitution, the repeated efforts to spread their EVIL infectious Plague-like sickness by brainwashing, and indoctrinating innocent little children and fools and converting them to slavish shills to help the criminals continue their ‘Ponzi-racketeering’ destruction of our once great Democracy, and replace it with a Bush-Chaney Theocracy, are likely BRAIN DEAD!

Or, totally incapable of comprehending the damage done by the “violations of Church and State” that include Congress allowing ‘Coinage of the US’ to bear Religious slogans; 100 members of Congress saying the ‘Religious prayer’ “Pledge” on the steps of the Senate; Bush’s “Faith based donations of taxpayer’s money to the proselytising Religionists; Religionist’s control of large portions of the Media, including Radio, Television, Newspapers, Publishing Houses, Libraries, and Schools!  And the endless constant efforts to interject their lying, bigoted religious ‘indoctrinating’ influences into all, and everyday school curriculum!

Further, as I have said here-to-fore: All your idiotic blatherings only plunges you-all more deeply into the slime of that cesspool life of “Godism” fantasy!

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By Mike-G/WestSide, June 18, 2007 at 1:53 am Link to this comment

response to straight-talk 11 -  re: agnosticism

I read somewhere that the training of Buddhist monks
is measured in terms of how much ambiguity they can
handle - -  as in how many irreconcilable positions they
are able to contain in their awareness without becoming
totally rattled and having to fall back on previous paradigms.

It’s not a bad way to measure one’s own intelligence, or
a least one’s potential for intelligence. 

It certainly never fails to stretch the mind!

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By straight_talk_11, June 17, 2007 at 10:24 pm Link to this comment

“DICTIONARY:  fundamentalism:
A RELIGIOUS movement characterized by INTOLERANCE to SECULARISM(!)”
- Jim H.

Another example of the fundamentalist mindset:

Pick out a favorable if very narrow definition from his “bible”, in this case a dictionary, and quote it as if it were the whole story. How about intolerance of other religions…or of conflicting viewpoints within a religion?

This is an absolutist view of verbal meaning, typical of the black and white world of bible and dictionary thumpers. No flexibility, no nuance, no real depth. Just quote authorities because you don’t have any of the natural authority born of genuine personal insight.

A lot of professors like that. Just do papers quoting other authorities. Our higher education tends to reinforce that. You generally have to quote what some alleged authority said in order to make a case. Never mind judgments based on the intrinsic merit of your own original thinking. What if we had applied that to the theories of Einstein? What authorities could he have quoted to support his thinking?

Look at what fundamentalists do fundamentally and you will recognize other fundamentalists when you see them. Most if not all atheists are fundamentalists in principle if not in Jim H’s extremely narrow dictionary definition. Rest assured, there are lots of other definitions available in other dictionaries and probably also in his.

The world is as we see it. If our awareness is capable of handling only local, concrete perception with little significant abstract processing capability, the universe will look as dull and full of isolated, decaying packages of local entropy as ultimately dead as we perceive ourselves to be. In such a universe there is no evolution to cite in a thoughtless, mentally short-circuited attempt to substitute for God. Evolution cannot happen in such a universe. Entropy is local and isolated. The Intelligence implicit in the elegant structure of nature’s laws is omnipresent, unified, and has infinite power to organize and drive evolution. Hmmm…infinite, omnipresent, and omnipotent…have a familiar ring?

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By Mike-G/WestSide, June 17, 2007 at 10:07 pm Link to this comment

Jim H -
  why do you begin each post by making a joke or slur
  out of somebody else’s name?  It’s quite childish and it
  tends to reveal that all you really want is angry reactions
  from others.  Please stop it - it’s immature and rude.

  Why so much incendiary language in every sentence?
  Every word you use is a kind of provocation, a taunt,
  like a playground thug egging on a fight.  Do you
  recognize that you are doing this?  Why?  It doesn’t
  make your ideas more powerful - it only makes you
  look like a jerk.

  You tend to take surface meanings and apply them
  globally to whole realms of thought.  This is a symptom
  of shallow thinking and delusions of superior intelligence.
  Your opinions are no more important than anyone else
  who posts here, so show respect for the people who
  take the time to writetheir comments.

  You rely on the language of science to make your claims,
  as if you think no one here has ever heard of a quark. There
  are a lot of gaps in your understanding of things, Jim.  Perhaps
  the biggest hole in your thinking is the lack of humility toward  
  the limited nature of intelligence itself.  The mark of a true  
  scientific approach is a deep humility before the unknowable  
  mysteries of the cosmos, and respect for other viewpoints. 
  Original thinkers encourage people to find the answers for
  themselves,  they don’t humiliate and shame people for
  thinking differently.


  And who certified you as an authority to determine
  right and wrong for other people?  What arrogance.
  If you disagree with someone, please use rational
  language to discuss things, or don’t burden the rest
  of us with your hateful intolerance.

  Interestingly, your appropach has taught me a lot about
  the feelings of fundamentalists and radical extemists.
  In reading your posts, I have come to understand why
  they can be driven to do violence in order to strike back
  at arrogant, intolerant forces that ridicule, distort, and
  unfairly squelch their opinions.  I found that I spent long
  portions of my day just hating you for being so rudely cruel
  and closed-minded.  And I’ve never even met you.  It’s not
  about your ideas, Jim - it’s about the way you present them.

  Is this how you want others to perceive you?  You have some
  good ideas to share, so why do you have to be so rude about
  everything?

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By straight_talk_11, June 17, 2007 at 9:33 pm Link to this comment

Thank you, Cat and Mike-G/WestSide. I like your concise summary in comment 78768 very much, Cat. Mike-G, your suggestion of an agnostic middle ground is interesting and reminds me of a rather biting remark my nephew made recently. He says atheists are just too stupid to remain agnostic long enough to come up with anything intelligent about what’s really going on.

By the way, Cat, it’s easy to understand Jim H’s truncation of your statement: “Atheism and fundementalism are similar in that there is no abstraction.”

He focused only on this part:
“Atheism and fundamentalism are similar—-”(?)
(from 78802 by Jim H.)

The reason is simple. He is an atheist and simply cannot grok anything abstract, including the meaning of the word itself. It means absolutely nothing to him. He just skipped right over it to the only part of the sentence in which he could find any meaning.

So it’s not in his vocabulary in terms of any practical or even conceptual ability to deal with it. He’s a cookbook technician in life. I know this metaphor will probably zing right past his head, too, but if it’s not in his cookbook, it’s not food. If you’re preceptive enough to notice anything outside his little book, it’s not real…just fantasy. I’ve known lots of teachers like that. They just follow the recipes they were taught and pass them on. Terribly uninspiring!

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By Cat, June 17, 2007 at 7:36 pm Link to this comment

To Jim H.:

1.Why so much hatred? My point has proven true: Atheists, similar to fundementalists, seperate the world into us and them. You do the same Jim, and you do not use rational arguement. Just because the definition in the dictionary are different, it doesn’t mean that they are polar opposites. I find you to be just as radical and dangerous as the Christian Right. 

2.Next time you quote me include the whole sentance. You pick out the first part of the sentance to make me look bad. Here is the full sentance: “Atheism and fundementalism are similar in that there is no abstraction”.

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By Jim H., June 17, 2007 at 5:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

RE: 78768

Cat-talk

You say: “Atheism and fundamentalism are similar—-”(?) 
WRONG!

DICTIONARY:  fundamentalism:
A RELIGIOUS movement characterized by INTOLERANCE to SECULARISM(!)

And you say: “Atheism is a rage against those who think—-”(?)
WRONG!
I say: You need a dictionary, and a new head!

I say: “ATHEISTS” are those who live REALTY instead of FANTASY!
And “rage against” “Bigots who cannot “think”, but, spread lies and propaganda that enslaves innocent children and fools like you, makes them robotic shills, and criminal cohorts to their felonious Ponzi-racketeering schemes designed to destroy Democracy and supplant it with
‘Theocracy’ like the Bush-Chaney Mafia!

Anyone not opposed to “Theism”, ‘Godism’, or ‘blind faith’ in the unproven; will buy a “pig-in-a-poke” and donate money to buy food for Mickey Mouse if their “Priest” or “Minister” suggests it!
As told, they elected a Muslim Military Deserter President! Defied the US Constitution, and destroyed a World Renowned “Pledge of Allegiance”
to help spread an infectious Plague-like disease called “Religion”!
And are intent, with the help of a foreign entity, The Vatican, to bring the entire World to their knees!

You say: “—-written in the Bible.(?)

I say: Only those with the ‘cancer eaten’ minds
of idiots, the charlatans who infected them, and other imberciles would even acknowledge such a pornographic how-to manual for stoning, and slaughter exists! Or read? it?

You need help! 

Mass/energy never disappear
Ever were ever here!
J.H. 5/8/07

Conservation of Mass/Energy     E=mc2
  1.The Universe contains an infinite amount of matter and energy.
    We cannot create nor can we destroy matter or energy. 
2.Matter can be changed in form, or state.
3. Energy can be changed in form.
4. We change matter to energy and energy to
matter never diminishing the totality. 

Without something to ‘create! a “so-called “Creator-God”
is an impossibel superfluous nonentity!
————————————————————————
THE ORIGIN OF NATURE
  Beginning is never found but keep an ear to the ground
  Accept the word of a friend there’s no beginning or end
Natures origin for instance is ceaselessness Existence
The worst form of child abuse is warping of the mind!
JH 8/29/06

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By Mike-G/WestSide, June 17, 2007 at 4:39 pm Link to this comment

I agree with you, Cat—Well said, StraightTalk 11 !

does this open the possibility that
an agnostic approach might be useful
for finding some common ground between
the extreme viewpoints regarding this issue?

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By Cat, June 17, 2007 at 2:56 pm Link to this comment

Well said Straight_Talk_11.  Atheism and fundementalism are similar in that there is not abstraction.  Atheism is a rage against those who think there is more to life than flesh and bones.  Fundementalism is a rage against those who believe anything other than what is written in the Bible.

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By straight_talk_11, June 17, 2007 at 12:59 pm Link to this comment

“Hedges doesn’t seem to want the audience to understand what he has to say. He wants them to come away thinking Hedges is very smart and must be right even if the exposition made absolutely no sense.”
- Norman Doering in comment 78500

The idea that words have precise and absolute meanings independent of their use in context is a trait of the fundamentalist mindset. Have you considered that the problem might be reading comprehension instead of problems with the language used? I have no such problems, but then I scored post-graduate level in reading comprehension when I was in the seventh grade.

I notice a lot of people here have severe problems with anything abstract. Abstraction is the general, stable, unifying value that always underlies the specific, changing, local, diverse instances of its application. It is essential to any real depth of understanding. All our modern technology is based on it, but engineers don’t necessarily have to understand the underlying principles. They can simply plug numbers into equations cookbook style and get practical answers without any real understanding. Monkey see, monkey do!

Spirituality, as I’ve already commented in one of my last posts if anyone bothered to read it, is all about abstraction…a level of abstraction so ultimate and comprehensive that it embraces the entire cosmos, all of existence. That is the problem atheists have with God. They are unable to grasp any deep abstraction. They are more like their opponents, the religious fundamentalists, than they want to think.

Fundamentalists can’t understand abstraction either, so they invest their beliefs in specific little “factoids” concerning things and events upon which their salvation is wholly dependent. Atheists recognize the absurdity of the dogma to which the religious fundamentalists subscribe, but do exactly the same thing with their special-case surface reality. Atheists take a classical view of the world around them; see it as full of separate, unconnected things. One, in another blog, couldn’t understand why I called human beings subcomponents of the cosmos. Atheists have trouble even with context and connectivity, not to mention unity, which is what consciousness is all about and what gives meaningfulness to it all. All our perceptions are unified within the comprehensive nature of our awareness.

Given two possibilities concerning the existence of God, both of which are beyond immediately palpable proof, and the implied continuity of consciousness in the positive view previously posited here, how natural and reasonable is it that anyone would perceive existence in terms of a negative choice that makes life and our existence meaningless in the most profoundly ultimate sense possible? Does that not also corner us into proposing that our consciousness either does not exist or somehow appears miraculously as an experience apparently confined locally to certain isolated biological subcomponents of the universe despite a total lack of such an attribute comprehensively?

How can atheists defend such an ironic miracle? Does such inelegance not also do violence to everything else we know about physical structure and communication?

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By Norman Doering, June 17, 2007 at 1:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Now, the Harris quotes:

I would like to finish with some quotes from Harris’ book, The End of Faith, which I find deeply disturbing.

“Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense.”—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 53

I tend to agree with Sam. But I don’t think the phrase “certain beliefs” is meant to include average religious people or your average Muslim (even if “deranged”). You probably can’t even say that no peaceful means of persuasion can be used on a lot of people in Al Quade. But yea, once a belief about “Allah’s will is we kill” really locks into their brains I don’t think you can talk people out of it. We know something is inspiring a few radicals to commit acts of extraordinary violence against Western targets, but they’re actually very, very few and apparently, judging by the shoe bomber, often more incompetent than George Bush. We’d be in real trouble if Al Quade had a halfway decent following. I don’t find that passage disturbing, just the fact that it’s almost too obvious too mention is a disturbing reality about this world.

Do you believe anyone can be reasoned out of violence? If you approached Osama bin Laden and nicely tried to show him love and compassion and then talk him out of his murder planning ways do you think you’d make much progress convincing him? Think you could get bin Laden to say 911 was a mistake and then apologize for the suffering he had caused?

I kind of doubt it. Still, if someone wants to try it—maybe they can surprise me.

His defense of Nuclear war:
“What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime – as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day – but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe.—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 129

Obviously Sam Harris is not someone to consult as a military tactitian, and I’m sure he won’t be, so I wouldn’t worry there. The first strike idea sounds really bad. The world wouldn’t stand for it.

However, Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, worries me in just the way Harris describes. It’s not because I know something special, it’s because I don’t know more than I’m told by the news: Mahmoud has a nuclear program, denies the holocaust and has weird beliefs about some invisible Imam. Apparently this also worries the Bush administration which has lost so much credibility after Iraq. That Bush boy cried wolf once already, people are starting not to believe him, including Sam.

His racism towards Arabs:
“Muslims are utterly deranged by their religious faith.”—Sam Harris, Letter To A Christian Nation, p. 85

1) The word Arab does not appear in that sentence. He used the word “Muslim,” a reference to a religion, not a race.

2) Sam thinks Christians are deranged too and he’s got letters from them to prove it.

3) What is the context? There is a tactic called “quote mining” where people take quotes out of context to make it seem like they’re saying something other than they meant. I am not familiar with Sam’s newest book.

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By Cat, June 16, 2007 at 11:14 pm Link to this comment

Doering said:

Tenth, you said: ?”Sam doesn’t actually know what to think about the war in Iraq. It’s not     his problem to solve. He is not Christopher Hitchens who thinks it is his   problem.
At the beginning of his book, The End of Faith he supports the war. But now that the war is going terribly he tries to conceal that fact.
Supports what war? The war on terror or the war in Iraq? They’re not the same. The badly named “War on Terror” would include Afghanistan and going against the Taliban which was helping hide bin Laden. Were you against that invasion?”

What war you ask?  The one that is in bold in the passage.  Could you not figure that out?!?!  I am not against the invasion of Afghanistan but I am against the way it was carried out.  Harris supports these invasions for “The War on Terror” because he his not only religio-phobic but racist.

You also said that religion is “the service and worship of God or the supernatural.” Did you notice the OR in there? Hedges does believe in God.  It’s not the God you claim to know or envision.  It is something beyond that, but maybe it is hard for some people to understand.  The bottom line is who cares if people are truly religious?  What is the harm?  If they are not being manipulated by a Dobson or a Robertson or a Bin Laden then leave them alone.  Why make such a big fuss?  It’s futile anyway.  Use your energy in something more realistic than trying to end religion.

AT LEAST READ THE FOLLOWING IF YOU ARE SKIMING OR EVEN SKIPING WHAT I WRITE!!!:

You said: “Cat, I know you’d rather be read with more attention than I’m going to give you or Hedges, but I don’t want to waste a lot more time arguing about this.”

How can I argue with the intolerable?  I leave you with a quote from Karl Popper.

“No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude.”

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By Norman Doering, June 16, 2007 at 9:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Cat wrote:

“...what lessons can be learned” is me referring to morals.

It was? Are all lesons are moral lessons?

I’m curious click this link to Mark Twain’s story of Tom Sawyer and the whitewashing of the fence. Is that a moral lesson?

Those Sufi storytellers would be jealous I think.

And here’s another, Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut (1961). What’s the lesson here?

Don’t rush, enjoy if you haven’t read them yet.

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By Norman Doering, June 16, 2007 at 9:14 pm Link to this comment
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Cat asked:

...could you please address the issues specifically in this comment, point by point.

No.

Cat, I know you’d rather be read with more attention than I’m going to give you or Hedges, but I don’t want to waste a lot more time arguing about this.

Comments will be random:

Did you even read the I Don’t Believe in Atheists piece?

I did give up reading it first time round and just ranted once I accumulated too many unsupported claims I couldn’t buy, like this:

... the supreme importance of the monotheistic traditions in creating the concept of the individual.  This individualism—the belief that we can exist as distinct beings from the tribe, or the crowd, and that we are called on as individuals to make moral decisions that at times defy the clamor of the tribe or the nation—is a gift of the Abrahamic faiths.

Ernest Canning has a fairy good response to it on Sam’s strike back page.

You have some notion that a religious person has to be crazy, and believe in stupid things.

I wouldn’t have used the word stupid or crazy, that’s an opinion and that’s not the distinction. I’d have used the word “supernatural.” I’ve believed some fairly stupid stuff that wasn’t supernatural.

If you’re a full blown naturalist and don’t believe in the supernatural—it’s not religion any more, it’s philosophy. Religion is by definition about the supernatural. My opinion about supernatural beliefs is irrelevant.

Check out the dictionary: It says religion is “the service and worship of God or the supernatural.”

Tenth, you said:
Sam doesn’t actually know what to think about the war in Iraq. It’s not his problem to solve. He is not Christopher Hitchens who thinks it is his problem.

At the beginning of his book, The End of Faith he supports the war. But now that the war is going terribly he tries to conceal that fact.

Supports what war? The war on terror or the war in Iraq? They’re not the same. The badly named “War on Terror” would include Afghanistan and going against the Taliban which was helping hide bin Laden. Were you against that invasion?

Maybe Jesse Jackson should have gone in there and tried to give the Taliban a little love and compassion and talk them in to giving up bin Laden?

Your understanding of this Commandment is very typical of people who do not study the Bible. The Commandment is telling people not to worship fake idols.

As opposed to real idols?

In Hedges’ book Losing Moses on the Freeway, he writes one chapter on these two teenagers who live in a housing project in Roxbury, MA. They are addicted to heroin. They spend all their time acquiring heroin to satisfy their addiction, and Hedges explains that it took over their lives. They worshiped a false idol.

So, ancient pagan dieties are a metaphor for sopoforic drugs? I guess Marx was right, religion is the opiate of the masses.

But I suspect those ancient pagans would feel a little insulted by the comparison.

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By Cat, June 16, 2007 at 12:24 pm Link to this comment

To Doering (read comment below first):

Tenth, you said:

Sam doesn’t actually know what to think about the war in Iraq. It’s not his problem to solve. He is not Christopher Hitchens who thinks it is his problem.

At the beginning of his book, The End of Faith he supports the war.  But now that the war is going terribly he tries to conceal that fact.

Eleventh, you are diminishing Hedges religious faith, which is interesting because the Dominionist Christian do the same thing.  You are both saying that he is not radical enough.  You have some notion that a religious person ahs to be crazy, and believe in stupid things.  Tenteculata said:

“To say that Chris Hedges’ faith is not true religious faith is the same as saying to a gay man, ‘Your love isn’t really love.’”  She follows this saying “Religio-phobia is the most cherished intolerance of the Left.  It allows them to feel intellectually and morally superior, and to elevate themselves far above the ignorant and demented religious horde.”

I would like to finish with some quotes from Harris’ book, The End of Faith, which I find deeply disturbing.

“Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people.  If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense.”—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 53

His defense of Nuclear war:
“What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry?  If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them.  In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own.  Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime – as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day – but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe.—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 129
His racism towards Arabs:
“Muslims are utterly deranged by their religious faith.”—Sam Harris, Letter To A Christian Nation, p. 85
His defense of torture (which I might add is not a “Hollywood Scenario”):

Rather, it seems obvious that the misapplication of torture should be far less troubling to us than collateral damage: there are, after all, no infants interned at Guantanamo Bay, just rather scrofulous young men, many of whom were caught in the very act of trying to kill our soldiers.  Torture need not even impose a significant risk of death or permanent injury; while the collaterally damaged are, almost by definition, crippled or killed.  The ethical divide that seems to be opening up here suggests that those who are willing to drop bombs might want to abduct the nearest and dearest of suspected terrorists – their wives, mothers, and daughters – and torture them as well, assuming anything profitable to our side might come of it.”—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 194.

More on torture:
“Given what many of us believe about the exigencies of our war on terrorism, the practice of torture, in certain circumstances, would seem to be not only permissible, but necessary.”—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p.199

P.S.  Did you even read the I Don’t Believe in Atheists piece?  It’s a very fine piece of writing.  And could you please address the issues specifically in this comment, point by point.

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By Cat, June 16, 2007 at 12:23 pm Link to this comment

Doering:

You have completely missed what I have been saying. 

First, I am not necessarily a Christina.  I am still young, and I haven’t made up my mind yet.  I certainly do not believe in a physical God, like a ghost. 

Second, Hedges does not believe in a “sky daddy” phantom.  His definition of God is very specific to his own philosophy.  He sees God as a mystery, an idea created by humans that cannot be touched or seen.  You misinterpret this point greatly. 

Third, the City of God does not refer to a “sky daddy” God.  It refers to love and compassion for others. (And by the way, one cannot love ideas).  The City of Man is worship of the self.  It is a way of life where one’s motives are directed in his or her own benefit.  Your claim that the City of Man creates community is false. 

Fourth, you said:

“My working assumption is that Hedges intentionally tries to baffle people with BS. He brings in a lot of redefined words to make points that if stated simply are clearly not relevant to Sam Harris’ argument. It’s the diametric opposite of honest argument. Hedges doesn’t seem to want the audience to understand what he has to say. He wants them to come away thinking Hedges is very smart and must be right even if the exposition made absolutely no sense.”

This, to me, is proof that you have not read his stuff, and you do not know what he has done.  You don’t know who he is.  He is a journalist for one, and makes a lot more sense than Harris.  Hedges worked for the New York Times, Dallas Morning News, won the Pulitzer Prize, won the Amnesty International award for human rights, and has written books that have sold over 250,000 copies.  He also went to Harvard Divinity School.  This guy knows how to write.  Don’t say he tries to confuse people to look like he is smart.  That is rude and a lie. 

Fifth, you said:

And God fire bombs the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for less reason than we had to drop a couple nukes on Japan. Japan attacked and killed, the people of Sodom just wanted to rape a couple angels. Now that’s not a punishment to fit the crime.

I never justified this. 

Sixth, you said: 

Note first, Sam is not talking about any real case, it’s an imagined scenario, a thought experiment about morality. He tells us to imagine a known terrorist who has planted a bomb. The terrorist now sits in your custody and he gloats about the suffering he’ll cause. Given this state of affairs, given that there is still time to prevent an atrocity, is it wrong to subject this unpleasant fellow to torture?

All pro-torture advocates use this argument. 

Seventh, when I say evil, I mean war and unjustified violence and exploitation and manipulation.  I do not mean it in the Biblical sense. 

Eighth, you asked:

I don’t see the word “moral” in your statement which I responded to. What is the connection between creation and morality if any?

And I said in the sentence just above that “The Native Americans told creation myths, not necessarily to explain how the world was made, but what lessons could be learned from these stories.”  “...what lessons can be learned” is me referring to morals.

Ninth, you said:

“Then apparently Hedges doesn’t know the first commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Your understanding of this Commandment is very typical of people who do not study the Bible.  The Commandment is telling people not to worship fake idols.  In Hedges’ book Losing Moses on the Freeway, he writes one chapter on these two teenagers who live in a housing project in Roxbury, MA.  They are addicted to heroin.  They spend all their time acquiring heroin to satisfy their addiction, and Hedges explains that it took over their lives.  They worshiped a false idol.  They were so attached to this substance that it interfered with their ability to love and take care of themselves.

And there is more…

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By Jim H., June 16, 2007 at 10:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re:78459

No man;

You say: You’ve seen Jesus Camp one too many times.(?)

I say: Only idiot ‘Godists’ like you went to “see” that Bullshit!

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By Norman Doering, June 16, 2007 at 4:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Cat wrote:

he [Sam Harris] supports nuclear war, ...

And God fire bombs the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for less reason than we had to drop a couple nukes on Japan. Japan attacked and killed, the people of Sodom just wanted to rape a couple angels. Now that’s not a punishment to fit the crime.

