Is Religion 'Built Upon Lies'?

Best-selling atheist Sam Harris and pro-religion blogger Andrew Sullivan debate God, faith, and fundamentalism.

diogeron

01/19/2011 05:09:17 PM

Great. Thanks for the civil and well reasoned discussion. I would say that religion is certainly "based on myth" or "based on fantasy", not necessarily "lies." The word "lie" implies that the person who is promoting the myth or fantasy actually understands it's really a myth or a fantasy.

athiestson

09/14/2010 12:12:43 AM

Fascinating. We need more debates like this. For a Jewish perspective, check out http://rabbiandathiestson.blogspot.com/.

elmo14

06/17/2010 05:35:04 PM

Though I respect Mr. Sullivan for finally being completely honest (referring to his post on 2/5/2007), and though I will admit I was moved by his openness, he is the perfect example why I fear this discourse, though thoroughly entertaining, does little if anything at all to free minds of the bondage of self delusion. When I read things like letters written to Dawkins which are posted in "The Bad" and "The Ugly" as well as "The Convert's Corner" it is so apparent that those that lie in Mr. Sullivan's camp will forever lie on the side of self delusion and unreason. Every post I have read in the Convert's Corner, even from those who claim to have previously been fundamentalists were only pious because the breadth of their knowledge up to that point combined with the social forces within their community pointed towards God. But once introduced to the vast amount of contradictory and corroborated "evidence" they were able to break free from that world view because, I suspect, their minds had really always been on the side of reason. But those individuals such as Mr. Sullivan, who appears to be an incredibly genuine and decent human being, will forever be enchained by the shackles of their delusions as their minds have an uncanny ability to categorize or justify any and all new information so that it is in line with their immutable presuppositions. I believe the fundamental difference between an "honest" atheist, a man such as Dr. (pending...) Harris (and I can only hope myself as well), and a man such as Mr. Sullivan, is that the former would be over joyed to be shown that our/their well founded "beliefs" (I put into quotations because their is a fundamental difference between beliefs based in reason and critical inquiry and the more common use of the word referring to religious belief or beliefs based on faith) are not actually a true description of reality, if that truly is the case. This is because what we value above all else and find most awe inspiring and beautiful is truth. (that is truth that is universally true rather than subjectively true, with the latter being the basis of religious belief). While there are those such as Mr. Sullivan who are incapable and unwilling to free themselves from the bondage that is their own mind.

MAXTECH

01/26/2010 05:31:57 PM

Ask the fellow who owns these web site pages. http://www.outersecrets.com/real/biblecode2.htm http://www.outersecrets.com/real/biblecode_shroud_turin.htm

grayguy_1942

01/24/2010 06:33:16 PM

Mr. Harris has based all his doubts about a God on science. Yet of all the religions in this world the religion of scientific creation has the most contradictions. 1. Physics will not work in a singularity. So once we go back to the kernel of scientific creation we can't go any further--the math won't work. Then the question must be asked where did the kernel come from. Unanswerable. 2. He mentioned the universe is closed, meaning there is no beginning or end. But the Second law of thermodynamics kicks in. It will dissipate into nothingness. 3. Evolution theory. No one has proven this. For instance what evolved into the Dinosaurs'. What evolved into the monkey which is attributed to evolve into humans. And you must ask this question, why would a successful model want to evolve into another species. For evolution to work as described, it must be replicated. So do you really believe a penis and vagina all happened at the same time. To believe that Mr. Harris is really a religious man. 4. Science started listening for intelligent life SETI in 1971, this was funded by NASA. Now we are wasting billions to find an amoeba on Jupiter's moon. The reason for all this is to prove life on earth is not unique. Uniqueness would support the possibility of a God. I could go on, and on. But I won't bore you. If Mr. Harris was really an atheist he wouldn't be using science to try and prove his points. The fact of the matter is science cannot be quantified with regards to creation. And God cannot be disproved by science (big G, small s). Jesus asked, "Saul why do you persecute me?" So Mr. Harris why do you and all like you? Mr. Sullivan, Mr. Harris, I would love to have you guys do this again but make the emails short and to the point. Also I'd love to see Mr. Harris prove there is no God using his religious scientific principles, those that don't contradict each other. Anyway guys it was a pleasant read.

chieuhado

01/06/2010 10:06:07 PM

Fox News' Brit Hume gave Tiger Woods some personal advice Sunday morning, telling the scandal-plagued (and Buddhist) golfer to 'turn to Christianity' to make a full recovery. ________________________ tuyen dung | tim viec | viec lam

key-fire

11/26/2009 11:21:56 AM

You intellectuals are funny. Love is the only true religion, not your religion your science, or your own mind. I disagree with your statement that Islam is the greatest violent religion. True Judaism from the zionists is the most violent as they believe that all others are only cattle to be used or destroyed for their use. But then again the so called Christianity has been pretty violent., which is not Christianity at all, but Churchianity... which is the same in actual spirit as Judaism, Islam. There are two true religions in the world; those who love and those who live for them selves, which is what people in mental institutions believe... me me me me. Love is the opposite and ever so radical

basturma

07/05/2009 02:00:05 AM

To DrWilson: You write, “Rational individuals familiar with this debate will conclude that Sam Harris wins it every time and against all comers.” I find this to be an incredible assertion coming from a self-proclaimed scientist and doctor. The implication of having anointed Mr. Harris with the crown is that he is right and Sullivan is wrong. In all of your training as a scientist, academic and in practice, when else have you ever been motivated to draw an absolute conclusion from a subject completely absent of evidence? You, like many other university-educated and otherwise intelligent scientists, apply a different protocol to the subject concerning God than all other subjects. This is more a reflection of the indoctrination you have endured than it is your expertise in science. Mr. Harris is an intellectual giant, as is Mr. Sullivan. Their discourse provokes vigorous thought among those who care to think. There are, however, no winners in these debates, just as there is no one right answer to the subject of religion. There are many answers, however note that the one you pick for yourself is right ONLY for you. I would never undertake the futile task of saying you're wrong and trying to disprove your position. With your post, you have concluded that Mr. Sullivan is wrong, so I ask you scientifically; where is your evidence?

basturma

07/05/2009 12:50:07 AM

To Suada: After your considerable soul-searching journey, you have concluded that a specific faith is “unprovable”. I must sadly inform you that the great lengths to which you subjected yourself could and should have been entirely avoided, if, that is, you set out to find proof in the first place. In fact, Messrs. Harris and Sullivan establish the absence of proof early on as obvious groundwork for their debate. More importantly, you have shepherded yourself into a circular argument with your final conclusion: “To take the leap means to raise belief to the status of knowledge - I can't do that.” But it is exactly that which you have done. You have entirely overlooked the fact that your rejection of Catholic belief IS a belief itself. You have no knowledge that God is not as the Catholics (or Muslims, Hindi, Buddhists, Atheists…) say He is. No one has that knowledge. Therefore, by refusing to raise a specific belief to knowledge, you have in effect simply raised a different belief to knowledge. Don’t fool yourself. Not “taking the leap” may indeed be the right answer for you (I’m not trying change your mind), but it IS a belief, and consequently you have raised a belief to knowledge.

Patrick Hennessy

02/11/2009 01:01:00 PM

Great debate. One argument I did not see from Sam is the contradiction in a God created faculty called "reason" .....which is the pinnacle of his creation and the subjugation of this faculty to "faith" when the going gets tough. I was taught as a christian that what distinguished me from other species and was the greatest gift to creation from God was the faculty of reason. If this be true then I would assume that God would want me to use this faculty to the ultimate to seek the truth. If this lifelong search brought to the point of not believing in God how then could He not accept my atheism as the best response possible to my quest. How could he condemn a man who devoted his entire life to using this faculty in search of God to hell if the search led to that man being an honest atheist? In other words if the faculty of reason is the greatest gift bestowed upon man then those who most ardently use and adhere to it (regardless of where it leads them to) should be first in the Kingdom of God. Can Andrew explain this to me? Patrick Hennessy Bangkok

Suada

12/26/2008 12:56:11 AM

I have experienced what I am sure others have: raised as a strict pre and post V2 Catholic, began the doubts in college, re-entered the fold, began to doubt again with greater and greater momentum and then read Sam Harris and started to think Then solidified it with Robert Campbell and Daniel Dennet along with the Irascible Duo of Dawkins and Hitchens. And then reread the Bible with a new view and sum it up as : "Old Testament: some nice poetry, interesting history, nasty god and even after taking out all the silliness about not eating lobster and pork, the Lord of the Rings makes far better reading. New Testament: Do No Harm, seek peace and perform acts of charity." The rest is conjecture and human imagination gone amok. Despite my best efforts I cannot make the Kierkegaardean Leap. I cannot abandon reason in order to believe in the unprovable. As James Carse writes in "The Religious Case Against Belief": "Belief marks the line at which our thinking stops". To take the leap means to raise belief to the status of knowledge - I can't do that. It also bothers me that my homeowner's insurance policy refers to natural disasters as "Acts of God."

DrWilson

12/02/2008 01:44:37 PM

As a scientist and someone concerned about the growing influence of religion in the politics of America, I greatly appreciate the initiative of Beliefnet.com in hosting the Harris-Sullivan discussion on faith and reason. The topic and content of the debate remain timely, and so I hope that Beliefnet.com will continue to retain its content on this website. Of the various faith-oriented responses to Harris that I have read, I believe that Sullivan's is among the best. This exchange continues to demonstrate that Harris has made an important contribution to the dialog regarding reason and logic based worldviews, as contrasted with those based on religion and faith. Rational individuals familiar with this debate will conclude that Sam Harris wins it every time and against all comers.

CoreyPaul

02/23/2008 06:44:52 PM

I do not like labels, but I assume the following quote would describe me quite accurately. I find it simply to be about being a human; caring about people, working together to make the community a better place for everyone, allowing people to grow and live their lifes to the fullest. Basically what I believe an American is. Quote: "....if by a liberal they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, their civil liberties.. if that is what they mean by a "liberal" then I am proud to be a liberal. " ~ John F. Kennedy

darkmoonman

09/21/2007 04:54:15 PM

I'm an atheist because in the 52 years that I've lived thus far, I've experienced no evidence of the existence of god or gods outside of either delusional wish fulfillment and/or the exploit of the idea of a vengeful god by persons needing a way to further their personal prejudices. And, yes, I kept a very open and questing mind for 49 of those 52 years.

faierlamoue

08/13/2007 09:04:24 PM

I am not sure I go along with the idea that atheists "choose" unbelief. I have listened to Mormons tell me about their prophets and scriptures and I can hardly believe people fall for that. I did not "choose" to think Mormonism is a lie, I concluded it as soon as I heard the stories. The same with the Bible and the Quran. I read the Quran along with a Muslim friend (a convert) as a way to better understand her religion. Not a moment went by that I did not think, "Why would ANYONE think this book is something other than a crazy person's rantings?" I am not an atheist because I am a hedonist (which I'm not) -- I'm an atheist because no one has given me a plausible reason not to be. Except maybe Deists.

kannbrown65

05/28/2007 08:53:43 PM

Thanks for the pitch. As for the other, in other words, when atheists tell you they don't believe in God, they are lying?

bacclaureate

05/28/2007 10:37:42 AM

Every man is given a measure of faith. Atheistism is a choice because man's rejection of God's plans for their lives. Man loves his sinful state,and he choose to live and die in that frame of mind. Christ is the answer for now,and eternity.

daniels963

05/20/2007 10:25:58 AM

Right, belief in God is actually very, very low among astronomers -- which is why I asked Tunamelt for the source of his statistic. I'm curious to know whether this was just Tunamelt's mistake or if he got it from somewhere else.

kannbrown65

05/18/2007 11:40:27 AM

I think, TUNAMELT, that you read the percentages wrong. Actually, 93 percent of astronomers do NOT believe in any sort of personal god.

kannbrown65

05/18/2007 11:39:06 AM

I don't know where you got the astronomer percentage. I'd like to see that. Actually, the most recent study shows that 40 percent, on average (much lower than the over 90 percent in the general population) of all scientists do NOT believe in any kind of God. Well over 60 percent express doubt. Leaving, overall, only 7 percent who are convinced in the existence of some kind of personal God. (Deism is the most common alternative.) Out of that, the highest percentage of believers was among mathematicians (14 percen) (guess there isn't much in that discipline to contradict any particular dogma). And physicist and, yes, astronomers, were among the lowest. (Under 8 percent.) http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html

readme

05/17/2007 09:06:25 PM

As a deconverted Christian, I know what it's like to feel attacked and insulted by skeptics--regardless of whether or not I was actually attacked. You're obviously an intellectual type, and I can understand how it would ruffle your feathers if someone accused you of being "unthinking." I was exactly the same way, always itching for a fight. What I'd like to submit for your consideration is this: While I understand your desire to show the reasonableness of religious faith (in your conception), it seems to me that you're more interested in being rational than faithful. Otherwise, you wouldn't feel the need to show up here to pick a fight. I don't fault you for wanting to be rational, in fact, I applaud it. When I was a Christian, I fancied myself a truth-seeker but only availed myself of the data that supported what I had chosen to believe regardless of the evidence. This is dishonest. Do you see yourself as a truth-seeker?

readme

05/17/2007 08:55:47 PM

To TUNAMELT This may be coming a bit too long after your post, but I've decided to respond just in case you decide to check back. Considering the tone of your post, it stands to reason that you would check in from time to time to see who you've offended. It saddens me that you feel attacked by atheists, and for all I know, you've had some legitimate negative experiences with arrogant non-believers. However, this is as far as my sympathy goes. Arrogance, if anything, is a human trait. Theists and atheists alike must learn to overcome it. Rather than pointing out one another's (perceived) arrogance, it may be helpful to actually communicate with "the enemy." (con't)...

daniels963

05/15/2007 08:43:21 PM

TunaMelt ... Where did you get your statistic about astronomers?

TUNAMELT

05/14/2007 07:58:02 PM

It never ceases to amaze me that the overwhelming majority of atheists view Christians as unthinking, unfeeling sheep that blindly follow the tenets of their religion. When in reality the Bible teaches them to "test everything". 1 Thess. 5:21 They ignore the fact that the highest percentage of believers, by profession, are astronomers with over 93%. Just because people of faith can see the hand of God in the world around them, they label us as fools because they lack spiritual sight. They fail to see the patterns of the divine proportion in God's creation, even though it occurs in the micro, macro, and observable universes. But I really shouldn't be surprised. After all, the Bible says that this will happen. 1 Cor. 18-21

namchuck

03/29/2007 07:54:32 PM

Which is, I think, the worth of these debates, jd70. If nothing else, they should tend to arouse people from an unreflective appreciation of the issues. One would hope so anyway.

jd70

03/29/2007 07:24:36 PM

I would agree Namchuck. I think those that don't understand it though tend to perceive it as a religion.

namchuck

03/29/2007 05:09:03 PM

Granted, jd70, but then, Zen Buddhism's existential engagement with life, the fact that it doesn't place any emphasis on belief in a supernatural entity, or entities, nor does it require faith in historical and metaphysical propositions without sufficient evidence, probably disqualifies it as a religion in any normative sense.

jd70

03/29/2007 01:25:09 PM

"Is there a single religion that can claim any of these elements of science?" Zen Buddhism.

namchuck

03/27/2007 06:15:07 PM

Sullivan writes that science is "the consequence of millennia of human thought, logic, experiment, argument, discovery, thesis, antithesis, synthesis..." He also could have added that it is evidence-based and self-correcting. Is there a single religion that can claim any of these elements of science?

namchuck

03/27/2007 05:51:35 PM

And while I might tacitly agree with jd70 that the fact of evolution does not of necessity negate theism, it does throw up some serious questions about the deity's competence. Take the great extinctions, for instance.

namchuck

03/27/2007 05:44:07 PM

As an atheist, I wouldn't say that I am "against God", as I see no compelling evidence to take the God-hypothesis seriously. As a result of this, I simply have no God-belief. Furthermore, in my experience with believers, I find very few of them actually believe as a result of feelings of awe. Rather, their beliefs seem to be the product of conditioned thinking, evoked, probably, by a need to feel that their lives have some ultimate meaning and purpose.

vinaykelkar

03/27/2007 11:48:23 AM

Since the debate is getting dragged on without any relevance to really enlightening the persons in the debate, it is loosing all the shine. Believers and non believers are both atleast are getting equal chance to prove that they are two faces of same coin. Depending on how you look at it will be either for or against god. Lets concentrate on self development.

Drpsionic

03/26/2007 01:18:03 AM

I must confess that never having, at least in memory, felt any sense of awe at much of anything, I find the idea of religious belief being totally based on it rather, well, puzzling. Large objects like mountains, interesting and noisy phenomena like storms and big things floating in space may incite curiousity, but awe? Interesting.

tinisoli

03/22/2007 03:44:39 PM

Interesting that Sam's latest post hasn't elicited much discussion here. I think his post, while thorough, seemed a little bit less serious than others, as though he really is just sick and tired of Sullivan's pirouetting around the main issues and points. It's like he just doesn't want to delve any further into this until Andrew stops playing in the sandbox with stuff like "God is definitionally the creator of the universe." Anyone know when this debate is supposed to end?

jd70

03/20/2007 01:19:01 PM

As a former Methodist myself I can definitely relate.

chrisrkline1960

03/19/2007 09:56:08 PM

I too feel awe at the world. I just deny that the logical consequence of that feeling is some form of God. The world is as it is. Its form comes from the laws of physics. At the level that we are most familiar with, life, we see the workings of evolution, a non-random and "perfecting" process, but one that does not have any purpose. It is, in the words of Prof. Dawkins, the result of a "Blind Watchmaker." The known universe causes me tremendous awe.

chrisrkline1960

03/19/2007 09:55:50 PM

(Continued) If we still lack complete understanding of the origins of the universe, I do not feel compelled to fill the gaps with some cheesy OT God. I cannot see how filling those gaps with some vague, maybe deistic deity helps either. Leaving theism (my wife is still a Methodist) has been wonderfully freeing. It has not freed me to act any way I want. I am still a moral agent. But I am truly free to live this life to the fullest.

jd70

03/19/2007 08:07:18 PM

chris: "There is a little more than a "puddle jump" to go from awe to believing there is a higher intelligence at the root of that awe." I would not say the root of awe, but rather the logical conclusion for the theist based on their sense of awe. Wouldn't you agree. I would agree with the rest of your post though. I personally find the terms atheist and theist littered with confusion. Personally I find accepting things just as they are to be the most honest and fulfilling approach. No need to project "more"(theist) or deny that projection(atheist). Just my take.

chrisrkline1960

03/19/2007 07:53:45 PM

There is a little more than a "puddle jump" to go from awe to believing there is a higher intelligence at the root of that awe. We atheists simply argue that there is no reason to give that Awe a name: God. Especially when that God also has a little handbook that gives instructions to iron age people to do some pretty nasty things, but also tells us that we, today, need to revere and follow that book literally. Besides, there are a lot of hard core theists who do not see dogma as simply an add on to awe. Dogma is a reflection of the truth, and they are willing to die for it. Truth found in a book, that most moderates mostly ignore, or mostly don't know all that well.

jd70

03/19/2007 07:06:26 PM

tinisoli: My own take is that irrational = dogmatism, but rationalism does not = atheism. The notion that there is a divine being that separates the "good" from the "bad" is what Pascal's wager is predicated on, which is dogmatism. Theism though is simply predicated on ones sense of awe which leads one to conclude that there must be a higher underlying cause to the existence of everything. Religion is simply the process of adding dogma to that sense of awe. It is not theism that is the problem, it is dogmatism.

artboyz

03/19/2007 06:17:02 PM

jd70 & tinisoli: I didn't mean to ask how evolution and god could coexist. My point was that if you accept the idea that we developed religion (I used the word "evolved" because Sullivan did) to answer the fundamental question of mortality, then you have to accept that we created it, not the other way around. Don't you.

tinisoli

03/19/2007 05:44:55 PM

Indeed, there are many theists who simply slap their God atop all things and/or slip him in front of the creation of the universe, thereby giving God credit for everything (including home runs and touchdowns) while also conveniently giving him a pass on the "Why doesn't God heal amputees?" front. Sullivan is just one of many "believers" who accept evolution as fact and claim to not take the Bible literally, and it doesn't take them much gymnastics to do this. I'd call it "having your cake and eating MINE, too," whereas Sullivan constantly fellates himself with the notion that he has a more "balanced" life than the cold, calculating Harris. To him, being religious is like getting extra credit or a gold star. But even if one argues that theism and evolution are not incompatible, as jd70 just did, it doesn't mean they belong together. Again, there's this notion that religion and rationalism can complement one another and yield a better human being. It goes back to Pascal's wager and its various permutations.

jd70

03/19/2007 04:52:55 PM

artboyz: I don't think that evolution is incompatible with theism, but rather with a literal understanding of the Bible and the resulting dogma, which I don't suspect is a view Sullivan holds. One can accept a concept of the divine along with the evolution of life on earth.

artboyz

03/19/2007 03:56:03 PM

In this round Mr. Sullivan posits that religion is a psychological defense mechanism which we "evolved" to help us face death. A perspective I completely agree with, as an atheist. What I don't get is how he can embrace that observation and fail to acknowlegde that that view favors a non-theist conclusion. By what mental gymnastics does he allow that paradox and still embrace not only the idea of god, but continued belief in the christian fable. I'm lost. Does anybody know how he accomplishes that?

jd70

03/19/2007 02:29:54 PM

Of all the nde experiences I find the out of body experience to be the most interesting. My father in law had one some years ago where he claims to have seen the EMTs trying to revive him. He was and still is an agnostic, though he says it is something he will never forget.

tinisoli

03/19/2007 01:02:24 PM

It would be interesting to compare near-death experiences and their associated visions across different cultures. If you can find someo people who are totally unfamiliar with religion and religious iconography and pop culture (not just an atheist) and they have a near-death experience that matches up well with that of your standard evangelical who's counting on the existence of heaven and God, then commonalities among such experiences (tunnel vision, lights, chats with dead relatives) would be a little more compelling. North Korea might be a good place to start. I know that I'd be a bad subject because I've absorbed a hell of a lot of this stuff even though I am an atheist. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if I saw my dead grandparents if I was clinically dead for a few minutes. Wouldn't surprise me, either, if I had a chat with Ingrid Bergman or John Lennon or the Incredible Hulk. Nor would it mean anything about the afterlife or the universe.

jacknky

03/19/2007 11:09:37 AM

sheri, "Buddhism is also a religion. Not all religions are theistic." That's where it gets a little complicated, in my understanding. The Buddha himself made no claims to supernatural powers or divinity. He was simply a (extraordinary) man who had discovered a path to reduce or eliminate suffering. Humans being humans though, we later pretty much made a divinity out of the Buddha, worshipping him and creating dogma and rituals. In Buddhist societies Buddhism functions pretty much like any other religions. I think in the West today we have kinda gone back to the Buddha as a man and Buddhist meditation can supply structure to the life of this atheist, at least.

jacknky

03/19/2007 10:54:19 AM

sheri, "How many *more* have to come back from the "dead," claiming the *same* experiences..." I remember reading an article about astronauts who were subjected to extreme cetrifugal force until they blacked out. Many of these people reported similar experiences to near-death experiences- going down a tunnel with a light at the end, seeing people, etc. They surmise that this is the response to certain parts of the brain lacking oxygen. I realize there are things going on that we can't explain. That doesn't mean there is an anthropomorphic supernatural being looking out for us.

jd70

03/19/2007 10:15:42 AM

"So what if some people who don't believe in dieties do believe in other nonsense?" What other "nonsense" might that be Tinisoli?

gadje

03/19/2007 01:39:57 AM

Jet fighter pilots undergoing training have reported near-death experiences (such as seeing white lights, and dead relatives) after passing out from to many g's.

sheri1555stl

03/18/2007 09:29:32 PM

That's a good point, chris, and there is a valid difference. I'm talking about flatliners. If you're postulating that these reported experiences could be actually from right *before* they "died," e.g. the "white light," the light above them in the operating room, then you're right, there's no demonstrably measurable way to tell the difference between an unconscious experience and one perceived to have been had when "dead," even maybe for the one reporting/claiming the near-death experience.

chrisrkline1960

03/18/2007 09:00:46 PM

Sherri, you keep talking about people coming back from the dead with "experiences." How do you know their experiences are from when they were clinically dead, and with no functioning brain waves and not from when they were simply unconscious? We can monitor the brain activity of an unconscious person. We cannot monitor the brain activity of a truly dead person, obviously.

tinisoli

03/18/2007 08:18:35 PM

sheri, So what if some people who don't believe in dieties do believe in other nonsense? I thought we were talking about the legitimacy of afterlife stories. I take near-death tales with a grain of salt because there's no good reason to take them in any other way. While it is rare to hear someone talk about what they saw or heard while they were being brought back from the brink of death–-and it undoubtedly makes for better TV ratings than a summary of Joe Schmo's dream the other night--I've no good reason to think of such stories as being any more meaningful or truthful than Joe's dreams. The common themes among some such stories are about as compelling as the common themes in bigfoot reports. Do you find people's descriptions of acid trips to be as compelling as near-death experiences?

sheri1555stl

03/18/2007 07:51:13 PM

Oh, tinisoli, the only working definition of atheism is rejection of deities. There are many atheistic religions. Case in point, that there are two bloggers who've been on the board, this board, who are self-described atheists and Buddhists. Buddhism is also a religion. Not all religions are theistic.

sheri1555stl

03/18/2007 07:47:57 PM

(cont.) i.e., not only the theists "investigate" based on preconceived beliefs. Atheists also, not believing there to be anything there *before* the reports of those claiming near-death experiences, no reports will ever suffice as evidence that there is (an afterlife of any kind), unless and until that life-changing, belief-altering/converting report is made by you. Then all bets are off, and you'll be looking for your colleagues to be accepting *your* statements without the "evidence" that you now so adamantly require to be rigorously applied to others' testimonies.

sheri1555stl

03/18/2007 07:33:04 PM

And "if someone claimed to have seen a black cat you probably wouldn't require proof of it because most of us have seen black cats and there's nothing unbelievable about someone else saying they'd seen one..." is precisely my point that 'we' (hypothetical we) are basing truth claims on majority experiences. How many *more* have to come back from the "dead," claiming the *same* experiences (as you pointed out the commonality in them), before they are no longer dismissed as former living experiential states remembered or dreams? I'll bet that they'll ALL ALWAYS be dismissed, even if a self-described *atheist* came back reporting one, unless and until you have one yourself. Near-death tales are the closest that we have since none that we know has ever died, been dead awhile, and then came back to talk about it. As I said, some were not religious who made these reports. I suspect, as chris pointed out, that we *do* take our beliefs into every report we make, but also every one that we analyze, (cont.)

tinisoli

03/18/2007 07:15:46 PM

Hindus are not atheists. Hinduism is a religion. For the record, the idea of reincarnation is just as absurd to me as the idea of heaven and hell.

sheri1555stl

03/18/2007 07:13:17 PM

And "fantasie" aside, tinisoli, I don't know of anything *Christian* about the "light at the end of the tunnel" accounts. There are no such accounts in scripture, the Christian reference book, and heaven is not described in the Bible as just bright light, "tunnel" notwithstanding.

sheri1555stl

03/18/2007 07:08:33 PM

tinisoli: "But it just so happens that there aren't an awful lot of atheists who do beleive (as you claim) in some kind of afterlife..." And by afterlife, as I stated, continuance of consciousness beyond physical death, don't hindus believe in reincarnation, which requires such continuance, even claiming the remembrance of former lives? There are other groups also, such as the field of thought to which Shirley McClaine abscribes, who believe in said continuance of consciousness but don't worship or believe in any deities (I thought which was the basic defintion of atheism, correct me if I'm wrong). Are hindus, barring Hare Krishnas, theists, tinisoli? and aren't they billions strong?

tinisoli

03/18/2007 06:54:18 PM

If someone claimed to have seen a black cat you probably wouldn't require proof of it because most of us have seen black cats and there's nothing unbelievable about someone else saying they'd seen one. But when someone claims to have seen a black cat that was 50 feet tall, then we do typically respond with the same kind of incredulity that UFO sightings, talking to God, and other unbelievable reports merit. We ALL do this, sheri. Some of us just do it more often than others, and we don't exempt religion or religious stories from the same reasoned skepticism.

tinisoli

03/18/2007 06:42:37 PM

And I've got to agree with chrisrkline1960 that there's not much we can learn from the handful of "near death" experiences of people that we see on television shows every couple of weeks. For all we know these experiences are just dreams, and the Christian "light at the end of the tunnel" commonality among some of them is analogous to the common dreams of loose teeth, being late for a math test, and so on––all of which are based on actual experiences and associations, things we learn. Near-death tales are no more valuable or trustworthy than the thousand sightings of the virgin Mary in breakfast pastries, window water stains, toast, etc.

tinisoli

03/18/2007 06:32:32 PM

Sheri, I don't know why you think I should account for your hypothetical atheists who believe there might be something waiting for us after death. I should think you ought to ask THEM about such ideas. In any event, if and when I meet such people and they reveal similarly baseless ideas about something happening to us after death, yes, I'd certainly question those beliefs just as vigorously as I question yours. After all, there's nothing about the Christian concept of heaven/hell that is profoundly more absurd or incredible than any number of other afterlife fantasies, including reincarnation. But it just so happens that there aren't an awful lot of atheists who do believe (as you claim) in some kind of afterlife, so I'm not really worried about it the way I'm worried about the billions of people who are intensely preoccupied with their afterlife.

sheri1555stl

03/18/2007 05:20:24 PM

tinisoli, as much as I welcome your constructive criticisms of my faith, you have failed to answer my question, IMO. It's way too easy to just argue against the silly theist believing in such trivialities as God, heaven/hell. What is your answer to ATHEISTS who do not believe in God/gods or heaven/hell, but who *ALSO* do not believe that consciousness ends with physical death (in essence, what an afterlife *is*)?

sheri1555stl

03/18/2007 05:15:29 PM

(cont.) Aren't such evaluations subjective and biased, since all who make such claims do not necessarily come from prior religious backgrounds, or have strong faith beliefs one way or the other?

sheri1555stl

03/18/2007 05:14:02 PM

chrisrkline: "Even if someone's brain ceases to function and then is revived, we have no way of knowing that the patient experienced anything during this "dead" period." Their word when they come back, that they did, is not enough? People come back from such states and comas, claiming to have experienced things, quite frequently. Are you looking for something measurable? Do we measure *all* experiences, such as someone in passing saying, 'I saw a black cat,' in the same way? Although you could go looking for the cat, do you? or do you accept that they saw one because you have already assumed it to be possible and reject claims of afterlife experiences because you consider those to be impossible? Do you only try to measure experiences of others that you do/have not experience(d) yourself, or that, according to your worldview, you have already ruled as *impossible* for them to experience because you have already deemed such experiences as impossible? (cont.)

tinisoli

03/17/2007 12:25:21 PM

Sheri, Your terms "reductionist" and "materialism" are the equivalent of "the glass is half empty." If people are so unimpressed with the human nervous system (it's too small, it's too material) or so unimpressed by what has evolved over 4 billion years that they just can't stomach the idea that there isn't "something else" (WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED?!) out there or inside us, that's their choice. If the head of the Human Genome Project wants to drape God over the world so that things seem more wonderful or more purposeful, that's his choice. But it makes not one bit of sense. And the consequences of believing in and sanctifying bad ideas are all around us. An atheist simply wonders why one type of bad idea is more tolerated than all the others we reject thousands of times a day.

chrisrkline1960

03/17/2007 10:14:30 AM

One thing many theists argue is that it is at least equally likely that there is a god as there isn't. The trouble is that most theists come to the question of evidence from within a theistic tradition. If you have been a Christian all of your life, and then you decide to "investigate" the existence of God, it takes little or no evidence to convince you. And then, low and behold, the evidence also points to the very God of your tradition. But there is not a lot of reasoning going on here. The same thing happens with the evidence for an afterlife. If you are born in a tradition of faith, it is easy to accept any vague “evidence” because it supports your faith. But the evidence for an afterlife is non-existent. It comes from people who are currently alive. The notion of "near death" is simply that. Even if someone's brain ceases to function and then is revived, we have no way of knowing that the patient experienced anything during this "dead" period.

chrisrkline1960

03/17/2007 09:22:04 AM

Sherri, The question of whether there is an afterlife is only important to me to the extent that my beliefs or actions during this life might affect this afterlife. If nothing happens after I die or if what happens is simply “what happens”, and my choices in this life have no affect on my afterlife, then it is really just academic. Most people believe there is an afterlife. Most will also claim that the form the afterlife will take is determined by the specific choices I make in this life. Often, they will claim that the form the afterlife will take is determined by the mere words I utter. Moderate Christians are fairly nice about it all. Heaven is a nice place; most will go there when they die. They may even believe that good people of other faiths will go there too. They aren’t too freaked by atheists, but they think we should play it safe and just go ahead and believe. Fundies are not so sanguine. Most people (and all non believers) will go to hell. Now, my choice is complicated.

chrisrkline1960

03/17/2007 09:19:57 AM

(Continued) So, do I jump on the fundies bandwagon? That seems safest. And, what about Islam? They too think I will spend an eternity in hell for specific beliefs too. Then there is the Hindu reincarnation model. I do enough polluting of my karma that I will probably end up as a cockroach in my next life. If I reject specific theistic doctrine for some warm and cuddly, “walk into the light and embrace my loved ones” version of the afterlife, then that will “feel” nicer. I will, as will most atheists, keep our minds open. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. A vision of a light is not enough. But if the evidence for an afterlife you see is still, in your mind, consistent with a specific religious doctrine, then that becomes the issue. Those are the “truths” theists do so poorly investigating (I mean how lucky is it that I happened to be born into the one true faith tradition!)

sheri1555stl

03/17/2007 04:45:44 AM

I don't think I said anything in my latter post to you, tinisoli, about confidence in/certainty about heaven/hell, on your or my part. I am not talking about my faith views here. I asked about YOUR certainty that there is nothing. Is it the same to say that if we have no reliable evidence of heaven/hell, that there is reliable certainty of nothing? Are there no other options but either heaven/hell or nothing? I think I DID say in a recent post that I believe that there are some atheists who do not hold the position that we "cease to exist" after death, but, not positing heaven/hell or god(s); and, therefore, it would not only be a theist position to reject reductionist materialism. Some atheists also do, and as such, your position, if based on reductionist materialism, doesn't necessarily speak for all atheists. To portray *any*(and every) belief in consciousness beyond death as "confidence" in heaven/hell only (allowing for nothing else), is the tendency towards absolutism on your part, IMO.

tinisoli

03/16/2007 01:35:56 PM

DeeRoseB, Everything that is good about religion can be had elsewhere. Love, kindness, life lessons, morality, etc. On the other hand, everything that is bad about religion or other forms of dogma DO in fact come from baseless ideas and blind faith––the cornerstones of religion. The idea is that ANY set of rigid beliefs that are baseless and untestable is not something we need. The world would not be devoid of love, kindness, morality, etc., if people put down their Torahs, Korans, and Bibles.

DeeRoseB

03/16/2007 01:19:05 PM

I have been watching this debate with great interest but can't help wishing that the participatants were debating instead the question, "Does Religion on the Whole Do More Harm than Good." Epistemological disagreements about the existence of God will never be resolved. But that is not a bad thing. In the area of faith what we need is not agreement but religious tolerance. I really wish Harris and Sullivan would take the focus off the question of whether God exists and argue the claims made by Harris and other prominent atheists that religion is bad and should be abandoned. That is a claim that really can and should be put to the test of reasoned debate. Though evidence can be pointed to on both sides of that argument, my view is that the pro-religion side is stronger. We need to challenge those who would rid the world of religion.

tinisoli

03/16/2007 01:18:54 PM

sheri, The difference between being confident that existence ends at death and being confident that one goes to heaven or hell is that the latter is based wholly on hope and fear whereas the former is based on evidence (or lack thereof). We've been down this road before. If you think that it is as absolutist for me to state that we aren't going anywhere when we die as it is for a theist to state that we have something else to look forward to (or fear), then you are failing to recognize the difference between reason and faith. Is it not more reasonable to be sure of something for which their is evidence than it is to be sure of something for which there is NONE? Just because two people are "sure" doesn't mean both are being absolutists in the same way.

sheri1555stl

03/15/2007 11:33:46 PM

chris, I know that those experiences tell us nothing substantive about an afterlife, or anything conclusive about any one particular religion; I was just getting at tinisoli's claim that we "cease to exist," which I found to be as absolute as religionists claims about heaven/hell, unless based on the premise that all consciousness is reducible to brain waves and matter. It would seem that if increasing numbers make reports of experiencing *anything* beyond the point at which doctors say, "they were 'dead'," then one could argue, at least case in point, against *all* consciousness being reducible to matter/brain, that mind (or at least *some* consciousness) may be able to subsist past the cessation of brain.

Demetriohouston

03/15/2007 06:35:40 PM

Finally we get a response from Andrew. I think belief in God is ultimately, as Bill Maher likes to put it, "Arrogance disguised as humility." I mean, who will save any of us from the eternal damnation any religion will send the rest of us to?

chrisrkline1960

03/15/2007 05:58:01 PM

Sherri, you are right about my missing that one word from my earlier post. Also, the fact that a living person reports on some remembered effect that happened during a near death experience tells us nothing about the afterlife. Since these effects seem to happen to people of all faiths, it says nothing about any particular faith, and may only tell us about how the brain reacts to a near death experience.

noseington

03/15/2007 05:49:51 PM

Is Religion "Built upom Lies? - Absolutely

sheri1555stl

03/15/2007 02:26:50 PM

Interesting point, gadje. Sullivan calls his homosexuality "a gift;" and, I've read other bloggers elsewhere claim that the scriptural passages allegedly condemning the behaviors associated with that sexual orientation to have been misinterpreted. If he believes the same way that these other bloggers do, then he probably thinks he's already found his salvation.

sheri1555stl

03/15/2007 02:22:39 PM

correction: "still don't believe that we will necessarily "cease to exist" after death,..."

sheri1555stl

03/15/2007 11:01:01 AM

I would call issues of existence philosophical/existential and agree with you, tinisoli, that they don't necessarily have to be religious; but, I could have sworn that there are some atheists, who although they don't believe in any deities, still don't believe that will necessarily "cease to exis" after death, but become part of a greater universal consciousness, losing the "I" identity. I thought that atheism only entailed the denial of deities, not the absolute acceptance of material reductionism.

sheri1555stl

03/15/2007 10:55:39 AM

Don't some people report "experiences" (what we call 'near' death) after being pronounced clinically dead? Some claim to contact those who have died or to see ghosts? Are all of these claims to be categorically denied?

sheri1555stl

03/15/2007 10:53:16 AM

tinisoli, are you saying that consciousness and mind processes are only products of brain? Do you KNOW that we cease to exist after death?

sheri1555stl

03/15/2007 10:50:15 AM

chris, you meant to say that "I never said that Sullivan does NOT claim that "religious faith is more contingent than scientific epistemological 'faith'"..."? Otherwise, your post doesn't make sense.

gadje

03/15/2007 05:03:30 AM

"What you are asking for is salvation by reason. But even after you have been saved by reason, you will die, Sam. And what will save you then?" I would assume that Harris doesnt feel the need to be saved, he appreciates the life he has been born into, he is making the most of it, he is delving into neuroscience that is for the benefit for all mankind... yadayadayada But where does sullivan get off asking someone what will save them when he himself has embraced a faith whose tenets has damned him for all eternity? (that is, if he doesnt change his ways which doesnt seem likely).

elliptic_curve

03/14/2007 10:58:00 PM

Sullivan's faith based not on consistent truth claims but on subjective feelings is captured by Steven Weinberg: Religious liberals are in one sense even farther in spirit from scientists than are fundamentalists and other religious conservatives. At least the conservatives like the scientists tell you that they believe in what they believe because it is true, rather than because it makes them good or happy. Many religious liberals today seem to think that different people can believe in different mutually exclusive things without any of them being wrong, as long as their beliefs "work for them." Wolfgang Pauli was once asked whether he thought that a particularly ill-conceived physics paper was wrong. He replied that such a description would be too kind—the paper was not even wrong. I happen to think that the religious conservatives are wrong in what they believe, but at least they have not forgotten what it means really to believe something. The religious liberals seem to me to be not even wrong.

chrisrkline1960

03/14/2007 09:09:49 PM

Sherri, I never said that Sullivan claims that "religious faith is more contingent than scientific epistemological 'faith,'" But he does continue to make the claim that there is a similarity to making leaps of faith in religion and leaps of faith in science. In that regard he puts them on par with each other. This is silly. Science is based on clear evidence, repeatable and falsifiable experiments based on the simple contingency that the world we observe is real. Religion is based on a set of contingencies that are more accurately called dogmas, that cannot be, in most cases in principle, falsified.

tinisoli

03/14/2007 08:52:46 PM

And he continues to equate religion with science, describing both as sources of "knowledge." He marries ideas and terms together, but then if he needs to split them up he does just that. And he seems to think that reason and science are one and the same. He's all over the place. It's like he's getting baked before he writes this stuff.

tinisoli

03/14/2007 08:49:00 PM

Yes, sheri, of course religion is all about death, or, more precisely, ways of thinking that promise something beyond death. Obviously. But Sullivan declares that any human being who has asked himself "to be or not to be?" is religious. That is absurd. Sullivan is redefining religion to mean "human" and "religious" to mean "contemplating existence." It's ridiculous. But at least we've gotten to this important point: that religions are all about giving humans an avoidance racket so they don't have to accept that they will cease to exist.

sheri1555stl

03/14/2007 07:19:07 PM

tinisoli, you don't believe that beliefs about afterlife (death issues) are pretty central to most religions, especially monotheisms?

sheri1555stl

03/14/2007 07:16:31 PM

Sullivan does say that religious faith is more contingent than scientific epistemological "faith," chris.

chrisrkline1960

03/14/2007 05:25:20 PM

Sullivan's post is a little better, but still does not address some central issues. He presents his Christianity as faith, but almost a cliched faith. To many people, they define faith as continuous belief in something in which there is no good reason to believe. This is Sullivan's faith. It is all good feelings with enough doubt to avoid the need to practice overt evangelism. But this is not how traditional Christians really see their faith. They really believe. They do not have any real doubt. Their faith is more "trust with knowledge." But it is knowledge without any facts. Sullivan is still pitching the notion that his doubt is applicable to all epistemologically knowledge. This allows him to still claim that religious "truth" is on par with that big leap of faith we take when we sit on our couch, hoping it is "real" and not an illusion. This was silly in the last post and it is still now.

tinisoli

03/14/2007 05:23:54 PM

Sullivan redefines "religion" to mean "resistance to death" and "to be human." Gee. That was worth the wait. But at least he's fessed up to the real value of his magical thinking: he's afraid of and confused by death. This last post of his is by far the worst. I really loathe how he redefines the terms of this debate to either exclude or include whomever or whatever he wants.

sandworm102

03/14/2007 11:48:15 AM

FYI- Sullivan's response (finally!) is posted at his blog even though it is not yet viewable here. After reading it, I still see this conversation going nowhere helpful, interesting as it has been.

Ma7addat

03/11/2007 02:48:36 PM

Andrew Sullivan is convinced that Sam Harris is an alright guy. Atheists can be see emotion and reason in harmony, and even correct the theist when he thinks them opposed. Andrew believes everyone has a right to their own opinion and Sam is just expressing his opinion. Andrew believes that there is fundamentally no way to adjudicate between their two positions, so he shouldn't even try to defend himself."It's all up for grabs anyway, why should I have to justify what I believe?"

chrisrkline1960

03/10/2007 07:53:49 AM

I am starting to wonder if this debate is really over. Usually, after one of Harris' posts, Sullivan will post something on his blog about it, usually some comment from one of his readers, extolling the sublime wonders of the faith and how secularists just don't get it. But he hasn't done that here. I almost wonder if he is a little embarrassed by his last post, which was a fine example of the classic straw man argument and a real waste of space. I think when Harris used the word "contingent" two posts ago, Sullivan thought he had caught Harris committing that great atheistic sin of reducing all reality and life to pure reason. Besides the fact that this "sin" is pure caricature, it contradicts everything Harris has ever written. What is taking Sullivan so long? Is he polishing the rhetorical flourishes on his next post to make it even less clear that he refuses to state what he really believes about God?

tinisoli

03/07/2007 07:59:47 PM

Sullivan is preoccupied with the latest Ann Coulter media moment. Stay tuned...

Farakon

03/06/2007 11:40:48 AM

I was finding this debate very enlightening. I hope that Sullivan has not bailed out.

vinaykelkar

03/03/2007 10:01:44 AM

When any person changes religion, he does so many times because it constrains his type of thinking. However all religions have this drawback and hence no religion can suit all the persons on earth. Hence this mix of religions with non believers also makes a best compound. It atleast gives a person choice to think in variety of ways.

jacknky

03/01/2007 04:21:08 PM

vina, "God as the examples go does not discriminate between believers or non believers." That is one conception. That's all gods are are mental projections created by humans. Instead of trying to decide the nature of the gods, an impossible task and a distraction, why not go directly to the sources of human suffering and ignorance?

vinaykelkar

03/01/2007 09:18:17 AM

Yes the paradigm shift is real. What I am trying to communicate is the third dimension of believer v/s non believer syndrom. I feel both are essential part of the life on this earth. They are like bulls and bears of spiritual stock market to ensure that the extremist from either side are kept in check.God as the examples go does not discriminate between believers or non believers. You will find intelligence, prosperity, good or ugly life, struggles and plentiful ness, poverty and riches, in both the types. Many more such examples can be generated by persons to see the truth.

jacknky

02/28/2007 12:31:38 PM

vina, "Hence first we desire something and only then god comes in picture." I think what we're talking about here is the development of a new paradigm where gods are no longer in the picture. Anything humans can do with gods they can do without. If we are taught, for example, that "God is love." and we need to believe in God in order to live compassionate lives, then we can get bogged down with the unanswerable questions around "What does God want?" So instead of asking the question "How do we live compassionate lives?" we ask "How does God want us to live?" That's unanswerable so we toss Bible verses at each other instead of looking at our lives and others around us.

vinaykelkar

02/28/2007 10:16:18 AM

Prayers to god in any religion are for mind and body atonement. We try to calm mind while giving some excersizes to body while praying. The benefits of this action can come to anybody who is sincere irrespective of religion or beliefs. We ask god for help in what we have in mind. Hence first we desire something and only then god comes in picture. Whether you are a beliver or non believer this process is essentially the same. Hence its human being who makes or breaks his/her life. God is only a moral support for believers. For non believers any way own capabilities are this support. Self belief hence is the best form to achieve something in life.Religion hence is only to support you for your life and not the end in itself.

shemp333

02/28/2007 04:31:14 AM

This debate was over a few pages ago. Sam Harris is standing on solid ground while Andrew Sullivan has his head in a cloud. Instead of admitting his beliefs are unsupported by evidence, he just keeps emotionally ranting while not addressing Sam's comments. Come on, Andrew. Get real.

jacknky

02/27/2007 09:05:06 AM

"Hope is easy; knowledge is hard." That just about says it all for me.

vinaykelkar

02/26/2007 07:40:34 AM

Since human beings are borne out of the natural or god directed process depending on who believes in what, one thing becomes clear is that they come equipped with certain basic instincts like preprogrammed computer hard disk. Basic needs like crying for milk when hungry, trying to breathe and look for source of the food etc are built in software in every human being or animal at birth. However lot of new data and information is subsequently fed to this human being over years after birth through various means and sensory organs which really develops or spoils the human being. This usually is done by several of his / her social contacts like family, school, society, reading materials, experiences, sounds and feelings etc. This is where man starts getting converted in some complex object and starts behaving in fanatic ways sometimes. Unless this influence is controlled, the behavior of people in a particular way may be difficult to control.

Ma7addat

02/25/2007 06:34:01 PM

vinaykelkar, well said. I think that the existence of God should not matter. By itself, God (whatever that means) does not give us a reason to be act one way or another. Unfortunately, to many people, it does matter. And they shape their whole lives around what they believe God wants them to do, which is ultimately a manifestation of their cultural ideals and personal values that they adopted in childhood.

vinaykelkar

02/25/2007 09:58:28 AM

God is or isn’t does not matter Those who believe in god must know that god is so big that we just cannot make any difference to his unimaginable size. We are not even a spec of dust in his scheme of things. For those non believers any way god does not matter. Hence best way is to concentrate on self development with proper vision, mission, and living life in such a way that you are called god. Don’t waste precious life fighting on religion.

meBigGuy

02/25/2007 05:26:54 AM

Grateful: Religious faith IS UNscientific to the extent it acts upon or claims truths that cannot be tested. So are other disciplines. Religious faith is irrational, and to the extent that it tries to trump other religious or scientific views it is bad for society. If you are satisfied to keep your religious views to yourself, fine. The altruistic nature of humans is genetic and has an evolutionary basis. It does not require religion to motivate it. (and of course it does not exist in equal amounts in all humans)

jacknky

02/23/2007 12:36:13 PM

Grateful, "Religious faith is not UNscientific; it is merely EXTRAscientific, as are art and philosophy." Art and philosophy don't claim to speak for God. The only religion I can think of that meets your criteria of being non-dogmatic is Buddhism.

Ma7addat

02/21/2007 06:45:54 PM

I wholly agree with Grateful929's post. Religion does not need to be about belief in the supernatural. Actually, religion does not need to have beliefs about truth at all! Religion is best served as a fluid system of values. In this form, it is easily replaced by culture, ethics, and existentialism. Chris, I don't think religion as defined by Grateful929 needs to be about "truth." As you point out, however, there is no theist whose "religion" fits this definition.

chrisrkline1960

02/21/2007 06:33:26 PM

I am not sure that I agree with your distinction, but even if it is valid, then there is still something to consider. Allowing for a belief system that has no connection to empirical evidence opens that belief system to any set of beliefs, no matter how incompatible. While there are differences of opinion in science, there are built in methods of deciding between competing claims. Ultimately, the "truth" must be tied to evidence. On the other hand, how does one decide between the "truth" of Christianity and the "truth" of Islam? If you are a theist, you better hope religion is not like art. In art, I like what I like, and you like what you like. We generally do not claim that our subjective feelings have some claim on objective truth, other than as propositions about our internal psychological states. Religion claims much more for its "truth." But I think you are right. Religion is subjective and only subject to an individual's whimsy.

Grateful929

02/21/2007 05:15:07 PM

1. Religion does not at all require a belief in the supernatural (including "miracles.") 2. Science is not a substitute for religion; it is completely separate from religion. Science depends completely on empirical, measurable phenomena. It makes no pronouncement on moral values nor on philosophy nor on the existence or absence of God or gods or the divine. (This is not to say, of course, that science is exempt from moral values.... but that's another topic.) Religious faith is not UNscientific; it is merely EXTRAscientific, as are art and philosophy.

jd70

02/21/2007 03:31:19 PM

Sewells: "All I'm saying is that if these miracles occur ubiquitously, which is what is claimed, it is statistically very curious that no amputees got their prayers answered" Point taken. It would also seem to me that an infinite universe is the most plausible given current evidence as well.

sewells1951

02/21/2007 03:02:44 PM

jd70, I have to confess I see little in your response that is germane to mine. I'm not the one claiming that miracles occur. All I'm saying is that if these miracles occur ubiquitously, which is what is claimed, it is statistically very curious that no amputees got their prayers answered. Now, my personal belief is that the universe is infinite (I believe it because it doesn't entail the contradictions that alternatives to that belief do entail). If I am here, which I believe myself to be, then the chances of my being here are not zero. Multiply any infinity by a non-zero quantity and you get another infinity. Funny thing about the probability of things that have already happened. The probability is 100%.

jd70

02/21/2007 02:27:21 PM

Sewells: To clarify, What are the chances that you were born? In the course of events over roughly 4 billion years, if any one did not occur or occurred differently you would not be here. The "odds" surely would compare to the "odds" of an amputee growing legs. Neither though is proof of "God" as a separate entity from the rest of nature, nor does either disprove the existence of such an entity, it simply is what it is. As a result the projection of such an entity ends up being nothing more than a subjective perspective no more or less valid than the perspective that there is no such entity.

seeker36

02/21/2007 02:20:15 PM

On the subject of the "Why does'nt god heal amputees" site: The videos are unbelievably patronising to the point of reminding me of sesame street and are quite frankly really creepy in a cultish brain washing kind of way to boot. It makes atheists look totally arrogant and utterly fanatical in this worst "religious" kind of way, rational or not, it gave me the creeps.

shhaz

02/21/2007 01:30:20 PM

Myths are informative, helpful, instructive and otherwise beneficial as long as you keep them under control. All religions are myths.

sewells1951

02/21/2007 10:33:33 AM

But I don't know jd70, maybe you have some explanation for why, out of all the millions of prayers that ostensibly get answered by the christian god, not a single case of an amputee praying for their limb(s) back ever got answered by the amputee actually getting what they prayed for. Why is it always something ambiguous when 'a prayer is answered'? As the web site asks "Why won't god heal amputees?" http://www.whywontgodhealamputees.com

jd70

02/21/2007 10:17:42 AM

sewells1951: "An amputee praying for his legs back who got them would do it. Most anything where it couldn't have been coincidence would suffice." Are you saying that your perception is that since this is "less likely" to happen than Sheri's experience that you would accept it over a sudden healing as evidence for a higher power? Seems pretty subjective to me. how is that any different than Sheri's conclusion that her experience led her to believe that a higher power exists?

Ma7addat

02/20/2007 09:41:55 PM

Please Sheri, be patient with us. Remember what Paul said in his first epistle to the Thessalonians:We urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.And does not the blessèd Yeshua reportHe who endures to the end shall be saved.Now I ask you, Are you not one of the brothers that Paul spoke of? And are you not the he that Yeshua spoke of? Therefore, I ask you to be patient with us. After all, we want to know the truth too.

sewells1951

02/20/2007 07:01:32 PM

sheri, I would suggest that it wasn't coincidence but instead was a placebo effect. I think it is pretty clear that the placebo effect is a real phenomenon. It could have as easily been Zeus as Jesus, in fact I'm pretty confident that before Jesus there would have been thousands of people who prayed to Zeus making the same claims you make. There is no shortage of evidence that would convince me of the existence of your god. An amputee praying for his legs back who got them would do it. Most anything where it couldn't have been coincidence would suffice. Needless to say, there will not be any such unambigous evidence forthcoming because your god doesn't exist anymore than Zeus did.

sheri1555stl

02/20/2007 07:00:03 PM

Doesn't matter. I'm not trying to change your mind. minds made up are just that, and I'm through with the apologetics and sharing my faith with you, which as useless to you, will always be unreliable. Usefulness is reliability. See ya later.

sheri1555stl

02/20/2007 06:55:53 PM

Your diagnosis of my condition or its ready treatability aside, if my prayers had nothing to do with my healing, why did my symptoms dissipate the MOMENT I prayed and not 30 min. later, or 2 hrs. later, or 4 days later, when they would go away on their own anyway, according to you, at which time I would have been forced to seek medical attention? Oh, that's right. It was a coincidence, and every other time I've prayed and gotten immediate results like that were all coincidences too And no substantive number of "coincidences" will ever show any correlation, let alone cause and effect. Ii don't think I'm the only one with a "psychological investment" in the outcome. And I've already stated that interventions go towards strengthening faith already possessed. And, you will of course, presume to tell why doctors are surprised in all cases of surprise. I suggest that there is no evidence adequate to change YOUR mind.

jacknky

02/20/2007 03:22:41 PM

plunge, Here's my take on why most religions emphasize faith so much. I'm most familiar with Christianity and it seems that faith is the most important virtue, much more important than any deeds we can do. I think that's because if we truly have faith that we're going to live forever and never die then we can live our lives on this earth AS THOUGH we'll never die. It really doesn't matter whether there really is a god or not. We get the benefits if we BELIEVE there is. There was a local newscaster here who had terminal cancer a few years back. I read an interview with him and he said he wasn't afraid of dying because he KNEW he would see God and join his family and friends in heaven. That's powerful and for it to work we really, truly have to believe it. That's why faith is so important and doubt is not encouraged.

plunge

02/20/2007 11:16:19 AM

Sorry meant to say that most conditions _aren't_ 100% fatal (in the case of botulism, the untreated fatality rate is 60% for instance). If people subjectively take signs like this and believe, that's up to them. But as arguments for the existence of God or the utility of prayer, these things are pointless.

plunge

02/20/2007 11:02:20 AM

sherri, if God is interested only in faith then why would he intervene at all? And why when God acts is it in these vague ways that are, even you must admit, indistinguishable from God not acting? What would be the point? Non-believers with no one praying for them get better too. Most conditions are 100% fatal, and doctors often are surprised simply because they have limited experience, standard or incomplete expectations, or even because they want to make patients feel better.

sewells1951

02/20/2007 09:29:45 AM

sheri,Funny thing here is that botulism symptoms don't include fever. Botulism poisoning is from a toxin, not from the bacteria itself, hence the body's immune response that results in fever isn't part of the package. So much for your 'miracle' of being cured from botulism, at least as far as the diagnosis being made on the basis of a fever is concerned, but then again, there is NO evidence you will accept as adequate to change your mind anyway. Psychologically, you want there to be a god so there is nothing that will dissuade you from believing there is one.

sewells1951

02/20/2007 09:28:41 AM

Sheri, Wikipedia says about botulism "Classic symptoms of food-borne botulism occur between 12-36 hours after consuming the botulinum toxin, but they can occur as early as 6 hours or as late as 10 days. Wound botulism has a longer incubation period, usually between 4-14 days. Symptoms of either form usually include dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, slurred speech, muscle weakness, double vision, vomiting, and sometimes diarrhea. These symptoms may progress to cause paralytic ileus with severe constipation, and eventually body paralysis. The respiratory muscles are affected as well, which may cause death due to respiratory failure. These are all symptoms of the muscle paralysis caused by the bacterial toxin. In all cases illness is caused by the toxin made by C. botulinum, not by the bacterium itself."

chrisrkline1960

02/20/2007 08:31:51 AM

I still do not understand the whole notion that God hides when we look for him in certain ways. The classic argument is that he wants faith. In every other aspect of our lives we love those things we know the best. Why is it somehow different with God? I am familiar with most of the classic arguments here, but I still see the whole thing as illogical. One argument is that free will demands we love Him as a choice, not as coercion; If God shows us his true nature, he would, in a sense, be coercing us to love, because how could we choose any other. It is OK, apparently to tell us how wonderful He is, and require that we go out and share this with others. He can also, at seemingly random intervals, intervene in a miraculous way in some lives, but not to an extent that it would be clear if we really looked at the evidence. He is like some shadow we see in our peripheral vision, that we know is there, but that disappears when we look straight at it. Maybe this is a neat image, but it still makes no sense.

chrisrkline1960

02/20/2007 08:31:24 AM

Make no mistake; God could make Himself clear. Christians claim it all the time, in their own lives. Our church prays every week for our sick. If someone is cured we attribute this to God; if they don’t, well we say it is all part of the plan. Today most Christians do not really believe that prayer works—because it doesn’t. I know Christians give “reasons” why prayers don’t always seem to work—“God answers every prayer, but not the way we intend…” or some other rationalization. But if you get botulism again, do you really know a prayer will work? In the same way I know that medicine will probably work? Which would you bet on; medicine and no prayer or prayer and no medicine?

chrisrkline1960

02/20/2007 07:57:26 AM

Sorry about the misspelling of anecdotal. I knew it was wrong; forgot to change.

chrisrkline1960

02/20/2007 07:56:00 AM

As far as experimental proof, anachdotal evidence does not count. Scientists have to conduct controlled experiments. There have been several, some initially that showed some promise, but were shown later to be flawed (I think the researcher was inadvertently looking at large pools of data and selecting parts that fit the hypothesis) and one large recent experiment that showed no correlation between prayer and cure rates. Medical researchers are required to control for the placebo effect. That is Statistical Research 101. It was not about you. I suspect that the majority of people suffering from botulism say a private prayer. How many were cured?

sheri1555stl

02/19/2007 08:53:17 PM

"Weird things happen all the time. If it is due to conscious prayer, then it ought to show up in controlled experiments." This assumes that God would be willing to be your lab rat and subject Himself to your experimentation, for what?What would such an experiment prove, even if we duplicated the scenario, by experiment, and got the same results? Would that give you faith in God? I think from scripture, such an experiment would be useless to God; God wants faith, which such an experiment would preclude. If faith, then action, not if action on His part, then faith. Would that reliably produce in you the faith that God wants for relationship with Him? I doubt it. Being useless for that end, the experiment would be unreliable to God for settling God for you, not prompting any faith, worship, or obedience, and, in the end, unreliable and meaningless to you as well.

sheri1555stl

02/19/2007 08:42:15 PM

Chris, there are already such studies out there, of people who have seen their DOCTORS, been diagnosed with little to no prognosis for survival; and, then survived, after having their congregations pray, astounding their doctors. People give testimonials like this all the time. If you're holding out for the amputee's regenerated limb, a magic show, to have faith in what would no longer require faith, then I don't know what to tell you. Doctors give the symptoms of heart disease, published for the general public, that distinguish it from, heartburn/indigestion, so please don'tpersist in trying to belittle intelligence. The same with mild food poisoning, which acts more like a virus, causing some stomach upset and diarrhea. I had neither, but a fever that was WELL over 100 degrees, and knowledge of what I had ingested. If was healed instantaneously, what would a doctor have left to analyze? My normal temperature? If it comforts you to believe me deluded and suffering from a placebo effect, then so be it.

chrisrkline1960

02/19/2007 06:29:44 PM

I did not say you did not have botulism or that you were not very sick. I asked for the evidence. Was your diagnosis confirmed by a doctor? Weird things happen all the time. If it is due to conscious prayer, then it ought to show up in controlled experiments. And yes the amputee thing is tedious. It is tedious how easy it is for convinced Christians can over look it.

chrisrkline1960

02/19/2007 06:26:51 PM

What evidence? Clearly people feel ill, and then feel better. Did I have a heart disease miraculously cured? Or was it indigestion. Was I throwing up after eating because of mild food poisoning, or was it botulism? If I do not go to the hospital, how do I know? How does my questioning the existence of God beg the question? If you mean that I am rejecting evidence of those cures of the form "I felt bad; then I felt good" then yes. This is exactly what medical scientists do all the time to eliminate the possibility of the placebo effect. They set up controlled experiments. I want to see studies of Christians with real, medically confirmed illnesses, that have know spontaneous cure rates, and see what effect prayer has on the known statistical results. In other words, not periodic cures of things that we know periodically, and spontaneously, cure on their own. And I would like to see some cures of problems with a known 0% cure rate--like amputees.

sheri1555stl

02/19/2007 06:17:27 PM

If you think my botulism would have gone away on its own like a toenail fungus, than please feel free to view them with the same veracity. I don't think the medical community would say that any and all cases of botulism can just go away without medical attention; and, for you to suggest that mine ws mild enough to do so either questions my ability to tell the difference or questions my honesty. And for the amputee thing, and I think this is the last thing I'm going to say about it, as this is getting tedious, are there not other doctors who can do what he could have done, had his limb been restored? Our wauys are not His, nor our understanding. I'm not going to keep trying to guess for you His reasons (beyond the obvious show in power contradictory to faith) for not allowing this particular mputee to continue to serve with the missing limb by restoring it. Our rationales sound great and convincingly good, but aren't always the best. I'll talk to you later, chrisrkline.

sheri1555stl

02/19/2007 06:07:16 PM

Assumed in your evaluation of any evidence, is the premise that there is no God, which is begging the question. I know that my miracles are real BECAUSE I take science into consideration, i.e. am I really sick? Would anyone in my state normally require medical attention? Do I stll have symptoms of the sme sickness after I prayed and believed that I received a positive response? Did I only pray, or did I also take something and forget that I did? I didn't say anything about any "faith" healers, as I have never visited any of those; and seeking one out carries with it the added element of their motivation, which could be money and exploitation (I don't trust them). And the studies that you speak have been done and are numerous, with MIXED results.

sheri1555stl

02/19/2007 06:00:56 PM

I don't remember ever suggesting that I denounced medical care, chris. As a matter of fact, I said that Christians believe that God heals through medicine as well. "I'm not interested in what Christians report about their cured illnesses. I want facts." And of course, by your logic, they can never be one and the same. If a Christian is healed by any means other than medical science, then s/he was not factually healed. You say that you seek evidence, then you categorically discredit any evidence given; for, if God heals through science/ medicine, it can be naturalistically explained, so it doesn't show God/there is no God. If He heals without science/medicine, the recipient wasn't healed/there is no God. Any evidence will show there is no God for you, no matter how contradictory, because you reject any evidence that shows anything other than science.

chrisrkline1960

02/19/2007 05:52:41 PM

I know all the "reasons" christians give for God not curing amputees. But it only makes sense if you are predisposed to believe anything. Why would God cure toenail fungus, but not a missing right arm? But of course, he doesn't really cure toenail fungus; that was the drugstore stuff. But when do we get to say when he does or does not do something. Why is your unconfirmed cure of botulism due to Him, but not my toenail fungus disappearing? Does he only cure life debilitating illnesses? Surely, there must of been one, just one amputee in the history of the world that he could have cured--just one future doctor whose cure might have lead to hundreds of others saved in surgery. Even one, just one?

