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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 3)

I also know from my time in the Muslim world that the vast majority of the some 1 billion Muslims on this planet—most of whom are not Arab—are moderate, detest the violence done in the name of their religion and look at the Pat Robertsons and Franklin Grahams, who demonize Muslims in the name of Christianity, with the same horror with which we look at Osama bin Laden or Hamas.  The Palestinian resistance movement took on a radical Islam coloring in the 1990s only when conditions in Gaza and the West Bank deteriorated and thrust people into profound hopelessness, despair and poverty—conditions similar to those that empowered the Christian right in our own country.  Before that the movement was decidedly secular.  I know that Muslim societies are shaped far more by national characteristics—an Iraqi has a culture and outlook on life that are quite different from an Indonesian’s—just as a French citizen, although a Catholic, is influenced far more by the traits of his culture. Islam has within it tiny, marginal groups that worship death, but nearly all suicide bombers come from one language group within the Muslim world, Arabic, which represents only 20 percent of Muslims.  I have seen the bodies—including the bodies of children—left in the wake of a suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem.  But I have also seen the frail, thin bodies of boys shot to death for sport by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip.  Tell me the moral difference.  I fail to see one, especially as a father. 

Finally, let us not forget that the worst genocides and slaughters of the last century were perpetrated not by Muslims but Christians.  To someone who lived in Sarajevo during the Serbian siege of the city, Sam’s demonization of the Muslim world seems odd.  It was the Muslim-led government in Bosnia that practiced tolerance.  There were some 10,000 Serbs who remained in the city and fought alongside the Bosnia Muslims during the war.  The city’s Jewish community, dating back to 1492, was also loyal to the government.  And the worst atrocities of the war were blessed not by imams but Catholic and Serbian Orthodox priests.  Sam’s argument that atheists have a higher moral code is as specious as his attacks on Islam.  Does he forget Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot?  These three alone filled the earth with more corpses in the last century than all of the world’s clerics combined. 

The danger is not Islam or Christianity or any other religion.  It is the human heart—the capacity we all have for evil.  All human institutions with a lust for power give their utopian visions divine sanction, whether this comes through the worship of God, destiny, historical inevitability, the master race, a worker’s paradise, fraternite-egalite-liberte or the second coming of Jesus Christ.

  Religion is often a convenient vehicle for this blood lust.  Religious institutions often sanctify genocide, but this says more about us, about the nature of human institutions and the darkest human yearnings, than it does about religion.  This is the greatest failing of Sam’s book.  He externalizes evil.  And when you externalize evil, all tools, including violence and torture, become legitimate to eradicate an evil that is outside of you.  This worldview—one also adopted by the Christian right—is dangerous, for if we fail to acknowledge our own capacity for evil it will grow unchecked and unheeded.  It is, in essence, the call to live the unexamined life. 

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This externalization of evil is what allows Sam to endorse torture.  He, of course, deludes himself into believing that it is reason that requires us to waterboard detainees in the physical and moral black holes we have set up to make them disappear.  He quotes Alan Dershowitz, not only to reassure us that the Israelis treat Palestinians—400 of whom they have killed in Gaza over the past few months—humanely, but to trot out the absurd notion of a ticking time bomb, the idea that we know a terrorist has planted a large bomb in the center of the city and we must torture him, or in the glib phrase of Harris, we must dust off “a strappado” and expose “this unpleasant fellow to a suasion of bygone times” (P. 193).

I guess this reference to torture is amusing if you have spent your life encased in the protected world of the university.  As someone who was captured and held for over a week by the Iraqi Republican Guard during the 1991 Shiite uprising in Basra and then turned over for my final 24 hours to the Iraqi secret police—who my captors openly expected to execute me—I find this glib talk of physical abuse repugnant.  Dershowitz and Harris cannot give us a legal or historical precedent where such a case as they describe actually happened.  But this is not the point; the point is to endow themselves with the moral right to abuse others in the name of their particular version of goodness.  This is done in the name of reason.  It is done in the name of a false god, an idol.  And this god—if you want it named—is the god of death, or as Freud stated, Thanatos, the death instinct, the impulse that works toward the annihilation of all living things, including ourselves. For once you torture, done in the name of reason, done to make us safe, you unleash sadists and killers.  You consign some human beings to moral oblivion.  You become no better than those you oppose.

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 military intervention, brutal occupation and even torture, anything, in short, that will subdue what is defined as irrational and dangerous.  All this is done in the name of reason, in the name of his god, which looks, like all idols, an awful lot like Sam Harris. 

“Necessity,” William Pitt wrote, “is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.”

Sam ends his book with a chapter that can best be described as Buddhism light. His spirituality, which apparently includes life after death and telepathy, fuels our narcissistic obsession with our individual unconscious. I am not against solitude or meditation, but I support it only when it feeds the moral life rather than serves as an excuse to avoid moral commitment. The quest for personal fulfillment can become an excuse for the individual to negate his or her responsibilities as a citizen, as a member of a wider community.  Sam’s religion—for Sam in an odd way tries at the end of his book to create one—is in tune with this narcissism.  His idealized version of Buddhism is part of his inability to see that it too has been used to feed the lusts of warriors and killers, it too has been hijacked in the name of radical evil.  Buddhist Shinto warrior cults justified and absolved those who carried out the worst atrocities committed by the Japanese in Nanjing.  By the end of World War II Buddhist and Shinto priests recruited and indoctrinated kamikaze (divine wind) pilots in the name of another god.  It is an old story.  It is not the evil of religion, but the inherent capacity for evil of humankind.

The point of religion, authentic religion, is that it is not, in the end, about us.  It is about the other, about the stranger lying beaten and robbed on the side of the road, about the poor, the outcasts, the marginalized, the sick, the destitute, about those who are being abused and beaten in cells in Guantanamo and a host of other secret locations, about what we do to gays and lesbians in this country, what we do to the 47 million Americans without health insurance, the illegal immigrants who live among us without rights or protection, their suffering as invisible as the suffering of the mentally ill we have relegated to heating grates or prison cells.  It is about them.

We have forgotten who we were meant to be, who we were created to be, because we have forgotten that we find God not in ourselves, finally, but in our care for our neighbor, in the stranger, including those outside the nation and the faith.  The religious life is not designed to make you happy, or safe or content; it is not designed to make you whole or complete, to free you from anxieties and fear; it is designed to save you from yourself, to make possible human community, to lead you to understand that the greatest force in life is not power or reason but love.

As Reinhold Niebuhr wrote:

Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime,
Therefore, we are saved by hope.
Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history;
Therefore, we are saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone.
Therefore, we are saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own;
Therefore, we are saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.


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By nickthelight, May 30, 2007 at 9:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Essentially a week argument as he links religion and theology together like a zip. Most religious people don’t care for theology and take religion as a true, accurate and tangible record of historical events. The Bible was written by a man, a mortal man.
He also seeks to give himself, like many religious apologists before him, wiggle room by attempting to redefine what religion and faith are.
....“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 what I kill for dogma is what I die for”.

The lofty clouds that the likes of Hedges and his theological peers seat themselves upon are a distant land of long words and slippery definitions that most if not all the 1 Billion Muslims in the world have no comprehension of and such they will continue to take the teachings of an imaginary man in the sky very literally.

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By Ted Swart, May 30, 2007 at 7:50 am Link to this comment

Eugen #73820
This is a minor point, but any human population bottlenecks—such as the one you mention—in no way invalidate the existence of mitchondrial Eve or Y-chromosome Adam.  Nor do such bottlenecks alter the time estimates of when they lived or where they lived—which was andoubtedly Africa.

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By Eugen, May 29, 2007 at 6:17 pm Link to this comment

Thanks Mark for not being more harsh. I feel that it sometimes is important to use shock therapy during these times when a certain president day dreams about being taken away by the Rapture in his pickup truck. I can just see him now with his cowboy boots on the desk in the oval office with a big grin on his face.  You are right about religious people being set in their ways though. Try to convince somebody that chronologically that the flood was impossible and they just ignore you. The one that really amazes me is “And God gave his only begotten son to die for us on the cross to save us from our sins.“ I ask who wrote that rule? Somebody has to be tortured and then hung on a cross and it has to be gods son. That sounds like a stupid rule to me. People make a big deal about this. If they are right Jesus went to heaven and he gets to sit there next god. Boy that sounds boring but I guess it isn’t as bad as kneeling all day saying god is great, god is good, god is love. I don’t plan on going to heaven. If you think you might be carried off by the rapture I would highly recommend you get and keep on you a nice comfortable pair of knee pads. I can see God and Jesus sitting on their thrones just like in one of those Renaissance paintings.
I just asked this question of somebody today. Is God a man? Does he have a sex organ? If so , why? According to the Bible he must take on human form sometimes, after all he’s god, but remember when he stepped in a soldiers poop and he commanded that the soldiers carry a shovel with them. I wonder if he was wearing sandals?
  Ted I don’t think that the 200,000 year old Eve still holds water. I might be wrong. That was what a study reported back in 1986 or so. More recently some, including myself, believe that the Toba eruption reduced the human population drastically about 75000 years ago and the original study wouldn’t have taken that into effect.
  To sum up. I don’t believe in God but if I’m wrong I hope he don’t read TruthDig.

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By Ted Swart, May 29, 2007 at 5:45 pm Link to this comment

Nahidia #73629
Mark Colby has already provided many reasons why your beliefs and attitudes are qustionable and I don’t wish to or need to repeat what he has so ably said.  However, there is one sentence in your original set of messages which caught my eye and which I would like to comment upon:

“This organization, this system, this beauty, this perfection, this diversity, this love, this logic, this mind, this existence, this ability to comprehend existence, all point to an incredibly Able, intelligent, Beautiful, Artistic, Creative Designer.”

I would appear from this sentence that you believe in what is commonly known as Intelligent Design. In other words you believe that there must be some kind of Creator God who designed everything that exists.  And belief in ID commonly goes hand in hand with a rejection of the occurrence of evolution. Yet there is an enormous mountain of fossil and DNA evidence which attests to the fact that evolution on Earth did actually occur.  All the evidence available points to the fact that life has been present on earth for billions of years and gradually evolved until humans came on the scene.

We even know (from DNA evidence) that on the all female branch of our genealogical tree we have a shared common female ancestor (so-called mitochondrial Eve) who lived on earth some 200 thousand years ago. Likewise we all have a shared common male ancestor (Y-chromosoe Adam) who lived some 100 thousand years ago.

So how can anyone in their right mind reject the occurrence of evolution?  Surely it is the duty of all of us to accept the findings of science regarding the age of the earth the ocurrence of evolution and so on. Science is by no menas the source of all truth but it is a valid source of truth and to reject its findings out of hand. And, whatever beliefs we hold must surely not contradict the findings of science.

Are you able to comment on this apparant contradiction in your beliefs?

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By Jim H., May 29, 2007 at 5:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

RE: 73633 no-hida

You say: “You ‘do’ have a religion”(?)
“When you accept as true something without any decisive evidence you simply believe.”
THIS IS A FALSE STATEMENT!

FIRST, a “secular atheist” is one who REFUSES to accept as true ‘THEISM’, ‘GODISM’, or “RELIGION” on FAITH!
Someone who REFUSES TO BELIEVE IN FANTASIES! SANTA CLAUS etc. thus, using one’s mind to distinguish fact from fiction is not “accept’-ing as true something”, or a “religion”!

SECOND, you need a dictionary, because every day we accept “something"s as true without decisive evidence”, and, “simply beleive”.  “Believing without any ‘decisive’ evidence” is not “religion”!

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By Mark Colby, May 29, 2007 at 4:34 pm Link to this comment

Eugen,

I wouldn’t say that Nahida is a “philosophical snob.”  I think that he or she is just insufficiently critical about his or her own experiences and reasoning about the matter of God.  We have to keep in mind that religion is of such fundamental importance that some people are unwilling or unable to think about it objectively, and are instead at the mercy of powerful psychological forces that reason is powerless to combat.

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By Mark Colby, May 29, 2007 at 4:25 pm Link to this comment

Nahida,

Here’s the last part.

13. “If faith and the concept of God provides a reasonable explanation to my existence…”

The word “reasonable” doesn’t mean what you want it to mean; it means following the dictates of reason and logic, which are objective, and admitting to the possibility of being wrong.  You’ve already admitted to being subjective, and you don’t seem willing to admit the possibility that you’re wrong about God’s existence.  So you can’t claim that you’re reasonable.

14. “So I am not here off to prove to you or convince you that God exists, but to ask you kindly to respect my right to believe in God, for God to me is as real and true as your words that I’m reading.
No one is entitled or competent of judging something as intimate as someone’s spiritual experience. So why not accept gracefully the other people’s right to have faith, and be kind enough not to degrade their view as being less logical.”

Sorry, but you didn’t understand my earlier posts.  I explicitly said that you have the right to your beliefs, but that doesn’t mean your beliefs are correct.  Don’t make the common mistake of assuming that it’s degrading to have other, intelligent people objectively evaluate your beliefs and experiences in order to find out whether there is any truth in them; this is like saying that respecting means always agreeing with you, which is absurd.  It’s not degrading to be told that a belief is false if indeed that belief is false. 

By the way, I wouldn’t mind being convinced that God exists.  But the word “convince” implies the use of logic, evidence, and reason, not appeal to subjective factors.

As for judging spiritual experience, unless you’re redefining the meaning of the word “experience,” experiences are always being judged by other people.  If I claim to experience vampires, you would reject my experience as being false.  It is a scientific truth that people’s experiences can be affected by psychological, physiological, educational, and other factors.

15. “If I am happy enough with my beliefs why do atheists feel eager to prove my experiences wrong? Remember that I am not debating with you to prove you wrong, rather to ask you kindly not to try to impose–hiding under the banner of science- your faith on me.”

Sorry, but I don’t have any faith, just reliance on logic, reason, and evidence.  I am not eager to prove you wrong; I’m just trying to appeal to whatever reason you have within you, and to be less dogmatic.  My goal is only to discover the truth by relying on reason, logic, and evidence—which, unlike faith, are objective, therefore more reliable.

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By Eugen, May 29, 2007 at 4:22 pm Link to this comment

Nahida, you’re a philosophical snob. It is obvious that man has created gods to explain the unexplainable such as the sun coming up. He then found that he could exploit the superstitious with fear. If my children were going to Princeton I’d want to know what Hedges is supposed to be teaching. What kind of cop out is creating your own definition of religion that is ambiguous. He has convinced himself that man can not live without religion. He is totally blind of the world around him. As an atheist i see myself no more than intelligent animal, one of the 5800 mammals species. I look at other animals including ants and bees , elk, geese, the other social animals and I see a common thread. They have all learned to get along. That is why they have succeeded. That is why we have succeeded. We do not need some fear of god crutch to survive and in fact right now religion is doing a lot more harm than good. Religious people say here is an argument . “There is a god.” prove me wrong. Why should I? Here is an argument. Israel has planted nuclear weapons in this country and have forced our government to go along with a fake Moslem Terror attack which was actually implemented by Israel and covered up by the US. Bin Laden took credit for it because what would be the point of denying it especially since his popularity in the Moslem countries went up. Why? Israel wants to regain the promised land and to rebuild the temple. Do you think these comments are stupid? Well now you know what I think of your religious beliefs. I have no religious beliefs, contrary to whatever you say.

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By Mark Colby, May 29, 2007 at 4:20 pm Link to this comment

Nahida,

Here’s the rest of my reply.

8. “Therefore; anyone who claims with 100% certainitiy that God does not exist cannot be a true scolar of science because of the lack of the ability to keep an open mind to possibilities, also his/her logic is flawed because his/ her prior beliefs are put up and above scientific rationality.”

Do you have an open mind about Zeus, elves, vampires, and the like?  If not, as I suspect, then you’re just as guilty as I am.

9.“Now, I happen to “believe” that there is a Creator, and when someone comes to tell me that my experiences are invalid because he/ she cannot verify them scientifically; it’s feels as if I could give my self the liberality to say to you “you have never experienced love because I can’t measure it, prove it or detect with our scientific devices”.

This is a common mistake.  Love and God are different kinds of things.  The fact that you can’t prove that love exists does not mean that God exists.  One reason is that love is an inner emotional state, whereas God is supposedly a being.

10. “Science cannot claim to know, measure or understand everything, simply because all what we see, hear, taste, smell, touch, feel, think, calculate, analyse, and conclude is relative, limited, imperfect, and confined due to our partial and limited perceptions. Our science, knowledge, perceptions, and logical thinking are mere products of our minds, our LIMITED minds.”

You’re entirely right.  But these are all reasons why some people are skeptical that God exists.  So the question becomes: how can we limited, imperfect human beings learn the truth about the universe?  If reason and evidence can’t tell us, what else can we turn to?  It can’t be faith, since faith can’t make something exist that really doesn’t—otherwise my faith that vampires exist would make vampires exist.

11. “Faith to me is an inner personal experience, it is purely subjective, it can only be felt. And I am under no obligation to prove it to you or anyone else.”

You’re under no obligation.  Just don’t expect anyone who values reason and logic to accept what you think is true, especially when you concede that faith is subjective.  Subjectivity means the absence of objectivity; it means you’re biased in favor of whatever your subjective, personal needs and feelings are.

12. “If there is no one on earth who believes in God except me, it will make no difference to me, as I would’ve still believed because of my perception, my subjective reality, and my spiritual experiences in my universe. The fact that others don’t believe wouldn’t make the slightest change to my perception of God.”

Sure, because you’re unwilling to question your religious beliefs.  Your mind is already made up.