Are you going to make the same complaint against the God who drowned the world, who ordered the genocide of Hebrew enemies?

The U.S. government supports nuclear war under extreme circumstances. There is no point in having nuclear weapons if you don’t. We’ve had a policy called M.A.D., which stands for Mutually Assured Destruction, in place for decades.

Are you going to make the same complaint against the U.S. government?

he supports the war in Iraq, ...

Sam doesn’t actually know what to think about the war in Iraq. It’s not his problem to solve. He is not Christopher Hitchens who thinks it is his problem.

In your next response I would appreciate it if you could describe your stance on whether evil will vanish if religion does.

No, evil will not vanish. But what is “evil” to you? That word gets wrapped in a lot of BS in religion.

Religious people tend to talk about good versus evil but good is not the opposite of evil, the opposite of good is bad and the opposite of evil is nurturing and help, you might call it “love.”

If love is the desire to help, nurture and/or care for something, then evil is the desire to harm anything for any reason. But it’s really just an ungracious, unloving judgement call and so calling anything evil can itself be called evil.

If God desires the death and pain of golden calf worshippers, Midianites, and others then God can be called evil. And that’s something a believer could not accept—thus the language is warped to hide it. Your own wars and God’s vengance are no longer considered evil because you’ve lost the real meaning of the word.

As long as conflicts between people and human societies exist, then some human beings will desire to harm others whom they think are a threat.

Atheism won’t change that—it will just remove one source of mental phantoms and the blindness that comes with religion.

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By Norman Doering, June 16, 2007 at 4:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Cat wrote:

Harris supports torture, ...

No. Sam Harris asks moral questions about torture, he doesn’t support it. He made two faulty assumption in his argument here, and he didn’t necessarily believe his assumptions.

Note first, Sam is not talking about any real case, it’s an imagined scenario, a thought experiment about morality. He tells us to imagine a known terrorist who has planted a bomb. The terrorist now sits in your custody and he gloats about the suffering he’ll cause. Given this state of affairs, given that there is still time to prevent an atrocity, is it wrong to subject this unpleasant fellow to torture?

For the sake of making a point he assumed you could actually get reliable information from torture and he assumed he could be assured of having the right subject to torture (the terrorist is gloating). If Sam was suppoting torture he wouldn’t be using such an absurd, Hollywood scenario.

Then Harris brings in our way of fighting war, dropping bombs on civilian populations which we do accept because they have worked for us. If anyone thinks the two assumptions in the scenario are true then Harris’ point would stand. Torture as moral as dropping bombs on people in war. That was his point. That was the moral question. If you drop a bomb on civilians in war the results will be worse than torture. You will leave more people mamed, traumatized and crippled than a torture system does.

War itself is a form of torture done on a huge scale. The only difference is scale and the goal. The goal of war is not to extract information but to break a society’s will to continue fighting. The negaitive affects torture has are multiplied a thousand times by war. John McCain seems to have recovered from his torture, he is functional and lucid, but Max Cleland will never regrow the limbs he lost in war.

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By Norman Doering, June 16, 2007 at 4:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am having some trouble understanding why you think Harris makes more sense than Hedges.

Well, for one thing Harris uses everday language and everday conversational meanings but Hedges has to redefine everything in weird ways that are ultimately quite Orwellian in their Newspeak way of making it impossible to even think Sam Harris’ thoughts.

For example, To Sam Harris’ discredit, he falls into the trap of using the “faith” euphemism in the title of his book. However, I understand what Sam means because that’s how most Christians I know use the word. They mean they have faith in their religious dogmas.

But faith doesn’t really mean believing in some religion. It means things like “Trust” and “Fidelity” and one can have faith in people, computers, cars and a thousand other non-religious things. That faith and trust is earned through experience.

Hedges isn’t wrong to say that Harris’ book “is an attack not on faith but on a system of being and believing that is dangerous and incompatible with the open society,” but he is very misleading because both Hedges and Harris are continually using the word “Faith” as a euphemism for some kind of religious belief. If we think of having faith in non-religious things, like a friend or an institution, like government, then Harris has no attack on that.

But Hedges later, in his opening remarks, redefines Faith to mean “... not faith in magic, not faith in church doctrine or church hierarchy, but faith in simple human kindness.” No, that’s not the meaning of faith either—it’s just twisted enough you miss how faith is earned. And it’s not just about “kindness.”

It’s very sloppy reasoning and it seems a matter of dishonesty to pretend he doesn’t know what Harris means. My working assumption is that Hedges intentionally tries to baffle people with BS. He brings in a lot of redefined words to make points that if stated simply are clearly not relevant to Sam Harris’ argument. It’s the diametric opposite of honest argument. Hedges doesn’t seem to want the audience to understand what he has to say. He wants them to come away thinking Hedges is very smart and must be right even if the exposition made absolutely no sense.

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By Norman Doering, June 16, 2007 at 3:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“We are joined together, Augustine wrote, as a community by our love of the same object. Human love, he wrote, is always directed either toward God or the self. There are no other choices.

Not true, human love can be directed at other people, or even at ideas, institutions and mere phantoms of your imagination, like God.

If Augustine and Hedges can see no other choice but themselves and a single phantom of their imagination, then they have a serious problem.

The other loves we have in life, the love of status, the love of possessions, the love of power, are always the love of self.

When a mother lion dies defending her offspring she gains nothing for herself, she loses herself for the sake of her genetic heritage. That bit of mammalian genetics, those selfish genes, are part of the human genetic inheritance too. Parents give up a lot to have kids and it serves their personal selfish interests very little. You can’t strike that all up to ego and status, kids won’t win you status or do much for your ego because any, and most, idiots do it without even knowing they are serving a genetic mandate.

We have, Augustine argued, two choices in life. We can embrace the City of God, where we struggle to love to the exclusion of the self, a love that forces us to negate ourselves and our security to conserve, preserve and protect others, or we can embrace the City of Man where unbridled self-interest makes us all enemies.

False choice. In human civilization the only way you can serve yourself is by serving others or turning your life into a lie. If you want money, you need to get a job and jobs generally entail you doing what someone else wants you to do for money. In society, this city of man, our lot is tied together and we are all mutually dependent.

Michael Shermer, however, also points out that evolution in this social context is now a contest between the liars and the lie detectors. You can cheat your service to your fellows by lying about your value to others.

In the City of God, where we make hard and sometimes painful sacrifices for others, we become part of a whole. In the City of Man, where we live only for advancement of the self, we become part of a mob. The commandments, when followed, keep us in the City of God. When violated they exile us to the City of Man.”

Made up terms to define false, made up dichotomies.

Yes we have laws, morals and ethics and we need them to work together but these come from men who can see we need them, not from some supernatural sky daddy who has to hand them to us on stone tablets even after leaving Egytptian society where they already had similar laws because the people were too stupid to see they needed to agree on some laws to function as a society.

Hedges explains later in the book that one does not have to be a Christian to follow the same morals as the Commandants, because many other religions or even philosophies have the same principles.

Then apparently Hedges doesn’t know the first commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3 1) because that seems to eliminate any society with another god. Indeed, the Jews went on to kill quite a few of them and even their own when they took to worshipping a golden calf.

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By Norman Doering, June 16, 2007 at 3:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Cat asked:

Where does this definition come from?

The Bible. Your average Christian education in Sunday School. My education in Sunday Scoool as a child. Every preacher I’ve seen on TV.

I find it hard to believe you can live in this culture and not know that.

So you base all your morals around these books?

No, that’s not what I said.

But what are you saying, that Chris Hedges bases all his morals on the Bible? That the Native American Indians based their morality on stories? That’s the only way your question would have any honest import.

What you said was: “You talk about miracles being stated as magic in the Bible. The events that are called ‘miracles’ are of course impossible, but remember that these are only stories. The Native Americans told creation myths, not necassarily to explain how the world was made, but what lessons could be learned from these stories.”

I don’t see the word “moral” in your statement which I responded to. What is the connection between creation and morality if any?

These books are different from when one reads the Bible. The Bible is an attempt to make sense of all of life.

Well then, that’s a bad start right there. The Bible writers bit off way more than they could crew, no wonder their minds got sick.

Can you explain why a Christian is a Christian if and only if he or she believes this?

Because that is how most of those who call themselves Christian have defined themselves since at least the codification of the Nicene Creed. That is what emerged from Rome and if Chris Hedges is going to say that over a thousand years of Christianity was theocratic fascism then he’s getting a lot closer to Sam Harris than he knows, or will admit.

More to come later…

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By Cat, June 15, 2007 at 10:42 pm Link to this comment

Norman Doering said

“There is some wiggle room but you’ve wiggled yourself out of Christianity once you stop believing Jesus Christ is some kind of miracle performing dude who can save you from death—and saving you from death is the big magic.”

Where does this definition come from?

“If all it takes to be religious is to believe in the meaning of stories than I would be a Odyssian because I find meaning in Kubrick’s and Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. And I’d be a Farmian because I find meaning in Animal Farm.”

So you base all your morals around these books?  These books are different from when one reads the Bible.  The Bible is an attempt to make sense of all of life.  Animal Farm is on the Bolshevik uprising in 1917 and I don’t really know 2001: A Space, but these books are a lot more specific.  Calling yourself an Odyssian or a Farmian is also a little ridiculous. 

“Hedges is a Christian if and only if he believes that Jesus Christ was a historical figure and a magic dude who can save him from death. This is the final bit of logic one can only obfuscate around and avoid answering.”

“One is an atheist if and only if one finds the idea of a mentally anthropic God too incredible to credit.”

Can you explain why a Christian is a Christian if and only if he or she believes this?  I can think of many large religious figures who do not believe these things: William Sloane Coffin, Mel White, and of course Chris Hedges.

Here is quote from Hedges book Losing Moses on the Freeway which I think is relevant.  He quotes Augustine. 

“We are joined together, Augustine wrote, as a community by our love of the same object.  Human love, he wrote, is always directed either toward God or the self.  There are no other choices.  The other loves we have in life, the love of status, the love of possessions, the love of power, are always the love of self.  We have, Augustine argued, two choices in life.  We can embrace the City of God, where we struggle to love to the exclusion of the self, a love that forces us to negate ourselves and our security to conserve, preserve and protect others, or we can embrace the City of Man where unbridled self-interest makes us all enemies.  In the City of God, where we make hard and sometimes painful sacrifices for others, we become part of a whole. In the City of Man, where we live only for advancement of the self, we become part of a mob.  The commandments, when followed, keep us in the City of God.  When violated they exile us to the City of Man.”

Hedges explains later in the book that one does not have to be a Christian to follow the same morals as the Commandants, because many other religions or even philosophies have the same principles.  And his interpretation of the Commandments is very interesting.  You should read the book. 

I am having some trouble understanding why you thing Harris makes more sense than Hedges.  Harris supports torture, he supports nuclear war, he supports the war in Iraq, he supports the U.S.’s oppression towards the Middle East and he even supports killing people based on their beliefs.  He believes these terrible things and his reasoning is absolutely absurd.  I find Hedges to be a deeply insightful man, whereas Harris is a dangerous and dark figure. 

In your next response I would appreciate it if you could describe your stance on whether evil will vanish if religion does.  Thanks.

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By Norman Doering, June 15, 2007 at 10:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Jim wrote:

That filty ‘garbage heap’ of lies and deceptions of all kind, is used by ‘Godist’ charlatans to afflict, mezmerize, and robotize innocent children…

You’ve see Jesus Camp one too many times.

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By Norman Doering, June 15, 2007 at 8:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Cat wrote:

I am arguing in defense of Chris Hedges. You talk about miracles being stated as magic in the Bible. The events that are called ‘miracles’ are of course impossible, but remember that these are only stories.

To a “real” Christian most of the “miracles” I mentioned are not stories, they are supposed to be historical facts. This has been so ever since the Nicene Creed was codified.

Now, I suspect that the ancient Hebrews stole some material that was originally created as fiction to add to the Old Testament, but ever since the concil of Nicea the standard meaning of “Christian” has been a believer in certain magic/miracles, Jesus rising from the dead and saving you from death. There is some wiggle room but you’ve wiggled yourself out of Christianity once you stop believing Jesus Christ is some kind of miracle performing dude who can save you from death—and saving you from death is the big magic.

If all it takes to be religious is to believe in the meaning of stories than I would be a Odyssian because I find meaning in Kubrick’s and Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. And I’d be a Farmian because I find meaning in Animal Farm. And a thousand other fictional religions and nobody really uses language that way unless they’re trying to obfuscate their relationship to the culture’s dominant religion.