sheri1555stl

02/19/2007 05:49:59 PM

I'm sorry, not belie, underscore.

chrisrkline1960

02/19/2007 05:45:43 PM

I do not have to belie anything; I am an atheist. I am not interested in what Christians report about their cured illnesses. I want facts. You are not claiming that God will only cure sickness if you eschew medical care? (unless it is an amputee or advanced muscular dystrophy) If you are suggesting this, then you are dangerous. My guess is that if your child contracts cholera, you will pick the medicine and not the faith healer. But the medicine will work just as well for the Christian as for the heathen. I am guessing that with the faith healer, the results would be identical what we would expect on just random chance of a cure. I want a study where you set up two statistically similar groups, one control, and have people pray for one, but not for the other. See what happens--oh, but they did this study already.

sheri1555stl

02/19/2007 05:44:08 PM

Curing my botulism allowed me to live, to continue to do His service, without which, I would have died. There are Christians (and others) who have sought cures they thought they needed, and still wait for, to be comforted only by the promise of eternal haelth elsewhere, when they don't get what they ask for. This in no way nullifies my immediate answer to my request. If He had thought differently about my needing the response that I got, I would have gotten a different/negative response, I'm sure.

sheri1555stl

02/19/2007 05:38:30 PM

And maybe, just maybe, God doesn't grow back limbs on amputees or heads of decapitated persons, or continue to resurrect the dead (as He did with Lazarus), because, as I pointed out, that never gave faith to the witnesses who saw these events firsthand, who were already inclined to doubt Him, and such written reports of such occurences in the scriptures now only strengthen faith for those who would have faith anyway without the testimony of the events. God calls for faith; such blatant, "show-off" acts of power would not call for faith to believe, as no one grows back heads or limbs, and this would prove something unnatural or supernatural. He is not trying to prove His existence to you. Christians and other theists erroneously make that attempt. He asks for willing faith. Either you are willing or you are not.

chrisrkline1960

02/19/2007 05:31:12 PM

But why should he cure botulism but never an amputee? How well amputees do with their disability is irrelevant. Or are you saying that God would not restore their limb, but he would restore their will to live a useful life? I know, I know, you don't have to tell me: it is part of the mystery. Don't ask; he won't tell.

sheri1555stl

02/19/2007 05:28:39 PM

You put too much faith in what your stats tell you, chris, as your interpretations of the findings only belie your atheistic belief. People have reported to answered prayer in droves, so what statistics don't bear that out? Your not having "proof" of them and your studies only play out to the fact that they turned to God alone rather than God through science or medicine (for Christians feel that all healing, even in medicine, utimately comes from God), and when they do report strictly supernatural healings/miracles, you, in essence, call them liars.

sheri1555stl

02/19/2007 05:17:02 PM

And as for the amputees, I'm sure that God has something else planned for them, that they have not considered (seeing only their 'need' for their restored limbs and fear at having to do with the loss of them) -something that, by their faith in God to do so, surpasses what they could have ever imagined they could do in such a state, or even in what they would consider a perfectly healthy state for themselves(Isa.55.8,9), if only they would relinquish the thought that they know better. Therein lies faith, and such hope gives a life of suffering universal to us all, saint and sinner alike - meaning.

chrisrkline1960

02/19/2007 05:10:33 PM

I am not saying I should get what I ask for, when I ask. I do say that if God does answer any prayers at all, this would show up statistically. People like to claim that their various illnesses were cured by God, but they always seem to be the types of things that might cure on their own, or are due to hidden pathologies that we have no proof were actually cured ("I had no kidneys, and now I have two!) So far, all studies seem to indicate that praying has no more affect than chance would allow. His affects are hidden, and do not have to be. But the fact is: God has never cured an amputee. Why not? If you think God is mad if I ask this, sorry, but he needs to get over it. The question of why he apparently hides from us is legitimate.

sheri1555stl

02/19/2007 05:09:04 PM

Sorry about the double posts. My computer is old and won't "submit" posts right away. When you "submit" again, it submits for both the first and second attempt. The verses 7-31 of John 14 put verse 14 into context that Jesus is telling us to ask whatever we will that is necessary/beneficial for the believer to the implementation of the Christian lifestyle (as does Matt.6.25-34; 7.7-11), to do the (good) works that he did, i.e. keep His Father's commandments, by faith, which His hearers were unable to do under the Jewish Law, for human shortcomings/failures, "that the Father may be glorified in the Son."(v.13).

sheri1555stl

02/19/2007 04:58:29 PM

On the Richard Dawkins, "Why I am Hostile Towards Religion" discussion board, I have addressed this very issue with chrisrkline. Passages such as Matt.12.38-42;16.1-4; Mark 8.11.12; Luke 11.16-23,29-32; and John 2.18-22; 6.29-40 detail Jesus' reponse to "show-and-tell" faithless requests for demonstrations of God's power, that, in the end, don't lead to faith anyway, versus passages such as Matt.7.7-12; Psa.37.3-5; I Jn.3.16-23; 5.14-16, that, in context, tell of requests made by believers that are consistent with the Christian lifestyle. There is a "codicil" on John 14.14 that applies to the believers requests for benefits necessary/beneficial to the successful implementation of the Christian lifestyle, that do not presuppose any sense of entitlement to Santa Clause-like lists for blessings/requests that God is obligated to act upon. Verses 7-31 put verse 14 in context in John 14, as to the works that we will do, i.e. ability to keep His commandments.

sewells1951

02/19/2007 04:03:07 PM

sheri, okay, you aren't claiming that god can make a rock so heavy god cannot lift it. Doesn't look like we are going to get anywhere that way. But, you talk of miracles. There are a lot of amputees out there. Particulary with the war and all. Some of them just have to, statistically speaking, be 'good christian folk'. Have you ever known of an amputee that prayed for their limbs to be regenerated where god regrew their limb(s)? I'm asking because in the new testament, at John 14:14 Jesus is supposed to have said, "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." Seems to me that a lot of amputees have asked and it hasn't been done.

sheri1555stl

02/19/2007 03:49:08 PM

Our understanding can only grasp 'all-powerful' to mean all the power that we have ever known (which limits one from making that heavy rock, without also being able to lift it), and 'all-knowing' to mean knowing all things that we could know, past, present, and future, logicall speaking. God, as I understand Him, though, is not limited to our understanding of Him, (logic)which, of course, begs the question of my understanding of Him in the first place. If errors in my understanding of Him yielded a conclusion that involved God being limited to my understanding, than I would have to readily admit God to be nothing worthy of being called God (just a "superhuman"), nothing more than an anthropomorphic projection of myself, and discredit my own miraculous experiences. That doesn't mesh with my worldview to discredit those experiences, or with any scientific discovery that would try to explain my miracles.

sheri1555stl

02/19/2007 03:34:52 PM

Sewells, I believe in a God who exists outside of a space/time continuum, but is able to "interrupt" that continuum. I also believe that people are bound by both space and time; and, that God, as He interacts with people and our natural world, does conform to space and time (most of the time, miracles notwithstanding). Outside of space and time, things that we know such 2+2=4 don't have to. In God's math, 2 fishes and 5 loaves = enough food to feed 5,000 men, not counting women and children, and 1 man + 1 woman = 1 person/flesh, bringing His reality into ours. God is limited within our reality as to what He actually does, because of our space/time boundaries, so no, He doesn't make rocks so heavy that He can't lift them (and logically cannot) or tell Himself secrets that He doesn't already know (and logically cannot) in our world. But, I don't believe that how we know what we know, logically speaking and limited to space/time continuum, necessarily exists outside of our space/time continuum.

sewells1951

02/19/2007 03:31:15 PM

sheri, the main thing that seems to be not understood about 'god' is that it isn't possible for 'god' if such a deity were to exist at all, to be all powerful or all knowing. The world we live in would be different if it were possible for some deity to be all powerful or all knowing.

sheri1555stl

02/19/2007 03:20:20 PM

This would give some insight into the unknowable, not seen face-to-face, God, as a loving God, wanting to express that love to humankind enough to bring about the Incarnation, death, burial, and Resurrection of Yeshua/Jesus. Obviously, there are still a lot of things not understood about God, and insight is not equivalent to full knowledge in any way. Also, for those who do not accept Jesus'claims or existence even, it turns out to be not even insight at all, let alone knowledge of any kind. Jesus was speaking to those who were theists but didn't understand who God was/who they were worshipping. He wasn't speaking to atheists, and scripture doesn't really address atheism. That's a larger issue that has to be settled by what one feels the world is telling them from their own observations, and what comprises one's initial worldview by which one interprets his/her observations of the world.

sewells1951

02/19/2007 03:20:01 PM

sheri, again with the all powerful, all knowing eh? Do you understand that the world would be different than it actually is if the premise of an all powerful, all knowing entity were valid? When you postulate the existence of an all powerful, all knowing god, whether you understand it or not, whether you realize it or not or whether you admit it or not, you are implying that there is no such thing as falsehood. You are saying that any and all statements are true.

sewells1951

02/19/2007 03:14:04 PM

Ma7addat, I would agree with you. And, if one is convinced by Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics (as I am) as to what constitutes 'being good' for a human, then one would have an ethical obligation to know.

sheri1555stl

02/19/2007 03:13:36 PM

"If a man was ever resurrected, it seems more reasonable to infer that very power aliens helped him..." More reasonable to whom? Not to me. The whole assumption underlying that statement addresses my concept of worldview. If one has not allowed for an "inconceivable all-powerful, all-knowing God" in one's worldview, then another human-like, but superior to humans, intelligence, not yet found by humans, but possibly able to be found scientifically someday, would be the only alternative, to a man doing something yet unable to be done in simply human strength alone. I believe that Yeshua had to do with God because He Himself said to believe His works (speaking to those who had already accepted a God), and He claimed to be God(John 10.22-42; 14.6-11). He also said that He was revealing His Father(God)(John 14.6-11; I Jn.4.12-16).

Ma7addat

02/19/2007 02:39:35 PM

jd70, Yes, it is relatively more reasonable to assume that aliens helped the Egyptians build the pyramids than to infer that God helped them. However, relatively more reasonable does not necessarily mean reasonable. And why project a cause? Because that's what we're interested in. By all means, you may admit there are things you do not know. However, if a man named Yeshua was resurrected, I need some explanation for that event (whether it be natural or divine). In general, when someone is seeking an explanation, it does no good to ask, "Why seek an explanation?" For if there is a good explanation out there for the phenomenon in question, why not seek it? Why should we admit that this is just another one of the things that we do not know?

jd70

02/19/2007 09:19:43 AM

"If a man was ever resurrected, it seems more reasonable to infer that very power aliens helped him than an inconceivable all-powerful, all-knowing God." It is? Did they make the pyramids too? Why project a cause at all? Why not just admit that there are things we don't know.

Ma7addat

02/18/2007 09:44:04 PM

Sheri , I've read the Bible. You don't need to summarize it. I am ask you, why do you believe that Yeshua (the man you call 'Jesus') had anything to do with God? His whole claim is based on the truth of the Jewish scripture, which is the very embodiment of anthropomorphism. How is your God not anthropomorphic? Also, you missed my question. What is it about the supposed truth of the incarnation that should give us any insight into God's metaphysical nature? If a man was ever resurrected, it seems more reasonable to infer that very power aliens helped him than an inconceivable all-powerful, all-knowing God. The aid of aliens is a far more parsimonious hypothesis than supposing something about the metaphysical nature of God.

sheri1555stl

02/18/2007 03:47:36 PM

Thanks, jacknky. jd70 was saying that he found the Eight Fold Path to be compatible with Christianity.

jacknky

02/18/2007 02:07:26 PM

sheri, It's my understanding that the Buddha made no claims to divinity or supernatural powers. He was simply an extraordinary man who taught a path to reduce or eliminate suffering. He did not teach that we should look outside ourselves for wisdom but rather within. "Be a light unto yourself." Humans being humans, that didn't stop us from making a god out of the Buddha with rituals, creed and dogma. But at it's core we non-theists can be right at home with Buddhist teachings because it isn't dependent on belief in any divinity. My experience in the US is that many of those practicing Buddhist meditation are unable to believe in a god but are still seeking a framework to seek wisdom and truth.

sheri1555stl

02/18/2007 03:33:50 AM

Thanks for the readings, jd and FutureShy.

sheri1555stl

02/18/2007 03:31:17 AM

The only manhood that I believe God participates in is represented in the person Jesus.

sheri1555stl

02/18/2007 03:30:30 AM

ma7addat, an anthropomorphism is a projection of man. I said that Christians would deny that this is what God is to them, just a projection of our ideals onto some nebulous, non-existent something "out there." I did not say what YOUR position was, but what the Christian position was. Also, the Christian scriptures quote Jesus as saying that he who has seen me has seen the Father(Jn.14.7-11;6.46). Christians believe in a trinity; based, on these words of Christ, being acquainted with and believing in the life of Christ, reveals the nature of God that He wants to reveal to mankind, a nature that was somewhat obscured in the Old Testament. Obviously, you can take exception to any of the above and hold that God is only an anthropomorphism or non-existent or something in all of nature or some person across the street. I was only speaking to what I took to be Hume's definition of me (as really a "superstitious atheist"), as presented by you.

FutureShy

02/17/2007 10:53:38 PM

jd70, great book recommendations. However I like Thich Nhat Hanh's TNH's "Living Buddha, Living Christ" over his "Going Home." The latter, IIRC, are transcripts of THN's 'dharma talks' while "LB,LC" was conceived and written as a book. As such, it flows extremely well. And Elaine Pagels' foreword is a absolute must read. For those interested in a primer on Buddhist 'insight meditation,' (which I think Xtians [nbarring religious right, of course] would be very comfortable with) I also strongly recommend

Ma7addat

02/17/2007 02:02:03 PM

Sheri , How does the incarnation give us metaphysical knowledge about God? Also, you think that the God of Christians, Jews, and Muslims is not anthropomorphic? Surely, the Jewish Bible paints an anthropomorphic picture of Yahweh. God is sometimes angry and vengeful, and sometimes forgiving and pitiful, but always an invisible man -- quintessentially man. In Christianity, the inference that like effects have like causes has led many to think that God is like a more perfect man. Man creates clocks and machines, and the world is like a more perfect machine, thus we infer that God is a more perfect man. And in Islam, God is seen in the beauty of words. Those who speak on behalf of God have an unprecedented lyrical ability. God's standard of beauty is quintessentially human -- more particularly, Arabian man. How is this not anthropomorphism?

jd70

02/17/2007 06:38:10 AM

This html thing is not agreeing with me . here they are: http://www.amazon.com/Going-Home-Jesus-Buddha-Brothers/dp/1573228303 http://www.amazon.com/Happiness-Here-Now-Eightfold-Revisited/dp/0826412459

jd70

02/17/2007 06:30:05 AM

sheri: I believe it is compatible with Christianity. The eight fold path is very similar to the beatitudes of Jesus. Meditation can be practiced by anyone. Here the link I put up before along with some other good books if you are interested: Being Peace eight fold path link Jesus and Buddha as brothers peace..

sheri1555stl

02/16/2007 11:37:45 PM

That should ask, "is it compatible?," not "it is compatible."

Beliefnet_Tiger

02/16/2007 10:07:42 PM

As a reminder: Those members wishing to post hotlinks on the mini-boards need to use an html code that opens a separate window, otherwise it will not appear correctly. The code is: [a href="URL"target="_blank"]TITLE[/a] Substitute for [] Thank you, Beliefnet_Tiger Community Monitor

sheri1555stl

02/16/2007 08:41:44 PM

jd, I like what you sent about the Eight Fold Path; on the surface, it looks pretty straightforward and practical. It is compatible with Christianity? Tell me more.

sheri1555stl

02/16/2007 08:32:59 PM

I see that you state Harris' position on the religiosity of Buddhism as predicated on others' perceptions of it based on how so many practice it (plunge's position that it is a religion);but, that, as a "contemplative science," then it is anything but a religion (jd's referral to the Eight Fold Path). I wasn't really taking a position on whether it was or was not a religion, only that I had thought that some others who were Buddhist and had posted on the board, did not think so (contrary to plunge's negation of my assertion that atheists exempted Buddhism from being a religion), and that I didn't think that Harris considered it one. Plunge did point out that dichotomy in a later post though (2/16/07, 3:01:27p.m.), so he may have already had a pretty good understanding of Harris' position on the matter. Thanks for sharing that article though, ma7addat.

sheri1555stl

02/16/2007 08:17:12 PM

That's very interesting, ma7addat. I'll have to go back and reread my Hume. Of course, that makes God nothing more than an anthropomorphism, a view which I think most Christians (I can't speak for Muslims or Jews) would deny. Also, for Christians, the Incarnation makes it possible to know something (while not everything) of the metaphysical nature of God. I would classify Hume's position, as you have summarized, as defining more deism than theism. I would say that calling a theist a "superstititious atheist" would be something an atheist would say of a theist, and not something a theist would ever say of him/herself.

Ma7addat

02/16/2007 05:54:18 PM

Sheri , The English philosopher David Hume actually believed that most Christians could more accurately be called superstitious atheists than true theists. He suggests that since most Christians view God as literally an invisible man, they are not truly theists. For Hume, a true theist sees God as in some sense responsible for the design of the universe, but such a theist must remain humble in her assumptions about God's metaphysical or ontological nature. Ultimately, a true theist can never know anything about God by any means whatever. As in Kant, God is at best a mere postulate for morality for Hume.

Ma7addat

02/16/2007 05:44:40 PM

Sheri and Plunge, See this article from the Shambhala Sun for Harris' exact position on Buddhism as a religion. Briefly, he states:"While it may be true enough to say (as many Buddhist practitioners allege) that 'Buddhism is not a religion,' most Buddhists worldwide practice it as such, in many of the naive, petitionary, and superstitious ways in which all religions are practiced."Harris' point is that if Buddhism is (what he calls) a contemplative science, then it makes as little sense to call those insights "Buddhist" as it makes to call algebra "Muslim" mathematics (for example).

gadje

02/16/2007 04:34:38 PM

sheri1555stl 2/16/2007 3:28:29 PM I don't know who Diocletian, Theodocious I or Hypatia were (not historian); but, I'll look them up and get back to you. I've already admitted to the atrocities committed at the hands of some Christians so nothing new is being offered here. I just thought that you were saying that no early Christians (or modern ones) were ever being persecuted. Obviously the violence has gone both ways; but, I don't think these are the ones that jd was refering to, that you addressed, but instead those like Stephen and Paul, et.al. " No, no, no, sheri... the intent of my original post was not to get an admission of guilt and shame from you. Jd70 mentioned coercion of early christians by the roman state and then I added my two cents. Thats all. I also did not mean to give you an extra "work load", you and plunge and others seem to have plenty on your plate, I think my initial post may have disrupted the discussion flow. Woops.

jd70

02/16/2007 04:23:13 PM

I actually was referring to the first disciples, but I do see gadge's point.

jd70

02/16/2007 04:11:51 PM

Sheri you are correct. Although there have been supernatural ideas introduced to Buddhism it is primarly about learning to overcome suffering through following the Eight Fold Path , which is not predicated on belief.

sheri1555stl

02/16/2007 03:31:29 PM

Now, I really must go. I'll talk to you later, plunge and gadge.

sheri1555stl

02/16/2007 03:28:29 PM

gadge, I found your questions. I don't know who Diocletian, Theodocious I or Hypatia were (not historian); but, I'll look them up and get back to you. Even if I find that those Christians were intolerant of non-Christians or subversive, I've already admitted to the atrocities committed at the hands of some Christians, including the Crusades and the inquisitions, so nothing new is being offered here. I just thought that you were saying that no early Christians (or modern ones) were ever being persecuted. Obviously the violence has gone both ways; but, I don't think these are the ones that jd was refering to, that you addressed, but instead those like Stephen and Paul, et.al.

plunge

02/16/2007 03:23:30 PM

sherri: I do not make that assertion. I don't know whether there is a god or not. I don't see any reason to believe that there is, and so I don't believe it. Again, saying "I do not believe in God" is enough to get people to call you an atheist. But notice that it is not, in fact, any sort of grand claim or ideology. It is the lack of belief in a SPECIFIC claim/ideology.

gadje

02/16/2007 03:17:13 PM

sheri1555stl 2/16/2007 3:02:49 PM You can't repeat them? and I don't remember any sentenes in your post with question marks." So now we have to repeat posts?<-- If you didnt see any that just means you are just skimming and not actually reading which defeats the point of a discussion, does it not?<-

sheri1555stl

02/16/2007 03:16:25 PM

plunge, I think the assertion - one - of atheism is that there is no god, whther based on one's sense of logic, reason, scientific discoveries, being in a bad mood, impatience with professing-theist atrocities, bewilderment at human suffering, etc., whatever. And as for your 3:01:27p.m. post, fair enough. I'm getting tired of this volleying. I think I'll go now.

gadje

02/16/2007 03:15:10 PM

sheri1555stl 2/16/2007 2:57:32 PM And how is refusing to pay Pax Deum, which they probably considered idolatry for themselves, and tking the injurious consequences of said refusal, being intolerant to non-Christians? Sounds like an exercise of conscience to me ala Daniel in the lions'den. " Sheri, you are all over the map and way off. Never said it was intolerant to non-christians. In fact, many pagans would pinch the incense to the emperor for their christian neighbors. Pax Deum was like our pledge of allegiance. Refusing to recite our pledge of allegiance, say, during the 'red scare' would have put you in the ire of mccarthy. And i'll say it again, they were extended the offer to pray for the emperor like the jews were afforded but still refused. How is 'praying for' idolatry?

plunge

02/16/2007 03:05:29 PM

I think we can all agree that this particular discussion forum is pretty crummy in its utility for long multithreaded discussions.

plunge

02/16/2007 03:03:46 PM

sherri, what do you think are the "assertions of atheism"??? As far as I know, the only assertion I am making by saying that I'm an atheist is an assertion about myself: I don't have god beliefs. Interestingly, that's not an assertion that I can prove to you: all I can do is assure you that I've done a very careful inventory of my thoughts and beliefs and haven't found anything of the sort of god belief amongst them.

sheri1555stl

02/16/2007 03:02:48 PM

You can't repeat them? That was many posts and a couple of pages ago, and I don't remember any sentenes in your post with question marks.

plunge

02/16/2007 03:01:27 PM

Harris may not accept it as a religion as he practices it, but it's clearly a major world religion, and it is clearly for many of its practitioners non-theistic. Keep in mind that Harris' target is not quite religion period, but religion qua faith. I doubt Harris has much problem with deism, which isn't atheist but isn't religious either, and I doubt he finds much to criticize with Tolland-esque panatheism which IS a religion, and IS a theistic religion, but is 100% rational (to explain: they consider "all that exists" to be their God, and relate to it and worship it as God, though they do not ascribe to it a personality or indeed anything outside of what we know of it via scientific study)

sheri1555stl

02/16/2007 03:01:00 PM

Agnosticism is compatible with atheism, of course. It just doesn't place the truth values on the assertions of atheism that atheism does, withholding judgment.

gadje

02/16/2007 03:00:03 PM

sheri1555stl 2/16/2007 2:53:49 PM What question did you ask me, gadge, that I did not answer? " Well... um... if you cant read the sentences with question marks after them... i dunno what ta tell ya'?<--

sheri1555stl

02/16/2007 02:57:32 PM

And how is refusing to pay Pax Deum, which they probably considered idolatry for themselves, and tking the injurious consequences of said refusal, being intolerant to non-Christians? Sounds like an exercise of conscience to me ala Daniel in the lions'den.

sheri1555stl

02/16/2007 02:53:49 PM

What question did you ask me, gadge, that I did not answer?

sheri1555stl

02/16/2007 02:50:58 PM

I don't think Harris considers Buddhism a religion, plunge; or else he wouldn't accept any of its foundationl principles for meditation, or call for an end to religion, without being a hypocrite. I really think he only thinks of it as a spiritual exercise. And, I don't think jacknky or jd70 think of it as a religion.

plunge

02/16/2007 02:50:48 PM

sherri, why are you trying to tell atheists what atheism is akin to? Harris accepts the same definition of atheism I do. He also has some very specific ideas about what is right and rational. Either you agree with those ideas or you don't, but they aren't the ideas of atheism (what, there was no atheism before Harris came along?) but rather the ideas of one particular atheist. You're making the same mistake of trying to treat a privative definition like a positive one. They aren't the same. For the record, agnosticism is 100% compatible with atheism, and in fact I would characterize myself as an atheist agnostic. I don't know, I don't believe. In fact, for me, the two go together.

plunge

02/16/2007 02:47:12 PM

David Berlinksi is an atheist who denies evolution. There were, of course, many many atheists who lived long before Darwin who had never even heard of evolution. Non-theist Buddhists are atheists, and Buddhism is a religion: it's not exempted. There are many atheists who are ultra-skeptics about everything, including human knowledge. Many ultra-relativists are atheists. I myself am an atheist that shares almost nothing in common with those atheists. Mao was an atheist (I think: the record is confused and he believed all sorts of nutty things), but I can't imagine a person LESS like me, an atheist.

sheri1555stl

02/16/2007 02:47:09 PM

sewells, when did I espouse a "Christian" or Chinese or Muslim, etc. logic? Where did you get that? Thank you, jacknky. I think you expressed what I was saying.

plunge

02/16/2007 02:46:05 PM

Well sherri, it was meant to be colorful, not ridiculous. :) However, calling it ridiculous is not the same thing as providing a sound argument that it is wrong. The point of the illustration is that we can define things by what they are NOT, and this is in fact exactly what we are doing in the case of non-cones and non-theists (atheists). But defining what something is not isn't the same thing as defining it by what it is. You are mixing up the two activities when you try to talk about atheists doing anything as atheists, qua atheism. To be fair, I think there are many many atheists who don't quite get this either. It is a fairly subtle, though important, distinction.

sheri1555stl

02/16/2007 02:45:18 PM

plunge part2. The suspension of belief in theism is more akin to agnosticism, than atheism. Atheism, as has been argued for on the board and by Harris, is more a belief (based on acceptance of scientific logic and inability to submit the subject, i.e. God/gods, to material reductionism) in the absence of God/gods, than it is an absence of belief in God/gods. And the public discourse that Harris wants to change the beliefs of the theists (and call for intolerance towards the beliefs of those who refuse to recant) is hardly "private" either.

gadje

02/16/2007 02:44:31 PM

sheri1555stl 2/16/2007 2:24:06 PM Thats funny, gadge, that you say that the period of persecution was exaggerated, since we're still in that period in this century. There are Christian missionaries stil being killed and imprisoned in some countries for spreading the Gospel." Look, I was origianlly responding to something jd70 posted about the romans coercing the christians, got it? Anyway, just giving a little history lesson. The point being that, ironically, christians from the time of Theodosius I until the enlightenment were extremely intolerant of anyone non-christian or 'apostate' to orthodox christianity. Hence, their obstinance to Pax Deum. I notice you did not answer any of my questions. Very telling. To paraphrase Mark Twain, commenting on the sending of american missionaries to china: "Send those missionaries back here to convert these christians".

sheri1555stl

02/16/2007 02:38:11 PM

plunge, your analogy of coneness is ridiculous. Whether we are cones are not and that we are both human beings, obviously can be empirically verified. Our sets of religious beliefs about the existence or non-existence of God/gods cannot. The fact that we hold the beliefs (or suspension thereof) can be, but not the subject of those beliefs. Please show me the religious atheists, as the normative definition of religious is characterized by theistic beliefs or engaging in rituals/rites associated with the worship of said entities. Religious atheist is a contradiction in terms, since Buddhism has been exempted from being a religion by atheists. And what of these atheists who reject logic or evolution, the scientific forerunner explaining the origins of life on earth. If they also reject Creationism, on the grounds of rejection of theism, what do they postulate as the cause of life on earth, or do they believe life to be uncaused? I don't know of any such atheists.

sheri1555stl

02/16/2007 02:24:05 PM

Thats funny, gadge, that you say that the period of persecution was exaggerated, since we're still in that period in this century. There are Christian missionaries stil being killed and imprisoned in some countries for spreading the Gospel.

plunge

02/16/2007 12:53:55 PM

sheri, what you continue to miss is that "atheism" at least as most atheists define it, is a privative category, not something in and of itself. Saying that I am an atheist is the same to me as saying that I am a non-ice cream cone. You are also a non-ice cream cone. You and I, in fact, probably share a lot of similar values. However, it makes little sense to ascribe these things to our non-ice cream coneness. The positive reasons that we are similar, such that we are both human beings, are what are relevant. There are atheists who are religious, superstitious, who reject logic, who deny evolution, who are sadists, and so on. The same is, in fact, true of non-ice cream cones, AND IN THE EXACT SAME WAY. A person can even run around claiming to act on their non-ice cream coneness the same way they can claim to act on their atheism. But this is a form of semantic confusion, not a helpful guide to their actions.

sewells1951

02/16/2007 12:35:25 PM

To be clear, I am only talking about the premise of an omnipotent god. There might be some valid concept of a god short of omnipotence although I don't claim to know what that concept might be or how it might differ from a simple claim that it might be possible for beings more advanced than we are to exist. But claims for the existence of an all powerful, all knowing god are simply not consistent with the reality we inhabit. Children, when presented with the idea of an omnipotent god, tend to ask EXACTLY the right questions. Could god make a rock so heavy that god couldn't move it? Could god tell god a screct god didn't already know? Claims of omnipotence and omniscience necessarily entail contradictions. Such claims are not possibly valid.

sewells1951

02/16/2007 12:31:40 PM

jacknky, let me be clear. It is a simple premise. It's an existence claim. And, it quite frankly never ceases to boggle my mind that it wasn't settled quite some time back. I say this because it has been known for some time, strictly logically speaking, that a valid premise cannot possibly entail a contradiction. That is the case for a simple, simple reason. If a valid premise entailed a contradiction, it can be proven (in the same way a math conjecture can be proven) that all statements would have exactly the same truth value. If a valid premise entailed a contradiction then all statements would be true. It would quit literally be the case that 2 + 2 = 4 would be true and so would 2 + 2 = 5 be true. That isn't the way the world is, pure and simple.

jacknky

02/16/2007 11:41:45 AM

sewell, I am impressed with your openness in considering what logic is. "These varying 'logics' don't yield the same result when used to evaluate a relatively simple premise; i.e., that an omnipotent god might exist." Good grief, do you really think this is a "simple" premise"? Well, it may be simple but it isn't easy. Personally, your term "MIGHT exist" leads me to conclude, Yes, an omnipotent God MIGHT exist. I think it's a mistake to consider this a question for which logic applies. It's subject to too many personal variables. I imagine if an irrefutable logic did apply to the question it would have been settled long ago.

sewells1951

02/16/2007 09:38:35 AM

For my part, I don't think whether or not someone is able to feel grand about what they believe is what determines how the world is. That is simply more of the kind of human egoism and arrogance that led people in the past to believe that earth was the focal point for the entirety of the universe.

sewells1951

02/16/2007 09:33:30 AM

This whole logic thing brings up an interesting comparison. There are cultural differences in the doing of math. One group might use an abacus while another group uses a slide rule while another group uses a calculator. Fair enough. The particular method of doing math is really irrelevant as long as all the methods can be shown to be equivalent and they all yield the same result for the same operation. Why then do I object to the whole idea of a 'varying criteria cultural system of reasoning' as logic? Because that approach can't be shown to produce the same result for the same operation. These varying 'logics' don't yield the same result when used to evaluate a relatively simple premise; i.e., that an omnipotent god might exist. The christian logic goes duh, no problem that I see, I like the idea, it makes me feel good, like I'm part of something grand. Logic goes, um, it leads to contradictions so it can't possibly be a valid premise.

sewells1951

02/16/2007 09:07:53 AM

jacknky, I withdraw my objection to your use of the logic. I found a definition for it as "a system of reasoning". Then I found a definition of reasoning: rea·son·ing /ˈrizənɪŋ, ˈriznɪŋ/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[ree-zuh-ning, reez-ning] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation –noun 1. the act or process of a person who reasons. 2. the process of forming conclusions, judgments, or inferences from facts or premises. 3. the reasons, arguments, proofs, etc., resulting from this process. So, as long as someone could be said to be reasoning in a Chinese way I guess you could say there is a Chinese logic. Still, I think a more clear distinction would be to reserve the word logic for it's primary use and to use something like "frame of reference" for the way you are using it.

sewells1951

02/16/2007 08:59:35 AM

jacknky, dictionary.com offers the following definition for logic 1. the science that investigates the principles governing correct or reliable inference. 2. a particular method of reasoning or argumentation: We were unable to follow his logic. 3. the system or principles of reasoning applicable to any branch of knowledge or study. 4. reason or sound judgment, as in utterances or actions: There wasn't much logic in her move. 5. convincing forcefulness; inexorable truth or persuasiveness: the irresistible logic of the facts. 6. Computers. logic circuit. Not much about your use of it there I think. As I said, if you are referring to a frame of reference or some conceptual sheme, then maybe what you are saying makes sense. But to use the word logic for it is to misue the word logic.

jacknky

02/16/2007 08:44:00 AM

sewell, "the notion that there is some Chinese logic, or christian logic, or islamic logic is as preposterous as saying there is a Chinese math or christian math or islamic math." I don't think that's a fair comparison. Yes, 2+2=4 is the same across cultures. But "logic" isn't. Logic can be considered a system of reasoning. Within each cultural system there may be different accepted criteria. The working of "logic" may be the same across cultures but it seems to me the criteria upon which the logics are based are very different.

sewells1951

02/16/2007 07:50:22 AM

sheri, the notion that there is some Chinese logic, or christian logic, or islamic logic is as preposterous as saying there is a Chinese math or christian math or islamic math. If you are talking about a frame of reference or a conceptual scheme, that is a different matter but logic is quite different from that.

gadje

02/16/2007 05:22:50 AM

sheri1555stl 2/15/2007 7:30:37 PM are you saying that there aren't any legitimate martyrs in the saints..who died simply for talking to others (whom that land didn't want that message spread in their region) about Jesus?" I said the period of persecution is exagerated. In fact, many Xtians and pagans got along just fine. How bad could it have been when Xtians were having a civil war for orthodoxy in the city or rome? Let us not forget that medival europe was very intolerant of anyone who was not catholic; and many Xtians burned other Xtians for being apostate or 'heretical'. Would you honor those martyrs?Would you weep for Hypatia? Are you saying diocletian was worse than Theodosius I? Again, they were not persecuted for Jesus. Ever hear of the greek Stoics? They taught brotherhood and compassion hundreds of years before christ and they were tolerated. Christians did not heed Pax Deum and were thus considered subversive(afterall they did preach that rome was the whore of babylon).

Ma7addat

02/16/2007 01:28:56 AM

To be honest, I think people are largely disgusted by the values that historical Christianity has left for posterity. I don't agree that we scorn it because its values are formed without reason.

Ma7addat

02/16/2007 01:28:42 AM

sheri1555stl, actually, those are very good questions. I just got a book by Hilary Putnam called "The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy," in which the American philosopher argues against the current (and very popular) admission of this dichotomy. It should be an interesting read, and I'll report back if I've changed my mind after reading the book... Right now though, I find a small chasm between normative and factual claims. People use facts to support and form their values (and vice versa), but this is largely an instinctive and emotive endeavour, not to mention unwarranted. As I said, however, I'm trying to see reason and emotion as two sides of the same coin, so I think one might equally well phrase this process as largely axiomatic instead of instinctive.

sheri1555stl

02/15/2007 10:06:45 PM

"We merely ask that in matters of truth, reason precede emotions." Based on your statement that "in matters of morals, emotions trump reason," and in matters of truth, reason should precede emotions, are matters of morals incapable of ever being matters of "truth"? Is what we hold true (behaviorally, morally, e.g. 'don't kill' and 'don't steal,' apart from any religious dogma, not "true"), and only science capable of truth? Is truth only that which is materially factual?

sheri1555stl

02/15/2007 09:59:57 PM

ma7addat: "In matters of morals, emotions trump reason." Are you sure this statement is consistent with the stance taken on the board so far about the very emotionally-based actions of some fudamentalist theists who acted against others not sharing their views, based on their sense of MORALS (i.e. that their victims were "heathen infidels" and deserved the violence inflicted upon them), and that they did not act on the REASON that should have motivated their behavior? I think I've heard a general position just the opposite of the one that you stated (emotions trump reason), in which reason always trumps emotions in case of morals. "The fact that you hold them in conflict..." It is not my position that reason and emotions are always in conflict with one another. On this we agree. Emotions and reason do not have to be in conflict, as long as those emotions are loving and compassionate. "Love and reason are not in conflict." True.

sheri1555stl

02/15/2007 09:37:36 PM

oops! I guess I'm addressing you both, since I started out the post to jd; and ended up addressing jacknky. :)

sheri1555stl

02/15/2007 09:36:11 PM

I'm sorry to hear that, jd. We have snow too, but I don't have to shovel it. The kids missed two days of school in a row, due to cancellations though. Godspeed you on your meditation journey, jacknky. I truly wish you well in that endeavor. Peace...

Ma7addat

02/15/2007 08:44:01 PM

sheri1555stl, none of us hold love and compassion to be secondary to science or reason in the context of human relationships. That is, we admit that the basis of effective human interaction is love and compassion. In matters of morals, emotions trump reason. In general though, love and reason are not in conflict. Emotions and reason need not be in conflict. The fact that you hold them in conflict is an apparent hold over from a Platonic, Kantian, über-rationalistic age. On average, humans are as emotional as they are rational, but more one than the other in particular situations. We merely ask that in matters of truth, reason precede emotions. Is this so radical?

jd70

02/15/2007 07:49:26 PM

Good point sheri. A balance is needed indeed. Hope your weather is better than ours in NY. I have to go shovel snow now for the 3rd time today..UHG.

sheri1555stl

02/15/2007 07:43:42 PM

jd, I think some here, unfortunately, hold understanding, love and compassion secondary to reason and science, as much as some others may pervert the same with dogma.

jd70

02/15/2007 07:40:46 PM

I wonder how many "theists", "atheists", "buddhists", etc, etc.. on this board do not believe that understanding, love, and compassion are the means to a better world. Regardless of our beliefs or how we label ourselves. Maybe it is best that we first accept that we are all human.

sheri1555stl

02/15/2007 07:32:46 PM

that should read "simply put" on the quote taken from jacknky.

sheri1555stl

02/15/2007 07:30:36 PM

gadge, are you saying that there weren't/aren't any legitimate Christian martyrs in the saints or in current and past missionaries, who die/d, not for failing to follow a law (no matter how ungodly they may find that law to be) of a land they inhabit, but simply for talking to others (whom that land didn't want that message spread in their region) about Jesus?

sheri1555stl

02/15/2007 07:14:59 PM

jacknky: "With all due respect, I think many...are doing that. Simply out, their "reality" isn't the same as ours. Listen to the rhetoric being used on this thread. If we cut to the chase we're basicly talking about different conceptions of reality and which conceptions are more "real." Well each one is real to each of us." And so is the logic governing that reality. This speaks directly to my concept of worldview. If you come to the discussionwith different world views, the logic for them is also going to differ, which is why arguing the irrationality of the other's beliefs/non-beliefs, on the logic of one's own worldview, when their worldview is supported by a different logic, is like not even talking the same language.

sheri1555stl

02/15/2007 06:52:35 PM

plunge: "The fact that some of us happen to share some values is not the same thing as us necessarily AS ATHEISTS having to share those values. We are grouping by THOSE values, not by atheism." Show me an atheist who has not attributed those shared values to the position of atheism, and used them against theists as not recognizing those values (or else they'd logically renounce their beliefs), and I'll accept that those shared values have not necessarily led you to the conclusion of atheism/rejection of theism either because some atheists do not share those values or because some with those shared values (to the prominence with which you hold them)are not atheists.

sheri1555stl

02/15/2007 06:44:08 PM

plunge: "Of course they have. But that doesn't in the least demonstrate what you want it to." What is it that I want it to demonstrate? The negation of the statement that no one has ever done anything because s/he was an atheist against a theist only for being a theist(which was phrased incorrectly as "in the name of atheism."). If it can be shown 'some are,' then that would negate 'none are.' "But nothing about being an atheist suggests that one must have such a reason or that if any atheist does, another atheist might be more likely to." I never said that atheism did suggest that one had to commit a crime against a theist only for being a theist, or that if one did, then all other atheists are so inclined. That's slippery slope. I don't have to show that 'all are,' nor was I even trying to suggest that 'all are,' only that showing that 'any/some are' negates 'none are.'

gadje

02/15/2007 05:28:11 PM

jd70 2/15/2007 4:40:00 PM "...early Christians that died at the hands of persecution they were not the ones doing the coercing for their beliefs, but rather the other way around." Technically they were not put to death for believing in jesus, they were put to death for not paying tribute to Pax Deum. It was like a pledge of allegiance to rome, the emperor, and most importantly religious diversity of the pantheom which most christians didnt aspire to. But since paying tribute to the emperor was anathema to most christians most chose to die, that is if the roman prefect was that devious. The years of persecution may have been exagerated. They were even extended the courtesy of praying for the emperor like the jews, but since, at the time, christians didnt want anything to do with judaism, christians declined this courtesy. As far as christian coercion goes, lets not forget the reign of Theodosius I which puts the pagan romans to shame.

filmalicia

02/15/2007 04:46:35 PM

Thanks, sewells, jacknky, jd, etc. I've run out of steam for now, too. Take care, all.

sewells1951

02/15/2007 04:40:27 PM

got to go to get some work done, bye all, it's been a good discussion.

jd70

02/15/2007 04:40:00 PM

I am not sure suicide falls into that realm, but for the early Christians that died at the hands of persecution they were not the ones doing the coercing for their beliefs, but rather the other way around.

sewells1951

02/15/2007 04:38:06 PM

film, heck no, better living thru chemistry is my motto, as someone who has suffered depression and taken anti-depressants. But, I would recommend against taking anti-dpressants that haven't been tested for efficacy with the scientific method. In short, I don't think that is analogous because there are good reasons to think anti-depressants work. As far as I'm concerned anyone who thinks believing in the existence of things that don't exist will help them, they have a bigger problem than being depressed to deal with.

jacknky

02/15/2007 04:38:02 PM

sewell, "Someone trying to coerce someone else." That wasn't to me but I agree. I want to make sure I'm not trying to coerce others too.

sewells1951

02/15/2007 04:34:11 PM

jd70, outside old age, accident and disease, there is only one cause of death. Someone trying to coerce someone else. People may rationalize it any of a myriad of ways but it is coercion, pure and simple, once one gets beyond the other causes of death.

jacknky

02/15/2007 04:28:26 PM

sewells, "that to agree with your position that I would have to agree that there are circumstances where knowing less about reality is demonstrably superior to knowing more about it." I think understanding reality is better but that's me. Here's an example. A mother sees her baby's brains smashed on the sidewalk. her brain shuts down. Now you may say that's a very narrow circumstance and I'd agree. The point is that on asmaller scale maybe others can't handle their "reality". I'm curious. Do you think chronically depressed people should not take antidepressants?

jacknky

02/15/2007 04:24:01 PM

sewell, "when you see people dying or killing for 'religious beliefs' they aren't doing so because of their 'religious beliefs'. They are doing that to coerce something from someone." I agree. It's more about power and that's something universal, not confined to theists.

jacknky

02/15/2007 04:22:19 PM

sewlls, "jacknky, and just how do you decide what it is that you should do? Don't your beliefs inform you as to which of the vast panoply of possible actions you should undertake. Doing is necessary but, contrary to what Dubya thinks, it isn't sufficient." Good Lord, please don't put me agreeing with Dubya. But I agree with the basis of your question and statement. I just think that our actions should have a real-world component and not be so theoretical as to be not be workable. Yes, I personallt wish more folks would put rationality higher on their list of guiding virtues. On the other hand, rationality should also be guided by "softer" principals.

jacknky

02/15/2007 04:18:03 PM

(cont'd) So, I ask again. If a Christian uses his faith to live a life of compassion and service to others, then who are we to tell him his faith is "wrong", especially if we atheists are living selfish, intellectual lives that benefit no one but ourselves? Of course, I'm not saying anyone here fits that category. The point is, again, that what matters when the rubber hits the road is what we DO, not what we BELIEVE.

jacknky

02/15/2007 04:17:46 PM

sewell, "more happy, fruitful, compassionate that what? Than those same people would lead if they were reasonable and applied the scientific method to their life?" Yes, because, to a great extent, they're incapable of applying a more rational approach to their lives. I spent much of my life around Christians being told there was something wrong with me because I didn't believe. So now, your new dogma will tell Christians there is something wrong with them because they do believe. This whole argument strikes me as going round a merry-go-round where everyone with a life view is telling everyone else they're "wrong".

jd70

02/15/2007 04:14:16 PM

Many Sewells1951 have died for beliefs, weather they be civil rights, religious, etc.. I would not say coercing is usually the motive, though it can be. Who would you say the early Christians that died for their belief i n the risen Christ were coercing?

filmalicia

02/15/2007 04:14:00 PM

Human motivation being the complicated thing that it is, I think you might concede that people at least be partly motivated by their religious beliefs when they kill and die for them. (This does not dismiss other motivations, such as economic, psychological, etc.)

sewells1951

02/15/2007 04:09:22 PM

film, there does occasionally appear research of the type you mention. But I still have to ask 'compared to what'. There are a couple of very straightforward research projects that could settle the matter extremely quickly. For instance if amputees who prayed for god to regenerate their limbs actually got their limbs regenerated that would be pretty conclusive. I guess, bottom line, that to agree with your position that I would have to agree that there are circumstances where knowing less about reality is demonstrably superior to knowing more about it. If you can make a reasonable case for that, I love to hear it. The whole amputee thing isn't my idea. There's a really good website at http://www.whywontgodhealamputees.com/

sewells1951

02/15/2007 04:01:12 PM

film, when you see people dying or killing for 'religious beliefs' they aren't doing so because of their 'religious beliefs'. They are doing that to coerce something from someone.

sewells1951

02/15/2007 03:37:36 PM

filmalicia, you might check into the work of Johnathan Haidt. One good opening approach is at http://www.believermag.com/issues/200508/?read=interview_haidt According to him, people don't hold their moral intuitions because they have reasons for doing so. The reasons for doing so are often confabulations after the fact. Interesting work although I disagree with the conclusion he draws from his results.

sewells1951

02/15/2007 03:33:45 PM

jacknky, and just how do you decide what it is that you should do? Don't your beliefs inform you as to which of the vast panoply of possible actions you should undertake. Doing is necessary but, contrary to what Dubya thinks, it isn't sufficient.

filmalicia

02/15/2007 03:32:43 PM

To add on to what I said below, not all beliefs are true, but that doesn't mean that a person's reasons for holding those beliefs are trivial or unimportant.

jacknky

02/15/2007 03:23:39 PM

sewell, But I do understand what you're talking about. It seems that I don't live on the same planet as many theists. It's hard to find much to relate to. It does help me though, to remember how hard I tried to believe in God and how I was just incapable of believing. Turning that around, perhaps many theists are just as incapable of NOT believing. I saw a documentary last night about the life of the Buddha. It made the point that the Buddha stressed what is important in our lives is what we DO, not what we believe. That makes sense to me.

jacknky

02/15/2007 03:18:28 PM

sewell, "it would probably be more humble for one to conform oneself to what reality is than to expect reality to conform itself to one's perceived needs." With all due respect, I think many theists are doing that. Simply put, their "reality" isn't the same as ours. Listen to the rhetoric being used on this thread. If we cut to the chase we're basically talking about different conceptions of reality and which conceptions are more "real". Well, each one is real to each of us. Many theists don't appear to be irrational to me. If their beliefs spur them to lead more happy, fruitful, compassionate lives how is that irrational?

filmalicia

02/15/2007 03:07:03 PM

I'm not sure this will directly answer your question, sewells1951, but what I try to keep in mind is a terrific quote by Flannery O'Connor. She was at a dinner party at which there were several writers and intellectuals, including, I believe, Mary McCarthy. Some of them were talking about "what a wonderful metaphor the Eucharist is..." and O'Connor responded, "If the Eucharist is a metaphor, to Hell with it." The point this expresses for me is that for many people, their most deeply held beliefs are truly a matter of life and death. I'm not saying it is necessarily a good thing but if that is so, then isn't it "conforming to reality" to acknowledge that there has to be a better way to dialogue with religious people than by trivializing or dismissing their beliefs?

sewells1951

02/15/2007 02:52:45 PM

jacknky and filmalicia, I would like to ask a question. Exactly how entitled are people to get what they feel like they need? The reason I ask is that it seems incredibly arrogant to me for people to presume that reality has to be whatever they think they need it to be. On what basis do people assume that the universe is here to meet their needs. If one wants to speak of humility, it would probably be more humble for one to conform oneself to what reality is than to expect reality to conform itself to one's perceived needs.

filmalicia

02/15/2007 02:28:08 PM

An actor friend of mine once said that was the theme of Eugene O'Neill's play, "The Iceman Cometh." People not only need their illusions, they can't live without them.

jacknky

02/15/2007 01:52:44 PM

filmacia, I totally agree. I think we atheists need to get past the desire to ventilate and ask ourselves where we're going with this dialogue. Your choice of the word "humility" is appropriate. Another thing I'd like to remember is that life is very, very hard. We're all going to die and many of us will become incapacitated before we do die. Life is pain and suffering and we ALL deal with it in different ways. If religious belief helps some of us and they are good people then so what. I have a good friend who is the smartest person I know. She got a psychology Ph.D from Harvard and is a world renown expert in her field. She's written many books and is a consultant around the world. She's an atheist but when her 17 year old son was killed in a car accident she began visiting psychics and believed in them. The point is is that many of us need our (what appear to be) illusions at some point in our lives.

filmalicia

02/15/2007 01:35:21 PM

That's why I like Sam Harris's approach so much. He is challenging and provocative, but he also uses humor and appears to have a certain humility about himself and his ideas that is disarming. Contrast that to Daniel Dennett's (to me) pompous coinage of the term "Brights" to describe atheists. What does that make those of us who are religious? "Dims?"

filmalicia

02/15/2007 01:05:24 PM

Thanks, jacknky, To me, the question is how to talk with people who are religious in a way that doesn't trivialize their deeply held beliefs. My friend "Paul" for instance, would be quite insulted if his devotion to "Jerry Garcia" where trivialized.

jacknky

02/15/2007 12:57:54 PM

Filmacia, I think you're really onto something.

jacknky

02/15/2007 12:56:28 PM

Sewell, "I would argue that when we talk about humans having a predisposition to religion, we should take a step back and focus instead on humans having a predisposition to wonder about the nature of the reality we inhabit and our place in it." That statement would seem to cover both the scientific and religious impulses. But the fact remains that far more human beings on this earth see supernatural aspects (religious) to existence. Religion is way more ubiqitous. I agree with what I think I heard filmacia say. Perhaps the best qwe can do for the forseeable future is to elevate reason further in the dialogue, which is why I think folks like Sam Harris are so important. I just hope we get past the stage of attacking all religious belief quickly as I think it's counter-productive.

jacknky

02/15/2007 12:51:01 PM

film, "I think all of us have religious impulses, including the need to worship something that gives our life higher meaning. My point is that I think it is better that these impulses are conscious rather than unconscious. And I do think we have to subject our ideas to reason." I agree. and it's worth repeating.

filmalicia

02/15/2007 12:44:28 PM

I see what you are saying, sewells1951. However, from my perspective, it is that "religious impulse" or need to worship something that I find more fascinating at the moment. I am more interested in the approach of someone like William James, who looked at the effect religion had on people's lives, than in someone like Freud, who tried to explain away religion as something childish. Because, when you explain religion away, the religious remain. To me, the real danger of religion is not just in toxic ideas such as, "I follow the one true faith. You don't, so I am allowed to kill or conquer you," but, also in the fact that so many religious ideas are unconscious and unexamined. Those unconscious assumptions are the ones I think are really dangerous, and it seems to me that first we have to make them conscious before we hold them up to the light of reason.

sewells1951

02/15/2007 12:15:57 PM

filmalicia, what I was clusily trying to get at is that one could approach the idea of vision as humans being able to see light within a certain frequency range. I don't think that would really get at the heart of the issue though as it's obvious that, with appropriate instrumentation, we can also see frequencies outside the normal frequency range. It makes more sense to focus on the ability to see than it does on the specific characteristics of human vision if one is to take the broad approach to the phenomenon. I would argue that when we talk about humans having a predisposition to religion, we should take a step back and focus instead on humans having a predisposition to wonder about the nature of the reality we inhabit and our place in it. I think that is what humans have a predisposition toward, not religion per se.

filmalicia

02/15/2007 11:15:58 AM

sewells1951, Just to elaborate a bit on what I was saying: There are familiar examples of societies such as the former Soviet Union that replaced religion with "Godless Communism" but in which Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and "the Proletariat" were enshrined. A more close to home example, for me, is a friend of mine who was raised entirely without any religion. But, he has 1 or 2 hobbies which he pursues with an intensity that can only be called religious, including writing a Master's Degree in history about his favorite Rock Star. I think all of us have religious impulses, including the need to worship something that gives our life higher meaning. My point is that I think it is better that these impulses are conscious rather than unconscious. And I do think we have to subject our ideas to reason. I'm not sure what you mean by frequency range boundaries. Please elaborate a bit on that term. Cheers!

sewells1951

02/15/2007 10:40:55 AM

filmalicia, I believe we may be on the wrong track if we think of relgious belief as being part of human nature. In the same way we would be on the wrong track if we thought of vision in the frequency ranges between X and Z being part of human nature. It would be better to talk about seeing being part of human nature without the frequency range boundaries given that we can obviously extend the frequency ranges in which we see. It is probably more productive to talk about having an understanding of the nature of reality and our place in it being part of human nature than it is to talk about religion being part of human nature.

filmalicia

02/15/2007 10:20:29 AM

Oops. "I think some people think they are eliminating religion when they are only driving their religious ideas underground."

filmalicia

02/15/2007 10:19:08 AM

jacknky, you said: "If religious belief is a part of human nature then perhaps we are going about it wrong trying to refute ALL religious belief. Perhaps it isn't religion which causes some people to fly airplanes into buildings but human nature." I agree completely, and this is the crux of where I think Harris goes wrong. I don't believe it is ever going to be possible to eliminate "the religious impulse" because I think it may be an innate part of the human psyche. Where Harris's argument goes right, IMO, is in getting people to examine their unconscious, unreasonable religious beliefs. I think some people think they are eliminating religion when they are only driving their religious quotes underground. By the way, Sullivan's quote of someone's summary of David Hume's philosophy made me chuckle. Did anyone see "Lost" last night. The quote perfectly described the adventures of "Desmond David Hume."

sewells1951

02/15/2007 10:11:49 AM

I honestly don't think that Mr. Sullivan has a background that allows him to accurately assess the opportunity costs of his position. One thing about evolution that Mr. Sullivan needs to understand is that evolution does not "strive toward excellence". Evolution is, in most every respect, a satisficing system. Good enough is good enough is good enough. Thus, there is no reason to presume that what has evolved to date is the epitome of what can be. J. Maynard Smith has clearly demonstrated that evolutionary strategies can be stable without being optimal. It is a logical possibility that Mr. Sullivan needs to acknowledge that some other construct can provide "more and better" than the construct upon which Mr. Sullivan relies. And, it is incumbent on myself and others that recommend the construct of science and reason to ensure that we know, and can articulate, exactly what the more is and why that is better.

sewells1951

02/15/2007 09:56:57 AM

One must recognize opportunity costs. Having the realm that religion speaks to filled by a PARTICULAR religion precludes at least some of the benefits that might be provided by having that role filled by another construct. And this is where Mr. Sullivan, isn't 'getting it'. Yes, there simply must exist a construct that provides both the substrate and the platform. But, Mr. Sullivan has no appropriate vantage point from which to assess the opportunity costs of sticking with the construct he wants to stick with as opposed to the construct Mr. Harris is proposing.

plunge

02/15/2007 09:51:33 AM

Anyone else notice the irony in Sullivan arguing for pages that faith need not lead to lousy reason, and that Harris asking for justifications and reasons for faith is somehow rude... only to have Sullivan turn around now and start shooting out apologetics like (if Jesus isn't God, how come he's so popular, hunh???) left and right?

sewells1951

02/15/2007 09:49:19 AM

And, Mr. Sullivan has a valid conservative point that irrespective of which language he spoke he would need something to fill the role that language fills. That is the essence of what he is saying about religion. Yes, he understands the accidental, contingent nature of WHICH religion fills the role but he is still adamant that the role must be filled and he is grateful for the benefits provided by that construct which fulfills that role for him. That is fairly sensible but ONLY if one does not recognize a couple of things.

plunge

02/15/2007 09:48:42 AM

sherri: "has no atheist ever committed a crime against a theist to suppress that theist's belief?" Of course they have. But that doesn't in the least demonstrate what you want it to. People kill for reasons like that (theists kill for that reason as well). But nothing about being an atheist suggests that one must have such a reason or that if any atheist does, another atheist might be more likely to. "I often hear scientific method, meritocratic paradigm of reason, etc. bantered about." The fact that some of us happen to share some values is not the same thing as us necessarily AS ATHEISTS having to share those values. We are grouping by THOSE values, not by atheism.

sewells1951

02/15/2007 09:44:13 AM

That SOME construct that provides predictability and potential for novelty at the level at which religion operates isn't any more surprising than that people SOME language that does the same things. And indeed, the proliferation of languages does seem in eerie ways to "track" with the proliferation of religions. A lot of different languages can provide what we need on the language front just as a number of different constructs can provide what people need in the realm in which religion operates. As far as Mr. Sullivan's conservatism goes his religious tolerance seems little more than a recognition that the contingencies of his religious beliefs are about as significant as the contingencies that determine his language. He would be as perfectly willing to admit that had he been born in France he would probably be a French speaker as he is willing to admit that had he been born in Eqypt he would probably be a Muslim.

jacknky

02/15/2007 09:43:19 AM

If religious belief is a part of human nature then perhaps we are going about it wrong trying to refute ALL religious belief. Perhaps it isn't religion which causes some people to fly airplanes into buildings but human nature. Perhaps if we could do away with religion somehow wouldn't some people still find reasons to do cruel acts? Perhaps by placing our emphasis on belief itself we are simply swapping one dogma for another because what is dogma but telling us how we should believe? How is it different for a theist to tell us we're going to hell for not believing and an atheist telling a theist his belief is responsibly for people flying airplanes into buildings? Both are telling the other it is their beliefs that are "wrong". Let's get back to judging people by their actions, not their beliefs. If a Christian is living a life of compassion and service to others then let's leave him alone. Any system of belief can be used as a club or as a means to open up, including atheism.

filmalicia

02/15/2007 09:43:09 AM

I just want to chime in and say that I like Andrew Sullivan's latest response best. I am reading Sam Harris's book, "The End of Faith" right now and then I'm going to read Sullivan's latest book (which is sitting on my cedar chest). This has been an excellent and provocative discussion.

jacknky

02/15/2007 09:34:04 AM

Continuing quotes: "Enthusiasm is building among scientists for the view that religion emerged not to serve a purpose- not as an opiate or a social glue- but by accident. It is a by-product of biological adaptations gone awry. This is not a value judgement. Many of the good things in life are, from an evolutionary perspective, accidents..." "We see the world of objects as separate from the world of minds, allowing us to envision souls and an afterlife; and our system of social understanding infers goals and desires where none exist, making us animists and creationists." "Nobody is born with the idea that humanity started in the Garden of Eden or that martyrs will be rewarded in heaven.; these ideas are learned. But the universal themes of religion are not learned. They are part of human nature."

sewells1951

02/15/2007 09:33:38 AM

It isn't only the case that the communicative requirements of predictability and novelty operate in the realm of language. It operates on the biological level and at the societal level. In fact, there are multiple levels, aside from language, in which communication occurs and hence there are multiple levels at which those substrates of predictability and provisions for novelty exist. Human endeavors such as religion, government and even science can be understood in light of these requirements for predictability and novelty. So, a short answer to Sullivan's question about the ubiquity of religion becomes just this. There has to be SOME construct that provides a substrate of predictabiilty and a platform for the generation of novelty that operates in the realm in which religion operates. That SOME such construct exists is not in any way remarkable. The existence of SOME such construct flows very naturally from our nature as social primates.

jacknky

02/15/2007 09:26:09 AM

sewells, A few years back "Atlantic" magazine published an article called "Is God an Accident?" Here are a few quotes: "Despite the vast numbers of religions nearly everone in the world believes the same things: the existence of a soul, an afterlife, miracles, and the divine creation of the universe. Recently psychologists doing research on the minds of infants have discovered two related facts that may account for this phenomenon. One: Humans come into the world with a predisposition to believe in supernatural phenomena. And Two: this predisposition is an incidental by-product of cognitive functioning gone awry." Number one seems to indicate that Mr. Sullivan has a point. We aren't going to eliminate religious belief through our skeptical irrefutable logic.

jacknky

02/15/2007 09:09:39 AM

oddjoe, "I think suspension of belief is more akin to agnosticism. Normally the person can't say one way or another due to heavy doubt." Or to reframe it more positively, an agnostic acknowledges that some aspects of human existence are unknowable and perhaps it is more honest to recognize that fact than to resort to beliefs.

sewells1951

02/15/2007 09:00:38 AM

If we look at language, we see that these requirements for both predictability and novelty are met. If we take the English language for instance, we find that the letter E occurs with about the same statistical frequency in 3rd grade essays as it does in scientific papers or complex legal briefs. There is a predictable substrate to language. There is also a huge potential for novelty due to the flexibility of grammatical forms and the combinatoric possibilities of vocabulary. In short, in a hugely important medium of our communication, we see the fundamental requirements of communication fulfilled. It isn't really very surprising that our language accomplishes these things as accomplishing these things is a requirement for communication. This isn't something limited to English. The principle holds true for ALL languages. All languages provide a substrate of predictability and a platform upon which the edifice of novelty can be raised.

sewells1951

02/15/2007 08:50:04 AM

First, we need to understand something really critical about human beings. We are social creatures and, as such, we are well within the evolutionary boundaries for primates. Most primates are highly social creatures and we are no exception. Second, we need to understand that as social creatures communication is at the heart of what we do and who we are. Shannon and Weaver, in their The Mathematical Theory of Communication, (who's work in very fundamental ways make possible our participation in this dialogue) make many points about the nature of communication. One of the most important is that communication requires both predictability and novelty. Like many very fundamental discoveries, this seems obvious in hindsight but was not rigourously articulated prior to their work. If a message, a piece of communication, is too random (non-predictable) it can't convey information. If it is too repetitive, too monotonous, it can't convey information either.

sewells1951

02/15/2007 08:41:59 AM

For all the rhetorical judo in Sullivan's latest post, he does make a point. That point is that we need some explanation for the ubiquity of religion. Trying to provide one will take several of these 1024 character posts. Please bear with me for posting this in multiple parts but it's a complicated subject. What I will do is to provide a multi-layer explanation. Mind you, I'm not saying it will be the only kind of explanation that might suffice, just that it is how I have come to understand the issue.

chrisrkline1960

02/15/2007 07:58:29 AM

Sullivan take Harris' statement about a "discourse about ethics and mystical experience that is as contingency-free as the discourse of science already is" and pretends that Harris forgot the word "as". He then spends half of the essay pointing out that since everything we believe is contingent on something else, that we can believe anything at all. If one has faith in an objective reality of any sort, then it must be OK to have faith in Jesus. He mentions Hume, but then quote some "reader" who presents C- level freshmen Philosophy 101. The reader lays out the list of "faiths" we all have that keep us from extreme solipsism--that there is an external world, etc--then sneaks in the faith that our consciousness survives our bodily death, as if it is the same to have "faith" in the couch I am on sitting on and "faith" in life after death. Sullivan calls these "little puddle-jumps of faith.

sandworm102

02/15/2007 02:28:29 AM

Sullivan has got to be kidding with this latest post. Romanticizing and sugar-coating the sordid history of the Catholic church and the spread of Christianity gets him nowhere with me and will certainly bring down a withering response from Harris, which he is clearly anticipating. I can't wait. I don't deny that there are valuable contributions to our culture in the form of philosophy, art, architecture, music, etc. that are inspired by the church. But again, it goes back to the point that none of this provides a reason to believe that the core claims of Christianity are true.

chrisrkline1960

02/14/2007 09:33:54 PM

Paul's letters are the earliest, from the late forties to the fifties. He mentions nothing about Jesus' life in his letters. He does mention the Vision of Jesus in his letters, but he does not meet Jesus in the flesh. He does meet Peter, but fails to mention that Peter had been with Jesus in the flesh, and also that Peter had a meeting with Jesus that was like Paul's. We know that they discussed the Gospel (Good News) but this does not mean what you mean by the Gospel. Paul does mention the crucifixion, but usually in an allegorical or metaphorical way. The first gospels were probably written after 70 AD, after Paul had died, and Mark (the first) seems very allegorical and most of the stories have counterparts in the Old Testament. The focus on the early church was on communion, redemption, blood atonement, etc, common to many mystery religions at the time (Mithras, Dionysus, and some Jewish cults.)

sheri1555stl

02/14/2007 09:09:23 PM

Chrisrkline, I'm still curious. Didn't Paul refer to his conversion experience on the Damascus Road (Acts 9.3-22;26.1-32), recounting an encounter with Jesus? And didn't Paul's missionary journeys take him to Arabia, Antioch and Galatia (Gal.1.1; Acts 13,14) while Peter's took him to Samaria, Jerusalem and Caesaria(Acts 8.14-25; 9.32-10.48), such that they would not meet up with each other right away? Were they preaching the same thing, even if they didn't discuss it together (I Cor.1.10-17)? Does the lack of account biblically that Paul visited Jesus' tomb, etc. constitute proof that he never did so? And what are the earliest writings about Jesus, that don't mention His life? the Gospels are not the earliest writings?

chrisrkline1960

02/14/2007 08:29:51 PM

Sullivan defines heaven as a a "'contingency-free' place where no specifics exist but pure truth and a clean glass - is something we people of faith call heaven.... We religious people have known about heaven for ever; Really, is this the heaven religious people have known for ever? There are no specifics? Is this what Paul believed? Augustine? The current Pope? Jesus? Sometimes I think Harris picked the wrong moderate.

chrisrkline1960

02/14/2007 08:22:04 PM

Sherri, I am saying that there may not have been a historical Jesus. The earliest writings about Jesus mention nothing about his life. Even when Paul goes and visits Peter, he makes no specific mention of the living Christ, or having visited any of places you would have expect Paule to visit, such as the empty tomb, the place of his accession, etc. None of this is proof; my point was that it was possible to build a strong church with no knowledge of the specifics of Jesus' life. Paul did.

sheri1555stl

02/14/2007 08:08:38 PM

I'm not referring to your definition of atheist, ma7addat, but the normative one, one holding the position of NO deity whatsover. Has anyone like that ever committed a crime against a theist solely because of the theist's beliefs, to suppress said beliefs, in accordance with your and plunge's claims, that, if any crime committed, then not with any thoughts about the non-existence of any gods in mind?

jd70

02/14/2007 07:45:03 PM

Welcome to beliefnet Ma7addat. To answer you question: "If I look at the mountains and it inspires me, is it literally the mountains that inspires me, or is it my sense of beauty that inspires me?" If I am to be honest I don't know. I would think maybe a combination of both of those points you made above. The point I was trying to make is that inspiration is one of those things within humanity whose source cannot be easily pinned down to something concrete. What inspires one person, may not inspire another and ones sense of beauty is subjective.

sheri1555stl

02/14/2007 06:40:05 PM

Chrisrkline, are you denying that there was a historical Jesus?

jd70

02/14/2007 06:39:36 PM

jacknky: "Meditation has allowed me to see our interconnectness much more clearly. This truth allows me to be more compassionate which is more "real" than reading in a book "Love one another." Well said. I would completely agree. In my post I was merely pointing out the theistic perspective that is closest to my own. We as humans have a need to know things that can't be known. Instead of accepting that they can't be known we make up myths, gods, etc to fill our need. Buddhism allows one to be at peace with the unknown component of our existence with out relying on belief substitutes. peace..

sheri1555stl

02/14/2007 06:36:10 PM

I don't see that anyone addressed my question: has no atheist ever committed a crime against a theist to suppress that theist's belief? Is that a yes or a no? And plunge, i disagree that you hold nothing in common except the denial of belief, to hold you together as a group. I often hear scientific method, meritocratic paradigm of reason, etc. bantered about. And ideology is just a systemic set of ideas. And no ma7addat, I don't think I need to read plunge's posts more than once. But thanks for offering.