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By Mark Colby, May 29, 2007 at 4:19 pm Link to this comment

Nahida,

Thanks for your reply.  I will say the following in response.

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.

2. “My intention in responding to you is NOT to prove beyond any shadow of doubt that God exists; rather I just refute the atheistic claim that they dearly hold with a 100% certainty that God doesn’t exists.”

As I suggested, it’s entirely proper to claim with 100% certainty that some things do not exist.  This doesn’t mean that I think I’m infallible, though; it does mean that I demand evidence before I revise my denial. 

3. “I say: “I only have faith”, “I believe”, and I simply say: I have noticeable, accumulative, and reasonable verifications that support my faith according to my limited ability of understanding and analysing.

I understand, but you, like many others, are confused about the meaning of the word “faith.”  It refers to an attitude of unshakeable commitment.  It is incompatible with “reasonable verifications,” because the latter are always fallible, provisional, and the like, unlike faith.  After all, if you didn’t have those reasonable verifications, would you become an atheist?  I doubt it.

4. “When we talk about fait, I hope that you appreciate that it is what it claims to be: “faith” it is not a science, it is personal, subjective, and private experience. It’s like love; you cannot put it under the microscope, nor apply mathematical rules to it.”

This is why faith is worthless as a guide to truth.  Being subjective and private, it cannot be tested for how well it provides truth, if at all.  I’m not applying mathematical rules to it; I’m applying the rules of logic and reason to it, which of course theists like yourself find problematic because these rules risk showing that your experiences are unreliable or mistaken.

5. “Through my personal experiences and my modest ability to reason I know that it is an impossibility to prove a negative (i.e that God does not exist), I also know that it is not reasonable, nor scientific to rule out the possibility of the existence of a Creator.”

Of course, but by the same reasoning, one cannot prove that Zeus, elves, vampires, etc., do not exist.  Yet presumably you do, so why do you?  I suggest that you’re being arbitrary—accepting what you want and ruling out what you don’t want.

6. “The possibility of the existence of a Creator is logically legitimate and scientifically probable, in other words having faith does not mean that you are scientifically erroneous.”

It’s logically possible, just as the existence of Zeus, etc., is logically possible.  But the question is not, what is logically possible, but what is real?  This is a different question.

The existence of a Creator is not scientifically probable, because probability theory requires a data set, preferably as large as possible, and there is no such set available for gods.  The word “probability” has no meaning when applied to unique cases

7. “On the other hand in your stance as an atheist, you cannot claim to be more scientific, as logically there is no way that you could ever prove your case.
So, all you’ve got and all what you’ll ever have is also FAITH.”

Proof is not possible in science, only in math and logic, where it does not have the meaning you think it does.  I never claimed to be scientific.

Also, even if proof were possible outside math and logic, I don’t need to prove my case; all I need do is reason that there is no evidence for God’s existence any more than there is for Zeus, elves, vampires, etc.

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By nahida, May 29, 2007 at 12:06 pm Link to this comment

Part 1
Dear Mark Colby

Thank you for your civilised and logical reply to my post, your points are appreciated; however, in my humble way of thinking I would like to point out to you a few things:

The question of God’s existence is not as simple as you try to present; it is not an unambiguous, unequivocal, or a solved scientific problem.
Dear Mark, negating God and claiming with 100% certainty that God does not exist is not science, it is contrary to science. It is neither a fact, nor it is the Truth.

My intention in responding to you is NOT to prove beyond any shadow of doubt that God exists; rather I just refute the atheistic claim that they dearly hold with a 100% certainty that God doesn’t exists.

I -as believers- never claim that I hold “The Scientific Proof” of God’s existence; I say: “I only have faith”, “I believe”, and I simply say: I have noticeable, accumulative, and reasonable verifications that support my faith according to my limited ability of understanding and analysing.

When we talk about fait, I hope that you appreciate that it is what it claims to be: “faith”; it is not a science, it is personal, subjective, and private experience. It’s like love; you cannot put it under the microscope, nor apply mathematical rules to it.

Through my personal experiences and my modest ability to reason I know that it is an impossibility to prove a negative (i.e that God does not exist), I also know that it is not reasonable, nor scientific to rule out the possibility of the existence of a Creator.

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By nahida, May 29, 2007 at 12:05 pm Link to this comment

to Mark Colby-part 2

The possibility of the existence of a Creator is logically legitimate and scientifically probable, in other words having faith does not mean that you are scientifically erroneous.
On the other hand in your stance as an atheist, you cannot claim to be more scientific, as logically there is no way that you could ever prove your case.
So, all you’ve got and all what you’ll ever have is also FAITH.
hence it is wrong to assume that your stance as an atheist 100% true.
Therefore; anyone who claims with 100% certainitiy that God does not exist cannot be a true scolar of science because of the lack of the ability to keep an open mind to possibilities, also his/her logic is flawed because his/ her prior beliefs are put up and above scientific rationality.
Conclusion: a true atheist cannot be a true scientist.
Given that: true atheist = someone who claims the non existence of God is scientific fact, or who claims with 100% certainty that God does not exist.

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By nahida, May 29, 2007 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment

to Mark Colby-part 3

Now, I happen to “believe” that there is a Creator, and when someone comes to tell me that my experiences are invalid because he/ she cannot verify them scientifically; it’s feels as if I could give my self the liberality to say to you “you have never experienced love because I can’t measure it, prove it or detect with our scientific devices”.

No scientist on earth could prove to me that your feelings of love exist -apart from your claim that is.

Science cannot claim to know, measure or understand everything, simply because all what we see, hear, taste, smell, touch, feel, think, calculate, analyse, and conclude is relative, limited, imperfect, and confined due to our partial and limited perceptions.
Our science, knowledge, perceptions, and logical thinking are mere products of our minds, our LIMITED minds.

Faith to me is an inner personal experience, it is purely subjective, it can only be felt. And I am under no obligation to prove it to you or anyone else.
If there is no one on earth who believes in God except me, it will make no difference to me, as I would’ve still believed because of my perception, my subjective reality, and my spiritual experiences in my universe. The fact that others don’t believe wouldn’t make the slightest change to my perception of God.
(By the spiritual experience I mean the feeling in which you are overwhelmingly moved by the sensation of total awareness and nearness of a Sublime Most Loving Presence that you are ever so grateful for)

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By nahida, May 29, 2007 at 12:02 pm Link to this comment

to Mark Colby-part 4

If faith and the concept of God provides a reasonable explanation to my existence, and if it helps me understand myself and the world around me in a rational manner, if it can give me a sense of fulfilment, contentment and satisfaction, If it enables me to survive adversities of life with minimum trauma and more patience, grace and sanity, if it fills my soul with love, joy, peace and tranquillity, if it makes life more fun, more enjoyable and my experiences more real and intense ; then how and why should I complain or deny?
After all there is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

So I am not here off to prove to you or convince you that God exists, but to ask you kindly to respect my right to believe in God, for God to me is as real and true as your words that I’m reading.
No one is entitled or competent of judging something as intimate as someone’s spiritual experience. So why not accept gracefully the other people’s right to have faith, and be kind enough not to degrade their view as being less logical.
If I am happy enough with my beliefs why do atheists feel eager to prove my experiences wrong? Remember that I am not debating with you to prove you wrong, rather to ask you kindly not to try to impose–hiding under the banner of science-  your faith on me. So with all due respect, I call upon you with the Quranic call:
“Say: O you that reject Faith (atheists)!  I worship not that which you worship, and you do not worship that which I worship… To you be your Way, and to me mine”. (109:1-6)

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By Ted Swart, May 29, 2007 at 9:02 am Link to this comment

Michael Glenn #73579
Thank you so much for your help in filling us in on what actually went on in the debate. Your fair minded assesment of Sam Harris is refreshing and cogent.  It doesn’t look as if those who could not attend will ever be getting a complete write-up on what went on.
I am afraid that the dogmatic mindset is all too inclined to adopt the attitude that we should accept all or nothing when it comes to Harris or anyone else. For Harris there is much that is commenable and worth saying and worth accepting. From what I have seen of Hedges thought processes this does not seem to be the case—based purely on what he has written.  His benign views of the Quran seem very far from the reality.

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By Mark Colby, May 29, 2007 at 8:51 am Link to this comment

Nahida,

This is part 3 of my reply.

7. “You have no right to claim logical superiority. You have no domination over reason, you have no supremacy over the use of intellect, you don’t own commonsense, you have no authority over science, and you do not control rationality.”

I don’t think anyone is explicitly claiming any of this, and certainly no one has a right to.  But everyone needs to be educated in logic, critical thinking, and some philosophy in order to understand what logic is and what its rules are, how the intellect or reason function, why common sense can be mistaken or unreliable in the search for truth, and how science actually functions.  All too often laymen ignorantly assume that they know all of this.  If this country really valued education, everyone would be able to attend college and every student would be required to learn logic, critical thinking, and philosophy since these are absolutely necessary tools for any mind to function at its best.  Everyone is taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, but not about how to reason well, which is a tragedy for the human race.

Also, the fact remains that some people’s reasoning IS superior to that of others.  This sounds anti-democratic, but truth and good reasoning are not democratic.  Everyone has a right to his opinion, but opinions are NOT equal.  The layman should try to learn from competent authorities in philosophy or science as much as he would seek out a competent lawyer or doctor to help him with a legal or medical problem.  Everyone is entitled to his own beliefs, but not to his own personal standards of truth or reasoning.
8. “I am so sorry that I am speaking with such harshness and lack of gentleness, but I think we keep getting stuck in this little hole where some atheist are allowing themselves to alienate people just because of their beliefs.”

If you mean “alienate” in its literal meaning or a synonym like “offended,” then certainly some people are alienated by the beliefs of others.  This is a problem of poor education, among other things: many people aren’t taught how to respect the views of others.  Also, unfortunately, many people are fearful of the views of others, especially when those views challenge religious or economic orthodoxy; in this country, atheists and communists have long been attacked and despised.  This isn’t the fault of atheists or communists; it’s the fault of those who are too ignorant or fearful to understand the atheist’s or communist’s reasoning.

Also, disagreement is unavoidable in human life as long as people disagree.  It’s to be expected, and it’s even a requirement.  If I think I have the truth about an issue, and you think you do, and your truth about it conflicts with my truth about it, according to logic we cannot both have the truth.  So people need to be educated to respect, and even to welcome, disagreement and challenges to orthodoxy, for the sake of intellectual and material progress.  J.S. Mill’s On Liberty is a classic text about this.

I apologize if I sound presumptuous.  I have no way of knowing your educational attainments.  As a professor, my experience has been that it is most helpful to lay out my argument, and cite the appropriate texts, in order to be as helpful as possible on matters of my professional expertise.

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By Mark Colby, May 29, 2007 at 8:49 am Link to this comment

Nahida,

This is part 2 of my reply to you.

4. “My infinite love and ability to love could not have sprouted out from a parched materialistic purposeless universe… my logic always concluded.”

Perhaps, but it’s fair to say that you need to understand evolutionary theory, since it provides the strongest arguments yet found to explain how minds evolved from nature—the view that you’re dismissing.  Unless you know what the argument for emergence of minds from nature is, you can’t rationally say that love and the ability to love COULD NOT have emerged from the universe.  You need to know both sides of the argument before you can rationally choose one.

Also, philosophy of science addresses the arguments for naturalism, the assumption that guides science and explains why science is so successful.  They are powerful arguments.

5. “Now, if other people’s logic works differently, and if they are happy with a different explanation, I have absolutely no problem with that, as long as they are not trying to impose their logic and their beliefs upon me.”

The word “logic” really means the formal rules of valid reasoning, which are universal, so no one can claim to be exempt from them and still be rational.  There is only one logic.  The correct word to use, if you want others to understand you as much as possible, is the word “reasoning.”

Certainly there are always some in any group who do want to impose their beliefs on others, but they should be ignored.  But what’s at stake is this.  It’s not that anyone wants to impose his “logic” or beliefs on you.  It’s that people of good will, such as myself, want everyone to respect the universal rules of logic, which guide any and all valid reasoning.  Without logic, reason and reasoning are utterly worthless.  Logic is neutral, like the rules of grammar; it doesn’t take sides in any dispute.  An education in logic should be available to every human being in order to help him or her learn how to reason and how to reason better.

In the end, though, if someone wishes to be illogical or dogmatic, that’s his choice.  And although everyone is entitled to his beliefs, this doesn’t mean that his beliefs are valid (e.g., the sexist or racist is entitled to hold these beliefs, but that doesn’t validate them).

6. Unfortunately, what I notice some times is that many atheists claim a monopoly over logic, science, and even over goodness, righteousness, and the work for social justice; they accuse people of faith of: irrationality, and inability to use their minds, and also they accuse them of the many evils that we see in the world today.”

Atheists are only human, and there are some bad people in every group.  But it’s not a “monopoly” that’s being claimed, only an insistence that everyone try to respect the universal rules of logic.  They are absolutely essential for using the mind and for being rational.  Without them, no one’s thinking can ever hope to be valid.  Without them, some people will think that 2+2=5 and there would no way to correct their mistake.  The same is true for the argument from design—logic and rationality reveal that it is defective.  Anyone who claims to have a mind and value rationality should be willing to learn about the critique of it given by Hume, for example, in order to make up his mind with as much understanding of both sides of the argument as possible.

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By Mark Colby, May 29, 2007 at 8:47 am Link to this comment

Nahida,

I appreciate the spirit in which you wrote, but you made some statements which I, as an atheist and professional philosopher, would like to address.  They express common views, but views which I think are deeply misguided nevertheless.

1. “Invalidating and dismissing other people’s logic, perceptions, conclusions and experiences is pretty serious stuff in the abode of progressive freethinking company.”

This is a misunderstanding of how reason works.  Everyone has preconceptions, needs, expectations, biases, fears, emotional vulnerabilities, ignorances, etc.  All of these distort the reasoning process and interfere with our search for truth.  Also, everyone is fallible.

What all of this means is that anyone’s reasoning, perceptions, conclusions and experiences could simply be mistaken, and therefore invalid, despite his or her sincerity.  The only way to find out whether anyone is right or mistaken, on any issue whatsoever, is to rationally examine what people claim to experience, what they claim to perceive, what their conclusions are, and the reasoning they engage in to justify those conclusions.  Everyone who values the truth must submit to the test of reason in order to find out what the truth is.

It is absolutely necessary to dismiss anyone’s and everyone’s reasoning, perceptions, conclusions and experiences IF they are mistaken.  This does not mean disrespect for the person.  It only means that the person, being human, is imperfect and has made a mistake.  For example, a person can misinterpret an experience due to psychological predispositions.

2. “Arriving at where we are in our understanding of the world has much to do with our long painstaking quest for answers through our diverse and profound personal experiences, and of course directed and predisposed by our intellectual capabilities, emotional capacities, cultural influences and psychological tendencies.”

I completely agree.  But our quest for answers is fragile—easily harmed by our intellectual preconceptions and blind spots, emotional needs and anxieties, cultural influences and prejudices, and psychological tendences, especially the forces of the unconscious.  All of these interfere with the rational process of thinking about the universe and searching in the most rigorous, objective, impartial way we can for the truth.  So we need to be highly skeptical and critical of our intellectual functioning, emotions, cultures, and psychological needs.  One of the reasons why natural science is so successful is that its methods are able to minimize the harmful effects of all of these, by requiring such things as repeatable experiments under controlled conditions, peer review, double-blind experiments, and the like.

3. “This organization, this system, this beauty, this perfection, this diversity, this love, this logic, this mind, this existence, this ability to comprehend existence, all point to an incredibly Able, intelligent, Beautiful, Artistic, Creative Designer.”

This is called the “argument from design.”  It has existed in various forms for more than 2 millennia.  It’s a highly tempting argument, but it is logically defective.  The classical text on why it is defective is David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.  If you read it you will see why all the things you cite do NOT justify belief in a Designer.  Since you appear to value logic and condemn illogic in others, you should be willing to learn why the argument for design is invalid.

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By nahida, May 29, 2007 at 5:48 am Link to this comment

Shocking news


“In your religion… … …”
“Hey… hey… stop there
I don’t have a religion
I don’t believe in God
I am a secular… atheist”

“Oh… but you do dear
You do have a religion
When you accept as true something
Without any decisive evidence
You simply believe

Mathematically speaking
The chances are
Either there is a God
Or there isn’t
You can never prove that God does not exist
Nor can you ever negate the possibility of God’s existence
So, when you say
Definitely there is no God
I.e. the probability of God’s existence = 0
Scientifically that is inaccurate
False statement
As this can NEVER be proven

In your case
Affirming that
‘There is no God’
Believing that God doesn’t exist
Without the ability -ever-
To produce any conclusive proof
Is called faith

Sorry dear… but…
If this is not religion
What is?

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By nahida, May 29, 2007 at 5:42 am Link to this comment

part 1

Open-minded free thinking people realise that there are extremists and fanatics in every ideology.

Believing that this universe has a Creator does not make one a brainless mindless fool; nor rejecting the idea of the possibility of the existence of a Creator qualifies a person to be a brainy mastermind genius. Period.

I have no problem with any dear atheist who chooses to reject the concept of a Creator if their logic leads him/her to such a conclusion.

I only take issues with rigid intolerant people who see nothing beyond their own perception, and who try to force their views on others.

Invalidating and dismissing other people’s logic, perceptions, conclusions and experiences is pretty serious stuff in the abode of progressive freethinking company.

Arriving at where we are in our understanding of the world has much to do with our long painstaking quest for answers through our diverse and profound personal experiences, and of course directed and predisposed by our intellectual capabilities, emotional capacities, cultural influences and psychological tendencies.