Here’s one atheist view

Hedges is a Christian if and only if he believes that Jesus Christ was a historical figure and a magic dude who can save him from death. This is the final bit of logic one can only obfuscate around and avoid answering.

One is an atheist if and only if one finds the idea of a mentally anthropic God too incredible to credit. They exist and I am one.

A few years ago I got into an online debate with a Christian and I tried to use a line of evidence like this: “what about all these other religions, now dead, that came before? See how the idea of an afterlife evolved?” The Christian thought those mythologies and old religions actually did glimpse some partial and magical truth. After I explained Mithraism and said it was older than Christianity they admitted that if there were no Christianity they would have been Mithrain.

They think they can intuit truth. They think they can feel when something is right and earlier people got it partly right.

Push them further and they’ll admit that Christianity as they know probably isn’t 100 percent right. That’s why more liberal Christians can reject all the more vile stuff in the Bible. They “intuit” (and only partially reason it) that it’s not right.

They’re still Christian as long as the “if and only if” def above applies. That’s all the wiggle room there is in the definition Western society has accepted for over a thousand years. Hedges can’t monkey with that and expect to be understood.

Harris is not perfect, but he makes a lot more sense to me than Hedges. George Bernard Shaw once said “England and America are two countries separated by a common language,” and perhaps Hedges isn’t obfuscating to himself—but the way I define things he makes no sense at all.

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By Mike-G/WestSide, June 15, 2007 at 7:42 pm Link to this comment

Jim H-
  Your posts have helped me to understand why people
  like yourself side with Harris and can’t seem to make any
  sense out of Hedges.

  Thanks for that.

  Wish I could have opened your mind to some other kinds of
  thinking, but you don’t seem be intertested in that.

  Maybe next time.

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By Melanie Stephan, June 15, 2007 at 7:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think you have made some good points.  However, Mark wrote that you can’t prove that God exists.  I can prove that God exists cause he dropped in on me.  Yes, he talked to me in a series of dreams.  What he told me in the dreams is the meaning of First is Last and Last is First as written in Revelation.  Now for over 2000 years no one has been able to understand what this means.  Maybe that is why God dropped in on me, he just couldn’t take the confusion any more.  I wonder if he thinks we are all stupid not to get it.  Of all of the things going on in this world, Gods issue is the meaning of First is Last.  Some people have issues with Gays, Abortion or Women being priests.  God said nothing about those issues, nada, nothing.  Gods big issue is the meaning of First is Last and Last is First.  Don’t get me wrong he had other things to say but First is Last and Last is First was number one.  Now Birth is First, maybe you can figure out the rest. OK, Birth is Last and Last is Birth.  I think what God is telling us is that we are still children that have not been born yet.  Your Birthday is coming up.  First you have to pass Judgment Day.  Judgment is painfull and so is Birth.  Now how do you think your going to do on Judgment Day?  Think about your life up till now. How bad were you?  Do you think he will forgive you for that?  Don’t ask me if you’ll pass.  God didn’t tell me what you did.  Anyway just something to think about.  And Yes, there is a God.  I have proof.  God talked to me.  My proof is written, plus I have evidence. Melanie Stephan

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By Cat, June 15, 2007 at 5:49 pm Link to this comment

Doering:

The Bibe has a lot of passages I do not agree with.  And i am not even saying that I am a Christian; so I am arguing in defense of Chris Hedges.  You talk about miracles being stated as magic in the Bible.  The events that are called ‘miracles’ are of course impossible, but remember that these are only stories.  The Native Americans told creation myths, not necassarily to explain how the world was made, but what lessons could be learned from these stories. 

Hedges is most definately a Christian.  He went to Harvard Divinity school and was the son a Presbytirian Minister.  Just because he doesn’t believe all of what the Bible syas, that doesn’t mean he is not a Christian.  He uses judgement to take useful passages from the Bible, and leave hate filled ones.  Martin Luther King, for example, was a Christain who did not take the Bible literally.  He did not recognize every passage of the Bible as being useful and insightful.  He obviously ignored the racist passages in the Bible that called on every slave to obey his master.  But that does not make King an atheist, or anything other than a Christian. 

Harris argues that King was not a Christian.  He says that he was a progressive humanist, because (Harris would say) no religious person could ever achieve what King has achieved.  I find it absurd to try and argue that King was not a Christian.  He was a minister and founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference! 

The differnec between Hedges and Harris is that Harris seperates the worlsd into us and them.  It’s the reasonable vs. the magic believers, which Hedges has been thrown into.  This is always dangerous.  Hedges recognizes the right of all religions and beliefs.  He understands, unlike Harris, that there are plenty of goowill organizations that are motivated by religion: The Salvation Army, B’Tselem, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the list goes on and on. And who cares if they are motivated by religion to do their job?  Don’t shut them down and tell them they are unworthy of credit(I’m talikng in general, not to you specifically). 

I have a lot of problems with Harris in some of his other arguments: he supports torture, he supports nuclear war, he supports the war in Iraq, he supports the U.S.‘s opression towards the Middle East and he even supports killing people based on their beliefs.  If you do not think Harris said these things, writeit your response and I will provide a quote for you that proves his position on the matter.  Tenteculata, another blogger quotes from Harris on all these issues.

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By Jim H., June 15, 2007 at 5:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re: 78372

To: Norm Do

You say:”—-the Bible’s—-”(?)
I say: Intelligent people agree with President Jeffersons statement that: “the “Bible” is a DUNGHEAP”!

And, more recent ‘researchers’ of such TRASH know ‘it’ factually to be a slimy pornographic, ‘how-to-torture’, and ‘how to kill’ manua!

That filty ‘garbage heap’ of lies and deceptions of all kind, is used by ‘Godist’ charlatans to afflict, mezmerize, and robotize innocent children and fools so they may be manipulated to the servile toiling of ‘shills’, rape, and abetting cohorts in spreading the ‘Ponzi-racketeering’ criminal plague-like disease of ‘Godism’, referred to as “religion”! 

People with active brains wish the “Bible” totally out of existance!
And, never refer to anything contained therein, lest attention is drawn to it.
And, I hope that in the not too distant future ‘that’ ‘cesspool’ of words will only be used for toilet paper!
And never again referred to otherwise!

Further: With that SOB Muslim A/ho in the White House, we ‘are’ ‘now’ living in a “Religious Theocracy”!

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By Norman Doering, June 15, 2007 at 3:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Cat wrote:

Your second point has left out the sentence that follows the one you quoted: “Love, and even waking up in the morning, these things are miracles.” He clearly attacks the Christian right for believing in magic and witchcraft.

Your statement (and Hedges’ ) contradicts the Bible’s use of the term miracle. In the Bible miracles are magic. When Jesus heals a blind man or feeds thousands with a few fishies and a couple loaves of bread, Christians call that a miracle. The Bible doesn’t call Love, and waking up in the morning miracles. The Bible points to magic tricks.

I looked up miracle in a concordance [click here] and got examples like these:

Exodus 7:9
“When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.”

Psalm 78:12
He did miracles in the sight of their fathers in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.

The Bible doesn’t call a miracle “the awakeing of meaningful consciousness within oneself to larger patterns that transcend our own intelligence or understanding” either. It’s a magic trick used to intimidate and confound, to mystify your victim.

Perhaps you are confounded by love and waking up in the morning? Are you?

Hedges knows that Genesis is not an attempt to explain how the world was made (that would be ridiculous), but why it was made.

That “why question” isn’t the problem (unless the “why” implies the answer must be teleological).

The problem is the dead wrong answer offered by the Bible. The Bible’s answer is stated explicitly: A jealous God who “hates” sin and occasionally, magically/miraculously, involves himself in human affairs, tells some selected human beings what to do and if you don’t do what they say you’ll get punished, zapped, cursed, or damned to Hell.

The third point you make is not very fair to Chris Hedges. You say “Chris Hedges wants a world without arguments where everyone believes what he believes.” This is precisely the opposite of what he wants.

I’ll give you a half a concession on that point.

It’s badly worded.

Neither Harris nor Hedges would be writing books and having debates if they were not trying to shape other people’s thinking. Hedges wants to warn us of the dangers of Fundamentalism and fascist theocracy. Harris wants to say religion is ultimately going to lead to fascist theocracy.

They both are against fascist theocracy they just don’t agree on how that’s to be done or what the cause is.

I side with Harris. What you and Hedges call religion isn’t really religion. It’s just a way to avoid saying you don’t really believe the Bible.

Harris isn’t saying that reading the Bible like we read Greek myths or watch “Rise of the Silver Surfer” is bad. He is saying that believing its explicit message about a mentally anthropomorphic god is. That is Christianity, that is a religion, the rest is obfuscation.

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By Jim H., June 15, 2007 at 8:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re: 78219

To: Mike N/G

You say: “—-check—-meds”.(?)

I say: More “asinine verbiage”?
Pupils don’t talk to the ‘teacher’ ‘that way’!
Bring a note from your parent, or stay home!
Before you aspire to criticize,
you: ‘MUST’ ‘learn to read’!  AND, don’t tell lies!
I say: A ‘quote’ ‘MUST’ ‘be’ ‘verbatim’!  Or, you’re lying!

Mass/energy never disappear
Ever were ever here!
J.H. 5/8/07

Conservation of Mass/Energy     E=mc2
  1.The Universe contains an finite amount of matter and energy.
    We cannot create nor can we destroy matter or energy. 
2.Matter can be changed in form, or state.
3. Energy can be changed in form.
4. We change matter to energy and energy to
matter never diminishing the totality. 
  ———————————————————
Without something to ‘create! a “so-called “Creator-God”
is an impossible superfluous nonentity!

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By Mike-G/WestSide, June 15, 2007 at 12:39 am Link to this comment

Jim H - -
   
    I think you’d better check your meds.

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By Cat, June 14, 2007 at 10:56 pm Link to this comment

To Eugene:

I would like to address some of your misconceptions and questions toward my arguments.  First, the Bible may very well be taken conceptually.  In Chris Hedges’ American Fascists, Hedges says in reference to his family, that “We took the Bible seriously, and therefore could not take it literally.”  Let me explain.  Take a very simple book, like Animal Farm by George Orwell.  If we, as readers took this book literally, the book would have no meaning.  It would be ridiculous.  It’s about animals.  But if we take it as a concept or a metaphor, then we realize that it is about totalitarian societies, and more specifically, the Bolshevik uprising in 1917.  Therefore the Bible can be taken metaphorically as well.  The story of Job, for example, is used by atheists to prove the absurdity of the Bible.  But the story has a point.  We live in a neutral universe, where good people, such as Job, do not always receive praise and happiness from God.  Life is not always fair.  And theists often fail to see the importance of looking at the Bible through a conceptual lens.
Second, you ask me “Do you actually think the Bible tells why we are here?”(and then follow with a sentence I don’t quite understand).  I think that it explains to us our purpose.  I may not agree fully with the content, but it is nonetheless important to understand that the writers of the Bible a struggling with the same questions any of us struggle with: How do I make sense of my life?  What should be my morals, so that I may live a better life? And so on. 
Third, when the “attempts to give one people a superior edge over others and if for no other reason it should be condemned to be obscene”, it is not religion.  That is the definition of a corrupt institution that uses religion as a false motive.  This is what Hedges articulates in his piece.  While he argues against the new atheist movement, he argues against the Christian Right movement as well.  He has, in fact, spent more time and energy so far arguing against the Christian Right because they are corrupting religion.

P.S.  As a challenge, try and name one war that has truly been fought over religion, and I will explain to you why that war has absolutely nothing to do with religion.

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By straight_talk_11, June 14, 2007 at 10:02 pm Link to this comment

“Your belief in fundamental atheists shows me that you have no comprehension of the mind set of an atheist.”
- Eugen

You have demonstrated exactly the fundamentalist mindset quite well right here:

“You are trying to portray religion as some abstract. The three religions that are killing each other now are all based on the Bible.”

Again, the FUNDAMENTALISTS of three religions…are killing each other based on their narrow, literal-minded interpretation of the Bible. No atheist here has even once demonstrated to me that he or she understands that what we experience as our own awareness is abstract. Consciousness is, in fact, so fundamental and abstract that we can’t define it without circularity based simply on our experience of it. The same is true of time and space.

Notice that I said abstract and fundamental. These concepts are inseparably associated. Abstraction is always more fundamental than its local, specific, concrete manifestations. Our experience of consciousness is highly abstract, yet we clearly experience it in what seems to us individually to be a very palpable way. What atheists seem to miss is that abstraction is precisely what is most stable and fundamental. It transcends the material, and it is what spirituality deals with by its very nature.