Ma7addat

02/14/2007 06:31:23 PM

oddjoe, you are right that "suspension of belief is more akin to agnosticism." Although the common usage of atheist is a person who knows that there are no gods, I think of atheism as agnosticism plus the denial of theism. Atheism merely denies that claims about god have any practical content or subject. Back to fairies for a second. I do not believe fairies exist in my garden, because I have looked there many times and detected no such creatures there. Likewise, I do not believe in Yahweh because I see that everyone disagrees about what it is and I have detected nothing in support of (and many things against) its many descriptions. However, lack of evidence is not evidence of lack. At best, we can only render the existence of these things improbable or superfluous. Can we prove the negation of the existence of a thing? It seems that we can't. We can question the existence of it though, and that is all that atheists claim to do.

Ma7addat

02/14/2007 06:04:44 PM

akbusch, thank you for acknowledging that my first paragraph is nonsense. For in this paragraph, you will find the form of your own argument. Just substitute atheism for aneraidism and change murderers and rapists to whatever you think atheists are guilty of. You will find this exercise quite enlightening, no doubt, for it will help you recognize the sand-like consistency with which your whole argument holds together.

chrisrkline1960

02/14/2007 06:00:31 PM

Sullivan gives the standard argument that Christianity would not exist unless there was truth to Jesus' "life", something so wonderful that it moved his followers to change the world. But that is not true, since apparently Paul and the churches he started in Rome, Greece, Turkey, and elsewhere, knew little, or nothing about Jesus' life, and yet did quite well. Jesus was quite probably an allegorical construct, and developed into a "real" person much later.

chrisrkline1960

02/14/2007 05:59:48 PM

Sullivan does jump on the clean glass metaphore, but makes it a straw man argument. He takes Harris' last paragraph and twists it into something it was not. What is he claiming, that because we all have "faith" that the external world of our experiences is real, therefore all religious faith is equally valid too? He says that the fact that his Christianity is contingent on his upbringing is a point in its favor, because everything is contingent on something else. Fine, but it would be nice if he could show how his faith is contingent on some truth about God or the Bible.

oddjoe

02/14/2007 05:39:14 PM

I think suspension of belief is more akin to agnosticism. Normally the person can't say one way or another due to heavy doubt.

plunge

02/14/2007 05:39:13 PM

"The way Andrew responded to Sam's "clean glass" question/metaphor was, I think, masterful." Masterfuly dishonest. Throughout this entire debate, Andrew has sought to take any opportunity he can to switch gears, change up subjects, seize on plays on words to respond to claims Harris never made. It's why this debate is so frustrating: It doesn't feel like Andrew is really treating it as a discussion, but rather a pulpit for discursive and disjunctive sermonizing.

plunge

02/14/2007 05:36:08 PM

akbusch, sherri, I'm endlessly fascinated by how you folks could be so arrogant as to believe, almost without thinking, that if someone doesn't share your beliefs, that this is in and of itself a belief. Atheists are an outgroup. We have no ideology in common, no beliefs in common, nothing necessarily in common at all. We are only a group because theists make us one by virtue of us not being one of them. Why is that so hard to understand? Every crime committed by an atheist is a crime committed by that atheist, not in service of anything that all atheists share. We don't share things. We might, but in those cases you need to speak of those ideologies, not of atheism. Why is that so hard to understand?

akbusch

02/14/2007 05:16:35 PM

Ma7addat, I won't debate the use of the phrase "in the name of", or your equating theism with superstition, or your assertion that atheism is not a belief, though I easily could. I will say that I also said "with atheism as the driving force", and I stand firmly by what I said there. I will give you this, though: Your first paragraph is indeed nonsense, both in its text and in your explanation of it.

sheri1555stl

02/14/2007 05:03:36 PM

"No one does, or has ever done, anything in the name of atheism..." ma7addat, are you saying that no atheist has ever committed crimes against any theist simply because they were theist, to suppress their beliefs? I'd call that committing a crime to promote an ideology, whether using the phrase "in the name of" or not.

Ma7addat

02/14/2007 04:52:24 PM

akbusch, aneraidism is the word used to describe someone who does not believe in fairies. Most of the murderers and rapists in the world do not believe in fairies. Thus, the modern day aneraidist movement is to blame for a great many crimes. Is this good logic? No. Clearly it is nonsense, but why? Simply because of this: suspension of belief is not itself a kind of belief. No one does, nor has ever done, anything in the name of atheism, just as no one acts in the name of aneraidism. Atheism is the negation of a belief in gods. Like aneraidism's rejection that fairies exist, atheism rejects that gods in fact exist. Theism, on the other hand and asymmetrically, is responsible for a great many woes, since it actively promotes certain human values by exalting them to the status of divinity and infallibility. Theism is the positive belief in superstition, and as such, it is culpable of great crimes against reasonable people (and other superstitious people too).

sewells1951

02/14/2007 03:09:59 PM

Trying to conduct an ethical inquiry in the presence of the fatuous contingency of historicist religions is like trying to conduct a physics experiment where there is little to no control of the experimental variables. You might get a splediferous display of partical showers but your chances of being able to understand what happened and why would be largely precluded. If you want to be entertained by splediferous showers of particles then embrace all the contingencies you wish. Just don't try to con the rest of us by pretending you get understanding instead of entertainment. If you want to understand what is happening and why, you better control enough contingent variables to make the process manageable.

sewells1951

02/14/2007 03:04:22 PM

Man, remind me never to debate Sullivan. He is GOOD at it. Pounced right on that whole contingency-free thing. If that wasn't rhetorical judo at its best then, hmm... wait just a minute there was some linguistic slight of hand going on there that just about got past me. Is it the same thing to ask for an enquiry into ethics that is as contingency free as science is as it is to ask for an enquiry that is contingency free. It's not. At least not unless one claims that the scientific endeavor is contingency free which Harris didn't do. Harris never said that science is contingency free. If he said anything Harris implied that science is more contingency free than is religious belief. What Harris is seeking in the realm of ethical enquiry is not some disembodied, mechanical enquiry by immaculate conception but rather a lessening of the importance that fatuous contingency plays in the endeavor.

akbusch

02/14/2007 01:39:43 PM

I just read Andrew's latest entry, and while Sam certainly writes and defends his position very well, and is, as I call it, "scary smart", those calling "checkmate" on Andrew were a bit premature, IMHO. The way Andrew responded to Sam's "clean glass" question/metaphor was, I think, masterful. One thing: Andrew acknowledges, as must anyone who is at least minimally honest, that dreadful things have been and are being done in the name of all sorts of religions, Christianity included. But he lets atheism off the hook in that regard, I think. The fact is that there have been, and still are, horrible things done either in the name of atheism or with atheism as the driving force. While, as I said, religion's sins must be acknowledged, I think some religious folks might be a little too eager to say their mea culpas and ride the shame spiral without calling atheism on the horrors it is responsible for throughout history.

jacknky

02/14/2007 01:19:08 PM

jd70, As a meditator I'm becoming more and more aware of how much these "truths" we discuss are mere mental constructions, intellectualizations and opinions. There is an alternative means to pursue truth and that is to learn to see ourselves and our world more clearly. I love these discussions but I wonder ultimately what is accomplished. We toss around concepts of gods and no-gods which make sense to our intellects but I wonder how much they reflect any other than personal realities originating in our minds. Meditation has allowed me to see our interconnectness much more clearly. This truth allows me to be more compassionate which is more "real" than reading in a book "Love one another." It's the difference between reading about an elephant and seeing, hearing, touching and smelling an elephant. I think beliefs and opinions are relatively easy. That's why we all have them. Learning to see clearly with fewer opinions and preconceptions is hard. That's why so few even try.

Ma7addat

02/14/2007 01:09:32 PM

jd70, your conciliatory style is commendable. I was wondering, what do you mean that humans are not the originators of their own inspiration? Certainly, one can believe that processes are unfolding without necessarily believing that there is some hidden inspiration waiting to be found in everything. If I look at the mountains and it inspires me, is it literally the mountains that inspires me, or is it my sense of beauty that inspires me? If you say it is the mountains, then I understand (and agree with) why you suggest that humans are not the originators of their own inspiration. However, I see humans as imposing beauty onto nature (and then perceiving that imposed outlook) rather than nature communicating beauty to humans. This is a naturalistic vantage.

jd70

02/14/2007 08:21:00 AM

sheri: "If one does not believe in the biblical God, of course, then both inspirations/stories will essentially be of the same variety to them: with both a human origin and a human finished product/conclusion." While I don't believe in the biblical God, I am not convinced that inspiration is purely human in oragin. We as human beings are not at the center, but rather the products an unfolding process. Inspiration is just one more product of that process. As a meditator I try to practice being aware of such. I would say the statement Pual made in Acts "For in him we live and move and have our being." generally reflects my perspective, although I would tend to to replace "it" for "him".

Ma7addat

02/14/2007 03:19:58 AM

In fact, the tacitly atheist philosopher Thomas Hobbes completely agreed with Sheri that the larger part of humanity needed to be beguiled into thinking that they would be rewarded for good behaviour and punished for bad behaviour after they died. For otherwise, nothing could prevent this fundamentally immoral group of people from killing and raping one another (and us!). Luckily, the holy prophet Zarathustra spoke through his apostle, Friedrich Nietzsche, and declared that since God has died (and it is inerrant truth, because it came from a prophet), society is freed from all bondage to the cult of Yahweh; that very last of pagan gods. In this day, we are given the mind to finally escape the very nihilism that Christianity inevitably compels us toward and choose life instead!

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 07:39:23 PM

I believe that the Bible was intended to form our morality (or help sanction with an authority for those who are already well-formed). Jesus said that He came to call the sinners, not the righteous to repentance, and that the well were in no need of a physician, but the sick (Matt.9.12,13); and, that those who did the things contained in the Law without having the Law were a law unto themselves(Rom.2.4-16). The problem with the ones with the well-formed morality is that they fall short sometimes (short of holiness and perfection); and too many with perverted morality are/were becoming prevalent. In that, the Bible serves as a reminder/correction for the ones with a good conscience (and promise of reward, the ultimate of which, eternal communion with the perfect one in whose image we were created but fell short through sin), and a threat of punishment for the ones without good conscience, who fear nothing that we could do to punish them ourselves.

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 07:21:53 PM

jacknky, I believe II Thess. 2.1-12 puts verse 11 in context as to whom the strong delusion is sent. And while I agree that there is a common morality basic to mankind, I believe also that our formation (information) of it is very motivationally-based. There are exceptions; but, by and large, I feel that, from infancy on, we act on rewards and punishments (even if the reward is only the approval we sense from a respected party or the warm, fuzzy feeling we might get from doing good). I think when the motive is perverted or not properly formed, wrong things can be done for right reasons and right things done for wrong reasons, and wrong things done for wrong reasons.

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 07:11:49 PM

I believe the Bible to be of this latter type of inspiration, with a divine origin, but human-influenced after-product. If one does not believe in the biblical God, of course, then both inspirations/stories will essentially be of the same variety to them: with both a human origin and a human finished product/conclusion.

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 07:06:01 PM

jd, it's been a while since I've heard from you. To address your question as to the distinction that I make in "inspirations," I think inspiration is one of those words with multiple meanings. An artist or painter or sculptor has a muse; a writer or philosopher may draw on the "beauty" within him/herself or his/her understanding of the ways of the world. While thoughts of God can influence those expressions, I don't classify them as the same kind of communication as God trying to convey a truth to mankind through a document. I see the one as a person telling his/her "story," with a human origin, and finished product which may or may not express one's impressions of the divine or evoke similar impressions in others; and the other to be God dictating, so to speak, and the writers taking notes, telling His story through them (with some of themselves invariably intermingled in the story).

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 06:51:08 PM

sewells, I think you're beating a "dead horse" with that unproven assumptions thing. You've already stated categorically that you believe any claim that I've made about God to be of that nature; so, I don't really understand why we even discuss the Bible at all, since we don't agree on primal authorship.

jd70

02/13/2007 04:44:11 PM

Sheri: One of the things I always found confusing is that if the Bible is God ispired then how is that ispiration different than the ispiration someone has to write Moby Dick. I would tend to think that inspiration is inspiration.

jacknky

02/13/2007 04:02:44 PM

sheri, It seems to me there is basic human knowledge available everywhere in the world and that's basically pretty simple. The "Golden Rule" is not unique to the Bible. It can be found throughout human history in religions and secular philosophies. "Love one another" is really pretty simple and universal and not dependent on belief in any particular supernatural being. It's the other stuff, the verses that claim to speak for God but which are obviously societaly based, that causes the problems, the "context" you mention. "Slaves, obey your masters" is not Universal wisdom. It's societal. Some verses are just plain confusing. Like "God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie." (II Thess 2:11) So who is God deluding? you or me? I guess we both are free to believe God is deluding the other but it's a little obscure, don't you think?

sewells1951

02/13/2007 03:45:59 PM

sheri, I agree that we won't agree on god existing or the bible being god-inspired. I am simply working for an equal number of unproven assertions that god doesn't exist as I see unproven assertions that god does exist.

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 03:33:21 PM

Sewells, one last post before I go. my position is that my deity INSPIRED human beings to write my Bible, naturally bringing to the divine message, their human limitations (which is why all the 4 Gospel accounts don't each read word for word exactly the same). I believe that the believer has to learn how to decipher the God-breathed part out of the "filler," the writers' own predilections and personal inclinations that brought their contexts coloring the pages. We won't agree on none of it being God-inspired, on the basis of God not existing; so, that's a moot point.

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 03:23:58 PM

And no, I'm not tired of the discussions. It shows me how some others outside of my faith community think; and, why it is maybe that they do not accept the teachings of my faith community. Societal moral creations, to me, are tradition. that's why I don't refer to a faith "tradition." I believe we have to be careful not to let our traditions, which DO need to change with changing historical contexts, override our rational internal dialogue that tells us what the eternal truth is that is to be drawn from our most revered moral documents, which truths need to be applied to our current contexts. I've GTG now, jacknky; it's been nice talking with you.

sewells1951

02/13/2007 03:18:09 PM

sheri, I am confused. I thought your deity wrote your bible. Are you saying that provincial barbarians living in a desert wrote it and as such, one must consider the context? Heck, no one here is arguing that every single piece of the bible is morally defective. Even blind pigs find acorns some of the time. One would expect the ancient jews to get a couple of things right just as a matter of probability. All I'm saying is that there is a lot in the bible that is pure, unadulterated BS and that it wasn't written by god because god doesn't exist.

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 03:12:53 PM

I don't think the original context ever changes. We just may be in DIFFERENT contexts now. But I also don't think the truth to be drawn from the words, apart from and independent of their context then or ours now, changes either. It's okay for us to disagree as to whether the Bible has any truth value, contextual or otherise, and on the non-/existence of God/any god(s).

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 03:08:27 PM

That's just it. I don't believe the context EVER said to burn heretics. I believe people in their time took the words out of the ORIGINAL context and misapplied them to their own time/circumstances, with disastrous results. I have already given you my interpretation of the verses in John 15, based on what I believe to have been the original context. I do believe that there is a truth to be extracted from verses INDEPENDENT of the contexts in which they are written. For example, if telling women to be quiet in church (I Tim.2.12)is taken in the context of Paul addressing a PARTICULAR church where certain women kept talking while others (who were men)were preaching, a principle can be drawn for ALL to worship respectfully; but, not a CONTEXT drawn, to forbid women now (who have more political freedoms than they did in the Jewish society then) to stop talking/can't teach ever without a man's permission.

jacknky

02/13/2007 02:00:30 PM

sheri, Aren't you getting tired of these discussions yet?

jacknky

02/13/2007 02:00:05 PM

"The Old Testament is entrenched in Jewish culture/custom, folklore and nationalism." And the NT isn't? The whole concept of a "messiah" weas endemic to the time. Many of the concepts are similar to other religions of the time such as Mithraism. I think my point is that religions claim to speak for the Ultimate, and are thus unchanging, when it really is just a societal creation subject to the same human forces as any other institution.

jacknky

02/13/2007 01:57:45 PM

sheri, "However, I feel that context is EVERYTHING to interpretaton." I realize that you may be going over familiar territory with me. Thank you. I'm curious what you think supplies this "context" you put so much faith in. What supplies the changes in context between today and say 500 years ago when the context said to burn heretics? Are not the advances in context provided by new knowledge and reason? In other words, if our actions were guided by faith alone then wouldn't we still be burning heretics? Isn't faith reluctant to change in the face of new knowledge? So is context itself really everything or is it new knowledge that supplies the context?

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 01:46:32 PM

"They seem very secure that's what God wants..." Of course, feigned (even to oneself) security is often used to mask insecurity. Look at the child molestors, rapists, wife-beaters. Insecurity is veiled in the acts of aggression and power that suggest otherwise.

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 01:41:41 PM

I agree, jacknky, that there does appear, at times, to be "two" Bibles. I discussed that in an earlier post to sewells1951. However, I feel that context is EVERYTHING to interpretaton. The Old Testament is entrenched in Jewish culture/custom, folklore and nationalism. Thw writers write through that "lense" from which one must 'screen' the truth of the spiritual message. Jesus, in the New, has to "remove the veil" of the Jewish mythology (met by harsh resistence from the biggest promoters, the Pharisees and Sadduccees (Matt.15.1-8)), although some of it is still evident in pauline epistles. Jesus' treatment of women tells us how God wants us to treat women, and likewise, anyone else. Interestingly, though, many of the Old English words translated from the Greek are not the words we use today. They use master, we use boss; they use slave, we use servant. Some of the passages that appear to support slavery may, in fact, not.

jacknky

02/13/2007 01:29:56 PM

sheri, "I feel that people who are secure in their faith realize that burning heretics violates "thou shalt not kill(do no murder);" You may be right. But those who would use their religion as a club to suppress others act like they are very, very secure in their belief. They seem very secure they understand what God wants. I wonder if the difference isn't some other attribute, like the ability to have empathy and compassion for others. I think religion at its best can lead people in that direction but there don't seem to be any guarentees. I see both religious and non-religious people who are capable of compassion. Which is another point Mr. Harris makes. Belief in a supernatural being isn't required to live a good life.

jacknky

02/13/2007 01:24:42 PM

sheri, " don't agree with the presuppositon in your questions that the Bible itself (or some of its rational followers) are unreasonable," The Bible is very contradictory and obscure, which to me is unreasonable. It's like there are two Bibles. In one Bible God is judgement and if we don't believe right we're going to be tortured for the rest of eternity. And it's OK to have slaves and treat women as chattle. The biggest "sin" is to use our reason. In the other Bible God is love. We are to not judge others but love them unconditionally. So, those of a judgemental harsh bent quote those verses and those of a loving non-judgemental bent quote those verses and each side accuses the other of not using the correct context. I'd rather develop my reason and sense of fairness.

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 01:22:22 PM

part 3. I feel that people who are secure in their faith realize that burning heretics violates "thou shalt not kill(do no murder); and, allowing the burning of heretics to somehow take exception to that as not murder, reveals the insecurities that are in them, needing to use the power of terrorism or totalitarian theocracies to solidify the 'us vs. them' philosophy that drives such acts of violence, fueling difference into hatred, and hatred from a "righteous" 'us' as justification to eliminate the "heathen/ infidel" 'them.' I feel that insecurity within one's faith community that needs the safety in numbers to enforce that violence (and "confirm" within themselves the 'rightness' of that particular 'we') empowers them to physically overpower and enforce that dogma on the dissenting 'them.' I believe that the secure believer rationally allows for dissention, and introspectively sees no need to overpower others.

jacknky

02/13/2007 01:18:48 PM

sheri, "The whole passage, in CONTEXT, speaks of the one abiding in Jesus," That's not really the point. The point is that the Bible is so contradictory a "believer" can find something that will justify just about anything they want to do. That verse was used for hundreds of years to justify burning people. To say that's not the right CONTEXT merely means that reason must be used before using the Bible. I see you make the same point later in your post. Thank you. The more belief is leavened with reason the better.

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 01:06:38 PM

I don't agree with the presuppositon in your questions that the Bible itself (or some of its rational followers) are unreasonable, no. I posted something along the lines of a response addressed to this issue on the "Religion Must End" discussion board.

sheri1555stl

02/13/2007 01:03:35 PM

jacknky, we've already discussed that verse. The 'them' is the branches, not the unbeliever that men cast into the fire I believe. Jesus DOES, however make the analogy to show what HE will do to the one who does not abide in Him, as what men do to useless branches, throwing them into a fire. The whole passage, in CONTEXT, speaks of the one abiding in Jesus, and Jesus Himself, no third parties. I've already stated many times previously that I think people have used the Bible (and "convenient" interpretations of certain passages) to justify all sorts of things, that much more tempting in a political climate that encourages (totalitarian), rather than suppressing, such acts of control/domination. And, I think it was the use of more reason and the disallowance of theocracy for our nation that caused people to rethink how they were INTERPRETING the Bible, strict adherance notwithstanding.

jacknky

02/13/2007 12:26:53 PM

nesh, "Prove it to me that you are more righteous than my fellow believer and we can start from there." It seems to me that skepticism is the human default position. It is up to you to convince, not us. You'd need to define "righteous" for any real discussion. If by that term you mean belief in God then yes, you believers are indeed more righteous. If you mean that "righteous" means living a calm, loving, compassionate and wise life then I see little if any correlation to belief. There are wise and compassionate non-believers and cruel small-minded believers, and vice-versa. Must be something else other than belief that causes us to live compassionately and wise.

jacknky

02/13/2007 12:15:40 PM

Sheri, "but, as a Christian, following the New, which I believe to be at the heart of the Old, I don't see how that makes me dishonest to say yes and no." What about this verse: "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch... and men cast them into the fire, and they are burned." This NT verse was one of the primary justifications for the Church burning heretics for 400 years. Let me ask you a question. Do you think it was strict adherence to the Bible that caused us to stop burning heretics or was it our society loosening the strictures of religion and beginning to use more reason?

deoradh

02/13/2007 10:05:43 AM

Sewells 1951 when you scratch just beneath the surface… Agreed, I would also like to add, the more Totalitarian the State, whether it is based on Communism, Fascism, any of the religious creeds or any thing else you can think of. It’s not good news for the citizens, some more than others.

sewells1951

02/13/2007 09:08:39 AM

nesh5ama, disproof is an integral part of the way science operates so, from a scientific viewpoint, it's pretty important to attempt to falsify hypotheses.

nesh5ama

02/13/2007 08:44:42 AM

Ma7addat:I agree with you.I don't understand the obsession with either proving or disproving the God' existence.

sewells1951

02/13/2007 08:35:37 AM

deoradh, when you scratch just beneath the surface you find there is little to no philosophical difference between christianity and communism (or mormonism or islam, etc. etc. etc.). They are all historicist. This is a term that Karl Popper used in his 2 volume set The Open Society and Its Enemies. Briefly, all these movements have a preconceived teleological view of some endpoint to history to which end individuals are subsumed and for which individuals are expected to sacrifice (and be sacrificed). All these historicist movements pander to the same human insecurities, the same existential angst. There's not a dimes worth of difference once you get past the surface froth.

deoradh

02/13/2007 08:10:48 AM

frgough, "It requires them to turn a deliberate blind eye to the atrocities of Communism (110 million dead and counting), an openly and aggressively atheistic philosophy." So you keep saying A few points Stalin. His primary education was in a church school. He then went to a Jesuit seminary until he was 20-21 until he was kicked out. SAINT Ignatius Loyola founder of the Jesuits is reputed to have said, "Give me a boy until he is seven-years-old and I will give you the man." God and the Jesuits had him until he was 20ish. Looks as if God failed miserably, unless of course Stalin was working to Gods plan

Ma7addat

02/13/2007 12:43:47 AM

nesh5ama: What if I told you I lived as if I was a Muslim (i.e., observed all the five pillars of Islám), but that I didn't believe that Muhammad was God's prophet? Good conduct and righteousness do not seem to have anything to do with one's belief in God or Muhammad, since an atheist can practise the Muslim way of life as much as a Muslim can (if he or she so wished).

Ma7addat

02/13/2007 12:40:00 AM

nesh5ama: Actually, I was a Bahá'í until just a two year ago, which is a sect of Islám, as you may know. Bahá'ís believe in God and Muhammad as God's prophet. I once believed that, and perhaps your reasons were better than mine. So, yes, I will understand your reasons. Remember, the first step toward fruitful dialogue is believing that others can think as deeply as you. At least you can give me the benefit of the doubt. As for my righteousness, I never claimed to be more righteous than your fellow believer. Why should I prove that I am? Furthermore, even if I believed I was, how can I prove to you that my life is more righteous than a Muslim's when you presuppose that the Muslim way of life is superior?

nesh5ama

02/12/2007 11:52:50 PM

Ma7addat: There is a subtle difference between the Aristotle's philosophy of time and Einstein's physics.One cannot prove his theory by ordinary observation.(it is not an ordinary sign post.I did not express myself clearly.Would you forgive me?)."True belief" is in the "eye of the beholder";belief is defined as a conviction or an opinion.The concept applies to anything: science,spiritualty or religion. No one in his right mind would claim that a proof for "god " exists in the same way that you can prove the existence of the subatomic particles. All science ideas begin with a thought-regardless how irrational it is. Sometimes a theory may await a long time before it is accepted.(As you pointed out "time " is relative). You would not understand my reasons as to why I believe that Muhammad is God's prophet, because you do not believe in God. Let me propose something easier. Prove it to me that you are more righteous than my fellow believer and we can start from there.

Ma7addat

02/12/2007 10:15:28 PM

nesh5ama, I must admit, I was amused by your post. You say I limit myself to a three dimensional world and that Einstein added a fourth dimension which is relative. I can see from this that you are ignorant about Einstein's theory of relativity (the time dimension was already in Aristotle's physics (!), and both space and time are relative, not just time), but more importantly, you seem to be fundamentally confused about where true belief comes from. Unfortunately, no scientist will ever support your idea that we "should not limit ourselves to observations alone" when deciding what is true. On the contrary, all science begins and ends in observations. If a theory does not predict or account for what is observed, and/or it makes unnecessary assumptions, it is thrown out. I am sorry to say that belief in God and belief in the divinity of Muhammad is just such a theory. If you don't believe me, give me your reasons why you believe that Muhammad is God's prophet, and we'll start from there.

nesh5ama

02/12/2007 09:48:24 PM

Ma7addat: Thanks for telling me where to look for God. Actually, has it ever occur to you that some people acknowledge the fact that there is something greater than themselves?As much as you enjoy meditating on your own, others choose to be a part of a larger community. As far as observations are concerned, you are not quite correct.You limit yourself to 3 dimensional world,where in fact Einstein added 4th dimension(time, which is only relative anyways). The String theory allows for 10 dimensions etc. It would be a real pity if you limit yourself to observations alone.

sheri1555stl

02/12/2007 05:17:57 PM

sewells, it doesn't seem fair of you to keep asking a simplistic answer of me to a complex question. I told you that my answer was yes and no, on the surface, yes, but, essentially no. Gal.3.6-29 tells the Christian that Christ fulfilled the physical Law and the spiritual Law. By faith in Him, the believer only has to fulfill the spiritual Law, making the physical basicly null and void for us. It is the physical one that called for death or destruction of infidels. I'm not bound by that Law (which is really Judaeism)and still feel that God is commanding me to fulfill the spritual Law. In that, God is not calling for me to kill any infidels. That may make the Bible as a whole seem inconsistent, with the two Covenants conflicting each other, one Jewish and one Christian; but, as a Christian, following the New, which I believe to be at the heart of the Old, I don't see how that makes me dishonest to say yes and no.

sheri1555stl

02/12/2007 04:23:58 PM

I've GTG get my kids now, so I'll have to be back later.

sewells1951

02/12/2007 04:23:34 PM

sheri, we must have both been posting at same time. You seem to keep 'interpreting' the bible. I'm not asking you to interpret it. I am asking what it says. I assume, if your god exists and was responsible for the bible, that that deity understood what the words meant.

sewells1951

02/12/2007 04:21:02 PM

sheri, was that a yes or a no. Does the bible call for the destruction of non-believers. Again, here is the verse of Exodus 22:20 Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the LORD must be destroyed. I am not asking you to extrapolate anything. I am asking you if the bible says that non-believers are to be destroyed based on the words in Exodus 22:20.

sheri1555stl

02/12/2007 04:20:34 PM

So I guess my answer to your question is yes and no: at one time, yes, to teach the principle of how one is to regard sin; but, that's on the surface. Ultimately, no, because that death/separation from God caused by sin is ultimately between God and that person, not that person and others. We are to love each other and show God's work in us by faith, to others, to encourage them to repent.

sheri1555stl

02/12/2007 04:17:19 PM

The problem with extrapolating out of the Judaeic Law a secular law for any of our pluralistic/democratic societies now, either by Christian or casual reader, is that there was a spiritual concept that was being conveyed in the Old Testament, addressed in the New Testament, that the reader is to apply to modern times, not the physical manifestation of that concept, in that we don't live in a theocracy, and the laws given in the Old have to viewed in light of that context. That sets up a dichotomy for the Christian, to be sure, to resist acting on correcting in others what God condemned in the Old, but that dichotomy is resolved in the faith of the believer who trusts God to make things right with others who have fallen out of right relationship with Him. (Gal.3.6-29; Rom.12.17-13.10). "render unto Caesar," the disciples were told, while living in Rome, not kill the Romans for being idolators.(Matt.22.17-21).

sewells1951

02/12/2007 04:13:48 PM

sheri, was that a yes or was that a no.

sheri1555stl

02/12/2007 04:01:26 PM

Okay, sewells, let me investigate. I think I gave before some thoughts on the New Testament explaining the spiritual concepts behind the physical manifestations in the Old. I think you, jd70, jacknky and tinisoli were in the minthread. I'm not sure what the "utterly destroyed" means, in that verse 18 in the same chapter talks about "not permitted to live." In that the same phrase, "not permitted to live," is not used in verse 20, I don't think it necessarily calls for the peers of the worshipper of another god to kill him/her, so much as it may refer to the spiritual state of destruction the idolator places him/herself in by committing adultery against God. I don't doubt that the peers may have been called to kill the idolator. A lot of the physical/secular laws in the Jewish Old Testament are religious laws because it was a theocracy.

Ma7addat

02/12/2007 03:47:38 PM

Notice that sewells1951 questions the normative content of Christianity (actually, Judaism), whereas I question the factual or truth content of Christianity below. (Although I'm focussing on the latter, I also doubt much of the normative content as well.) Thus, Christianity is not just factually dubious, but morally dubious as well.

Ma7addat

02/12/2007 03:39:55 PM

The Bible contains many beautiful aphorisms like the one sheri1555stl quoted. It is not necessary for us atheists to deny that there is beauty in Christianity just because its central tenets appear superstitiously derived and dogmatically maintained. Rather, we question the content of Christian beliefs and the method whereby you arrived at those beliefs, not your values, per se. Of course, some atheists do also deny Christian values. However, every atheist respectfully asks for a justification of the following beliefs: that the God of the Bible exists, that this God would need to send messengers to humanity, that it actually did send messengers, that we have a way of discovering who these messengers might be, and that Jesus is among these messengers of God. If you are of the Jesus=God persuasion, then just substitute 'itself' for 'messenger' where necessary. (Notice that God, if genderless, is an 'it' not a 'he'.)

sewells1951

02/12/2007 03:19:53 PM

sheri, I was looking for something simpler. I am still waiting for you to admit that your holy book calls for the destruction of non-believers. You challenged others to furnish instances where that was the case. I did so. If you ever came right out and admitted that your holy book calls for the destruction of non-believers, I must have missed it. But, I don't believe you ever did that. Does or does not your holy book call for the destruction of non-believers? It's a simple question. Here is the verse again Exodus 22:20 Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the LORD must be destroyed.

sheri1555stl

02/12/2007 01:44:49 PM

Thank you for that, jacknky. I concur.

jacknky

02/12/2007 01:36:42 PM

sewells, "the intransigence of believers in the face of evidence that contradicts their beliefs is saddening primarily because it means there will be no possibility of effective communication with such believers." Perhaps good hearted theists resent being placed on the same level as those who would fly airplanes into buildings. Perhaps they would rather be judged on what they do rather than what they believe. I don't blame them. Sheri, I think we are experiencing a paradigm shift. The books of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have emboldened some of us atheists like never before. We're coming out of the closet with a vengeance. We may be a little hard to get along with for awhile.

sheri1555stl

02/12/2007 01:27:47 PM

shemp 333, when did I say that discussing religious beliefs was "off limits" Is it okay to put words in my mouth?

sheri1555stl

02/12/2007 01:25:14 PM

And sewells, I don't know what "communication" you're referring to since I have not once suggested that there are not people doing evils in the name of religion, which you well know from my many posts. The evidence you speak of only shows that someone claiming the same title as I do (whether theist or specifically Christian) obviously does NOT believe SOMETHING that I do or believes something that I do not, which does not speak at all to the truth values of my beliefs, or that the behavior of said individuals is the ONLY logical conclusion to be drawn from my texts, which it obviously isn't as evidenced from the millions who may believe mostly (or hardly, exactly) as I do.

sheri1555stl

02/12/2007 01:11:35 PM

Sewells, I have already explained my understanding of my scriptures to you, not to your satisfaction, of course. Repeating that discourse is not going to change anything.

sewells1951

02/12/2007 12:51:33 PM

sheri, can't speak for other atheists but for me, the intransigence of believers in the face of evidence that contradicts their beliefs is saddening primarily because it means there will be no possibility of effective communication with such believers. I have a nephew who is a drug addict and I feel the same sadness in dealing with him. His addiction precludes the kind of communication that would be beneficial to both of us. I just realized that I do indeed look upon dyed in the wool christianity as the same sort of thing.

sewells1951

02/12/2007 12:46:54 PM

sheri, Did you ever figure out what you make of Exodus 22:20 Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the LORD must be destroyed.

shemp333

02/12/2007 12:44:41 PM

Where did this notion that discussing religious beliefs are off limits come from? These beliefs control our lives. So ignorance is bliss? If that is the case, I'd wipe the smile off my face.

Ma7addat

02/12/2007 10:19:40 AM

sheri1555stl, ok, fair enough. We can admit that some words are more ambiguous than others, and we don't need to question every word just because some words are ambiguous. I just meant that it's understandable that namchuck took religion to mean what the common usage suggests, which includes, for example, belief in entities whose existence cannot (even in principle) be verified.

Ma7addat

02/12/2007 10:15:55 AM

shemp333, by the way, I think you are absolutely right about your assessment of Sullivan's position. Andrew has precluded himself the option of admitting that he is wrong. "This is the very soul of dogmatism."

shemp333

02/12/2007 10:14:57 AM

I do not mean to put anyone down or condemn those who believe otherwise. Every man has the same right to belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that we be mentally faithful to ourselves. Infidelity consists in professing to believe what he, in his own mind, does not believe. As I see many religious folk doing a lot of.

Ma7addat

02/12/2007 10:14:21 AM

shemp333, I think we can all agree that religion is complex. Just look at the ambiguity of the word that has arisen in this debate. In fact, I would suggest that the complexity of religion is one of the reasons why religion must be abandoned. Why do we need something so complicated and over-burdening as religion, when human spirituality is so simple, so basic?

shemp333

02/12/2007 10:10:36 AM

Sam has it right on spot in the paragraph to the left. Declaring your beliefs impossible to ever be mistaken makes a slave of oneself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

steppen0410e

02/11/2007 10:20:57 PM

What "complexities in religion" are you referring to, sheri1555stl? "Most of the atheists posting here seem to think that his (Harris') words should be guilded in gold." Are you sure you used the right word there, sheri1555stl? Now, while I don't think for a moment that Harris' words should be gilded with gold, he does speak a lot of sense, especially when he says things like "Every religion preaches the truth of propositions for which it has no evidence". Has anyone ever encountered a believer capable of advancing the least evidence for their elaborate assumptions about their religion?

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 10:13:57 PM

It's a slippery slope argument to say that you'd "have to ask the meaning for each and every word," just because you might have to investigate one's usage of key terms such as religion, theist or atheist. From posting on this board a couple of weeks now, I've found that every blogger doesn't mean the same thing by them. tysson takes exception to traditional definitions of theist, oddjoe to tradition definitions of religion, alanrichard to traditional definitions of "Christian," etc.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 09:38:05 PM

Also, that is a sllipery slope argument, ma7addat. Furthermore, your statement as to purpose of this exercise (discussion/debate board) begs the question. Sullivan's point precisely is that Harris is only arguing against a particular idea of/in religion; but, as Harris is NOT allowing for the 'complexities in religion' that you speak of, any Harris supporter also adopting your point of view would be guilty of double talk. Most of the atheists posting here seem to think that his words should be guilded in gold.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 09:32:53 PM

ma7addat, I think it obvious from the context of oddjoe's posts, that he wasn't postulating a "normative" definition of the wrod religion, as Namchuck suggested we assume. We should assume to read the entire posts posted by any one blogger and ask questions, if in doubt!

oddjoe

02/11/2007 08:50:56 PM

Goodnight.

oddjoe

02/11/2007 08:48:32 PM

'S OK. I thought of one. How about "Walk like an Egyptian."

namchuck

02/11/2007 08:25:06 PM

Oops! Make that "individual" rather than 'individually'.

namchuck

02/11/2007 07:57:45 PM

I have also heard the expression, "he works like a Trojan", but that never lead me to assume or conclude that the individually being referred to had relatives mentioned in Homer's writings.

oddjoe

02/11/2007 07:04:34 PM

No not like religions which are popular now. Haven't you heard of the expression that a person works religiously on something, as with great fervor or belief? Aside from that word usage, I depend on science, even psychology, in my religion. However, I don't use psychology for manipulative purposes. I rely on it for how it affects human behavior in general so that the world can be better. For example, if we do not teach and show our children the Golden Rule, they are more likely to revert to the law of the jungle.

namchuck

02/11/2007 06:49:52 PM

Perhaps, oddjoe, but I don't know that your views could be classified as religion, even though you have co-opted the word.

oddjoe

02/11/2007 06:45:22 PM

Namchuck, except mine.

namchuck

02/11/2007 06:40:11 PM

Well expressed, Ma7addat, and you're right, religions offer no valid mechanisms by which their core beliefs can be tested and revised. Rather, in fact, they hold their elaborate assumptions immune from criticism, revision, or rejection. How much further unlike science could religion be?

oddjoe

02/11/2007 06:37:07 PM

and Ma7addat.

oddjoe

02/11/2007 06:33:37 PM

Indeed, Sheri, as I have illustrated, science is at least a major portion of my religion if not the main portion.

Ma7addat

02/11/2007 06:03:12 PM

sheri1555stl We all must assume that people will be using words according to their common usage; otherwise, I would have to ask you what your particular meaning for each and every word was, which is impractical. Surely, religion is complex. Everyone operates under their own interpretation of religion. oddjoe is no exception. The point of this discussion is to understand what the relationship between our common ideas of religion and science are.

Ma7addat

02/11/2007 05:55:22 PM

Namchuck, it seems like at least one of the main differences between science and religion is one of method. For example, you will often find religious people saying things like, "There are many ways to God," or, "There is no right or wrong way to come to faith in Jesus." The reason for this sentiment is that religion has no method. For example, some conceive of God anthropomorphically, others conceive it as incomprehensible. Some believe that Jesus was God's last mouthpiece, others believe that Muhammad was. Who is right? By what method should even begin to weigh these various claims? By contrast, science proceeds by strict adherence to a method. Competing theories must ultimately account for the phenomena (evidence). In principle, opposing theories can be eliminated by closer observation and testing. Thus, science moves along the path of truth by careful observation of practical rules, whereas religion is manifestly methodologically bankrupt.

namchuck

02/11/2007 05:27:49 PM

I was simply pointing out, sheri1555stl, that, in respect to the normative understanding of the word 'religion', it cannot be equated with science to any degree.

Ma7addat

02/11/2007 04:24:41 PM

nesh5ama wrote, What are the sign posts on a path to truth (I assume you meant objective truth)? The sign posts are called observations. Look at the sun, there it is. It exists, your eyes tell you. You try to observe God and you turn inward. You invoke your spiritual senses. You meditate, but all you will find there is yourself. Your mind is your God, though you conceive of it existing outside of yourself. Why is it that almost everyone can agree on the existence and properties of the sun, and almost no one can agree on the existence or properties of God? Because the spiritual sense confers to us no truth, merely confused feelings.

sheri1555stl

02/11/2007 03:56:35 PM

Maybe oddjoe is operating under his own interpretation of the word religion as that which is awe-inspiing, rather than as a prescribed set of dogma based on mythologies, Namchuck. You would do well to not argue with people about a word when you are coming into the argument with different definitions for that word. Everyone's sense of the "religious" is not necessarily your own.

Bessie16

02/11/2007 01:25:13 PM

"...whenever someone like me or Richard Dawkins criticizes Christians for believeing in the imminent return of Christ,or Muslims for believing in martyrdom..." (Sam Harris) Mr Harris, Some fundemantals are good things. Such as a fundemental understanding of what a "Martyr" is. It is obvious your intent is to present the modern bloodthirsty homocide bomber ripping hundreds of women and children to shreds to be defined as a "martyr". That understanding of "martyr" is ignorance. The people being torn to shreds,beheaded,skinned alive,etc,etc...are the only candidates for "martyrdom" in the orgy of violence I believe you are refering to. I defy you to explain "martyrdom" as you have presented it?

oddjoe

02/11/2007 12:22:23 PM

I see your point and I agree that science is here to deal with the physical word. My point(not related to what you are saying) is that those who claim that their spirituality is better or more scientifically valid than religion of the others are hipocrites. ... nesh5ama, I think those comments make a lot of sense.

nesh5ama

02/11/2007 12:15:19 PM

oddjoe:I see your point and I agree that science is here to deal with the physical word. My point(not related to what you are saying) is that those who claim that their spirituality is better or more scientifically valid than religion of the others are hipocrites. From the point of view of pure science(if one is to used science as the evidence based criterion) both fall outside the realm of science. It is like saying that the chemistry is better or more reasonable than physics.

oddjoe

02/11/2007 11:56:20 AM

You are making an assumption that reason and scientific inquiry are the final product of the evolutionary process. nesh5ama, I don't see how you conclude this way. I think your speculation makes less sense than mine. We haven't even the certainty that humans as a species will not go extinct by either self or natural destruction. I doubt that reason will ever disappear just as logic won't. I believe in evolution and that statement from Einstein reflects my thinking. Thanks for including it.

nesh5ama

02/11/2007 10:48:06 AM

oddjoe.You are making an assumption that reason and scientific inquiry are the final product of the evolutionary process.As a scientist I can tell you that we are part of, not the end of, of the evolution.In the future, higher analytical powers will come into place. From that point of view "reason" may look like a primitive tool. Religions regarded time as a relative value for ages. It took an irrational thought to change that in the world of sciences.(1907) A. Einstein paper on relativity of time. He also said:science without religion is lame,and religion without science is blind.

oddjoe

02/11/2007 09:27:45 AM

My second last post is the first of two parts.

oddjoe

02/11/2007 08:56:57 AM

cont. It is a practice to worship God through ceremonies which people devise and which are really a poor use for time. I think a creator of anything feels most honored when people study the object he/she created. I can attest to this, being a designer. You simply cannot convince me of your faith that there is no God. I simply say that I don't know and look for science to find evidence for it. But for those who definitely believe in God, I suggest that they jettison most man-made doctrines and make the field of science, which only supports verifiable facts, their religion. I tend to be in this group, but I have already focused on science instead of doctrine. Religion is something done out of ardor or zeal based on belief--according to Merriam-Websters fourth definition. Practicing science can be done that way! I believe in the need for science and have faith that it is good for us.

oddjoe

02/11/2007 08:56:07 AM

Namchuck, I guess you just don't understand. Science is well-defined, and I have not changed its definition. However, you apparently are doing what you say that I am erroneously doing--drawing conclusions based on faith. I point out the paradox that how can anything exist without a beginning. Science is the best tool to pursue the answer with an open mind.

namchuck

02/11/2007 01:28:55 AM

I am in complete agreement with Sam Harris when he suggests that there may well be a sacred dimension to our existence,and coming to terms with it may well be the highest purpose of human life. But, as he says - and, again, I am in complete agreement with him - we will find that it doesn't require faith in untestable propositions like, say, that Jesus was born of a virgin, or that the Bible, or Koran, is the word of God, for us to do this.

namchuck

02/11/2007 01:17:47 AM

oddjoe: I am sorry, but equating science with religion would indicate that you understand neither science nor religion (unless, of course, you simply write in jest). Quite unlike religion, science is both evidence-based and self-correcting. Furthermore, and again quite unlike religion, science keeps its assumptions to a bare minimum, and even these are never held immune from criticism, revision or rejection. I also have to say in response to your post that, science does not make the grand assumption in its inquiry into the nature of the universe that it is studying the results of any kind of "Originator". While our universe seems to have had a beginning in the Big Bang, there is no evidence that the Big Bang was the beginning of the universe.

nesh5ama

02/10/2007 08:25:54 PM

Ma7addat: what are the sign posts on a path to truth(I assume you meant objective truth)?

oddjoe

02/10/2007 07:50:32 PM

I think the best religion is science. It studies the results of the Originator of scientific law and subsequently the universe.

Ma7addat

02/10/2007 06:03:51 PM

nesh5ama, I too feel a sense of euphoria when I read the Qur'ān. I also feel euphoria when I read the poetry of Rūmī. And I feel the same sense of euphoria when I look at the mountains near my house. None of these feelings, however, lend themselves to belief in anything. They are wonderful, but they are not sign posts on a path to truth.

frankjspencejr

02/10/2007 01:12:51 PM

Andrew Sullivan just believes, always has, always will. Not a hopeful recipe for correcting the erroneous hunches, impressions, feelings and intuitions we all have about supposed facts of reality.

ewardak

02/10/2007 11:22:42 AM

@nesh5ama i was simply pointing out that spirituality is independent of beliefs about jesus, zeus, etc. and if i believed that my dog was the all-powerful creator of the universe, i might experience a sense of euphoria when i pet him.

nesh5ama

02/10/2007 09:05:46 AM

Ma7addat.When I read Quran I experiance a feeling of euphoria. My spirituality is my Islam. I don't need any evidence.

Ma7addat

02/09/2007 11:36:02 PM

nesh5ama, Spirituality does not imply belief in anything. That is why it does not require evidence. Spirituality, as Sam points out, is merely the feeling of euphoria that you get when you experience something awe inspiring. This feeling does not lend itself to believing anything about this world or other worlds.

nesh5ama

02/09/2007 08:35:13 PM

ewardak: Is spirituality is based on evidence? I see no difference between a) and b).

jd70

02/09/2007 07:09:56 PM

"One can even achieve utter mystical absorption in the primordial mystery of the present moment without believing anything on insufficient evidence." I like that. Same makes some very good points in his last response.

ewardak

02/09/2007 05:47:12 PM

@nesh5ama: I would hardly call that a win for Sullivan. Harris has always been interested in spirituality - as his book End of Faith indicates in the final chapters. But as Harris mentions, there is a strict difference between a)being spiritual, and b)being spiritual while believing a bunch of nonsense

ewardak

02/09/2007 05:40:45 PM

Wow. Harris really gave it to Sullivan this turn around. Though, this one was lost before it began. It's pretty hard to counter evidence with feelings and emotions. Sorry Andrew, you're a great guy, but obviously not very reasonable.

nesh5ama

02/09/2007 04:45:44 PM

Check mate indeed(for Andrew). Mr.Harris has moved from being nonbeliever to becoming "spiritually aware".Good job Andrew!

sewells1951

02/09/2007 02:11:45 PM

Catholics attempt to force Edwards to fire two campaign bloggers who had criticized the Catholic church. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17064366/ I don't know what the bloggers said precisely, but based on the article it seems the Catholic church wants them fired because they told the truth and used some profanity in their personal postings on their own time. To Edwards credit, at least he hasn't fired them yet.

jacknky

02/09/2007 12:34:18 PM

check mate indeed. I admit to having wavered because of my concern that we non-believers develop another orthodoxy where believers are shunned like we've been in the past. But Mr. Harris' summary on Page 5 is extremely powerful to me. We need to develop a new paradigm because the old one hasn't worked in the last 2,000 years or so.

tinisoli

02/09/2007 12:08:53 PM

Check mate indeed. What can Sullivan offer in response? More lyrical ballads about triumphing over the homophobic bigotry of his own church? More pictures of sunsets with praise from other "faithful" people who simply want to wrap a nebulous layer of god around the universe? More tales of Jesus' loving ways?

shemp333

02/09/2007 11:33:56 AM

Checkmate. Sam Harris takes the title in this debate with page 5. There is a fabulous book by a Deist who jump started the American Revolution. Thomas Paine's book "The Age of Reason" is a spearheaded attack on the mythology and superstition of the bible by the light of reason and morality. I highly recommend it.

meBigGuy

02/09/2007 12:29:09 AM

End of Clergy, End of Racism, End of inequality between men and women, end of conflict between science and religion, independent investigation of truth, dependence on concensus and counsultation to arbitrate disputes, --- oops, just described the Baha'i Faith. Now, there is a religion that makes sense. (If you believe in God and Prophets)

oddjoe

02/08/2007 10:41:44 PM

Sheri, being conscious of a God encouraging the Golden Rule provides motivation to do good. It in itself is not moral but only motivation for it. Simply acknowledging God does not provide the same level of motivation. Immorality is the bad deed or the practice of the bad deed, or sometimes a description of the doer of the bad deed. If one stays focused on the Good, one is less inclined to do bad. Godlessness deals with motivation while immorality deals with behavior, I guess. I agree that immoral is a better description to use because it is does not take the thought processes of the person into account much.

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 10:18:26 PM

Good night, ladies and gents.

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 09:54:00 PM

I agree, nesh5ama. Ppolitics ARE built on lies, all about spin.

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 09:49:50 PM

tinisoli, that may be because many people see without god = without morality. As many scandals among churches continue to surface, that may change. I sure hope you're right about electing a female or an African-American, which as far as leading this nation is concerned, I think most would see the results of as disastrous as electing a "godless' leader, based on the polls about Hillary Rodham Clinton. With Barack Obama now in the running, I guess we'll have to see. I doubt we're ready yet.

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 09:41:32 PM

oddjoe, i don't understand the difference between not having/rejecting a concept of god/God, and not "being conscous of God," as you put it. I'm not trying to be a dunce here. I really don't see how most distinguish that from a(no, against)- theism(god). I know that you equate God with goodness; so why not call a bad (or not conscious of good) person immoral rather than godless? Is there a difference between being not conscious of good and being immoral or no?

nesh5ama

02/08/2007 09:39:21 PM

steppen0410e.I agree with you. The measure of civilty is the ability to engage in a constructive dialogue, while recognizing and respecting each other's differences.I don't think you need to stop labelling yourself.You can still hold on to your views while respecting the views of the others. We can carry on our philosophical discussion while finding common grounds for dealing with day to day issues.Unfortunately ,the books by Mr. Harris, Dawkins, Onfray etc, are moving towards a head-on collision. One thing I know is that politics are built on lies and not religion or atheism.

steppen0410e

02/08/2007 04:50:23 PM

There are people who do good things, and there are people who do bad things. In a given life time, perhaps many of us are guilty of both. Perhaps what we ought to be striving to do is eliminate all the labels that tend to separate people one from another, especially one's that carry so much unnecessary baggage, like 'godly' and 'godless'.

oddjoe

02/08/2007 04:24:31 PM

Eek! I mean, steppen0410e

oddjoe

02/08/2007 04:23:52 PM

steppen0410e, OK le'see. I would definitely say that atheism does not imply immorality. But by the definition I gave for godlessness, I appear to have gotten it wrong yesterday. Sorry it looks kinda bad. But there seems to be a quandary. The evidence I see, led me to the conclusion I had below, though.

tinisoli

02/08/2007 04:17:16 PM

sheri, Nobody, no matter how brilliant or worthy of elected office, would be elected to the White House in America today if he or she denied the existence of God. I don't even think they could get in as an agnostic. I am not sure this was the case twenty or thirty years ago, but it is today. It's partly a political/media calculation--as in the "Hillary leads in the Vegas betting odds" polls that are so utterly unrelated to her popularity but bandied about constantly by the MSM--but it is also a harsh reality that many many voters will never vote for an atheist, no matter what. I'm pretty sure the stats show that Americans are far more likely to vote for an African-American or female candidate than an atheist.

steppen0410e

02/08/2007 04:06:42 PM

I would equate 'godlessness' with atheism, oddjoe. After all, the essential meaning of the term atheism (a-theism) is 'without a God' (a man with no invisible means of support). In common parlance, to call someone 'godless' is to caste aspersions on their character and morality.

oddjoe

02/08/2007 04:01:26 PM

tinisoli, yeah using the crowd can be very bad as in sheepleness.

oddjoe

02/08/2007 03:57:54 PM

Sheri 2/8/2007 12:24:21 PM oddjoe, you said that you don't equate "godlessness" with atheism, and then later said that you don't equate it with immorality either. What does "godlessness" mean to you, and especially in light of the example you gave of the gangs? I mean not being conscious of God. For me, the opposite is godliness, which is conscientiously striving for and thinking of good. The one who I find appalling who strongly appears to be extremely godless in my estimation, is Robert Hanson, the spy who sold lives to Russia for money. The opposite is my brother who does things for me even though I cannot help him. He does it because he thinks of God a lot. Look up Strauss who is the model for BushCo and you will see what I mean, too.

F1Fan

02/08/2007 03:55:03 PM

I know. So would my positions on stem cell research, the economy, illegal immigration, and global warming/the environment. -sheri I think sheri's crossed the line. We're going to have to send her a red cap and Speedo.

steppen0410e

02/08/2007 03:41:46 PM

What does it say about the 'State of the Nation' and the constitution when, as sheri1555stl suggests, an atheist has to pay "lip service" and feign "worship" in order to serve his/her country? After all, the atheists only 'sin' is that, like most reasonable people, he/she tends to value evidence and be convinced of a proposition only to the degree that there is evidence for it.

steppen0410e

02/08/2007 03:27:36 PM

Well said, sewells1951. Unlike the paradigm of meritocratic rational inquiry, where everything must merit its place in one's picture of the world, theism sees its assumptions as somehow privileged, immune from criticism, revision, or rejection. From the theistic point of view, if one's experience or commonsense or intuition or logic contradicts the creed, then the fault lies, not with the privileged beliefs, but with experience, commonsense, intuition, and logic. In constructing one's explanation of the world, the nature of explanation must always remain subservient to the assumptions of the world view.

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 03:01:46 PM

F1fan: "In some congregtions this statement would get you classified as a un-American atheist." I know. So would my positions on stem cell research, the economy, illegal immigration, and global warming/the environment.

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 02:57:35 PM

Who says an atheist "can't" get elected (if all one means by atheist is not believing in a god concept or holding to the precepts of science and reason over the "fantasies" of religion)? Is that in our bylaws? I would say from some of the policies, some atheists HAVE been elected, even if they paid lip service to what they believed made up the constituents of the populace. Feigning worship with certain practices/services attended in public and making certain issues - hot-button topics - part of one's campaign, in order to garner votes, does not make one a theist by a long shot, in my book. Some could say, with the majority of America voting somewhat right of center, that a far-right conservative, considering oneself a Christian, has less of a chance of getting elected - being considered a fundamentalist by the majority of the population (although truly a theist)- than one peddling from a moderate platform (but, truly, an atheist at heart). Politics is all about spin.

F1Fan

02/08/2007 02:49:09 PM

)I always thought the Bushs were racist, so oil and Haliburton notwithstanding, I knew I couldn't stomach him. -sheri In some congregations this statement would get you classified as a un-American atheist.

sewells1951

02/08/2007 02:21:53 PM

nesh5ama, I guess I would say it CAN work but that it doesn't necessarily work. For instance, government with the consent of the people becomes pretty meaningless when people start consenting to things they have no standing to consent to.

tinisoli

02/08/2007 02:21:24 PM

sheri, I'm not talking about you when I talk about the correlation between Bush's religion and his popularity. Nor am I talking about ALL Christians. But I AM talking about a clear and indisputable connection between Bush's religion and his choices as a leader, as well as the connection between his religion and his popularity among Christians. This is not arbitrary or coincidental or statistically insignificant. Just as it is not insignificant that an atheist cannot be elected president in this country today.

nesh5ama

02/08/2007 02:11:10 PM

Does democracy work?

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 02:10:35 PM

GTG.

sewells1951

02/08/2007 02:08:32 PM

I found a really good article about beliefs and why it is so hard to change them here. http://www.csicop.org/si/2000-11/beliefs.html

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 02:05:28 PM

prevalent for a lot... my typos are horrible.

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 02:04:06 PM

tinisoli, not yinisoli.

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 02:03:41 PM

The issues you mentioned, yinisoli, while being the most prevalent fr as lot of professing Christians, are not the most pressing for me. We're not all cookie-cutter cutouts; aguing against us as though we were is treating me as a "strawman."

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 02:00:16 PM

Yeah, I never could understand how my church was so deceived by his cheerleading, which churches probably cinched the Republican victory; just as I never understood how Christians took the Republican party as representative as the "Christian" party). I always thought the Bushs were racist, so oil and Haliburton notwithstanding, I knew I couldn't stomach him.

sewells1951

02/08/2007 01:57:50 PM

tini, to "valuing evidence vs eschewing evidence" I would humbly add skewing evidence to shoehorn it into line with one's preconceptions.

tinisoli

02/08/2007 01:57:39 PM

sheri, That's great that you didn't vote for Bush. But there is a correlation between Bush's religious beliefs and his popularity among Christians. It is not for nothing that influential Christian leaders like Robertson, Falwell, Haggard, and Dobson are constantly championing this man. Even if we take the most cynical view--that all those guys are frauds who are in the business of religion for the money--we still have to wrestle with the fact that millions of voters still like Bush because he is a Christian and because he has promised to work on dismantling Roe v. Wade, banning gay marriage, and preventing stem cells from being used as opposed to being thrown in the trash. To criticize this president and the electorate without citing religion's role in poltics today (not to mention Bush's pathology) is a fool's errand.

sewells1951

02/08/2007 01:55:33 PM

sheri, I'm not unsympathetic to your position as it is the same as mine. I guess what I am saying is that if such a person can get anywhere remotely close to enough votes to get elected then the populace as a whole has got it coming. Kind of like a really good player can get stuck on a lazy team, one can sympathize with the good player's plight while still understanding the team deserves to lose.

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 01:51:02 PM

Refusing to see any mistakes made in administration (even about Hurricane Katrina), I see as qualities of a despot. He wasn't even listening to his own Congress BEFORE the Democrats took over and thumbed his nose at the United Nations regarding the Iraqui War.

tinisoli

02/08/2007 01:46:47 PM

Bush's attitude toward government and democracy is not all that unlike a despot's--I always imagine him saying "Gee, really?" whenever Alberto Gonzalez tells him about something inconveniently constitional like habeas corpus--but Bush is also a prime example of the dangers we face when we give great power to someone whose religious beliefs justify a contempt for evidence, intelligence, inquiry, and democratic processes. Add on a blasé attitude toward armageddon and a conviction that God is on the side of America, and we've got deadly serious problems. Often this debate between atheists and theists is mischaracterized as "Science vs. Faith". But it is more accurate to call it "Valuing Evidence vs. Eschewing Evidence".

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 01:45:31 PM

I'm not one of the voters who elected him though; I voted against him and now have to suffer with the rest.

sewells1951

02/08/2007 01:21:06 PM

Sheri et al, While I agree that Bush is incompetent, I also hold the view that voters get EXACTLY what they deserve. Bush used iminent domain to confiscate a family farm for his baseball stadium. Cheney did deals with Myanmar at Haliburton. These things were known prior to their being elected. No one has any right to act surprised by their behavior.

tinisoli

02/08/2007 12:29:28 PM

oddjoe, Yeah, I know not everyone wants to be part of the crowd. But Sullivan and other theists use the crowd when they need to. I think it's disingenuous to take a semantics-based/ epistemologica/"God is whatever you think he is!" stance in one instance and then get very specific or literal in another. Theists argue that atheists are always lumping them all into one big smelly mass, but many theists do the very same thing if it suits their purposes.

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 12:27:43 PM

He certainly is an incompetent president, F1fan. On that, we agree.

sheri1555stl

02/08/2007 12:24:20 PM

oddjoe, you said that you don't equate "godlessness" with atheism, and then later said that you don't equate it with immorality either. What does "godlessness" mean to you, and especially in light of the example you gave of the gangs?