We all arrive to this world without a choice of our own, and as soon as we open our eyes to the wonders around and within ourselves we are driven to question, and to long for meanings that explain our existence.
Our curiosity is magnified as we grow.

Drawing on my personal experience, this inquisitive curious mind was no different from anyone else. As a little girl I spent endless hours pondering and thinking… asking so many questions, and contemplating; what is this universe around me? Why all this beauty? Who am I? Where did I come from and why? And where am I going? What is the purpose of my existence? You know all the usual questions that one asks as a child.

My little brain would always come bouncing back with the same reply nonetheless.

This organization, this system, this beauty, this perfection, this diversity, this love, this logic, this mind, this existence, this ability to comprehend existence, all point to an incredibly Able, intelligent, Beautiful, Artistic, Creative Designer.

And ever since, my brain and my logic, did not and could not acknowledge or be satisfied with any other explanation.

As a thinking person this is where my reason by its common sense always leads me.

Nothingness cannot cause existence. Chaos does not lead to order, intricate laws do not spring out of mayhem. Passion and compassion do not bloom out from oblivion. Havoc cannot produce balance. Unconsciousness does not lead to awake-ness and awareness.

My infinite love and ability to love could not have sprouted out from a parched materialistic purposeless universe… my logic always concluded.

Now, if other people’s logic works differently, and if they are happy with a different explanation, I have absolutely no problem with that, as long as they are not trying to impose their logic and their beliefs upon me.

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By nahida, May 29, 2007 at 5:41 am Link to this comment

part 2

Unfortunately, what I notice some times is that many atheists claim a monopoly over logic, science, and even over goodness, righteousness, and the work for social justice; they accuse people of faith of: irrationality, and inability to use their minds, and also they accuse them of the many evils that we see in the world today.

When I see that happening, and with my motherly instinct I react and interfere saying: enough is enough.
Stop it now.
You have no right to claim logical superiority.
You have no domination over reason, you have no supremacy over the use of intellect, you don’t own commonsense, you have no authority over science, and you do not control rationality.

I am so sorry that I am speaking with such harshness and lack of gentleness, but I think we keep getting stuck in this little hole where some atheist are allowing themselves to alienate people just because of their beliefs. We ought to move on as a progressive free-thinking people.

We need to open our minds and hearts by tolerating the other who is different (not only if they have different looks, but also in their thinking, philosophies, ideologies and perceptions)

We need to exercise and implement our principles in reality by even going a step further than just tolerating those who are different but by also showing RESPECT to their perceptions, to their choices and to their freedom of thought.

This -I think- is only a humble step towards a fairer and a more peaceful and just society.

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By Logician, May 29, 2007 at 4:52 am Link to this comment

Re#73506 by straight_talk_11 on 5/28:

And I suggest, in the interest of coherent discussion, you, s_t_11, go to school and learn: physics, chemistry, biology, and a whole bunch of philosophy classes where you can be, if not trained, at least conditioned to attempt to correctly process the data you will be presented by qualified instructors.  Why?

Because in your sadly misguided post #73498, you finally slipped and gave a concrete example of what it is you think you believe in .  Your COMPLETE misunderstanding of physics as applied to holographic data/image brain processing was just unfortunate.  Your post is an example of what happens when someone who can read words but has no real understanding of the concepts behind the words stumbles upon a few cool-looking sites on the net after a particularly good hit off his bong.

Now I understand why you INSIST words have no “PRECISE” meanings.  It’s just that much easier to let them mean what you want to think they might mean.  Go ahead, take another hit and read that again.  It’ll come to you.

I’ll bet you really got off on “The Tao of Physics,” didn’t you?  Or how about the “Hologram Communication” website?  You know, the one where it’s all about “The Science of Wholeness” and “The Spirit of Oneness.”  Another couple of examples of people being educated just enough to read the material but too ignorant to make any sense out of it, much like yourself.

This completely ignorant misunderstanding of physics and the subsequent asinine attempts to “spiritualize” it has done almost as much damage to the field of physics as Christianity has to evolution.

Newsflash s_t_11: you are neither scientific nor spiritual, logical nor coherent, deeply profound nor cosmically enlightened, just ignorant.  The good news is that with enough operant conditioning, you could be trainable.  In the meantime, keep your bong lit, stay away from sharp objects, and just shut the hell up.

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By Mike-G/WestSide, May 28, 2007 at 11:36 pm Link to this comment

=========================
Response to:
  •    #73384 by Lefty on 5/28 at 5:47 am
“That’s because you are overlooking a very important issue.  If Christianity has established nothing else, it has certainly established that Christians do not, and cannot, tolerate or respect “the right of each one of us to pursue life’s mysteries in whatever way we chose . . . .”
=========================

Lefty, I recognize that the Christian faith has a lot of blood on it’s hands, but how many dangerous Christians do you know personally? Have they attempted violence against you for your opinions? I can’t stand proselytizers either, but your wholesale condemnation of intolerance on the part of all Christians is an unfair and inaccurate hyperbole.

Most of the Christians that I know don’t condemn me for my agnosticism. In fact, they seem to be fascinated with how I am able to get by and be happy without their theological practices.  And yes, if that’s what they want to believe, and they do no harm to others, then they should be able to pursue that line of thinking as far as it will carry them.

Those who actually do cause harm by proselytizing should be regarded as philosophical sociopaths, and recognized as having a mental/emotional disorder.

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By Mike-G/WestSide, May 28, 2007 at 11:31 pm Link to this comment

Response to:
======================================
  •    #73435 by Jim H. on 5/28 at 9:08 am
(Unregistered commenter)
RE:  73362 by Mike-G
    You say:  “I thought—-(we should)—-respect and protect the right of each—-to pursue life—- in whatever way we (they) chose—-”(?)  Are you ready to respect an Islamic mother who instructs children to kill you?  Are you ready to respect the Christian Evangelist who insists on brainwashing your children in public schools?  Are these the “—-choices—-(their)—-“sacred rights—-”(?) You wish to “respect and protect” (?)
======================================

Jim, - what I said was:’

    “I thought the big idea here was to respect and protect
    the right of each one of us to pursue life’s mysteries in
    whatever way we chose - and that the very choice itself
    was among our most sacred rights as free persons.”

I was referring to the right of each individual to pursue philosophical
mysteries in the way that best serves their own understanding. When those
pursuits harden into a dogma that calls for assaults against the rights of others, we have moved beyond the exploration of philosophy and crossed into the realm of criminal behavior. While such extremes of reaction are relevant to this issue, they only eclipse our chances of discussing the many other aspects of this complex subject, all of which could lead to new understandings.

Yes, I do want to understand the forces that drive people to chose the role of suicide bomber.  Yes, I do want to understand why fundamentalist Christians feel that modern culture is a such a threat to society that it must be fought against.  I am sure that such a dialogue would reveal many mutually held ideals - which might create a foothold of trust that could lead to some meaningful dialogue, and perhaps suggest other options beyond antagonism and violence.

When we don’t respect the rights of others, we make ourselves into their enemy.

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By Michael Glenn, May 28, 2007 at 8:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The back-and-forth here is interesting and has taken a lot of different directions.  Since I attended the “debate” between Harris and Hedges, I’d like to address a couple of points.

First of all, I really admire the way Harris remained clear and on topic during the debate, refusing to stoop to the personal attacks and quote mining to which he himself was subjected.  Scheer was very much a Hedges partisan, not a moderator.

I see the same sort of thing in some of the posts here.  I can’t take the time to address all of tentaculata’s “Greatest Hits” list; nobody possibly could.  That’s the point to quote mining; it’s really a form of ad hominem attack.

And that’s why, when subjected to quote mining by Hedges, Harris simply referred interested audience members to his Web site, to read what he really thinks, rather than wandering off topic into a maze of he-said-he-said minutiae.

To give a couple of examples, courtesy of tentaculata:

“SOME PROPOSITIONS ARE SO DANGEROUS THAT IT MAY EVEN BE ETHICAL TO KILL PEOPLE FOR BELIEVING THEM.  This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live.”

Harris goes on to write:

“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.  This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and to innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world.  We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.”

Now there is a great deal here that’s debatable:  Harris’s focus on Islam, for example, or whether combating Islamic extremists is genuinely a war of ideas.  But to imply that Harris is for killing people simply for what they believe is a canard.

“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.”

Harris’s very next sentence is:  “Admittedly, this would be a ghastly result to have reached by logical argument, and we will want to find some way of escaping it.”  Which he does.

Hedges played exactly the same kind of game during the “debate,” reading, for example, an extended passage about the possible necessity of overthrowing extremist regimes in possession of weapons of mass destruction, conveniently leaving out the fact that Harris presents this in the context of a permanent UN force and even a world government.  Again, one might disagree with the proposition, but to suggest, as Hedges and Scheer did over and over, that Harris is somehow in favor of the U.S. playing cowboy in the Middle East is a canard.

Speaking of which, nahida, Harris has never suggested nuking 1.4 billion Muslims.

Returning briefly to Hedges and his essay, which he read at the “debate”:  I’ve read the New Testament and most of the Old, and am in the process of reading the Koran.  Very little in any of those scriptures has much to do with Hedge’s collection of platitudes and quotes, and what little is relevant isn’t particularly unique to the Jealous God scriptures.  He expresses some fine sentiments, but beyond that his essay is a feel-good exercise in intellectual dishonesty.


I don’t agree with Harris about everything, but it seems to me (especially from what I’m reading in the Koran) that he’s more on the right track than off it.  I think Hedges has his heart in the right place, but I don’t think that justifies his means of argument.

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By Ted Swart, May 28, 2007 at 7:57 pm Link to this comment

straight_talk_11 #73498

At this stage what can I or anyone else say. Speculative musings?

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By Jim H., May 28, 2007 at 7:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re:73498 by straight (?)

Rev. Straight;

You say:

“I am—- stating that “—-if we assume existence of a SUPREME INTELLIGENCE in the cosmos—-”  (?)

This is not “assume”, this is an idiotic PRESUMPTION!

This is not “straight talk”, this is DOUBLE TALK!  Or, a joke?

And, you talk of “consciousness”(?)

You are apparently “—- assuming that CONSCIOUSNESS (?)
and SUPREME INTELLIGENCE(?)—- exist in the universe—-”(?)

So, thusly, you are re-inventing the ‘Godist’ “Creator God”?

  Are you thus considering pursuing a “Templeton” handout?

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By RAE, May 28, 2007 at 5:27 pm Link to this comment

So much verbiage; so little accomplished.

Who’d have thought so many could writeso much about so little?

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By nahida, May 28, 2007 at 5:22 pm Link to this comment

I would advice Mr. Harris to learn something about Islam before nuking 1.4 billion Muslims, and annihilating ¼ of the world population.


PART 1 - http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4222791480425043142&q=empire of faith

PART 2 -
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7502243539190558658&q=empire of faith

PART 3 -
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=94144204270367302&q=empire of faith8

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-768956312207897325&q=when the moors ruled

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By Ted Swart, May 28, 2007 at 5:12 pm Link to this comment

Inquisitor #s 73467 to 73472

Never before in all my experience on the web have I received a six part response to anything I have contributed to any on-line discussion. If it is possible to re-convert someone like myself, who does not believe in the Abrahamic God, in what you call a backwards transition, then what you writemust surely stand a better chance than anything else I have ever heard or read.

Your six posts are far too long for me to be able to do them justice without adequate reflection. All I will say a this juncture is that you serve this little community much better when you behave like the Quaker you currently are.

Let me jump right to the end of the six posts where you say:

” I am grateful also for the fantasies of Sam Harris in this regard, because he reminds me that abandoning the God of Abraham will not necessarily free me from the temptation of collectively self-righteous hatred and evil.

Incidentally, there is empirical evidence on these matters also, and it is not in fact true that the percentage of intolerant non-religious people is lower than the percentage of intolerant religious people.  What is true is that most non-religious people are less authoritarian, dogmatic, fundamentalist and rigid than most religious people.  However, among religious people, their devotion to God partially offsets their rigidity with regard to fostering religious intolerance and other prejudice.  The devotion to God inclines them to tolerance and their dogmatic authoritarian rigidity inclines them to intolerance.  As far as comparison to non-religious people goes the two opposing yet co-occurring psychological forces generally cancel each other out.  Thus ultimately religious people have no more or fewer moral bragging rights on tolerance and human decency generally than non-religious people.  This is not just me spouting off.  I can show you multiple empirical studies that corroborate this interpretation and I have not yet found one falsifying it.

Thank you also for the civil debate, and reminding me to be civil.”

In this passage you are generous to Sam harris and fair minded in your discussion of what I said about non-religious people generally being more tolerant than religious people. Part of my reason for saying this is that on discussion groups which address the issue of faith the number of believers who behave in a boorish manner seems—all too often—to outnumber the atheistic/agnostic boors.  But you raise some very valid points and no doubt you are correct in saying that, in the end, the balancing our effect my well make the score 50/50.

If, in some strange way, I have steered you into being more civil I am gratful for small mercies.  Even your rougher posts had some real life in them. Incidentally, I was a pacifist before ever I became a Quaker and even now—if I was sweptup into war—I would want to be in Friends Ambulance Unit or some such.

Thank you for contributing such interesting material to this discussion

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By Mike-G/WestSide, May 28, 2007 at 4:58 pm Link to this comment

For those of you looking for a recording of the debate,
I remember that the folks from Global Voices For Justice
were at Royce Hall that night, and they made it clear that
they would have recordings available soon.

They also have a great backlog of other audio recordings.

Check their website for availability:

globalvoicesforjustice.org

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By straight_talk_11, May 28, 2007 at 4:04 pm Link to this comment

I suggest in the interest of coherent, civil discussion, that those of us who wish for such discussion cease responding to anyone who calls another a fool or any other such pejorative language or who preaches the equivalence of belief in God and the tooth fairy, etc.

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By tentaculata, May 28, 2007 at 4:02 pm Link to this comment

Hello all.  Sorry I don’t have time to get into the back and forth of this discussion, but thank you Inquisitor and Max Shields, who get what I’m trying to say.

I would like to know how Harris’ supporters respond to the compilation of his quotes I put up (Sam’s Greatest Hits I & II.)  For a refresher, below are the really splendid ones (look for the CAPS, which are mine).  Who here would like to sign up for a nuclear first strike of our own against those utterly deranged Muslims?  Raise your hands.


“SOME PROPOSITIONS ARE SO DANGEROUS THAT IT MAY BEVEN BE ETHICAL TO KILL PEOPLE FOR BELIEVING THEM.  This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 53


“Muslims are utterly deranged by their religious faith.”

—Sam Harris, Letter To A Christian Nation, p. 85


“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


“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


“Is Islam compatible with a civil society?  Is it possible to believe what you must believe to be a good Muslim, to have military and economic power, and to not pose an unconscionable threat to the civil societies of others?  I believe that the answer to this question is no.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 151-152


“It seems all but certain that some form of benign dictatorship will generally be necessary to bridge the gap.  But benignity is the key – and if it cannot emerge from within a state, it must be imposed from without.  The means of such imposition are necessarily crude: they amount to economic isolation, military intervention (whether open or covert), or some combination of both.  While this may seem an exceedingly arrogant doctrine to espouse, it appears we have no alternatives.  We cannot wait for weapons of mass destruction to dribble out of the former Soviet Union – to pick only one horrible possibility – and into the hands of fanatics.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 151


That worked really well in Iraq, didn’t it, Sam.

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By Ted Swart, May 28, 2007 at 4:01 pm Link to this comment

Jim H #73479

WOW!  Never expected to get such a strong reaction over what was meant to be a mild piece of humour.

And as for calling me an “indoctrinated fool” I am not at all sure where that comes from. And calling me Rev. Swart—merely for quoting scripture?—is totally gratuitous.  Have never ever been and never will be a Reverend. Engineering/science and mathematics are the arenas in which I operate.

I am well aware that going right back to Bertrand Rsussell there are some who are rather dubious about Jesus’ historical existence and it is at least possible that he did not exist but it is surely more plausible that he did exist. Being, as I am, a non-believer his existence/non-existence is neither here nor there anyway. I am not sure you can get too much mileage out of insisting on his non-existence.

If it’s any consolation I agree with you that Inquisitors recipe for reforming the monotheistic religons is is probably a non-starter—but not necessarily totally so. If, for example, reforming Islam is left up to Muslims it’s reformation is a long shot but without something happening from within I don’t think it will ever happen.

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By straight_talk_11, May 28, 2007 at 3:59 pm Link to this comment

Ted Swart,

Concerning the classically theistic attributes of God you reference:

When we discover even partially the amazing coherence and interactive power of natural law, I believe we are simply discovering bits of the intelligence implicit globally in the laws of nature. Holographic structure insinuates itself as the structural precursor of genetic evolution, which depends on every cell containing the “blueprint” for the entire organism.

Natural law is not local, but is globally applicable. It is omnipresent, it is omnipotent, and if it is conscious, it is omniscient. I believe these “classically theistic” terms are classical because despite whatever chauvinism and cultural flaws may have crept into and permeated traditional scriptures, the writers intuitively experienced in their own consciousness its resonance with the Supreme Intelligence they called God.

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By straight_talk_11, May 28, 2007 at 3:53 pm Link to this comment

Ted Swart,

With regard to your excerpt from my post:

...“consciousness corresponds to the body of the cosmos”—whatever that means.

It means this:
I’m extending hierarchically what we know locally as a global property of the human organism. We all assume others experience consciousness because we each individually know we do. We know that physical states in our bodies affect the quality of our consciousness and of utility in the practical application of our intelligence, so we associate consciousness and intelligence with our physical organism.