Have none of you who are atheists ever noticed that most words associated with the concept of a soul intimately involve the idea of a spiritual consciousness inhabiting a physical body? This is implicit in the etymology of vocabulary in spiritual literature and explicit in much of the conceptual content of its writings. The realm of the spiritual contrasts with the physical precisely in terms of its abstraction! Spirituality and ultimate abstraction are existentially synonymous. You can’t discuss spirituality in an informed manner if you fail to recognize this!

A friend with a PhD in cognitive psychology cited a study that used a huge sample and very solid statistical methods. It revealed something that was completely amazing to me then. I have since come to realize for myself the sad truth of what it uncovered. It showed over 60% of PhDs in the United States had never reached the final stage of Piaget’s mental development model, namely that of abstract reasoning.

For example, a series of large rings of differing sizes were randomly placed on a horizontal bar. The bar had equidistant slots on top into which the rings all snuggly fitted. There was a small light behind the bar that shown through the rings and cast their shadows on the wall. The task was to order the rings so the shadows superimposed and only one shadow remained. Most PhDs in the study used TRIAL AND ERROR to attempt a solution! They failed to make the stupid simple abstraction that the light spread conically outward toward the wall. All they had to do was put the smallest ring in the slot nearest the light and the others in order of size until the largest was at the furthermost point from the light.

I’m not saying that atheists are so addled in their ability to deal with abstraction. However, I most certainly AM saying their fundamental problem is that they don’t deal with it very well. Accusing me of confusing religion with abstraction is a perfect case in point. Spirituality is existentially equivalent to ultimate abstraction, a level of abstraction that comprehends the entire cosmos within its domain.

Abstraction is synonymous with impracticality to most people on the street because they can’t deal with it productively, but all our engineering capabilities and modern technological advances are predicated on it. That doesn’t mean engineers understand abstraction, since they can take the abstractions somebody else figured out and merely make cookbook applications. Monkey see; monkey do! A large collection of facts in the mind does not constitute knowledge. Knowledge includes appreciation of the underlying conceptual unity responsible for its usefulness.

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By Jim H., June 14, 2007 at 9:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re: 78087

To: Wrong-words Mike;

I say: As I have said previously: “‘You’ don’t read well!” 
(And)
“You use too much asinine verbiage to support ill conceived nutty thoughts.”

You say: “—you are a fundamentalist yourself?”

I say: That is an outright lie!

You say:”—-God and the Bible have been used as reasons for atrocities” (?)

I say: ‘They’ ‘are’ the worst kind of “atrocities”!

You say: “You keep saying that “all belief” is a “cancer of the brain.”(?)
 
I say: You are wrong! This is a lie!  I have not said: “ALL BELIEF” IS A “CANCER OF THE BRAIN”.
 
I say: These are my exact words: “Religion’s faith? Is cancer of the brain!”
and
“God” “belief” ‘of any kind’, is: cancer of the brain!”

I say: As I have said previously: “‘you’ don’t read well!” 

You Say: Isn’t atheism a belief?

I say: Rejecting fairytales as something to believe in, does not make a person an “atheist”!

I say: I am a ‘realist’, one who only believes in the believable! And, dislikes lies, and liars!

You writesome pedantically snide remarks that really show you to be extremely naive, or to have the
“cancer of the brain” I have here-to-for mentioned. And, ‘you’, in fact, really, need a dictionary, and, someone to read it to you!

You say: “—-the need of each person to find their own answers for themselves.(?)

I say: How many ‘religious fanatical robots’ do you know who have found “their own answers for themselves”?

You say: “Let us pursue truth in our own way”.

I say: When ‘your’ pursuit of “truth” causes: alteration of our US Constitution, changes our PLEDGE of Allegiance to a PRAYER, INSTALLS a ‘not-elected’ wartime military deserter in the White House, loads
the US Supreme Court with Religious Bigots. And, when ‘your’ so called, pursuit of “truth” aids, abets and shills for those ‘Ponzi-racketeering thief’s who steal pennies from little kids, before they ravish them in return for granting them grace for having ‘confessed’ to a so called ‘sin’ they never committed in the first place.
And, when your so called pursuit of “truth” relegates others to second class citizens because of religious bigotry, and, allows, condones, or promotes the spreading of the infectious plague-like disease of Godism to the detriment of all others, and with the aim and avowed intent of dominating the entire world: ‘then’ ‘I’ say, I for one shall never stand by and allow those “—- persons to find their own answers for themselves”, Without expressing in my own way, my very deep concern for the tragedies those ‘robots’ are wreaking, and the likes of you are defending!

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By straight_talk_11, June 14, 2007 at 7:56 pm Link to this comment

Continuing in answer to Eugen:

All the major religions of the world have members who range from either of these extremes to the other. “Fundamentalists” are actually materialists dressed in spiritual robes. They are stuck on the surface of the superficial, material things and events of life to which they have attempted to assign spiritual reality rather than to the deeper, genuinely spiritual truths to which these things and events point and were originally intended to communicate. These critical differences of perspective are the basis for most of the political infighting within each religion.

The “fundamentalist” attitude is responsible for most if not all of the fighting among the various religions, thereby creating the awful irony of each killing members of the others in the name of God. Sadly reinforcing this irony, the “fundamentalists” of any given tradition tend to remember only the afflictions those of their own religion have suffered at the hands of their own kind, that is, the “fundamentalists” within other religions.

We can only hope that this comprehensively self-inflicted punishment among “fundamentalists” will ultimately convince them to give up their false spirituality: the materialistic idolatry of superficial things and events that makes them worse than the religious equivalents of the atheists whom they despise. These things and events they propose as fundamentals are at best only temporal manifestations of the eternal spiritual power, truth, and grace mercifully available to all at any time, anywhere, in any form, and within any culture. Many if not most of the very spiritual icons “fundamentalists” of every stripe would worship, if they actually knew how, promoted this same universal truth each in their own places, times, and ways.

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By straight_talk_11, June 14, 2007 at 7:50 pm Link to this comment

Eugen, ich hoffe, das es dir gut geht. I simply said I believe fundamentalism, not religion per se, is the great evil in the world. I will contrast two opposite religious camps for you, one of which you seem to ignore as if it didn’t exist, to clarify the point.

Those who enjoy genuine spiritual development see deeply into the underlying principles and truths embedded metaphorically in the unavoidably provincial surface details of their ancient scriptures. They do not depend on the exterior, material level on the surface of life to provide stability, but find it instead in the inner recognition of that which is changeless, eternal and that creates and underlies change itself.

Their personal spiritual development bears witness to the truths embedded in their scriptures, bringing them to life in their daily activities. They spontaneously focus on commonality rather than differences and so are able to recognize these same principles in the religious traditions of others. They consequently tend toward a comprehensive view, universality, and an inclusiveness that sees the essential unity underlying all the great and enduring spiritual traditions. They find a personal peace in the inner stability of their spiritual comprehension that is conducive to compassion and mutual understanding.

Literal-minded, provincial religious mindsets see ultimate “spiritual” truth in the superficial, ethnocentric aspects of their religion. They have a “God Creates Frog Today!” newspaper copy concept of spiritual truth. Their perspective elevates little “factoids” to the status of first principles and therefore regards them as “fundamental”, hence the misnomer, fundamentalists. Their views tend to focus on differences and tend toward narrowness, exclusivity, and an attitude of superiority over other religions.

This perspective seeks stability in the exterior, surface details of life where it cannot exist, and so clings desperately to them like a drowning man to a piece of driftwood in a violent storm. They tend toward conflict in defense of their views with any forces they perceive as challenging them, including the very nature of life to continually change its face.

Atheists typically fit at least roughly into this category. Their views are superficial, dogmatic, and tend to idolize science the fundamentals of which they fail to deeply understand. They miss the truth concerning the essential structure of that which underlies their own existence as well as that of the very science and mathematics they effectively worship as substitutes for God, not noticing that explanatory power in mathematics and in nature always flows from the changeless stability of general, abstract, unified, omnipresent principle to the changing, specific, concrete, diverse, local instances of its practical manifestation and never the reverse. Positing abstract consciousness as an “epiphenomenon” of complex biological structure vainly and inelegantly attempts to force explanatory power backwards from the specific, concrete, and local to the general, abstract, and global.

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By Eugen, June 14, 2007 at 6:03 pm Link to this comment

Straight_Talk_11, What you are trying to do is eliminate the target. You are trying to portray religion as some abstract. The three religions that are killing each other now are all based on the Bible. For you or Hedges to think that nobody actually buys your non de scriptdefinition of religion or a god as viable then I suggest you ask a Christian, Moslim, or Jew. Hedges defense was cheesy and cowardly. Straight talk 11 are you Hedges? The only sincere thing I heard you say was with regard to fundamental atheists which is something you believe exists. Maybe Hedges should have said I don’t believe in fundamental atheists. Your belief in fundamental atheists shows me that you have no comprehension of the mind set of an atheist. I can speak for all atheists since since by definition we deny the existence of a god. You can’t break up atheists into moderate or fundamentalist. Take your time to think about that. It might take you a while to understand that an atheist is an atheist, no more no less. Straight Talk 11 you join the crowd of nay sayers. Nothing turns me off more in an argument than someone who professes to tell you what can’t be done. Harris has expressed his pessimism with regard to changing peoples beliefs in a god, but he keeps trying. Personally I think the best attack is to destroy any credence people can find in the Bible. Show it to be the piece of self serving trash that it is.  I guess Harris must have been really surprised when Hedges didn’t give him the chance. Hedges just makes up a religion that no one else believes in. So back to the Bible.
Please explain to me what the Bible is, if it isn’t supposed to be taken literally?
The Bible is supposed to be a history of the Jewish people all the way back to Adam. All the major Bible related religions have studied the genealogy and at one point determined when Adam was created. They really believed that stuff but most of them have recanted which brings me to a question. At what point are these stories not to be taken literal? Perhaps Noah’s Ark would be the last thing that wasn’t real or Moses liberating the Jews from Eqgypt. Maybe the the bible is true after the Ten Commandments or after when the Jews committed genocide and wiped out all the tribes that were in Isarael.  If these stories are understood to be not true, what is the point of believing in the god that is in the Bible? Noah is a joke. God is a bigger joke! Come to think of it, ST11,  I got a chuckle out of your comments too.

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By Mike-G/WestSide, June 14, 2007 at 4:38 pm Link to this comment

I agree, StraightTalk11 - nicely put.

Jim H - -
  I wonder if you realize that you are a fundamentalist yourself?
  You never seem to accept that a viewpoint with any variance
  to your own ideas could actually hold some validity.

  Your messages drip with offensive sarcasm, which seems to
  reveal that all you really want to do is use verbal violence  
  against people whose ideas you aren’t able to understand,
  appreciate or allow to be spoken.

  Your rhetoric is the voice of AM Hate Radio, as well as  
  every other kind of intolerance, and it never does any
  one any good. It doesn’t do much for your image either.

  We all know that the name of God and the Bible have
  been used as reasons for atrocities, and no one here
  seriously supports that those claims are valid in any way. 

  We’re trying to move beyond that kind of thing and get
  to some more interesting ideas, but you keep returning
  to those old arguements as a way of attacking the people
  who disagree with you rather than their ideas. How old
  are you, anyway?  Please grow up and join us in a rational
  discourse.

  You keep saying that “all belief” is a “cancer of the brain.”
  Isn’t atheism a belief?  Is it the belief in not having a belief
  in any religious deity as defined by any religion? Please define
  your belief in a more positive form, or no one will want to
  listen to you.

  Like you,  I tend to not accept anyone’s beliefs or answers as
  the final and complete truth. I am, however, greatly interested
  in listening to people who are able to ask deep questions that
  stir my entire consciousnes toward a greater awareness. 
  People like that seem to respect the need of each person to
  find their own answers for themseleves. 

  For that reason, Hedges DOES make sense to many of us. 
  Accept that, please, and let us pursue truth in our own way.

  For the same reason, Harris, in my opinion, pretzels the
  facts to fit his own preconceived ideas, which do not  
  necessarily reflect the truth as I see it. Please accept that, too.
  I will accept that he makes a great deal of sense to other
  people, even though I find his work to be weak-minded.

  Lastly, get yourself a dictionary and drive to the beach
  sometime.  It might be good for you to discover some new
  words and to wade into the vastness of something bigger
  than your own narrowly focused mind.

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By straight_talk_11, June 14, 2007 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment

Congratulations, Cat and Mike G. for your excellent points and your civil and rational approaches to this discussion. Discussion of some of your points follows the comments on the quote immediately below.