F1Fan

02/08/2007 12:11:24 PM

I’m concerned about emotionally immature people in a modern world, as the decisions they make may not take into account the reality of the world, and focus on the illusions of religion. How some view the Rapture and how they make decisions in the modern world. I remember early in Bush 42’s presidency some worried that he might hasten a global conflict because he believed the Rapture was here and now. That’s been forgotten since 9-11. But the decisions he’s made have been quite poor, and god-inspired. An incompetent god to go with an incompetent president.

oddjoe

02/08/2007 12:07:10 PM

tinisoli, there are a lot of things about atheism I like. I do not really feel God needs to be advertised. I do not equate godlessness to imoralty. I think your points are good. But just look at my handle. I am the last one to go along with the crowd. Yet for many people, that is not the case.

oddjoe

02/08/2007 11:59:17 AM

sewells1951, I view an idea, like mercy even, as being lifeless. I don't see much hope without life.

tinisoli

02/08/2007 11:29:48 AM

There is this phenomenon in which people who do not want to be associated with atheism or who want to believe (or be seen as believing) in something "greater than [whatever]" choose to use words like God, godless, god-fearing, and religion to describe their beliefs. There is a strong practical reason to do this: Why not be part of the majority and feel justified rather than alone with your own private beliefs? But it is an illusion. Over and over theists get in line with whatever group is the safest for them at any given moment. Somebody calls out Islam for promoting the murder of infidels? Oh, well, I'm part of a sect in Islam that doesn't take that part of the Koran literally. Part of a Christian church that loathes homosexuality? Oh, well, MY interpretation of the Bible is different. Sullivan himself plays this game throughout this debate.

tinisoli

02/08/2007 11:15:10 AM

Nor do we have to use the word "godless" to describe people who are morally bankrupt.

sewells1951

02/08/2007 11:04:18 AM

oddjoe, if god is mercy I have only one small question. What is wrong with the word mercy? It's a perfectly good word. Why does it need to be called something else?

oddjoe

02/07/2007 10:13:06 PM

LOL! ...glitch in my ministry.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 10:11:08 PM

...glitch my in ministry...

oddjoe

02/07/2007 09:01:46 PM

steppen0410e, You gave me a little glitch my ministry. I Had to research the definition of religion. I first tried Word Web, then I had to go to the last definition of Merriam-Webster online dictionary: 4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith. There is no mention of deity. This fits my intention since worshiping deity is not a tenet of my religion. The existence of deity is not proven, anyway. Besides, God does not need worship. That is vanity.

meBigGuy

02/07/2007 08:24:50 PM

alanrichard seems to have a good handle on my perspective, that if religious believers understood the irrationality of their belief, and empowered it accordingly, then we would have much less grief in the world. But, that is not going to happen, for many reasons. The only way to move the threshold is for radicals like Sam to pound hard on the basic foundation. It is like the environmental movement. The only reason we have ANY environmental laws is because there are fanatics out there fighting for what they believe. They will never get all they want, but the world will be better for it. Unfortunately, the reality is that you can't just fight fundementalism, you need to fight the foundations on which it is built.

meBigGuy

02/07/2007 08:23:19 PM

Sherri, to belabor the point: The missionary example is in no way an example that justifies religion or blind faith beliefs. In fact, dieing for irrational Faith seems like the ultimate insanity. The church leaders call that martyrdom, since they want that sort of dedication. But, they died for nothing.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 08:00:09 PM

I've GTG now. I'll read you guys later.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 07:56:26 PM

The example I gave of the missionary in the Communist regime is an act of civil disobedience, that would be an expression of what you call 'blind faith' in God, knowing death or imprisonment to be sure if caught.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 07:52:42 PM

meBigGuy: "I don't see how what you're saying justifies acting against others because of irrational beliefs (Faith)." You're right. I was saying it does not; the perpetrator still is accountable for his/her actions, which his/her societal peers will determine as moral or not. I said that if the laws violated were cosidered immoral, the perpetrator would be viewed as a martyr (if the laws were religious in nature, say, in a Communist regime banning religious expression). If the perpetrator violated perfectly legitimate/moral laws, s/he will own up to his/her crime(s), as determined by his/her society. I said that his/her faith did NOT get him/her off. I don't know how you misunderstood me.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 07:45:14 PM

"Who says that I've appointed myself to be the one in the position to help them"? Who, in the scenario IS doing the helping? Others whom YOU have deemed as rational, and like-minded to yourself. you can't escape that by trying to pose it as a hypothetical. It's smug.

alanrichard

02/07/2007 07:42:39 PM

steppen0410e. wasn't calling you names, or at least that wasn't my intion. i actually agreed with your claim. i was just noting that reducing the need to believe is a process for all of us, even those of us who support it. i do think that the problem is more precisely stated as the need to believe than as religion, since the latter does not necessarily entail the former. i agree with sam that meditation helps. so does good poetry and music.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 07:38:30 PM

You'd do better trying to find harmonious ways to express shared morality with theists and atheists alike; but, that goes lost on so many atheists who see religion as the root of all evil, who see their awe-inspiring aesthetic experiences as valid, but those of the theist as invalid, who see arrogance on the part of the theist who postulates a being to whom s/he must submit, but hold only society (from which you can choose to dissent) or oneself as the highest moral standard of good as somehow NOT arrogant. your goal appears to only be that you must somehow prove to me that my thought processes are wrong, you having the rational supremacy. that's the same us vs. them mentality that divides in religious camps, encouraging fundamentalist-motivated violence towards thosewho disagree. Really productive.

meBigGuy

02/07/2007 07:30:48 PM

sheri1555stl: I don't see how what you are saying justifies acting against others because of irrational beliefs (Faith). In fact, your examples do not exhibit that. Civil disobediance is a neccessay thing in a lawful society. Has nothing to do with blind faith in God.

namchuck

02/07/2007 07:30:18 PM

Who say's that I have "appointed myself to be the one in the position to help them"? I am just tossing around ideas like everyone else here on this message board. Mind you, if I get the opportunity, I will attempt to help people think more critically about their beliefs, just as I do about my own.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 07:26:30 PM

The smugness lies in the fact that you've appointed yourself to be the one in the position to help them.

namchuck

02/07/2007 07:19:28 PM

Call it smug if you want, sheri1555stl, but there are world views that are palpably false, and have proven detrimental to the well-being of us all. I see nothing smug about helping people think more critically about their beliefs. It may even eventuate that our societies may be rather more healthy as a result of it.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 07:03:04 PM

So we should go around "correcting" everyone's beliefs with whom we disagree, Namchuck? How smug.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 07:01:48 PM

Everyone is always responsible for his/her oen behavior, meBiGGuy, faith notwithstanding. That is why people have been imprisoned or executed for being missionaries in foreign countries, for civil diobedience, for acts of terrorism, etc. When one feels that s/he is "right" in violating law, if the law was immoral, most would characterize the offender as a martyr. If the laws were fine, then as a lunatic who must pay for his/her crimes. Nonreligious people aren't always the only ones making the latter characterization.

namchuck

02/07/2007 07:00:33 PM

Yes, sheri1555stl, "we are each entitled to a 'false world view'", but that doesn't mean that we cannot help people come to understand that their world view is false.

steppen0410e

02/07/2007 06:55:23 PM

Yes, oddjoe, we can have the Golden Rule, but religion involves the worship of imaginary beings. Let's have the GR without all the rest of the trappings of religion.

meBigGuy

02/07/2007 06:55:16 PM

I say that Altruism and ethical behavior are evolutionary traits. Violent and unethical behavior negatively affect survival in a civilized society. To the extent that violence enhances survival, society has broken down in fundemental ways. Religion does not fix these problems, as we can see today. I think it makes them worse.

meBigGuy

02/07/2007 06:50:21 PM

Not acting according to the precepts of unprovable, irrational beliefs is what I'd like to see. I don't know how to say this exactly, but there are feelings, ethics, right, wrong, altruism, love, intuition, and many other intangable perceptions that guide us as human beings and that will always be a bit beyond science. Those will always be there. The problem begins when one bases their actions on what has been falsely represented as truth. This problem becomes intolerable when one decides that these baseless assertions allow them or force them to rightously trump other's rational or irrational assertions, or their rights. When one is able to (almost) blindly accept his Faith as truth, he no longer becomes responsible for wrongs done in the name of that Faith. Faith actually provides the believer a simple out to perform actions that, to an objective viewer, would not be acceptable. A simple example would be shunning a neighbor because they believe in a different God.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 06:35:44 PM

Why, steppen0410e, the GR is the main good common element of all religions. We need to keep it simple for everyone.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 06:33:26 PM

I hope you realize, Namchuck, that we are each entitled to 'false world views,' be that as it may. And proselytizing is hardly seen as a 'worthy endeavor,' simply because one sees themself as correct and another in error.

steppen0410e

02/07/2007 06:31:31 PM

If one wants to live by rules, then the 'Golden' one is better than most, but why on earth call adherence to it a "religion"? Incidentally, look at the teachings of Mo Ti which leave Jesus' teachings for dead in respect to applicable quality, and with no requirement to believe six impossible things before breakfast.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 06:27:47 PM

Even though the Golden Rule makes sense even from only a secular perspective.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 06:26:34 PM

I hope my simple religion takes hold. Even though the Golden Rule makes ense only from a secular perspective, it only works when you know you will not be caught. See if you can find out about Strauss and you may understand me.

steppen0410e

02/07/2007 06:23:28 PM

I think you are spot on there, Namchuck. There is certainly no evidence that Jesus was anything other than, as you say, "a man of his time". Geza vermes' study of Jesus the Jew reveals him to be one of potentially many cast in the same cultural mould. In that light, he does not shine as particularly holy, nor do his teachings seem, except in certain instances, commendable.

namchuck

02/07/2007 06:13:47 PM

And I would consider the "proselytizing against theism" a worthy endeavor as I believe theism constitutes a false world view. And by 'theism' I mean the notion that the universe was created by a supernatural deity who continues to supervise the world, answers prayer, intervenes with miracles, etc.

namchuck

02/07/2007 06:07:32 PM

"I think the verdict is still out on the nature of Jesus.." Perhaps, sheri1555stl, but from the available evidence, Jesus was completely a man of his time, and the world common to Jesus and his Jewish Palestinian contemporaries was wholly mythological.

steppen0410e

02/07/2007 06:03:03 PM

alanrichard: "Actually, the need to believe in things without evidence can also be found elsewhere..." Who would deny it, but we're talking about religion here. Call me names if you want to, but I am increasingly limiting my "need" to believe on things without evidence.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 06:02:59 PM

Excuse me! Namchuck, ahh! Now it makes sense.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 06:00:27 PM

I think the verdict is still out on the nature of Jesus, Namchuck, hence the many different interpretations, prescriptions for action, applications, etc.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 05:59:47 PM

Namchuck, I think that people use religion as an excuse to allow certain bad things in society, like stoning women. The religion is bad in that it can be used that way. I am for doing away with that religion and replacing it with the Golden Rule and the stipulation that we should be good all the time since we do not know who is watching. God may be watching.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 05:55:02 PM

What constitutes need to believe in one and no need for belief in another are 2 different things. The humanitarian end result of theists and atheists doing good in the world together (no matter what the reinforcing motive) is all that should matter. Proselytizing against theism that does good (on the grounds that its shares core beliefs about God/god with those who do bad things, which more probably come from more marginalized beliefs) is just as bad as theists trying to convert atheists to what atheists consider an irrationally held belief. We condemn actions more so than ideas, from which a myriad of actions may follow.

alanrichard

02/07/2007 05:50:29 PM

steppen0410e (quoting sam) "all that is good in religion can be had elsewhere without the need to believe in things without evidence." actually, the need to believe in things without evidence can also be found elsewhere - in politics, for example. AND it can be found among people like sam - smart people - who say they do not have that need. WMD, anyone?

namchuck

02/07/2007 05:48:16 PM

Excuse me! That should have read..."but would rather see him as some sort of enlightened avatar keeping mum about what he really knew...

namchuck

02/07/2007 05:46:35 PM

Quite right, oddjoe. Take, for instance, the intellectual laziness of some believers who simply ignore the fact that Jesus' world view was a completely mythological one rather see him as some sort of enlightened avata and keeping mum about what he really knew about life and the universe.

namchuck

02/07/2007 05:42:57 PM

I'm all for the humanitarian stuff. I repeat, and as Harris has pointed out, all that is good in religion can be had elsewhere without the need to believe in things without evidence. And, of course, people make extravagant claims about a whole lot of things that they cannot rationalize to any degree, and the subjective protestations of believers can never count as evidence for God, seeing how often their supposed claims contradict one another. I think the believers subjective experiences are evidence of, rather than for, a prior conviction.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 05:41:25 PM

Sheri, OK, I see. I went back to see where you misunderstood me. Belief in the Bible can be intellectual laziness. For example, some people just accept that it should be taken literally. Then they add up the ages of the people in the OT and say the earth is only 6000 or so years old. Doing good things has no correlation to intellectual laziness. In fact, using our minds to search and learn the truth about our universe is a good thing to do.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 05:25:55 PM

Not at all, oddjoe. I would think for them to be at odds with each other, though, the very religions that people use to justify violence and acts of hate could never be used to inspire acts of humanitarianism and goodness that we consider virtuous. History does not bear that out. I'm also having trouble reconciling your concepts 'belief in a good God is good for society,' and 'God by definition is good' (the utilitarianism of religion) with the 'helping out in the world' being incompatible with 'intellectual laziness,' unless you mean something far different from 'good God' than do most theists, just as you posit a definition of 'godlessness' that's different from what most to be equivalent to either atheism or immorality.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 05:19:51 PM

Do you mind if I call you Sheri?

oddjoe

02/07/2007 05:15:41 PM

sheri1555stl, I think they tend to be at odds with each other. Thanks for considering the GR vs jungle rule.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 05:10:13 PM

I don't see how being 'intellectually lazy' and 'helping in the world' are complementary or analogous, but I agree that we should all be humanitarian. I also think it important that we find common grounds on which we CAN agree, that we can cooperatively be humanitarian. I support your Golden Rule vs. the 'Law of the Jungle' concept, for instance.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 05:01:43 PM

OK, sheri1555stl, I think that society would do better to pay attention to how they can help in the world rather than taking the Bible to have magic words, many of which they use as an excuse to do be intellectually lazy.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 04:55:04 PM

But both Testaments are valid to me, oddjoe, so I have to exempt myself from the us and we.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 04:53:42 PM

tinisoli, I do not equate atheism to godlessness.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 04:53:07 PM

It is a matter of opinion that the harms of religion have FAR OUTWEIGHED the good, subjective to those who feel that they have benefitted, which subjections the atheist is not including in his/her clinical outlook, in that religion hasn't benefitted him/her at all.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 04:51:05 PM

tinisoli, Whatever point you are trying to make, it's is not working. But if you want, I will carry it further. God by definition is good. The etymology shows that. The Golden Rule is good. The law of the jungle as in killing who you can, like the gangs do, is bad. The gangsters are not following as a conscience centered on God would lead them to. OK they may be 90% godless while most other people in society are only, say 20% godless. There are various degrees of applicability for adjectives. I can be sad, but maybe not as sad as yesterday.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 04:34:51 PM

Namchuck, Nothing wrong with them. Belief in a good God is good for society. There is more of everybody outside of prison than inside, even criminals, probably.

tinisoli

02/07/2007 04:32:45 PM

oddjoe, So what IS ignorant if stating something that is untrue isn't ignorant? Here's what you wrote: "I know watching everyone around me that godlessness is very scary indeed. The US is a very god-fearing country. Yet, there are places were that is not true, as in inner city gangs. All the good people I know and want to be around are god-fearing. The ones that I know who are not are not kind enough for me to like and feel comfortable around." I can't speak to whether you really are only comfortable around god-fearing people, but it is simply untrue to say that gangs are godless.

namchuck

02/07/2007 04:28:28 PM

And what is wrong with 'godless' people anyway? If the stats are reliable, there are fewer of them withing the prison system than outside of it.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 04:25:23 PM

tinisoli, now you have really made my point about adhoms.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 04:22:11 PM

sheri1555stl, In particular, the NT is not valid in the respect that the OT is not valid to you and me. In general, the same applies to everyone. I mean it has its pluses and minuses like other works of fiction and philosophy. It is still valid as a book to read, it's just that many modern books do a better job at teaching morality and probably philosophy as well.

tinisoli

02/07/2007 04:20:18 PM

oddjoe, How is it not ignorant of you to claim that inner city gangs are composed of godless people? It's untrue. Therefore, to claim that it is true is a sign of ignorance on your part.

namchuck

02/07/2007 04:20:02 PM

I hope that wasn't because the irony of it escaped you, sheri1555stl? And I agree, steppen. Weighed in the balance, religion is definitely to be found wanting. Nor is it a matter of opinion as sheri1555stl suggests, but a monumental fact of historical evidence.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 04:16:54 PM

Well, I guess that's a matter of opinion, steppen.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 04:15:14 PM

oddjoe: "Sheri, check out the Christianity Debate board to see that the NT is not valid for us either." Who is "us"?

steppen0410e

02/07/2007 04:15:04 PM

The 'sometimes usefulness' of religion is more than outweighed by its destructive alternatives. Anyway, as Harris has pointed out, all that is good in religion can be had elsewhere without the need to believe in things without evidence.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 04:12:51 PM

I think that's the first post you've posted, Namchuck, that I've prsonally found merit in.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 04:06:56 PM

We've already agreed on some points, jacknky, about suffering and the sometimes usefulness of religion, as you stated in the post I replied to.

namchuck

02/07/2007 03:59:04 PM

Yes, while omnipotence and omniscience has its own set of problems, there is still space, I suppose, for belief in a lesser deity: one that is supremely powerful but not omnipotent. This world may be the best that a supremely powerful deity can manage, for all we know. Or maybe God is only intermittently benevolent and fitfully forgetful. If that were the case, it might be best to keep on his good side.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 03:54:31 PM

sewells1951, sorry I had the post attribution wrong. OK, I think we are cool then.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 03:51:30 PM

tinisoli, oddjoe, Are you saying that inner city gang members are godless? Ironic that you should say such an ignorant thing today, as Sullivan just posted a YouTube of an episode of "The Wire," a show about Baltimore drug dealers and thugs, that discusses how gangs have a truce on Sundays. First, adhoms (ignorant) simply show you have little strength in your argument. Godlessness is relative. If they were more godless, they might not have truces on Sundays.

sewells1951

02/07/2007 03:51:03 PM

oddjoe, I only claim the disproof applies to omnipotent deities. Anything less boils down to the supposition that "there may be something out there bigger and brighter than us". Given our track record, one does certainly hope that is the case.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 03:45:17 PM

First of all, who knows, the potency of God may be 90%. Truth value is determined by our ever-changing perception and knowledge. Also, we can't do apparent miracles, but we have puny intellects and abilities. All statements can only have the same truth value if we are omniscient. Our reality would be sure to be different than it is only if we acted or behaved differently. We do not know what 0od would do. We can only hope and speculate.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 03:44:35 PM

tinisoli, oddjoe, when you say we haven't disproved god, what kind of god haven't we disproved? I think there is a disproof for the existence of an omnipotent god. The disproof depends on noticing that not all statements have the same truth value. If one starts with the premise of an omnipotent god, one gets very quickly to the sort of questions children ask when exposed to the idea. Something like, can god make a rock so heavy he can't lift it or can god tell himself a secret he didn't already know. The premise of an omnipotent god necessarily entails contradictions. If a premise that entailed contradiction were indeed valid, it follows logically, via the method of modus ponens, that all statements would have the same truth value; i.e., true. Since reality tells us that some statements are false, the logical implication is that the premise of an omnipotent god cannot possibly be valid. If it were valid, our reality would be different than it is.

namchuck

02/07/2007 03:40:17 PM

One should add, too, that Michael Behe continues to ignore scientific papers and books that provide evidence that refutes his 'irreducible complexity' claims.

alanrichard

02/07/2007 03:33:45 PM

tinisoli at the risk of sounding anti-catholic, i find his adherence to a rather high-handed organization a bit troubling too. the catholic church is only the extreme case, however; none of the mainline christian denominations have come to grips with the good theology of a century ago, much less that of today. the theological equivalent of c.f.cavafy is available, but the major christian institutions find it necessary to cling to the theological equivalent of susan polis schultz.

namchuck

02/07/2007 03:33:17 PM

That's 'Jesus' in that last line and not 'Jess', who is, incidentally, a very fine fellow.

namchuck

02/07/2007 03:31:18 PM

Undeniably, there is much to be admired in Jesus' aphorisms and actions, but most of what he advocated can be found through many disparate schools of thought, many of them older than Christianity. Perhaps Jesus' one unique contribution to human thought was his teaching of eternal punishment, and, as steppen pointed out in an earlier post, this couldn't be the work of a human person. Mind you, the New Testament reveals Jesus as decidedly flawed. When ignored, Jesus became petulent. He labelled his detractors 'serpents', a 'generation of vipers'. When mocked, he became vindictive, envisioning for his enemies an eternity of 'wailing and gnashing of teeth', etc. In this, Jess fits right in with many other iconic and iconified men.

jacknky

02/07/2007 03:24:19 PM

Sheri, "What was that experience on which the original assumption was based, jacknky, when you first started on your Buddhist journey, that led you to believe that you would be transformed?" At first I was simply told to sit on the cushion in meditation. It was worth a try but I didn't have to believe that the Buddha was the Lord and Savior. I just had to be willing to make the effort. After awhile I could see the benefits. I think the point is that I can't "make the effort" to believe there are supernatural forces in the world just as I don't think you can will yourself not to believe what you believe. I had ample motivation to have a religious conversion experience. I couldn't. And I doubt that we're going to convince you there's no God. So, I wonder if there is anywhere we can agree.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 03:19:41 PM

Sheri, check out the Christianity Debate board to see how the NT is not valid for us either.

sewells1951

02/07/2007 03:02:16 PM

tini, I agree that Behe's arguments are seriously flawed. He's so tightly sewn up in his Intelligent Design box that he just doesn't get the contingent nature of evolution.

tinisoli

02/07/2007 02:57:11 PM

sewells, I'm glad you brought up probability. The Lehigh professor who is a proponent of Intelligent Design "theory" thinks that the low probability of the mutations necessary for the evolution of flagella occurring in the "right" sequence (or occurring at all) is somehow indicative of a designer. Professor Behe's error is in the assumption that the flagellum needed to, or was destined to, evolve in the first place. He's a PhD biologist, but he doesn't understand that natural selection selects for whatever works in a given environment at a given time––NOT for key ingredients for a predetermined end product.

sewells1951

02/07/2007 02:53:56 PM

Sullivan says in his latest post 'We both accept that there may well be a higher truth beyond empirical inquiry or proof.' Ok, why would he think that a higher truth beyond empirical inquiry or proof would CONTRADICT empirical inquiry or proof? I suspect that Harris would be okay with some higher truth that was consonant with empirical inquiry and proof and that Sullivan is not so restrictive. An analogy, quantum mechanics may be a higher truth than chemistry but did any of the working chemistry that was done before quantum mechanics came along CONTRADICT quantum mechanics? No, the people that tried that were doing alchemy, not chemistry. Same principle here. Whatever 'higher truth' we may eventually get to it won't contradict empirical inquiry and proof.

sewells1951

02/07/2007 02:36:27 PM

nesh5ama, I hold the premise that the reality I inhabit is infinite. In an infinite reality, anything with a non-zero probablity of occurring will occur an infinite number of times. Since I accept that I exist, I infer the probability of my existence and that of others to be non-zero. Thermodynamics has to do with probabilities. A cup of coffee can theoretically get warmer on its own, etc. It's just highly unlikely. In an infinite reality, the only stuff that never happens is the impossible stuff.

sewells1951

02/07/2007 02:29:18 PM

nesh5ama, why would you believe I don't believe in science? I do believe in science. Saying that something is a theory does nothing, in my mind, to reduce the value of it. I believe that most all knowledge we have is theoretical in nature and indeed can't be anything else.

tinisoli

02/07/2007 02:24:43 PM

oddjoe, Are you saying that inner city gang members are godless? Ironic that you should say such an ignorant thing today, as Sullivan just posted a YouTube of an episode of "The Wire," a show about Baltimore drug dealers and thugs, that discusses how gangs have a truce on Sundays.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 02:21:37 PM

sheri1555stl, I know watching everyone around me that godlessness is very scary indeed. The US is a very god-fearing country. Yet, there are places were that is not true, as in inner city gangs. All the good people I know and want to be around are god-fearing. The ones that I know who are not are not kind enough for me to like and feel comfortable around.

tinisoli

02/07/2007 02:20:37 PM

"What is so logical about our existence? According to the third law of thermodynamics we even shouldn't be here." What?!

tinisoli

02/07/2007 02:19:00 PM

And now Sullivan is posting nice things that Carl Sagan (a scientist, get it?) said about religion's value. It's kind of pathetic, and not just because Sagan is too dead to respond.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 02:18:53 PM

I also agree with your summations of the Old Testament, oddjoe. I think it veers into something more than behavior control, though, when you get to the New.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 02:15:45 PM

sewells1951, I will have to evaluate your post further and get back to you later.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 02:15:30 PM

oddjoe, I would agree with you that some people finsd the Golden Rule more authoritative when written in a book and viewed as having an eternal source not subject to human whim. It is not as "obvious" as some would believe to treat others as I would want to be treated. Too many people cut in line and cut off in traffic daily for that to be the case. We're not talking about the occasional murder, rape, theft, etc., but common, everyday rudeness.

nesh5ama

02/07/2007 02:13:42 PM

tinisoli. What is so logical about our existence? According to the third law of thermodynamics we even shouldn't be here. sewells1951.If you dont believe in religion and you dont believe in physicsthen what else is there? .

tinisoli

02/07/2007 02:08:34 PM

alanrichard, It just seems clear that people call it God (even when it is not the same God as another's God) because they want to establish either a unifying theme or they want to claim that their God is just as legit. And then when there is disagreement, or the products of their interpretations of their Gods are inevitably incompatible, then both sides break their truce and start hurling grenades at each other. There is just something bogus to me about Sullivan embracing someone's idea about God being all the energy and matter in the universe and then defining himself as a devout Catholic. It reeks of convenience.

sewells1951

02/07/2007 02:03:00 PM

nesh5ama, I would like to point out that 'physics as we accept it today' is also 'only a theoretical postulate'. Evolution is also, 'only a theoretical postulate'. On the other hand creationism isn't even a theoretical postulate.

sewells1951

02/07/2007 02:00:38 PM

oddjoe, when you say we haven't disproved god, what kind of god haven't we disproved? I think there is a disproof for the existence of an omnipotent god. The disproof depends on noticing that not all statements have the same truth value. If one starts with the premise of an omnipotent god, one gets very quickly to the sort of questions children ask when exposed to the idea. Something like, can god make a rock so heavy he can't lift it or can god tell himself a secret he didn't already know. The premise of an omnipotent god necessarily entails contradictions. If a premise that entailed contradiction were indeed valid, it follows logically, via the method of modus ponens, that all statements would have the same truth value; i.e., true. Since reality tells us that some statements are false, the logical implication is that the premise of an omnipotent god cannot possibly be valid. If it were valid, our reality would be different than it is.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 01:58:22 PM

tinisoli, I think the Bible should be relegated to the status of fiction like To Kill a Mockingbird. We just about only need the Golden Rule out of it. Most of the stuff i there is for the purpose of behavior control. we can do that with secular law. The OT was largely secular law for Palestine anyway. But that code is very outdated.

tinisoli

02/07/2007 01:57:33 PM

Again we are getting bogged down in looking for things in religion that are "right" and looking at history to find bad scientists and bad science. Science is not the opposite of religion. And nobody is arguing that if religion were to disappear that all problems would be solved and all humankind would shed its other forms of dogma or irrational behavior. There remains, though, the fallacy that a world without religion would be worse, and that human beings need the golden rule to be read to them from a book in order to grasp its rather obvious logic about existence.

nesh5ama

02/07/2007 01:55:36 PM

sewells1951.Super string theory postulates that we may be a part of the so called "multiverse but this is only theoretical postulate .Physics as we accept it today points to the beginnig and expansion of our universe.

alanrichard

02/07/2007 01:53:42 PM

tinisoli 1.if you want to know "why call it god?", read "crisis of faith" by rudolf bultmann.he addresses that question, but not within the character limit on this page.2.re:why not show a wombat or a mushroom cloud?agreed.acocmpanying theological language with more wombats and mushroom cloud pictures and fewer gooey sunset pictures would be more interesting and more profound.again, bultmann's article is relevant.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 01:50:16 PM

tinisoli, yes I can imagine that. But we can have better and should. Most calculating, conniving sociopaths I have seen are godless. Consider that CIA agent who gave away the names of fellow agents for money--name slips my mind. They were killed in Russia. We haven't disproved God, so we may as use that fact to be a good influence on our behavior due to doubts about afterlife.

nesh5ama

02/07/2007 01:49:42 PM

tinisoli.In sciences, the so called reality is the final test of the feasibilty of a theoretical argument.I am stating a simple observation and you are making too much out of it.The Bible is not a book of science,yet it may contain information related to our physical world. I do not know of anyone who would base exclusively his jewish faith based on the opening sentence of Genesis.

alanrichard

02/07/2007 01:43:49 PM

hi godma. we cannot always wait until we have sufficient evidence to make a decision. every day, decisions impinge on us and we must make them without access to certainty. we use the often painfully inadequate evidence we have at hand and then take our shot. our ability to decide and then let go rests on the ability to accept a world without final answers. this is faith, but it is not belief. i would argue that faith IS an indispensible element of the real decisions we make in our lives, and that it is NOT a substitute for the rational element in decision-making. metaphor and poetic expression are truth-generating modes of rationality that evoke inner experiences (like that of trust) and cognitive shifts - NOT inadequate substitutes for empirical research. it still looks as if harris would scoff at the line, "my love is a red red rose," because a feeling can't be red and claiming it can somehow closes the poet's mind to scientific invstigation of love or roses.

sewells1951

02/07/2007 01:29:19 PM

nesh5ama, as far as I am aware, there is no reason to believe that reality had a beginning. The 'Big Bang' might just as easily have been a tiny little local phenomenon embedded in an eternal matrix. An eternally existing universe also has the virtue of not entailing contradiction; i.e., thoughts of nothing giving rise to something.

tinisoli

02/07/2007 01:26:42 PM

oddjoe, Where do you get this Law of the Jungle vs. Golden Rule stuff? Can you not imagine how both cooperation and competition could coexist and coevolve? Other species exhibit altruism and cooperation. Are they reading the Bible?

sewells1951

02/07/2007 01:26:20 PM

tini, this delineation fell out of my trying to think about what it was about Sullivan's responses that resonate with me. The apprehension of something 'bigger' than oneself and one's connection to it is the source of that resonance for me. I too was indoctrinated with god propaganda as a child but realized at an early age that the southern US I grew up in during the American apartheid gave lie to the premise. I still don't understand why the intolerance for Sullivan's sexuality didn't belie the premise for him. I think this has helped me to clarify my opposition to religion in it's prefigurative and prescriptive guises.

tinisoli

02/07/2007 01:23:37 PM

nesh5ama, And I could swear to you that there are human-like animals living on another planet. If science one day finds that to be true (or close enough for my fans to proclaim that I was right) it wouldn't mean a damn thing about how wise or correct I was. It's like reading Nostradamus and interpreting reality to fit his predictions. Useless.

oddjoe

02/07/2007 01:22:23 PM

sewells1951, I agree somewhat. The interpretive part is pretty benign. The other aspects can also be if all the doctrine not rigorously and directly supported by the Golden Rule is removed from religion. If we do not get everyone to deeply understand the need for the GR over the law of the jungle, we end up with godless people who will manipulate everyone necessary to reach there ends. The godless people in the Bush Administration have done exactly such a bad thing in manipulating the large number of people hung up on a complicated system of religious dogma.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 01:18:43 PM

"Are we being careful that we aren;t simply swapping one dogma for another?" Very insightful and conscientious, jacknky.

nesh5ama

02/07/2007 01:16:40 PM

tinisoli.I do not support harming others whatever the reason may be. The Bible contains many contradictory statements and the message needs to be extracted from it.Literal interpretation(SH Letter to a christian nation) leads to a selection bias and wrong conclusions.ABSENCE of evidence is not equivalent to the evidence of absence.For 3000 thousand years old jewish book was telling people that there was beginning to the universe we live in while science claimed that the universe was constant.Big Bang theory proved the old text to be right.

sheri1555stl

02/07/2007 01:15:03 PM

"But it isn't a blind faith, but rather an assumption, based on experience, that I will be slowly transformed." What was that experience on which the original assumption was based, jacknky, when you first started on your Buddhist journey, that led you to believe that you would be transformed? Sounds a lot like the faith of the one first becoming a theist, only not rooted in a being external to yourself. "We keep talking about how illogical religion is, but the "logic" is that religion can be a means to transformation, not always but it can be." I agree. In essence, it does not HAVE to produce the fudamentalist-violence-inspired, dogmatic-coercive behavior that some claiming to represent some faiths display. You may not share the core belief (monotheism or pantheism even), but the end result on that quest to become better CAN unite rather than divide into camps of "my way of self-improvement is better than yours."

tinisoli

02/07/2007 01:13:20 PM

sewells1951, That's a very helpful way of looking at things. What's been bugging me about Sullivan's latest mode of arguing for faith is that he incorporates the most vague and non-theistic interpretive forms of religion (if you can call it that) when he needs their support. It seems that to qualify as a believer, in his eyes, all you need to do is say you believe in something big and magical and to call that big-magical thing "god." It reminds me of a school of different fish species that might evade a large predator by grouping together in a multispecies aggregation, but once the big predator is gone they go back to eating each other.

sewells1951

02/07/2007 12:57:28 PM

If one posits that religious belief has differing components, it becomes easier to define those aspects of religious belief that are objectionable to rationalists. A first cut might be to hypothsize religious beliefs being divided into three main areas as follows: 1 - interpretative, an apprehension of the nature of reality 2 - prescriptive, a means of defining behavior and comportment appropriate to a sentient being in the reality interpreted 3 = prefigurative, a conception of some teleological end which must be attained and for which one must strive It strikes me that it is the prefigurative element of religious belief that is most noxious to human development. To the degree that the presciptive element is suborned to prefigurative ends, prescriptive religion is also noxious. I think it is possible for the interpretive element of religiou belief to be fairly benign. Any comments?

jacknky

02/07/2007 12:53:58 PM

Thank you, tinisoli. I'm trying out some new ideas here and they're not fully formed. In fact, I may eventually abandon them altogether.

tinisoli

02/07/2007 12:48:05 PM

I just don't see how it is not intellectually dishonest for someone like Sullivan to bond with people over the most vague and trivial notions of God but then denounce other god-worshipping people if their interpretations or their Gods happen to be violent and "unhinged."

tinisoli

02/07/2007 12:41:59 PM

jacknky, I think one thing that we should aim for is for the marginilization of religious extremests/dogmatists. And I think that an essential component of that movement is to ask moderates like Sullivan why they align themselves with other theists even when their beliefs are more substantively different (and dangerous) than his beliefs compared to many atheists. It seems to me that despite the infighting and warring within and between major religions, many theists do join hands or shield one another from the intellectual attacks of atheists like Harris. Sullivan paints himself as someone who is at peace with his faith even if he were the only one doing so, yet when Harris takes on the core beliefs of theism Sullivan circles the wagons and starts posting supportive emails from readers whose gods and religions are wholly unlike Sullivan's. (con't)

jacknky

02/07/2007 12:13:55 PM

"I have no ability to stop believing." I believe Mr. Sullivan when he says this because I have no ability to believe. I never have even though I have tried mightily to beleive. If Mr. Sullivan and other theists are telling the truth, and I believe they are, that there belief is intrinsic to who they are then what good are all these discussions? They may be intellectually stimulating and as atheists it may feel good to have someone so eloquent as Mr. Harris speak for us. But where are we headed? Is our goal to marginalize believers as we atheists have been marginalized? Can we learn to be critical of the dogmatic and harmful aspects of religious belief without attacking the essence of what so many fellow human beings are- believers? Are we being careful that we aren't simply swapping one dogma for another?

Týsson

02/07/2007 11:17:06 AM

"We keep talking about how illogical religion is but the "logic" is that religion can be a means to transformation. not always but it can be." I certainly can't argue against that point. :-)

Týsson

02/07/2007 11:16:15 AM

"They don't get that but maybe you do." Well, my religion is polytheistic. Dogma is very difficult to maintain in a polytheistic faith. Generally speaking, orthopraxy is far more important than orthodoxy.

Týsson

02/07/2007 11:14:45 AM

I understand and I don't see a need for an apology. Rather, I tire of endless critiques of "religion" that are, in fact, only criticisms of a subset of religious expressions. These criticisms against, to use your terminology, absolutism, are fair and, I believe, valid. They simply do not generally hold against the entire spectrum of religious belief. Your response seems to acknowledge this and for that I am grateful.

Do_unto_others

02/07/2007 10:50:11 AM

Speaking of "religion" being built on lies, take notice that "reverend" Ted Haggart is now "completely heterosexual", despite having 'warred with this all [his] adult life'. NOT! Just how gullible are "christians" anyway?

jacknky

02/07/2007 09:44:48 AM

Tysson, Thank you for making that point. I think most of the problems being discussed here are with monotheistic religions which by their nature tend to be divisive and dogmatic. As a Buddhist practitioner it's an act of faith everytime I put my butt on the meditation cushion. But it isn't ablind faith but rather an assumption, based on experience, that I will be slowly transformed. We keep talking about how illogical religion is but the "logic" is that religion can be a means to transformation. not always but it can be.

sewells1951

02/07/2007 09:13:15 AM

Tysson, I have gotten into a lot of trouble when addressing religous groups by contending that pantheistic religions are considerably more intellectually advanced than is monotheism. It usually makes no difference to the audience that I explain that pantheistic religions tend to be of more an interpretive nature than of a prefiguring nature. They don't get that but maybe you do.

sewells1951

02/07/2007 09:08:24 AM

Tysson, don't know what your religion is. If it isn't absolutist, then please accept my apology. I don't know of any dangerous fundamentalisms that aren't the result of absolutism so that is what I focus on.

sewells1951

02/07/2007 09:05:17 AM

So, if one wishes to understand the inquisition, Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler, 9/11, et al, one needs to realize what they were after; i.e., a predetermined end, a delusional certainty. Ultimately, from an evolutionary perspective, which approach has the better chance of succeeding. 1 - systems that attempt to cope with peturbation by dampening or 2 - systems that attempt to cope with peturbation by riding, and exploiting, the waves of change? The irony is that the fear that leads people to try suppressing peturbation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Týsson

02/07/2007 08:59:31 AM

"hit the nail on the head vis a vis religion and other absolutist dogmas" While I agree with most of what you said, your preface is at the heart of why many theists rankle blanket critiques of religion such as those posed by the likes of Harris and Dawkins. Not all religion is absolutist dogma. If the critics would stop persisting in this pars pro toto fallacy they would find considerable common ground with theists in terms of the dangers of absolutist dogmas.

sewells1951

02/07/2007 08:47:52 AM

I would like to point out that Karl Popper, in his 2 volume work, The Open Society and Its Enemies, hit the nail on the head vis a vis religion and other absolutist dogmas. To summarize his argument, any absolutist dogma (christianity a religious doctrine, marxism an historicist doctrine, fascism another historicist doctrine) will lead inexorably to the same end, insane (and deadly) attempts to control reality to achieve the pre-figured ends the dogma holds as inexorably that which is to be. Herein lies the true beauty, and the evolutionary validity, of science and reason. The two, in concert, presume an openess (open endedness) of the process as opposed to a closed, predefined result. As Carnap remarked, science is like a boat that has to be rebuilt one plank at a time while keeping it afloat.

mediagiant

02/06/2007 11:45:58 PM

Sam, Sam...you're missing a great opportunity here. So I'll help. Rather than censor Andrew because his argument is based on faith, let him run with it. But, riddle me this, Batman: What kind of God do you have faith in? The kind of God who creates hurricanes and parasites? The kind of God who allows innocent animals to suffer needlessly? The kind of God who created some people with autoimmune disorders...literally, people whose bodies attack themselves? WHAT THE HELL KIND OF GOD IS THAT?????

mediagiant

02/06/2007 11:36:21 PM

Like John Lennon, I imagine a world without religion as a much, much better place. As much as I have come to enjoy Richard Dawkins, I just might like Sam Harris even more. My favorite quote: "You also remind me that many devoutly religious people do good things on the basis of their religious beliefs. I do not doubt either of these propositions. You could catalogue such facts until the end of time, and they would not begin to suggest that God actually exists, or that the Bible is his Word, or that his Son came to earth in the person of Jesus to redeem our sins."

meBigGuy

02/06/2007 11:23:32 PM

Acting according to the precepts of science and reason is not what is being proposed. NOT acting according to the precepts of unprovable, irrational beliefs IS being proposed. I don't know how to say this exactly, but there are feelings, ethics, right, wrong, altruism, love, intuition, and many other intangable perceptions that guide us as human beings. Those will always be there. The problem begins when we base our actions on what has been falsely represented as truth. This problem becomes intolerable when we decide that these baseless assertions allow us or force us to rightously trump others rational or irrational assertions or their rights. When one can just accept his Faith as truth, he no longer becomes responsible for wrongs done in the name of that Faith. It actually provides the believer a simple out to perform actions that, to an objective viewer, would not be acceptable. A simple example would be shunning a neighbor because they believe in a different God.

tinisoli

02/06/2007 10:32:11 PM

The point, nesh5ama, is not that a life devoid of religion would be an errorless life. Nor is it that a world without religion would be a world without crime, warfare, suffering, and terrible human beings. The point is, why put any stock in a way of living that is based on magic and the ABSENCE of evidence? And why should we not be critical of people who use magical thinking to justify the most harmful and irrational of behaviors?

nesh5ama

02/06/2007 10:19:46 PM

So you believe that acting according to the precepts of science and reason will keep you from the mistakes or horrors committed in the name of religion? An excellent book entitled"Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Life " by K. Binding(law-reason)and A.Hoche(medicine-science) should make you think twice about this .However the foundation of nazi euthanasia program are well known(or may be not?) .How about the victims of the policies of the great and enlightened leaders: Frederick II of Prussia and Catherine theGreat of Russia?.One should not be deceived by the blind virtues of science and religion.(how many people died in Hiroshima ?or were those lives unworthy of life?)

tinisoli

02/06/2007 10:18:13 PM

And Sullivan's god sure as hell isn't the God of "all matter and energy." But as long as people continue to write him with descriptions of their god, he feels embraced by them and basks in their circle-jerk unity. This is what is so dishonest about what he's written in this debate. He paints himself as this lone, brave figure in the wilderness--a gay Catholic! WOW!--whose faith is reasonable and full of doubt (except about, you know, the existence of God) but then he latches onto anyone who happens to drift by whistling a tune about God. Doesn't matter if they think God is a pile of poo or a bearded man in the clouds. As long as they say they believe in something supernatural, Sullivan assigns them to the FAITHFUL team, thumbing his nose at the atheists.

tinisoli

02/06/2007 10:11:29 PM

Sullivan must be feeling insecure, or perhaps he's feeling panicked because of the whole "intolerance" thing. But he's posting tons of reader emails lately that are essentially of two types: 'Hi, Andrew. I'm not a believer but I wish I was. Boy, I sure do envy those who have faith. Thanks for your wonderful responses to that jerk Sam Harris.' or 'God is everything and everywhere. How can anyone not think there's not something BIGGER than [whatever]?' It's pathetic. I only recently began to check his Daily Dish, and I had no idea what an egomaniac he really is.

thanosd

02/06/2007 10:04:47 PM

Every assertion ("This ball is blue") needs to create some statements that cannot be true if the assertion is true ("This ball is red" cannot hold if the assertion is true). If nothing can be said that can be disputed by assuming that the assertion is true, then the assertion is not really asserting anything. In this example, if you are making a statement that "There is a god", yet there is nothing that can be said or done that would contradict that statement, then you are not really asserting anything. Thanos

meBigGuy

02/06/2007 08:41:25 PM

FutureShy: I tend to think of it as a bell curve, rather than a linear spectrum. The problem is the fundementalist side of the curve contains very dangerous people.

F1Fan

02/06/2007 07:39:16 PM

Always interesting how Sullivan uses photos of pretty sunsets for his god-oriented posts. Why not show a yo-yo, a wombat, a puddle of mud, or a mushroom cloud? Well you have to exploit emotions when you don't have reason on your side.

FutureShy

02/06/2007 04:08:27 PM

I commend Andrew Sullivan for his fine post (page 4). I understand that [my] form of faith would provoke Nietzsche's contempt and James Dobson's scorn. But there is a wide expanse between nihilism and fundamentalism. I fear your legitimate concerns (which I share) about the dangers of religious certainty in politics have blinded you to the fertility of this expanse. Sullivan's comments are, interestingly, in line with Aristotle and his Ethics in which he posits a "golden mean" for most things in life. Example: living the life of a hermit is at the far end of the spectrum of human interaction, and extreme vanity a la Paris Hilton is too far on the other; healthy human relationships is somewhere in the middle. In religious/spiritual life, one end of the spectrum may be nihilism and at the other end, the menace of fundamentalism. Sullivan's point is very well taken. Would that the overwhelming majority of all monotheistic religions shared his respect for religious humility!

tinisoli

02/06/2007 03:31:29 PM

Uggh. Sullivan has posted two truly dreadful reader's emails today. One "On God" and the other on "Church hats" and the divinity they embody. The first essentially argues that God is all of the energy and matter all around us. How lovely. But WHY CALL IT GOD?! The second states that if you can't see God in the beauty of church hats, "you're dead." Always interesting how Sullivan uses photos of pretty sunsets for his god-oriented posts. Why not show a yo-yo, a wombat, a puddle of mud, or a mushroom cloud? I mean, isn't it ALL god? or all god's creation?

tinisoli

02/06/2007 02:40:17 PM

sewells1951, I dnot' agree that we, as a species, are "barely equipped" to deal with our environments. In the blink of an eye, Homo sapiens has managed to migrate out from Africa to every corner of the Earth, every biome. And we've made use of (and plundered) whatever natural resources we could find. We've managed to ratchet up the Earth's carrying capacity for our kind, but there is a limit to how much of "us" we and the rest of Earth can endure or support. It could be that some things we've set in motion may cause our population to decrease in the coming centuries. I just hope that the suffering that that may involve might be lessened by foresight, planning, and attention to evidence rather than reliance on gods.

sewells1951

02/06/2007 02:16:09 PM

well tini, one of the hardest things about evolutionary theory for me to accept was that evolution does not select for excellence. There is one, and only one, criteria. Does it reproduce well enough to survive? How many species have gone extinct because that species was minimally equipped to deal with a particular ecology and then could not respond effectively to perturbation of that ecology. That is the source of the problem with humans in my opinion. Barely equipped to deal with our ecology and, for the most part, too stupid to set the bar for ourselves higher.

filmalicia

02/06/2007 01:52:04 PM

If I can jump in here for a moment, I am in the process of reading Sam Harris' book, "The End of Faith." At the same time, I am taking a year-long class on the Old Testament, and we are currently studying the law, particularly in Leviticus. If anything will encourage a person to see that the Bible needs to be put in context, it's Leviticus. If we followed that law, we would be stoning Sam Harris to death on the edge of town, for tempting us away from the worship of Yahweh. Where I personally differ with Harris is that I believe that the religious impulse is hard-wired in the human psyche. My view is it is better to be conscious of our religious views, unquestioned assumptions etc. than to believe we don't have them or drive them underground and then hold them unconsciously.

sheri1555stl

02/06/2007 01:21:00 PM

nicely said, jd.

sewells1951

02/06/2007 12:20:46 PM

jd70, I can relate to the fear issue. I think it is an evolutionary thing. Wouldn't beings that 'fear' and take steps to reduce their 'fear' tend to survive longer and propagate more? So maybe religion could have some salutary effects. Maybe it reduces stress for instance. The problem is that it would seem obvious that other mechanisms would simply be more effective. For instance, a scientific worldview would seem simply more efficacious than religion at actually addressing the unknown than is religion. In short, on most any grounds I can see, a scientific approach is 'better' than religion. Speaking loosely here I know but with a 1024 character limit, playing somewhat loose with arguments seems to be encouraged.

jd70

02/06/2007 11:57:41 AM

Fear is definitely an issue. Ultimately all fear is fear of the unknown. Since absolute knowledge is not possible for us fear will always be an emotion that we have to deal with. As more of an agnostic myself, I try to take the middle path. I can't know if "God" exists or if there is an "afterlife" so why worry about it. I would rather learn to be content and at peace with the fact that I can't know than argue for one side or the other. Theistic religions do tend to be predicated on fear. "Believe in Jesus" or no "afterlife", etc. At the same time I have seen others on this board that appear to have the need to dismiss "God" at all cost. Could this be rooted in fear as well? If one can convince oneself that there is no possible way that "God" could exist, then they have freed themselves of the fear imposed by the various theistic religions.

tinisoli

02/06/2007 10:50:03 AM

One subject I'd like to see addressed more in this general debate is fear. It seems that a lot of the harshest, most-dogmatic religions are all about fear, but it also seems that moderate of believers, as well as some agnostics, choose to bet on God just in case their halfhearted faith turns out to be right. A poster on this board, for example, seems inclined to bet on Jesus in case the Bible really is the word of God. (Never mind that this is as sensible as banking on the existence of the tooth fairy.) Sullivan's lyrical writing about living through the plague years and living with HIV also suggest that beneath the circular, self-congratulatory "I have faith" language that so many theists employ lurks a deep-seated fear that life DOES end at death and that the universe indeed may be an indifferent place.

seeker36

02/06/2007 10:35:34 AM

Hi, Andrew's response is interesting. It reminds me of something that happened to me about three years back. I was going through a "Goddess" phase and had bought a statue. So i'm bowing to this statue and it dawns on me that the love and nurturing i feel is in my mind, not in the statue. It was in my mind, yet the thought/feeling was experienced as outside me. I suspect that "Personal God" experiences are projected parts of ourselves given our best(or worst sometimes) attributes. Of course i could be being very ignorant but it's i hypothesis. For me now, a personal god is a half truth. If God exsits and is everything, then the projected idea of god is merely a part of the whole. I remain sceptical, but open minded i hope. Chris.

meBigGuy

02/06/2007 07:50:21 AM

godma: thanks for the link. Andrew did not really answer what it would take to convince him he was mistaken about God. I expect he doesn't know. Maybe someday he questions his faith and it goes unanswered? To repeat myself regarding the irrational collections of ideas that constitute Religious Faith (not to say I don't have my own form of Faith, I just accept that these ideas are irrational and keep them to myself): When one's set of irrational ideas is seen as superior to another's set of irrational (or rational) ideas, and action is taken as a result, we get all the bad things done in the name of God. To declare though some measure that your irrational ideas are superior to, or more right than, another's irrational ideas is the height of insanity.

godma

02/06/2007 01:30:26 AM

Andrew posted his response to his blog, but it's not on beliefnet.com yet, probably because he changed sites over the weekend. (http://dailydish.typepad.com/the_daily_dish/2007/02/faith_unchosen.html). Anyway, you got it right. That's basically how he responded.

meBigGuy

02/06/2007 12:39:10 AM

I guess we drove off sherri before she could answer "Sam's final question". I don't see how any person of faith would answer that other than "There is nothing that could prove my beliefs about God to be mistaken" (I wonder if God came down and told them they were full of it and only Zoriaster(insert your prophet) had it right, whether they would accept that experience and convert to Zorasterism?). I expect Andrew will not address the question directly.

godma

02/05/2007 08:44:19 PM

alanrichard, I don't think Sam has a lack of appreciation for metaphor at all. His beef is not with metaphorical interpretations of things, but with the use of "faith" as a means for justifying belief, as people tend to do when the evidence isn't strong enough. There's still plenty of room there for other forms of irrationality. But let's face it - if we're interested in approaching "truth", faith is a very unreliable tool. If we're interested in being comforted or filled with awe, however, I think we'd all agree that faith can be quite reliably useful in certain contexts. (not that it's the only or best tool for this either).

steppen0410e

02/05/2007 07:16:32 PM

I, too, have had such experiences, sewells1951, and I know that you recognize the pointlessness of either attempting to communicate them or, as tinisoli points out, read too much into them. Such experiences, wonderful as they are, do not guarantee truth. Everyone wants to prove the truth of their belief through experience, but the belief influences, perhaps even determines, the experience. It is not that the experience comes along to prove the belief, but that the belief begets the experience. Hence, the devout Catholic experiences a vision of the Virgin or one of the Saints; a Hindu an ecstatic experience of Vishnu; the pious Muslim an encounter with Gabriel, etc.

alanrichard

02/05/2007 06:31:05 PM

Religious language is figurative language. Boundary experiences are best communicated that way. When I come up against my limits and recognize them to be linked to my aspirations, I have a choice. I can lie to myself about it, or I can embrace what is (this is not fatalism, but I cannot go into that here). I don't call this decision a BELIEF, but "faith" is OK. When I name the reality that supports me and will one day kill me "God" I do not make any claims about it. I make a decision to trust it, without knowing what it is. Also, criteria do exist for adjudicating between religious languages. Adequate religious symbols subvert themselves and display their own relativity, while inadequate ones do not. This is also true of the best poetry. Plato wanted to ban poets from the ideal city on the grounds that they were liars. Harris is suspicious of religious people for the same reason. I think they both have a tin ear for metaphor.

F1Fan

02/05/2007 05:46:16 PM

I've had experiences as well, some profound and incidental, some primarily a result of seeking. I’ve also been so overwhelmed and humbled that I found myself in a state of mind that presumed the supernatural. But I always was aware of this being my own mind trying to make sense of an emotional experience. And it only lasted a second. I can understand how people might fall into the feelings associated with awe, then conceptualize them and simply carry them like a souvenir. I can’t fall into that sort of temptation.

tinisoli

02/05/2007 05:16:06 PM

I'm still waiting to hear more details about sheri's miracles... Hmmmpf.

jd70

02/05/2007 04:57:01 PM

Interesting sewells1951. Would you mind sharing more detail?

sewells1951

02/05/2007 04:17:02 PM

steppen, I have had an experience that, at least in my mind, is analogous to the kind of world shaking experience being referred to. It happened to me when I began to understand what the physicist David Bohm was talking about in his book, Wholeness and the Implicate Order. Really remarkable experience but, as you say, no basis for worship.

steppen0410e

02/05/2007 04:00:18 PM

By the way, I've never been able to grasp the significance of the feeling that there is something "greater than the self"? I mean, I've stood little more than a few feet away from a full grown untamed male lion in the height of his powers - metal bars between him and I - and quickly realized that there was something greater than the 'self', but I didn't feel any impulse to fall down and worship the great cat (though I might have had he asked or demanded it). Of course there is something - in fact, a whole lot of things - greater than the 'self', but does that justify the extrapolation of elaborate assumptions about God, or gods, and the claim that these assumptions are somehow immune from criticism, revision, or rejection?

tinisoli

02/05/2007 10:34:07 AM

Now that Sullivan has ducked the question of the legitimacy of his faith, I wonder if he will also duck the issue of the convenient revolving door that so many theists seem to use to get in and out of belonging to their church or religion. Sullivan is a devout Catholic, but many in his church would love to see him excommunicated. And he disagrees with so many tenets of his church. So is her really a Catholic? Is he a Christian? Theists sure do like to have their cake and eat it, too. They use the church membership to show strength in numbers and suggest "We're all in this together." But then they absolve themselves of accountability whenever a bomb goes off or an age-old tenet becomes socially unacceptable.

tinisoli

02/05/2007 10:29:59 AM

I agree that Sullivan's latest is worth some admiration for its honesty and humility. But you're right, sewells1951: There is something inherently arrogant and narrowminded about needing religion to reconcile the feeling that there is something "greater" than yourself. Over and over, so many theists--and many agnostics, too--cite this feeling as the main reason they believe in god or some kind of all-encompassing power. But who DOESN'T feel this way? How can an any sentient being on this planet NOT have this feeling all the time?

sewells1951

02/05/2007 09:53:08 AM

Sullivan's latest response includes the following, "What proof, what argument, what evidence persuaded me that God was actually not evil but good? Nothing that will or should persuade you. The sense that evil was the ultimate victor in the universe, that evil is the fundamental meaning of all of this, that "none of this cares for us," to use Larkin's simple phrase: this sense pervaded me for a few minutes and then somehow, suddenly, unprompted by any specific thought, just lifted" While I must acknowledge that Sullivan's response strikes a deeply honest chord (and hence that I believe him to be an honest participant in the dialogue at hand), I would like to point out one thing. The entirety of his religious conviction rests upon his personal necessities. He's obviously a good man but it is also inescapbly true that he is an intensely arrogant being. The entire nature of the universe is determined by his psychhology.

vinaykelkar

02/05/2007 09:40:59 AM

Since no person can define god or understand the true size, shape, functioning of god in his or her lifetime, will it not be better if we only concentrate on fulfilling the purpose of our life on this earth in human shape. This atleast is a known outcome. The best we can do is to go on doing things which are acceptable to all society, help them in building their lives, satisfy their important needs, while giving us the satisfaction of doing some extra work than normal life. It will be a better world if many people start believing same instead of fighting verbally and physically on whose god or religion is better and wasting life and time?

sewells1951

02/05/2007 08:54:02 AM

meBigGuy, you hit several nails on the head. MSNBC is reporting today "RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - A Saudi Arabian judge sentenced 20 foreigners to receive lashes and spend several months in prison after convicting them of attending a party where alcohol was served and men and women danced, a newspaper reported Sunday." If religious believers were content to screw their own lives up and leave the rest of us alone, I would care less what idiocies they believe. Let them believe the angel Moroni delivered ultimate truth to the progenitors of Mormonism or whatever other gibberish they want. But, having grown up in the American south during the American apartheid, I have seen the depths to which religion can sink and the damage that nonsensical doctrines can do amongst humans.

meBigGuy

02/05/2007 03:13:04 AM

You three arguing in circles will never make progress. Perhaps before going forward sherri1555stl should answer Sam's last question to Andrew. "What would constitute "proof" for you that your current beliefs about God are mistaken?" All that is being said over and over agin in these posts is: Person A: I believe in God. Person B: What you believe in is not rational. I think Person A even understands that, from Person B's perspective, their views are irrational, but Faith trumps rationality. I think the biggest problem with Faith is when one set of irrational views are held to be more correct than another's set of irrational or rational views and bad things result, or when these irrational views are able to override science, and so on. If people of Faith were able to practice their faith in a positive way without the need to force it on others, then, for me, there would be no need for debate.

F1Fan

02/05/2007 12:37:05 AM

I get the impression of an image in your mind of a Christian as a block-headed child, covering his/her ears to the admonitions of his/her parents/elders, and yelling 'blay, blah, blah' when they warn him/her about facing great impending danger. -sheri This is actually quite accurate to describe those Christians in Kansas as we tried to explain to them that their view of evolution is wrong. They were arguing to get the science standards changed for children of the state education system, and they succeeded for a while. They simply refused to listen to the mistakes of what they thought was knowledge. By most standards these were mature adults who managed to function in society without problems, except where it came to how they distorted science due to their fundamentalist religious beliefs. It was due to ignorance as guided by religion that their influence posed a threat to the children of Kansas.

F1Fan

02/05/2007 12:30:55 AM

You guys are so sure of yourselves. -sheri I am sure that theists believe in implausible ideas despite the lack of evidence. And I’m sure that the desire to apply and act on unverifiable beliefs is irrational since no theist can make a rational case for belief in irrational ideas. And I’m sure that theists can be harmless to society in some respects, but deadly to society in others. I sure hope, for your sakes, that I AM wrong and you are right. Why? Do you have a scenario that implicates skeptics if we are wrong in our skepticism?

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 07:30:16 PM

As this thread has degenerated into a line of reasoning more about, "what you believe is stupid - why do you believe it?" by self-appointed arbiters of fact and truth (a loaded word, which you seem to have defined succinctly), than about Harris' and Sullivan's arguments, I will give you what you wish, so you can gladly take over the board and conjole one another: my absence.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 07:21:50 PM

I have yet to find any facts that my faith is "impreganble" to, or truths to which my "beliefs are impervious." I get the impression of an image in your mind of a Christian as a block-headed child, covering his/her ears to the admonitions of his/her parents/elders, and yelling 'blay, blah, blah' when they warn him/her about facing great impending danger.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 07:06:32 PM

What you call post-modernist, I have already said is a philosophy to which neither I, nor the average joe, subscribes. It just gives an example of the prerquisite presumptions necessary to living life. I also already admitted that religious faith does, indeed, require more than what we establish empirically to believe. No one questions the elements of faith, just that that's all there is to it. I was just addressing your cockiness (which you accuse me of having absolute certainty about my beliefs which I couldn't possibly have) that makes you SO sure that you are right and I am wrong because the empirical evidence that you see for God you don't feel adequately supports His existence and because Christians' claims can't be empirically tested or reproduced. You guys are so sure of yourselves. I sure hope, for your sakes, that I AM wrong and you are right.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 06:56:17 PM

"..you can't convince a believer of anything..." That's funny. It's seems to me that it's the atheists of whom believers can't convince of what they're trying to attest to. We live in the same empirical world that you do, so we do not go "unconvinced" of the empirical, much of anything; you go unconvinced of our non-empirical. It's we who are convinced of more than you are. Your celebrity quotes just kill me. Oh, and BTW, not being able to describe the shadowy figure in the distance does not mean that those looking at it don't agree that they see something out there, just not on what it is. That is my take on the disparity both between different, and in, religions.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 06:48:38 PM

My claims, steppen, have been that my beliefs ARE empirically supported for ME, by MY experiences, which, not being yours, will NEVER be "empirically supported" for you. As for the attribution of the claim that my beliefs are dangerous, that credit went to Harris and supporters of his line of reasoning. I didn't call your name; if you don't agree, you don't agree.

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 06:41:49 PM

Just a quickie before I go for sure... Yes, F1fan, Christians have been at each others throats for centuries, but what could one expect when their 'holy book' is riddled with inconsistency and contradiction. You'd at least expect that a supernatural God would be a little bit better at communicating himself to his creation. But as I've written before, the God hypothesis is an epistemologically unnecessary one. But there are some people driven by a simple will to believe. For such people, religion fulfills a basic desire to be religious. Their faith is impregnable to fact, their belief impervious to mere truth. They are capable of rejecting conclusions validly deduced from true premises whenever that conclusion contradicts tenets of their faith.

F1Fan

02/04/2007 06:34:49 PM

Now take the elaborate assumptions embraced by the theistic worldview: the existence of God; a Devil; angels, hell; possibly purgatory, etc, etc, and not one of those Baroque assumptions are based on a scintilla of evidence. -step Yes, they go WAY beyond the line of reliability and consistency, which is the basis of reason. Theistic views tend to assert an “anything goes” set of assumptions, and this is why Islam doesn’t match Hinduism, or Jainism, or Christianity, or any other religion. Heck, not even Christianity has an inner consistency. Christians don’t agree whether Jesus is god or not.

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 06:32:54 PM

By the way, if anyone who wants to see how the postmodernist nonsense can be easily and completely eviscerated, you can do no better than read Alan Sokal's and Jean Bricmont's book Intellectual Impostures.

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 06:26:53 PM

Oops! Delete the first "ask" in my penultimate post.

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 06:25:23 PM

To demonstrate just how flimsy are the straws that will be clutched by theists with a strong desire to believe in something silly, sheri1555stl is now indulging in post-modernist nonsense, a view which quickly collapses in reality as soon as a prosecuting attorney asks points his finger and asks you where you were at seven o'clock last Wednesday night.

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 06:20:35 PM

Yes, F1fan, "safe, reliable presumption(s)" that have worked and have been seen to work. And those - scientific - assumptions are always kept to a minimum. Now take the elaborate assumptions embraced by the theistic worldview: the existence of God; a Devil; angels, hell; possibly purgatory, etc, etc, and not one of those Baroque assumptions are based on a scintilla of evidence.

F1Fan

02/04/2007 06:18:18 PM

You can no more prove your events in your life aren't mirage just because certain similar ones happen repeatedly, than I can prove to you god. Except that all people experience something. Not all experience the supernatural, and of those who do the ideas differ. I see where you are going with this (I’ve seen it before). The thinking goes: since what we ALL experience could be an illusion, go ahead and believe in one more illusion like god/religion, as it makes no difference, since we can’t test what is really real. This fails because we do have a reliable baseline of reality. The supernatural goes beyond this line, and can only affect what we can test of reality in negative ways. I guess only the Christians and other theists ever suffer from mass delusion There is evidence to suggest this, since what theists believe has no test in reality. IF they treat the ideas as reality and deny the problem this poses, a psychological phenomenon must be at play.

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 06:15:33 PM

if one examines other religions with a free spirit of inquiry, one will find that their followers are equally convinced of their validity. There are also irreconcilable differences between different religions so they all can't be right. One religion is no more correct than another. The beauty of atheism lies in its freedom - freedom to search for truth based on reality, not on ideas for which there is no evidence. As the late Carl Sagan wrote: "You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, its based on a deep-seated need to believe".

F1Fan

02/04/2007 06:13:23 PM

No, F1fan, it's a premise prerequisite to any rational inquiry to posit one's existence (or that of any other, for that matter). I'm not saying that it's wrong to presuppose, but it certainly does show that certain presumptions DO have to be made and that, while, religious belief requires more, scientists/empiricists do still have to presume. -sheri Yes. But this is a very reliable baseline. Theists do push this line only when they begin to see the weakness of their beliefs. The baseline works in reality, as when we mix sodium and chloride in the correct amounts it ALWAYS results in table salt. The presumption that we exist, that the elements exist, that our actions of mixing, and seeing the results are all the same, safe, reliable presumption.

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 06:09:10 PM

I'm going to leave off of this 'discussion', sheri1555stl, simply because your approach is too emotive. I never claimed that you were not entitled to your beliefs, nor did I necessarily claim that you were dangerous. And, yes, I have heard on many occasions the rationale's advanced by Christian's who are suffering, but they were all premised on the assumption - and that without evidence - of God's existence. You go and believe what you like, but don't claim that your beliefs are either empirically supported or are anything more than an emotional attachment to ideas that give you comfort and consolation.