I am simply stating that, if we assume the existence of a Supreme Intelligence in the cosmos, the possibility follows that this Supreme, Conscious Intelligence corresponds to the physical cosmos as its body in exactly the same way, exactly analogous to our association of our own local awareness with our physical bodies. I have stated earlier that I don’t see any theoretical economy in assuming that consciousness and intelligence don’t exist in the universe until smart animals and finally human beings appear. This assumes that properties that are not so concentrated locally as to be immediately evident properties of physical organisms are also not implicit in the global structures that fostered their evolution. That assumption defies the basic premises underlying well-tested information and communications theory.

It also forces the assumption that somehow a property magically appears which is not available in or indigenous to the single field from which our most advanced physical theories say the cosmos manifests by virtue of fluctuations within it called “sequential symmetry breaking”. Why should we assume that despite the scientifically obvious hierarchical structure of the physical universe, the conscious intelligence we experience as associated with a tiny subcomponent of it called the human body has no such hierarchical structure corresponding to the vastly larger system that is the cosmos from which we emerged and that fostered our evolution?

I think it’s much more theoretically consistent, economical, and elegant to assume that consciousness and intelligence are primary, axiomatic properties indigenous to this single field from which all physical phenomena manifest. We discover aspects of it as natural laws, the recursive, interactive power of which governs the grand evolutionary process we see in the universe from the singularity from which the cosmos emerged in the “Big Bang” to human-level, consciousness intelligence capable of looking back at it all and wondering about its source, recognizing many of those laws because every law that has participated in its evolution has its physical analog operating somewhere within the human organism.

This is consistent with the most recent and successful developments in theoretical physics that approach the long sought after problem of quantum gravity by incorporating holographic theory. A three-dimensional hologram projection uses a piece of film that can be cut in half or as many pieces as you wish and all you do is reduce the resolution. The complete image is still there. The whole is contained at every point.

This implies to me that humankind or its humanoid equivalents on other planets could well be local, low-resolution holographic reflections of this Supreme Intelligence, potentially capable of resonating and coordinating with the natural laws operating in the universe in highly productive ways. In eastern traditions, this is variously called satori, enlightenment, self-realization, etc. It also constitutes a compelling scientific interpretation of the idea that humankind and potentially its humanoid equivalents elsewhere are made in the image of God.

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By Jim H., May 28, 2007 at 2:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

RE: 73443 Ted Swart

Rev. Swart;

No doubt you are either one of those “indoctrinated fools” or “criminal charlatans” I refer to?

You say:  “I presume” (?)

‘I say’: Don’t be so PEDANTICALLY presumptious!  Your bigotry is outrageous!

First, ‘learn’ that there never, ever was ‘your’ so called"Jesus”!
Not the slightest bit of factual evidence has ever surfaced to prove the
‘farce’ ‘you’ refer to as “Jesus” ever existed on the face of this earth! 

Second, when ‘firing a ‘cheap shot’, at least do justice to what you quote by
showing its proper context, so people know what it is you are poking fun at!

Here is my post that you refer to, in it’s entirety:

RE: 73333 Inquisitor (?)
You say:
“Let Jews cure the ills of Judaism;” (?)
“let Christians cure the ills of Christianity;” (?)
“let Muslims cure the ills of Islam” (?)

YOU PROPOSE THE IMPOSSIBLE!

Your references are to PONZI-RACKETEERING CRIMINAL ENTITIES!

“Judaism”, “Christianity”, and Islam” all brainwash, mezmerize, indoctrinate
and enslave innocent children and fools, rob them of their unfettered pristine
mental acquity, and thereafter control them as robots, thus using them for shills and criminal cohorts to help spread the endemic plague-like disease that stresses bigotry and mindless obedience to the criminal charlatans who through every possible means including infiltration and control of Media, schools, Governments, and the slaughter of “infidels”, are fanatically intent upon control of the entire World!
To “cure” (such) “ills” we must first, OUTLAW THE CRIME OF RELIGION, and
then, round up all the leaders of those organized criminal groups and put them in prison! 

The Islamic mother who teaches her children to slaughter “infidels”
in a suicide bombing, is supporting her fanatical belief in her “God” “Allah”!

And the “Christian Fundamentalists”, and “Evangelicals” when violating the
US Constitution’s laws and ‘installing’ a criminal as President of the United States are obeying their ‘slavers’ and ‘their’ “God”, and will fight to their death to do so!

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By Inquisitor, May 28, 2007 at 1:58 pm Link to this comment

Reply to Ted part I

#73355 Ted Swart

Hi Ted,

Last night I logged another overblown post in reply to Tentaculata (well, we’ll see if it’s overblown within a decade or so) so I feel I should writesomething a little more moderate here.

Your Anglican to Quaker to radical agnostic pantheism sounds a little like that of a friend of mine, though she skipped the Quaker part just jumped right from Anglicanism into atheism.  I admire contemporary Anglicanism—at least the progressive wing of the church—but I do wonder how many potential God-lovers find themselves Anglicanized into atheism by the pragmatic logical empiricist Englishness of the environment there.  Quakers tend to be temperamentally English as well, so it’s a wonder that so many of us still believe in God.

Yes, that’s right, “us.” I’m a Quaker, though hardly a very exemplary one.  I might rightly be accused by those who have read my previous posts of manifesting the very inversion of my religious values that I accuse others of.  Generally Quakers don’t go around calling people fascists but try to see that of God in others and try to build conditions for lasting peace rather than react to states of war or hysterically prophesy upcoming genocides based on circumstantial evidence and hunches.  Nor do we generally truck in silly stereotypes about soullessly practical Englishmen or rifle-firing ululating Palestinians.  I’ll see if I can muster the humility to be a little more Quakerly in this post, though writing on political matters that I feel passionate about tends to squelch my capacity for humility.

My own transition, since you asked, has been from God-taking-seriously-agnostic (with an affection for Star Wars theology) to typical religion-baiting socialist/Muslim-respecting Malcolm X fan to capitalism-contemplating-hedonist-daoist to freaked-out-God-believer to inquisitive Quaker attender to Quaker member to Quaker who calls himself “Christian” because calling myself Quaker is too likely to induce flattery, cooing and head-patting in the secular circles I operate in.

At one time I believed quite fervently (fundamentalist style) that the Quakers got Christianity pretty much exactly right while most people who call themselves “Bible-believing” Christians get it wrong even from a Bible-believing Christian perspective—e.g. calling the Bible the word of God, when the Gospel of John clearly states that God is and always was the Word (John 1:1); or treating all propositions that can be gleaned from the Bible as literal and universally applicable historical and/or moral truth when the Apostle Paul clearly wrote that the letter kills but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6).

These days I believe that these Quaker apologetics are point-missing, like almost all propositional apologetics.  In the present time period I even find them in contradiction to the living spirit of my faith.  All I need to know is that I’ve been called to believe as I believe.  As it happens I’ve been called to believe as a Christian believes, even though my Quaker community very explicitly gives me the option of opting out of these beliefs. 

Others believe as they believe whether they’ve been called that way or not, and what other people believe is between them and whoever or whatever the object of their belief might be.  It’s my business to acknowledge and seek to repent of my own errors with God’s help and, when called, to say what I think to others prepared to hear me.  It’s not my business to save people from themselves—God can do that quite adequately without my help (someone very close to me was tremendously moved by Hedges pointing out that this is the highest function of religion—this is another thing Hedges got right).

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By Inquisitor, May 28, 2007 at 1:57 pm Link to this comment

Reply to Ted part II

I believe in God because the stakes of my life were raised high enough at one point (a friend of mine announced that he wanted to kill people) that I found belief in God worth gambling on.  I have continued to find it worth gambling on for several years and right up to today.  Though the stakes do not always feel so high, my life has gotten to the point where it feels artificial, self-deceptive and obsequiously accommodating to the worldviews of others to explain my life without reference to God.  It’s a little like trying to talk about one’s mind without referring to unconscious processes after reading the collected works of Sigmund Freud.  My crises of faith occur largely with regard to the moral recognizability and scope of power of God, but not with regard to God’s existence or God’s personal relationship with me and with all.

And I do not believe only in the philosopher’s God, the stripped down God of safe socially acceptable metaphors and fuzzy liberal spirituality, but rather I believe in the God of Abraham.  And in fact I greatly admire Abraham.  From the loins of Abraham the three monotheisms emerged in all their awesomeness and terribleness.  I hope never to be commanded to raise a knife over one of my children should I one day be responsible for bringing any to the world.  However, I don’t lose sleep over this possibility because I respect Paul’s exhortation to be a Christian of the life-giving Spirit rather than the killing letter.  If I felt like I had heard the voice of God telling me to murder my beloved son on a mountain somewhere, I would be strongly suspicious of the voice’s true origins.  Such a voice would be playing on my religious inclination to lazy literalism and it would take a lot to convince me that God’s voice would ask such literalism of me.

I have my own Quakerish spin on the Abraham and Isaac story.  In fact I see the faith and openness to sacrifice of Abraham as necessary for a certain subset of people to adopt to keep what peace there is in the world.  Abraham was asked not only to sacrifice the son of his loins, but also his dreams of nationhood.  Abraham had never dwelt in any nation he could call home, and been promised that great nations would come of his children.  With his abandoned son Ishmael a dried desert corpse for all Abraham knew, Isaac was all the hope he had left for seeing that nation, all the hope left for having a home.  All his life, Abraham had relied on the kindness of strangers in other nations, including strangers in Sodom, whose inhabitants Abraham begged God to spare if even one righteous person could be found among them.  I cannot read that passage of Abraham pleading with God for the families of Sodom without loving Abraham, who acknowledged himself as dust before God, yet continued to risk God’s wrath out of his compassion for both the innocent and the guilty.

The literal reading of the Abraham and Isaac story—as with many violent stories in the Bible—is one of wholesale psychoticism from a modern psychologically-informed perspective.  It is the story of a madman tying his own son down to kill him because of some stray chemical reactions in his brain that he pitifully dubbed “God” in his morbid and rationally-impaired stupidity.  We imprison or execute people for this crime now, as people did in Abraham’s time and have done in all or nearly all human cultures ever since there has been human culture.  Murdering your fully grown children is a universal taboo (unless you count sending your children off to die in pointless murderous wars—a near universal cultural violation of every culture’s taboo).

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By Inquisitor, May 28, 2007 at 1:55 pm Link to this comment

Reply to Ted Part III

As Quakers are generally exhorted to answer to that of God in everyone, Quakers who seek guidance from the Bible also seek to answer to that of God in what they read there. The Bible is a record of people who, in general, struggled to know and obey God.  As a record of struggle (and thus of misinterpretation and wishful thinking at least some of the time), the Bible is best read with God reading over your shoulder, telling you what to pay attention to, and how to make the best sense of it for guiding your own life.  My prejudices incline me to imagine that without inviting God to read over one’s shoulder and whisper relevance into one’s ear in a still small voice, one is in danger of emerging from Biblical submersion as either an anxious and rigid fundamentalist or a dismissive glib atheist.

I am reluctant to say that the following interpretation of the Abraham and Isaac story bears the approving mark of God, but I have carried this interpretation for a couple of years now and cannot shake it:

God promised Abraham a nation, a home, and then asked Abraham to destroy all tangible hope of ever really having that nation or that home.  When “we”—our religion, our nation, our ideology, our “people”—feel like we are under attack by a mysterious and deviant “they”, not to fight back against them with destructive violence can feel tantamount to driving a knife into the heart of our beloved son and destroying our hope of home and nationhood forever.  There is something that stinks of immorality, even anti-humanness to stand nonviolent in the face of violence directed not only against you but against your family, your nation, your race, your religion.

Nonviolence can grate as deeply against the human moral impulse as the attempted obedience crime of Abraham.  It requires great faith to believe that God will preserve us when others threaten to destroy us (or at least when we are told as much by those with an interest in making war).  It certainly requires faith to stand vulnerable and defenseless before these apparent destroyers, praying for peace, praying for them, praying for ourselves, telling the truth and living it to the death.  Such deliberate defenselessness is a sacrifice of our hope of home, of nationhood, and the sacrifice is made for no good reason other than obedience to God, and with trust in God to preserve us against all the dark evidence that we are doomed if we do not fight.

All wars, including all wars of aggression, have been mobilized largely in the name of self-defense or self-preservation, and all genocides arise from a climate of war.  Genocide is ultimately a catastrophically extreme case of war.  For there to be peace and thus for all the races of humanity to be preserved, there must be a minority of people who would never defend themselves against attack, but would trust God and stand firm in their vulnerability, even as their enemies appeared ready to destroy them.

I say a minority, because a minority is all that is needed.  The rest of the world may be defensive and inclined to violence but if this minority fulfills their calling, that inclination will not be realized, at least not to the extent it might be.  The leaven required to give rise to a loaf of bread is tiny compared to the bread that is finally our inheritance.  And as we are dismayed at the war in the world, let us not forget to be amazed and awed by the peace in the world.  Given that we are all separate bodies and minds who do not readily share each other’s understandings or feel each other’s agonies, it is a wonder that human life is something more than a daily violent struggle of all against all.

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By Inquisitor, May 28, 2007 at 1:53 pm Link to this comment

Reply to Ted Part IV

Some of the miracles that should be remembered are the miracles of those who risked their lives and the lives of their families and communities to save victims of genocide.  There were the Muslim Arabs in Turkey who saved many Armenians from the genocide led by the nationalist Young Turk government.  This was the first major genocide of the 20th Century and it wiped out 80% of the Armenian population in Turkey.  Arabs in Turkey may have been Muslim, but they were also foreigners on Turkish land, and in a climate of frenzied mass murder, you invite death yourself when you save people from the murderers.  And yet the Arabs of Turkey risked death for the Armenian Christians whom they supposedly thought were going to hell (http://72.14.253.104/search?q=cache:aaSJlZl-GKkJ:www.armeniangenocide.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-259.html+"Arabs+helped+armenians"&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=ca&client=firefox-a).  Turkey still lives in fervent denial of this genocide—and ironically many leaders in the Muslim and Arab worlds are ambivalent about pushing to preserve true historical memory on this matter, since this may appear as criticism of a Muslim persecution of Christians and thus a slight against Islam (even though the Young Turks were not Islamists but secular nationalists, and in many ways anti-Islamic).  The United States and Israel are not much better at avoiding this denial, since Turkey is our “moderate Muslim” ally now, and we need its cooperation and its airspace to carry out the bloody business of Empire.

Another miracle was the Protestant village of Le Chambon in Vichy-occupied France led by the deeply religious pacifists Magda and Andre Trocme (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Chambon-sur-Lignon). This village saved thousands of Jewish children without lifting a defensive finger against the occupiers.  The Gestapo knew about Le Chambon, yet the Nazis not only failed to kill or imprison its major leaders, but generally failed to thrwart its largely successful rescue efforts—this in spite of the deportation program in France being one of the most efficient and ruthless operations among the Axis nations.

Finally and most recently, there is the example of the Muslim community in Rwanda, the majority of whom refused to participate in the 1994 genocide and who rescued many of those targeted by it, including non-Muslims (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3561365.stm, see also http://www.cdainc.com/publications/steps/casestudies/stepsCase02Rwanda.pdf).  There has been a wave of conversions to Islam in Rwanda since then in light of the vile moral failure of the Christian churches and the example of both morality and strength displayed by the Muslim community.  Again, these rescue efforts are amazingly heroic in a climate of genocide.  It is in some ways surprising that some leader catching wind of Muslim non-compliance did not send out a radio broadcast like this, “Hutus, the Muslims among you are sheltering cockroaches.  The false God they worship is making them do this.  The poison of Islam must be drained from Rwanda as well.  In the name of Jesus Christ, cut them down.”

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By Inquisitor, May 28, 2007 at 1:52 pm Link to this comment

Reply to Ted Part V

Of course impatient atheists will be unimpressed by such acts of collective courage existing as tiny eddies in a roaring river of collective murderousness.  Atheists will cogently counter that if there is a God, we should expect not only that there be no war of all against all, but that there be no injustice in the world period.  It should rain on the crops of the just, while the crops of the unjust should be parched into nonexistence in the burning light of the sun.  Yet when it rains, it rains on the just and the unjust.  And when the tower falls, those who die are no more under judgment than you or I who slept at home safely.  When the son who abandoned his family returns home, a feast is thrown for him, while the son who stayed with his family all his life never received such a feast.  How can we believe in God in such a world?

If there were a God and he came into the world in the flesh, he should have had himself be exalted as a king, making all happily obey him so that they could have the joy that such a God would want to give them as their inheritance.  Instead, according to the Christian story, when the Word of God came into the world in the flesh, the world largely ignored him and then finally tortured and crucified Him.  Even if you do not believe the Christian story it is obvious that this is not a just world.  The good and innocent are crushed and the wicked and guilty stand cheerfully on top of them.  Oppression, murder and slavery are rampant and those who generally do good suffer from these as much as those who generally do evil.

Atheists point out an obvious problem with theodicy, the attempt to justify God.  An all benevolent and all powerful God would not allow the injustices, cruelties and mass murders of body and soul that are a staple of life in this world, even if they are not the whole story of existence.  I do not have an answer to the theodicy problem, and the story of Abraham read in the letter but not the Spirit stinks of something worse than the theodicy problem—a God who would command murder and injustice rather than merely permitting it.

In the Biblical story, God saves Isaac at the last minute, and certainly there are times in history when a people have risked great violence or even annihilation to non-violently obey God and these people have been preserved.  Yet the Biblical record indicates that God did not recall all of his murderous commands this way, or if He did the recall was not heard or recorded in the frenzy of apparent obedience.  Thus died Agag, king of the genocidally slaughtered Amelekites, who went to the prophet Samuel with the words, “surely the bitterness of death is past” on his lips and then was hewn to pieces in cold blood (1 Samuel 15).