“Ummm… If religion isn’t superstition and a belief in magic and the childish notion of an anthropomorphic God that is characteristic of the tribe, than what is it?”
- normdoering

This is an extremely superficial, narrow, naive view of what religion is. If you think everyone who believes in God falls under your definition of religion, you are vastly mistaken. When debating any issue, it might not be such a bad idea to learn something significant about who is debating the other side of the issue.

With regard to people accepting all religions:

“That can only happen when you drain them of all conflict, and that only happens when you drain them of all meaning.”
- Norman Doering

This misses the very good points Cat made before Doering’s comment above, namely:

“I believe you have missed the point of Chris Hedges.  He says, and very clearly, that the Bible should not be taken literally…”
- Cat
(Still missing that point, which of course is predictable in any fundamentalist mindset, whether religious or atheistic.)

“Atheists and dominionist christians do not accept differences in beliefs.”
- Cat

These two excerpts from Cat’s comments sum up nicely two major traits of so-called fundamentalism, which I have posited a number of times as THE great evil in today’s world. Fundamentalism can’t see anything deeply. It is literal-minded and sees a black and white world. It is an “us and them” mentality lacking in compassion and comprehension of any universality underlying superficial differences.

The true meaning of scripture does not reside in its superficial detail. I’m going to use a grossly exaggerated example to illustrate principle. The purpose of the exaggeration is to ensure that no literal-minded atheists miss the point. Too subtle an example would miss anyone who says God doesn’t exist because they’ve never personally seen Him anywhere as if He were an old man with a beard. So, if I say something like this:

Her face blossomed into a radiant smile and captured the hearts of all around her.

An extreme fundamentalist might interpret that as meaning that electroluminescent flowers burst out of her face, curled out, and penetrated everyone’s anatomy to wrap themselves around each person’s heart and hold it physically captive.

The allegories and metaphors in the scriptures of any tradition are much subtler, of course, but no different in principle from this example. Much is unavoidably couched in detail that reflects some unfortunate aspects of the cultural environment surrounding their ancient sources. This does not invalidate their deeper significance.

Doering’s comment that conflict disappears from religious scripture only “when you drain them of all meaning” simply reflects his missing completely their real significance because his understanding is stuck strictly at the level of their superficial cultural trappings.

Harris is for the the Iraq war just like Bush because they’re both fundamentalists. Of course, so are the suicide bombers. They all deserve each other. Too bad the rest of us have to suffer the consequences with them.

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By Eugen, June 14, 2007 at 2:06 pm Link to this comment

Cat, Do you actually think the Bible tells why we are here? If it did it would have been written 500 million years ago and homo sapiens would have showed up then not a hundred thousand years ago. The Bible attempts to give one people a superior edge over others and if for no other reason it should be condemned to be obscene. How others have managed to glom onto this book is amazing to me but, a guy named Paul is probably the person to blame. The book is fiction. Any gods associated with it are fiction. The reason why this atheist is speaking up is because religions based on the Bible are killing people today. We are only one of 30 million or so species on this planet. Look around, other animals do just fine without a god. You have to pretty arrogant to think that we have a soul and all the other animals are just props in some silly life play. Maybe that chicken you are having for supper has a soul too. Any time someone claims miracle he is trying to validate a god. Thousands die in an earth quake and after three days the pull out a living infant and claim “It’s a miracle!” How stupid is that? One of the things that really ticks me off about the Bible is that it is about monarchs and judges and how did their god punish them, by killing a whole bunch of innocent people. I hate using the expression “common people” because we are all special, not common, but in the Bible the common people are just throw aways. They don’t count. According to the Bible your name has to be Moses, Abraham, Noah, David or you just don’t count. Here is an example - try this on President Bush is superior to you . I actually can not say that without laughing. He’s a guy in touch with his god like a bunch of senators running for the presidency. What a joke. What a terrible joke.

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By Jim H., June 14, 2007 at 9:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re: 77886
To: ‘Wrong’-“Side” Mike

Hedges makes no sense!

Harris is factual!

And, ‘you’ don’t read well! 
You use too much asinine verbiage to support ill conceived nutty thoughts.

Religion’s faith? Is cancer of the brain!
Chris Hedges is just another numbskull ‘Godism’ fanatic!

“God” “belief” ‘of any kind’, is: cancer of the brain!

The word “God” is one of the many tools used by the rapers of innocents, and fanatical killers!
Like that a/ho Bush!

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By Mike-G/WestSide, June 14, 2007 at 2:01 am Link to this comment

Cat -
  I have to agree with you. Well said.

  Hedges made sense and tried to reach beyond the limits
  of language to touch on larger ideas.

  Harris stuck to simplistic arguments based on closed-loop
  logic which fell apart upon contact with bigger ideas.

  Bob Scheer did a great job of moderating the discussion
  because he did his best to let the featured speakers do all the
  talking. Those who were at the debate were able to see how
  he kept things flowing through eye contact with the speakers
  in a way that allowed each thought to be expressed clearly
  and then responded to by the other side.  His silent            
  participation in the debate provided the rhythm and      
  continuity between the two speakers.

  While Hedges tried to open up new ideas and deeper feelings
  about these issues, Harris kept trying to redefine things in
  his own terms, and stooped to unfair reductionism of the
  opposing arguments or feigned outrage when realized he
  was losing a point.  He lacked the insight to join Hedges
  at a higher ground for a shared exploration of some very  
  challenging concepts.

  Jim H: stop shouting - it’s rude.

  Norman: the difference between magic and a miracle is that
  magic is an illusion which is temoporatily unexplainable, and
  miracle is the awakeing of meaningful consciousness within  
  oneself to larger patterns that transcend our own intelligence
  or understanding. No deity required.

  If you have other concepts about these things, please share
  them with us, but please be nice about it.

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By Cat, June 13, 2007 at 9:12 pm Link to this comment

Chris Hedges gave concrete and stable answers while Sam Harris failed to stay coherent and reasonable; Harris, for example, argued that Martin Luther King was not a Christian.  King was not only a Baptist Minister, but he founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  His claim that King was a progressive humanist instead of a Christian goes too far. 

In addition, Harris was extremely naïve.  First, he was bold enough to say that he knew more about the Middle East than did Chris Hedges.  Harris claimed that because he had read a poll that interviewed a few thousand Islamic families, he understood the Middle East more so than Hedges.  In the debate he even asked Hedges “How many people did you interview?”  Hedges knows a lot more than Harris about the Arab world.  Chris Hedges spent several years in Arab countries as a war correspondent for the New York Times.  Robert Scheer even threw his hands up in shock when Harris said this. 

Second, Harris’ argument that religion is the source of evil is clichéd and grossly over-simplified.  Religion is not the cause of evil.  It is that innate capacity for evil that we all possess as human beings.  If religion was abolished institutions would turn to Political ideology (Soviet Union, Red Scare, Cambodian Genocide), science such as eugenics (Slavery in early U.S., Hitler’s Nazi regime) and so on.

In conclusion, Harris is a dangerous figure.  He supports the war in Iraq because of its attack on the Muslim religion and he supports torture.  He denounces anyone who does not think like him as being the enemy, which Hedges certainly does not do.  (Hedges argues for a society that can accept all faiths through an open society).  Hedges understands that the Christian Right is a dangerous force in the U.S., that they are an authoritarian corrupt institution that separates the world into us and them.  But he also understands that Harris’ attack on religion is futile, and not a useful conclusion.  He realizes that atheism separates the world into us and them as well, because the world is divided into those who use science and logic, and those who have faith.  South Park had a two-part episode that talks about atheism and its useless efforts.  In the episode, Richard Dawkins, along with Mrs. Garrison, starts an immense movement to eradicate religion.  In the future, his movement succeeds in riding the world of religion; but this only results in wars that use science and logic as excuses.  It is true that the future atheist nations fight over the name of their organizations in the episode, but this is also a more serious message to the audience: that no matter what ideologies are eradicated (religious, political, scientific, etc.), there will always be conflict and evil in human society.

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By Cat, June 12, 2007 at 9:26 pm Link to this comment

The first point you make is valid. I may not have said what I meant correctly.  What I meant to say was that the writings of the Bible were not to explain physical aspects of the world.  The Bible is an attempt, by man, to understand the world conceptually.  Even then some of the writing is unacceptable such as the defending of slavery.  But this does not discredit its value.  Ezra Pound was fascist but that did not ruin his poetry itself.  Richard Wagner supported the Nazis but his music was still brilliant.  The Bible expresses rage and violence but all together holds valuable efforts to make sense of the world.  It serves as a guide for people to understand human love and compassion, courage, suffering, agony, violence and so on. 
 
Your second point has left out the sentence that follows the one you quoted: “Love, and even waking up in the morning, these things are miracles.” He clearly attacks the Christian right for believing in magic and witchcraft. Hedges knows that Genesis is not an attempt to explain how the world was made (that would be ridiculous), but why it was made.  If you included those three sentences it would not have been a contradiction.  Please read carefully. 

The third point you make is not very fair to Chris Hedges.  You say “Chris Hedges wants a world without arguments where everyone believes what he believes.” This is precisely the opposite of what he wants.  Hitchens, Harris, Dobson and Robertson want this.  Hedges wants a world where people can believe freely, and truly. The Atheist leaders along with the Christian right discredit anyone who is not like them. Just as a side note, Harris argues that Martin Luther King was not a Christian.  He says that he changed into an extreme humanist, which I find to be a little absurd. King was without a doubt a Christian. Harris wants to prove to the world that everyone who is good, is not affiliated in any way with religion. His attempt to bring King in as a non-religious person goes too far. 

Religion is not the problem.  We, as human beings, carry the capacity to be evil.  If religion did not exist, totalitarian forces would use political idealogy.  This, in fact, has already happen.  Look at the Cold War, the Cambodian genocide, the internment of the Japanese during World War Two.  These events were not linked to corrupt religion.  It is rather naïve to believe that by eliminating religion we can eliminate human evil and corruption.  Evil is hardwired into human society.  It is part of our nature.  We cannot find ways to rid society of this evil, but instead we can try and contain it.

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By Norman Doering, June 12, 2007 at 10:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Cat wrote:
1. “expresses the moral questions that we all face: ‘Why are we here’.”

Why are we here is not a moral question. Why would it be?

2. “Hedges does not believe in witch craft, magic or anything of this sort. He believes, for example, that miracles are everywhere.”

Why is that not a contradiction? He doesn’t believe in magic, he believes in miracles. What’s the difference?

3. “not where people would worship christianity, but would accept all religions.”

That can only happen when you drain them of all conflict, and that only happens when you drain them of all meaning.

Chris Hedges wants a world without arguments where everyone believes what he believes.

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By Jim H., June 12, 2007 at 7:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re:77187
 
“RELIGION’S FAITH? CANCER OF THE BRAIN!”

Chris Hedges is just another NUMBSKULL FANATIC!

“God” “belief” ‘of any kind’, is:

CANCER OF THE BRAIN!

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By Cat, June 11, 2007 at 9:08 pm Link to this comment

To normdoering:

I believe you have missed the point of Chris Hedges.  He says, and very clearly, that the Bible should not be taken literally. Passages in the Bible show Gods’ hate and promote slavery, but this is not the purpose of the Bible. As Hedges understands, it is rather a text that expresses the moral questions that we all face: “Why are we here”. (Not “how did we get here?”, since genesis is not physically possible.) Hedges does not believe in witch craft, magic or anything of this sort. He believes, for example, that miracles are everywhere. Love, and even waking up in the morning, these things are miracles.

Hedges believes in a world, not where people would worship christianity, but would accept all religions. Atheists and dominionist christians do not accept differences in beliefs.

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By normdoering, June 8, 2007 at 9:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ummm… If religion isn’t superstition and a belief in magic and the childish notion of an anthropomorphic God that is characteristic of the tribe, than what is it?

Is it atheistic, secular humanism dressed up in religious language?

In my blog post here:
“Chris Hedges: The new face of anti-atheism?”

I ask this and point to how in Hedges openning statement he claims:

... importance of the monotheistic traditions in creating the concept of the individual. This individualism—the belief that we can exist as distinct beings from the tribe, or the crowd, and that we are called on as individuals to make moral decisions that at times defy the clamor of the tribe or the nation—is a gift of the Abrahamic faiths.

If individualism is a gift of the Abrahamic faiths, then why does the Bible have passages like this, Acts.4.32: “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” Is that individualism? Is Islam’s (an Abrahamic faith) call for submission individualism? Is any of it it more individualistic than what we see in Roman writers before Christ? Say Titus Lucretius Carus?