F1Fan

02/04/2007 06:08:09 PM

Further, F1fan, conceding the possibility that my beliefs could be "in error," is exactly what I did in my recent posts addressed to you, -sheri OK, so your beliefs might be in error, but you don’t feel they are. Feelings are notoriously prone to error, because the primary concern is good feelings, not truth, not the hard questions. "These experiences prove only that belief has its own "empirical" evidence..." and that no evidence will suffice for the atheists for whom God/god(s) does not fit into his "meritocratic paradigm of reason" worldview. It is concepts of god we are dealing with, and as such they are human expressions. This means that a human cannot suggest the content of the concept itself has its own merit and authority. If a Christian claims Jesus exists, or their version of god exists, and can offer no test in reality, it is a problem for the claimant. Skeptics will examine any evidence, but if it is weak, it is weak.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 05:59:44 PM

Nor could be imagined by the very same skeptics suffering from said delusions, the bringing in of others to verify that they were, indeed dehydrated and seeing things. lol That's okay. If it makes you feel any better, we'll all worship the meritocratic immutability of reason and the irrefutability of the scientific method, which, self-correcting, corrects itself ad infinitum.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 05:56:12 PM

No, F1fan, it's a premise prerequisite to any rational inquiry to posit one's existence (or that of any other, for that matter). I'm not saying that it's wrong to presuppose, but it certainly does show that certain presumptions DO have to be made and that, while, religious belief requires more, scientists/empiricists do still have to presume. Reliability is really only usefulness. You can no more prove your events in your life aren't mirage just because certain similar ones happen repeatedly, than I can prove to you god. We just HAVE to believe things such as our own existences, object permanence and the like to make sense of anything. "...insofar as we can test what we perceive against what others perceive..." I guess only the Christians and other theists ever suffer from mass delusion. No two (or three or four or...) skeptics could ever share in the same mirage simultaneously, even if in the very same desert.

F1Fan

02/04/2007 05:33:14 PM

Believing that you existence, as in "I think, therefore I am" presupposes that there is one doing the thinking, that what you perceive is not illusion (because you touch what you see, does that prove that it's there? -sheri Yes, insofar as we can test what we perceive against what others perceive. The senses are very reliable, for the most part. And they are very adequate for managing tests in reality. Of course, the problem with HOW people make sense of sensory data is different. Most of us might see a grilled cheese sandwich, while some Christians might see the image of Jesus burned on the surface. For the believer seeking validation, this is a sign. To the rest of us, it is lunch. To your point, I do see many Christians become frustrated with a discussion, and begin to say that we can’t know anything for certain, we can’t trust our senses, we don’t know if we exist, etc. It’s the sinking ship scenario where the Christian wants everyone to perish if their view isn’t valid.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 05:27:52 PM

We, as people, are to address the hunger of others, as part of our loving our neighbor as ourselves, so that we all have out of that which some of us have. God's love to us is that any of us eat at all, has this earth on which life forms can be, are alive, have health, etc. Our selfishness in being unwilling to give will be punished in God's vindication of the poor/homeless/hungry/etc. I don't know what these Lesch-Nyhan syndrome and cloacal exstrophy diseases/disorders are even, but they must be something special since you keep bringing them up. Would you be willing to hear from the Christians suffering from horrible illness/diseases/disorders, as to what their take is on their suffering? No matter. You're free to believe, not believe, or believe something else, as am I. I am not here to justify my beliefs to you (they could never be, not holding the same worldview) or convert; but, I'm also getting pretty tired of "rational" people telling me that I'm dangerous, or don't have the right to believe what I do.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 05:12:14 PM

Funny, steppen, how those who don't support your position "don't understand." I have faith, but "don't really understand religious faith" (but you, who does not have faith, do, I presume) and, of course, I do not understand reason (but you don't claim to have a monopoly on it?). hmmm.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 05:07:56 PM

"These experiences prove only that belief has its own "empirical" evidence..." and that no evidence will suffice for the atheists for whom God/god(s) does not fit into his "meritocratic paradigm of reason" worldview. "To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are... unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled." (Titus 1.15). The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God and vice versa. (I Cor. 1.18-2.16;3.18-20). "Test the spirits...and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is...of the Antichrist" (I Jn.4.1-3). "All scripture is...profitable for doctrine..." (2 Tim.3.12-17;I Tim. 4.15,16). "...and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is within you..." (I Pet.3.15-17). I suspect that we shall never see eye to eye on this issue. Thank GOD that I have the religious liberties in this country that no one here can put an "end to faith."

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 04:53:14 PM

Is that the same God who created a world where little children could be afflicted with Lesch-Nyhan syndrome and cloacal exstrophy and where one perishes from hunger somewhere in the world every few seconds? Is that the same God who commanded the genocide of the Amalekites - and their animals - and who ordered or condoned several other atrocities in the Bible?

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 04:48:11 PM

But that may be, sheri1555stl, because you really do not understand either science/reason or religious faith. That is, at least, my suspicion. Now, really, bye...

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 04:45:13 PM

Bye for now...

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 04:45:00 PM

My kids have had all of their shots (which is none of your business, really) AND I pray because I believe that God can, and often does, work through people, or can work alone (as I have attested to healing through prayer alone). I, unlike you, do not hold science/empiricism or reason as incompatible with religious faith.

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 04:43:36 PM

"Empirical experiences" that one "feels" have confirmed beliefs!? Like the fervent Catholic who receives a vision of Mary; or the ecstatic Hindu who "feels" that he has been permitted into the presence of Vishnu; or the zealous Muslim who experiences a visitation from the angel Gabriel. These experiences prove only that belief has a way of furnishing its own "empirical" evidence.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 04:41:39 PM

And while you may feel that the arguments of philosophers to which you do not subscribe have "collapsed" in their attempts to prove the existence of God, I never set out to do so. we will continue to hold our differing worldviews until one or both of us is/are "required' to change it, because NEITHER one of us is "immune."

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 04:36:12 PM

I'm sure they would in your mind, sheri1555stl. Perhaps you'll think about it, though, next time your child needs an innoculation. Perhaps, though, you would prefer prayer?

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 04:33:38 PM

steppen, your competing "benefits provided" beg the question.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 04:31:46 PM

Further, F1fan, conceding the possibility that my beliefs could be "in error," is exactly what I did in my recent posts addressed to you, but not for the same reasons that you do, based on our differing worldviews. I don't feel that they're probably in error (as you would), or else, as stated, I would believe something. It's as if atheists here think that Christians are thinking exactly as they are, and then refuse to accept the obvious because it feels good. You may not have read some of my earlier posts (as I have been posting for most days since Jan.23 now), but, were it not for some of my empirical experiences that I feel have confirmed my beliefs, spoken of in some of those earlier posts, maybe I would be as skeptical as you are. Maybe.

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 04:26:05 PM

Yes, sheri1555stl, I am familiar with all of those thinkers you list, and I adhere to the meritocratic paradigm of rational inquiry simply because it is the most successfull world view the world has yet seen and has accomplished more for the benefit of mankind in the last 150 years than Christianity, or any other religion, has done in the last 2,000 years. While I really cannot speak for the others, I don't think one of us has claimed any monopoly on reason and rationality. But as John Locke said, 'The one unerring mark of the love of truth is not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon will warrant. And theists will just have to come to terms with the fact that their once venerable arguments - the arguments from Design, First Cause, Ontological - have all collapsed, and collapsed completely.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 04:20:02 PM

steppen: "...science can tell us where God isn't. God isn't to be found in the Creation of earth or the evolution of life..." And you know this because... you discredit the biblical account of Creation, or because the theory of evolution negates the existence of God? Saying that science has found no proof for God and that science CANNOT find proof for God are two very different things.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 04:16:07 PM

Have you heard of Descartes, Kant, Plato, Aristotle, et.al., steppen? or do you only appeal to literary figures such as Mark Twain to make your point? Are all philosophers whose total philosophies are not just based on empiricism irrational, are do only people like you and tinisoli and namchuck have the monopoly on reason/being rational?

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 04:09:38 PM

And, again, I repeat, faith is the transparent admission that religious beliefs cannot stand on their own two feet.

F1Fan

02/04/2007 04:07:05 PM

F1fan, I know that people project things from themselves all the time; but, obviously, that is not what I believe I am doing in my faith, or else, as I said, I would only be following myself. I don't believe my God to be my own anthropomorphic creation. -sheri OK, so can you concede the possibility that your beliefs are in error? Or do you have a reason to assume you are perfect in your judgments?

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 04:06:23 PM

I have not started out with the premise that "God is not" at all, sheri1555stl, only that the theistic God is unproved. For instance, although we can never prove or disprove the existence of God, science can tell us where God isn't. God isn't to be found either in the creation of the Earth, nor in the evolution of life. The concept of God is epistemologically unnecessary. Further, I would suggest that there is enough evidence to justify disbelieving in God, or gods, or any other form of supernatural entity. Keep in mind, though, the atheism is only about what I don't believe.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 03:55:43 PM

You think that your empiricism has ruled out God as an impossible entity. Why should I stop worshipping, upon recognizing the tendency in myself and others to do so, simply because we haven't completely found everything for which we seek? Science keeps looking, but religion can't? You are starting out wth the premise that God is not, then use your lack of empirical evidence to support the negation of that premise as proof that you have proven your premise. That is circular reasoning. And tell me how you prove that you exist, if you do not believe that reason has any ontological components?

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 03:45:18 PM

Please, sheri1555stl, give me an example of the ontological nature of reason? Incidentally, I am not attempting to "argue away" people's susceptibility to inventing God, or god's, but once we recognize the tendency in ourselves, we should no longer worship, or be fooled, by our own imaginary creations. This understanding may, in fact, be part of the clearing of the decks to true spirituality.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 03:43:12 PM

steppen, you don't believe in good and evil? On what do you base right and wrong that would apply to more than just yourself, that would be indifferent to people's inclinations to do or not to do what you considered right? Believing that you existence, as in "I think, therefore I am" presupposes that there is one doing the thinking, that what you perceive is not illusion (because you touch what you see, does that prove that it's there? both could be illusion. Because someone else verifies its existence, does that prove it either? that person could also be illusion), and the idea of object permanence are all examples of the ontological nature of reason that backs up the empirical. BTW, your empiricism is your worldview; we don't share the same worldview, so you can't use yours to negate mine.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 03:34:17 PM

If God is simply an anthropomorphism, in all known expressions, steppen, and humans are "spiritual creatures who invent such things because spirituality matters," then wouldn't it stand to reason, that for some of us, it would be a natural, unavoidable inevitability, and for those of you who are not "susceptible," why do you try to argue away from the susceptible that which they can't help but to do?

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 03:32:41 PM

Give me an example, sheri1555stl, of the ontological nature of reason?

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 03:30:11 PM

And, yes, probably a greater reality exists than any of the knowledge of man supposes, but this is hardly license to extrapolate the existence of God, of the Devil, of angels, heaven, hell, possibly purgatory, and so on; that there is Good and Evil, that there are sins and blessings; that there are reasons why, and much more.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 03:28:37 PM

steppen, I do accept testimonies of miracles on faith, obciously. Not everything in the Bible is miracle, or even empirical. And I think you left out that reason is not only empirical, but ontological.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 03:24:08 PM

F1fan, I know that people project things from themselves all the time; but, obviously, that is not what I believe I am doing in my faith, or else, as I said, I would only be following myself. I don't believe my God to be my own anthropomorphic creation.

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 03:23:13 PM

(continued) So all objects of religious faith fall into the same field, whether one has faith in the biblical God, Allah, Thor, Queztlcoatl, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. They are all in the same field because one cannot say that my lack of sensory evidence and rational proof is greater than your lack of sensory evidence or rational proof. The concept of God is obviously a gerrymandered affair. It is an invention of man, because humans are spiritual creatures, and spirituality matters. Belief, or faith, is different from knowledge in that whereas the later is controlled by sensory evidence and rational proof, and depends upon the right relationship between the mind and the world, the former is all and only in the mind, and does not rely on anything in the world. One can, in short, believe anything: that pigs can fly, that grass is blue, and that people who do not believe either are wicked.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 03:20:44 PM

F1fan, I can't answer the antics of Kool-Aid drinking as displayed in the Jesus Camp film. You said it was in the news. regrettably, I've heard nothing about it, but I have it in my Netflix queue to see, based on its title, after Netflex put it in my "Recommended movies," based on ratings of other films I had seen, at the site. All I can say is I eschew Kool-Aid mentality. I don't know about consider myself the "arbiter of reason," but we all have to have a framework with which we address knowlegde (my worldview idea), because without we could not live, i.e., "I think, therefore I am." Certain presuppostions have to be made; yet, I still hold that there is a greater reality than the knowledge I presuppose.

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 03:12:43 PM

sheri1555stl: You cannot get faith - which is the belief in historical and metaphysical propositions without evidence - together with reason. Reason can only operate on sensory evidence and rational proof. Where is the sensory evidence and the rational proof that even suggests that iron axe-heads can float, sticks can turn into snakes, people can live inside the bellies of large fish, water can turn into wine, and that people can be raised from the dead? There isn't any, so to believe any of this nonsense, faith is required, and faith is nothing more than the transparent admission that religious claims cannot stand on their own two feet.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 03:11:11 PM

part 4. I f I consistently cannot fathom the intent, I must discard that faith (and its principles), to examine others. If I find no faith consistent with my worldview, I must alter the original worldview held, which may cause me to hold one similar to yours or tinisoli's or namchuck's or steppen0410e's or jacknky's or jd70's even. That hasn't happened for me yet.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 03:08:01 PM

part 3. Using my understanding of, or moral/rational "agreement" with, some of its principles and rejection of others, as prerequisite for belief, is equivalent to only really believing in myself, which posits nothing external to myself as having any authority over me or others, but my reason/rationality as the supreme judge. That is your worldview as a professed skeptic, not mine. Holding to that belief that I do have an external authority and that I am not my own god, I follow the principles set forth in the faith that I find most conforms to my worldview, use my reason to apply those principles of that faith in a way that I feel best resembles the intent, which intent I interpret in a way that is consistent with the worldview that drew me to that faith. If my reason tells me that I have misapplied the principles, I must go reexamine the intent.

F1Fan

02/04/2007 03:05:36 PM

Picking and choosing what to believe based on my sentimentality, or lack of understanding of certain passages, without being willimg to change my worldview only yeilds my reason or myself as my god. How is this not what you are doing? Who gets to decide whether your interpretation of any Bible text is correct? And before you answer, be aware that other people interpret differently, so account for how your interpretation differs from others. As I have already stated, I believe in something external to, and greater than, myself, so it would stand to reason that some things expressed I wouldn't fully understand. Would that include how you might come to THINK there is something external when it’s most likely not the case? Do you understand how people project their ideas from themselves, and attribute them to others or anthropomorphic mental images?

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 03:05:14 PM

(continued) Mind you, frjmod, I would be the first to agree that Christianity, other religions, Nazism, Stalinism, Communism, and other tyrannical isms all share something in common: they are to varying degrees dogmatic. All present their adherents with with a set of doctrines that they must accept. So the issue is not whether atheism in any shape is better than theism. The issue is the effect of dogma on human goodness. And that effect is negative. The source of evil is dogma, the belief that there is a set of principles that is entirely right and can justify, exculpate and motivate any act in their service. Theism, founded as it is on elaborate assumptions without evidence, entails dogma, and dogma is undeniably the greatest impediment to goodness. The embrace of goodness and compassion, which the world sorely needs, requires that one shun dogma.

F1Fan

02/04/2007 03:00:29 PM

F1fan, I agree that brainwashing is bad, in any form - no Jim Jones Kool-Aid for me, which is why I distinguish for myself between faiths and concepts within faiths. -sheri Then how is it that your brothers and sisters in Christ have come to drink the Cool-Aid, and justify the sort of things exhibited in Jesus Camp? If it comes down to mere interpretation, how is it so many disagree? How is this a truth beyond the human mind? But, as I said before, if I reject an idea within a faith I have adopted, I have to reconsider my interpretation of the passages that I thought were conveying a particular idea, or, I feel that I must reject the whole as inspired. It depends how you interpret any of it, doesn’t it? So you become the arbiter of truth, and the story or idea just a simple base to build upon.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 02:54:04 PM

part 2. As I have already stated, I believe in something external to, and greater than, myself, so it would stand to reason that some things expressed I wouldn't fully understand. I'm either going to believe in the divine authority of the Bible as a consistent whole or not believe any of it, because believing that it is God's message to man entails that everything in it won't necessarily conform to my personal sentimentality, He being greater and more perfect than I. I use my reason to determine faith that seems consistent with my worldview. If one faith does not, I adopt another. If no faith does, I have to alter my worldview. I have always believed in God in my worldview; once finding a faith that I believe conforms to that worldview, I have to adopt its principles (even the hard ones), or else I only thought it complied with my worldview.

steppen0410e

02/04/2007 02:52:14 PM

frjmod: "The reasonableness of theism"!? Please, give me an example of theistic reasonableness? "Profession of Atheism is as much an act of faith as any other form of theism..." This statement identifies both a benighted understanding of both atheism and theism. Since when has it required 'faith' not to believe in historical and metaphysical propositions that rest on an absence of evidence? And while you are at it, give me an example of "Atheist inspired tyranny" in the last century that has "done even more harm than the same when religiously inspired"? And be careful not to confuse an individual tyrant's or regimes view about the existence of a God with his or their dogmatic political beliefs.

sheri1555stl

02/04/2007 02:42:21 PM

F1fan, I agree that brainwashing is bad, in any form - no Jim Jones Kool-Aid for me, which is why I distinguish for myself between faiths and concepts within faiths. But, as I said before, if I reject an idea within a faith I have adopted, I have to reconsider my interpretation of the passages that I thought were conveying a particular idea, or, I feel that I must reject the whole as inspired. Picking and choosing what to believe based on my sentimentality, or lack of understanding of certain passages, without being willimg to change my worldview only yeilds my reason or myself as my god.

F1Fan

02/04/2007 11:41:07 AM

You may have it within yourself to always be centered and loving to all; some need more "external" impetus. -sheri And what would this external impetus be? Do you think it possible that some believers might be so immersed in their mental imagery that they confuse social queues with the influence of a god they believe exists? Do you think it possible that people want their ideas of god to be validated so badly that they will attribute natural and human influence to their notion of it? Possible? What clear and direct method does Christianity offer to help believers distill their fantasies from reality?

F1Fan

02/04/2007 11:33:46 AM

If I doubt the authority of the source of some of the passages , on what grounds do I accept the authority of the words attributed to Jesus? -sheri It’s YOUR authority. It is your authority to accept or reject any idea. And this means you can accept ideas that are good for you, but negative for others, and justify it if the idea includes a statement that you are not accountable. This is how Christians can accept an idea that states the believer is saved, but the non-believer is damned. The idea says it is the fault of the non-believer, and via the individual’s authority to accept this statement and absolve the self from the content. So Christians have their own authority, as thinking beings, to believe whatever they want about anything. And we see this in the huge range of interpretations they make from the Bible.

F1Fan

02/04/2007 11:23:08 AM

I don't understand, F1fan. If you haven't seen the film, did you talk to people who saw the movie? I haven't seen it, so I could never presume to use it to "reference how Christians behave." -sheri Because it was in the news quite a bit itself. And there was a lot of discussion about what the film showed. Did you not realize the school was closed soon after the release of the film due to social pressure and outrage of what that school was doing to children? This was Jesus Camp, and children were essentially being brainwashed for the sake of some religious beliefs. THAT is not moral.

frjimod

02/04/2007 10:17:50 AM

I find Atheist/Antitheist crusades against God and the reasonableness of theism as as "heat but not light producing" as any other form of fundamentalist diatribe. Profession of Atheism is as much an act of faith as any form of theism and a lot less practical than my experience of many religions which I have personally found to be logical,probable,meaningful,energizing,liberating and fulfilling-and ,yes, I have also experienced expressions of many religions to be the opposite.Atheist inspired tyranny ,oppression and violence in the past century has done even more harm than the same when religiously inspired

jd70

02/04/2007 07:25:59 AM

sheri: I can relate to that. I would say that we all have the ability to be centered. I am certainly not unique in that aspect. I just find that looking inword works better for me in cultivating that awareness. Others may need "more "external" impetus" which is fine too. I think we arrive at the same place regardless.

meBigGuy

02/04/2007 12:25:17 AM

Posts here (and sullivan's posts) refer to how much good "church members" do in terms of charity, helping others, etc. Somehow the services of those enslaved by the church is seen as being done by the church. Until people realize that the good is done by the people, not by the church, we will make no progress in seeing how an atheistic society might do the same or better. (btw, the bad done by religion is different, since it is usually done to those that believe differently) For example, perhaps the majority of people who would be generous regardless also happen to be suseptable to church dogma. Maybe they would even be more generous in an atheistic society.

sheri1555stl

02/03/2007 08:06:37 PM

jd, 5:05:14 time stamp. This is why I would think one would die for a belief that might conflict with one's family, not just any belief. We agree on the humanistic, natural component to spirituality. But I think Christians subscribe to another component as well that is supernatural and overarching, the former dealing with his relations with other men, the latter with his relations to the God, who, for you is unsupported evidentially (empirically) and "unnecessary." It is that supernatural component to spirituality that infuses the natural for the Christian, and motivates and supports it, at times when it is difficult to do so, in the physical limitations of one's own flesh, i.e. fatigue in service to humanity(burn-out), feelings of need for revenge against one's enemies vs. forgiveness, etc. You may have it within yourself to always be centered and loving to all; some need more "external" impetus.

sheri1555stl

02/03/2007 07:53:48 PM

jd, 4:49:30p.m. time stamp. I was referring to the miracles attributed to Jesus that Christians use to authenticate His identity and claims.

jd70

02/03/2007 05:05:13 PM

"there are verses that specifically address clinging to that spiritual family over and above the natural into which we were born, the spiritual taking precedence over the physical," Is this why you you think one would die over a belief? For me spirituality is about cultivating the unity, compassion, and understanding of all humanity and nature in general for that matter. One's physical needs are of prime importance and are taken care of through acts of of compassion, reason, understanding, etc. I just find that more fulfilling than believing in something which I don't have evidence for. That is not to say that belief in such cannot lead one to live a spiritual life by my definition above. It just means that I find the whole belief part unnecessary.

jd70

02/03/2007 04:49:30 PM

sheri: "As many post-ers on the board can attest to the very human need for physical confirmation, the need for the belief in the events surrounding Him arises." I am not sure what you mean by this. Are you referring to the resurrection of Jesus? If so I will have to admit that I do not have a need to see him in the flesh. It is not that I don't find it interesting it is just not relevant to my spiritual path. I could be misunderstanding you though.

sheri1555stl

02/03/2007 03:26:32 PM

Same here, jd. Peace out.

sheri1555stl

02/03/2007 03:23:20 PM

As many post-ers on the board can attest to the very human need for physical confirmation, the need for the belief in the events surrounding Him arises. The average joe isn't that aesthtic, philosophical or "deep," like philosophers, skeptics, scientists, and atheists and agnostics on this board. The Bible is meant to appeal to the masses, intelligent or ignorant, who may not be very learned, and believe what someone saw or heard through the grapevine, over serious introspection.

jd70

02/03/2007 03:18:51 PM

I have to go, but it has been enlightening discussing these issues with you.

sheri1555stl

02/03/2007 03:17:34 PM

In that lies the essence of faith that it will be rewarded, and what we relinquish here is not as worthy as what we anticipate. Hopefully the family and loved ones will also be convinced; but, there are verses that specifically address clinging to that spiritual family over and above the natural into which we were born, the spiritual taking precedence over the physical, which changes, dies/decays, erodes and fades away eventually anyway. The natural, inevitably sadness that anyone would experience having to lose/leave a loved one is addressed in Rev. where it states that God shall wipe every tear away from our eyes. For what would we be crying, that lost house, car, things, bank account? No, for unbelieving family.

jd70

02/03/2007 03:17:29 PM

spirituality is not about belief so if Jesus was about teaching spiritual transformation, why the need to believe in certain events about him and create a whole theology around that. I guess that is why I like Buddhism because it is not about belief, but rather cultivating ones own innate sense of compassion, reason, and understanding.

sheri1555stl

02/03/2007 03:09:45 PM

That is the Jewish take, by far, on the accounts of the Resurrection. True, jd. They seek a political, revolutionary (a king, so to speak), to deliver them from their many plights of social oppression. That is why I find the biblical verses about Jesus criticizing them for their nearsightedness as to think that they only need physical and not spiritual deliverance, so interesting (seeking a king, seeking a sign, rendering to Caesar, and criticizing the rabbi leaders of the day, the Pharisees and the Sadduccees, for their hypocrisy, et. al., etc. - again, sorry for the lack of references).

jd70

02/03/2007 03:06:10 PM

I guess what I am saying is that I can understand someone giving up their life to save a loved one, but to give it up over a belief in something they saw I just can't understand.

jd70

02/03/2007 03:01:36 PM

As a skeptic, if I saw someone rise from the dead, I would be awe struck no doubt , but I would renounce the belief in what I saw in a heartbeat if it meant loosing my life and leaving my family behind.

sheri1555stl

02/03/2007 02:53:23 PM

I was referring to the claims about the Resurrection, and Jewish thought that the disciples hid the body, the very same disciples who were killed for their identification with Jesus and attesting to the Resurrection. Sure people die for things all the time that they feel passionately about, and lunacy abounds; but, I was referring to their refusal to recant their resurrection testimonies at the cost of their lives. That means something to me. I could be alone on this board in this, but so be it.

jd70

02/03/2007 02:47:51 PM

In Judaism the Messiah is not God incarnate, but a human being. For that reason alone Jesus cannot be the Jewish Messiah, regardless of prophetic interpretation. Christianity is a completely separate religion.

sheri1555stl

02/03/2007 02:46:14 PM

postulates, not paotulates. my typos are horrible. Are those gnostic gospels you were referring to, jd? the ones the Roman Catholic Church discredited? I guess much of it depends on the Catholic Church's governing the printing of the first Bibles, determining the Canon of scriptures, and claim to be the direct progression of the First Century Church. Rejecting the papacy (based on what I believe to be a misinterpretation of scripture), marionology and the doctrine of Communion of Saints (based on what I believe to be somewhat equivalent to idolatry), and finding the priesthood unnecessary (based on my reading of Heb.4), I'm a child of the Protestant Reformation, with even less in my Bible than the Catholic one, let alone the gnostic gospels.

jd70

02/03/2007 02:42:26 PM

just that people are willing to die for a belief does not make it true. I actaully see Jesus as more of a mystic. Someone who was dissatisfied with Judaism at the time and was a seeker of the "truth". The theology surrounding him cam later. Just my take IMHO.

sheri1555stl

02/03/2007 02:37:27 PM

part 2. I believe that only Christianity has provided that savior in the person Jesus, Jews still waiting for that Messiah, and Muslims considering Him to be prophet only. From what I've read about the Muhammed's lifestyle, I seriously doubt his status to be elevated (as the Last Prophet above Jesus), from what I've read about Jesus' lifestyle in the Bible. The Bible could be lying about Jesus, but that brings us back to the testimony of the early martyrs. The Bible, being Christianity's good book, I take as a whole on faith, some parts of it, consistent with my reasoning and personal experiences confirming it, and others requiring more faith to accept. But interpretation is tantamount to everything, the very area where there is so much disagreement.

jd70

02/03/2007 02:37:01 PM

Actually there are many writings about about Jesus. The gospel of Mary, Thomas, and, philip just to name a few.

sheri1555stl

02/03/2007 02:31:05 PM

My thing is that what we know about Jesus is contained in the Bible, unless ther's some other historical document I don't know anything about. If I doubt the authority of the source of some of the passages , on what grounds do I accept the authority of the words attributed to Jesus? I heard once someone say that Jesus was either a liar, crazy or the Son of God. I think people around Him willing to die and become martyrs for what they would have known to be false would rule out the first. My worldview paotulates all kinds a perfect ideals (justice, peace, beauty, etc.) for which I believe there to be an embodiment; and, it postulates that they are connected somehow. I also have certain feelings that we as humans are not always living as we could/should and that there's nothing good that we could do to make up for that (regret), hence the need for redemption. If that redemption came from a mere human (who would have the same shortcomings), I would doubt its ability to truly save (that person, let alone me).

jd70

02/03/2007 02:09:41 PM

I think the thousand year verse is in Ecclesiastes. At any rate are you saying that in order to be a Christian you have to believe the "whole" Bible? I am just not sure why one needs the Bible to have faith.

sheri1555stl

02/03/2007 02:04:17 PM

It's kind of like taking the Creation story as figurative rather than literal, if a Christian tried to hold it as still true, yet espoused the theory of evolution as the cause of beginnings of the Earth and life on it, seeing God as the Prime Universal Mover who "jumpstarted" evolution, and the days as representing thousands or millions of years or something, based on the verse (I forgot where and am not at home so I don't have my Bible with me while posting this) where it says that "a thousand years are as a day to the Lord, when passed ." I don't know.

sheri1555stl

02/03/2007 01:58:54 PM

jd, I don't claim to have "attained higher spiritual meaning," I just tried to postulate how I have come to understand the passages. I could be wrong, I don't know. My interpretation may not even match up with what the majority of Christians or most biblical commentaries would say. It's just the impression that I got. As for the "not believe it," I meant the Bible as a whole (with inconsistent parts), and maybe Christianity altogether. Faith is strong though, in lots of people who have it (myself included), so I would probably try to find a different explanation.

sheri1555stl

02/03/2007 01:52:37 PM

I don't understand, F1fan. If you haven't seen the film, did you talk to people who saw the movie? I haven't seen it, so I could never presume to use it to "reference how Christians behave."

jd70

02/03/2007 08:03:54 AM

Sheri: To be honest I really did not unerstand your explanation of the violent scriptures, but if you have attained some higher spiritual meaning from them who am I to judge. I would imagine it I tried to explain Buddhism to you it would seem just a foreign. At any rate I liked your statement below: Genesis and Revelation are both hot-button topics; but, one who claims to believe still has to decide for him/herself what seems most coherent or just not believe it. In the church I went to growing up not believing in something contained in the Bible was not an option. Maybe things are changing.

F1Fan

02/02/2007 11:37:01 PM

I'm curious about tinisoli's and F1fan's interest in the movie they've claimed to have seen, "Jesus Camp" - what the draw would be, being unbelievers in any Jesus. -sheri I didn’t claim to see the film, and I haven’t. I was referencing the film as an example of how some Christians behave. These people behave in this way because they justify their actions as the will of god, and refuse to subject their beliefs to rational inquiry and reasonable doubt. Anyone claiming to be Christian, whether liberal or fundamentalist, does so because they have adopted a social framework. That this framework assumes an authority and truth for itself is often assumed to apply to all people. It doesn’t. That some people in our society believe in myth offers an opportunity to examine what it is that these people believe in. Skeptics are typically acurious bunch, and we want real answers.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 10:38:15 PM

I'm sorry, steppen. I just realized that I keep misspelling your moniker. My apologies.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 10:35:09 PM

I'm curious about tinisoli's and F1fan's interest in the movie they've claimed to have seen, "Jesus Camp" - what the draw would be, being unbelievers in any Jesus.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 10:30:11 PM

I'm sorry you feel this way, steppin, but I've only told you what I, a humble human, believe. I'm not a Christian apologetist. For some reason, the atheists on this post keep seeking out what I personally believe and then get upset when I tell them, as if they didn't go into the quetioning knowing that I was a Christian and they atheist. This discussion board is not really supposed to be about my beliefs, the merits of Christianity (or any other religion), or your rationality. It's supposed to be whether Harris has established beyond refutation that all theistic belief is dangerous and should not be tolerated and whether Sullivan addressed that position adequately. While I don't find that he did, I still also don't find that Harris has substantiated his claim and susequent call for action against theistic thought in general.

steppen0410e

02/02/2007 10:00:45 PM

(continued) And all that pellucidly silly stuff about different dispensations of man is just so much unsubstantiated nonsense, and it is barely credible to me that any modern educated person would take it seriously. As Mark Twain rightly observed: "The Bible is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies."

steppen0410e

02/02/2007 09:51:24 PM

All due respect, sheri1555stl, but you advance an exceptionally poor apologetic for the tyrant-God of the Bible, and you do not address my 1 Samuel citation at all - a God who would command genocidal revenge on the descendants of a people who supposedly wronged Israel! As Mark Twain accurately pointed out, the God of the Old Testament may appear bad - resembling little more than some oriental despot, only bigger and invisible - but the individual who taught the doctrine of hell (Jesus) is immeasurably worse. The doctrine of everlasting torture has justified such inhumanity and caused such terror in children, adults, the elderly and the dying that it cannot be the work of a humane person.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 07:52:11 PM

part 4. The God of wrath revealed the God of love, and that they were one and the same. Our faith allows us to accept "hard" things. "The secret things belong to the Lord..." (Deut.29.29). "The things of God" are not rationally, but "spiritually discerned..." (v.14 of I Cor.2.4-16) The wisdom of God is foolishness to those who do not believe. ( I Cor.1.18-2.16;3.18-20). I know this won't be adequate for you; but, many elements of my faith won't mesh with modern reason.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 07:40:18 PM

part 3. The God of the Old Testament seems to reveal Himself more obscurely to man spiritually, while remaining physically visible (maybe until after the revelation of Christ, where man could better understand His nature?); while in the New testament, He seems to do just the opposite (after the ascension of Christ), being more able to be understood as loving, but empirically "hiding." I know this seems hard,; but, I get that God can "kill" whomever he feels will never repent (knowing the hearts); whereas man cannot (not being able to see into the intentions of others internally). Those who were instructed to do so by God were in a dispensation of time when God could be seen and it verified that He truly told them to do so, and they never could do so without His telling them to, without facing the same consequences. We are not in that dispensation of time, so we can't kill apostates (or those of other faiths), not being able to verify audibly that God told them to do so.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 07:28:50 PM

part 2. (the character limitations here are just too much, anyway...) The God of the Old Testament appears to me to be dealing with some very serious spiritual issues (the Fall of man, e.g.) that He uses physical things/events that aren't maybe as serious/significant? to demonstrate. As in the example, eating from a tree, or Old Testament animal sacrices compared to New Testament sacrifice of Christ. The wars of the Old Testamnet seem to represent to me the spiritual principle of not allowing anything left in one's life to remain that stands between him/her and God. I get the idea that the God of the Old Testament emphasized more our relationship to Him in exclusivity than our proper treatment of others, and in the New, He reveals the love that we are to have for each other.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 07:15:40 PM

steppin, I take the Old Testament to be a "skeleton" which the New Testament "fleshes" out. Many things/events in the Old Testament appear to me to be physical, with a New Testament spiritual component. The God of the Old testament seems to use very brutal punishments for what appear to be minor infractions on the surface and punishes people (like killing whoever let the Ark of the Covenant touch the ground, etc.) seemingly unfairly for things that are somewhat not under their control/accidental. I said before that when things didn't appear to be consistent with the whole, that I'd have to take a deeper look or rethink things.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 07:10:57 PM

tinisoli, they'd still be Christians, much like "black sheep" in any family who disappoints and fails to properly represent the rest of the brood. steppin0410e, you do bring out some very barbaric-looking passages that paint the Old Testament God of war as a brute. I humbly offer that Christians, who try to follow the Jesus of the New Testament also squirm at the passages and are required to take a closer look at the meaning behind such harsh punishment that's representative in said passages. I also admit, tinisoli that Christians disagree as to what to take as parable.metaaphor and what to take literally. Genesis and Revelation are both hot-button topics; but, one who claims to believe still has to decide for him/herself what seems most coherent or just not believe it.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 06:56:54 PM

You're funny, steppin., although Iknow you don't mean to be. I like the young maiden part. I'm back now, but still reading through the posts from while I was gone.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 06:48:27 PM

steppin, if you look at the time stamps of the posts where I say that I have to leave, you'll notice that they're always a little after 3:00 p.m. Central time. I'm not mking that up. I DO have a life outside this post, and cannot spend every waking hour addressing your problems with my faith.

jd70

02/02/2007 06:01:23 PM

That should of been Sheri

jd70

02/02/2007 05:59:36 PM

1samual 15:1 "Samuel said to Saul, "I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. 2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy [a] everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'"" Sharri, I try to stay on the side lines, but how can such a passage be interpreted in a good way?

F1Fan

02/02/2007 05:57:41 PM

Fifan, you quoted me correctly, "I do not believe my beliefs to be in error," much as you do not believe yours to be, or you would adjust your beliefs. -sheri What beliefs of mine are you referring to? And any beliefs I do have they are always temporary, and subject to change. I do not treat beliefs as permanent or final. I did not set out to prove to you the existence of God, empirically, ontologically or otherwise. OK, But when you refer to god as if it was a reality, well, that makes a huge presumption that no skeptic can acknowledge. This is the major dilemma between theists and skeptics as they discuss religious issues. Theists, especially Christians and Muslims, acknowledge their beliefs are not factual, but refer to them as if the ideas were facts. That is a problem of conflicting inner dialog for the theist.

sewells1951

02/02/2007 04:46:55 PM

I think sheri was trying to say something about an 'altered covenant' originating with the new testament. Maybe I'm just reading that into it because that usually happens with christians when you confront them with some of the sillier parts of the old testament. Still, one would think an all powerful creator god would have gotten at least the trivial things like how ought to be killed right.

tinisoli

02/02/2007 04:36:12 PM

Even if sheri instructs us how to interpret these homicidal passages in a way that yields only peace, love, and happiness, she's not accounting for the fact that another reader (or 500 million of them) has every right to read this stuff and take it literally. And that their readings are equally (il)legitimate. Her holy book is the tie that binds her to all Christians... Until they start doing nasty things, that is. Then they're no longer Christians. Likewise with theists. It's all very convenient. Kind of like how Sullivan stopped thinking of Bush as a conservative once the war started unraveling and spending became Bush's favorite pasttime.

steppen0410e

02/02/2007 04:35:42 PM

Yes, more than likely, sewells1951. Just thought it was a bit coincidental.

steppen0410e

02/02/2007 04:34:32 PM

And seeing that sheri1555stl claims that she likes, and wants, context, let me give her the context of the genocide recorded in 1 Samuel 15. 1 Samuel 15:2-3;32-33 is a tale of revenge, revenge upon the nation of Amalek that came 380 years after their ambush of Israel, and long after the perpetrators of the ambush had died (Exodus 17:8). One cannot claim that the Amalek genocide was justified by any contemporary sin of theirs, as verse 2 specifically sets forth the charge against this nation warranting their utter destruction, and the charge is, as I identify above, the people of Amalek's ambush of Israel 380 years earlier. Oh, what a just and loving deity the biblical God is. No wonder that he had no scruples later about getting a young maiden pregnant and then arranging for the resultant offspring to be killed in a most barbarous way.

sewells1951

02/02/2007 04:33:45 PM

steppen, but when that happens, it is most always the same time of day so I'd guess she really does go get the kids.

steppen0410e

02/02/2007 04:20:44 PM

Have you noticed that every time the going gets rough for sheri1555stl, she's got to go pick up her kids from school? What I would like to know from sheri1555stl is, who decides what is allegory and what is to be taken otherwise in the Bible? There is little doubt that one can recognize its allegorical nature in, say, Jesus' admonitions to "pluck out offensive eyes from one's own body, rather than sinning", but what about the 1 Samuel reference I gave? And there is no doubt, is there, that the psychopathic God of the Bible had something very specific in mind in Deuteronomy 13:7-11. I've said it before, that the religious attitude is marked by a robust refusal to take things at face value if inconvenient or if it challenges one's comfortable view of a omnibenevolent deity.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 04:15:34 PM

accustom them, not accomodate.

sewells1951

02/02/2007 04:14:15 PM

sheri, hope you get the kids okay, etc. but there isn't much ambiguous about this passage. It is pretty clear that anyone who sacrifices to any other deity is to be destroyed. The verses around it have some caveats, exceptions, etc. but this one doesn't. Presumably the all powerful creator god understood what it was saying when it said it.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 04:09:50 PM

I tseems that pretty earlier in the posting, I gave some scriptures in the New Testament that showed the clear meaning behind much of the allegory in the OLd, such as "plucking out offensive eyes from one's own body, rather than sinning," etc. Jews were prohibited from eating certain foods as well, but there are no prohibitions in the New Testament. The New Testament also says that all of the Ten Commandments could be summed up into two: to love the Lord with our everything, and to love/treat our neighbor (any other human being) as we would ourselves. i would say that a lot of the Jewish Laws were to accomodate them to separating themselves apart as holy for God, rather than to be murderous or prejudiced against non-Jews. Sorry for the lack of references this time, but I've got to go pick up my kids from school and go to the bank. I'll have to be back later.

sewells1951

02/02/2007 04:06:01 PM

The quote is from exodus, where a list of religious rules is promulgated. So, I'd say these are laws that god is communicating to god's worshipers.

steppen0410e

02/02/2007 04:05:11 PM

sheri1555stl: The ogre-God of the Old Testament commands the smiting of the people of Amalek (1 Samuel 15) down to the last inhabitant - not excluding their animals. There are many examples of the biblical God ordering, condoning, or commanding the genocide of whole peoples (as if they really could prove an inconvenience to a being who supposedly created the entire universe).

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 04:03:13 PM

I like contexts, sewells. Give me contexts please.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 04:00:30 PM

And it seems to me that I "came to the defense of religion that was not mine" every time you requested that I speak for non-jihadist Muslims. Also, I already stated that if my interpretation of my scriptures does not render me a consistent view of the whole, I am either forced to re-interpret or alter my worldview. You make logical deductons all the time, based on scientific enquiry (religious "deductions," if they could be so called, are not based on science, but they are consistent with one's experiences). Who would hold onto a faith that contradicted their own experiences AND did not bear out rationally, but I'm not allowed to differientiate between religions as to what seems right to/"works for" me?

tinisoli

02/02/2007 03:57:44 PM

sewells1951, I've got ten bucks that says that sheri comes up with a way to explain that your passage from Exodus isn't really saying what it's saying.

tinisoli

02/02/2007 03:55:50 PM

You could say the same thing about me, but you'd be wrong. If and when god slaps me across the face, I'll notice. Whereas with you, there is NOTHING that can be done that will dissuade you from your belief in your personalized god.

sewells1951

02/02/2007 03:53:05 PM

sheri, Here is one that is pretty clear and hard to interpret any other way. Exodus 22:20 - "20 "Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the LORD must be destroyed."

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 03:52:03 PM

i could say the same for your utter rejection of my faith, tinisoli. You criticized me earlier for claimig that you would not adjust your world view even if "God were to slap you in the face," but your broad rejection of all theism (even to try to discount my miracles) is all about you.

tinisoli

02/02/2007 03:48:49 PM

It doesn't really matter what your diagram (A,B,C, whatever) looks like, sheri, because in the end it's all about you. Whatever doesn't sound or feel like God or religion (b/c it's not the same as yours, and/or is homicidal) is dismissed as something else (cult, misinterpretation, politics dressed as religion, etc.). You come to the defense of theism but only if your definitions of theism, god, holy book, religion, and faith are the same as yours, and the theists in question are dangerous. Even when someone claims "My book states that I must destroy the infidels," you simply brush him aside, and you deny the parallel between his belief in his book with your belief in your book. And I suspect that even if a Nobel Prize winner in medicine were to explain your instantaneous, "miraculous" recovery from botulism, you'd brush him aside, too.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 03:43:33 PM

Who are the whole groups of people called for to be exterminated in the Bible, steppin, that leaves no room for me to interpret it otherwise? Are you referring to hell?

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 03:41:44 PM

sewells: "... I was referring to your belief in an all-powerful creator god..." Maybe I've got the god gene.

steppen0410e

02/02/2007 03:41:23 PM

I know of a 'holy book' that prescribes the extermination of whole groups of people and that does not leave itself open to any alternate interpretation: the Bible.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 03:38:51 PM

I don't think I said anything about facts with regards to my religious beliefs, tinisoli, except with regards to me empirical experiences (unless you're insinuating that I hallucinated those), that I feel have borne out my convictions and are consistent with my worldview. We don't share the same worldview, don't have the same religious convictions, and don't have the same experiences. How is my attesting to those experiences, supportive of my faith, elevating my religion over others (or your lack of religion)or illegitimizing anyone else's belief? You've already taken that job.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 03:29:58 PM

even further, tinisoli, I would question the "holiness" of that book, in that it contradicts what I believe in my worldview about people, and in my faith, who I believe god to be. There are cults and I don't hold all religions as basically saying the same thing, or leading to the same thing. one's concept of God plays a key role, which concept will be formed by one's worldview. I really should have made my diagram A, God is, B, who/what God is, nature/essence of God, C, what should I do.

tinisoli

02/02/2007 03:29:53 PM

Hence the word "hypothetical." The fact is, millions of religious people are quite sure that millions of others deserve pain, hellfire, murder, etc. And some of them go out of there way to facilitate this inevitability or divine will.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 03:24:46 PM

tinisoli, I don't know of any holy book that prescribes the extermination of whole groups of people, in which 99% of its adherents agree to that interpretation of it.

tinisoli

02/02/2007 03:24:20 PM

sheri, You simply take it as fact that your religious beliefs are more legitimate than others. And you take it as fact that your religious beliefs (but not others' religious beliefs) are as real as anything else. And there is no way that anyone or anything can dissuade you from your beliefs. Is that fair to say? And is that not dogma?

sewells1951

02/02/2007 03:23:40 PM

sheri, I should have been more clear. I was referring to your belief in an all powerful, creator god.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 03:21:44 PM

sewells, while I strive for absolute certainty, and that ideal does indeed motivate my quest, being human and having to have faith (by its very essence, not resting on what I can empirically reproduce) calls for me to beuncertain about so many things. Christians call it "the Lord working in mysterious ways" or the unscrutibleness of G-d.

jd70

02/02/2007 03:18:44 PM

I have to agree with jacknky's sentiments. Behind all the labels there are human beings and behind all the human beings there are human needs. I think we all need to be mindful of this during these types of discussions. Rationality does not equal "atheist" and irrationality does not equal "theist". The real problem is dogma, ideology and irrationality. Labeling each other creates just as much division as the former does. One is not irrational because they believe something exists that may or may not. One is irrational when they hold that belief as absolute truth and allow it to dictate their actions over reason.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 03:17:28 PM

Your (b), tinisoli is borne from your atheistic bias. You are "baseless" to claim that their claims and mine have equal legitimacy. My claim that my God tells me to love my enemies does not have equal legitimacy (borne out by human, rational compassion of/on others, which non-theists share), as their claim 9the jihadists) that people should be horribly murdered.

tinisoli

02/02/2007 03:16:00 PM

sheri, So basically, getting back to what I said earlier, you think that the correct interpretations of holy books are whichever ones do not result in violence. Is that fair to say? Hypothetically, if 99% of believers in religion A want to destroy a nation or a people because they truly and deeply believe that that is what their holy book tells them to do, but 1% read it differently (yet still call themselves A and still defend the Book of A!) and aren't violent then the Book of A is not deserving of criticism and intolerance? Really? It seems that ultimately your defense of religion is simply that religion is religious. It is let off the hook because it so soft in nature that it can't even be on the hook in the first place.

sewells1951

02/02/2007 03:11:10 PM

sheri, I think you can go further. I think you could say that you cannot imagine any circumstance under which you would think your beliefs to be in error. I base this on your response the other day when I asked what it would take to convince you your beliefs were in error. One thing I think accounts for the pervasiveness of religious belief is a desire for absolute certainty. I would even say that it is the desire for absolute certainty we should be discussing since it seems to me that this underlies ALL belief systems that don't acknowledge the possibility of error, of which religiosity is only one type. The historicism of communism would be another type, etc.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 03:06:09 PM

I believe, tinisoli, that they think Islam "wills" them to feel this way toward American supporters of Israel, and that to please their God, they have to act according to the way that they do. I also believe that American Muslims are not just not taking the Koran/Q'uaran seriously enough, or refusing to act on what they "know" they should do about us western infidels. I believe that they would say (since you keep asking me to speak for those of a religion which I do not share), that the jihadists are not only wrong about what they should do about us infidels, but also wrong that God wills them to feel they way that they do about us (faulty inference from premise A to conclusion B). I believe that they interpret passages in their holy book differently than do the jihadists, in light of the inferences they make about who they think God is.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 02:51:45 PM

Fifan, you quoted me correctly, "I do not believe my beliefs to be in error," much as you do not believe yours to be, or you would adjust your beliefs. I did not set out to prove to you the existence of God, empirically, ontologically or otherwise.

tinisoli

02/02/2007 02:51:19 PM

er, prefix.

tinisoli

02/02/2007 02:50:07 PM

Is a theocracy, in your opinion, simply a non-democracy? Is there no relevance or meaning to the suffix? I just wonder how much more explicit a holy warrior would need to be for you to accept that his murderous convictions are a) borne of his religion and b) no less legitimate or "true" than your interpretation of your holy book. How is his faith in the 72 virgins waiting for him in paradise so ludicrous compared to the fantasies of Christians?

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 02:47:30 PM

part 3. Since I lamented your very possible sensitivity of heart/personality in an earlier post, when did I EVER say that no good could come from/be done by non-theists? I know that, apparently, you are passionately anti-Christian, anti-theist, but please don't put words "in my mouth" or misquote me as you say that I have done with you. And please stop sweeping with so broad a stroke as to have me to speak for Muslims or for every theist there ever was. I can tell from some of the other posts, that you don't speak categorically for every atheist on the board.

tinisoli

02/02/2007 02:45:58 PM

"I said that they were dangerous by their very nature and use their religious framework to justify their actions." On what do you base this claim, other than your desire to let irrational beliefs off the hook? Jihadists of both the Muslim and Christian variety are very explicit about why they do what they do. For you to ignore what they themselves are claiming to be true and then baselessly suggest that they would've been murderers anyway is ludicrous. The 9/11 hijackers were not impoverished, brainwashed lunatics. They were well-educated and relatively well off. And we all know that bin Laden hails from one of the wealthiest families in the region. Do you really think that these guys just had an axe to grind with America and simply shaped their interpretation of Islam in order to suit their mission?

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 02:41:12 PM

part 2. I will concede that, based on the POLITICAL culture of the jihadists, conformity and control are enforced, so the tendency to impose violence/inflict harm is greater, not because of the religious tenets of the Muslims (American Muslims seem to feel no such inclination, which may be one of the reasons they came to the States). I don't believe religion plays NO part, I just don't say, as you have, that their religion is everything, or that it would play the part here, where there is separation of church and state - because the people who live here and founded this land believe that religious beliefs should not be imposed or engender violence - that it does there. Their belief (the American Muslims) in premise A does not render the same conclusion B that the Middle Eastern Muslim's does because of the political climate. But, as I said, I am not Muslim...

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 02:29:09 PM

Wow, tinisoli, where do I start? I never said that religion did not play a role in the irrational beliefs of some very dangerous peopl or in bad things happening in the world even. I said that they were dangerous by their very nature and use their religious framework to justify their actions. And yes, I would argue that they have misinterpreted their scriptures (with the motive to justify what they wanted to do anyway, which is "help" God to eliminate any dissidents). The "cherry picking" Harris was refering to not only includes accepting passages we don't like, but rejecting those we don't. I have tried to have a consistent view of the whole of my passages, hopefully irregardless of my general firsthand impression of them. If they don't seem to match up with my worldview, I'm either forced to reinterpret them or adjust my worldview. I already posted that American Muslims have said just that, that jihadists have misinterpreted their scriptures.

F1Fan

02/02/2007 02:20:24 PM

No, the 9/11 hijackers did what they did because they are filled with hatred (for whatever reasons) of Americans. -sheri And those reasons are because the hijackers accepted from Islam that the god of Abraham wills these believers to behave in this way. These people behave in this way because they justify their actions as the will of god, and refuse t subject their human judgments (any belief in god, any religion) and worldview to reasoning divorced from their own desire to believe. It is the same phenomenon we saw in the film “Jesus Camp”. It is the same phenomenon of any group that strongly has a set ideology that is accepted on faith. Not all believers act with self-destruction, but aim to reinforce their own framework of belief, sometimes at the elimination of secular culture or other religions.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 02:19:06 PM

jacknky, I really appreciate your sentiments. Thank you.

F1Fan

02/02/2007 02:12:27 PM

Plus, I feel that I have empirical experiences that support my belief and my beliefs are consistent with my worldview, as our your beliefs consistent with yours, I would assume, and which worldview we don't share. -sheri My worldview is based on sensible data, tests in reality, and skepticism. I don’t “feel” evidence, I examine it objectively. I let the evidence guide how I understand the universe. I also reflect on my emotions and self-monitor to prevent emotions from swaying my reasoning about nature. Belief in religious ideals is not a reasoned conclusion, but one that appeals to emotions, either consciously or subconsciously. Where it comes to my feelings that is reserved to how I relate to other people, the environment, my activities, etc.

F1Fan

02/02/2007 02:07:42 PM

F1fan, I don't believe my beliefs to be in error; that's why I believe them. -sheri Since there is no solid evidentiary basis for any supernatural concept, how is it you know you are not in error? Could it be that you’ve already decided that you are correct, so the beliefs can’t be wrong? What is your methodology and test in reality that leads you to be sure you are correct in your beliefs?

tinisoli

02/02/2007 01:03:00 PM

sheri, It is simply incredible to me that you will argue away any role that religion plays in anything bad that is occurring on Earth. Al qaeda targets America because of the U.S.'s support of Israel, because we are a nation of heathen infidels, and because their religious convictions (radical or not) call on them quite explicitly to kill their enemies. It's ALL about their religion! Just because most muslims do not blow people up doesn't mean that the shared beliefs or the shared magic book are not related to the actions of the murderous minority. There is a connection. Again and again you deny this, or you simply label the murderers as bad interpreters of holy scripture, or you say they'd would've been murderers anyway. Unless, of course, we're talking about good deeds, in which case you suggest that only religion or belief in God can lead the way.

jacknky

02/02/2007 12:47:03 PM

Atheists, instead of pointing a finger at all believers including compassionate believers, saying to them “See what your faith has spawned, we might do better to seek ways to join with compassionate believers and say “What can we do together about all human ignorance, cruelty, hatred and intolerance?” Theists, try not to think of us atheists as your enemy no matter how smug we may sound We are here to challenge you. Unchallenged faith has its own smugness too, you know. Unchallenged faith may become lazy at best, cruel and divisive at the worst. And please, let’s all remember that we share deep down a very human common bond. We all suffer. We all face old age, sickness and death if we live long enough. And we’re all trying to deal with that in our own way.

jacknky

02/02/2007 12:46:34 PM

We all use “tools” to try and reduce our suffering. One of my particular tools is meditation. Belief in God doesn’t work for me for some reason. I’ve tried to believe. Meditation does work for me. No one “tool” is going to reduce suffering for everyone and arguing about whose tool is the best is beside the point. The point is HOW we use these human tools of religion, ethics, philosophy, science and all forms of human values. If religion is used by an individual to open up to his/her basic loving kindness than who are we to criticize? If a Christian is out helping to poor and sick and an atheist sits in his academic tower criticizing him for his belief then who is really being illogical Of course, being human beings there are many theists who use religion to shut down, as a tool to divide us into hatred. It seems to me THAT’s the problem.

jacknky

02/02/2007 12:46:01 PM

Life is suffering. Perhaps that’s a basic human truth upon which almost all theists and atheists can agree. Each of us deals with our suffering in our own ways, some more effectively than others. Based on what I see, many of us find belief in some sort of supernatural deity to be an effective tool to reduce their suffering. In a way, it really doesn’t matter whether there really is a god or not. Many people see one or more gods in the world and that helps them deal with their suffering. I think the Buddha got it right. We’re all about suffering and reducing suffering. On a basic non-theoretical level, when we atheists tell theists they’re being “illogical” and “irrational” it is we who are being illogical and irrational. Even if we are correct that religion is basically a placebo it would be irrational not to use that placebo to use that placebo if it really reduces suffering, and if we truly do see God in the world.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 12:39:28 PM

No, the 9/11 hijackers did what they did because they are filled with hatred (for whatever reasons) of Americans. Plenty of American Muslims have said that theirreligion neither condones nor encourages what they did. Why don't you ask them, since I'm not a Muslim, but a Christian. This example of the very different inferences that people believing in God, what they think about God (same religion) and yet, drawing totally different conclusions about what they should do about that belief, as I was saying.

tinisoli

02/02/2007 12:34:40 PM

sheri, So the 9/11 hijackers did what they did just because? It had nothing to do with their religious convictions about infidels, virgins, paradise, etc? That is simply not true. Yes, obviously people who aren't religious do bad things, too. And obviously I did not suggest that there aren't people with preexisting inclinations to danger and violence. Yet another straw man from you. Nice.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 12:17:22 PM

I'm sorry,not volkay, vinaykelker.

jacknky

02/02/2007 12:16:46 PM

Sheri, "jacknky, I guess we can define soul, one of those nebulous words, to mean whatever we want it to mean, to fit our own worldview." Yes, that's true. It's sorta like the word "God". It means different things to different people.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 12:14:56 PM

You don't believe there are any people with any preexisting inclinations to be dominant, violent or aggressive (religious or non-religious)? Are YOU kidding ME, tinisoli? I guess all the rapists, child molestors, kidnappers, snipers, serial killers, etc. (many abused in their own childhoods) are all religious fundamentalists. As regards to the societal rules, we all know, to truly enforce for the wrongdoers you cannot except those who would not abuse/miuse, just as volkay was pointing out. I have to go the speed limit as well as the wreckless driver although I am a safe driver.

tinisoli

02/02/2007 11:45:02 AM

Wait a second... A jihadist already has an inclination to do violence, and his radical religious beliefs are just the match that starts the fire? Are you kidding? And why, pray tell, does a jihadist already have an inclination to be violent? And why shouldn't guns, prostitution, and narcotics be legalized? Plenty of people can use them without stirring up any trouble, just like plenty of theists are not troublesome.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 11:39:59 AM

I never called you cold-blooded, tinisoli (from your posts about finding cures for cancer, etc., I'm sure that you are a very senstive person, although i don't know you). As for soulless, I believe that everyone has a soul (mind, will, and emotions), and a spirit (eternal, immaterial consciousness) and a body. :)

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 11:36:39 AM

Did you, tinisoli, who says that theists are either lying to themselves or others, ask about my accept others' responses as truthful?

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 11:34:15 AM

The jihadist already has a worldview that accepts violence against others as acceptable. I do not. His religious beliefs give him incentive to act on that inclination to be violent. I do not accept narcotics on the basis that empirical evidence shows that they are hallucinagens, which, by their nature, one under the influence of them could do harm to others, not to mention how bad many of them are on the body of the user. There's nothing in my scriptures that I've seen that prohibits their use. I oppose prostitution because I believe it to encourage detachment of emotion from intercourse which, I feel from its intimate nature, should not be taken so lightly, not to mention the diseases and heartache married johns bring back to their wives. I oppose legalizing just any gun for anyone's use on the obvious reasons of violence. Are you really here to discuss what I believe?

tinisoli

02/02/2007 11:32:26 AM

I'm just wondering, sheri, what the use is of asking questions on this board and then answering them yourself or refusing to accept someone's answer as truthful. I don't tell you that you do not actually believe in your personal miracles, whereas you have told me that if God were to slap me across the face--which I'm sure you'd love to see!--that I STILL would be some kind of coldblooded, soulless "scientist."

vinaykelkar

02/02/2007 11:29:05 AM

Religions are Rules and regulations created on this earth only by group of human for team identity, brotherhood, unity, identification, traceability, control a group, Hence religion has to be flexible to accommodate wishes of all persons as far as possible. It needs to be revised constantly as per changing needs. It should be applied depending on location, climate, availability etc as ultimately it is meant for human beings.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 11:26:21 AM

I stand by my posts, tinisoli. I'm sure you'd like nothing more than for me and all other theists (am I the only one left on the board?) to log off and not come back. Sorry.

tinisoli

02/02/2007 11:26:04 AM

So there is no real connection between a jihadist killing himself and hundreds of other people and the religious beliefs he had about paradise, awaiting virgins, infidels, etc? Would've happened anyway? You sure about that? I take it then that you are not opposed to the legalization of narcotics, prostitution, all guns...

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 11:20:04 AM

part 2. The issue Harris and Sullivan are debating is whether moderate theists and fundamentalist theists are ESSENTIALLY believing the same thing, and, therefore, moderates are enabling dangerous fudamentalist activity, based on a shared dangerous belief, which belief, needs to not be tolerated based on its danger. I contend that they do not, as it has not been established to my satisfaction that premise A NECESSARILY ENTAILS activity/belief B (see my earlier posts), the latter of which is dangerous. We all abhore fundamentalist behavior (sometimes rooted in fundamentalist religious belief, sometimes not). I just don't see that being a theist necessitates either the behavior or the belief itself, in which it is sometimes rooted. People were what they were before they adopted certain religious principles around which they framed already held beliefs; their god just reinforces those beliefs for them.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 11:12:50 AM

F1fan, I don't believe my beliefs to be in error; that's why I believe them. Plus, I feel that I have empirical experiences that support my belief and my beliefs are consistent with my worldview, as our your beliefs consistent with yours, I would assume, and which worldview we don't share. As I was saying to jacknky, however, there are schools of thought(non-religious) who do not share your worldview that includes belief in a 'soul' that is a function of the body, i.e. any cognitive fuction. We can go round and round as to why I am a theist and why you are not, what you feel is explainable through science and what I have experienced that I do NOT feel science can explain; but, conversion to either side is not really the subject of this discussion board.

tinisoli

02/02/2007 11:06:45 AM

sheri, We are dancing 'round the central argument of the debate, which is whether a bad idea that works quietly and peacefully for in others should be criticized. If you think the concept of God should be spared from criticism because some theists are great people or some have a belief that goes no further than simply believing there is a god, then I'm not sure what the point is of taking this any further. I think it is clear that the good ideas and positive influences of religions can be experienced and practiced without having religion. I don't think you agree.

F1Fan

02/02/2007 10:58:01 AM

Yes, soul is a word that has many applications and meanings, so when the Christian speaks of it, it is a matter of belief, and thus limited to those who agree with the definition. I agree with the natural definition of soul/spirit as it does not require the dubious and speculative assumptions of gods. Nor does it require an adoption of some religious framework to frame up what I am to believe, with no test in reality. That is the issue: why normally rational people, in this modern world, are still motivated to believe in gods and the supernatural at all. We know they do. Psychology and the cognitive sciences have good explanations for why they do. It is the believer who ignores and rejects the most natural and plausible explanations for why they believe in myth. That they think the idea of god they hold is actually god suggests something. That they can acknowledge their beliefs might be in error, yet believe and act with the assumption they are correct, tells us something.

sheri1555stl

02/02/2007 10:11:16 AM

jacknky, I guess we can define soul, one of those nebulous words, to mean whatever we want it to mean, to fit our own worldview. Even without regarding it as some spiritual, immaterial substance - (which I take soul to mean mind, will, and emotions, somewhat a function of the body and somewhat of the spirit, and spirit to be that immaterial consciousness, humans being comprised of body, spirit and soul, to me) - and not as simply a function of the body, there are still some schools of thought who do not hold to an "I" conscious awareness, even as a function of the body only.

jacknky

02/02/2007 09:39:52 AM

Sheri, "steppin0410e, for one who adheres to a "science of the soul," I wouldn't talk about "scintilla of evidence" if I were you." I can't speak for Steppin but what I understood from his statement does not refer to the "soul" as that part of us that lives after the body dies but the essence of being human that seeks wisdom, love and compassion. That essence of being human we can indeed see.

Týsson

02/01/2007 10:36:32 PM

"By the way, I have yet to meet a person who is not an atheist in regard to someone else's God, or gods." Pleased to meet you, Steppen. ;-)

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 10:24:07 PM

I think Bardmountain(see the first posts on what is currently page 71)somewhat expresses this line of reasoning.

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 10:16:03 PM

The danger, tinisoli, in religious belief lies not in the premise that God is(A), but in what one thinks s/he SHOULD DO(B), based on that premise. Many theists disagree as to how to infer the if A, then B. It doesn't mean that A necessarily causes belief B, or that B doesn't happen in the world irregardless of A. Some B is acceptable, some are not, are dangerous and delusional. Claiming the 'irrationality' of A does not logically imply the DANGER in A, which danger follows from B. You and Harris keep lumping all theists(A) into a catchall net (which includes all B), when they're really only joined via venn circles, at best (some C (non-theists) are also B). You withhold from theists the distinction you would draw between A and B, were it reserved for your own camp.

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 09:49:43 PM

Since you and Harris seem to relentlessly categorize ALL theists as holding irrational delusions that are dangerous, I'm viewed, by nature of my mindset, just as suspect as the jihadist with the bomb, because he's doing it because he THINKS it will bring him into God's glory. We both speak of "God," but it doesn't mean that we believe the same thing(s), even fundamental thing(s), and it certainly doesn't ipso facto, make me as "dangerous." To argue that it logically follows somehow, as if no beliefs held ABOUT God (or what He wants from us)can be separated from belief IN God, is what is dangerous, I think, sweeping too broad a stroke, representing Harris' atheistic bias, and goes beyond TALKING.