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By Inquisitor, May 28, 2007 at 1:50 pm Link to this comment

Reply to Ted Part VI

But finally, none of us are God (though God may be within and among us), and justifying God is not our business.  If we must justify anyone, it is ourselves.  We are not omni-benevolent, but most of us would claim some benevolence.  We are not omnipotent, but most of us would claim some power over what we do. And yet we also permit—and at times command—the injustice and the murder of this world.  So the question that is most pertinent to us is not, “Does God really exist?” but “do we really exist?”  And if we do, what excuse do we have for ourselves?

This was the question I faced when my friend told me he wanted to kill people.  The people he wanted to kill were neo-Nazi skinheads, the kind from his home town who chased after 8 year old black kids and called them niggers.  “I want to kill people,” he said, “but I will keep it limited to Nazis because at least they will not be missed.”  I had been praying a little before that, but I began to pray fervently when he told me this.  I had been living as if that everything was okay before that, and he reminded me that everything is not okay.

I could have turned to my reason and intelligence at this point, but I felt like they left me insufficiently equipped to deal with the magnitude of the situation, so I turned to God instead and that is a decision I have never regretted and have had to remake repeatedly over many years of backsliding.  That openness to God began as an openness to a God I did not claim to understand.  I did not pray then to the God of Abraham but to any God who was God.  It is only over time, and after years of relating to this God I whose help I sought then that the nature of the God I believed in, the God I knew and loved, has been fleshed out.  And these revelations of the Abrahamic nature of the God I worship have been met with some horror on my part.  I never wanted to believe in the God of Abraham for the same reason you don’t.

I’m not sure if my prayers or even my other efforts to talk my friend out of this murder fantasy were of as much help as the anti-psychotics that were prescribed for him, but as far as I know, he never carried out this fantasy, and for that I thanked God and still thank God.

I am grateful for having heard his fantasy also.  No one has more forcefully brought home to me the insight that even those who we would see as pure embodiments of human evil are people, and all people are missed when they die.  I am grateful also for the fantasies of Sam Harris in this regard, because he reminds me that abandoning the God of Abraham will not necessarily free me from the temptation of collectively self-righteous hatred and evil.

Incidentally, there is empirical evidence on these matters also, and it is not in fact true that the percentage of intolerant non-religious people is lower than the percentage of intolerant religious people.  What is true is that most non-religious people are less authoritarian, dogmatic, fundamentalist and rigid than most religious people.  However, among religious people, their devotion to God partially offsets their rigidity with regard to fostering religious intolerance and other prejudice.  The devotion to God inclines them to tolerance and their dogmatic authoritarian rigidity inclines them to intolerance.  As far as comparison to non-religious people goes the two opposing yet co-occurring psychological forces generally cancel each other out.  Thus ultimately religious people have no more or fewer moral bragging rights on tolerance and human decency generally than non-religious people.  This is not just me spouting off.  I can show you multiple empirical studies that corroborate this interpretation and I have not yet found one falsifying it.

Thank you also for the civil debate, and reminding me to be civil.

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By Logician, May 28, 2007 at 1:30 pm Link to this comment

Re#73451 by straight_talk_11 on 5/28:

Slippery little cuss, ain’t yuh?! Ya’all need ta writefor W, he really needs someone who can run from the point like a jackrabbit from a hound. Wanna argue about A=A, ala Ayn Rand?  Wanna debate whether I say tomato or you say tamahto?

When you take the stance that words can be flexible in their “PRECISE meaning,” you take the stance of Big Brother and his wonderful “War is Peace” position. A most disgusting legacy, s_t_11.  Do NOT pull a ‘Slick Willy’ stunt with ME and parse words like him: “It depends on what ‘is’ is.”  If your ignorant choice of words bites you in your all-too-deserving ass, s_t_11, live with it and learn that words DO have precise meanings and intents and must be used CORRECTLY, not “holistically” nor “mystically.” 

Again, s_t_11, words DO have precise meanings.  So precise they must be chosen with the UTMOST care.  Remember Truman Capote?  When insulted by another writer that Capote would waste the whole day writing only one word, he resonded, “Yes, but it’s the RIGHT word.”

You are dealing with the most dangerous game of all, s_t_11: claiming you have inside information on a “consciousness” you call “God.”  Given FULL REIGN to demonstrate your qualifications you burnt out your Dead Head sandals skipping into FULL RETREAT.  You continue to claim I am not capable of any “meaningful interchange,” after I have given you MULTIPLE invites to state why and how YOU have THE inside track to “God.” 

And yes, when an adult can actually, with a “straight” face, make statements that sound like Jerry Garcia on a really bad trip, I don’t think it’s a stretch to call that person a fool.

Yet again, s_t_11: YOU claim YOU “know” “God” because you “feel” “His/Her” “consciousness.”  (I’ve let that one slide, but what the hell: didn’t “feel” “Him/Her” well enough to figure out gender? Or just not swift enough to use the “PRECISE” word to delineate a genderless being? Talk to a catholic priest, or better yet, Ted Haggard.  They can tell you all about “feeling” for gender) I can name HUNDREDS of shamans, mystics, yogis, druids, priests, pastors, muslims, gap-toothed hillbillies, etc who say EXACTLY the same thing: “I know God ‘cause I can feel’m in muh heart!” Why, out of that pack of drooling atavisms, are you the one who’s right?

The floor is yours, s_t_11: produce the proof that you’re not just another Jerry Springer escapee and really enlighten us.  Where is your proof that you’re not just flashing back to the sexy sixties?

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By straight_talk_11, May 28, 2007 at 1:29 pm Link to this comment

That’s because you are overlooking a very important issue.  If Christianity has established nothing else, it has certainly established that Christians do not, and cannot, tolerate or respect “the right of each one of us to pursue life’s mysteries in whatever way we chose . . . .”
- Lefty

So you’re steamed about their doing the very same thing you’re doing, and using that as an excuse for what you’re doing to boot? Hey, now THAT makes a lot of sense!

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By Logician, May 28, 2007 at 12:42 pm Link to this comment

Re# 73439 by Ted Swart on 5/28:

Who, indeed?

Remember when you were really young (single digits in my case) and realized that 99% of what adults told you was pure, Grade A BULLSH*T?  The effect of pot on your growth, coffee for children, Santa Claus, Jesus, that anybody could be President, etc?  You begin to look at EVERYTHING with a sharp, jaded eye.

But occasionally you slip, being human after all, and believe what someone tells you and you get slammed once again.

Like when you finally find a site on the net that proclaims it’s best at “drilling beneath the headlines,” using no caps to show you how hip, cool, with it, and ‘on the side of truth’ they really are.  They build up your expectations even more by hyping the holy hell out of a debate on THE most volatile subject in human history between two of the most currently prolific writers on the subject.

And then, they simply print the opening sermon -excuse me - statement of only ONE of the speakers, and NOTHING ELSE. 

Frankly, Mr. Swart, for all my supposed abilities, (some here would say completely supposed) I remain clueless on what exactly was going through the heads of those responsible for this debacle, unless it was to generate a bunch of internecine snarking on the part of the readers.  (“Hey, let’s do this - hype the sh*t out of a faux debate, let only one person be heard, and watch the idiots tear each other apart in frustration!  Yuk, yuk, yuk!)

Others have pleaded far more eloquently than I could and have generated exactly: nothing.  Nonetheless, once more into the breech:

Proof readers: please forward this common lament. 

Truthdig Editors,

Please google a dictionary and ascertain the full meaning of the word debate.  Then fulfill your hype and actually print up the transcriptof the debate.  If nothing else, at least print Harris’ opening diatribe - excuse me- statement.

Until you do, Editors, you are looking and acting suspiciously like the ‘news’ editors at FOX.  (I know that’s a really filthy slam, actually the worst insult a person who considers himself a journalist could receive, but maybe that will catch your attention.)

So, TD Editors, are you really hip, cool, and with it, or are you just sellouts?  To coin a truly facile cliche, the ball’s in your court.

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By straight_talk_11, May 28, 2007 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment

“Logician” quoting me: 
“People who are absolutists about the meaning of words are demonstrating secular fundamentalism.”

“Logician” responding:
“Please tell us you cannot REALLY think you just made a smarty with such an absolutely ignorant statement.  Now you claim words themselves have no meaning?  My gosh, you really are worse than even I had thought, and I’ve traveled the world talking with believers of over fifty different faiths.”
———
Straight_talk_11’s current response:

Now I ask anyone here who has some real logic and ability to read whether I claimed words have no meaning. In undergraduate school and even some good high schools and junior highs, students are required to define their terms when submitting a paper, especially when it involves complex subject matter. This practice does not simply refer to dictionary definitions of terms other students might not understand, but to the precise meaning the writer intends to convey with those words.

This implies flexibility in the use of words and their PRECISE meaning. We’re talking NUANCE here, folks, and it doesn’t take a genius with lots of academic experience to understand that. One of the signal characteristics of a fundamentalist, whether religious or secular, is an absolute world view, black and white, no nuance.

This is naive in the extreme and disqualifies such participants from any meaningful interchange. Such incompetence is further amplified by the inability to respect others and refrain from calling everyone who thinks differently a fool. I hope a lot of people think differently, because this kind of thinking is full of unthinking tripe that gets no one anywhere, most especially the source of such useless blabber.

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By Ted Swart, May 28, 2007 at 11:12 am Link to this comment

Jim H #73426
You say:


“RE: 73333 Inquisitor (?)

You say:
“Let Jews cure the ills of Judaism;” (?)
“let Christians cure the ills of Christianity;” (?)
“let Muslims cure the ills of Islam” (?)

YOU PROPOSE THE IMPOSSIBLE!”

I presume you are simply following the wisdom of Jesus in declaring Inquisitor’s recipe to be impossible:

“if the blind lead the blind then both shall fall into the pit”.  Matthew 15:14

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By Ted Swart, May 28, 2007 at 10:52 am Link to this comment

Logician #73378
When it comes to parody you are pretty nifty—even if a bit rough and ready.

Why don’t you try your hand at cajoling/persuading/charming Truthdig to facilitate our truthdigging by allowing us to see the rest of the Hedges/Harris debate.

I feel deprived/neglected and unfairly treated relative to those who had the benefit of actually seeing the show in action.

Who better than a Logician to get some action on behalf of all of us?

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By Jim H., May 28, 2007 at 10:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

RE:  73362 by Mike-G

You say:
“I thought—-(we should)—-respect and protect the right of each—-to pursue life—- in whatever way we (they) chose—-”(?)

Are you ready to respect an Islamic
mother who instructs children to kill you?

Are you ready to respect the Christian Evangelist who insists on brainwashing your children in public schools?

Are these the “—-choices—-(their)—-“sacred rights—-”(?) You wish to “respect and protect” (?)

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By Jim H., May 28, 2007 at 9:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

RE: 73333 Inquisitor (?)

You say:
“Let Jews cure the ills of Judaism;” (?)
“let Christians cure the ills of Christianity;” (?)
“let Muslims cure the ills of Islam” (?)

YOU PROPOSE THE IMPOSSIBLE!

Your references are to PONZI-RACKETEERING CRIMINAL ENTITIES!

“Judaism”, “Christianity”, and Islam” all brainwash, mezmerize, indoctrinate
and enslave innocent children and fools, rob them of their unfettered pristine
mental acquity, and thereafter control them as robots, thus using them for shills and criminal cohorts to help spread the endemic plague-like disease that stresses bigotry and mindless obedience to the criminal charlatans who through every possible means including infiltration and control of Media, schools, Governments, and the slaughter of “infidels”, are fanatically intent upon control of the entire World!

To “cure” (such) “ills” we mus first, OUTLAW THE CRIME OF RELIGION, and
then, round up all the leaders of those organized criminal groups and put them in prison! 

The Islamic mother who teaches her children to slaughter “infidels”
in a suicide bombing, is supporting her fanatical belief in her “God” “Allah”!

And the “Christian Fundamentalists”, and “Evangelicals” when violating the
US Constitution’s laws and ‘installing’ a criminal as President of the United States are obeying their ‘slavers’ and ‘their’ “God”, and will fight to their death to do so!

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By Ted Swart, May 28, 2007 at 8:57 am Link to this comment

Tentaculata #73271 &73273;
Your attempt to conflate the left/right (liberal/conservative) divide in politics with the atheist/theist divide – which was the subject of the Harris/Hedges debate—is nothing other than confusing and not very well substantiated.
To suggest that those who criticized the Hedges contribution which we have thus far seen must necessarily be part of some left/liberal conspiracy is way off the mark.  As one of those who has criticized Hedges’ contribution I can assure you that my political leanings are more right wing conservative than the other way round.  Whilst there are some depressing parallels between left/right political warring and atheist/theist sparring there are some very real differences not least of which is the fact that there is a fairly clear divide between theism and atheism whilst the terms left/right and liberal/conservative are far less easily defined or untangleable.
When you say that those of us who do criticize Hedges – on the basis of what we have seen – are contending that “Hedges’ faith is not true religion” that does not fit the bill as far as I am concerned. What I tried to point was not that Hedges’ discourse failed to pass some test of being true religion but rather that the form of religion which Hedge’s attempted to put before the audience was undoubtedly unconventional religion and a very muddle headed exposition of what he really believes.  After reading what we have had put in front of us it is impossible to know for certain whether or not he believes in the Abrahamic God – which is surely the bedrock question when it comes to discussing monotheism and atheism.
You say that:
“I do not believe in creationism, a god who intervenes in human affairs, or the literal truth of the Bible.  I have no idea what will happen to me after death.  I believe in evolution.  I do not think angels, miracles, heaven, or hell exist.  But I have religious faith, and I recognize my faith in what Hedges said that night.  All cultures, in all eras, have tried to articulate the non-rational, transcendent forces around us, forces like love and death and the mystery of existence.  I don’t believe that my religious belief is superior to other religious beliefs, so long as they teach the core values of compassion, tolerance and love. “
This seems to me to be a much clearer exposition of your own belief set than the material from Hedges which we have at our disposal – which is not at all clear.  In fact your beliefs don’t seem all that different to my own – being, as I am, an agnostic. And, whilst I would not dream of contending that your own beliefs or Hedges’ beliefs are not a form of religion it might be helpful if you put some more distance between yourself and the Abrahamic God believers.
I have tried mightily to extract from the Hedges material what the differences are between him and Harris and the best I can come up with is his strongly worded contention that Harris makes the mistake of externalizing evil.  That is actually quite a fascinating point. Those like yourself and Hedges who are in no sense part of the fundamentalist camp nevertheless do seem to want to cling to some remnants of Christian mythology.  Even those who have no truck with the literal truth of the Bible nevertheless still seem to hold to the supposedly inherent evilness of mankind and the need for salvation – via Jesus or whatever.  Neither you nor Hedges talks much about these things. 
It is easy to say that Harris focuses on attacking fundamentalist religion – which he does – but Christians who are not fundamentalists still seem to cling to a theology which overlaps with what the fundamentalists claim (in a much l clearer manner).  Perhaps you could explain why it is that you do not openly identify more closely with the agnostic/pantheist mind set.

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By lilmamzer, May 28, 2007 at 8:21 am Link to this comment

test

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By Max Shields, May 28, 2007 at 8:11 am Link to this comment

It’s said that all the world’s religions and philosophies, but first articulated by Confucius, and subsequently embraced by secularists in Universal Morality (3 UM Priniciples), unanimously shared this one daily practice as primary:

“Do not do to others as you would not have them do to you.”

This is the culmination of human morality as it has withstood the test of time. It clearly distinguishes itself from the fundamentalism of fear (of the other) and hence domination (of the other).

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By Logician, May 28, 2007 at 5:22 am Link to this comment

Re#73342 by straight_talk_11 on 11/27:

s_t_11,

Please reference Guinnes World Records.  You will find no catagory for the most egregiously stupid statement, so you can stop posting here.

In your childishly stupid defense of Hedges’ pathetic polemic you have typed some of the best (worst) gems of ignorance I have ever read.  And now this:

“People who are absolutists about the meaning of words are demonstrating secular fundamentalism.”

Please tell us you cannot REALLY think you just made a smarty with such an absolutely ignorant statement.  Now you claim words themselves have no meaning?  My gosh, you really are worse than even I had thought, and I’ve traveled the world talking with believers of over fifty different faiths. 

I realize that in order for you to “feel” the “consciousness” of the “universe” you have to be packing some primo weed in your bong, but flowerchild, those of us in the real world are sick and tired of your self-involved naval gazing and “experiencing” the “cosmic oneness” of “God.”

I challenged you directly to PROVE your take on “God” is THE take on “God” and you refused to even answer, whining I’m not civil enough for your deluded droolings.  Your new, childishly pathetic attempts at obfuscating are growing ever more disgusting.

Once again: YOU claim to “know” “God” is “real” because you “feel” a “consciousness” of the “universe.” You have been given the chance to prove such an amazing claim by offering some sort of evidence other than the “feelings” you “experience.” Apparently you realized how stunningly stupid such a claim is and you are doing your best to ignore that reality staring you in the face.  You can ignore reality all you want but it’s still right here, proving you are deluded, ignorant and pathetic.

Now, once again, s_t_11, assuming your wild-child-of-the-sixties-new-age-hodge-podge of spiritual “experience” of the “consciousness” you chose to call “God” allows you to “experience” the real meanings of words: are you going to be as smart as you portray yourself and pony up some proof or are you going to be true to your “inner self” and proclaim yourself “above” the “unenlightened” and refuse?