Is Chris Hedges lying (or delusional) and dressing up atheistic humanism in religious language and selling it to people who can’t stomache blatant atheism?

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By Melanie Stephan, June 7, 2007 at 8:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have a very big story to tell all of you. It kind of answers all of your questions about whether or not there is a God. My story is that God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost talked to me. I have proof. Now God talked to me just like he talked to Abraham, Daniel and John in a series of dreams. In the dreams I was told the meaning of First is Last and Last is First. Birth is Last. Now Jesus told me a number of things but it is to long to writehere. Another point is that Jesus talked to me, not any other God. Logic would say that since there is one God, and one Son all others are false prophets. Now for all of you that want proof. You really don’t want God to talk to you. It has been very difficult for me. Everyone has been calling me names like crazy, looney, etc. No one believes me and I have proof. You would think that people would like to see the proof. They don’t care to see it and they don’t want to know what else God had to say to me. So even though I have proof it seems that God wants you to find out the truth for yourselves. He said look and you will find. Now I study plants, my studies lead me to believing in God. My question was, ‘How do plants know about insects and animals?’ They make flowers for the insects to come and fruit for the animals to eat. How can they possibly know about animals, they don’t have a brain? God does. I just couldn’t see this as being coincidential. Now I don’t go to Church and I didn’t read the bible before the Holy Trinity dropped in on me. My thought was that the Pope or someone in the church would be a better choice that me, I am no one important. Then I have been reading some of what other people have been writing about the Church. Maybe God does not agree with the Church either. Another thing, Jesus told me the meaning of the Numbers.  Most of us think we know everything. He said that there are a Number of people that are full of Crap, that includes you and me. Thank you for letting me writeon you site. Melanie Stephan

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By straight_talk_11, June 6, 2007 at 12:35 pm Link to this comment

Evolution is a recursive process all the way from the Big Bang. It is scientifically clear that all physical restructuring of anything results from the transfer of energy. The manner and direction in which energy is transferred determines the precise nature of this restructuring. Taking the cosmos as a whole, the totality of natural law is operating together with cosmic structure to determine energy flow and the consequent nature and sequence of structural modification. Modified structure implies modification of energy flow, resulting in continuous, recursive shifts, as well as punctuated ones such as supernova explosions at some points, in the nature of the modifications. This process does not have to assume classical universal time in opposition to General Relativity. This is clearly a fully recursive process that progressively and ultimately expresses concretely the abstract nature and structure of the entire set of laws governing it.

The holographic idea from theoretical physics that subcomponents of the ultimately comprehensive system we call the cosmos reflect the nature of the whole at multiple levels within its hierarchical structure a la fractal mathematics clicks wonderfully well into place within a recursive process such as evolution, whether stellar or biological. Macroscopic holographic structure also potentially serves as a fascinating precursor in abstract natural law to a concrete, microscopic physical analog in genetic reproduction, where the structure of the whole organism is implicit in the DNA of each of its cells.

All this seems to imply that natural law is so structured that it holistically, recursively modulates energy flow within the cosmos with the intelligence implicit in its elegant, abstract structure to progressively communicate that intelligence to more localized subcomponents of itself. The evolutionary process is unarguably recursive, from the Big Bang to the emergence of human beings.

This ultimately means, without any reasonable alternative, that the abstract, cosmically global (or holistic if you prefer) nature of the laws governing evolutionary process ultimately manifest in ways that progressively and concretely reflect locally the global nature of those laws. I take both consciousness and intelligence as fundamental, axiomatic attributes of existence itself. I take them as implicit in the elegant, global, omnipresent structure of the natural laws operative in the cosmos. This frees me from the inelegant and theoretically very uneconomical assumption that these attributes magically appear at some point as “epiphenomena” of physical structure. That is just locality looking at the global and cosmic and projecting its local nature onto that which is global. I do not find that to be either logically or intuitively convincing.

I see the physical world as hierarchically structured, as does all of our current scientific understanding. I see no compelling reason to assume that intelligence and self-awareness are not also hierarchical any more than that they are confined to me. I take my expressions of intelligence and self-awareness to be local, concrete reflections of axiomatic, cosmic attributes that have fostered your evolution and mine starting with the Big Bang. I take the elegant structure of natural law as evidence of a Supreme Intelligence that is conscious and self-aware to a degree well beyond what we local reflections of it can possibly appreciate with our pitiful projections based on locally confined perception.

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By straight_talk_11, June 6, 2007 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment

“1. I agree with you that the problem is God is not a scientific problem.  But it is a problem of evidence.  My view is that there is no evidence that God exists, any more than there is evidence that Zeus, vampires, unicorns, elves, Sherlock Holmes, and the like exist.  If you agree that one can claim with “100% certainty” that these do not exist, then I claim that the same can be said about God.”
- Mark Colby

There is no proof, Mark, in the sense of “OK, folks, here He is, God himself” (wild applause). However, to say there is no EVIDENCE is hugely different and a huge stretch to say the least. I return to my analogy with consciousness:

You cannot prove that your aware. You may be just a biological machine with such sophisticated artificial intelligence that it simulates awareness well enough to fool everyone. However, I experience my own consciousness, so I know I’m aware. You behave in fundamental ways that emulate my general capabilities well enough to convince me that you, too, are aware. And you conclude the same about me.

We just drew conclusions that neither one of us can prove, since there is no way to show each other our awareness directly as is if to say, “OK folks, here is my awareness. See it? It’s obvious to me? Why can’t you see it?”

The evidence for God is everywhere all around you in the intelligent organization of individual organisms, their relationships (symbiotic and otherwise) the ecosystems that collectively harbor and nurture their living inhabitants, etc. Evolutionary theory, even at its current level of development, can explain significant parts of this evidence, but that just begs the question. What about the laws that govern evolution?
Why is their structure so elegantly and intelligently ordered? What is behind them? How did they come to be? Most importantly, what are they aspects of; what does their existence imply, and what are they evidence for? Why must we stop short? Why this kind of short-circuited thinking?

Evolutionary theory used to consider the origin of life an incredibly unlikely event that happens so rarely as to perhaps exist only here on this planet. Now NASA is looking for it elsewhere with great interest. The general paradigm has shifted from extremely unlikely to likely practically anywhere conditions are favorable.

We see evidence for radically expanding our definition for favorable conditions right here on earth. We have recently discovered terrestrial life forms existing under conditions we previously thought would not allow life to even survive, let alone evolve.

So now instead of saying that life originated by astronomically remote chance, the atheist term now employed by some is that by a “fortuitous accident” of natural law, this or that process occurs that leads toward the origin of life. So we have a cosmic chain of “fortuitous accidents” of law that have to occur from the Big Bang to supernova explosions that create heavy elements, then to second-generation stars around which the heavy matter can eventually form into planets and their moons, and finally all the way to human level intelligence. So my question is simply this:

How long a cosmic chain of “fortuitous accidents” of law do we have to take into account before we quit calling them “fortuitous accidents”?

Remember, we’re no longer talking about chance events, but “fortuitous accidents” of natural law, a cosmically long chain of which have to be in place or life never happens. I simply propose that there is intelligence implicit in the organization of natural law. I am not a creationist who believes that an anthropomorphic god created the world in six days and rested on the seventh roughly seven thousand years ago. I follow evolutionary theory and cosmology with great interest.

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By valupak, June 5, 2007 at 1:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well I guess Robert Sheer just ain’t ever going to post the full audio of this debate….until there’s a debate where it seems like Hedges didn’t lose it all the way through.

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By Jim H., June 4, 2007 at 7:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

TO ALL POSTERS!  HARK! KINDLY READ CAREFULLY!

THE MORE RIDICULOUS YOUR STATEMENTS ARE THE MORE WORDS you MUST WRITETO SUPPORT THEM!

NATURALY, THE REVERSE IS ALSO TRUE!
HERE, BREVITY IS A ‘VIRTUE’!

TRY TO BE SUCCINCT SO PEOPLE READ THOSE INTELLIGENT OBSERVATIONS AND REMAIN INTERESTED IN OUR DESIRE TO CONTINUE SPREADING REFRESHING UNINHIBITED ENLIGHTENING INFO!
Merci Beaucoup, and Ciao, Jim

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By nahida, June 4, 2007 at 5:26 am Link to this comment

Dear Ted Swart

Sorry for the delay in responding to your post, but I am delighted to notice that there are many points that we have in common and could agree upon

I noticed also that you are interested into taking the dialogue a step further as you said in response to one of my points (“ 4) Explaining the purpose of existence.”)
you said “Now that is THE question.  Want to talk about it? “

Now, I would love to talk about it of course, but we will be entering the field of philosophy and we’ll be tapping very much on the personal and subjective, which in turn might aggravate some people who cannot tolerate a view that differs from their own.

But, then again, this is a space where one can exercise his/ her freedom of expression, hence, I would be obliged to ask people who disagree with my view to tolerate me, and I would whole heatedly urge them to give us both the space in their hearts that allow us to share and discuss our views on this little forum.

As for the purpose of existence, and as you rightly said: that is THE question.

I had this question nagging in my head as far back as I remember, from very early childhood, as a little girl living in a tiny Palestinian village north west of Jerusalem. And as any other child questions such as: who am I? How come I exist? How and why I can comprehend that I exist? Why am I here? What is the purpose of my existence?... etc.

As you might guess dear Ted, all these turbulent questions does not get easy answers from people around you as a child, further, as I grew older, and contemplated more, I realized that the answers we are looking for cannot be found in a text book, I realized that one has to take a journey, an inner journey, to go on the quest for answers.

On that journey there are many signs on the way, and many tools that one could use.
Tools include our ability to reason and to comprehend, our ability to experience with our senses, and to feel with our emotions.

The signs are scattered all around us, and within us… from the atom to the cosmos; from the tiniest drop of water, a grain of sand, an autumn leaf, a flower, a tree, a bird, a butterfly, a mountain… a planet, a galaxy, a universe, including our own physical being.

No one can make the journey on behalf of someone else.
Besides one need all his/her equipments which includes mind and logic but also embraces heart and feelings, as at certain point the logic cease to be able to proceed, for the infinite cannot be known or experienced by the finite.

Only through the heart and feelings that one could experience something as immense and infinite such as love, hence, heart and feelings are indispensable in that journey.

My personal experiences, my logic and my feelings lead me to conclude that if everything came from nothing, if there was no purpose in the existence of the universe, if there is no purpose in the existence of life; then, it’s more reasonable to think that there is no purpose in a life full of agony such as mine, there is no point in living on to suffer more. I.e. there is no purpose in my own life. period.

I could never reconcile my agonized painful existence with futility and lack of purpose.

The only thing that could ever console and comfort this troubled soul of mine was my faith, this insight and intuition that this can’t all be in vain. This inner contentment and trust as a child whose been held in her mother’s arms.
Hence, my journey began… and it is still going on grin

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By Mark Colby, May 31, 2007 at 11:44 am Link to this comment

ktfalvey,

I’m sorry if you found my dismissal of your dogmatic appeal to the authority of Wittgenstein to be so threatening that you lapsed into the very behavior you alleged of me.  Your repeated insults and hostility to criticism are very unbecoming.

If you step back from your anger, you might realize that I stated my credentials as evidence that my claim about religion is not based on a mere layman’s understanding and that it never deserved your insulting, condescending description as “childish.”  And since you specifically appealed to Wittgenstein’s authority, my credentials on Wittgenstein are highly relevant as well.  In other words, I know what his views are, and I reject them as unpersuasive.

Philosophy is not a cult.  I suggest you try thinking like a true philosopher, not a Wittgenstein acolyte.  He was certainly a genius and had many illuminating insights, but it doesn’t follow that he was right about religious belief.  There are many critiques of Wittgenstein, especially on his views of religion, that you should consult when you’re ready to think critically.

Your other points are just worthless, unbecoming personal rants against me and reveal your ignorance of the profession.  For example, did you know that 48% of all college instructors in this country are part-time because higher education has become the intellectual equivalent of a sweat shop?  Do you think this means that none of them are qualified for full-time employment?  Ever hear of downsizing, outsourcing, cost-cutting, and, heaven forbid, exploitation?  Your presumptuousness is quite astounding.  By the way, I’m full-time.