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 09:38:30 PM

Funny you should mention martians and UFOs. That's EXACTLY the same reaction theists get when they claim to have heard from God, that you say is reserved for people we call crazy and sheltered from theists. Not tolerating delusions that lead to VIOLENCE AGAINST OTHERS and not tolerating a child's faith that leads them into a bedtime prayer (which plenty - millions - of theists worldwide have) are two separate things. I question the irrational fanatic who tells me that God told him to do something that violates reason, freedom, safety, etc. to others. The believer (or non-believer)who believes what I do not but who in NO WAY THREATENS MY FREEDOM OR SAFETY, I don't bother or call for an end to their beliefs which they're entitiled to hold.

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 09:30:01 PM

hmmm. I wonder, maybe the worldwide majority of theists should call for an end of atheism. Oh, that's right. That would remind one of the Inquisitions right? But I'd assure you that would never happen again. You don't trust me? Are YOU paranoid then?

tinisoli

02/01/2007 09:22:07 PM

sheri, Perhaps the word "intolerance" is frightening, but your tone is paranoid. All Harris means by "not tolerating" bad ideas even if they're religious, and all I mean, is that if it is socially and politically acceptable to be intolerant of the delusions of an invidual, especially if those delusions prove dangerous, it stands to reason to be intolerant of the delusions of millions. Maybe moreso, even, as their mass delusion could prove to be more dangerous. Nobody's calling for a posse to go out and round up all the theists and set them adrift on an ice floe. We're talking about TALKING. Do you not find it odd that there is such tolerance, such polite acceptance, of irrational beliefs that are religious whereas irrational ideas about martians and UFOs will get you laughed at, locked up, and totally marginalized? Is there not something inconsistent and unfair about that?

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 07:51:07 PM

GTG catch the final puzzle and spin-id on WOF and watch some DVDs. Gotta catch you guys later. May the Lord's peace be upon you all...

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 07:45:22 PM

No, I meant alone, oddjoe. I was referring to your statement that religion need not be bad for society. The supporters of Harris on this post, arguing that theism's core central beliefs are inherently irrational, and, therefore, dangerous, in and of themselves, would disagree with that sentiment. It's obvious from my posts that I don't share the antithesis to that sentiment, so, I guess, in that regard, you are not alone.

oddjoe

02/01/2007 07:37:10 PM

Sheri, I guess you meant not alone.

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 07:36:14 PM

Furthermore, what counts as evidence for you, and what counts a evidence for me, are two different things. Neither you nor namchuck nor tinisoli nor Sam Harris frighten me one iota. I present to you Pascal's Wager. I have nothing to lose and nothing to fear. I am not a fanatic who's blowing up, or discriminating against, people; but, the hostile atheists here just smack me of arrogance and hypocrisy with how they consider the reasonable way to treat/think of others who do not share their views, e.g. dishonest, irrational, and dangerous. I've never lied to you or myself, have always believed in God (with that belief coloring my worldview, do I still have the rationality that we all have and use some time?), and pose no danger or threat to you.

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 07:28:14 PM

you are alone in this sentiment, I think, oddjoe. steppin0410e, for one who adheres to a "science of the soul," I wouldn't talk about "scintilla of evidence" if I were you.

steppen0410e

02/01/2007 07:12:48 PM

Sam Harris is not attempting to "impose" anything as far as I can tell. He is simply talking and discussing the issues. But even this, apparently, tends to frighten those who have invested psychologically in beliefs for which there is not a scintilla of compelling evidence.

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 07:06:35 PM

I hope so, oddjoe. I was very upset with those Christians whom I knew were voting for Bush, based on what they thought he would do to promote Christian interests. Politicians will say anything to get elected, I never believed that he would do anything to advance so-called Christian causes, and he was neglecting other issues which I deemed just as, or more, important. And his rationale for invading Iraq I took to be an outright blatant lie. I think many professing Christians who voted for Bush in 2004 now helped the Democrats to take over the Senate and the House.

oddjoe

02/01/2007 06:48:22 PM

sheri, A lot of voters basically rubber stamped the (hopefully former) 'party of God', AKA, the Republicans for bush in 2004. Throw in a couple of bone (wedge) issues like gay marriage or abortion, and the votes are practically in the box. Hopefully the voters have learned at least belatedly how they have been manipulated by atheist and agnostic Bush administrators. I used to listen to Christian radio, so know how easy it is to be quite oblivious.

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 06:42:54 PM

I'm sorry. My 6:11 p.m. post was for steppin0410e, not jacknky.

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 06:25:59 PM

"...asking people to minimize or do awaywith their most unreasonable ideas is not exactly a threat of suppression or subjugation..." but calling for people to not tolerate it is. I can find lots of unreasonable ideas, such as white supremacy, for which I don't call for intolerance. Ideas are just that, and everyone's got the right in this grand country to have them. But hate crimes BASED on that idea I can call for intolerance of. Which is the most unreasonable idea harris is asking people to do away with - their theism in general? obviously, since he won't accept Sullivan's decry of fundamentalism/his moderatism. I sit reasonable for Harris to impose his atheism?

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 06:16:10 PM

Oh and tinisoli, you saw interviews of thousands, maybe millions of Christians? Are there even millions of Christians in America (eligible to vote for Bush) who agree on the hot-button topics, let alone the others (I know in my church, we were pretty divided, and we only have about a 500-strong membership)? But you probably know way more about Christians, enough to tell what's representative of them as a collective group, than I do. lol

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 06:11:02 PM

jacknky:"...I think you have identified in your most recent posts what i find most attractive about the philosophy of Buddhism, a kind of rational science of the 'soul' that doesn't require or demand unjustified beliefs." What is a "science of the soul"? Can the 'soul' be scien-tifically 'justified'? Whatis soul, to a scientist?

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 06:05:04 PM

tinisoli, is the 'religious right' representative of Christians in particular, or theists in general? I think that is exactly Sullivan's point. You keep using the few to define the many.

steppen0410e

02/01/2007 05:44:12 PM

jacknky: I think you have identified in your most recent posts what I find most attractive about the philosophy of Buddhism, a kind of rational science of the 'soul' that doesn't require or demand unjustified beliefs. tinisoli: "The idea is not that theists are crazy, but they are irrational in a very specific and avoidable way. Asking people to minimize or do away with their most unreasonable ideas is not exactly a threat of suppression or subjugation." Brilliantly summarized!

tinisoli

02/01/2007 04:53:43 PM

sheri Re: Harris and what he'd do with theists... Indeed, Harris would love to see religion end because it is unreasonable. But what he's trying to appeal to in all people is the reasonableness and ratonal ability that all of us employ most of the time. The idea is not that theists are crazy, but that they are irrational in a very specific and avoidable way. Asking people (in two books) to minimize or do away with their most unreasonable ideas is not exactly a threat of suppression or subjugation. Again, Harris is anti-dogma above all things, but because so much of religion IS dogmatic and dangerous, he's calling out religion in particular.

tinisoli

02/01/2007 04:47:52 PM

sheri, Yes yes, I know that plenty of Christians didn't vote for Bush, and that plenty of faithful people voted a certain way because of issues other than hot-button ones like abortion and stem cell research. But I also know that some Christians, easily thousands and possibly millions, voted for Bush BECAUSE he is a Christian. Period. I know this because that is literally what they said in interviews, and I'm just taking their word for it. That Bible school featured in the film "Jesus Camp" showed little children being taught to idolize a cardboard cut-out of Bush. I don't think he earned hero status with the school because he went to Yale and Andover. The religious right has been quite upfront about why it supports Bush.

jacknky

02/01/2007 04:28:26 PM

(con'd) The Buddha taught that we are not to accept anything simply because it's in a Holy Book or because someone we respect tells us so. "Be a light unto yourself". We are to learn to see clearly for ourselves. This is somewhat like the scientific method, in my opinion, except instead of looking at ourselves from the outside we observe ourselves from the inside. It is much easier to develop opinions and beliefs than it is to simply see. Not many learn to see and I don't count myself among those who do. peace...

jacknky

02/01/2007 04:28:01 PM

Sheri, "don't some Buddhists believe as, do Hindus, in reincarnation (doubtful to empirically prove) and others in Nirvana," You ask a very good question. here's my take as a Buddhist meditator. It seems that Buddhism is both like and unlike other religions. It is like other religions because over the centuries dogmas and rituals have been developed. Most Buddhist who live in Buddhists countries go to the temple to pray and light incense. But for meditation practitioners, Buddhism is about seeing clearly without dogma, fears or pre-conceptions. It is something other than ritual or belief.

steppen0410e

02/01/2007 04:14:14 PM

I have yet to see the slightest evidence that even suggests that supernatural entities exist. I am an atheist in the sense of someone who does not think there is any good reason to believe in a supernatural entity that created and somehow supervises the universe. I do not know that such an entity is not there, but until extraordinary evidence is provided to substantiate such an extraordinary claim, I relegate God to the same realm as Santa Claus. But, I am not a stubborn unbeliever and would readily convert if given decisive proof of the existence of supernatural entities. By the way, I have yet to meet a person who is not an atheist in regard to someone else's God, or gods.

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 04:00:30 PM

oddjoe: "Or they state some slogan like the government is the instrument of God. It's like an excuse for not taking responsibility." Who votes to put candidates in office, only atheists? Or do they get in office by divine right, with no need for election? Do I vote? Do you know? Are ALL of the homeless shelters, food kitchens, social service programs run by only atheists? Who is not taking responsibility for their community?

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 03:55:08 PM

seeker, don't some Buddhists believe as, do Hindus, in reincarnation (doubtful to empirically prove) and others in Nirvana, a state of nothingness after death (also doubtful - maybe impossible - to prove)? Both beliefs seem supernatural to me. Pantheism, believing in all things visible, as part and parcel of one and the same thing, I wouldn't call supernatural; but, I wouldn't call it a religion either. I don't feel relgions have to have a monotheism or even an embodied theism to be a religion, but there still seems to be the element of the supernatural involved to me IMHO.

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 03:49:14 PM

maybe some people were actually led by the issues, and oppose abortion or gay 'marriage' on non-religious grounds; or actually thought that Bush WAS looking for "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq and truly needed to make "war on terror" after 9/11. (I, for one, did not, and, therefore, did NOT vote for him). But, could it be possible that theists could actually have a brain to vote beyond party lines(which neither the Democratic party nor the Republican party has the numbers to say that it is categorically representative of theists) and maybe vote the issues, some of hich are not religious at all, but economic, patriotic/anti-terror, etc.?

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 03:43:34 PM

F1fan: "Our society is tolerant to religious belief so people can justify public expressions of their belief..." justify? Do we "justify" the Darwin amphibian motor decals that I also see on some drivers' bumpers? Funny how we've gone from a society FOUNDED on the FREEDOM to have that very "public expression" (and of the atheists, to NOT express), to needing to "justify" that expression.

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 03:39:32 PM

tinisoli: "Sam Harris' goal in calling for the end of faith is certainly not to get people to submit to the will of an atheistic oligarchy. If anything, it would benefit all people if we were more reasonable and more interested in evidence, all the time...rather than just some of the time." But according to Harris (and, I presume, you and the other atheists on this board, religious faith, BY ITS VERY NATURE, CANNOT be reasonable (even some of the time), or evidence-based, so where does that leave the theist, in a "call for the end of faith," especially those whose faith permeates their lives, except for to have either their beliefs or their very selves subjugated and suppressed?

seeker36

02/01/2007 03:36:24 PM

Hi Sheri, In response to your statement about religion without supernatural belief, it is probably not common but does happen. The Christian thealogian Don Cupitt springs to mind and then there are Spiritual people such as myself, who are loosely Buddhist, but are agnostic about about its supernatural components.

oddjoe

02/01/2007 03:34:44 PM

tinisoli, Or they state some slogan like the government is the instrument of God. It's like an excuse for not taking responsibility.

jd70

02/01/2007 03:21:30 PM

I wonder how many people would of voted for Bush if he called himself an atheist? We are a society that is obsessed with labels. I for one could care less what one labels themselves as , but rather where they stand on the issues and no I did not vote for Bush.

tinisoli

02/01/2007 03:15:44 PM

oddjoe, Indeed. I can't help but wonder if America would be less patient with and tolerant of government chicanery if so many of us were not so eager to take things on faith. Lots of people voted for Bush the second time simply because he is (or says he is) a Christian. I would call that crazy.

tinisoli

02/01/2007 03:08:50 PM

For those who are interested, here's a good interview with Harris. www.thesunmagazine.org/369_Harris.pdf It's a PDF, but you can also find it online in HTML by googling Sam Harris and "The Sun magazine."

oddjoe

02/01/2007 03:02:52 PM

Sam Harris' goal in calling for the end of faith is certainly not to get people to submit to the will of an atheistic oligarchy. If anything, it would benefit all people if we were more reasonable and more interested in evidence all of the time (see: leadup to the Iraq war) rather than just some of the time. If we didn't fill our attention spans with reams of religious doctrines, many of which excuse the believer for not striving to seek knowledge and truth, we would be able to resist being fooled by government propaganda.

F1Fan

02/01/2007 02:55:15 PM

That isn't to say, of course, that religion is necessary. Rather, I'm simply pointing out that for many religion provides either the inspiration to carry on in difficult times or the solace necessary to accept the inevitiblity of our own mortality. As such, religion can be tremendously useful even when its premises are irrational. -Tysson Yes, this is called coping strategy. We all use different forms of distraction to help cope with life stress, like dabbling on debate boards, playing video games, or watching TV. Religion is the biggest one. The manner and degrees people go mark the difference from distraction to obsession. If people employ mental imagery (fantasy) and use it in a way that prevents them from examining life in a more realistic and problem-solving way, then it could be a problem. Our society is tolerant to religious belief, so people can justify public expressions of their belief, like putting Jesus fish on their cars.

tinisoli

02/01/2007 02:54:09 PM

Sam Harris' goal in calling for the end of faith is certainly not to get people to submit to the will of an atheistic oligarchy. If anything, it would benefit all people if we were more reasonable and more interested in evidence all of the time (see: leadup to the Iraq war) rather than just some of the time. The fact that the majority of humans are or have been theistic is not a testament to the existence of God. It suggests that there may be cultural and even evolutionary adaptive value in faith, but it does not make faith any more "true" than the delusions of an individual. And let's keep in mind that Harris is not declaring most of the world to be irrational, but rather that most people are sometimes very irrational and are, as a result, very dangerous. All humans have the capacity for reason, and most of us use it most of the time. But it's that other fraction of time that is worrisome, and Harris simply is asking why we tolerate it.

F1Fan

02/01/2007 02:43:18 PM

agree with Sam in being anti-belief but I am not anit-faith. I have "faith" that we can change the world and I know that as a result, my faith in that idea has changed me. -openspirit The dilemma doesn’t rest with Sam’s usage, but with how Christians use the word “faith” in a manner that is really still belief. To say “faith in god” is contingent on believing the concept of whatever concept of god, and extending a belief in some outcome. I suspect the word is used because it carries with it a mystical implication, and bypasses the cognitive process that results in belief. But when all this is revealed it is still only belief. It is still the judgments of religious human being who like the feeling they get from belief in these religious frameworks. My own thinking is that no one can have faith in a concept, like god. Perhaps one can have faith in the self that his/her judgments are accurate. Otherwise, to assume a god exists simply extends faith into the unknown.

oddjoe

02/01/2007 02:33:23 PM

I don't think anyone here is arguing about the opiate-of-the-masses "usefulness" of religion, but rather the soundness of their 'truth' claims. If we remove almost everything dogmatic from religion, we can just about totally eliminate both of these problems.

gadje

02/01/2007 02:28:09 PM

sheri1555stl 2/1/2007 1:50:54 PM "... serve the establishment of oligarchy (run by the atheists silencing the very many theists),communism, or some other totalitarian regime (also dangerous), against our current democracy." Lets remember though that the first group to be considered atheists were christians themselves, since they refused to pay homage to Pax Deum(basically the roman version of the pledge of allegiance and commitment to religious diversity). The atheism of Harris is much different than the communist atheism, devoid of critical thinking, that he also criticized in his book, "The End of Faith". Perhaps the discussion should deal with how we can let atheists have a voice in the public square without making theists feel unwelcome and vice versa?

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 02:14:29 PM

Tysson, I don't think anyone here is arguing about the opiate-of-the-masses "usefulness" of religion, but rather the soundness of their 'truth' claims. [if this posted before, I apologize -something is wrong with my computer because it didn't show up after several closings of the browser window and refreshes.]

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 01:50:54 PM

All of us have beliefs, some more rational than others; it's necessary to go about the process of living. But some of us do not have much faith. I do agree with your assessment, however, that they can go hand in hand. My take on Harris is that he believes the underlying belief system in any faith to be so irrationally flawed as to be dangerous to society as a whole, because such beliefs usually prompt action. Yet, I contend that, unless millions -billions- of people worldwide are all under a massive hoax, and only the privileged minority of Harris and those like him represented on this thread are the rational ones, then his suggestion of the destruction/suppression/elimination of religious belief so many hold so dear only goes to serve the establishment of oligarchy (run by the atheists silencing the very many theists),communism, or some other totalitarian regime (also dangerous), against our current democracy.

Týsson

02/01/2007 01:48:40 PM

"Tysson, you are too confused to debate with." I accept your concession.

Týsson

02/01/2007 01:43:04 PM

"It frees up your time to, say, work on a cure for cancer or a vaccine for HIV." Indeed. In fact, much of your post resonated with my own religious beliefs. I would point out, however, that religion can and often does deal with the emotional impacts of such things as a cancer diagnosis or the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, in a way that detached rationality can't. That isn't to say, of course, that religion is necessary. Rather, I'm simply pointing out that for many religion provides either the inspiration to carry on in difficult times or the solace necessary to accept the inevitiblity of our own mortality. As such, religion can be tremendously useful even when its premises are irrational.

plunge

02/01/2007 01:39:36 PM

Tysson, you are too confused to debate with. You conflate different statements into one and respond to them all at once in way that make no sense. No one was talking to you or your conception of God. If you want attention, then propose something interesting, don't try to interject irrelevant issues into an ongoing debate over particular things. (just as an example: it's faith as an epistemology not "all religion everywhere" that was being discussed as pernicious, and the problem of suffering in the deistic-style theism that was being discussed in specific)

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 01:38:33 PM

As a matter of fact, I think most would reverse your definitions, considering belief to have less of a supernatural component than faith, although otherwise synonomous, i.e. that you actually have belief and not faith, rather than the other way around, as you stated.

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 01:35:47 PM

What you call faith and religion, OpenSpirit, I would call ideology, which both theists and atheists can follow.

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 01:07:50 PM

OpenSpirit, what particular religious path ("faith") do you follow that doesn't include supernatural "beliefs"? Can that be called a religion?

tinisoli

02/01/2007 12:53:22 PM

OpenSpirit, Your definition of faith is simply different than the one Sam and Andrew are debating about. It's not that anyone is confused. Yes, we all have "faith" in all kinds of things, from the imminence of the sunrise to the potential to do good in the world. But that's a very different definition of faith. These guys are here to talk about religious faith. Having faith that we can change the world is not based on a magic book, it's based on what we see and do every day, and the whole of human history. Right?

openspirit

02/01/2007 12:35:41 PM

It sucks that Andrew is a poor choice for this debate. Sam makes great points and Andrew doesn't have the information to make a good case for liberal forms of faith. The problem with Sam's argument and even his latest book is that he confuses "faith" with "belief". They are 2 different concepts. He is right to shoot down belief in unbelievable things and I agree that fundamentalists make that mistake, but he must understand that faith in a modern liberal context is about being confident that yourself and the world can be transformed into something better by following a particular path (religion). Beliefs (about afterlife, miracles, theistic God, etc) are often combined with faith but are not essential to faith. I agree with Sam in being anti-belief but I am not anit-faith. I have "faith" that we can change the world and I know that as a result, my faith in that idea has changed me.

F1Fan

02/01/2007 11:30:22 AM

To add to tinisoil, what about our universe does not suggest that it is indifferent to our suffering, and the suffering of any other organism? And how is indifference expressed by a god that is defined as loving? Could it be that believers in a loving god only label their idea of god this way to help them deal with the reality of an indifference universe?

jd70

02/01/2007 11:27:15 AM

"But at least you don't have to waste your time trying to reconcile the reality of the world with the notion of a benevolent or fathomable deity. It frees up your time to, say, work on a cure for cancer or a vaccine for HIV." Yes tinisoli, my sentiments exactly.

tinisoli

02/01/2007 11:19:31 AM

Just want to chime in on the subject of suffering: If you do not believe in a creator god, and you carefully observe nature, you never have to wrestle with the question of why suffering exists. Much of the activity on our planet is about eating, being eaten, and competing for limited resources. Amidst all of that is a lot of death, injury, starvation, and disease. Throw in things like tsunamis, earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes, and other abiotic factors, and you've got even more carnage. For species that have the capacity to feel pain, suffering is virtually inevitable. This perspective, of course, hardly lessens the blow of a cancer diagnosis or a fatal car accident. But at least you don't have to waste your time trying to reconcile the reality of the world with the notion of a benevolent or fathomable deity. It frees up your time to, say, work on a cure for cancer or a vaccine for HIV.

F1Fan

02/01/2007 10:58:16 AM

If a person can participate is a sort of religious ritual and ceremony, but maintain a discipline and focus of what is real to the dream-state, then they have a lower risk of being caught in the trap of belief, and then justifying that belief against reality.

F1Fan

02/01/2007 10:55:24 AM

There are degrees of religious fervor. And there are conceptual differences between religions. The modern framework of Christianity and Islam holds that fantastic and implausible concepts are to be believed true and the idea of god as real, no questions asked. The more sophisticated religions that use symbolism and metaphor openly and more effectively don’t seem to demand the degree of blind faith and delusional justifications. Religious rituals can be performed without believing the irrational frameworks. But the dilemma for the member is that rituals tend to bring about a trace state (theta wave frequency) which is a highly suggestive state of mind. People can believe the weird dream-like experiences are really happening. From this we hear Christians say that their experiences are proof of god. More likely it is a manufactured dream as queued by the concepts already adopted from religion. This is when people lose grasp of the real from fantasy.

Týsson

02/01/2007 10:35:12 AM

"I think it's pretty well understood that when we discuss theism, we are talking about the sort of creator god that 99% of theists are talking about" Your hyperbole here belies your own limited experience and reflects the underlying, fatal weakness of most of the arguments atheists such as Harris and Dawkins posit about the inherent dangers of religion. If the argument that religion is inherently dangerous is sound, then it will apply to all religious expressions. Otherwise, it is fallacious reasoning. I've got an extremely busy day ahead of me so I'm not sure how much time I'll be able to invest in this discussion. I'll just have to play it by ear (or eye as it were).

Týsson

02/01/2007 10:30:04 AM

"On the other hand, the sort of god(s) you postulate don't seem particularly compelling as object(s) of worship." Strangely, though, those who worship them feel quite differently. Of course, this gets us into what "worship" means in different religious contexts, another problem with operating from a strictly Judeo-Christian paradigm. "Do the god(s) you postulate "lay down the law" in ethics or politics or other interpersonal areas?" It depends on what you mean by laying down the law. They contribute to orlog, but they do not control it.

plunge

02/01/2007 09:00:36 AM

Tysson, I think it's pretty well understood that when we discuss theism, we are talking about the sort of creator god that 99% of theists are talking about, Harris is talking about, Sullivan is talking about, and not "everything is god" gods, and not Thor and Odin. If you believe in the latter, that's nice, but pretty much totally irrelevant to this discussion. I would have figured that that is understood.

sewells1951

02/01/2007 08:51:24 AM

Tysson, There isn't any logical basis that I see that would rule out the sort of god(s) you postulate. On the other hand, the sort of god(s) you postulate don't seem particularly compelling as object(s) of worship. Do the god(s) you postulate "lay down the law" in ethics or politics or other interpersonal areas?

Týsson

02/01/2007 08:48:23 AM

The reason bad things happen to good people, then, according to our religion is because of a concept called orlog. The character restrictions make it impossible to go into this concept in any depth here. Essentially, though, it is recognition that actions and events laid down in the past affect the present. While laying down good deeds tends to lead to a better present than laying down bad deeds, this is not always the case for no other reason than the world is a big place with events happening that are outside the ken of any one person. These events can overwhelm and thwart the best of intentions by the best of people and there's nothing that can be done about it, not by man and not by gods. It is simply the way of things.

Týsson

02/01/2007 08:41:35 AM

"How do you explain suffering that atheists would, I presume (maybe wrongfully), attribute to random chance with no purpose from a Universal Mover? Please explain to me your status of being 'unstuck.'" The sticking point is the triune notion of omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence, especially as it is coupled with a creator deity who exists outside time and space. Our religion holds that the gods came before humans, but that they were themselves a product of a wholly natural creation and are subject to many of its laws, particularly those regarding, to use an inadequate but familiar term, "fate." continued

Týsson

02/01/2007 08:36:51 AM

"Am I to assume that you do not hold sin/suffering as the necessary by-product of free will?" That is correct. "What are your beliefs regarding the ideas of sin and free will?" Both ideas are foreign to my religious world view.

Týsson

02/01/2007 08:33:25 AM

"It is a problem inherent to any claim of a creator god." I would say it is a problem inherent in any creator god that exists outside time and space, particularly if that deity is said to be omnipotent and omniscient (omnipresence is also problematic). However, surely you are aware that not all theists believe in such creator gods. Indeed, many if not most polytheistic faiths hold that their gods were part of a natural creation process and are themselves subject to many of nature's laws. Again, theism in toto is not monotheism is not Abrahamic faith.

jd70

02/01/2007 07:19:58 AM

I would agree that a result of "free will" is suffering, but what does that have to do with an omnipotent God? We just create too many logical dilemma's when we try to apply omni attributes to "God". Maybe "God" is simply the realization that we are not here of our own accord which keeps of humble. No belief needed.

plunge

02/01/2007 06:44:26 AM

sherri, your defense of suffering just doesn't work. The idea that suffering can help "build character" might have some merit, but the problem is that the amount required doesn't compare. Consider the lives of people in the West: we certainly seem to get on okay as people and Christians with our "level" of suffering. People live and die without experiencing such sufferring, and are perfectly good people. So why is it necessary to have natural disasters that cause outrageously huge mass suffering? Why kill infants before they even have a chance to learn from their ordeals? A creator God would have litteraly chose to cause this suffering, and I put it that choosing to do that is clearly evil.

seeker36

02/01/2007 05:43:28 AM

Just curious: everyone seems to be viewing religious belief in a "big man in the sky" kind of way. What are people's views on the concept of god in pantheistic terms?

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 01:37:24 AM

plunge:????? Did you read Tysson's posts? I was responding to his claim that the atheists on this board were lumping all theists together in their argument against "our" supposedly collective position on human suffering. I don't understand where your post is coming from.

plunge

02/01/2007 01:33:48 AM

Tysson, if they are not stuck with this problem, then you explain why they are not, don't just tut tut at me. It is a problem inherent to any claim of a creator god.

plunge

02/01/2007 01:31:04 AM

sheeri, again, no one has said or is saying that moderates have the same beliefs. What is being said is that they use the same device of faith, thus legitimizing their use by fundamentalists. It's not a matter of just lumping anyone in with anyone else: it's a matter of the specific doctrines that the moderates legitimize being up for grabs for the fundies as well.

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 01:30:55 AM

sorry for the double posts, Tysson. (it didn't look like it submitted the first time, even after refreshing the page, then first post just showed up after second submission.)

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 01:28:00 AM

I'd like to hear your take on the subject of bad things happening to good people, Tysson. I take it from your invocation of fallacy in our post, that atheists in the argument are essentially arguing against Christians, that you are a non-Christian theist. Am I to assume that you do not hold sin/suffering as the necessary by-product of free will? What are your beliefs regarding the ideas of sin and free will? How do you explain suffering that atheists would, I presume (maybe wrongfully), attribute to random chance with no purpose from a Universal Mover? Please explain to me your status of being 'unstuck.'

sheri1555stl

02/01/2007 01:21:16 AM

I'm interested in your take on this subject of bad things happening to good people, Tysson. You claim to be a non-Christian theist, so I assume (maybe wrongfully) that you don't see sin/suffering as the necessary by-product of free will. Please explain your status of being 'unstuck.'

Týsson

01/31/2007 11:06:25 PM

"But theists are basically stuck arguing that the amount of horrible suffering on our planet due to natural design is somehow exactly the right amount." Please refrain from lumping all theists into the same camp. I find it a continuous source of frustration that no matter how broadly participants on either side of this argument try to define "religion," the discussion inevitably becomes stuck in a strictly Judeo-Christian paradigm. While understandable from a dominant cultural standpoint, it nevertheless engages the pars pro toto fallacy. Not all theists are "stuck" when explaining why bad things happen to good people.

Týsson

01/31/2007 10:59:58 PM

"There are no omniscient, omnipotent, supremely benevolent beings." Well, at least none that are responsible for the objective reality we're aware of.

sewells1951

01/31/2007 08:22:15 PM

I'm trying to accept your contentions at face value; i.e., that everything was created by an all powerful deity and square that with the fact of suffering. The only way that can be squared is to accept that the deity you postulate would be an evil deity, not a loving one.

sewells1951

01/31/2007 08:18:29 PM

First, an all powerful creator god, by definition, could have created any reality that deity wanted to create. Even if there were a benefit to suffering, it is always the case that an all powerful creator god could have accomplished exactly the same benefit without suffering. An all powerful god that could not do that is a contradiction in terms. This would imply that instead of accomplishing the benefit in any one of the infinite number of ways that such an all powerful creator god could have accomplished the benefit WITHOUT suffering, that the all powerful deity chose to do it in a way that did involve suffering. What I am asking you to provide is some explanation for why anyone would think an all powerful deity that chose suffering when it was not necessary to do so should be considered a loving god? Wouldn't such a choice indicate the all powerful deity to be perverse at best and evil at worst?

sewells1951

01/31/2007 08:11:00 PM

sheri, I'm not asking you to explain suffering. I'll stipulate that it exists. I'll also stipulate that some benefit might come from suffering. None of that is pertinent to my point. My point is that Christians believe in an all powerful creator god. If, for the sake of argument, I tentatively accept that such a deity might exist, then there are implications that flow inescapably from such a creator god and a reality that includes suffering. Pt 2 to follow.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 05:34:48 PM

sewells, what can I say? Many Christians grapple with the problem of pain, some to the point of denying the faith. Others eventually see some purpose for it in their own lives, and still others wait patiently in faith for that to be eventually revealed to them, maybe not until after death. My pastor's wife suffers horribly from pancreatitis, after many surgeries and prayers. Many others in my congregation suffer from whole hosts of other ailments. Some blame the devil for attacking the faithful; some have (errantly IMHO) insinuated that there's not enough faith on the part of the ones praying/seeking healing/deliverance/relief or some unaccounted for sin in their lives. (Jn.9.1-3;11.4)There's no way in this blog/debate that I would be able to take on that entire issue for you to your satisfaction. To each his own. Until next time, peace....

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 05:19:23 PM

P.S. F1fan, I concede your truth that many so-called profesing Christians' behavior do not match up with their words; that's why scripture is replete with examples of 'testing the spirits,' 'telling a tree by its fruit,' and examples of other believers who got caught up in pride and suffered the same results of sin that non-believers do. The law of sowing and reaping is equal opportunity.(I Cor.10.1-12; Gal.6.1-9; Eph.2.4-10; I Jn.4.1-6; Luke 6.43-45).

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 05:08:32 PM

f1fan, Christians certainly take no sense of superiority (at least not the introspective ones) in acknowledging grace as redemption for personal sin, and having to wait for that same grace to ultimately eradicate world sin. one of the worst sins is pride. (Prov.6.16-19;I Cor.10.12).

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 05:01:00 PM

plunge, I feel the same way about fire and burns that you do. God chooses to use His powwer to bring good out of suffering, even that which we can see no good coming out of right now, instead of always preventing it. We learn humility rather then a sense of entitlement that way, much as we deny our children things that we could provide sometimes for no other reason than to keep from spoiling them. Even Jesus, the Son of God, had to suffer. We were never promised no suffering.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 04:57:13 PM

To namchuck's bewilderment that animals suffer as a result of human sin, I would offer the same results that children suffer from their parents' bad decisions. It is no different for the world over which we have dominion. Rom.8.18-25. vv.19-22:"For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now." the first animal suffered for man's sin in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3.21, not to mention all the animal sacrifices, our present clothing and anyone who's not a vegetarian). The ferocity of the animal kingdom and natural disasters are also the result of the Fall.

plunge

01/31/2007 04:33:25 PM

At the very least, you can always point out that God could have, for instance, chosen to create a world without massive explosive volcano activity. God chose to include this, and in doing so, CHOSE for there to be a heck of a lot of extra early death and horrible burn suffering. If you want SOME suffering, well, there's always deadly earthquakes and floods. But theists are basically stuck arguing that the amount of horrible suffering on our planet due to natural design is somehow exactly the right amount. That strikes me as a bit implausible, and so its a little hard not to fault a God for choosing to include explosive volcanoes.

F1Fan

01/31/2007 04:29:43 PM

While waiting for sheri to answer why children suffer deadly illnesses in god’s creation, I have to wonder how useful the modern interpretation of the word “sin” is to Christianity. It seems to have become a sword (metaphor) for use against non-believers, yet to the believe their acceptance of their sinful nature makes them somehow a superhuman. It’s as if sin accumulates, and the big ‘cement block chained to your ankle’ is non-belief. The dilemma is that no god comes forth to make it clear that any of the many, many different Christian sects are correct and true. Since we non-believers are left listening to believers, and they are typically unable to present a solid case for belief in their ideology, how can skeptics be held accountable? I’d be impressed if Christians actually acted better than anyone else. That a number of fervent believers act worst than some atheists suggests a problem somewhere that the skeptic is well aware of.

sewells1951

01/31/2007 04:28:41 PM

namchuk, it is even worse than you think. An omnipotent deity would have had an infinite number of ways to accomplish any goal that deity had in mind without involving suffering in the mix. That just marches straight out of the whole omnipotent, all powerful thing you know. There can be no instance of suffering that is necessary in a reality created by an all powerful diety. Bottom line, that all powerful diety could have done it differently. If that deity could have done it differently and didn't, you are right, that diety is nasty and unworthy of worship.

namchuck

01/31/2007 04:17:30 PM

There are no omniscient, omnipotent, supremely benevolent beings.

namchuck

01/31/2007 04:15:24 PM

"Sure, God could have created a world where mankind would never sin, and therefore, suffer (the results of sin)..." What appalling balderdash! The suffering of animals is the result of sin!? What about a child suffering something like Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, or cloacal exstrophy? The counterclaim that all suffering is a result of our own actions (which is patently not true) is irrelevant: what counts is that God chose to create this world, and no other, knowing that it would lead to suffering. The counterclaim that suffering is necessary if we are to have free will is irrelevant: for the decision to to create free will means that God has a plan and that merely makes him a deity with a plan, who chose to create this world, and no other, knowing that it would lead to suffering.

sewells1951

01/31/2007 04:10:52 PM

sheri, I don't understand. Are you saying that god had to create a particular kind of reality, that includes suffering, because that was the only way that god could do it? Are you really saying that god couldn't make a reality that was EXACTLY what that god wanted that reality to be? Would such a god be all powerful? Indeed, would such a god even be god?

F1Fan

01/31/2007 04:09:36 PM

All suffering that we have experienced is necessary (I could go into the results of the Fall, judgment, etc., but I think you're refering to 'bad' things happening to 'good' people) -sheri I’m curious how a 9 year old child getting Leukemia, and then dying at 11 after a few years of intense pain and therapy, fits into your idea about god and suffering. What would be the intention of a god that allows this to happen?

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 04:04:50 PM

sewells, I think we're getting at our understanding of power, in the world as we know it, and what we can logically extrapolate from it, to conclude the very best utopia. I think that, we, however, live in the best of all POSSIBLE worlds, that that utopia is possible hypothetically, but not actually, because of free will. Sure, God could have created a world where mankind would never sin, and therefore, suffer (the results of sin), could have chosen not to create at all. But did He want to? No. he wanted to give free will, free love/gratitude/worship back to Himself, which necessitates the allowance for evil, sin, and the freedom which some (atheists)exercise to not worship, be grateful to Him for existence, etc., which necessarily involves suffering, not just for the sinner, but for all. I know that there will be more said on this, but I've GTG pick up my kids from school. BRB later.

namchuck

01/31/2007 04:04:40 PM

The world view, sheristl, shared by all scientists is the meritocratic paradigm of rational enquiry. In the the meritocratic worldview, every assumption about the world must work and be seen to work. If a method of explaining the world leads to contradictions, then it is disgarded. Nothing in the meritocratic worldview of rational enquiry is imune from criticism, revision, or rejection. Furthermore, and utterly unlike the theistic worldview, it is evidence-based and self-correcting.

tinisoli

01/31/2007 03:58:52 PM

Later, gang.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 03:56:50 PM

Namchuck, I don't see how your examples relate to worldview, because scientists/mathematicians in different parts of the world were discovering the same things in different places at different times? Many people have great difficulty relaying mathematics, in her objective infinity, to their day-to-day world, as you pointed out about the students. Speaking of math, sewells, out of curiosity, what do we call the number that is the sum of 999,999,999,999,999,999 + 1, in layman's terms? Is gazillions a real word? I can't meaningfully count past the zillions.

namchuck

01/31/2007 03:54:01 PM

"Also for the Christian, some of their suffering is to 'weed out' their bad, to allow God's good to take over in their lives...and all suffering will eventually be redeemed." What a totally inadequate response to the agony of suffering experienced by both man and beast on this planet! People suffer. Animals suffer. if God, the creator, is omniscient, then he knew, at the time of creation, how the world would develop. he knew that he was creating a world of suffering. If God is omnipotent, he could have created things otherwise. Therefore, if God is omniscient and omnipotent, he is also nasty.

sewells1951

01/31/2007 03:50:44 PM

sheri, I think you missed my point about suffering. I'm completely happy to stiputlate that suffering might confer some benefit. What I am saying is that an all powerful god would, by definition, be able to accomplish whatever benefit that might be in some other manner that did not involve suffering being necessary. That just kind of logically follows from being all powerful doesn't it?

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 03:50:27 PM

tinisoli, science may not be about worldview; but humanity is. You can't escape having one, being a scientist or not. For instance, believing that the eqarth is flat or round may be a question for science to solve; but, wondering whether the universe closed-ended system or had a cause or not relates to one's worldview. If one believes the universe to be 'self-reliant,' no amount of evidence offered by one who held that there must be a cause would serve as proof of one. I get what you mean about 'necessity' of my botulism miracle.

namchuck

01/31/2007 03:46:15 PM

"The very same evidence/experience that each of us receives is individually modified to fit one's worldview, whether you guys admit it or not." That is simply nonsense, sheri1555stl. For instance, a curious feature of the international character of rational enquiry is that researchers frequently converge on a conclusion, despite coming to it from different directions in different fields Perhaps the most famous example of this occurred in mathematics. Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz simultaneously discovered the famous calculus of infinitesimals (for which a good proportion of adolescents have never quite forgiven them). Current scholarly opinion is that Newton's discovery predated Leibniz's, though the latter published before the former. What is not so widely known is that seven thousand miles away, the great Japanese mathematician, Kowa Seki, was using slightly different methods to reach the same conclusion.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 03:44:33 PM

steppin part 2. Also, for the Christian, some of their suffering is to 'weed out' their bad, to allow God's good to take over in their lives;and, all suffering will eventually be redeemed. Our sense of justice does not exceed God's, whether He is a real, objective, authoritative entity, apart from us, or our own subjective, anthropomorphic creation. this is probably insufficient; but, oh well, it's the best that I can do. There are volumes written about the existence of evil and the problem of pain/suffering. I would suggest C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite, prolific writers of all time.

tinisoli

01/31/2007 03:42:59 PM

sheri, Let me get this straight: I am saying that if God were to appear and make his holiness abundantly evident--which, by the way, he is free to do at any time but never does--I would believe him. And you are telling me "No you wouldn't"? Talk about arrogance and tone... By the way, science is not about any individual's "worldview." But I guess we're just "not admitting it to ourselves." How was your momentary case of botulism necessary?

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 03:40:23 PM

steppin, you've already presumed that there is no benefit to suffering. I knew that the problem of suffering/pain would come up eventually. My understanding has been that unnecessary suffering has not been allowed, i.e. we don't know about it because it didn't happen. All suffering that we have experienced is necessary (I could go into the results of the Fall, judgment, etc., but I think you're refering to 'bad' things happening to 'good' people). While we don't now see the greater rationale for some suffering that we may feel is unjustified/unneccessary, 'six degrees of separation' can sometimes show how our suffering can actually be benefit to someone we don't even know yet (or ever will); plus, good is that much more appreciated when compared to bad, which the former would be devalued and unappreciated without the existence of the latter.

sewells1951

01/31/2007 03:37:40 PM

sheri, I do admit that it would take a lot to modify / change my core belief / worldview. Mine's mostly based on logic, etc. One thing that would do it would be for someone to indicate the biggest number. By that, I would mean a number that, when one was added to it, didn't yield a bigger number. I also would have to change my worldview if someone successfully demonstrated that all possible statements have exactly the same truth value.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 03:31:05 PM

No you wouldn't, tinisoli. You'd say that it was an illusion because it's not consistent with your worldview. You scientists here keep attesting that the objectivity of the scientific method requires you to modify your beliefs. I contend that it only requires that you modify peripheral beliefs, that don't constitute the core of your worldview. The very same evidence/experience that each of us receives is individually modified to fit one's worldview, whether you guys admit it or not.

sewells1951

01/31/2007 03:29:00 PM

sheri, there is something else I don't understand about an all powerful god. That is suffering. If god is all powerful, why would that god allow suffering to exist? After all, there wouldn't be any benefit that could come of suffering that such a god couldn't provide in any number of other ways. It sort of leaves one in the position of understanding that if there is an alll powerful god it is one that prefers that suffering exist since that god could have chosen to accomplish exactly the same ends in a way that didn't involve suffering. I too would change my mind about god if god appeared and regenerated an amputee's limbs in a flash. That whydoesgodhateamputees website talks about that scenario at some length.

steppen0410e

01/31/2007 03:26:22 PM

Oops, that should have read: "...but beliefs have a strange way of begetting their own experiences".

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 03:25:32 PM

I hope that answers your question, sewells. My beliefs are based on my worldview, backed up by reasonable claims and my experiences. My earlier post, where you asked to whom it was directed (about religion having nothing good/new to offer) was directed to tinisoli, who made the claim about the preeminence science, his god of choice, and is now trying to modify his the tone of his highly incendiary stance.

steppen0410e

01/31/2007 03:24:28 PM

And theists may very well view their subjective "experiences" as confirmation of their beliefs, but beliefs have a strange way of begetting their own evidence. Very little should be made of such personal protestations. People are constantly subject to the most extreme personal convictions, which they can in no way rationalise. However, strength of conviction never guarantees truth. People can experience with conviction just as deep entirely incompatible notions. A more reasonable light in which to regard such occurrences is to suppose that there are some people who are disposed to experience extreme conviction and that the substance of the conviction is entirely incidental.

tinisoli

01/31/2007 03:23:37 PM

sheri, I, for one, just told you that if god appeared and slapped me across the face and did something miraculous--like giving new limbs to amputees--then I would be compelled to believe in him. You, on the other hand, are saying that nothing could convince you that god doesn' exist. So I ask you: Who's dogmatic?

sewells1951

01/31/2007 03:18:29 PM

thanks sheri, unless I'm misunderstanding you it seems you said that you can't imagine anything that would convince you your religious belief is false and change your mind about it.

steppen0410e

01/31/2007 03:15:57 PM

Quite true, jd70. A scientist, being human, is just as prone to irrational behavior as anyone else. The thing is, though, in his practice of science he just cannot get away with it. Irrespective of how irrational his behavior might be at any other level of his life, the objectivity of science is never compromised. The scientific method means basing your operative principles on carefully accumulated evidence premised on the most broadly and critically vetted sources available.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 03:15:47 PM

sewells response part 2.While not 'proof,' theists may see such experiences as indicative of their god, when consistent with other held beliefs in their worldview; yet, I'm sure certain parties among us would just dismiss such experiences as one would UFO sightings or psychic readings because they don't fit their worldview and aren't part of any of their own personal experiences. I don't know how anyone could convince me of that of which I've become convinced, any more than I could prove God to you. I don't think that there are any 'unfilled gaps' or unknown. I believe it with my own experiences, consistent with my worldview, and much as I accept the writings about historical figures, none of those who were around at the time of their existence to attest to that existence now (fossil records absent), based on oral tradition recorded (problems with not understanding everything in the Bible, the problem of pain/ suffering, existence of evil, notwithstanding).

sewells1951

01/31/2007 03:15:47 PM

sheri, I am uncertain how to interpret your reply. Is there anything that would convince you your religious belief is false and change your mind about it? If so, what would it be? The first question could be answered with a yes or no or don't know if that is honestly the case. Thanks in advance.

tinisoli

01/31/2007 03:12:30 PM

jd70: I think there is an enormous difference between someone simply saying "black people are monkeys" because they once saw an ilustration depicting the evolution of hominids, and someone actually using real evolutionary theory to justify racism. David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz claimed that a dog told him to kill people. I don't think we'd blame dogs for the murders he committed. On the other hand, when someone can cite a passage in the Bible that can be read by millions of people and we can all agree, "Yes, it is fair to interpret this passage in this way," and that passage compels him to kill, I think we can call into the question the wisdom of such a book.

tinisoli

01/31/2007 03:06:49 PM

sheri, I said religion has nothing to offer that cannot be offered by other things. Please stop paraphrasing me, because you are always awful at it. Ah, yes. Your miracle stories! Please share.

jd70

01/31/2007 03:03:49 PM

While science by it's very nature is non dogmatic. I think we are expressing a level of ignorance if we think it is immune to justification of irrational behavior.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 03:03:07 PM

sewells, I think that question should be posed to tinisoli, who claims that religion has nothing to offer (which I NEVER said about science... wow, I'm still reeling at the gaul of that one). It goes back to some of the inferences I made in some earlier posts that I don't believe that science can answer, as in the case of many near-death experiences and healings that doctors can't take credit for. I have some of my own experiences, for which medical science could'nt be credited, that don't 'pan out' with empirical experience, such as recovering from botulism (immediately, within seconds) without antipyretics, but with prayer, among others.

jd70

01/31/2007 02:53:45 PM

tinisoli: It makes no difference weather or not the racist has a crappy understanding of evolutionary theory. The justification was made based on the authority of the theory. No different than justifying it through the "authority" of the Bible. I would conceit though that given the blatant acceptance of slavery in the Bible would indicate that we are not completely comparing apples to apples. None the less one can use just bout anything to justify wrong even if it prays on peoples ignorance.

sewells1951

01/31/2007 02:51:35 PM

sheri, who was your last post meant to respond to?

sewells1951

01/31/2007 02:45:11 PM

Sheri, I think you are incorrect about the bible and slavery thing. Here's a link that treats the subject fairly exhaustively. http://www.whydoesgodhateamputees.com/god13.htm

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 02:42:35 PM

Wow. What a statement, nothing to offer. At least you finally came right out and straightforward admitted your personal bias through which you filter all experience as either evidentiary or not. Just as you and Harris would say, "what could make me change my position?," certainly nothing would change yours even if God were to slap you in the face with visible eyes. Faithless and perverse generation seeking a sign...

sewells1951

01/31/2007 02:42:17 PM

sheri, I know you've got this thread going with tinisoli. But, when you get a few moments I would like to know what it would take to convince you that your religious beliefs are incorrect and change your mind. To be honest, I'm not anticipating that there will be anything that could change your mind but if there is, please let me in on it. I think Harris' question to Sullivan is pure genius in that regard. What does it mean if there is nothing that can change one's mind on a subject?

tinisoli

01/31/2007 02:41:17 PM

Don't you see that the fundamental difference between reading the Bible and being a part of (or receptive to) the sciences is that ANYONE can decide whatever they want based on one vague book whereas no one can just decide what they want based on science? The difference is, someone misinterpreting the Bible according to you probably has a legitimate claim that their interpretation is right. Someone claiming that the Earth is flat no longer can claim that that is a legitimate idea or interpretation. Science progresses; religion goes nowhere.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 02:38:05 PM

What people adamantly claimed, and what the pages say, tinisoli, can be as different as night and day, and only goes to support my claim that people can use the Bible, and have, to justify just about anything that they want. I never once said that no one professing to be religious had ever attempted to use the Bible for those very purposes of 'justification.'

tinisoli

01/31/2007 02:38:03 PM

Science has something to offer that no other process or system can offer; religion has nothing to offer that cannot be offered by something else.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 02:34:25 PM

My language is meant to inflame,tinisoli? this coming from one who consistently refers to the religious as "dishonest," "lying to themselves or others." Are we posting on the same thread? I am just showing you that you are the "pot calling the kettle black," and claiming "mine is better than yours because I can show it, see? now show me yours." I'm not the one lacking in humility - which many of the atheistic post-ers have subscribed to themselves here, in the name of scientific discovery- you are; and your atheistic arogant 'certainty' is getting pretty sickening. if your scientific method which you so cherish is anything like your examples and analogies, I don't think that I have anything to worry about.

tinisoli

01/31/2007 02:32:59 PM

jd70: What part of evolutionary theory suggests that African-Americans are closer than other peoples to monkeys?

tinisoli

01/31/2007 02:31:04 PM

You are either ignorant or lying if you think that calling someone a monkey suggests even the vaguest understanding of evolution, let alone a correct, honest, and legitimate one. And you are also ignoring history if you think that people did not adamantly maintain that the Bible justified slavery. I never said evolutionary theory precludes slavery, I said it cannot be used to justify it.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 02:27:45 PM

thank you, jd.

tinisoli

01/31/2007 02:27:05 PM

The only poster on this board whose language is meant to inflame is yours, sheri. You are championing irrational belief. Yes or no?

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 02:25:52 PM

I disagree. One cannot "legitimately use the Bible" to justify slavery; and how is it that the theory of evolution procludes it? there goes that scientific moral authority again. You've got the answers on everything, even for those things for which one can have no answer.

jd70

01/31/2007 02:25:08 PM

"one cannot HONESTLY and legitimately draw from evolutionary theory any justification for racism." I remember a time in this country when Aftican Americans were called monkeys so yes I would say that one can use evolutionary theory to justify raceism.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 02:22:50 PM

I didn't vote for Bush, as many in my church did, and have never sided unilaterally with any Christian group, as jihadists Muslims have, on any issue (and if you didn't know, many American Muslims abhore what radicalists Muslim terrorists are doing). My personal conscience comes first. Do you resent the unity that I DO share with some other professing Christians on some issues, regardless of race, gender, socieconomic background, church affiliation, etc.? It seems that every time I come up with examples to counter your argument about the unified 'run off the cliff together as a herd' view of the Christian church (which you obviously know nothing about), you throw out the 'dogma' word like an epithet meant as an offensive slur or name-calling. Is it because you see some of that very dogmatism about your precious trophy-cup-of-reason-atheism reflective in yourself which you claim to single out in the religious and abhore? little hypocritical, don't you think?

tinisoli

01/31/2007 02:14:08 PM

The only way "anything" can be used to justify "anything," sheri, is if words don't mean anything and people are constantly lying to themselvs and each other. For example, one cannot HONESTLY and legitimately draw from evolutionary theory any justification for racism.One can, however, legitimately use the Bible to justify slavery.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 02:12:30 PM

And you will contend to hold them both - bad ideas and pure religious faith, baby and bath water, in the same grouping, tinisoli. To you the belief in God itself is a 'bad idea.' That is your particular bias, since that has yet to be UNproven by your empiricism. The dogmatism is yours.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 02:09:55 PM

We gree about the 'bad ideas,' just not about thir source. I contend that anything can be used to justify anything else that one wants to use it to justify, if one wants it badly enough, in both religious and non-religious circles. Aristotle, a non-religious (in today's sense/use of the word) philosopher (right in there with the approved proponents of science and reason for atheists) also supported slavery. While the allure of having an authoritative, objective source (such as God) 'on one's side' to justify one's practices (that God may or may not have advocated, according to sacred writings, or misconstrued/taken out of context of scriptures), is indeed dangerous; I don't see the lack of danger in using reason (as a philosopher would) to do the same thing, and even more scary since that seems to be the agreed upon final stopping point, i.e. reason. What happens when scientists philosophers/logicians don't 'agree' on what's considered rational?

tinisoli

01/31/2007 02:08:36 PM

Whatever. You obviously will maintain that bad religious people are bad for reasons other than their religious beliefs, no matter what. Dogma, anyone?

tinisoli

01/31/2007 02:03:44 PM

If it was less likely that a theist would align himself with another theist rather than align himself with someone who, say, shares the same ideas on politics and foreign policy, Harris might be less compelled to take on the moderates in addition to the fundamentalists. But the fact is, theists (or at least those within particular religions) do align themselves by church. This is why there is worldwide muslim rage against the U.S., why there is a mobilized evangelical base in the U.S. that rails against evolution and voted for Bush twice, and so on. The fact is, people are putting faith first.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 01:59:55 PM

Tthe unity you speak of, tinisoli, comes from your own perceptions; have you seen how many different denominations there are? Christians are neither unified in areas of worship, politics, social morality (there are some gay ministers), etc. than are atheists, who, by the way, are also racist, violent, homophobic, etc., based on the particular biases and stereotypes of the offender. To say that the faulty justification, that many theists who misinterpret scriptures to fit the beliefs that they already held apart from scripture, negates the core belief in God or Jesus or religion - just because that core belief can't be used to justify such beliefs or resulting behaviors - is just as ridiculous as you say "our" (also not a unified belief among professing Christians) negation of evolution is.

tinisoli

01/31/2007 01:47:59 PM

A bad idea is bad idea. Just because you don't take the idea literally enough, or you think any result of religious faith that is bad must be due to misinterpretation, doesn't absolve the bad idea of having a role in the violence, homophobia, rape, oppression, etc. that are committed in the name of that idea. What is worrisome is that it is far more like for an American Christian to take on science and declare that evolution is a hoax than it is for that Christian to look at the man next to him in church and think "Hmm, I wonder if maybe we don't agree on everything." Like I said, if so many theists are so unlike each other, what's with all the unity, in particular against things like evolutionary theory? Yet when atheists actually get organized and start grumbling, we're being intolerant and hostile... Right...

sewells1951

01/31/2007 01:45:24 PM

Sheri, I think you misunderstand my point. I am in a position to agree with you that a simple belief in god is not intrinsically dangerous. Who knows, maybe someone, somewhere, thinks that god's role is limited to that of increasing the number of dust mites in the universe by 1 every 1 billion years. It is hard to immediately see how such a belief could be labelled dangerous in any meaningful sense. What I am hypothsizing is that there is something dangerous that is more fundamental than a belief in god that moderates and fundamentalists share, indeed that is a precondition for belief in god. I think it is the desire for absolute, non-contextual certainty that is the ground from which irrational beliefs arise, of which religion is one variety.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 01:44:59 PM

tinisoli, my taking offense at the 'herd,' as you call it, being attacked as the 'herd,' for beliefs of some few who belong to the 'herd,' holding core beliefs of the 'herd,' while also holding beliefs unrepresentative of the 'herd'- holding positions that neither define nor model the 'herd,' is neither 'loud' nor 'cowardly,' any more than you'd distance yourself froma scientist who claimed to have had a religious epiphany.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 01:37:35 PM

I could ask you the same thing tinisoli, "do you want all the theists to leave the board or should it be dominated by Harris supporters?"

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 01:34:49 PM

I don't know about 'disengenuous' to distance oneself from a group who holds beliefs that diverge in significant ways from one's own, but share a common core belief that gives the "camp" the same name; but, it is most certainly 'disengenuous' to attack the whole (on the basis of that common, harmless, shared belief) for the very marginalized beliefs of a few that don't represent the whole. It's not the "camp" itself from which I disassociate, but the marginalized beliefs, which don't belong in or to te "camp."

garryg24

01/31/2007 01:32:30 PM

Bravo again Sam! Your last post makes so much sense. Your willingness to consider evidence contrary to atheism is noble. You asked Andrew the right question about what it would take for him to reconsider his belief. Can't wait to see his answer.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 01:29:42 PM

I like your new analogy, tinisoli, because I most certainly do understand what analogy means. I would definitely suggest that John Doe exercise, being a shut-in, since your exercise would play a greater role in your not being overweight (since you like to eat as well) than you give it in your analogy. We would also have to take into account the thyroid and metabolism, as there are those who like to eat and DON'T exercise and are still not overweight. I see your point about discussing his overeating as PART of the problem, but you seem to keep missing my point about looking at the whole big bicture, or elevating a part to the significance of the whole.

tinisoli

01/31/2007 01:23:25 PM

sheri, Would you like all of the atheists to log off so you can chat only with agnostics?

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 01:23:21 PM

sewells: "...Harris' position is correct if there is a fundamental position that is held by both moderates and fundamentalists that is dangerous." Well of course. But Harris begs the question that the common position held, that God is, is dangerous in and of itself, as do you. Having a belief in "fixedness" by itself/alone, is no more dangerous than yours and my belief in gravity or your belief in the eternality of the universe.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 01:17:10 PM

plunge, the grounds for agnosticism are less rigid than those for atheism; so, necessarily any atheists would also fit the criteria for agnostics, but not all agnostics would fit the criteria for atheism. The tone of the posts here goes further than, "you theists haven't established God according to our systems of empirical proof, therefore, we have no compelling reason to believe.' It is hostile to anything religious, which, agnostics, suspending judgment, are not.

tinisoli

01/31/2007 01:16:33 PM

One of the reasons Harris hammers into moderates, sheri, is that they are on the hand loudly adamant (as you are) about how different they are from fundamentalists and how it's unfair to be lumped in with other people just because they believe Christ is their savior. And yet they will lump themselves in with Christians if, say, they are asked in a Zogby poll what religion they belong to. It is disingenuous and cowardly to lump oneself among the herd when it helps but disassociate oneself when the herd is being attacked.

tinisoli

01/31/2007 01:12:56 PM

sheri, I think you are either unfamiliar with what an analogy is or you are looking deeper into mine than you need to. Let's try this: I like eating. But I eat don't eat a lot and I exercise every day, and so I'm not overweight. John Doe, a shut-in down the hall, likes eating, too. But he's 600 pounds, because he never isn't hungry and he never leaves his apartment. Now, if John Doe's family squeezes him out the door and they all go on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and everyone sits around wondering "Gee, how do we help this guy? What should we try next?" and NOBODY mentions the fact that there is a lot of eating going on, then those people would be ignoring a vital issue.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 01:11:39 PM

Furthermore, the foundation of the beliefs in common between moderates and fundamentalists, that God is, is NOT the same thing as having the same beliefs. The divergence from that foundation is no different from the divergence in belief among atheists who all agree that God has not been proven; yet, none of you would appreciate the lumping of you all into the same camp with any irrational atheistic fundamentalists who do crazy behaviors. Its too easy to make distinctions within particular, individual beliefs among yourselves and "catchall" the beliefs of the religious.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 01:04:38 PM

tinisoli: "the NRA would have us to believe that "people kill people; guns don't kill people"..." So which are the religious in the analogy: the guns or the people? because it seems to me that you are questioning the belief system behind(motivating) the actions of the theists, which would make the beliefs the "people" in the analogy and the "guns" the organized religion or behavior itself. Accordingly, based on your posts, it WOULD be the people who would be the killers (the 'irrational' beliefs themselves) and the guns and their accessibility are really irrelevant. The whole point of the Harris v. Sullivan debate is to beg the very question as to the extrication of the people from the guns, so to speak, i.e. whether the guns kill without a person holding it and pulling the trigger, or whether that person could pick up a knife or a bomb and scrap the gun. I think the moderate identifies him/herself with the gun rather than the person holding the gun.

sewells1951

01/31/2007 01:04:03 PM

sheri, vis a vis your discussion with tinisoli, it would seem to me that Harris's position is correct if there is a fundamental position held by both moderates and fundamentalists that is dangerous. It is my opinion that, more fundamental than the specifics of a particular 'religious' belief set, a desire for fixedness and certainty is the root of danger in such beliefs. I'm not saying this is provably so, I am intuiting this. If the intuition is correct, then the distinction you draw between moderates and fundamentalists collapses.

tinisoli

01/31/2007 01:02:58 PM

Sheri, The distinction between fundamentalists and moderates is made over and over again by moderates and agnostics. I don't think that that has not garnered enough attention. What Harris, and I, are saying is that the irrational beliefs that are the backbone of theism are used to justify terrible behaviors. Whether or not those same beliefs are used sparingly or more selectively by moderates is not the issue. We could have this same debate about narcotics, guns, food, whatever. They're all analogous. You seem to want atheists to simply ignore the absurd backbone of theism because you and other self-proclaimed moderates don't want to be compared to fundamentalists.

plunge

01/31/2007 12:59:35 PM

"make no distinction whatsoever between the beliefs systems of moderates and fundamentalists" Complete BS straw man. Harris' point is not that there is no distinction, but rather that moderates don't get off the hook about their religious claims just because they are more reasonable about most things, and that they enable fundamentalists by legitimizing the systems of claims and arguments that the fundamentalists make.

plunge

01/31/2007 12:57:45 PM

The majority of atheists here are, I think agnostics in the sense that we don't claim to KNOW that no God exists: we instead a) see no reason or evidence to compel belief, b) find arguments for the same to be flawed and unconvincing and c) hold as a general principle that we need a good reason TO believe something before we'll believe it. Any non-believers here NOT fit that definition?

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 12:53:20 PM

And to hit the nail on the head, you, tinisoli, like Sam Harris, make no distinction whatsoever between the beliefs systems of moderates and fundamentalists, as if being a theists is, in and of itself, dangerous. You may maintain, as Harris does, that the distinction is nebulous; but, for theists whose morality is in agreement with yours (evolved for the sake of society's perpetuation, as you have pointed out, the difference between what the moderate holds as true and will or won't do is as different to him/her, from what the fundamentalist believes and will or won't do, as apples and oranges.

tinisoli

01/31/2007 12:53:10 PM

sheri, Let me spell it out for you: One of the things that makes gun violence possible is the ownership and operation of guns. The NRA would have us all believe that "people kill people, guns don't kill people" and leave it at that. I find this to be an absurd argument, because they are ignoring the role that guns play and the ease with which guns are used. I think this is analogous to trying to have a discussion about dangerous theists without talking about their beliefs. If you simply allow the guns or the irrational beliefs as givens, then you are failing to think about the whole issue.

sewells1951

01/31/2007 12:51:27 PM

sheri, you said "Agreed, sewells. I would go even further though, to state theat scientific dogma that has been empirically tested and found as verified is often held with the same fervor as tenets held by the religous faithful". I don't know how to measure fervor so I'll concede the possibility. However, there is still a distinction. A "scientist", no matter how fervent, will change his/her mind if the evidence compels it. This sort of gets to Harris' question for Sullivan. What would it take for you to be convinced that your religious belief is false and to change your mind?

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 12:47:32 PM

Your argument that there is an overarching irrationality in belief component to ALL religious faith, mocerate or fundamentalist isn't analogous to any overarching belief with regards to gun violence though; so I think that your analogy fails.

oddjoe

01/31/2007 12:45:26 PM

F1fan, the point is, we don't know. The doubt can be something take into account if someone decides to, say, knock off their mom to get the inheritance. Hmm, they think, maybe they will pay a price after they die. My experience shows the benefit from this belief happens a lot more than the religious fanatics going on suicide attacks. I think my life may have been spared a few times even. Quite frankly, speaking for myself, if I knew there was no God, I'd do whatever I could get away with. One important thing is that such a stance is completely honest as well. We need honesty as part of the Golden Rule.

tinisoli

01/31/2007 12:44:21 PM

sheri, Do you know what "analogy" means? What I stated vis a vis gun violence and religious faith is that it is stupid to have a conversation about the fundamentalists without talking about their beliefs, just as it is stupid to talk about gun violence without talking about guns. It's an analogy. I wasn't implying that religious faith is correlated with gun violence.

oddjoe

01/31/2007 12:33:46 PM

F1fan In trying to be brief for the sake of emphasis, I left out stating but meant to imply that God is not proven either. I believe even Sam Harris was saying this type of thing. So one reason I have emphasized a very simple faith is so that people can't justify doing evil by phony arguments which confuse. The Golden Rule sums up the dogma of the religion I want to spread. I think people will gravitate to the law of the jungle if they are not taught the Golden Rule is the right way to live.

jacknky

01/31/2007 12:32:29 PM

JD, "I think it would be more prudent to say: "It is less likely for an intellectually honest person to partake in dogma."" Thank you for making that point. I thought about it but guess I felt I'd picked enough nits for awhile.

jd70

01/31/2007 12:27:47 PM

Thank you sheri. After I posted I realized you were not actually painting a broad stroke.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 12:24:22 PM

I like that, oddjoe.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 12:22:35 PM

You are in the minority of atheistic post-ers here, jd; and, as you pointed out, we have some common ground because of that.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 12:19:47 PM

You said it, Seeker36.

jd70

01/31/2007 12:16:59 PM

"the majority of the atheists here aren't of the agnostic persuasion." I am.

jd70

01/31/2007 12:13:02 PM

I am just curious has anyone here read Sam's book? Does it offer anything that can't be learned from this debate?