We wait with bated breath, oh one-with-the-cosmic-muffin man.

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By Inquisitor, May 28, 2007 at 3:41 am Link to this comment

Reply to Tentaculata Part I

Tentaculata 73264 - 73273

Dear Tentaculata,

I am so glad that you compiled this list of Sam Harris quotes.  They need to be blogged somewhere…except I fear that too many Americans, now drugged into a haze of moral indifference, will read Harris’quotes and go. “So?  Is there something wrong with that?”That did appear to be the general audience reaction on debate night, in between cheap giggles.

Perhaps this is a non-sequitur red herring tangent, but I suddenly reminded of the bitter irony that an influential subset of so-called Muslims are often at the forefront of the new movement to stymie Holocaust education.  This is an unfortunate product of the American press conning a sizeable proportion of the Muslim world into trusting Hamas, Hizbollah and Ahmandinejad by attacking them with such strategic alacrity.  People are often woefully gullible: “hey, if my enemy is attacking these people, they must be my friends and thus everything they say must be true.  Hooray Holocaust denial!”Poor stupid fuckers—meaning not only the minority of Muslims who have succumbed to this mindtooling, but almost everyone on this planet who has been mindtooled into believing war lies at some time or another.

Many Muslims have begun to believe, preposterously, that Holocaust education effectively justifies what Israel does to human beings in the occupied territories and what the United States does to human beings around the world: “If the Jews suffered genocide prior to 1945 and Americans suffered taxation without representation prior to 1776, then they must be justified in doing whatever they want to whomever they want, so in order to end the occupations, it is very important that we deny historical facts and claim that Israelis and Americans have never suffered but have only inflicted suffering. Then Palestine will be whole at last and we can dance in hot desert streets in ski masks and fire AK-47s in the air forever!  [ululation]!”

In fact Holocaust education would provide a firm moral foundation for standing with outrage and courage against the next genocide now being prepared, a genocide that will be carried out with nuclear weapons rather than machetes or concentration camps, a genocide that will be led by or at least implemented by the same nation that has already demonstrated with unforgettable clarity that two nuclear bombs can turn two cities once inhabited by people into two cities graffitied by inkspots.

Okay, maybe a genocide is not actually being prepared.  Maybe there is just a lot of genocidal talk these days because people need to blow off steam after 9-11.  In the interests of being hip, ironic and detached, we should smirk nonchalantly at the harmless rustic bumptiousness of red state talk radio hosts who call for nuking the entire Muslim world.  We should hum along winkingly with the cute song parody of “Barbara Ann”(“Bomb Iran”) by liberal Republican John McCain.  Finally, we should laud Sam Harris for the charming indictments he makes of religion generally in between his calls for exterminating a very specific subset of all the brutes.

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By Inquisitor, May 28, 2007 at 3:38 am Link to this comment

Reply to Tentaculata Part II

Lest I be accused of the hysteria I am largely guilty of, I will say only that if the history of the Holocaust were actually taught in its full horrifying psycho-social-political detail, Harris would not be a bestselling author, but a national pariah like David Duke or Pat Buchanan.
Tentaculata, anyone who has studied the Holocaust in detail and is at all inclined to open-mindedness and liberal thinking should hear alarm bells go off when they read the Harris quotes listed in your Sam’s Greatest Hits collection.

I do think, however, that one of the quotes you included needs to be expanded so that its full horror can be revealed:

—-
The link between belief and behaviour raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. 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. This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and to innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world. We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas. (The End of Faith, p52-53.)
—-

Some of the head-in-the-sand liberals among you probably choked on your latte when you read,“some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them.”  That may sound harsh, but on the bright side that would be 1.4 billion fewer mouths to feed, and we probably will have to shed a couple of billion people anyway once we finally find ourselves caught between the pinch of peak oil and global warming.  Why not clear away some of the stupidest most backwards ones first and Russian roulette the rest?—at least the rest of those who are not wealthy bestselling war propagandists and Halliburton stockholders…

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By Mike-G /West Side, May 27, 2007 at 11:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What a disappointment to see our progressive
community divided into such a dirty fight over
questions that remain beyond human confirmation.

Is that all it takes to make us abandon the ideals of
tolerance and understanding?

I thought the big idea here was to respect and protect
the right of each one of us to pursue life’s mysteries in
whatever way we chose - and that the very choice itself
was among our most sacred rights as free persons.

We can learn a lot from each other by examining
The Big Questions, but first we have to learn to respect
other people’s right to their own beliefs. We have to set an
example of tolerance and consideration for ideas that lie
beyond our comfort zone or reality structure, or we run the
risk of becoming liberal fundamentalists.

I vaguely recognize a common thread running through many
of the responses to the Hedges/Harris debate. There seems,
on both sides, to be a kind of righteous desperation to defend
one’s own construct of reality against any other opinion
or concept that differs or disagrees. This is how people argue when
they are unsure of their own position. A person secure in their sense
of things is usually quite interested in the viewpoints of others,
especially when they are different.

Some of the closed-minded posts I’ve read here in the last few days
reveal more self doubt than certainty. Are our opinions so fragile
that we need to attack other people for daring to think differently?
Have any of us reached an apogee of thought that is beyond
improvement? Isn’t that kind of behavior the very antithesis of
progressive thought? It makes us all look bad.

Healthy debate is constructive, not destructive. Respect for other
ideas leads us to deeper insight and awareness by broadening our
understanding and appreciation of what is true for other people.
How dare any of us tell another what should be true for them.

Maybe future debates could be more productive if they were focused
toward crating a synthesis of shared values within the opposing
viewpoints that regard controversial issues. Without a stated goal of
seeking some common ground we can all share, it seems that things
will never progress beyond pointless quarrels over “right” and “wrong.”

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By straight_talk_11, May 27, 2007 at 10:26 pm Link to this comment

“Thanks for the very civil discussion.”
- Ted Swartz

Yes, thanks to both Ted and Inquisitor. We certainly need more of that! Some atheists here are rightly imputing to religion the very evils they are demonstrating right here. Seems dangerously close to hypocrisy in my book.

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By straight_talk_11, May 27, 2007 at 10:19 pm Link to this comment

“The fascism right in your backyard is the fascism you should be most concerned with.”

Thank you, Inquisitor!

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By Max Shields, May 27, 2007 at 10:16 pm Link to this comment

Well, this has been interesting. I plan to end this - unless someone really says something I feel compelled to respond to - with some brief thoughts.

It seems to me that there is far too much literalness being applied to what Hedges has said in this post. This is not unlike the religious fundamentalist who read the scriptures literally and miss the entire point and beauty. Just one last quote from Karen Armstrong (Going Beyond God, interview in Solon.com) and seems to sum up Hedges’ plea:

“Religion is hard work. It’s an art form. It’s a way of finding meaning, like art, like painting, like poetry, in a world that is violent and cruel and often seems meaningless. And art is hard work. You don’t just dash off a painting. It takes years of study. I think we expect religious knowldege to be instant. But religious knowledge comes incrementally and slowly. And religion is like any other activity. It’s not easy to do it well.”

Whether ones an atheist or not, it seems understanding is an essential first step.

Sometimes it is wise to realize that violence (whether in words or deeds) begets violence. Fundamentalism is born out of hatred, and bitterness.

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By Ted Swart, May 27, 2007 at 10:15 pm Link to this comment

Inquisitor #73213
I do not find too much fault with what you say in your post and appreciate your agreement that what you said about Harris was somewhat overblown.
In my own case I was brought up in the Anglican church and simply assumed for many years that being a good Anglican and being a good person were synonymous. That was until I gradually realized that I was being dishonest since I did not believe many of the core beliefs associated with Anglicanism.  So I jumped ship and became a Quaker which was for me as a engineer/scientist much more congenial—no hierachy, no creeds and very little dogma. And now I have for some while beeen what I call a radical agnostic pantheist.  And I sure dont see the possibility of transitioning back to anything.  So I am puzzled as to how you came to transtion back.  From what to what?
Yes, of course, there are people who are intolerant atheistss but the percentage of atheists in this catgory does seem to be less than it is amongst those who believe in the Abrahamic God.
Thanks for the very civil discussion.

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By straight_talk_11, May 27, 2007 at 9:42 pm Link to this comment

Tao Walker, some of the folks here probably think you’re your thinking is pure pipe dreams and fairy tales, but what you’ve said speaks louder to me than anything anybody else here has said so far. Some people get so tied up with the little knots in life they can’t even see the rope.

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By straight_talk_11, May 27, 2007 at 9:29 pm Link to this comment

The precise meaning of any word, especially abstract, conceptual terms like “fundamentalist”, which example is more indicative of a general mindset than subject content, is always to some degree context-dependent. People who are absolutists about the meaning of words are demonstrating secular fundamentalism.

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By Max Shields, May 27, 2007 at 8:37 pm Link to this comment

#73319 by Mark Colby on 5/27 at 6:30 pm
(25 comments total)


Mark said: “I thought of a clearer way to put my point.  All fundamentalists are dogmatists, but not all dogmatists are fundamentalists.”

If this helps you fine. I’m quite comfortable with the use of fundamentalism in the context used.

Mark said: “(If all dogmatists are fundamentalists, then there are aesthetic, scientific, mathematical, legal, economic, medical, and other fundamentalists, which is clearly not how people use the term.)”

Again, for purposes of derivations, I refer you to Cornell West’s Democracy Matters. I am using fundamentalism in the spirit and context of the posted debate.

Mark said: “Fundamentalists are dogmatists about religion, for such reasons as the presence of an unquestionable sacred text and reliance on the unshakeable attitude of faith to override any doubts that reason or evidence might generate against the truth of the religion.”

Yes, fundamentalism is both dogmatic and an unshakeable attitude. But it needn’t pertain only to one of 3 Western religions (I include Islam as 1 of 3). My arguments are based on the books and presentations of Sam Harris who uses inflammatory talk, frequently about Islam, which serves to polarize Muslims all over the world who are not extremists that the West is incurably Islamophobic and will never respect their traditions. This is irresponsible - particularly at this time. Writers on religion such as Hedges and, the British scholar Karen Armstrong (and others) refer to this as secular fundamentalism.

Mark said: “The increasing use of the term in such expressions as “market fundamentalism” and “political fundamentalism” just increases confusion.”

Lastly, I am not confused. What I say, for what ever reason, may confuse you. In that case, I’m hopeful the above responses to your points have cleared up the confusion.

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By valupak, May 27, 2007 at 8:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

WHEN, WHEN, WHEN?

When is Truthdig going to post the recording of this debate?

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By Inquisitor, May 27, 2007 at 8:35 pm Link to this comment

To #73213 by Ted Swart

Yeah, my implication that Harris is in the pay of the Pentagon was overblown, but really, if he WERE a Pentagon employee he’d be a very good one no?

I praised the atheists I praised not because I think atheists are better than religious people, or that it would be a better world if everyone were atheists, but rather because I think that atheists have an honored place in what might be called “progressive ecology.”  I don’t think atheism causes good things necessarily, but rather that good things (progressive inquiry, questioning, openness to revision of one’s worldview) tends to bring people away from religious attachments and many who find themselves removed from religion are inclined to call themselves atheists.  I think, however, that it is possible to find your way back to a more sophisticated and in fact postive religious understanding after stepping out of the more controlling, fascist varieties of it that tend to dominate many people’s understanding of religion.  I think it is a good thing to make this transition back, but that may only be because I made that transition back myself.  Finally the problem with religious people is not their religiosity but their authoritarianism, dogmatism, fundamentalism, rigidity.  Attacking “religion” misses the mark if it is these things that are the problem.  And even if it is confusing and misleading to speak of “atheist fundamentalism”, certainly there is such a thing as atheist intolerance and even atheist fascim—Harris proves this.  Atheism, while a common result of positive progressive inquiry, is not a cure for the ills of religion.

I think that religion is in the best position to cure its own ills as atheism is in the best position to cure its own ills.  I think it is silly and self-deluding for Christians to point the finger at “fundmantalist atheists” or for atheists to point the finger at “fundamentalist Christians.”  No matter what ideology or existential commitment we have, we all have the potential for externalizing evil, blaming the Other for evils that people just like us are also contributing to.  Let Jews cure the ills of Judaism; let Christians cure the ills of Christianity; let Muslims cure the ills of Islam, and let atheists cure the ills of atheism.  The fascism right in your backyard is the fascism you should be most concerned with.

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By straight_talk_11, May 27, 2007 at 8:19 pm Link to this comment

Look, those of you who are the name-calling atheists just keep hanging around patting each other on the back and calling everyone a fool who doesn’t think the same emotionally charged, logic-free, incoherent way you do.

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By straight_talk_11, May 27, 2007 at 8:15 pm Link to this comment

“To Straight Talk 11,

Here’s my sincerest advice . . . put down the crack pipe and admit youself into the nearest booby hatch!”
- Lefty

Thanks for the specificity and intelligence of your response, Lefty. Aren’t you up to a truly rational debate? I see nothing from you that indicates you are.  Always just more of the same, to paraphrase only slightly:

“You’re a fool because you believe stuff I think is bananas.”

Really rational stuff! Great! Keep up the good work.

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By Mark Colby, May 27, 2007 at 7:30 pm Link to this comment

Max,

I thought of a clearer way to put my point.  All fundamentalists are dogmatists, but not all dogmatists are fundamentalists.  (If all dogmatists are fundamentalists, then there are aesthetic, scientific, mathematical, legal, economic, medical, and other fundamentalists, which is clearly not how people use the term.)  Fundamentalists are dogmatists about religion, for such reasons as the presence of an unquestionable sacred text and reliance on the unshakeable attitude of faith to override any doubts that reason or evidence might generate against the truth of the religion.

The increasing use of the term in such expressions as “market fundamentalism” and “political fundamentalism” just increases confusion.

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By nobozos, May 27, 2007 at 7:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Possibly the best response so far is from “WriterOnTheStorm”, #72423 on page 2. But if you really want to know what God’s innermost thoughts are, check out the vacuous writings from ‘Sid’, who graciously condescends to share this with all us “atheist children”. Thanks, Bud, you sure set the record straight for this heathen.

The reason people like myself welcome the brave, outspoken and intelligent voice of Sam Harris is not because we’re the religious bigots so many like to think we are. Most atheists, I believe, have pretty much a live and let live attitude, preferring to stay out of the non-productive theological debates. However, after 6 1/2 years watching the religious right slither their dogmatic, destructive tentacles into nearly every area of our secular system of government, and the Taliban types likewise perverting Islam, so much of importance is now at stake we feel a duty to bring some sense and reason to the whole big mess.

What you people like you, indoctrinated from childhood with santa, the tooth fairy, god, etc., are now doing to society as a whole has gone way past rudely interrupting someone’s private peace by knocking on their doors to “spread the good word” (read fairy tales and myths). You are arrogantly and even zealously destroying people’s health and happiness, even their lives, with your anti everything but war and greed agenda. Anti science, anti stem cell research, anti sound education policies, anti equal rights for gays and women, anti global warming prevention, anti reproductive control for a starving third world, anti condoms to prevent disease, anti social programs for the poor and on and on and on. And because the politicians you’ve found easiest to blackmail are republicans, you’re political clout has brought us secret prisons, domestic government spying, the torture of other human beings, the trash-canning of 8 of the 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights, the incarceration of more citizens than any country on earth, the loss of all we might be without your regressive and repressive beliefs based on what I consider plain old fashioned horse shit…................but by far, the worst was your faith-based (faith in a charlatan like Bush) support for “PRE-EMPTIVE” war, which has resulted in the murder (yes, it’s murder if they did nothing to us) of so many Iraqi men, women, children, and our own brave young people. In other words, you’re lousy stewards of this planet and your fellow men, and it’s well past the time we stop your headlong pursuit of ignorance and intolerance.

Your good religious values are kind of like trickle-down economics… nothing actually trickles down. Unless you want to count misery. If you really believed all you profess about love for fellow man, you’d have been clamoring for no or lo- cost national health care yesterday. Because the profit-driven system we have now is a true abomination, taking a terrible toll on so very many, especially the children and our elders.

Thanks for listening.
Suzie Hoover

P.S. as a side note, how hard would it be for most of you to learn the different usage of the words ‘your’ and ‘you’re’.

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By Mark Colby, May 27, 2007 at 7:20 pm Link to this comment

Max,

You quoted Tentaculata, who said: “Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens are fundamentalists.  They are no different from the religious chauvinists they attack.  The word “fundamentalist” is used here in its political rather than religious context.  The crude ideology they endorse is fundamentalism, one that splits the world into severe, intolerant divisions of us and them.”  You replied, “I agree and this has been well documented, and I think the main reason Hedges debated was to confront this relatively new anti-theism.”

I think you and Tentacula are both confused about the issue because you both—and others I criticized here—persist in giving the term “fundamentalism” an overly broad meaning so that it encompasses any instance of dogmatism.  “Fundamentalism” is not a synonym for “dogmatism.”  Would you call someone who closes his mind to the possibility that 2+2=5 a fundamentalist?  No, the proper word is “dogmatist.”

2. You both seem to think that “any split into intolerant divisions of us and them,” whatever the subject matter, is necessarily fundamentalist.  Leaving aside the term “intolerant,” what must be kept in mind is that the nature of truth is that it necessarily splits the world into “us” and “them” on any matter whatsoever.  If p is true, then not-p is false.  If one side in a dispute does (for the sake of argument), have the truth, then the side disagreeing with it must, as a matter of the logical law of non-contradiction, be false.  This is just unavoidable.  The truth cannot be what everyone says it is because people affirm incompatible truths.  As I wrote below, Christianity and Buddhism cannot both be correct since one affirms that God exists and the other denies it.