You also seem quite oblivious to the fact that this website is not a philosophical forum.  I respected its limitations by not giving substantial arguments for my views.  And I notice that you didn’t either—you made a mere assertion and appealed to Wittgenstein’s authority for support.  I will condescend to give you a hint, though, of an argument as to why Wittgenstein is wrong, and you can fill in the blanks if you have the ability: religious attitudes are not merely non-cognitive expressions.  Every real religion in the world—not Wittgenstein’s hypothetical examples and tribes—involves beliefs about reality (ontological “doctrine”) which determine the appropriate attitudes for the follower to adopt toward reality and his own life (moral “doctrine”).  A “religion” with no beliefs about reality whatsoever—what you and Wittgenstein apparently think is possible, though neither he nor you have said why it should be called a religion—could not provide any guidance about what to hope for, how to act, when to forgive, what is praiseworthy or blameworthy, etc.  It could not provide redemption, salvation, or even plain, ordinary comfort.  As for “how religious people view it,” why should their first-person epistemic commitments be considered normative?  As for Hedges, his views are quite confused, as others have pointed out here; I would call them philosophically naive.

Whether Nahida is a “decent person” is irrelevant.  He or she made various claims which I took seriously, and I paid this person the courtesy of responding to them, and I was thanked for my politeness.  My claim about the power of psychological forces in affecting people’s beliefs is empirically accurate.

I invite you to attend my lectures on Wittgenstein in the fall at Rutgers University, but only on the condition that you behave in a civilized manner.

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By Agki, May 31, 2007 at 10:18 am Link to this comment

Jim H. hath said:
Dictionary
the·ol·o·gy
The study of the nature of God and RELIGIOUS truth;
A system or school of opinions concerning ‘God and religious’ questions:
Protestant theology; Jewish theology.
A course of specialized religious study

And I reply:

I prefer Stephen Jay Gould’s description: A subject without a subject matter

Agki

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By ktfalvey, May 31, 2007 at 9:53 am Link to this comment

Re: 73177
To Mark (“I have two doctorates!”) Colby:

No wonder your conception of religion is childish.  So is your behavior when criticized.

I wish you luck in academia if your standard mode of argument is to launch into a tantrum and point to your degrees.

Luck is something you obviously need, since all your degrees have thus far not succeeded in garnering you a tenure-track job anywhere. The profession does seem to have rendered its judgment upon your ability, Mark.

In truth, those of us who hire and fire people like you don’t care how many degrees a guy has if he doesn’t know his stuff.  You demonstrated conclusively in your #72374 an utter inability to comprehend the idea that religious faith can take the form of an attitude toward life and the world, not belief in a body of “docrine.”  It is a simple fact that this is how many religious people view it. Hedges articulated such a view quite well, but you simply cannot comprehend it.  As such, you have no more business teaching philosophy of religion than someone ignorant of the basic concepts of set theory has teaching philosophy of mathematics.

Your pretentious, patrontizing and pedantic response to nahida’s simple expressions of faith are just embarrassing to those of us who regard philosophical discussion as something more than a sophomoric debating game.  Your chillingly dehumanized description (#73673) of this obviously decent person as “at the mercy of powerful psychological forces” is just despicable.

Reason is not a stick you use to beat things you cannot comprehend, Mark. You are the kind of person who gives academic philosophy a bad name   Do the profession a favor and find another line of work.

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By Adam, May 30, 2007 at 11:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hedges writes,
“The danger of Sam’s simplistic worldview is that it does what fundamentalists do: It creates the illusion of a binary world of us and them, of reason versus irrationality, of the forces of light battling the forces of darkness.  And once you set up this world you are permitted to view as justified [...] anything [...] that will subdue what is defined as irrational and dangerous.”

But Niehbuhr ends with a quote from Reinhold Niebuhr, who wrote a book called “The children of Light and Darkness” where he DOES embrace a binary, and goes to the biblical metaphor for it.

Also, Israel has not killed 400 (!) Palestinians in Gaza in the “last few months.”  Why does Hedges have such incredible problems with obvious untruths?  B’Tselem—which takes its statistics from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society—records the deaths of Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli Army.  Here is their figures for the last few months in BOTH Gaza and the West Bank:

2007
April: 19
March: 9
February: 12
January: 11
Total: 51

(They also give the names of the Palestinians who died.)


http://btselem.org/English/Statistics/Casualties_Data.asp?Category=1

When it comes to Israel, Hedges becomes truly bizarre.

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By jonathan, May 30, 2007 at 10:38 pm Link to this comment

I guess Chris Hedges has not read this - really he does not have a leg to stand on.
Revelations chapter 1 verse 20 says; The Seven Stars of “Orion” (in the constellation of Orion) are the Angels of The Seven Churches.
Revelations chapter 1 verse 11 says; The Seven churches are; Ephesus, and Smyrna the First, and Pergamus, and Thyatira, and Sardis, and Philadelphia, and Ladocea.
Revelations chapter 22 verse 16 says; I Jesus have sent my angel to testify unto you these things, in The Churches; I am the root of David, the bright ”The Morning Star.”(it is visible on the Horizon Summer & Fall - a few minutes before sunrise)
(catch 22) The Morning Star is not Jesus and it is not a star at all – it is the Planet “Venus.”
Isaiah chapter 44 verse 10 says; Who? Hath formed a God, or molten a graven image (of a God) that is profitable for nothing?

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By jonathan, May 30, 2007 at 10:30 pm Link to this comment

In Search of Truth

On the question; Have I ever read an entire book cover to cover, that opposes my personal views?
By the time I was twelve – I had been thoroughly indoctrinated, I was a Catholic. In the Catholic doctrine we were taught that one should never question the existence of God and we should never read The Holy Bible, especially the book of Revelations. (the intention is clear)
When I was thirteen I was converted and my mother purchased and gave me a beautiful King James, leather bound bible with a biblical concordance.
I read searched and analyzed every conceivable topic, only to discover that the Holy Bible was jammed packed with concoctions and inconceivable fabrications – Lies. Yes – the book was my Holy Bible.
I nearly cried with amazement in realizing that I must be an Atheist!
If any one is interested in truth, you will find it in the book of Revelations etc. All about the Jewish God “Yahweh-God-Jehovah” and that Abraham designed “God” from the single word “YAHWEH.” (from nothing) At that time, Abraham was one of the richest men on Earth !
In reading the bible you will find that religious theories derive from Nimrod Baal the sun god and Christianity derives from Astronomy and Astrology. From the “Seven Stars of Orion” and the “Seven Churches of Christ” of which “Smyrna” in Turkey was the First. Such as all Churches named “The First” and all Banks named “The First.” Churches and Banks are about accumulation of Money, property and Political Power) Large church congregations, operate Credit Unions !
Yes – the book that I read, that opposes my views, was/is my treasured “Holy Bible.”
It is not my business to indoctrinate any one into disbelief.
If you want to keep your “Faith” don’t read the Bible and avoid the book of Revelations. (For there you will see the fallacy of it all)
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By Clarissa, May 30, 2007 at 6:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

1)Hedges has done a beautiful and inspiring job of showing the glory of the Word Incarnate, rather than the words-obliterated by translation through several centuries.  Words are still being fought over in all religious theologies and theocracies.  This describes the breakdown of religion but it does not end religion and never will because the goodness in mankind does prevail over evil. Religion simply acknowledges God and is a vehicle for our expressions of God in the form of teachings. Paradoxically, the Word as Living God “translates” our lives, our words, and our beings into divinity and truth—not the other way around (translating words into languages for the purpose of preaching). “Man was not made for the Sabbath; the Sabbath was made for man.” Once struck by God, like Paul blinded on the way to Damascus, mankind can then pursue the development of his higher purpose with God through studying the preaching and writings of the prophets and holy men throughout time. 2) I have to take issue with those who don’t know the basics of science: variety of species does not equal evolution. Within the DNA structures of genus and species, new species do not sprout, but there develops fantastic variety within the confines of species.  Unfortunately for the evolutionists, they point to animals like the platypus that “look” like a duck-beaver sort of thingy, but in fact don’t have even a near hit on the DNA charts. However, there is more proof showing that “clay” may very likely be the original stuff of life, as shown in a Stanford University study around 1987, having liquid and particles of mineral compositions that mimicked human and living composition.  Oh, where is the spark of life, however? And did God take that clay as he did in Genesis and breathe life into it?

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By Adam, May 30, 2007 at 6:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It should be mentioned that when Hedges wrote that accusation about Israeli soldiers “shooting children for sport,” he was roundly accused by journalists less antipathetic to Israel as either a liar or extraordinary self-deluder:

***
4) In an exceptionally incendiary passage, Hedges claims:
“[...] but I have never before watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport.”

• First, the sheer malice of this comment speaks for itself; if the Israelis, with the most powerful army in the Middle East enticed “children like mice into a trap and murdered them for sport,” why was only one person killed on June 17 - as tragic as that was - when Hedges wrote his “diary” entry on the events in question?

Moreover, Hedges’ account is at odds with those in other media, including his home publication, the New York Times. Reporting the events of June 17, Times correspondent Douglas Frantz wrote: “The Israeli military said soldiers had been under attack with stones and bottles” when they opened fire on “a crowd trying to tear down surrounding Jewish settlements in Gush Katif.”

Other news agencies reported that the Palestinians began throwing stones at soldiers in an Israeli settlement near Khan Younis after an attempted suicide bombing near Dahaniya in Gaza the same day. Margot Dudkevitch of the Jerusalem Post reported:
Near the entrance to Dahaniya, soldiers became suspicious of a man driving a donkey cart. As he approached the soldiers, the man jumped from the cart and detonated explosives hidden in it…IDF sappers detonated the remaining bombs that failed to explode, among them four gas canisters and two mines.
Soldiers on duty, already on edge, were aware that innocent looking Palestinians had tried to blow up other Israeli soldiers elsewhere in the Gaza Strip the same day. But Hedges did not even bother to report in his “diary” of events the attempted suicide bombing aimed at killing Israelis.

Similarly, an armed Palestinian gang shot and killed a 12 year old Palestinian on June 16 in the town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Hedges, who was in Gaza at the time, makes no mention of this either. On June 18 it was reported in The Jerusalem Post:

“Yesterday, Palestinians, who had blamed Israel for the death of another 12 year-old boy near Rafah on Saturday, admitted that the boy had been killed by an armed opposition faction operating in Rafah. According to reports, a dispute broke out between Palestinian security officials and an armed gang that shot at soldiers near Rafah Yam. The Palestinian security officials demanded that the armed gang leave, and as they drove off gang members began shooting at random, mortally wounding Suliman Massari, 12, who was in a car, and wounding several other passengers.”

• Notably, Thomas L. Friedman, a colleague of Hedges’ at The New York Times, wrote an op-ed [...]
“[T]o suggest that Israel is slaughtering Palestinians for sport, as if a war were not going on there, which Israel did not court, in which civilians on both sides are being killed… - is just a lie.”

[...]

5) Hedges claims Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinian children with guns equipped “with silencers.” According to senior IDF officers, including IDF spokesman Olivier Rafowitz, silencers are used only by special forces troops in close combat situations, not by conventional troops in guard-duty or riot-control circumstances. In addition, these same officers have stated that the attachment used to fire rubber bullets might appear – to a non-expert – to be a silencer. Finally, one might ask, since silencers are employed for stealth operations in which the use of a gun is intended to be concealed, why would Israeli soldiers use them openly where observers could see them?

copied from http://camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=32&x_article=4

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By MoeLarryAndJesus, May 30, 2007 at 5:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mainstream Christianity has traditionally taught (with very rare exceptions) that non-Christians end up in hell being tortured for all of eternity.  Christians can bitch and moan all they want about “redemption” and “saving” and so forth, but there is no more heinous doctrine than that.

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By D Deans, May 30, 2007 at 4:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If you are taking this discussion seriously, please read JL Mackie’s tremendous book, “The Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God.”  Mr. Mackie answered, in no uncertain terms, questions regarding theism.  Sadly, we continue to review questions that Mr. Mackie put to rest many years ago.

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By Jim H., May 30, 2007 at 11:59 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

RE: 73979 by nick-picker

You Say: ” Most RELIGIOUS people don’t care for THEOLOGY and take RELIGION as a true—-” (?)
And, You say: “The “X%x#?” was written by a man, a mortal man.” (?)

Wrong! That slimy contaminated conglomeration of fanticized pornography and fairy tale filth, was assembled by many thieving felonious charlatans over hundreds of years

Dictionary  
the·ol·o·gy
The study of the nature of God and RELIGIOUS truth; 
A system or school of opinions concerning ‘God and religious’ questions:
Protestant theology; Jewish theology.
A course of specialized religious study

WikiAnswers  
Question: What is religion?

Answer: ‘religion’ IS an organized, formal system of BELIEF IN GOD, usually associated with payment to a religious leader of the organization.

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