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 12:08:35 PM

Agreed, sewells. I would go even further though, to state theat scientific dogma that has been empirically tested and found as verified is often held with the same fervor as tenets held by the religous faithful, without allowing for the possibility that tests that have verified previous experience as non-random and 'true' still could yield different results in the future. The issue is what constitutes certainty; and, from the posts that I've read, the majority of the atheists here aren't of the agnostic persuasion.

F1Fan

01/31/2007 12:05:03 PM

We need uncertainty about after death or we will screw whoever we can get away with. This is basically a form of Pascal’s. Still, Robertson is very certain, yet it doesn’t stop him. How about Jimmy Baker? Or Paul Hill, the killer ordered by god? It is the certainty from dogma that gives believers entitlement to act in any way they please. Well, so long as they believe it pleases god, which tends to conform to what the believer wants in the first place. Actually, Apollo has not been disproved. Ya know, can't prove a negative. Which is why theists need to demonstrate their version of god exists if they assert it does. No atheist is required to invalidate what theists assume is true.

sheri1555stl

01/31/2007 12:01:48 PM

tinisoli: "And I still think the analogy between religious faith and gun violence is appropriate..." So, at the heart of the majority of gun-related violence is irrational religious belief in particular, rather than irrational belief in general? On what grounds do you base these beliefs? Pragmatism, humanism, atheism are all still 'isms' as much as any pantheism, communism or 'dogmatic' theism; and, I don't see how your bigoted views about gun violence reflect any rationally enlightened analysis. Hate crimes don't make up the majority of gun violence(unless you've got some solid statistics to back that up) and crimes of passion and theft, gang warfare, and war (another 'ism,' patriotism) don't have to have any relevance whatsoever to any religious belief system.

F1Fan

01/31/2007 11:55:46 AM

Yes, the context of a dangerous dogma is whether people adopt an ideology that assumes an authority that has no, or offers no, test in reality. A recent evangelical I was debating here on Bnet equivocated his blind faith dogma with the set of principles in science (dogma). He ignored the obvious problems with his comparison: that science has a trial and error, self-correcting methodology, and his beliefs were adopted via faith, and assumed correct. The lessons of humility the scientist is required to learn and apply is an option that fundamentalists do not accept.

oddjoe

01/31/2007 10:13:32 AM

That's right, Apollo has yet to be disproved. My simple religion is based on pragmatism based on my observation of human nature. We need uncertainty about after death or we will screw whoever we can get away with. We end up with the problem that no crime is committed if no one alive knows. Actually, Apollo has not been disproved. Ya know, can't prove a negative.

sewells1951

01/31/2007 09:19:49 AM

Before we rationalists congratulate ourselves too much on our immunity to dogma, I think it is worth acknowledging that there is at least one definition of dogma wherein we are as inescapably guilty as anyone; i.e., when defined as a system of principles or tenets. In the sense that we are bound to operate on principles and tenets to avoid complete randomness in our mental operations, we all are dogmatists. I think the key difference between religious dogma and scientific dogma lies in the open-ended and explicitly evolutionary nature of scientific dogmatism. Religion is thought to fail when it's dogma is modified. Is that true of science?

jd70

01/31/2007 08:55:24 AM

"It's impossible for an intellectually honest atheist to partake in dogma" I think it would be more prudent to say: "It is less likely for an intellectually honest person to partake in dogma."

jacknky

01/31/2007 08:41:44 AM

I agree with seeker. Dogma and other forms of ignorance are part of the human condition. If we were to somehow eliminate religion I doubt we would eliminate dogma and ignorance. I agree that religion is more vulnerable to dogmatic thinking than most other forms of human endeavor.

plunge

01/31/2007 07:00:05 AM

seeker is half right: simply not being religious doesn't automatically make you immune to dogmatism: that commitment is a positive one made over and above just being an atheist, which is simply a category one falls into if they aren't a believer.

seeker36

01/31/2007 05:40:52 AM

"It's impossible for an intellectually honest atheist to partake in dogma" I feel that this is a dangerously naive and idealistic view of humanity. As human beings we all behave in an intellectually dishonest and dogmatic manner to some degree. It's what the Buddhists call ignorance, Mistaking a worldview for the world. While a broadly agree with harris, i find his obvious hatred and anger profoundly disturbing. Dogmatic thinking is the problem and while i believe religion is probably more vunerable to this, its all too easy to be dogmatic and evangelistic about atheiism as with religion.

F1Fan

01/30/2007 11:18:57 PM

That's right, Apollo has yet to be disproved.

oddjoe

01/30/2007 09:40:43 PM

We shouldn't get rid of religion, just the dross. Right now, we just need to follow two principles, the first and the third. (first)Observe the Golden Rule for (second) what goes around comes around. (Third) Avoid the law of the jungle. (forth) God's existence has not been disproved.

steppen0410e

01/30/2007 05:59:31 PM

(continued) I repeat, though, that atheism is the negation of an untenable and parlous hypothesis, and as the recognition of a cosmic perspective, is an invaluable foundation for a serious and engaged world view. But the foundations without the buildings they give rise to, are just a waste of space. In this way, atheism on its own has little or no value. What label we use to describe the positive world view we build on the foundation of atheism is neither here not there. But that such a construction must be built is imperitive. There is so much more to being non-religious than simply being an atheist.

steppen0410e

01/30/2007 05:52:26 PM

Absolutely right, tinisoli, it is impossible for "an intellectually honest atheist to partake" in dogma. Dogma is, let us be clear, the belief that a set of principles can be preordained as right, proper, or correct, without regard to their effect in practice, and the belief that such principles are absolute truths, unquestionable and unrevisable. Is there any greater impediment to human goodness than dogma? As an atheist, I have to assume responsibility for my beliefs. Without some supernatural agent to look over my shoulders, issuing commands, rebukes, or praise as required, I have to monitor my beliefs by seeing the impact they have on my life and the lives of those around me.

jd70

01/30/2007 04:56:52 PM

"I guess what I'm getting at is, maybe it'd be helpful if people stopped identifying themselves with religious faiths." You have a good point their tinisoli. No more Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.. Just humans.

sewells1951

01/30/2007 04:54:31 PM

just ran across a good site. It's pithy, funny, irreverent and probably, in some small way that is not immediately apparent (a little CYA thank you) to this discussion. http://www.pointlesswasteoftime.com/monkeysphere.html

jd70

01/30/2007 04:47:30 PM

And thank you Jacknky for such kind words.

jd70

01/30/2007 04:39:35 PM

"atheists trinity: the negation of atheism; the positive outlook of humanism; and the methodologies of reason." Now that I can relate to steppen.

tinisoli

01/30/2007 04:25:14 PM

Right. But I think dogma is impossible for an intellectually honest atheist to partake in. Bad ideas and piss-poor logic are what they are whether they're coming from an evangelist or a Stalin. I think we are, in a sense, taking on religion because it is the type of dogma that seems most dominant at the moment. Nice reply by Harris. Will Sullivan answer his question?

jacknky

01/30/2007 04:24:32 PM

Sewell, "I think a operating with some humility is also requisite." Double amen to that. Steppen, Good post about humanism. Maybe that's the word I've been looking for.

jacknky

01/30/2007 04:17:30 PM

tinisoli, "I guess what I'm getting at is, maybe it'd be helpful if people stopped identifying themselves with religious faiths." I agree. Is this perhaps a restatement that the enemy is dogmatism and this is one of its larger forms? I also think we atheists need to be mindful that we aren't seeking to subsitute one dogma for another.

sewells1951

01/30/2007 04:15:56 PM

Good post steppen, One of the things that concerns me most is the content of what I do believe. Understanding that I am a product of contingent evolution with senses that operate thus and so embedded in a history that is so parochially narrow in its extent leaves me in a position of understanding what a vanishingly tiny fraction of what there is to know that I do know. I think a operating with some humility is also requisite. When we know so darned little, isn't it critical that we get what we do think we know right?

steppen0410e

01/30/2007 03:33:21 PM

(continued) My humanism, for instance, is about what I do believe and my rationalism is about how I believe it. One might, I suppose, call it the atheists trinity: the negation of atheism; the positive outlook of humanism; and the methodologies of reason. One negation doesn't imply all negation. I believe it is the above understanding that is our true "ally" if we are going to survive our tenure on this planet.

steppen0410e

01/30/2007 03:28:44 PM

I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of atheism in many of the posts below. Whether one is an atheist in its softer expression - the belief that there is insufficient evidence to justify belief in God, gods, or any other supernatural entity - or in its harder manifestation - which says that there is enough evidence to justify disbelieving in God, gods, or any other form of supernatural entity - atheism is only about what one doesn't believe. One doesn't build a way of life on what one doesn't believe. It is the next step of determining our way of life that is interesting and rewarding for the atheist.

tinisoli

01/30/2007 03:23:39 PM

And I still think the analogy between religious faith and gun violence is appropriate. We cannot address the lunacy of the most radical fundamentalists without addressing the irrational underpinnings of their faith and the societal tolerane of that particular form of irrational belief, just as we can't talk about curbing gun violence without talking about guns.

tinisoli

01/30/2007 03:22:11 PM

jacknky et al: I think one good reason to be aggressively critical of the flaws of religious belief, regardless of whether the believer is Mother Theresa or Osama bin Laden, is to remind everyone that religion is not necessary to instill or promote compassion, love, tolerance, etc. If good-hearted theists come to terms with the possibility that they could carry on being decent humans without being associated with unreasonable believers, that might be a step in the right direction. If Andrew Sullivan, for example, realized that his faith is indeed personalized and radically different from other Christians, he may stop caring so much about being called a Christian. I guess what I'm getting at is, maybe it'd be helpful if people stopped identifying themselves with religious faiths. Perhaps then the more radical elements would indeed appear to be the minorities that moderates say they are, and they could be more easily marginalized.

jacknky

01/30/2007 02:47:34 PM

And JD, thank you for your kind words. I've been looking for an excuse to tell you how much I appreciate your posts.

jacknky

01/30/2007 02:45:56 PM

Thank you for your patience, folks. These are new ideas I'm trying out on you. There's no one who enjoys these kinds of discussions more than I do. I read Sam Harris' book and felt elated that someone was articulating thoughts I'd had for a long time. But it just occurred to me that if our answers to fundamentalism entails those of us who value "rationality" convincing theists that their belief is harmful then maybe that tactic is doomed to failure. Perhaps to some extent the exact ontological belief system we have doesn't matter as much as what we do with it. Theism and atheism in all their different forms can be used as tools to either open up or to shut down. perhaps that's where the true answers lie.

jd70

01/30/2007 01:36:06 PM

Excellent posts jacknky!: "perhaps atheists could emphasis compassion as much as reason. perhaps theists could be more vocal in denouncing belief that causes believers to discriminate and harm others." Your statement above sums up what I have been trying to get at without articulating it as well. As a former theist myself I can relate to what you are saying. I don't have the "belief gene" either, but I do have the "awe" gene, which I see in people regardless of belief. The only difference between the agnostic me and the theistic me is that I no longer have to define my sense of awe as God, but rather feel more fulfilled by experiencing my sense of awe through the natural world, but at no time did I ever see dogmatism as something positive.

sewells1951

01/30/2007 01:24:51 PM

jacknky, hmmm..... the article we are discussing is, I think, entitled Is Religion 'Built Upon Lies'. Don't seem to recall the rule making session where discussion was, by mutual agreement, limited to deciding what to do about fundamentalism. That said, I do take your point. Arguing about what is and what is not correct is extremely difficult. I can tell you what I mean by 'correct' very simply. 1 - A position is correct when the premise upon which it is predicated does not entail contradictions and 2 - when there is no empirical evidence that contradicts the position Note that a correct position, in my lexicon, is a contextual term, always open to the possibility of being modified based on new evidence or discoveries.

jacknky

01/30/2007 12:48:10 PM

sewell, "I think the single most important thing any individual can do is to realize that there is no valid reason to hold a belief that is not correct." Define "correct". Now we can have pages of discussion on "What is correct?" rather than "What do we do about fundamentalism?" It will be fun, like masturbation, and accomplish about as much.

jacknky

01/30/2007 12:44:13 PM

sewell, "There truly is nothing one can do to shift the viewpoint in a mind that is locked tightly into the supernaturalist worldview." With all due respect, it's much easier to point the finger at others than at ourselves. Look at this statement again and see if you can see any dogmatic thinking in it. Would it surprise you to learn that many believers think atheists are dogmatic?

jacknky

01/30/2007 12:39:40 PM

(cont'd) So what are we doing here? I think the underlying thesis of Mr. Harris is that fundamentalism poses a danger. How do we deal with that danger? I think there are many religious folks who agree that fundamentalism is a danger. So, what purpose is served by attacking those people's belief which may be very benign and filled with love for others? I'm beginning to think we should not be attacking them because that won't change anything for the better and will only lose allies in a common struggle against dogmatism. Isn't dogmatism the real problem? Does it really help to argue about large esoteric issues when there is really much agreement on the basic problem? Atheists and theists have attacked each other for so long I think it'll be hard to overcome the patterns we've built. But we can start on an individual basis. perhaps atheists could emphasis compassion as much as reson. perhaps theists could be more vocal in denouncing belief that causes believers to discriminate and harm others.

jacknky

01/30/2007 12:39:09 PM

Sewell, "One also needs the methodology of science to serve as a check on the premises from which reason proceeds." Yes, that's true. I'm shifting gears on you here and ya'll may not want to go there. This discussion has become very academic with theists and athesists arguing their view, trying to score points and be right. I'm trying to talk personal not global. What is important in our lives? Academic discussions are a lot of fun. I've been doing it too. But I've come to the point where the discussion seems futile and empty. What's the point? No one is going to convince me there's a god because I can't SEE god. Maybe we aren't going to change theists because they CAN see God. Do you really think you're going to shake somebody's faith and they're going to adopt your particular sense of reason? It's possibly but I doubt it, not with anyone who has faith with any depth.

jacknky

01/30/2007 12:19:26 PM

(continued) So I wonder if theists aren't the same way. It's their "default" position to believe in God and they can't change it. We extoll reason and logic but I don't think religious people see themselves as illogical or unreasonable. By their criteria it's very reasonable to believe in God. So what can we all agree on? Many of the basic human virtues can be agreed upon by many atheists and theists. I use "compassion" as a catch-all. perhaps a discussion around "Is an action compassionate?" can reach more agreement than "Is an action reasonable/logical/Godly? Msybe we can accomplish more change in the world if we change our virtues to more universal human attributes like compassion. Rather than argue our differences we can use our similarities to motivate us.

jacknky

01/30/2007 12:19:06 PM

Sewell, "I guess bottom line I don't accept the notion that there is an inherent conflict between reason and compassion." me neither. That's the opposite of what I'm trying to say. Please bear with me. I'm trying out some new ideas here. Could there be an underlying assumption that if we atheists could only verbalize our "position" more forcefully or clearly then theists would see the error of their ways? And what is our motivation in "attacking" theism itself? Are we trying to show them they're "wrong" or are we trying to promote aspects of human nature that reduce the unfairness and dangers in our world? My starting point is the realization that I didn't CHOOSE to be an atheist. It's my "default" position and I can't change it.

sewells1951

01/30/2007 12:16:40 PM

F1fan, great points. There truly is nothing one can do to shift the viewpoint in a mind that is locked tightly into the supernaturalist worldview.

F1Fan

01/30/2007 12:02:01 PM

It becomes apparent that those who talk about reason and the validity of premises tend to follow those rules. Fundamentalists have several maxims they use to justify their assumptions, such as classifying reason as “earthly”, that faith allows certain insight that god does indeed exist, and that this insight justifies the belief that the god of fundamentalists has authority over all things, including science and reason. There is a good reason why fundamentalists don’t value clear and objective thinking in regards to their illusions: it would reveal the illusion, or at least the high probability their beliefs are implausible. We can see this pattern, and we can discuss it. However a fundamentalist (or even moderate believer who believes what they want to believe) cannot.

sewells1951

01/30/2007 10:30:21 AM

tinisoli, I agree and would go further. I think the single most important thing any individual can do is to realize that there is no valid reason to hold a belief that is not correct. What I am trying to say here is there is a direct correlation between the quality of our lives and our individual willingness to change our beliefs when our beliefs are incorrect.

tinisoli

01/30/2007 10:06:15 AM

I think compassion becomes a lot easier, almost inevitable, when we get rid of the borders and exclusivity with which we surround our countries, our -isms, our enclaves. It's tough to feel compassion for someone who is telling you "You're not on my team." This is another dimension to many relgions that I find abhorrent. This is indeed tribal, and reflects some of the recent posts here on the adaptive advantage of tribalism. But I suspect those old tribal instincts that were once essential or helpful are now largely propped up by magical thinking, much to the detriment of societies and the world as a whole. I thought we had a chance of overcoming dogma, but then a certain president said "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists," reason was tossed out the window, and the action-packed trailer for Armageddon was already playing in the minds of those who've been trained to look forward to it. Uggh...

sewells1951

01/30/2007 10:02:40 AM

jacknky, I would take a bit of issue with your phrasing of "One of the challenges of reason, however, seems to be that it's only as good as the assumption it's based on." You are correct that reason operates from premises. In some cases, the premise may be held valid because the premise is the result of a prior chain of argument that was valid. But, at some point we have to operate on premises that are assumed to be valid without having been proven. This is where the scientific method comes into play in my view. That is what let's us discard premises that are falsified. I don't recommend only reason because it isn't adequate on its own. One also needs the methodology of science to serve as a check on the premises from which reason proceeds.

sewells1951

01/30/2007 09:49:42 AM

jacknky, I found the following definition of compassion at dictionary.com. Would you agree with this definition or do you have something else in mind? 1. a deep awareness of and sympathy for another's suffering 2. the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it WordNet® 2.1, © 2005 Princeton University

sewells1951

01/30/2007 09:40:54 AM

jacknky, I guess I would have to answer your question by asking a question; i.e., in what context? Let me pose a semi-farcial scenario. Let's say an alien ship crashes on Earth. It's pilot is injured severely. We display compassion. We nurse the pilot back to health, help the pilot repair his ship. The pilot recovers, returns home and then leads a conquering fleet back to Earth and wipes out all humanity. Was compassion the right choice? I guess bottom line I don't accept the notion that there is an inherent conflict between reason and compassion.

jacknky

01/30/2007 09:28:51 AM

sewell, "One reason I am convinced of the superiority of reason..." I am too. One of the challenges of reason, however, seems to be that it's only as good as the assumption it's based on. If something ain't working then maybe it's time to re-examine the assumptions. You have merely re-stated the supremacy of reason. A theist would have re-stated the supremacy of God. My point is we can argue about this till pigs fly and little will change. We might feel good when we score points but what have we accomplished? There are theists who are capable of great reason and atheists who are capable of great dogma. Isn't our true ally not an intellectual way of thinking but the growth of compassion? Isn't the true enemy small mindedness and dogma?

sewells1951

01/30/2007 08:49:03 AM

If a superiority claim for a particular means of provision for social coherence is to be taken seriously then one needs to be clearly cognizant of the basis upon which such a claim is made. Because god said so is pretty clearly an inadquate basis for such a claim. One reason I am convinced of the superiority of reason coupled with application of the scientific method is because that particular approach is pretty clearly able to allow evolution in the mechanisms of social coherence on a principled basis.

jacknky

01/30/2007 08:48:24 AM

(continued) I think Harris makes many excellent points. I think we need to learn to question religious belief as easily as we do science, philosophy and any other area of human inquiry. But maybe demonizing belief isn't an answer when the real villain is dogma and fundamentalism. Maybe theists and non-theists, if they stopped attacking each other, could work together more to counter the real enemy.

jacknky

01/30/2007 08:48:03 AM

I've thought some more about this issue of a "genetic" base for belief or non-belief. I use the word "genetic" as a shorthand for a part of me, at least me, that seems to be incapable of belief in the supernatural. I think there is an underlying assumption in this discussion that belief and non-belief are rational positions that we are free to change. I don't think that's true for me. I don't think I have any more chance of "choosing" to believe in God than I do "choosing" to be homosexual. Now if that non-choice is true for me maybe it's also true for some theists. Maybe they too don't have a choice in believing. If there is any truth to that then these discussions about which way of living ias superior, theism or atheism, are beside the point.

sewells1951

01/30/2007 08:44:01 AM

The key point here then is that while it makes sense to recognize the desirability of some degree of conformity, fundamentalists take it way overboard. Just because a certain social context (like religious belief) may provide some benefit, it is not necessarily the case that that context is optimal. Asserting the superiority of Christianity over Islam is then to be seen as very similar to asserting English to be superior to Chinese. A patently silly claim to make.

sewells1951

01/30/2007 08:39:56 AM

f1fan, I would look at information theory a bit in this respect. One salient point is that communication requires both a degree of predictability and a degree of novelty. In the English language for instance the letter E occurs with approximately the same frequency in scientific papers as it does in grade school essays. Underlying regularities provide a substrate of predictability in the context of a grammar that provides almost unlimited potential for novelty. Social coherence may indeed depend upon some conformity in the same way that languages depend on a substrate of regularity.

F1Fan

01/30/2007 01:51:58 AM

Over time the propensity to conform to social rules may be a trait expressed in genes. The author of “The Biology of Belief” called it psychogenes, similar to memes. The personality trait and social pressure to conform combines interactively with the social framework to perpetuate the ritual or concept. Essentially he explains that biology works in conjunction with our drives for social interaction in a way that is revealed in certain behaviors, like religious belief. This behavior is not conscious or intended, but is simply a sort of stealth influence that we adopt and use for our own advantage socially. If someone has anxiety about the inherent meaninglessness of life, he may discover that religion offers a final answer to the mystery of life. The community of believers ask for no evidence. The community offers emotional support. The framework offers a set basis for identity. This is perfect for some people. I’m not one of them.

F1Fan

01/30/2007 01:42:14 AM

I would still want to know why evolution produced such a gene. -step I’ve studied this issue a bit, and one explanation is that those individuals (well before civilization) who adopt the tribal myth accept the terms of social contract. Being part of a tribe is an advantage to survival, i.e: team effort in hunting, food surplus, food accessibility if injured, etc. Individuals who did not adopt tribal frameworks, rituals, ceremonies, etc. lived independently with a higher risk of death, and a disadvantage to those traits of cooperation. The degree of cooperation in a given group could have meant the difference between life or death. To break rules and face rejection from a tribe could mean the end. Those most prone to conform and cooperate surely had an advantage. Look at Leviticus or Exodus. Pretty rigid laws if that’s how things were. I can tell you that I’m the sort of guy who would have questioned a few of those rules (dead man). And nor am I convinced any of man’s gods exist.

jd70

01/29/2007 04:45:29 PM

Me too Namchuck.

jd70

01/29/2007 04:43:00 PM

I'll by that steppen, if by theism we mean the traditional notion of a personal God. Building a society that questions irrational belief will take care of that on it's owen. My hunch is that theism would become disolved into non dogmatic isms such as pantheism, agnosticism, atheism, deism, humanism, etc..

namchuck

01/29/2007 04:09:31 PM

Those awesome processes of the universe that jd70 speaks about display an undeniable indifference to all suffering and seem to lack all purpose. It is jolly difficult for me, under these patently obvious circumstances, to take seriously the postulation of believers that the universe is ruled over by an omnibenevolent and compassionate God.

steppen0410e

01/29/2007 03:27:37 PM

Yes, I think postulating a belief gene is rather simplistic. I would still want to know why evolution produced such a gene. At this stage I believe there are more plausible explanations (sweet-tooth and symbiont theories) for the human predisposition to religious belief. jd70: I think I do know where you are coming from, and I entirely agree with you that our energies would be better spent in countering and shunning dogmatism. For me, shunning dogmatism entails shunning theism.

tinisoli

01/29/2007 01:17:29 PM

On the belief/god gene issue... We've got to be careful to not fall for the common simplification of genetics that many people and many MSM articles tend to do. It's not always about having a gene or lacking a gene, or dominant-recessive traits. We tend to learn about evolution and genetics in this way because it's beginner's-level stuff. Punnett squares, etc. It is quite a leap to suggest that theism and atheism are the result of having or not having a gene. That's simplistic. And as usual, it's the atheist who is "missing" something. The genetic and neurological issue is very interesting, but let's not jump the gun.

jd70

01/29/2007 12:53:58 PM

tinisoli: Just read your link, interesting stuff.

jd70

01/29/2007 12:46:02 PM

jacknky "Some of us have "belief" genes and some of us don't" You might be on to something there. I remember seeing an article on that some time ago. I think it might of been in Newsweek.

jacknky

01/29/2007 12:32:31 PM

F1Fan, "People of the modern world still love to believe their myth." I'm amazed by that too. Here's my hypothosis. I'm 80% serious here. Some of us have "belief" genes and some of us don't. This would explain a lot about how we all live on the same planet and see it so very differently. I was raised in a religious home. I married an ex-nun. I TRIED to believe the supernatural stuff but no matter how hard I tried the world I saw was natural, not supernatural. I lack the gene. Peace...

F1Fan

01/29/2007 11:40:24 AM

Asserting that "God" does exist makes just as much sense as asserting that "God" doesn't since it purely lies in the subjective realm. -jd70 Indeed. So when we examine the issue of whether any gods exist we determine if any evidence suggests gods exist. Given the lack of evidence no one can come to a rational conclusion that any gods, or elves, or fairies exist outside of the human imagination. Since atheists do not typically assert non-existence, rather counter the irrational and unsubstantiated claims of theists, we look at the theist’s claim and argument (if there is one) and see if it has any basis. I’ve yet to see any rational of objective claim. Remember, no one is obligated to believe anything.

jd70

01/29/2007 10:15:05 AM

sewells1951: It is nice to see that someone can at least relate to what I am saying.

jd70

01/29/2007 10:09:53 AM

sewells1951: Not only omnipotence, but any specific claim outside of general reflection of awe towards the unfolding processes of the universe creates logical dilemma's .

sewells1951

01/29/2007 09:53:14 AM

We should be clear about Sullivan's "...once you have conceded the possibility of a truth that is not reducible to empirical proof, you have allowed for the validity of religious faith as a form of legitimate truth-seeking in a different mode. " Unless I have mis-interpreted Godel's Incompleteness theorems, it is indeed well established that there will always be truths that are not provable within the context of the system in which the truths are phrased. Since when did that get to be a license to assert that 2 + 2 = 5?

sewells1951

01/29/2007 09:44:51 AM

plunge, as usual you miss my point. I don't tell people what they believe. I simply maintain that every functioning human being does believe things that have not been proven. You want to maintain that you don't believe you exist, then go ahead. Seems silly but you are a functioning human being and you get to say that if you want. You do keep conflating the notion of proof with belief when the dictionary definition of the word specifically states that beliefs are NOT proven. If that floats your boat, then have at it.

sewells1951

01/29/2007 08:51:43 AM

jd70, only argument I make about existence claims for god is that no omnipotent god could possibly exist. Not an evidentiary thing. It's a logical thing. The premise of omnipotence entails contradictions so the premise can't possibly be valid. Maybe someone could have a valid concept of god. All I'm saying is that no one can have a valid concept of an omnipotent god.

jd70

01/29/2007 07:47:56 AM

tinisoli and steppen: You are right that arguing over weather "god" exists or doesn't makes about as much sense as your woodchuck analogy. "God" is a subjective perspective that has nothing to do with dogmatism. In traditional theism "God" is an infinite being. As finite beings what would constitute evidence for such outside of the subjective? To say there is no evidence for such makes about as much sense as saying that there is no evidence that I had a dream about spiderman last night. Asserting that "God" does exist makes just as much sense as asserting that "God" doesn't since it purely lies in the subjective realm. The hardest of atheists and moderates alike can either work together to counteract the problem of dogmatism or they can argue over things like "How many fairies can dance on he head of a pin." I find my energy is better spent addressing the former.

plunge

01/29/2007 04:52:29 AM

sewells, the reason we have no other choice than to accept, say, our sensory experience is that we have no other way to function without doing so. But a person can fully acknowledge that this doesn't prove anything, and it doesn't signify any confidence in the principle itself. Inferential confidence is something WITHIN that context, not a claim of ultimate truth. Your whole argument seems to rely on you telling other people what they do or do not believe. That's simply arrogant, frankly, and ridiculous, logically.

plunge

01/29/2007 04:47:40 AM

Frustratingly, Byrne's central charge against Harris and Dawkins is simply false: they both DO, in fact, address the issue of why religious belief is not only common, but may even be genetically linked (though contrary to what Byrne says, it is simply false to declare that it is innate, since not all people have it). Of course, neither Byrne nor Sullivan have comments, so no need to correct themselves!

tinisoli

01/28/2007 10:15:46 PM

Today Sullivan posted a portion of a blog entry by David Byrne. If you check out Byrne's blog and scroll down you find portions of a very interesting article. YOu can also see it here: http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.html Some interesting data on the rates of violent crime in theistic and non-theistic democracies.

F1Fan

01/28/2007 09:44:49 PM

I’m still astounded how otherwise normal and rational people can believe in a supernatural when at our disposal is a huge resource of knowledge that explains how and why myths and stories of the supernatural originated. People of the modern world still love to believe their myth. I suspect in some way it is due to the complexity and modernity of the world. Religion tends to be an exercise that soothes certain anxieties. And as science progresses us into a world where we can know more and more, but are limited to what we can know, things seem overwhelming. We have all this technology, but don’t know how it works. I sure many people deal with this overwhelmed world with the simple and stable set of ideas known as religion. In a group where all accept rather implausible ideas, a member can rest assured that the social contract is based on a mutual fantasy, and won’t face criticism without subjecting themselves to the same invalidating questions.

meBigGuy

01/28/2007 08:31:26 PM

Andrew completely misses the point and talks around the basic issues. 1. He claims things to be facts that he cannot prove. 2. He claims his beliefs are right and others beliefs are wrong without proof in either case. He is free to believe what he wants, but to pass his BELIEFS off as truths is dishonest. They are BELIEFS and merely BELIEFS. He can honestly tell anyone what his BELIEFS are, but the ONLY truth he can claim is that he believes the things he says. He believes in the power of prayer. He believes we were created by God. And so on. Even stating his beliefs in a factual way without claiming that they are unsubstantiated beliefs is intellectually dishonest.

steppen0410e

01/28/2007 06:58:48 PM

There is not much I can add to tinisoli's accurate assessment, jd70, except to say that your question would open the door to the contemplation of all kinds of outlandish and insupportable notions simply because we are able to verbalize them. As John Locke put it, the one unerring mark of the love of truth is not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon will warrant.

tinisoli

01/28/2007 05:44:50 PM

jd70, Your question is right up there in importance and usefulness with "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" It's not a matter of not knowing for sure, or not being able to prove, that god isn't everywhere; it's about not having any evidence that he is ANYWHERE. It's all conjecture, fantasy, mythology. The difference between your fairies-on-a-pin analogy and the theism of billions of humans is that those theists will SWEAR that god is real and they do all kinds of things because they really think he wants them to. We don't often hear fairy-worshippers shouting about dancing on pinheads, and when we do we call them CRAZY.

jd70

01/28/2007 04:41:39 PM

How does one know that god is not everywhere and without form? Does anyone know how many fairies can dance on the head of a pin? I think we could get a whole thread going debating that too.

steppen0410e

01/28/2007 04:20:48 PM

Quite right, tinisoli, why bring the notion of a god into it at all. I mean, everything that is good about religion can be had elsewhere without the need to believe on anything without evidence. How does vinaywalker know that "god is everywhere in the universe and without a form"? Obviously, he/she doesn't, it is just another unfounded belief. "All examples of religion are mostly from earth." "Mostly"? Which religions didn't originate on earth? It seems to me vinaykelkar has his or her own version of X, just a littler vaguer than the others thats all.

tinisoli

01/28/2007 10:03:54 AM

vinaykelkar, Nowhere in your scheme of things is there any reason to involve god or religion. We have plenty of reasons to develop humanity and always aim for progress without draping a flimsy 'service to an unseen deity' gauze over everything. You're right that the arguments over whose god is better or more real are terribly destructive, but we need not have even a single god to function and be happy on Earth.

vinaykelkar

01/28/2007 07:39:55 AM

I do not understand how various persons from various religions are assuming that they understand god when what we know is only equal to a very very very small part of god. The religions are only on the earth where as god is everywhere in universe without a form. Earth is only a grain of sand in entire universe and that too divided in multiple religions. Since religions mainly originated on earth, they are necessarilly man created and not god created. All examples of religion are mostly from earth. Its like six blind trying to describe an elephant as per their own perception, whereas reality is different and too big to comprehend by any single religion on earth. Hence let us not talk of limited religion but talk of developing human beings as true representatives of god. Are we not going to open our eyes to this reality instead of having blind faith on X or Y or Z religion and blaming other religions?

tinisoli

01/27/2007 11:34:54 PM

I agree wholeheartedly, Namchuck. There is this myth that theists, or at least "moderate" theists, are totally self-reliant and private about their faith. They proudly speak of their highly-refined, higher-level "reasoned faith," their "faith with doubt," and they're so proud of themselves for being humble and thoughtful... But they will count themselves among the faithful and stand by religion when it is "assaulted" by a couple writers, and they will refuse to admit that the faith that works such wonders for them is also the source of some of the most extreme insanity of our time. They are "fairweather" faithful.

namchuck

01/27/2007 08:57:30 PM

I entirely agree, FutureShy. The source of evil is dogma, the belief that there is a set of principles that is entirely right and can justify, exculpate and motivate any act in their service. When a society, organization, or movement values the failure to question its guiding principles, when utter obedience is admirable, then what that society, organization or movement truly values is not principles, but authority and conformity. Is there a greater impediment to goodness than dogma, which warps the human spirit, killing off its compassion and goodness? Yet we need compassion and goodness and should shun blind obedience, which entails shunning dogma.

FutureShy

01/27/2007 07:50:08 PM

From Sullivan's Jan 25 post (from his blog): You ask legitimately: how can I, convinced of this truth, resist imposing it on others? The answer is: humility and doubt. I may believe these things, but I am aware that others may not; and I respect their own existential decision to believe something else. If every member (heck, make that "vast majority") of each monotheistic religion believed this, we would have a utopia within our lifetimes. Herein lies the key issue of religion: the mental illness of fundamentalism, which I use as the commonplace term for a religous person who (1) believes in a 100% interpretation of their holy book and (2) INSISTS on others to obey and abide by that literal interpretation of their holy book in every thought, word and deed and (3) seeks to enforce that obedience through law, threat of violence and/or violence.

tinisoli

01/27/2007 06:09:29 PM

Another nagging issue is how Sullivan associates himself with other theists when it bolsters his argument--as in the chickenshit line about most human beings who have ever lived being theistic--but then he disassociates himself and his faith from others when he needs to (say, when Catholics persecute homosexuals or Christians are appallingly intolerant of anyone who does not accept the Bible literally). This bothers me. On its face, it may appear that straddling the line is an antidote to dogma--because he's not 100% on either "side--but he's also just having it both ways, and either side can claim him if it suits their purposes. Think of the nitwitted polls of how many Christians or Muslims there are in the world. They are statistically united by those words, yet when pressed to account for their beliefs many of the moderates contained by these umbrella terms would surely say "Well, my God doesn't hate, he doesn't care if you're gay, he's all about kindness, love, peace..."

tinisoli

01/27/2007 06:03:48 PM

And dogma's roots. I think Sullivan agrees with Harris that we've got a fire that needs to be put out. But Sullivan seems unconvinced that the fuel of that fire, and the spark that lit it, is religious faith. Instead of dealing with that reality he talks about good theists, bad atheists, and the shortcomings of science. Yes, we should confront all forms of dogma, but when there's a common threat running throughout some of them it stands to reason that we should look carefully at that thread and judge its legitimacy.

jd70

01/27/2007 05:12:04 PM

"Can't really debate this issue unless we can agree on some kind of definition of God." Exactly tinisoli. I am not sure what Sullivan's definition is and I don't care. It is the issue of dogmatism that needs to be addressed. I don't think Sullivan is overly dogmatic, but he does need to put belief in perspective.

tinisoli

01/27/2007 04:25:53 PM

I prefer to not have God in there at all, especially if the word means whatever anyone wants it to mean. It might as well be @!&#($! or the "whahwhahwhah" of Charlie Brown's teacher. Can't really debate this issue unless we can agree on some kind of definition of God. To say it is simply 'more than what we know' or 'the collective unknowable' is as meaningful as saying "god is poop." And an empty definition has little to do with Sullivan's God or the god worshipped by so many theists. If we've got to go through a dictionary and spend hours on the meaning of every word in this threat or in the blogologue to the left, we're in for a thousand-year effort.

jd70

01/27/2007 03:05:46 PM

Some say God is everything, omnisciant, omnipotent ruler. spirit within, unfolding process of the universe (one might use Goding), etc etc... Do you have a preference?

tinisoli

01/27/2007 02:29:58 PM

In other words, God means whatever you want it to. Why bother with language, then? Later.

jd70

01/27/2007 02:16:44 PM

I think it can stand for whatever we want it to. I think the Buddha had it right on when asked if God exists. He kept a noble silence on the issue. Till next time GTG..

tinisoli

01/27/2007 01:57:33 PM

Of course not. It's not about the word, but what it stands for.

jd70

01/27/2007 01:52:58 PM

"But still, why call the void "God"? Why not leave it as void?" That works for me, but getting rid of the term God will not solve our problems.

tinisoli

01/27/2007 01:36:41 PM

I just wish Sullivan would a) fess up to believing in something that cannot be backed up, and b) acknowledge that such blind faith is contradictory to the methods he employs when, say, analyzing the Iraq war. This is a guy who makes a great living focusing on the EVIDENCE of Bush's incompetence. He's all about facts and analysis in those moments. Yet we're supposed to just accept his religious faith, otherwise we're "intolerant." And he is clearly quite proud of himself for being "both" a reasoner and a believer, as are many moderates. Harris would argue that faith is a black eye--that it is worthy of criticism and worth abandoning--while Sullivan thinks it is the icing on the cake, the thing that makes a human great and loving and DEEP.

tinisoli

01/27/2007 01:27:27 PM

jd70: I agree about the lamentably incendiary nature of some of our labels. But still, why call the void "God"? Why not leave it as void? Someone I met recently said that God is simply everything and everyone. This struck me as an unnecesary and wholly useless idea, but I think she meant to extend an olive branch to those people whose ideas about God are rigid and dogmatic. It just seems like the language we use is very much weighted toward loose, broad, all-encompassing definitions of "god" and "religion" and "faith" yet words like "atheist" and "science" are constantly pigeonholed and reduced to ridiculous forms. Harris IS an atheist: he denies the existence of God and is insisting that theists account for their irrational beliefs or at least acknowledge that they are irrational. I think it's appropriate for him to accept and embrace that label, even though he too laments that our language is so infused with theism that non-believers get the a- prefix.

jd70

01/27/2007 12:50:45 PM

tinisoli: "Okay, but why SHOULD one insert God into the void?" In my post I used "God" as a name for the void itself rather the replacing the void with a concept of "God", which would qualify as a god in the gaps argument. The problem is with all the negative connotations that have been associated with the word "God" due in fact to what you outlined in your last post, which I agree with. Sam Harris has raised issues that need to be brought to light. The problem is that he openly calls himself an atheist, which also unrightly has been associated with negative connotations. He is surely going to be dismissed by proponents of dogmatic thinking due in fact that he himself labels himself an atheist. What I am saying is that we need to strip the labels and approach this issue from a purely reasoned human perspective.

tinisoli

01/27/2007 11:39:18 AM

We (here in this threat and Harris and Sullivan, too) are bogged down in an argument in those who want to allow for god are putting forth the most humble, personal, private, and mild form of faith while agreeing with the atheist that fundamentalism and dogmatism are bad. But we are skirting the issue of the obvious role that religious (irrational) faith plays in justifying the actions and passion of fundamentalism. It's like having a conversation about gun violence without mentioning guns. Yes, people must pull the triggers and aim those guns, but guns make it easier to kill. It is much harder physically and psychologically to stab someone in the chest than to shoot someone from ten (or 1,000) yards away. Likewise with things done in the name of god. Harris' concern is that the irrational and often-unchallenged nature of religion allows people to do terrible things. I agree with him.

tinisoli

01/27/2007 11:24:54 AM

Okay, but why SHOULD one insert God into the void? Sullivan happily lunges for what he percieves to be this very same loophole in Sam's argument: 'Sam, your line of reasoning allows for faith, so I am going to have mine, thanks.' But that's not a justification for faith; it's merely saying, as you are, I think, that we CAN fill the void with god or whatever story we like. But that's a very different thing from justifying it. And it is radically different thing to then become a missionary, a zealot, a jihadist. There's a huge difference between coming to a personal, private, humble kind of agnostic or pantheistic faith and turning it into a mass movement of dogmatic and, in some cases, warmmongering zealotry that has stained the Earth red with blood for centuries. I agree that the danger and the vital issue is dogmatism, whatever the source material may be, but I think we mustn't ignore the role that religion plays in so much of the dogma we see and hear today. There IS a connection.

jd70

01/27/2007 08:59:24 AM

I would add, not only religious dogmatism, but all dogmatism.

jd70

01/27/2007 08:24:42 AM

(cont from below) Discussions on this topic inevuatably turn into the atheist vs theist argument. I myself have been called an "atheist" at which I ask which conception of "God" are you atheistic to? Apollo, Zues, and others come to mind. If one defines "God" as the uncertainty principle for instance, many who call themselves atheists would, then call themselves theists. One might as well argue how many fairies can dance on the head of a pin. For me it just creates labels and is a waste of energy. I just find it more prudent to discuss the real issue which is religious dogmatism.

jd70

01/27/2007 08:09:46 AM

tinisoli: The point I was trying to make I later reiterated to plunge: "I would add that the fact remains that we are the products of an unfolding and ever changing universe, which constitutes an unknown component to our existence. Why can't one call this unknown component God?" While I would agree that the "God" in the gaps mentality actually hinders ones search for truth, the statement above is not a reflection of that. It is rather an assumption fully accepted by the scientific method. Our knowledge is only as valid in so much as current evidence points. Theories and even laws are subject to revision according to evidence. cont..

tinisoli

01/27/2007 12:07:36 AM

nad2: Some theists ask me, when I tell them that I don't believe in god, something along the lines of the 'How can you not think there's something BIGGER or more IMPORTANT than us?' question to which your marveling-at-the-starry-sky quote seems related. This question always strikes me as odd because there is not a single moment in my life in which I regard myself or humans or intelligent mammals or America or Earth as the "biggest" thing in the universe. To me, a cockroach is as important and as unimportant as me or you or a clump of lichen on the loneliest patch of Arctic tundra. It seems to me that just about everything that exists is bigger and grander, and I'm not sure why it is we atheists have gotten the reputation of having delusions of grandeur when we routinely argue that any such attitude is totally unjustified.

tinisoli

01/26/2007 11:56:06 PM

In response to some posts that I missed while I was out for dinner... Scientists get heckled by theists for thinking we "know all the answers" (arrogance, etc.). What we are actually doing is remaining comfortable with the existence of unanswered questions and allowing our countless breakthroughs to fuel our optimism (not arrogance) that even the grandest mysteries of the universe might NOT beyond our reach. This is why scientists and many atheists are not compelled by the easy "Let's just say God did it" argument. The infinite regression that we come to when we confront questions like jd70's "So where'd natural selection come from?" or "What preceded the Big Bang, and why?" are not solved by placing a magical being in the void.

tinisoli

01/26/2007 11:51:05 PM

jd70: Re: earlier post about natural selection and the infinite regression: Natural selection arose as a result of the inevitable competition for limited resources in an ever-changing environment among organisms that were (and are) themselves changing from one generation to the next due to random mutations in their DNA. I could carry on all night about this beautiful and thoroughly substantiated theory, but I am assuming that you are not challenging NS itself. Anyhow, nowhere in any of this is there a hopelessly missing component, nor is there a need or justification for a magic answer or designer (God). I would say there is a huge and important difference between not knowing exactly how the universe came into being but being curious and proactive about figuring it out, and simply placing God in whatever unsettling voids remain.

MonkeysNephew

01/26/2007 09:48:14 PM

"we are the products of an unfolding and ever changing universe...Why can't one call this unknown component God?" You can call it whatever you want, but in this neutered context, it is a Pantheistic term. Pantheism is more like Atheism with fresh squeezed lemon. It's sexier but it is still Atheism.

sewells1951

01/26/2007 08:17:53 PM

Again, from dictionary.com these are definitions of belief: 1. something believed; an opinion or conviction: a belief that the earth is flat. 2. confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof: a statement unworthy of belief.

sewells1951

01/26/2007 08:13:00 PM

plunge, you said "The fact that I have no other option other than to treat inferences as pragmatic and my existence as a given has nothing at all to do with whether I assert these as absolutely true or have any conviction in them in a philosophical sense." If you were asserting those things to be absolutely true, you would not be making a belief claim you would be making a knowledge claim. You have missed my point completely. There has to be some reason you would accept something provisionally. Unless you wish to maintain that you provisionally accept things on some randomized basis, or that you accept things on a provisional basis that is the inverse of your confidence level in them, then you are left with the option that you have some confidence in them in the absence of proof. That level of confidence is a level of belief.

sewells1951

01/26/2007 08:00:57 PM

plunge, Again, by definition belief is something that is not proven. Are you are trying to define belief out of existence? How EXACTLY does provisionally accepting differ from believing? In your lexicon, there is no such thing as belief. One either KNOWS or one engages in provisional acceptance. Are you maintaining that there is no such thing as belief? Or are you maintaining that belief should always be replaced by conditional acceptance? What exactly is one's mental state when one has enough confidence in an unproven proposition to provisionally accept it?

jd70

01/26/2007 06:42:59 PM

Amen to that.

nad2

01/26/2007 06:21:43 PM

no matter how we get there, may we all affirm 'love one another...'

nad2

01/26/2007 06:15:52 PM

i am off to have a totty and watch the sunset before it goes down. i have thoroughly enjoyed the exchanges and appreciate everyone's perspective, have a wonderful weekend everyone!

jd70

01/26/2007 06:02:24 PM

plunge, I would add that the fact remains that we are the products of an unfolding and ever changing universe, which constitutes an unknown component to our existence. Why can't one call this unknown component God? Oh and yes I completely agree with Sam Harris's position.

jd70

01/26/2007 05:49:56 PM

plunge, where in my post did you find disagreement.

nad2

01/26/2007 05:48:40 PM

Easterbook may not be giving Dawkins a fair shake, i have not read dawkins, but harris does not address as borg calls it, the 'historical-metaphorical' view of christian (or any) faith. he cocks his gun like he is getting ready to on 1/17/07, but never does, rather he spends the entire time bashing fundamentalist views or saying people such as myself 'cherry-pick' our faith, without acknowedging people can read things metaphorically and seriously. perhaps it is just because he has never been exposed to such 'religion' that he does not adequately address or argue against it, hence back to my original point of feeling like this thread was talking right past me.

plunge

01/26/2007 05:42:32 PM

jd70, your problem is that only imagine god. Frankly, that is just one possibility amongst an infinite, and the constant returning to a being that is basically just an abstract human psyche is both lacking in imagination as well as a reflection of human narcissism.

plunge

01/26/2007 05:40:28 PM

sewells, I think the answer is that you need to stop inferring illogical things based on your own limited experiences. If you are making an argument about people's beliefs and assertions, don't spin around and suddenly declare that what you REALLY mean is just whatever YOU think they are "implying" with their actions. At the very least, not taking people at their word is a pretty darn cheap way to argue. If we really are talking about beliefs, then it is pure nonsense to say that someone believes something when they outright say they do not. The fact that I have no other option other than to treat inferences as pragmatic and my existence as a given has nothing at all to do with whether I assert these as absolutely true or have any conviction in them in a philosophical sense.

jd70

01/26/2007 05:37:09 PM

"but still look up in wonder at the night sky and dream there may be so much more to existence than just scurrying about the streets of our little world." Well Said nad2. There is an old saying in Taoism that says: "The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao" I personally think that forming concepts of God (or the unknown) creates more problems than it solves.

plunge

01/26/2007 05:31:37 PM

Gregg Easterbook is a ninny who obviously never read Dawkin's book, but instead is just posturing based on what he's heard from other lazy attacks on Dawkins. Dawkins addresses EXACTLY what he claims he ignores. Harris addresses EXACTLY this same point in this very exchange. And how can people like Easterbook really say with a straight face that OTHER people are engaging in straw men argumentation?

nad2

01/26/2007 05:25:30 PM

ok tinisoli, i'll walk unwittingly into your beartrap and take a stab at your santa claus question (i hope you have not left yet), but all the while pleading "miracle on 34th street" as my alternative answer. santa is made up, we know we made him up, actually st. nick was a person who was made mythic after death through tradition, perhaps the same way Jesus, person, was. there are excellent history channel documentaries on both ('christmas unwrapped' is a mustsee). surely you have no proof we did the same for every notion of 'God.' i understand and can respect that you don't believe in God, but if you tell me about the God you don't believe in, maybe i can address that, most probably by saying i don't believe in that God either. can you affirm a 'life force?' a continuity running through all existence including evolution? if so, perhaps we can indeed work through the semantics, but i don't see the santa claus question as productive until then.

nad2

01/26/2007 05:09:25 PM

Gregg Easterbook's post is more eloquent and succinct in stating relatively the same as my point. "Dawkins states a case against God--but only against the fundamentalist conception of God as omnipotent, omniscient, and in direct control of earthly events. This is only one of many possible understandings of the divine... Millions do believe in such a God, but by addressing only the kind of supernatural envisioned by fundamentalism, The God Delusion ignores the huge numbers of thoughtful believers who approach faith on more sophisticated terms...Millions of Jews, Christians and Muslims do not believe God is an angry Absolute, do not believe tsunamis and wars are "God's will," do not wish ill to other faiths, do not have any problem with natural selection theory--but still look up in wonder at the night sky and dream there may be so much more to existence than just scurrying about the streets of our little world. The God Delusion ignores believers who think this way, because they cannot be used as straw men."

jd70

01/26/2007 05:03:54 PM

Where did the process of natural selection come from then? Ultimately we can go into an infinite regression of asking the question of "Where things come from" or we can say they come from God. Is there a difference?

tinisoli

01/26/2007 04:59:46 PM

Have a good weekend, folks.

sewells1951

01/26/2007 04:52:49 PM

plunge, I think maybe we are finally getting somewhere with this thread. To put it colloquially, I am saying that if it looks like a duck and it waddles like a duck and it quacks like a duck, then I am content to call it a duck. If I see someone behaving as if they believe they exist, then I infer that they do believe that they exist. When a person lays out clothes to wear tomorrow, even though they cannot know there will be a tomorrow (the sun may go supernova overnight), I infer they believe there will be a tomorrow. I really don't believe that what is going on is that someone provisionally grants that there might be a tomorrow. They believe there will be. I guess I am saying that people make truth claims all the time without proof of their position.

tinisoli

01/26/2007 04:52:05 PM

I just find it believable that love and the other emotions that we have are possible because of the last couple million years of hominid evolution. I find religion unbelievable.

jd70

01/26/2007 04:48:39 PM

Does it really matter that we know were human love comes from?

tinisoli

01/26/2007 04:44:27 PM

But is there not a difference in the certitude of science--say, the Law of Gravity--and the certitude of religion? Isn't it more arrogant--not to mention utterly useless--to suggest that human love comes from an invisible deity rather than from millions of years of evolution? And I'll ask again: Why is Santa Claus inevitably retired from reality and sent off into fairytale land for each of us (whether devout Christian or secular Christmas celebrant), yet God is not? What is the difference between believing in Jesus or Allah and believing in Russell's famous orbiting teapot?

sewells1951

01/26/2007 04:42:38 PM

nad2, while I do believe we would be better off without religion I want to be clear that I don't consider something to be religion unless it is advocating the belief of things that are not true. When I say I am against religion, what I am saying is that I am against beliefs that are not justified.

nad2

01/26/2007 04:32:36 PM

glad someone has the common sense to say 'love one another is a human truth.' maybe we can gain some traction here, surely this was not deduced, if so i would love to hear how. and its ok to not know how what makes this a truth. i'm sure i could come up with something satisfactory about its necessary for coexistence but that is answering an entirely different question than 'what makes this true?' i think i, a deeply passionate religious person, am closer to all of you than you may be comfortable with and i plead our collective shortcoming in communication as ultimately separating us. let's face it, the fuel that feeds the fire of Sam and many of you (and me for a significant part of my life being 'agnostic') is the intolerance and cartoonish stances taken by many under the banner of religion, but what a terribly inductive and arrogant leap to say we would be better off without religion. certitude (aka intellectual arrogance) exists equally in religion and science, but so does humility if we so choose.

nad2

01/26/2007 04:31:46 PM

jacknky, yes, but some atheists do argue that religion's (and science's) inability to prove God exists is proof that God does not exist, or at least religion is therefore not a worthy pursuit.

jd70

01/26/2007 04:25:10 PM

nad2: "Part III: for many practicing religious people, faith is not the same as 'belief' but far closer to humility, surrender and loving relationship with the great life force and all it encompasses." While as a general practice I would tend to agree with you. From my experience though at least with Christianity, one must believe certain things before they can practice humility, surrender,etc.. to be a part of the religion. Such as belief in Jesus being the "son of God", and being a sacrifice for our "sins". To be accepted as part of the religion having these beliefs is not an option, while living with humility is.

plunge

01/26/2007 04:20:05 PM

sewells, I've never claimed to be using a different definition of faith than the one you are using (though I have noted that it is not the only definition, and the only one relevant here are beliefs in truth claims). I'm just claiming that you are wrong when you assume or claim that everyone is obligated to "have confidence" in at least some proposition they cannot know or prove. How can I both fully admit that I don't know and can't prove that I exist in any final sense and yet still be guilty, as you claim, of having confidence that I do? That's simply nonsensical. I said that I do not hold that statement to be definitively true: I am being realistic as to exactly what I can and cannot know and in what contexts. Where is the faith? Where is the belief in what I don't have warrant to believe? Again: belief implies that I believe that it really is so, not simply that I can provisionally act on it, or not argue the point.

LindaCullerton

01/26/2007 04:18:57 PM

The gift in this forun is the ability to read multiple sides of a thought and make ones own mind up. I believe this is one of the best I have ever read. Thank you.

jacknky

01/26/2007 03:48:18 PM

nad2, "religion is not science, and anyone trying to prove something factual to you (including the factual existence of God) scientifically through religion is misguided." I don't think you'll find many atheists/agnostics trying to use science to "prove" the existence of God. Some theists do such as Creationists.

jacknky

01/26/2007 03:36:39 PM

Sewell, "I personally find contradictions easier to find if I pay more attention to input than to process but that may just be a style thing." Thank you for your reply. Perhaps a less dualistic approach would be to pay attention to all of it, what you're calling "input" and "process". It would be a goal anyway.

jacknky

01/26/2007 03:32:24 PM

nad2, "to say there is no truth in religion (the gospels particularly here), in my mind, is the same as saying there is no truth in poetry or art or literature." Many of us wouldn't say there is NO truth in religion. There are human truths in many places including art, poetry and literature. One difference is that poetry, art and literature don't claim to be the Voice of God. "Love on another" is a human truth. One doesn't have to believe in a supernatural "truth" to see that.

sewells1951

01/26/2007 03:04:31 PM

Again, from dictionary.com I am using the following definition for faith. Belief that is not based on proof.

sewells1951

01/26/2007 03:01:07 PM

Plunge, your last post made a little more sense. Please post the definition of belief that you are using.

sewells1951

01/26/2007 02:58:21 PM

When I am say that everyone has faith, that can be construed as a shorter construction of the following. Every sentient being has confidence in the truth or existence of things which confidence that sentient being has not gained by engaging in a sequence of steps, statements or demonstrations leading to a valid conclusion. That is a true statement.

plunge

01/26/2007 02:57:02 PM

Hume does not insist that we can't help "believing" it. He insists that we can't help but employing it, because we don't have anything better or more useful to go on. That's simply not the same thing as believing it as an article of faith. The idea that Hume would both "believe" the result of an induction at the same time he's arguing that it isn't ever conclusive is plainly nonsensical. The whole point is realizing that induction is incomplete so that you DON'T absolutely believe it anymore (which then becomes the WHOLE PREMISE of why the scientific method insists on litterally endless testing and retesting and so forth). You can't fit those two contradictory ideas in the same brain. It makes no sense.

tinisoli

01/26/2007 02:52:42 PM

Santa? Are you there?

sewells1951

01/26/2007 02:50:54 PM

Plunge, Dictionary.com gives definitions of belief as follows: 1 - Something believed, an opinion or conviction. 2 - Confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof. 3 - confidence; faith; trust 4 - a religious tenet or tenets it gives the definition of proof, as I am using the term; i.e. to indicate complete certainty,, as follows: a sequence of steps, statements, or demonstrations that leads to a valid conclusion.

sewells1951

01/26/2007 02:44:44 PM

Plunge, hmmm, I can argue that is what Hume did because in fact it is what he did. You might want to try reading some Hume. Simplistically put, one of his basic points is that while induction isn't 'reliable' we cannot help believing it. Either I am just dense or your arguments are becoming more incoherent as they proress.

plunge

01/26/2007 02:11:04 PM

sewells, the fact is, you have claimed that all people believe things that they cannot prove, and that this is faith. This is false. No one needs to "believe" anything out of warrant from what they know. One does not need to believe in their own existence as a truth claim: not even to live their lives. By the inverse of your own definition, if a person doesn't believe or assert something as being true, then they don't have faith. So how can you possibly argue that someone like Hume who ASSERTS that induction is not conclusive proof, "believes" in induction. The idea is simply contradictory.

tinisoli

01/26/2007 02:04:07 PM

What is the difference between belief in God and belief in Santa Claus?

nad2

01/26/2007 01:50:35 PM

tinisoli: "Why should we think that religious faith is discernible from, say, the wholly "passionate" beliefs of John Hinckley Jr. when he shot Ronald Reagan." here we go again, if i understand you, by faith you mean belief, which sam also says at the outset, but then you go on to treat 'religion' as including just this type of faith, which you cannot do. as for your questioning the existence of god, enlightened scientific ways of knowing (spanking new to humanity, by the way) cannot prove this, and you refuse to use any other way of proof, or at least through enlightened scientific method you can make a case why all other ways are fallible. religion is not science, and anyone trying to prove something factual to you (including the factual existence of God) scientifically through religion is misguided.

tinisoli

01/26/2007 01:41:53 PM

Indeed. She's darn purty.

jd70

01/26/2007 01:36:25 PM

tinisoli: "I want to know why belief in God is more deserving of trust, respect, and tolerance than belief in the divinity of, say, Jodi Foster." I just don't know. I'd put more trust in the latter for appearance reasons myself.

nad2

01/26/2007 01:35:23 PM

"sorry if this view doesn't fit into your fundamentalist or moderate religious categorizations but that gives you no right to argue about religion as though it doesn't exist." sorry, by "it" i did not mean religion, i meant views like mine within 'religion' that i think are not taken into account in this exchange by Sam - he inevitably reverts back to factuality as what is meant by truth within 'religion.' it would be like saying 'politicians favor pulling out of iraq' when really you mean 'democrats favor pulling our of iraq.' perhaps it is the semantics and i do not fit into what he argues against, but there are a significant number of us 'religious' folks who use words like 'truth' in our parlence differently than we he says 'religious people' do.

sewells1951

01/26/2007 01:25:05 PM

jacknky, I don't pretend to know much about meditation. In principle, all reality is inextricably connected and contradictions don't exist outside mental operations so, in theory, it shouldn't matter whether one looks inward or outward, one should get to the same result. I personally find contradictions easier to find if I pay more attention to input than to process but that may just be a style thing.

tinisoli

01/26/2007 01:21:36 PM

nad2, I've been reading and contributing to this thread for a few days now, and not once have I read a post suggesting religion doesn't exist. Several of us, however, have called into question the existence of god and the supernatural, which seem to be the backbones of religion. What we are asking (as Harris is of Sullivan) is, Why should we think that religious faith is discernible from, say, the wholly "passionate" beliefs of John Hinckley Jr. when he shot Ronald Reagan. I'm not asking what the difference is between the substance or outcome of Christianity versus an obsession with Jodi Foster, nor is this a matter of scale or popularity. I want to know why belief in God is more deserving of trust, respect, and tolerance than belief in the divinity of, say, Jodi Foster.

godma

01/26/2007 01:20:53 PM

I meant "not accounting for" in the first paragraph. Sorry

godma

01/26/2007 01:20:16 PM

nad2, I think those are somewhat valid points, except that the usage of "faith" you're accusing Sam of accounting for is explicitly not the one he is arguing against. Faith has a variety of meanings, and Sam is only taking issue with faith in the sense of being a method for justification of belief. Similarly, how factually accurate people have or have not believed religion to be in the distant past is not part of his argument. Rather, it's about how (some) people justify their religious beliefs today by a standard less tied to evidence than what they would insist on for any of their other beliefs. His claim boils down to this: Faith is a very unreliable and unsafe means for justification of belief, so we should discourage its use as such.

nad2

01/26/2007 12:54:24 PM

Part III: for many practicing religious people, faith is not the same as 'belief' but far closer to humility, surrender and loving relationship with the great life force and all it encompasses. so what is the bible? a sacred group of letters, poetry, rules, and stories of a particular group of people's attempt at expressing and responding to this faith, and i affirm it contains truth apart from its factuality and its jagged edges. is it flawed? i can answer that the same way i can of everything else, from science to the empire state building to huckleberry finn to yoga - it's human. sorry if this view doesn't fit into your fundamentalist or moderate religious categorizations but that gives you no right to argue about religion as though it doesn't exist.

nad2

01/26/2007 12:54:11 PM

Part II: do i, as a professing and deeply passionate christian, believe jesus was factually born of a virgin? no, nor, do i think, did the authors of these accounts who were telling stories of jesus the same way romans told stories of their rulers being sired from their gods. it is a way of telling a story to get at things we have a hard time saying adequately through fact-harnessed language. to say there is no truth in religion (the gospels particularly here), in my mind, is the same as saying there is no truth in poetry or art or literature. truth and fact are not necessarily measures of the same thing. marcus borg, a regular contributor here and one who's views i have often adopted significantly as my own, tells a wonderful story of a native american way of storytelling that starts something like this, 'i don't know if it really happened this way, but what i am about to tell you is true.'

nad2

01/26/2007 12:53:52 PM

Part I: i think Sam and, to a lesser extent Andrew, are talking past a significant (albeit minority) group of 'religious people.' andrew's point that 'truth' can be pursued outside of scientific ways of knowing (eg history - my cup of tea) is going down the right track. but sam's repeated insistence on a christian claim to factual accuracy of the stories of its tradition paints with too broad a brush and ignores completely pre-enlightment ways of thinking (through which the vast majority of 'religion' developed) that weren't so concerned with scientific ways of knowing.

jacknky

01/26/2007 12:46:35 PM

Sewell, "There is a way to discriminate. That is called the scientific method and the application of reason." There's another way... Mindfulness meditation. Instead of observing the mind from the outside, as science does, we can learn to observe from, well, the inside, as meditation does. For example, when I had meditated for a number of years I could begin to see more ways that I and others are similar. That aroused my empathy and compassion much more than reading about the need for compassion in a (holy?) book.

jacknky

01/26/2007 12:35:49 PM

tinisoli, "Ursula Goodenough, a cell biologist from WashU, wrote a lyrical ode to nature as a kind of argument that the awe you have for your wife or the awe she has for cellular processes is "religious" experience." I heard her speak at our university and I was moved enough to buy and read her book. At the time I wasn't as secure in my skepticism so I appreciated her thoughts. I think she perhaps was speaking more to those of a religious bent and perhaps finding some common ground.

sewells1951

01/26/2007 12:34:31 PM

What I have said is the every person believes things for which they have no proof and hence that every person has faith. That is a true statement. The only kind of faith to which I object is unjustified faith. The best way to tell unjustified faith from justified faith is the application of reason and the scientific method.

tinisoli

01/26/2007 11:48:57 AM

It's lame that Sullivan thinks that any scientific work requires both experimentation and control groups. Unfortunately he asks us to take it on faith that he's correct when he says that he believes in science and evolution, or understands how they work. It's like how Lehigh University professor Michael Behe, a proponent of Intelligent Design, is deemed credible (by some) solely because he has a Ph.D. and is a biologist. It matters not one bit that the logic he employs is terrible, or that he fails to understand how natural selection works despite knowing a lot about flagellae. Sullivan wants to have it both ways, while failing to prove his grasp of science and failing to show why his faith is any more worthy of attention than the delusions of Son of Sam. To Sullivan, it would seem, anything that gives anyone a feeling that they can loosely define as "knowledge" is legitimate, whether the mode of acquisition is math, science, history, psychedelic drugs, or magic. It's all good to him.

tinisoli

01/26/2007 11:37:04 AM

Couldn't agree more.

sewells1951

01/26/2007 11:26:36 AM

tinisoli, I agree that the kind of faith Mr. Sullivan is discussing is unjustified. I just want to be clear that sentient beings cannot avoid having faith and cannot avoid acting on faith. That is one of the reasons why people are so likely to have mistaken faith. We are steeped in it. We are used to having to accept things as so that are subject to sometimes large degrees of uncertainty It's the most natural thing in the world to have faith. We are no more aware of acting on faith in most cases than we are of our is breathing. What's unusual is to understand that there is a way to discriminate between justified and unjustified faith. What's unusual is to realize that unjustified faith can be as bad for one as breathing thru a lit cigarette. You do indeed have to breathe but no, you really DON'T have to light up while you're at it. There is a way to discriminate. That is called the scientific method and the application of reason.

tinisoli

01/26/2007 11:02:23 AM

The faith that each and every human uses every day to go about the business of living on Earth is different from religious faith. The former is based on common experience and evidence that is available for anyone to analyze or test (and instincts obviously play a huge role, too); the latter isn't. A toddler may at first fear descending a playground slide on his own, but after giving it a try with is daddy he may be able to take it on faith that he can go it alone and not be swallowed by a monster at the bottom, or whatever. A fisherman may have faith that if he sets out a longline baited with squid overnight on the Grand Banks that the next morning he'll have some swordfish and bigeye tuna. But that faith didn't come out of thin air. It is backed up by experience and evidence. Stating "there is a god and he is returning to Earth to smite the wicked" is a very different thing, and it absolutely deserves skepticism.

sewells1951

01/26/2007 10:58:59 AM

Plunge, there are lots of ways to be sound, and hence to be justified as a basis for action, without being proven. Probablistic reasoning, depending upon assurances from trusted sources, etc. But, you need to be rigorous, and honest, yourself. The definition of faith is critically bound up with proof. If a proposition is taken in the absence of proof then it is taken on faith. That, simply speaking, is a definitional issue. I use the dictionary definition. You are using something else. I don't know. Maybe you don't like faith or something. Doesn't matter. If you hold a belief that isn't proven, you hold it on faith, by definition. Please don't try telling people that you have proofs for every belief you have. That's ludicrous.

plunge

01/26/2007 10:19:15 AM

sewells, you're just not being honest with yourself. Acting on inductive reasoning even though you know it's not 100% sound is not acting on faith. I mean, all you have to do is read the previous sentence to see that it is not. Your whole definition is that people _believe_ that something is true, but then how do you even explain how Hume could reason as he does if he _believed_ inductive reasoning isn't sound? Your whole argument is self-refuting. It just isn't necessary to be anything other than realistic about what we know and don't know. Yes, we have to act on things all the time, but we don't have to believe or assert a false degree of confidence in this or that fact.

sewells1951

01/26/2007 09:53:51 AM

Plunge, I stick with a dictionary definition of faith; i.e., belief in something that has not been proven. We can argue silly semantics about provisional acceptance, etc. etc. but you and I both know that, given the dictionary definition of the word, every non-impaired human being alive or that has ever lived has acted on faith every day and indeed most every moment of their life. Hume explained the problem with induction a few hundred years ago. Inductions cannot be proven true and we act on them all the time. That, according to the dictionary, is faith. You want to have your own private definition of faith, then go ahead.

sewells1951

01/26/2007 09:47:40 AM

What simply cannot be the case is that the contradiction, the lack of consilience, is hunky dory and things are ok jake. People who wish to believe in an omnipotent creator god have an obligation to explain how such beliefs justify modifying what we know about logic if they wish to be taken at all seriously. Just as anyone who wished to convince us that 2 + 2 might legitimately = 5 needs to explain why their beliefs compel a modification of the basics of arithmetic. People can beat around the bush all they want but the logical implication of belief in an omnipotent creator god is that there is no such thing as a false statement.

plunge

01/26/2007 09:44:09 AM

"I think any reasonable person would agree that faith is inescapable for a sentient being since faith is simply "a belief in something that is not proven". It is only inescapable if one equivocates about what a "belief" is. We are discussing faith in regards to factual matters like "does a god exist or not." Pointing out that some people believe that "steak is tasty!" or even "I have faith in your honesty" is simply changing the subject. "As mentioned before, a sentient being cannot "prove" its own existence but also cannot escape belief in it." It's been mentioned before, but it is false. There is no reason to "believe" in ones existence in the sense that we must assert that it is so. We can simply agree, provisionally, to treat it as so for the purposes of discussion. No faith is required. The fact is that this is NOT what believers are doing with faith: they insist that their beliefs are, in fact TRUE.

sewells1951

01/26/2007 09:38:40 AM

To be even more specific, faith that is not consilient with reason is a problem in exactly the same way and for exactly the same reasons that chemistry that is not consilient with quantum mechanics is a problem. A less fundamental domain cannot contradict the more fundamental domain upon which it is predicated and from which it springs. When such a contradiction seems to exist it is always the case that the heuristic or insight or induction or rule of thumb in the higher level domain is either defective or that fundamental concepts of the lower level domain are inadequate or malformed.

tinisoli

01/26/2007 09:35:52 AM

jackny: Ursula Goodenough, a cell biologist from WashU, wrote a lyrical ode to nature as a kind of argument that the awe you have for your wife or the awe she has for cellular processes is "religious" experience. It was a pleasant read, her book, but it was an unfortunate choice of hers to try and get religion to let her into the fold rather than simply claim that the experiences she and other atheists have are emotionally identical to the rapture of the religious. I think she was compelled to merge theism and atheism in part because her dad was a famous religious studies prof at Yale, or something like that. Anyhow, I'm glad the argument now seems to be heading toward "Why are you so convinced that your religious experiences are unique to the realm of magical thanking, theism, and a relationship to God?"

sewells1951

01/26/2007 09:30:29 AM

Mr. Sullivan said, "My point here is to say that once you have conceded the possibility of a truth that is not reducible to empirical proof, you have allowed for the validity of religious faith as a form of legitimate truth-seeking in a different mode. " Mr. Sullivan neglects the notion of consilience in his approach. It's defined as "The agreement of two or more inductions drawn from different sets of data; concurrence". I think any reasonable person would agree that faith is inescapable for a sentient being since faith is simply "a belief in something that is not proven". As mentioned before, a sentient being cannot "prove" its own existence but also cannot escape belief in it. It isn't that faith is bad, ugly, unjustified per se. It is faith that is not consilient with reason that is problematic.

plunge

01/26/2007 09:16:47 AM

Andrew also makes liberal use of the most tedious equivocations: trying to weasel around the word "truth" by first defining things that are true in different senses (judgments, formal math) to try and justify his desire to call religious beliefs a sort of knowledge. The truth of religious beliefs is that people truly experience having them and truly like having them. But this is not what believers like Andrew mean or assert when they say things like "God has been in touch with you." No: those are claims of real, actionable knowledge. And those claims, being based on nothing more than belief, ARE irrational, and it is not "intolerant" to point that out unless it is somehow intolerant to point out any sort of dishonesty or error.

plunge

01/26/2007 09:16:22 AM

Another deeply disappointing response from Andrew. It seems as if, because he doesn't really have any direct respond to Harris' actual points that he instead has to keep returning to the pure non-sequitur that somehow the fact that science in particular cannot address or answer every question in life gives reason to the idea that claims of _knowledge_ based on religious belief deserve special respect and protection from criticism.

jacknky

01/26/2007 08:43:11 AM

tinisoli, "It'll really be something if theists could admit to the possibility that their "spiritual" experiences are identical to the experiences of atheists." Wonderful post. Thank you. I'm reminded of theists pointing to their sense of awe at the wonders of the Universe as "proof" of God. Yet I feel wonder at the Universe, at my life, my love for my wife, for being alive. But I see no God. Is my awe less profound than theirs?

jacknky

01/26/2007 08:36:30 AM

Sheri, "but I don't know about churches smuggling drugs(refering to one of jacknky's posts before departure);" Sorry, I should have been more specific. I was referring to the law allowing Native American tribes to use peyote in their religious rituals. I personally think that's the right thing to do. I just think the rest of us should not be jailed for using peyote either. The point is this is another exception to our laws for religion.