3. You quoted Tentaculata, who said: “What does matter is that in each case, the rigid certainty of the absolute truth, the inability to see complexity in others’ beliefs and self-delusion in ourselves, leads to an impermeable rationalization for power and domination, war and torture.”  You replied, “I think you’ve touched on the key issues here, which lie at the heart of Hedges case. But the anti-theist are, as you note, really, a variation on the religious fundamentalist.”

I disagree that the anti-theist is really a variation on the religious fundamentalist.  First, we should avoid hasty generalizations and not speak of “the” anti-theist, as some are perhaps guilty as charged and some others are not.  Second, let’s consider a different kind of case—the existence of Zeus, Santa Claus, werewolves, elves, or the tooth fairy.  Do you entertain the genuine possibility of their existence?  If you don’t, then why can’t you be accused of “rigid certainty” or an inability to see “self-delusion”?  My point is that there are many anti-theists and atheists who believe they have good arguments for the non-existence of God, just as presumably you think you have good arguments for the non-existence of Zeus, etc.  Everyone is a dogmatist about some things; does that make everyone a fundamentalist?

The label “fundamentalist” is being used by too many people to accuse others of an inability to think well—in other words, as an epithet.  The sooner we stop it and use words with maximum clarity, the sooner we can avoid these pseudo-debates (because they are only about semantics) and engage in the real (substantive) debates about religion.

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By Mark Colby, May 27, 2007 at 6:47 pm Link to this comment

Tentaculata,

You made a number of assertions which I wish to challenge.

1. “Religio-phobia is the most cherished intolerance of the Left.”

This is the fallacy of the hasty generalization based on your assuming that the audience members you criticized were indeed leftists, which itself is the fallacy of mind reading since you have no way of knowing which audience members were leftists.  Some on the left oppose religion; others on the left affirm it; some on the right oppose it; others affirm it.  It helps no one to perpetuate such fallacious claims and the demonization that goes with it.  “The left” isn’t on trial here; the topic is religion.

2. “What I saw in a part of the audience at the debate and what I see in these comments is a bigoted, left wing, secular ideology.”

If the term “the left” has any useful meaning, it is a term in political discourse, not religious discourse.  You’ve confused distinct conceptual categories.  “The left” is no more necessarily secular than “the right” is necessarily religious.

3. “It seems to me that the virulence and hostility of many of these remarks against Hedges are the uproar of the deeply threatened.”

This is the fallacy of mind reading, the presumption that you know the ultimate motivations of the individuals involved; you’re engaging in nothing but mere speculation.  It does nothing to further debate about the issue at hand.

4. “If you had truly heard what Hedges was talking about you would have to face some painful self-examination.  And who wants that, when you can chant a Harris jingo that says, essentially, “I am smart!  I am right!  I am great!”

This sounds as if you think you’re intellectually superior to those you criticize for thinking they’re intellectually superior.  They didn’t “truly” hear Hedges, whereas you did.  This makes you sound as bigoted as those whom you condemned as being bigoted.

5. “Religious doctrine is not the same as living the moral and religious life.  Understanding this, however, requires a capacity for nuanced thought that many in the audience and on this comment board seem to lack.”

Once more you seem to think you’re intellectually superior to those you criticize.  Moreover, your claim is demonstrably false, since any religious life derives its norms, ideals, prescriptions, examples, and the like from the core doctrine of that religion.  (If you disagee, name one recognizable world religion which has no doctrine.)  It’s the appreciation of this truth which motivates certain atheists, like myself, to criticize religious doctrine: undermine the doctrine as incoherent or false, and the life is also undermined.  Admittedly, Harris and Hitchens are somewhat deficient in understanding and implementing this critical strategy.

6. “No matter how often Hedges condemned the intolerance and non-reality based world of religious fundamentalism, and attempt to introduce the invaluable intricacy of true theological thought into the debate, Harris continued to make the same tired jibes at magic and witchcraft, and the deaf audience continued to snigger with delight.”

Still more evidence of your apparent presumption of your own intellectual superiority and your own bigotry.

7. “In the name of reason and necessity, Harris tells us that we have the moral and intellectual right to oppress and dominate those we condemn as irrational and primitive.”

Has Harris ever actually claimed “the right to oppress and dominate”?  Unless he has, this is an underhanded tactic to distort his views.  You should try to be fair to your intellectual opponents—especially since you just spent the bulk of your own posts condemning your opponents as unfairly dismissive of Hedges.

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By Max Shields, May 27, 2007 at 6:09 pm Link to this comment

#73271 by tentaculata on 5/27 at 2:55 pm

tentaculata said: “What I saw in a part of the audience at the debate and what I see in these comments is a bigoted, left wing, secular ideology.” 

I wasn’t at the debate, but I don’t think that Harris or Hitchens represents what I would call a left/secular ideology. Please read my post. Hedges politics are clearly progressive, but he makes a case for the transcendent belief. To quote Karen Armstrong: “Religion is a search for transcendence. But transcendence isn’t necessarily sited in an external god, which can be a very unspiritual, unreligious concept. The sages were all extremely concerned with transcendence, with going beyond the self and discovering a realm, a reality, that could not be defined in words. Buddhists talk about nirvana in very much the same terms as monotheists describe God.” This is what Hedges is getting at.

tentaculata said: “Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens are fundamentalists.  They are no different from the religious chauvinists they attack.  The word “fundamentalist” is used here in its political rather than religious context.  The crude ideology they endorse is fundamentalism, one that splits the world into severe, intolerant divisions of us and them.” 

I agree and this has been well documented, and I think the main reason Hedges debated was to confront this relatively new anti-theism.

tentaculata said: “What does matter is that in each case, the rigid certainty of the absolute truth, the inability to see complexity in others’ beliefs and self-delusion in ourselves, leads to an impermeable rationalization for power and domination, war and torture.”

I think you’ve touched on the key issues here, which lie at the heart of Hedges case. But the anti-theist are, as you note, really, a variation on the religious fundamentalist.

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By Max Shields, May 27, 2007 at 4:13 pm Link to this comment

#73268 by tentaculata on 5/27 at 2:46 pm

Thanks for interjecting some reality into this discussion. It’s been difficult to address the whole issue without Harris’ words.

This “debate” has at least two contexts - the theological and the political. Both are relevant because both Hedges and Harris bring them to the debate.

Hedges is politically progressive and is inclined toward a spiritualism with a deep concern about the dangers of fundamentalism of all sorts - particularly in the US where he thinks it can bear the fruits of a totalitarian (fascistic) state. But his message is to caution against denouncing faith which he sees has essential.

Harris’ general politics are unclear, but his argument against religion seems more and more bent on Islam. His support of torture follows the logic strained of humanity that has been noted here. Hitchens (who has his own polemics) has found rejuvinated cause in atheism to provide support for his anti-Islamic rants (among other things). I don’t know how much of this Harris shares, but he seems closer to Hitchens in this regard than Hedges.

I speculate that some of the “outrage” here by some atheists may have to do with the provocative title on this post and less with Hedges’ position. Clearly, 19th C. / early 20th C positivistic logic nor Socratic syllogisms is what Hedges style is about (nor is it the universal style of many outstanding debaters - after all there is no score keeper). I would be more interested in a pure atheistic argument absent an undercurrent of Islamophobia. But I suspect that it is mostly the latter that incited Hedges to take this debate on.

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By tentaculata, May 27, 2007 at 3:56 pm Link to this comment

Part I

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.”

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 was at the debate.  It was extremely alarming to see the raucous delight the audience took in Harris’ ridicule of the lowest, cheapest, most juvenile forms of religion.  Anyone can get up and sneer at Leviticus or Deuteronomy, at those who believe in magic or insist the Bible was written by the fiery hand of god.  Sophisticated theological thought – which Harris never tackles, indeed, is unequipped to tackle – cannot be dismantled by sarcasm and name-calling.

It makes no difference whether an ideology is right wing or left wing, religious or secular.  What I saw in a part of the audience at the debate and what I see in these comments is a bigoted, left wing, secular ideology.  Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens are fundamentalists.  They are no different from the religious chauvinists they attack.  The word “fundamentalist” is used here in its political rather than religious context.  The crude ideology they endorse is fundamentalism, one that splits the world into severe, intolerant divisions of us and them.  It does not matter whether the divisions are between the Christian Right vs. Secular Humanists, Islamic Jihadists vs. Western Infidels, or the Enlightened Champions of Reason vs. the Raving Neanderthals of Religion.  What does matter is that in each case, the rigid certainty of the absolute truth, the inability to see complexity in others’ beliefs and self-delusion in ourselves, leads to an impermeable rationalization for power and domination, war and torture.

It’s frightening that the multifaceted thinking that Hedges presents inspires such distrust and defensiveness, while Harris’ user-friendly slogan, “Religion is evil, religion is evil, religion is evil,” has gained immense traction in a section of the population that is one of the last progressive mainstays of this country.  It is wildly popular and effortlessly disseminated due to its very shallowness.  It seems to me that the virulence and hostility of many of these remarks against Hedges are the uproar of the deeply threatened.  Has Hedges attacked your belief that you are a Superior Rational Being?  Is it conceivable that to be both a religious person and a deeply compassionate, intellectual humanist is not an oxymoron?  Is it too intimidating to examine the possibility that your own simple belief system is as dangerous and blind as the one you ridicule mercilessly?  Self-righteousness, self-empowerment, and self-importance are tough to let go of.  If you had truly heard what Hedges was talking about you would have to face some painful self-examination.  And who wants that, when you can chant a Harris jingo that says, essentially, “I am smart!  I am right!  I am great!”

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By tentaculata, May 27, 2007 at 3:55 pm Link to this comment

Part II

Religious doctrine is not the same as living the moral and religious life.  Understanding this, however, requires a capacity for nuanced thought that many in the audience and on this comment board seem to lack.  No matter how often Hedges condemned the intolerance and non-reality based world of religious fundamentalism, and attempt to introduce the invaluable intricacy of true theological thought into the debate, Harris continued to make the same tired jibes at magic and witchcraft, and the deaf audience continued to snigger with delight.

I do not believe in creationism, a god who intervenes in human affairs, or the literal truth of the Bible.  I have no idea what will happen to me after death.  I believe in evolution.  I do not think angels, miracles, heaven, or hell exist.  But I have religious faith, and I recognize my faith in what Hedges said that night.  All cultures, in all eras, have tried to articulate the non-rational, transcendent forces around us, forces like love and death and the mystery of existence.  I don’t believe that my religious belief is superior to other religious beliefs, so long as they teach the core values of compassion, tolerance and love.

In the name of reason and necessity, Harris tells us that we have the moral and intellectual right to oppress and dominate those we condemn as irrational and primitive.  Amazingly, this is convincing the secular left to support imperialist projects – supported, of course, by Christian and Jewish fundamentalists – in the Middle East.  And while Harris and Hitchens claim to be fighting religious fundamentalism, which they insist is the only real definition of faith, they also defend “preemptive” war, torture and all uses of force to subjugate the Muslim world.  The fact that they, in the same breath, claim atheists have a higher morality glaringly highlights their incredible gift for self-delusion.

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By tentaculata, May 27, 2007 at 3:50 pm Link to this comment

AND HE WROTE ANOTHER BOOK…

“Muslims are utterly deranged by their religious faith.”

—Sam Harris, Letter To A Christian Nation, p. 85


“Throughout Europe, Muslim communities often show little inclination to acquire the secular and civil values of their host countries, and yet they exploit these values to the utmost, demanding tolerance for their misogyny, their anti-Semitism, and the religious hatred that is regularly preached in their mosques.  Forced marriages, honor killings, punitive gang rapes, and a homicidal loathing of homosexuals are now features of an otherwise secular Europe, courtesy of Islam.  Political correctness and the fear of racism have made many Europeans reluctant to oppose the terrifying religious commitments of the extremists in their midst.  With a few exceptions, the only public figures who have had the courage to speak honestly about the threat that Islam now poses to European societies seem to be fascist.”

—Sam Harris, Letter To A Christian Nation, p. 85

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By tentaculata, May 27, 2007 at 3:46 pm Link to this comment

SAM’S GREATEST HITS

“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.  This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and of innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world.  We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 53


“In the next chapter we will see that in our opposition to the world view of Islam, we confront a civilization with an arrested history.  It is as though a portal in time has opened, and fourteenth-century hordes are pouring into our world.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 107


“We are at war with Islam.  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 actions of the Prophet.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, pp.109-110


“Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 123


“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


“Who are those improbable creatures scurrying about in shrouds and being regularly beaten for showing an exposed ankle?  Those were the dignified (and illiterate) women of the House of Islam.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 131


“I suspect that Muslim prosperity might even make matters worse, because the only thing that seems likely to persuade most Muslims that their world view is problematic is the demonstrable failure of their societies.  If Muslim orthodoxy were as economically and technologically viable as Western liberalism, we would probably be doomed to witness the Islamification of the earth.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 133

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By tentaculata, May 27, 2007 at 3:37 pm Link to this comment

SAM’S GREATEST HITS II

“Any systematic approach to ethics, or to understanding the necessary underpinnings of a civil society, will find many Muslims standing eye-deep in the red barbarity of the fourteenth century.  There are undoubtedly historical and cultural reasons for this, and enough blame to go around, but we should not ignore the fact that we must now confront whole societies whose moral and political development – in their treatment of women and children, in their prosecution of war, in their approach to criminal justice, and in their very intuitions about what constitutes cruelty – lags behind our own.  This may seem like an unscientific and potentially racist thing to say, but it is neither.  It is not in the least racist, since it is not at all likely that there are biological reasons for the disparities here, and it is unscientific only because science has not yet addressed the moral sphere in a systematic way.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, pp. 145-146


“It seems all but certain that some form of benign dictatorship will generally be necessary to bridge the gap.  But benignity is the key – and if it cannot emerge from within a state, it must be imposed from without.  The means of such imposition are necessarily crude: they amount to economic isolation, military intervention (whether open or covert), or some combination of both.  While this may seem an exceedingly arrogant doctrine to espouse, it appears we have no alternatives.  We cannot wait for weapons of mass destruction to dribble out of the former Soviet Union – to pick only one horrible possibility – and into the hands of fanatics.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 151


“Is Islam compatible with a civil society?  Is it possible to believe what you must believe to be a good Muslim, to have military and economic power, and to not pose an unconscionable threat to the civil societies of others?  I believe that the answer to this question is no.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 151-152


“What is the difference between pursuing a course of action where we run the risk of inadvertently subjecting some innocent men to torture, and pursuing one in which we will inadvertently kill far greater numbers of men, women, and children?  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


“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


“…when your enemy has no scruples, your own scruples become another weapon in his hand.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 202

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By Tentaculata, May 27, 2007 at 3:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

SAM’S GREATEST HITS

“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.  This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and of innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world.  We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 53


“In the next chapter we will see that in our opposition to the world view of Islam, we confront a civilization with an arrested history.  It is as though a portal in time has opened, and fourteenth-century hordes are pouring into our world.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 107


“We are at war with Islam.  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 actions of the Prophet.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, pp.109-110


“Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 123


“…the concept of an ethnic or national identity has never taken root in the Muslim world as it has in the West.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 128


“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


“For a modern example of the kind of society that can be fashioned out of an exclusive reliance upon the tenets of Islam, simply recall what Afghanistan was like under the Taliban.  Who are those improbable creatures scurrying about in shrouds and being regularly beaten for showing an exposed ankle?  Those were the dignified (and illiterate) women of the House of Islam.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 131


“I suspect that Muslim prosperity might even make matters worse, because the only thing that seems likely to persuade most Muslims that their world view is problematic is the demonstrable failure of their societies.  If Muslim orthodoxy were as economically and technologically viable as Western liberalism, we would probably be doomed to witness the Islamification of the earth.”

—Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 133

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By Ted Swart, May 27, 2007 at 2:23 pm Link to this comment

Sorry Giganticus. I should have twigged on to the fact you were referring to Hedges. So let me change the word scathing to apt.
. . Ted . .

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By Jim H., May 27, 2007 at 2:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re: Strait Talk

Isn’t it time YOU “God” freaks wake! to the fact that every truly intelligent person on earth today is anti-religious, anti-supersticious, ANTI-“GOD” anti-first cause, anti-creator, anti-intelligent designer, and, anti-anything else some thieving charlatan pedophile, OR other HOPELESS IDIOT, decides to refer to or ‘designate’ as a “God”?

People that reject, and expose such schemes as the Ponzi-racketeering religious enterprises that pretend to benefit mankind by promoting outrageous lies, and brainwashing, mesmerizing and indoctrinating innocent children and fools ought to be highly respected for their sometimes dangerous efforts to rid humanity of those corrupters of people they convert to shills and criminal cohorts in their ceaseless felonious efforts to enslave all mankind!  And, America’s right-wing Christian fundamentalists are a major part of this very serious threat!

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By Magnifico Giganticus, May 27, 2007 at 1:59 pm Link to this comment

Hehe, hardly scathing! Though I do believe I detect a bit of sarcasm, no? I was referring to Hedges. Nothing new at all in anything he said. Ho-hum.

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By Ted Swart, May 27, 2007 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment

Magnifico Giganticus #33266

Am afraid you did not tell us to whom you are referring.  So none of us knows whether or not we are the target of your scathing remark.

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By Magnifico Giganticus, May 27, 2007 at 11:44 am Link to this comment

That was a fair amount of text in which to say nothing. Impressive.

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By Tom Doff, May 27, 2007 at 11:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I DON’T BELIEVE IN CHRIS HEDGES.

He must be as much a figment as the ‘god(s)’ he purports to support, and his credo is as warped as the fable, the ‘bible’ he seems to regard as a ‘good book’.

No functioning entity could hold these views and presume to be rational, ergo, Chris Hedges must be a hallucination.

I’m going to have to have a serious, heart-to-heart with my dealer, and demand he get me the primo stuff again, so I don’t get sucked into these aberrations.

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By Ted Swart, May 27, 2007 at 10:32 am Link to this comment

straight_talk_11 #73129
Thanks for letting us know that you classify yourself as a theist and “religious maverick” who believes in a God whose “consciousness corresponds to the body of the cosmos”—whatever that means. You go on to speak of your God as being “omnipresent, omnipotent an omniscient”—which sure sounds like classcial theism. Yet you do not believe in the abrahmic God.  It would be ibntersting to know how you arrive at and justify your view of God.

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By Ted Swart, May 27, 2007 at 10:23 am Link to this comment

Inquisitor #s 73149,73150 & 73151

Your very forceful critique of Sam Harris was a delight to read but strikes me as rather overblown. I don’t get the impression that Harris is anyone’s tool with some secret agenda. Like Mark Colby I don’t agree with everything Sam says but he sure does say a lot of things that need saying.

In the interests of disclosure—as you put it—you acknowledge yourself to be a Christian which presumably means that you do believe in the Abrahamic God. As you rightly point out Jews and Christian kill more Muslims than the other way round and—in both directions—religious affiliation plays a prominent role. You also say good things about atheists in general so I am puzzled as to why you are not persuaded that formal religion is not best abandoned.

I don’t agree with what might be termed hard atheism which disparges agnosticism (as is true of both Harris and Dawkins in various ways) and feel more comfortable with those who refer to themselves as friendly atheists.

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By Jim H., May 27, 2007 at 9:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re: ‘Strait’ Talk

Isn’t it time YOU “God” freaks wake! to the fact that every truly intelligent person on earth today is anti-religious, anti-supersticious, ANTI-“GOD” anti-first cause, anti-creator, anti-intelligent designer, and, anti-anything else some thieving charlatan pedophile, OR other HOPELESS IDIOT, decides to refer to or ‘designate’ as a “God”?

People that reject, and expose such schemes as the Ponzi-racketeering religious enterprises that pretend to benefit mankind by promoting outrageous lies, and brainwashing, mesmerizing and indoctrinating innocent children and fools ought to be highly respected for their sometimes dangerous efforts to rid humanity of those corrupters of people they convert to shills and criminal cohorts in their ceaseless felonious efforts to enslave all mankind!  And, America’s right-wing Christian fundamentalists are a major part of this very serious threat!

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By Jim H., May 27, 2007 at 9:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re:73177 Mark Colby

” Teaching philosophy of religion.”  (?)

The “philosophy of religion” can be “taught” in but a very few words i.e. :

Religion is a ponzi-racketeering scheme developed for the purpose of enslaving people and manipulating them to assist in the criminal intent to eventually dominate and rule the entire world!

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By Ted Swart, May 27, 2007 at 8:36 am Link to this comment

Hope #73210
Just a brief thank you for pointing me in the direction of Steven Pinker’s article on the overll diminution of violence by mankind with the passage of time. He writes in a truly beautiful way.  I note that despite the statistics to support his contention he sounds a cautionary note—becuase of the cooks like those who head up North Korea and Iran and have weapons of mass destruction in their grasp.
It is a delight to read your own well crafted and coherent sentences and I appreciate you letting us into your life even if only in a small way.  Even although I have been an academic through and through I like manual labour and and gorged on multiracial workcamps in SA before apartheid came to an end. I still like nothing more than hard work in the garden planting trees and such like.

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By Mark Colby, May 27, 2007 at 7:57 am Link to this comment

ktfalvey,

I just saw your truculent reply to one of my posts.  You said,

1. “If you think that all religious faith necessarily involves a “doctrine” that claims to “provide the truth about the universe, etc.” you have no business teaching philosophy of religion.”

First of all, try being civil and refraining from personal attacks.  If you’re an adult, you ought to know better, and find some other way to cope with your intellectual hostility.  You have no knowledge of my qualifications to teach philosophy of religion or anything else about me.  And it’s rather presumptuous of you to try to deduce my reasoning from a few words posted here in the specific context of Hedges’ preamble.

2. “This is a childishly simple view of religion as a kind of primitive armchair science.”

I’ll give you a clue to help you understand the issue.  Every world religion contains doctrines, injunctions, explanations, recommendations, and the like.  These doctrines involve ontologies, either by presupposition or implication.  If these ontologies were false, the injunctions, explanations, and recommendations would be incoherent.  A simple example or two for you: if God did not exist, the command to obey him would be incoherent; if the cosmos did not have the property of reincarnating an individual’s essence after death, the Buddhist path to enlightenment would be incoherent.

3. “As an antidote, I suggest you check out Wittgenstein’s “Lectures on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief” (though a great many other works by diverse thinkers could be mentioned here as well).”

Well, let’s see.  I earned a doctorate from Columbia University in philosophy for a dissertation on Wittgenstein, in which I specifically criticized his non-cognitivist views of religion, among other things.  I have another doctorate from Oxford University in philosophy, and during the time I studied there I did further research on Wittgenstein for my critique, and I published my critique in a major philosophical journal (Inquiry, 1999).

I suggest that you acquire the virtue of civility and, further, refrain from making unnecessary assumptions about people, especially those whom you don’t know.  Of course, I myself am assuming that you have a sincere interest in rational debate, not in insulting your betters.

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By Max Shields, May 27, 2007 at 7:17 am Link to this comment

Hope

“Max, I suppose everyone has a political agenda, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Baptist Convention and so on.” 

I’m not quibbling with the fact that many have policitical agendas (I rather doubt that such is central with Dawkins or E. O. Wilson).

I do, however, think you’re understating Hitchens (in particular) who is first and foremost a polemists. He’s been everything from a Trotsykite to a neocon cheerleader. I state this to emphasize his deep political underpinnings. This is not some kind of “well we are all political beings, afterall”, no this is a person who has taken center stage with his political positions as these affect war and peace.

I certainly wouldn’t abandon my good common sense to say that I always disagree with him - come on, that would be foolish. I find Hitchens’ writings on T. Jefferson to be both eloquent and insightful; as well as his take on Jerry Falwell. But let’s be discerning.

It is the conflation of extremes with those important differences. Not believing in God is all well in good. But why the rancor? It seems this is a struggle which demands resolution - for some through some kind of domination.

This conflation I say is as dangerous - when “preached” as the religious fundamentalism pronouncement.

I think we more or less see the same thing in Hedges’ writings and his preamble, here. Hedges takes a theologians stand. He’s not a “man of the cloth”. For those who see no value in transcendence, fine. It is not magic, it is a sensiblity which cannot be reduced into syllogistic prouncements or parsed by the devotees of pure logic. It is very simply a sense of awe and wonder; and who can deny that?

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, May 27, 2007 at 5:47 am Link to this comment

280+ comments and still going strong.  Get the puss out.  Can’t wait for the next Hedges installment.  And you think religion is a positive in humanity?!!

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By Inquisitor, May 27, 2007 at 3:19 am Link to this comment

Is Harris’ Atheism a Distraction From His Fascism? Part 3

Harris, in spite of his regular contributions to Free Inquiry magazine (http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=fi&page=index), is not an inquirer.  He does not investigate questions with an eye to uncovering the truth.  He is a propagandist who uses rhetorical tricks to pound his message home.  He systematically ignores or dismisses with Fox-News-like skullduggery all reasonable arguments and evidence when he is presented with them.  A careful watching of the broadcast will reveal that he sidesteps all the hard questions rather than dealing directly and forthrightly with the challenges issued to him.  Instead he cracks a one-liner to distract the audience, and pounds his message home again, politician style.

Harris pretends to be a folk homesy atheist shocked by all this religious nonsense but I strongly suspect that this is his cover story for pushing secular progressives further into the anti-Muslim War of Civilizations camp.  He claims to be fighting the view that atheism is false, evil and hell bound, when in fact he is advancing the view that all non-atheists are dangerously deluded, insanely irrational and leading the world to the brink of apocalypse—with Muslims being the worst of the lot.  In fact his criticisms of Christians and Jews are basically a rhetorical way of disarming progressives so they will accept his anti-Muslim rants less critically.

The passages that Hedges quoted suggest that Harris is sanguine about war on Muslim nations because he sees their violence as resulting directly from the Koran.  Since Christians and Jews kill more Muslims than Muslims kill Christians and Jews, however, it is curious why Harris would not say that violence against Muslim nations by Christian and Jewish nations is similarly motivated by their holy texts.  He certainly notes the violence in these holy texts, but does not draw the connection to the violence that Israel perpetrates against the Palestinians or the U.S. perpetrates against Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.  Reading between the lines, the impression that is hard to shake is that WE only fight against Muslim nations because we’re defending ourselves against their terrorism.  They fight against us, however, not because we’re occupying them, murdering them, and stealing their land and resources, but because they are enthralled to an evil book—the Koran—that teaches them to kill children and drink their blood at Ramadan.  I somehow imagine that Harris would have a harder time nuking Israel or the United States for what’s written in Deutoronomy, 1st Samuel, Joshua, etc. but would probably be less troubled about nuking Iran for what is written in the Koran.

Some comment-posters suggested that Hedges’ preachy Lisa Simpson-like oratorical and rhetorical style made him a squirrely Colmes to Sam Harris’s more charmingly detached and ruthless Hannity.  Harris was certainly better at working the crowd than Hedges was.  Hedges nevertheless did an admirable job of exposing Harris’s agenda to all those who bothered to pay attention on Tuesday night.  In other debates Harris has gone up against more right-leaning Christians who probably agree with him on what to do about the subhuman Muslim menace.

I think Hedges’ progressive critique of the fascist scapegoating lurking under the New Atheism (at least as Harris manifests it) needs to be pounded home more, and I look forward to reading his exposes on this subject on Truthdig and hopefully elsewhere also.

When someone masquerading as an atheist denies that Palestinian mothers grieve for their children and compares the entire Muslim world to Nazi Germany, he needs to be exposed for what he is before he seduces a significant portion of one of the last bastions of progressive thought and action in this country: atheists.

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By Inquisitor, May 27, 2007 at 3:17 am Link to this comment

Is Harris’ Atheism a Distraction From His Fascism? Part 2

For the sake of disclosure, I will admit that I am a Christian, but I am politically on side with most atheists since atheists generally are sensible anti-war progressives with a low tolerance for fascism.  I certainly am not among the 48% of Americans who would not consider voting an atheist who was otherwise well qualified into public office (http://atheism.about.com/od/atheistbigotryprejudice/a/AtheistSurveys.htm).  I believe, in fact, that atheists are being manipulated into moral inversions of themselves by the New Atheist movement in much the same way that Jews get manipulated into moral inversions of themselves by B’nai B’rith and the Anti-Defamation League, Christians get manipulated into moral inversions of themselves by the “Moral Majority” and the “Christian Coalition” and Muslims get manipulated into moral inversions of themselves by Hamas, Hizbollah, Adbusters magazine, etc.

I do not consider Sam Harris to be an exemplary atheist any more than I consider Pat Robertson an exemplary Christian, Bibi Netanyahu an exemplary Jew or Mahmud Ahmadinejad an exemplary Muslim.  When I think of atheists, I think of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (if not an atheist, he was at least a humanist—head of the Humanist Association for a while in fact).  I also think of Ron Ridenhour, a soldier journalist during the Vietnam War who was instrumental in breaking the story of the My Lai Massacre (Ridenhour is also known for being the only participant in Milgram’s famous obedience experiments not to deliver a single shock to the learner).  Another atheist I consider exemplary is Robert Scheer, who thankfully is more committed to being a bullshit-stomper than to being loyal to his most outspoken brethren or even to being a fastidiously balanced moderator.

Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and other New Atheists have actually taken to belittling atheists who refuse to manifest sufficient anti-religious hostility (e.g. http://richarddawkins.net/article,318,n,n).  Thankfully, though, they have not gone so far as to issue Rwanda-reminiscent proclamations like, “those who defend cockroaches are as bad as the cockroaches themselves.”  Nevertheless I would advise atheists who do not hate all religious people and have no ambition to destroy religion to start watching their backs.  At the rate atheists are being seduced onto the side of hate by the likes of Harris, you might soon be in danger of being isolated from atheist-dominated communities for being a “self-hating atheist.”

If I may lay out my paranoid vision in its full improbable hysteria, Harris’ job, for which I suspect he has at some time gotten encouragement from rather sinister sources of funding and promotion, is to invert the basic values of secular humanism to support the war machine.  His job is comparable to the job of other war propagandists who have, with frightening success, inverted the most humane values of Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, etc. to serve their purposes: i.e. destroying human life for profit and expediency.

Harris is yet another voice in the cacophony of glassy-eyed ideologues claiming that people who disagree with his worldview are going to hell.  I am not saying that atheism is just another religion, or that Harris is an “atheist fundamentalist.”  I am saying rather that Harris’s atheism is an inversion of everything good and decent about atheism, in much the same way that fundamentalist strains of religion are often inversions of everything good and decent that can be found in those religions.  I am also saying that I think this inversion is no accident.  I think it is calculated, and I suspect there are some dubious parties bankrolling this inversion.

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By Inquisitor, May 27, 2007 at 3:15 am Link to this comment

Is Harris’ Atheism a Distraction From His Fascism? Part 1

One of the major things Hedges got right (and what most of the comment-posters here get wrong) was to direct the debate away from the timeless irrelevancies of “Is God real?” and onto Harris’s Muslim-bashing War-of-Civilizations-condoning agenda.  If you read Harris’ books, you will find that he rather underhandedly inserts this agenda into the periphery of his arguments while sugar-coating it for progressive digestion with clever one liners bashing religion. 

During the debate, Harris repeatedly and disingenuously disclaimed his fascist agenda with non-denial denials: “those are not necessarily my views”, etc.  If those were not “necessarily” his views, then what exactly did he mean by the passages that Hedges quoted verbatim where he glibly endorsed torture and military campaigns against Muslim nations?

Harris then nullified his own non-denial denials by comparing the entire Muslim world to Nazi Germany, distorting a Pew poll of the Muslim world to suggest that almost all Muslims support terrorist attacks on civilians on principle, and claiming that Palestinian mothers do not grieve for their dead children.  I heard several audible gasps when he said with misplaced sarcasm that milksop Muslim-lovers are the types of people who could look back at Nazi Germany and say, “well, not all Nazis are bad, and there are some good things about Nazism.”  Harris had sardonically apologized in advance for perhaps offending oversensitive people, and he clearly had no compunction about shocking and offending sentimental ninnies like the audience members who were opposed to genocidal scapegoating and gross misuse of Nazi analogies.

When accused of racism for suggesting that Palestinian mothers do not do normal human things like grieve for their dead children, Harris also made a creepy moral distinction between racism and attacking the religious beliefs of cultural others (known uncharitably in some circles as “religious bigotry”).  Harris claimed, in essence, that he was only guilty of religious bigotry, not racism, and that since some religions are false and evil, religious bigotry is justified even if usually racism is not (necessarily).  I felt the intense urge to introduce Harris to a group of Jewish Holocaust survivors and invite him to explain to them again the moral difference between racism and religious bigotry.

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By Logician, May 27, 2007 at 1:13 am Link to this comment

Re# 73129 by straight_talk_11 on 5/26:

“Where are the critiques of my reasoning here?”  Once again, have someone explain the big words for you: there is no response to your “reasoning” because there is no “reason” in your droolings.

“I believe that His/Her consciousness corresponds to the body of the cosmos just as we associate our individual awareness with our physical bodies.”  Once again, this is the same garbage spewed from the idiot new age followers of the Maharishi.  It makes no sense, has no logical meaning, and it’s simply pointless.  If that’s what you believe, so be it.  But don’t expect any response from rational people.  One can’t argue about ignorantly baseless statements.

#72123: “Define consciousness…” Another nonsensical spew.  Where have I heard this before?  Oh yeah, half-stoned teenagers muttering “awesome” statements in the same manner as “dude, you can really light a fart!”  Just because some things are beyond YOUR ability to understand DOESN’T mean they HAVE to have a magical being like a “consciousness and intelligence” that you chose to call “God” as the reason and or cause.  With a little education, you’ll learn about that.

Quit being so whiney.  You walked into a room of rational people, spewed stupidity and were laughed at.  Deal with the consequences of your stupid actions and move on. Simply repeating egregiously idiotic statements as “But I feel love for my God and feel His/Her love for me. We communicate on that level, not with speech, but consciously on the level of feeling, thought, and consciousness.” isn’t going to get you anywhere with rational people.  We don’t think that’s only an “insane delusion,” we know it’s stupidity personified.

Perhaps you’d find a better audience on the Jerry Springer show?

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By jonathan, May 27, 2007 at 12:12 am Link to this comment

Another Christian fallacy for Chris Hedges.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Ancients believed that “Spirits” of Kings and Pharaohs became stars, when they died. (therefore)
We have the original - catch 22 in -
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 and the offspring of David, the bright, the morning star. unquote
Jesus Christ says; I am the bright, the morning star.
The Morning Star appears summer and fall, for nine months, on the horizon at 5 or 6 AM a few minutes before Sunrise – The Morning Star is not Jesus, it is not a star at all - it is the “Planet Venus.” (visible to the naked eye).
There is no proof anywhere, that Christianity or any other religion, has ever brought Peace Comfort, and Tranquility, to any place on Earth.

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