Iwantamotto

01/25/2007 10:00:01 PM

wow, Christianity as LOTR fanaticism. That's a new image ... but eerily relevant and quite amusing.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 08:14:12 PM

I think that for some believers for whom the hold of religion is somewhat tenuous, the specter of having a "void" in their lives is a compelling reason to stick with church, praying, the routine of it, etc. This is another way in which the language favors the theists: they HAVE something, and that something is supposedly irreplaceable and beyond compare; therefore, if they lose it or give it up, or fail to claim it, there'll be nothing left in its place. Hence the myth of the atheist walking around with a hole in his heart, or whatever. It'll really be something if theists could admit to the possibility that their "spiritual" experiences are identical to the experiences of atheists. Sullivan and so many theists are so covetous of their religious epiphanies and joy, it reminds me of Gollum and the ring of power in Lord of the Rings.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 08:09:15 PM

It'll be interesting to see how Sullivan and other believers will respond to the inevitable (and imminent) determination of the neurological and genetic components of faith and faithlessness. Will they say "Fine, but I still know God is real" or will they accept the "physical" basis and not think it incompatible with their immaterial faith? Somehow I suspect Sullivan will be fine with it but many others will not. It's just too bad that at the present time so much of our language on these issues is such that Sullivan can smugly consider himself as "having" something that Harris doesn't (faith versus "no faith"). And already these people are foreseeing the genetic issue as "god gene" versus "lacking the god gene." To theists, atheists are missing or missing out on all kinds of things.

namchuck

01/25/2007 07:18:19 PM

Excellent posts, tinisoli! Sam Harris is right, the only thing that believers from either end of the religious spectrum - fundamentalist to moderate - have in common is an "insufficient taste for evidence". I suppose that some people are driven by a simple will to believe. For such people, religion fulfils a basic desire to be religious. Other people are not so constituted. There are some for whom knowledge is more compelling than mere belief.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 06:32:13 PM

Still no reason given for why he believes in God, or why he reads the Bible, or why any of it is legitimate or worthy of respect or tolerance. Instead he hones in on a loophole he thinks Harris has given him, and he gives the typical 'God is everything' flimflam and creates his own harmless, happy, personalized version of Catholocism with the implication being that Harris wouldn't complain about religion if only people were as reasonable and humble as Sullivan is about his faith. The guy just oozes narcissism. Meanwhile, millions of Christians--including the "vast majority of human beings who have ever lived" (what a statement!)--would never allow Sullivan the title of "Christian" unless he renounced his homosexuality.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 06:01:48 PM

Another disappointing response by Sullivan. He cannot seem to grasp that Harris does not argue that science is everything and the only thing, and that Harris is not denying him the right to have faith in that which cannot be proven. And he's always way too focused on his own brand of Christianity (in which God is this all-encompassing and fairly benign force) to address the central issue which is the problems we get when people DO think that God is knowable, that holy books absolutely ARE true books of divine instruction, and so on.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 05:33:12 PM

I just would have no idea how they would go about establishing that (if not a gene or something). Would it be found in the body somewhere; what would it be? Maybe I will check out the article. Thanks for the Bible study, GTG again. Later.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 05:31:02 PM

The Discovery Institute is home to the Intelligent Design movement. Creationists.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 05:30:32 PM

sorry, sewells1951, not sewelss1951.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 05:30:03 PM

I have no idea who's on the board.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 05:29:34 PM

If you're curious, read the article. But if you'll only accept free will as something that is entirely immaterial, don't bother.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 05:29:21 PM

tinisoli, do you know if jd70 and sewelss1951 left the board with jacknky?

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 05:28:09 PM

and what is Discovery Institute? I've never heard of that.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 05:26:58 PM

Science is looking into something immaterial? How can that be established (outside a religious context) if not based on genes or instincts? I'm not trying to be petulent; I'm intrigued.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 05:20:07 PM

sheri, here's what you wrote about free will: "having free will or not is a religious concept, not a scientific one. There's no such thing in science as "free will," only genes, instincts and biological determinations." I said that science is still looking into this (in multiple fields and on multiple fronts). If you would like to read about this, see the New York Times, January 2, article by dennis Overbye.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 05:15:21 PM

And I don't know about superior - I never said anything like that - but, I DO feel that I have a congruent understanding of Scripture, or else why would I follow it?

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 05:13:12 PM

Do you know something about science discovering whether we do or do not have free will, tinisoli, that I haven't heard? please enlighten me.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 05:11:17 PM

I support the investigations into child molestation and the imprisonment of ministers who embezzle, and I oppose animal and human sacrifice (as murder). No I do not feel that the church is above such scrutiny or exempt from following the laws of the rest of society; but I don't know about churches smuggling drugs(refering to one of jacknky's posts before departure); and I'm not going to beat that women/gay ministers horse to death - the church does enough of that itself within its own halls.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 05:10:38 PM

I wasn't being paranoid. I was pointing out that you regard your readings of the Bible as (dare I say) superior in their interpretation of both words and context. You obviously have an "interpretation" or excuse for anything in your good book, even the most explicitly cruel and barbaric passages. We might as well abandon this discussion. BTW, the scientific jury is still out re: free will. Where do you get your science info? Discovery Institute?

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 05:03:23 PM

see my 4:36 p.m. post, tinisoli. Again, we're not dealing with Muslims murdering Jews because they're Jewish her. This is about jews keeping other Jews inline within their own community; and, Christians understand the Old Testament to be a skeleton of the New, which fleshes out the apparent absurdities (Gal.3.19-25). these passages of death speak to the believer of distancing oneself from anything offensive to God(Mark 9.42-50). And no, I don't feel that I am "twisting" the scriptures because I give not only the reference, but the context. But don't be so paranoid; I was speaking in general terms, not refering specifically to anyone posting here.

jd70

01/25/2007 04:59:03 PM

If these verses were in another book. Lets say "Bobs book for living" they would be rejected without question, but since they are in the Bible they are accepted.

jd70

01/25/2007 04:54:11 PM

Sheri: So because they were Jewish it makes it OK. I am just trying to understand.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 04:54:05 PM

We disown our children who really, really disappoint, and are disappointed in, us, and who want nothing to do with us; but, that's a weak analogy since we're simply human, biased by our limited perceptions regarding our feelings. Furthermore, there are nuances scripturally as to whether all human beings are God's children. Since we have a biological tie, technically, our children will always be our children. In Christianity, we experience a spiritual, not physical or biological, adoption to become God's children, which we can free-will sever the ties to. (Heb.4.1-13).

tinisoli

01/25/2007 04:52:01 PM

More peace, love, and happiness: "All who curse their father or mother must be put to death. They are guilty of a capital offense." (Leviticus 20:9 NLT)

tinisoli

01/25/2007 04:49:25 PM

Can't help but notice, sheri, that when someone uses the Bible to say something you disagree with that they are "twisting it to suit their purposes" whereas when you explain the verses to us you are, I can only assume, NOT twisting them?

tinisoli

01/25/2007 04:46:59 PM

Is it safe to say, sheri, that you will "interpret" any of the murderous verses of the Bible so that they are no longer murderous? How about this one: "Yes, keep the Sabbath day, for it is holy. Anyone who desecrates it must die; anyone who works on that day will be cut off from the community. Work six days only, but the seventh day must be a day of total rest. I repeat: Because the LORD considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death." (Exodus 31:12-15 NLT)

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 04:46:32 PM

tinisoli, your scriptural example of exucution only confirms my post that killing was only permitted for crimes, which in a theocratic society (which the biblical Old Testament people lived in), those crimes would also be religious, since there was no separation of church and state. But there is no presumption that any in their midst are of another faith; all the lawbreakers were still Jewish, none of the killing of anyone who's of another religious group, like you insinuate, as we have in our modern pluralistic society.

sewells1951

01/25/2007 04:45:28 PM

Whether sentient beings have a choice about what they do, believe, etc. or whether their actions are predetermined.

jacknky

01/25/2007 04:44:55 PM

Gotta go. I've enjoyed the discussion. Peace...

jacknky

01/25/2007 04:44:00 PM

Sheri, "Many passages in Scripture can and have been misused, if you want to twist them to fit your purposes, rather than seeing them as part of a whole consistent picture. I still don't see commands to kill;" I wonder, if the Bible was written as an ethical guide by God, why it would be so difficult and contradictory. God loves us but he's going to cast most of us into a lake of fire? Would you do that to your children? If your child stole candy would you shoot him? I know, I know. He's God and we can't understand.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 04:40:34 PM

"Free will," as bantered about in religious vs. non-religious circles concerns whther people are pre-destined by an omniscient God. What do you mean by it?

jacknky

01/25/2007 04:39:37 PM

sewell, "Completely don't get why free will would be a religious concept instead of a scientific one" I believe the concept is used to justify torturing souls for all eternity. If we didn't have free will we wouldn't "deserve" hell. On the other hand there are plenty of Bible verses that indicate we are pre-ordained who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. In fact, I wonder if there are any verses that speak of "free will". Does anyone know of any? (Not that it matters. In most every other issue there are contradictory Bible verses.)

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 04:38:54 PM

Here's how my John 15.6 reads: "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out (my understanding is by Jesus) as a branch and is withered; and they gather them (I take to be the withered branches) and throw them into the fire (the fire that Jesus would throw them into would be the lake of fire (Rev.19.20;21.10,14,15;21.8), and they are burned." I see Jesus making an analogy here as to how He/God will treat the disobedient much as we burn withered, dried up branches. If you look at the context of the entire passage (Jn.15.1-11), you will see that the only parties involved are God and the servant that Jesus is commanding to stay obedient/committed to Him. Many passages in Scripture can and have been misused, if you want to twist them to fit your purposes, rather than seeing them as part of a whole consistent picture. I still don't see commands to kill; there are way too many pasages telling us to love each other (cont. of the above in Jn.15.12-14; I Jn.3.10-18).

sewells1951

01/25/2007 04:32:40 PM

Sheri, not sure where you are coming from. I am not religious but I have a concept of free will. Free will could definitely be studied scientifically. Could be grounded in the study of chaotic systems. Could be grounded in neurobiology. Could even be grounded in physics. Completely don't get why free will would be a religious concept instead of a scientific one.

jacknky

01/25/2007 04:29:00 PM

jD, I believe she is and she's not alone. Religions in fact are exempt from discrimination laws. Other laws too. Religions are free to incorporate illegal drugs that the rest of us would be arrested for.

jd70

01/25/2007 04:26:35 PM

Sheri: Are you saying that it is OK for discrimination laws to not apply to not for profit organizations?

jacknky

01/25/2007 04:25:21 PM

Sheri, "I stand by my post. It is not proper to refer to any not-for-profit duties in a church as employment;" You don't think churches employ people? Do you think the secretarys, youth ministers, choir directors, ministers and so on aren't paid a salary? What else is employment? If denominations openly say that women and homosexuals cannot be ministers what elese is that but discrimination? I remember when they excluded blacks but they don't do that anymore.

jacknky

01/25/2007 04:21:01 PM

Sheri, "Where does "Christianity, as laid out in the Bible"- which only gives the sentence of death to those who break the law...call for the death of its dissidents?" "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch... and men cast them into the fire, and they are burned." (John 15:6) These words, BTW, were the main justification for Christians to burn heretics for about 400 years.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 04:20:58 PM

Here ya go, sheri. Let me know if you want more. "If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. Your hand shall be the first raised to slay him; the rest of the people shall join in with you. You shall stone him to death, because he sought to lead you astray from the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. And all Israel, hearing of this, shall fear and never do such evil as this in your midst. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12 NAB)

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 04:17:54 PM

sewells, having free will or not is a religious concept, not a scientific one. There's no such thing in science as "free will," only genes, instincts and biological determinations.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 04:14:35 PM

jacknky, I stand by my post. It is not proper to refer to any not-for-profit duties in a church as employment; any private organization can and does (e.g. the Boy Scouts)determine its leadership qualifications, skills, and duties. And, you brought up the employment analogy first with the job discrimination. As for the irrational=arational, obviously, I disagree. The former falls within the realm of logic, but does not conform; the latter doesn't even fall into the realm. One who is asexual is not homosexual simply because he is not heterosexual.

sewells1951

01/25/2007 04:13:55 PM

Believe it or not, I actually know a practicing alchemist. From close study, I have concluded that he practices alchemy because he would like for alchemy to be workable, not because it is workable. I find myself reaching the same conclusion vis a vis those of my acquaintances who are religious.

sewells1951

01/25/2007 04:10:06 PM

But, in the case of daily life many people seem unwilling to be concerned when their rules of thumb, insights, or whatever baldly clash with the rules of logic. For we heathen unbelievers, that is as completely incomprehensible as it would be for those same people to practice alchemy. Folks have free will, they certainly can do it if they insist on doing so. The question folk like me have to confront is why would they?

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 04:06:50 PM

tinisoli, please tell me. Where does "Christianity, as laid out in the Bible"- which only gives the sentence of death to those who break the law (our forerunner of capital punishment, Gen 9.6; Exo.21.12-27, from where we get the oft-quoted, taken-out-of-context passage concerning an "eye for an eye," refering to criminal punishment, not personal vengeance)- "call for the death" of its dissidents? the same sacred text that tells us to "love our enemies" (Rom.12.14-21) and to "turn the other cheek" (Matt.5.38-48; Luke 6.20-38) also tells us to kill our enemies? are you sure? I don't think I'm the one picking and choosing out of the text. I think that's the Q'uaran you're thinking about.

jacknky

01/25/2007 04:06:16 PM

Analogies don't work for me.

sewells1951

01/25/2007 04:05:34 PM

However, nobody does chemistry successfully by using rules of thumb or methods that flatly contradict quantum mechanics. One realm is more fundamental than the other. Quantum mechanics is more fundamental than is chemistry. In exactly the same way, nobody uses formal logical analysis for all their day to day activities. We have rules of thumb, insights, etc. for that realm of endeavor.

sewells1951

01/25/2007 04:03:02 PM

Let me continue this line of reasoning by analogy that I believe to be apposite. Chemistry did not come about by a complete mastery of quantum mechanics. Chemistry, in fact, existed long before quantum mechanics. Partly it derived from insight and partly from experiment. Still, for the most part to this day, people don't do chemistry with the tools of quantum mechanics (apologies to the physical chemists among us). Chemistry has it own techniques, methods, rules of thumb, etc.

jacknky

01/25/2007 04:02:41 PM

Sheri, "Oh, and jacknky, do you feel that churches should lose their tax-exempt status as non-profit organizations?" No, I don't. "I don't know of any churches who ban membership, itself, per se. I don't see how that's analogous to job employment however," I was referring to the fact that if a church wants to bar employment to a homosexual they are free to whereas a business is not. If a church wants to bar women from being ministers or priests they are free to do that. Everybody else has to abide by the rules against discrimination.

sewells1951

01/25/2007 04:00:12 PM

Sheri, I would like to weigh in on the arational / irrational issue. It seems clear to me that insight is not a rational process. However, insight is not 100% perfect. It is possible to have insights that are not correct. How then does one determine which insights to trust and which to distrust? The short answer is that there needs to be consistency between realms. To be continued.....

sewells1951

01/25/2007 03:54:24 PM

Grateful, I don't think your criticism of Harris is justified. I think it is clear that Christianity makes claims to moral authority that justify his criticism. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't salvation predicated on accepting not just the "overarching truth" but also the particular tenets of the particular faith? And, are those tenets fungible? What Harris is pointing out is they all make differing claims. Unless those claims can be shown to be equivalent, then they can't all be correct. Are there any Christians out there who REALLY believe that following Muhammad is EXACTLY equivalent of following Christ? None of which I am aware.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 03:52:57 PM

Arational and irrational are the same thing.

childoftheuniverse

01/25/2007 03:51:46 PM

Thanks for the post, jd70. I am also impressed by a lot of what I have read on this thread. Not because the arguments are so impressive (although some of them are), but because the tone has mostly stayed very respectful. I applaud that. Confronting people with whom one disagrees often has the effect of creating respect and tolerance and frequently for finding common ground where you thought there was none.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 03:50:09 PM

sheri, I want to hear about your miracles because it's not everyday that one hears such things, and, in my lifetime, I've never heard of one that required divine intervention. Think of all the Virgin Marys that have appeared in pastries and water-stained windows. In other words, I'm skeptical. I want to hear your story to see if it is, like your bewilderment at how adultery and anti-adultery morality, the product of your belief in magic rather than the result of analysis.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 03:47:51 PM

... and that's the atheistic bias, the "irrationality of faith." Faith is neither rational nor irrational, in and of itself. It is arational.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 03:45:24 PM

I only bristle at the word "hostility" used in what is supposed to be a civil, intellectual debate.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 03:43:37 PM

Oh, and jacknky, do you feel that churches should lose their tax-exempt status as non-profit organizations? And being private institutions, with regards to their creed, they, as any other private organization, determine the 'duties,' within their organization, of its members; but, I don't know of any churches who ban membership, itself, per se. I don't see how that's analogous to job employment however, any more than it's discriminatory to reject the aplication of one who can't lift 70 lbs. on a job that requires heavy lifting. Employers "discriminate" all the time if the job detail is prohibitive of the applicant's qualifications.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 03:43:32 PM

It seems that many theists bristle at criticism and pull out words like "intolerance" and "hate" (or lynch and burn") precisely because the criticism they are now experiencing is something new. And, for some, it must be reminiscent of other assaults (from opposing religions, tribes, etc.) that were indeed murderous and dogmatic and evil. But the difference is, Harris and Dawkins and other thinking atheists are challenging all religions, not specific religions or tribes or sects. And the criticism is directed at the irrational nature of faith--NOT the specifics of the faith or the ethnic/tribal stuff that past religious persecution was about.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 03:37:55 PM

I don't know why you keep enquiring into my "experiences," tinisoli, since neither of us is changing his/her position here.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 03:35:53 PM

jacknky, I refering to tinisoli's assertion (refering to religious beliefs), that "bad ideas" should be "subject to hostility" (see his 2;20p.m. post from today), not to analytical criticism or judgment. You misunderstood me. Maybe I misunderstood his use of the word hostility, but I'm getting the air of wanting to lynch and burn the theists here..

jacknky

01/25/2007 03:20:11 PM

Sheri, "Believing reason to be preeminent over religious sensibilities does not excuse hate towards the religious..." See that's a little of what we're talking about. Since you perceive we're attacking your religious beliefs you perceive we are motivated by hate. We are not allowed to be critical of religious beliefs because... well because they are religious beliefs. One of Harris' points is that the world is too dangerous today to NOT question religious beliefs. I think he has a very good point.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 03:14:36 PM

Grateful929, Notice that you needed to qualify your statment with "many moderate Christians." When Harris writes that "If Christianity is right, all other religions are wrong" he isn't pulling this out of thin air. Just because plenty of theists pick and choose which tenets of their good books they adhere to, that doesn't mean that those books do not also call for the death or punishment of infidels or doubters, or other horribly unreasonable things. Christianity as laid out by the Bible and Islam as laid out by the Koran call for the death of their challengers.

jacknky

01/25/2007 03:14:05 PM

Sheri, "P.S. when has religion ever been given a "free pass" or "protected from criticism"?" Well, a small example would be that religion is exempt from many laws that affect the rest of society. It's against the law to discriminate against people in employment but churches can discriminate against homosexuals and women if they want.

jacknky

01/25/2007 03:09:49 PM

plunge, "If people want religion, that's fine, but it's simply wrong to specially protect it from criticism above all other things simply because it can be good." Thank you. That's part of what I was trying to say. On the other hand, simply because we personally find theism to be wrong for us doesn't necessarily mean it has no value for others who may need it. I don't mean this as facetiously as it sounds, but maybe some of us lack the "belief" gene and others have it. Telling those who have the "belief" gene that their belief is harmful might work about as well as telling us that our atheism is harmful. See what I mean? Maybe a true criteria might be how we use our belief OR non-belief. Do we use it to open up or do we use it to shut down?

jacknky

01/25/2007 03:02:29 PM

Sheri, "The scientist just accepts that it is, with no reason why." With all due respect, you really don't seem to understand the scientific method. BTW, a scientific theory is way more than a guess or what makes us feel good. Electricity and gravity are scientific theories. Scientists don't doubt the Theory of Evolution. The doubters are those who don't, or won't, understand it.

Grateful929

01/25/2007 02:52:22 PM

WTF? OMFG! (Bob Ricci, "She Blocked Me") According to Harris, "If Christianity is right, all other religions are wrong." What kind of absolutist B.S. is that? This is the post that convinced me that Sam Harris has absolutely no idea what he's talking about. Many moderate Christians understand that there is an overarching truth that has many expressions. Mischaracterizing the position of one's opponent is the classic "Straw Man" fallacy (and, IMO, intellectually lazy)!

tinisoli

01/25/2007 02:43:57 PM

I still wish sheri had shared with us her miracle stories. Maybe next time.

jd70

01/25/2007 02:43:04 PM

"I don't remember not being humble in any of this, jd, or insinuating that we were "that different." sheri: I apologize. I did not intend to insinuate that you have not been humble in your posts. God knows I'm not always am. I was rather trying to point out our common ground.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 02:33:35 PM

There's no air of superiority here. Yes, lots of non-religous ideas are terrible and violent. The difference is, most of those get a healthy dose of criticism and, if they're found to be bad, they are scorned, outlawed, destroyed. Religions have been sheltered from this kind of skepticism or criticism for a long time. Harris' thesis is that there's no good reason to not challenge religion, just as there's no good reason to not challenge the bases of political movements, scientific theories, or any of the big -isms.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 02:29:00 PM

We will never have the world we all seek as long as we continue to perpetuate "hostility" and instigate anger, intolerance and hate, even if "we' feel that there is a rational basis for doing so. Believing reason to be preeminent over religious sensibilities does not excuse hate towards the religious any more than violence motivated by hate from the religious towards the non-religious. Believing the "wrong" things or not believing the "right" things should not engender hostility from either party. And on that note, GTG until next time.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 02:23:45 PM

and what "bad" ideas do you have that are not being scrutinized under a microscope? The religious are not the only harbingers of hate, that leads to acts of violence. How can you speak with such air of moral superiority? Oh, having the rational superiority automatically grants you that, I guess.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 02:20:20 PM

The idea is simply that bad ideas should NOT be sheltered from analysis or criticism (or hostility) just because the idea is a) popular, b) old, c) based on unproveable premises, or d) identified alongside ideas that are not bad.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 02:20:18 PM

Sullivan's point is just that, agreement with Harris fundamentalist-motivated violence should not be tolerated. But the fundamentalism itself should be just as free to be held as his moderate Christianity or Harris' atheism. Where is the good in silencing those with whom you disagree, although allowing that some good can come of their beliefs, just because you don't accept the rationale for their beliefs? Sounds like Communism all over again, and stinks hypocritically of the critiques of the Salem witch hunts, trials, and burnings of "heretics," and the Crusades.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 02:14:46 PM

I don't see how you can post about "tolerance of religion" in general, implying that one should be intolerant, and also talk about the injustices and cruelties perpetuated by the intolerances of the religious towards the non-religious. Isn't intolerance, itself, the problem here? or is that virtue only reserved for the holders of "rational" beliefs, dtermined by themselves to be such?

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 02:11:06 PM

Is that what we do when we criticize the jihadists, for irrational, religiouly-motivated beliefs? we give them a "free pass"?

tinisoli

01/25/2007 02:09:54 PM

That's because Harris thinks tolerance of religion (popularized, tax-exempt irrational beliefs) is more like "live and let die." And in many ways he is right. It seems that irrational beliefs, even explicitly violent and war-mongering ones, are indeed given a free pass so long as they are religious.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 02:08:40 PM

P.S. when has religion ever been given a "free pass" or "protected from criticism"? And to whom, is it to be "justifiable"?

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 02:05:18 PM

plunge, you mention that " if people want religion, then fine," an opiate of the masses, if you will. But Harris argues that- the reason why we are debating here today, his article with Andrew Sullivan - that it is harmful in all of its forms, moderate or fundamentalist, leads to violence, etc. That's not a "live and let live" philosophy.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 02:01:07 PM

This is not a matter of being "correct," as you put it, so much as it is one of discovery. One has to be willing to step outside of the known processes of empirical discovery, however, to attain what I feel that I "know" from my own experiences.

plunge

01/25/2007 02:00:39 PM

jacknky, again, the issue is not "but religion is one way that works for people" but rather whether the irrationality of religion is itself justifiable, or should get a free pass, because certain other good side things can come of it. It isn't and shouldn't. If people want religion, that's fine, but it's simply wrong to specially protect it from criticism above all other things simply because it can be good. So can lots of things.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 01:58:49 PM

sewells, I wouldn't say that there HAS to be a cause for the universe. As I said before, for you, it doesn't. What you want to know is why I and others theists hold the matter of faith that we believe that there is.

plunge

01/25/2007 01:53:46 PM

"The theist postulates a "why."" That's simply one more layer of abstraction, and equally as unexplained. It gets nothing for its effort over the universe simply existing. Either things can just exist or they can't. Furthermore, if the theist really insists that there must be more, then their "why" is, if anything, a great lack of imagination. There is no reason at all that any hypothetical cause has to be anything of the sort of thing we'd call a god, or even anything particularly interesting at all. The presumption that there is one and one only answer to the "why" question: the theist answer, is if anything, just very small-minded.

sewells1951

01/25/2007 01:50:42 PM

Sheri, we agree that not everything has to have a cause. What I am asking for is an explanation for why it is correct to say god didn't need a cause instead of saying the universe didn't need a cause. For my part, it is more parsimonius to say the universe didn't need a cause than it is to postulate that the universe needs a cause but this extra entity named god doesn't. I don't postulate the additional entity in the interest of parsimony. What is your reason for saying the universe does need a cause but that it's creator doesn't?

tinisoli

01/25/2007 01:47:21 PM

sheri, Atheists postulate "why?" just as much as theists do, if not moreso (and certainly in a more useful way, as we can actually find evidence to work with and build upon). Our "why?" just doesn't end with a supernatural, unproveable answer.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 01:46:44 PM

I respect for that tinisoli.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 01:44:39 PM

sewells, "I certainly don't hold that the universe had a cause." for you, that ultimate uncaused is the universe itself; but, for the theist, the explanation has already been given as to why the God that s/he postulates does not have to have one any more thasn you feel that the universe does. It is not necessarily an argument ad infinitum, as you say that it logically has to be.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 01:41:36 PM

sewells, therein lies the difference between the theist and the atheist. the theist maintains that the Creator is the ultimate, eternal, whereas, you maintain that the universe is. The reason that the theists "brings in" God, if you will, is the ultimte rationale for the whole process of things. The scientist just accepts that it is, with no reason why. The theist postulates a "why."

tinisoli

01/25/2007 01:38:14 PM

Not once have I said that there is no God, or that evolution is the negation of Creationism. I've merely pointed out that there is no evidence of god and that Creation as defined by Genesis is out of synch with evidence (what we "know" in a way that is rather different from what you "know" from faith) about the origins of the universe and the evolution of life on our planet. SolusCado would like it if we gave Genesis some points for at least having some of the right elements in there, but this is like giving the MVP award to a .220 hitter. The difference between you and I is that you have faith in the unproveable and you regard that faith as complementary to your sense of reason. I do not have faith in the unproveable, and I regard religious faith as being so frequently contradictory of both itself and the evidence that it is most definitely not a complement to reason.

sewells1951

01/25/2007 01:32:34 PM

Sheri, how to say this? I agree that it is not contradictory to hold that not everything has a cause. I certainly don't hold that the universe had a cause. What I do think is that one wants consistency. If one thinks the universe had to have a cause, then one is intellectually committed to believing that whatever caused the universe had a cause or to explain why that is an exception to the needing to have a cause rule. All I'm saying is that you can't really have it both ways. Either there is something that was uncaused or there isn't anything that is uncaused. If you accept that not everything has to have a cause (as you obviously do) then why postulate a god to cause it? If there can be something that didn't need a cause, then why could that something just be the universe instead of a creator god?

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 01:29:44 PM

I don't remember not being humble in any of this, jd, or insinuating that we were "that different." I am not the one positing the non-existence of anything on this board, as though it were a matter of proven fact, or stating that I didn't accept evolution, only that the negation, "Creation is necessarily false" I reject. i maintain that it is the atheists on this board, who decry the theists of their absolutist assertions, who are truly making the absolutist claims, and therefore, are being quite hypocritical. I accept the things that i believe that are not supported by empirical study, on faith; those that I believe that are supported, I don't need faith for. Believing in such a God entails the belief that maybe some things aren't as they seem, or at least, that God could make them so/be inscrutable.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 01:29:03 PM

sheri, Your definition of the creator is the equivalent of draping any unknown "something" around all known things. Why not drape another thing around Him? Why not add another layer to the onion? Oh right... because He is everything and everywhere. Mmm. Let's hear about your miracles.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 01:23:31 PM

jackny: I agree wholeheartedly. I'd add that it is also disingenuous to say that Creationism is a hypothesis or theory, unless these two words can--like "Earth" and "fowl" and "moving creatures that hath life"--be defined to mean whatever one wants or needs them to mean. I wish, for example, that Sullivan had bothered to mention what he meant by "truth" when he wrote "God is truth." He is a good writer and is paid handsomely to think deeply about important things, but this was ane extremely lazy thing to say, as was his argument about God definitionally being the creator.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 01:22:33 PM

there is nothing cantradictory, sewells, in saying that God has no Creator, but is the Creator of all things/matter, fro which come all things that we can see/feel/know/etc. He is the eternal substance, yet able to transcend our empiricism, such that we cannot scientifically discover Him.

OmarKhayyam

01/25/2007 01:18:20 PM

Garry has it right. Sam is just tsking this guy apart point by point. This is not debate this is humiliation.

jacknky

01/25/2007 01:11:54 PM

SolusCado, "but to condemn others because they have selected a different hypothesis than you is hypocritical." "Condemn" and "hypocritical" are such harsh words. Certainly we can all here get worked up in the heat of discussion and say harsh things. But in the end we are challenging each other. I want to be challenged. What good is faith OR reason if it isn't challenged? Perhaps one of our goals here is to not speak in a personal way and not take being challenged personally.

jd70

01/25/2007 01:10:56 PM

Sheri: As human beings I believe that we have a need to be at peace with our world and the unknown component of it. It is a continious process regardless of the tradition of the path we choose. I believe that having a sense of humility is needed regardless of the path we choose. I believe that evolution is the best explenation we currently have for our origans and it does not negate the fact that we did not bring ourselves into existance. One can except evolution and still maintain a healthy Christian faith. From a spiritual perspective the beatitudes actually correlate quite nicely with the eight fold path. I don't think we are really quite so different. Peace..

jacknky

01/25/2007 01:07:14 PM

plunge, "But the fact remains that you don't need to believe that the ultimate moral act of all time is briefly murdering your own son in order to assuage your own anger" You and I don't. But if our goal is to become more compassionate (which is mine, maybe not yours) and not necessairly to be RIGHT, then who's to say there is only one way to do it? I'm like you. I find concepts of gods at best to be very distracting. But others may find them motivating. I've taped with faith based programs before (Don't ask) including alcohol recovery programs. These were folks totally lacking in meaning and purpose in their lives. Religion has given them that meaning and purpose. Again, could't faith AND reason both be tools we use? And like any tools they can be used or mis-used. It seems that both sides of this argument point to the abuses to negate the whole.

sewells1951

01/25/2007 01:00:38 PM

sheri, to say that something can come from nothing is contradictory. That is what people who postulate a creator god are trying to get around; i.e., they think the universe had to come from somewhere so something (not nothing) must have created it. But, that doesn't really succeed because then you have to ask what created god? A god's god? Then what created god's god? An infinite regress. Only thing one can really do is to cut the gordian knot and look at the premise, that everything has a cause. I don't see any contradictions entailed by postulating an eternal existence for the universe. If anyone knows of any, please point them out.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 12:58:53 PM

Perhaps you won't share with us your miracles because you are concerned that there might be a legitimate explanation for them.

garryg24

01/25/2007 12:58:40 PM

Bravo Sam! Your 1/23/07 input knocks Andrew's legs right out from under him. Would that he could think as clearly and be as consistent defining words and concepts as you are. It might make the debate a little less one sided.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 12:54:22 PM

sewells: Agreed. sheri: No real scientist would say that you personally experienced evolution. That's plainly silly. Things are constantly evolving, yes, but I don't think our experience of that is the same "experience" you are talking about when you describe the religious experience that theists have and atheists do not. Nor is it the same experience that I didn't have by not being there to witness Creation or the Big Bang.

sewells1951

01/25/2007 12:53:12 PM

sheri, I will be the first to admit that it might be possible for a sentient being to have a well-formed concept of god. All I know for sure is that such a well-formed concept will not include premises that entail contradictions and hence won't include the premise of an omnipotent god. What does 'within power' mean? If you are trying to say there might be incredibly advanced sentient beings somewhere, I would reply I certainly hope so and indeed don't see how there could not be. But is a god bound by physics, logic, etc. really the kind of sentient being most religious folk have in mind when they speak of god? No, that isn't what most have in mind. What most have in mind is the creator of everything who can do anything he bloody well wishes to do.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 12:50:56 PM

How does the premise of Creation "necessarily entail a contradiction," sewells?

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 12:49:02 PM

you have no "known facts" about the origins of things for Genesis to be in "direct contradiction to." And I don't have to tell you about my miracles, as they will do nothing to convince you of what you feel you have already established, the non-existence of any god or gods.

sewells1951

01/25/2007 12:46:30 PM

tinisoli, I would go even further. I would say that the premise of creation is itself untenable, because it too necessarily entails contradiction and hence cannot be a valid premise. As far as I can tell, the only premise that does not entail contradiction is the premise that the univererse is eternal; i.e., has always existed. If someone wants to talk about a local creation, say maybe the observable universe, there is no reason one cannot talk reasonably about that as long as one doesn't get into the position of entailing contradictions with one's premises.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 12:46:02 PM

Even if you discredit omnipotence, that doesn't discredit existence. And, according to scientists, tinisoli, being the product of evolution, I HAVE experienced it; but, "experiencing" Genesis or Creation was not the experiences to which I was refering in my earlier posts.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 12:44:28 PM

Tell us about your miracles. Please.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 12:43:41 PM

BTW, when I said "it doesn't work" I was referring to Solus' attempt to explain the problems of sequence in Genesis, not to whether or not you guys have spiritual experiences that you can't share with atheists. Genesis doesn't "work for me" because unless you redefine every word of the text it simply doesn't hold water. Hence the square peg in the round hole.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 12:41:24 PM

omnipotent, to me, means "can do anything within the realm of power." you can no more prove - (with logic, a different realm, mixing apples and oranges, and I've heard that logical posit before, being a philosophy major in college) - that God doesn't exist than I can that he does. Agnosticism is the most reasonable position, were it not for the miracles that I have personallly experienced.

sewells1951

01/25/2007 12:25:51 PM

If someone wants to posit the idea that life on earth was created by some non-omnipotent being, then logic cannot rule that out. It's a possibility. Not a possibility that I find conceptually fruitful, but a possibility nonetheless. But, anyone who posits an omnipotent creator is going to need to explain how they have any leg to stand on when they say that any other belief if false.

sewells1951

01/25/2007 12:19:20 PM

Ok, here goes vis a vis the provable / unprovable argument. I would argue that it is sufficient to prove the point that an omnipotent / omniscient god does not exist when one points out that the premise entails contradiction. An omnipotent god, by definition, can do anything. So, what of the questioins children ask? Can god make a rock so heavy that god cannot move it? Either way, there is something that cannot be done; i.e., a contradiction implied by the premise. We know from logic that accepting the validity of a premise that entails contradiction implies that all sentences have exactly the same truth value (true) by the operation known as modus ponens. Now, we appeal to experience. Are all statements true? If not, then it cannot be the case that the premise of an omnipotent / omniscient god can be valid.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 12:12:05 PM

We rely on our empirical experiences AND our faith, which is we can tend towards dogmatism. But atheists rule out that which they don't experience as impossible, because they can't establish it with their theories or in a lab, which is naive and presumptuous.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 12:08:13 PM

It doesn't work for you because you haven't had those experiences.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 11:55:54 AM

Sorry. Still doesn't work. Square peg, round hole.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 11:55:13 AM

Christians don't denounce empirical experiences, to accept what they believe to be myths, that contradict those experiences, or else they would have a crises in faith. They have experiences which they can't duplicate to non-believers, that validate their faith for them.

SolusCado

01/25/2007 11:53:27 AM

Perhaps it is giving us the order of the root organisms, rather thant he finished product.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 11:52:32 AM

The library full of books to which you refer were still written by men, just as the Bible was, containing accounts of those who died for what they believed to be true. I'm sorry if that makes you uncomfortable. All of our history books contain stories that we accept as true, without having been there, because we have some other evidentiary basis for doing so. The stories in the Bible are accepted by believing the oral traditions passed down by the faithful. the historical/scientific accounts in the Scriptures are the subject of debate as to how to interpret them, among Christians today for the very reason that they don't mesh with current science, not because Christians refuse to accept science. But they already accept the Bible itself as truth.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 11:48:44 AM

How about the sequential disorder among the animals, "fowl", whales, plants, and all of that stuff. How do you explain that? Let's hear it.

SolusCado

01/25/2007 11:46:15 AM

jd - The notion that something can be neither proven nor disproven is always based on a 'point-in-time' exception of available technology. In fact, historically, the technology necessary to test something usually came about as a RESULT of a theory that previously could not be tested, so to decide that because it is our knowledge it must be irrelevant is - I believe - foolish.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 11:44:22 AM

I'm not uncomfortable with evolution being a Theory. I'm uncomfortable with the idea that people give credence--sometimes equal or greater credence--to bad ideas, unproven or unproveable stories, mythology, superstition, magic, charlatans, hoaxes, and dogma. It makes me uncomfortable that people will quite literally choose to believe a single book rather than read, let alone trust or have "faith" in, a library full of books.

SolusCado

01/25/2007 11:42:49 AM

tinisoli - You continue to (presumably deliberately) ignore my constant explanations as to the meanings of the words 'earth' vs 'Earth'. I cannot make it any clearer - given that core understanding, Genesis does not in fact propose that the sun, moon, and stars were created after the Earth. I haven't accounted for that proposition because I don't believe that is what is being said, just as I am not going to account for why we are all born from cherries, and the moon is made of cheese, and if I sit down I can pick myself up with my arms and thus levitate.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 11:40:33 AM

maybe not comparably, but as the theory of origins neither evolution nor Big Bang are proven; there are still as yet theories, no matter how uncomfortable that may make you. Evolution in nature today says nothing about how things got started; you are extrapolating and infering to do so.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 11:37:18 AM

Sheri, Sorry. but the Theory of evolution is not just another story. There's evidence for it. Tons of it. It is all around you and it is verifiable, quantifiable, and continually built upon and utilized to illuminate virtually every aspect of biology--which, I assume, you appreciate in your modern world with its medical care and technology, etc. Evolution is both a scientific fact and a scientific Theory. There is not one bit of evidence that Creation myths are true. They are not hypotheses except in the pedestrian, non-scientific usage of the word (just as Theory is not the same as theory). To me it is asinine to accept something for which there is no proof and then turn around and declare that a Theory for which there is an endless stream of evidence is no more credible. It may make more sense to you, and it may be easier, but you cannot honestly argue that they are comparably unproven.

sheri1555stl

01/25/2007 11:29:58 AM

I like that, jd; but, my faith is more comforting me, and makes me make more sense of my inadequacies (moral and otherwise), that there is an objective, external goal which I seek and asire to. Funny posts that decry the accuracy of the Bible with regard to the origins of things. I don't know of any of the post-ers who were there who can attest the validity of the scientific HYPOTHESES regarding those very origins; yet, the are bantered about as truth much like the theists assertions of creation for which they are labeled as arrogant and errant. hmmmm....

jd70

01/25/2007 11:25:18 AM

I like that creation story tinisoli.

jd70

01/25/2007 11:22:43 AM

"That there is no god is just another of these hypotheses, and like all the others, has certain elements that cannot be proved with current technologies." I would contend that the god or no got hypothesis by it's very nature can be neither proven or disproven regardless of technology so why even focus on it at all. Why not just seek to live awe inspiring, compassionate, happy lives. It just seems so simple to me, but I think we humans just can't accept the fact that there are some things that are beyond our knowledge. Maybe be we can all fess up that we are all atheistictheisticagnostics and move on. LOL

tinisoli

01/25/2007 11:21:19 AM

Here's another Creation myth: In the beginning the universe was a great sphere. Then the creator struck it open, and out poured light and matter. The creator then added water and heat. The light became the Sun in the center, and the matter became the stars and the planets and the space between. How's that sound? Good enough? I hope so, because it's arguably more accurate then Genesis. But the thing I just described is frying an egg.

tinisoli

01/25/2007 11:15:25 AM

Solus, You are still at it. Yet you still haven't accounted for the glaring mistakes with the order of things in your Creation myth. Yes, yes, we know that you are (supposedly) not advocating a literal interpretation of it, yet you continue to imply that there is something special or striking--something worth mentioning over and over--about Genesis vis a vis evolution. WHY? Do you find Genesis acceptably accurate simply because it mentions earth, seas, animals, and plants? Is that all it takes for you to deem Creationism credible? The incompatibility of Genesis and evolution is not about you or I "misunderstanding context". Even if we disregard the proposition that the sun, moon, and stars were created after the Earth, we can hardly attribute the other glaring problems (which I've laid out several times) to early man not having words or understanding for atoms and subatomic particles. The whole thing is a mess.

plunge

01/25/2007 10:47:28 AM

Solus, I can't begrudge you anything you want to do or believe. I can only respond to claims being tossed out. I'm really not at all sure what you mean by "the very behavior in Believers that they are touting as what makes non-Believers special?" as critical thinking isn't unique or even necessary to be a non-believer (there are no requirements to NOT believe, in fact, only requirements for belief).

sewells1951

01/25/2007 10:45:26 AM

Plunge, One of the definitions of faith is "belief not based on proof". I believe myself to exist without being able to prove I exist. So, unless you have objections to using words in accordance with their defined meanings, I stand by my point. The acceptance of the point can hardly be provisional when "every conscious experience, and indeed the ENTIRE CONTEXT of any debate about the matter requires the presumption". Not much provisional about that. All I am trying to demonstrate is that each and everyone of us operates on faith. There's nothing magic about faith. For a finite, sentient being it is an inescapability. The argument isn't between faith and reason as there are no necessary contradictions entailed in their admixture. The argument is over what kind of faith makes sense, a contextualist faith or an absolutist faith.

SolusCado

01/25/2007 10:45:00 AM

jacknky - You are very much addressing my point with your query "Do you mean that because they did the best they could undersatanding the universe then we should now believe their religious concepts?" No, one should understand that what they believe is FAITH, not an absolute certainty. Our roles as humans with intellect is to continually refine our ideas in search of 'The Truth'. I maintain that by ignoring a hypothesis because you don't believe it is a valid approach (we ALL do that), but to condemn others because they have selected a different hypothesis than you is hypocritical.

plunge

01/25/2007 10:43:40 AM

jacknky, the fact that religion can involve some good values has never been at issue. But the fact remains that you don't need to believe that the ultimate moral act of all time is briefly murdering your own son in order to assuage your own anger at your own creation (or however you want to characterize a supernatural or religious creed) to get to or appreciate meaning and value of your life and of other people around you. The fact that you CAN get there that way, in other words, still doesn't justify the irrationality (or the immorality of the doctrine) or demonstrate the truth of the belief, and it CERTAINLY doesn't make it immune to criticism. That is what Harris is getting at, I think.

SolusCado

01/25/2007 10:42:13 AM

Plunge, you make an excellent point in the 'Nostradamus fallacy', in that I am tweaking my faith so that it fits the facts. That's what scientists do with theories, so why can't Believers do it with their faith? How can atheists criticize the very behavior in Believers that they are touting as what makes non-Believers special?

SolusCado

01/25/2007 10:39:17 AM

Hypothesis 1: Pick an interpretation of the religion at hand, or if you prefer, a denomination. Within the context of "The Truth", all sorts of groups have their own interpretations. Continue to operate under this hypothesis until observation proves and element incorrect. Theory 1: Based on the previous observation, theorize a new hypothesis, or modify the element that was incorrect. Continue this process until a given hypothesis is proven to be absolutely incorrect, and then select a new hypothesis. That there is no god is just another of these hypotheses, and like all the others, has certain elements that cannot be proved with current technologies. That's fine - continue researching and observing and developing technology until it can be. But to just decide that you won't accept any theories as possible if they cannot be tested is a sure-fire recipe to never finding the truth.

jacknky

01/25/2007 10:39:12 AM

SolusCado, "that doesn't mean there cannot be validity to the underlying concept." What validity are you referring to? That seems so vague it could mean anything. Do you mean that because they did the best they could undersatanding the universe then we should now believe their religious concepts? Which concepts. Burning heretics? stoning non-virgins? The Mayans were the greatest astronomers of their time. There was arguably more "accuracy" in their understanding of the universe than the Jews. Does that mean we can learn from their religious beliefs and conduct human sacrifices?

SolusCado

01/25/2007 10:38:46 AM

Another way to look at it is this: Assumption A: God (or the gods) exist and has given some group of people Its 'Revelation'. Accept its 'revelation' as the Universal Law of the Universe. Obviously, it is an incomplete explanation, scientifically speaking. (Cont'd Above)

plunge

01/25/2007 10:38:39 AM

Solus, the point is that nothing in Genesis suggests that the authors had any more insight into the nature of the universe than any other random person making up a story about how they imagined it happening. You aren't a literalist, no, but you ARE in some sense suggesting that there is some special value in the Genesis story that there isn't in, say, anything else I might think up. I really DO think you've basically played into the Nostradamus fallacy, where vague similarities and the inevitable ability to make SOME connections are parlayed into insight.

SolusCado

01/25/2007 10:32:17 AM

All that said, I think it is key to reiterate that the attempt here is NOT to suggest that 'Bible is "correct" about science', or to try to provide scientific explanations based on religious texts, but to reconcile one's faith with one's reason. To try to twist observation is bad science, and to dismiss whole sections of a religious text is bad faith. To challenge one's preconceptions about one's faith so that it matches their observations is both good science AND good faith (IMHO). Basically, it is the same as altering a hypothesis based on test results that show one or more areas of the hypothesis to be false.

jacknky

01/25/2007 10:31:26 AM

(cont'd) Perhaps it isn't "either-or". Perhaps both reason and faith are tools we can use to open up to greater compassion or shut down into dogma. I do think Sam Harris has some excellent points. We should more readily question what belief tells some. Religion may indeed be more prone to dogma than other human endeavors because we come to feel we're doing the Will of God. But we can't deny that religion CAN be a path to greater compassion.

jacknky

01/25/2007 10:30:59 AM

I wonder if we're not asking the wrong questions. I'm not talking about science now. Religious belief makes for very poor science. But in human ethics, to me the greatest concern is what leads us to greater love and compassion. Religion can clearly do that. Rev. Pitts cites some examples and I think he has a point. For many who lead groundless lives religion can be just the tool they need to gain structure and empathy. perhaps almost all of us are some combination of belief and reason. Some of us are so "reasonable" we won't accept any premise that can't be experienced. Others are so capable of belief they will kill others or themselves for their beliefs. Most of us are somewhere in between.

SolusCado

01/25/2007 10:28:31 AM

Plunge - did you read my post regarding Genesis? I believe that the incompatibility people see between Genesis and Evolution is based on a misunderstood context, one in which early man had no knowledge of atoms, subatomic particles, etc. or of the vastness of space, the expansion of the universe, or even what those lights in the sky were. Given that lack of understanding, their terminology is going to be restricted to what they did know - that doesn't mean there cannot be validity to the underlying concept. And yes, of course there is at that point the 20/20 of hindsight, and the ability for one to presume to know what they were really thinking and twist it around to fit whatever you know, but I think that is a realization that non-certaintists must take, that while any given faith may in fact be the 'True Faith', it doesn't mean our understandings of it and its sacred texts are inerrant. That is where the faith meets reason.

plunge

01/25/2007 10:23:28 AM

Sullivan's latest blog: "I wonder what Sam Harris makes of this. It seems to me partly pertinent to the notion that scientific empiricism is the only legitimate form of interaction with what we call truth." What the hell is he talking about here? Seems like he's tilting after yet another cliched straw man, the idea that non-believers somehow think that only test-tubes and rulers have any value, that we cannot simply appreciate something, or someone's value of something. Sigh.

plunge

01/25/2007 10:08:32 AM

SolusCado, I don't think there is any way to read Genesis that is consistent with science. The creation story just doesn't match up. One can take it as poetry, or as spiritual men's limited imagining of what God might be like and mixes of myths, but the argument that the Bible is "correct" about science if you just read it correctly is something I just don't see working out. There's no reason to think that the Bible is or should be an accurate account of the history of the universe.

plunge

01/25/2007 10:05:15 AM

Sorry sewells, but that argument just doesn't fly. First of all, we don't take our existence "on faith." It's perfectly reasonable to point out that we can accept it provisionally, given that our every conscious experience, and indeed the ENTIRE CONTEXT of any debate about the matter requires the presumption. We don't have to assume or believe that it is true. It's simply an axioms of dealing with anything within our apparent common reality. The faith many presenting as reasonable (hey, it's no different than accepting that you exist, they cry!), however, is something else entirely, as it is WITHIN that common context. And within that context, it is not reasonable, because it purports knowledge and certainty where there is none: not just provisional certainty either, but a real assertion of truth.

sewells1951

01/25/2007 09:41:24 AM

Solus, I have never understood the objection to faith myself. In the end, everyone operates on faith. We can't individually PROVE that we exist. We take our own existence on faith; i.e., we believe something that is not PROVEN. So, taking at least something on faith isn't optional for any conscious entity. That doesn't mean that it makes no difference WHAT one takes on faith. I can take my own existence on faith because I have no other viable option. Believing that Zeus sits on Mt. Olympus or that some omnipotent, omniscient being created the universe on faith is a different kind of mental operation all together.

sewells1951

01/25/2007 09:33:36 AM

I can speculate that the desire for absolute certainty is, at root, a response to the finitude of individual human existence. I'm pretty sure that is at least part of the equation. The sheer existential terror that afflicts so many when confronting their own mortality seems to be assuaged by affliation with an absolute not bounded by the same limiting finitude. It might be some delusion of god or some delusion of a predestined end toward which history lurches. No matter. At the fundament, it is that desire for participation in and affliation with an absolute that seduces so many. Did you ever see any absolute certaintist strike out at anything that he / she DID NOT think was threatening to their sense of certainty?

SolusCado

01/25/2007 09:30:32 AM

sewells - You are starting to arrive at the point I have been trying to make from the beginning, but I would replace your term 'fundamental' with 'fanatical'. The problem is fanaticism (or absolutism, if you prefer), and it is not a religious thing. There may be a higher occurrence of it within religious types (or even within fundamentalist religious types), but that doesn't make it intrinsic to faith. It is intrinsic to human nature, as we can see in the secular examples.

sewells1951

01/25/2007 08:59:10 AM

revinpitts, you mention the killing fields and gulags as being secular examples of extremism. You are certainly correct that they were not religious endeavors. But, that misses the point. They may not have been religious but they were certaintist if I can be permitted the coining of a term. Karl Popper examined this issue in a terrific two volume work entitled The Open Society and Its Enemies. There is an extremely fundamental characteristic that is not only shared between religious and secular certaintists. That characteristic is the desire for a certainty that is absolute and invariant in the face of changing contexts. This craving for absolute certainty is the source of fundamentalism be it secular or religious and is the root item being protected and served by fundamentalist violence.

SolusCado

01/25/2007 08:58:41 AM

revinpitts - While I don't disagree with your philosophy as a whole, I do take issue with your reference to "[t]hose who take a bibically literalist approach to these issues [who] are certainly guilty of bad science", in that I believe the problem is not taking a 'biblically literalist' approach, but in taking a 'biblically ignorant' approach. Earlier in this thread I pointed out an interpretation of Genesis that I believe to be quite in line with what we understand of evolution. It requires not 'picking and choosing' your Biblical content, but in seeking to understand the meaning behind the words. I feel like so many 'Christians' are so caught up in 'Amenning' their pastors that they don't think for themselves, and cannot see past man-made doctrine that is not necessarily what the Bible says.

plunge

01/25/2007 06:20:56 AM

Atheism doesn't promise anything in and of itself, revinpitts. Atheism isn't a philosophy unto itself, it's the lack of theism. The problems Harris and others are pointing out in theism can't be swatted away by references to Mao. While most religious people are indeed, great nice people, that is neither here nor there when it comes to whether its defensible to make certain views about the world around us or morality immune to criticism, and to make debates about factual and moral matters near incoherent.

revinpitts

01/25/2007 03:16:44 AM

I have no problem with evolution or a universe which is billions of years old, and have said so from the pulpit on numerous occasions. Those who take a bibically literalist approach to these issues are certainly guilty of bad science, but that is also due in part to a failure in scientific education which extends beyond these issues. The vast majority of these people, though seriously mistaken about science, are not engaging in acts of violence, cruelty, or intolerance beyond arguing with people with whom they disagree. Their misguided scientific views do not automatically lead to acts of violence andy more than belief in evolution automatically leads to Nazi-style eugenics as they often claim. While religious extremism is certainly deeply dangerous, atheism offers no special insulation against it, the gulags of the USSR, the killing fields of Cambodia, and the Cultural Revolition of China are evidences of that.

Faustus5

01/24/2007 06:27:38 PM

Religious extremism is hugely consequential, but if it is so widespread, why aren't millions of jihadis blowing each other away? You’ve defined religious extremism in, well, extreme terms. In the USA, poll after poll reveals that about half the citizens reject evolution and furthermore think human beings were created just about as they are now in the last 10,000 years. That’s solid evidence of the kind of extremism Harris is referring to. But already their dialog is turning to diatribe in which the argument becomes less about what they see as right about their personal beliefs and more about what they see as wrong with the other guy's style of argument. I don’t see Harris talking about “style” much at all. He’s focused rather laser like on the truth claims of religion and the fact that Sullivan hasn’t said a single substantial thing to suggest that we take those truth claims seriously. The point of the atheist is that no one has in all human history.

revinpitts

01/24/2007 04:34:32 PM

sewells: Thanks for your response! I absolutely agree that anyone's beliefs should be subject to criticism and analysis. I just think that name-calling and dismissive rhetoric tends to the deflect from the battle of ideas and degenerate into a battle of wits in which the goal is to prove "I am good,wise and witty, and you are a woefully misguided idiot." Both Harris and Sullivan are intelligent and well-read. They are both eloquent. But already their dialog is turning to diatribe in which the argument becomes less about what they see as right about their personal beliefs and more about what they see as wrong with the other guy's style of argument. I don't see that as making the strongest case. Just the loudest one.

jacknky

01/24/2007 04:31:35 PM

JD, well said.

jd70

01/24/2007 04:28:57 PM

Sherri: "sorry if I offend, I'm not from any Buddhist persuasion." No offense taken. As a former Christian of 20 years I can understand your take. At the heart of it we are neither Christian or Buddhist, but rather human. Through these types of discussions maybe we can just learn something about each other as human beings. Peace...

revinpitts

01/24/2007 04:21:43 PM

Harris writes: I would venture that you are in a minority among religious moderates. As you and I both know, religious extremism is not rare, and it is hugely consequential. Religious extremism is hugely consequential, but if it is so widesread, why aren't millions of jihadis blowing each other away? It took only 19 to cause 9/11. That is consequential, but they don't constitute a majority. In my town, we have a hospital, a university, three homes for the aged, a school for troubled children, and several major charities..all religiously based. We have dozens of churches, a synagogue, and a masjid, but no suicide bombers or holy warriors, and no one advocating crushing the infidels.

sewells1951

01/24/2007 04:14:47 PM

revinpitts, I think beliefs are pretty much fair game for criticism and critique and even, on occasion, ridicule. I would like to point out that it is not necessarily disrespectful to criticize or even to ridicule beliefs. If one values discourse and respects the capacity for rationality of others, one is probably even morally obligated to make the strongest case one can. After all, what can a belief have to regret about becoming stronger. I understand what you are saying but I think it is also important that people quit identifying with their beliefs. I, for one, have absolutely nothing to gain by holding onto a belief that should be modified. Neither does anyone else.

revinpitts

01/24/2007 04:04:10 PM

We can’t seem to debate issues of ultimate meaning without quickly descending into insult and sarcasm. Both Harris and Sullivan got off to a thoughtful and erudite start, but we can see where this is going. Non-believers are no less guilty than believers on this score. The irony is that debating what is best for us often brings out the worst in us.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 03:55:08 PM

I think jackny makes a great point: The Bible's valuable tenets are available from other sources, including our own instincts and nature. (This is especially clear and sensible if you think, as I do, that the Bible was written by humans and not a supernatural being.) A book on the the cosmos or physics, on the other hand, brings together knowledge that is often utterly unattainable from other sources or from human nature or instinct. It's a bit of progress, whereas religion is a dead end. p.s.-Sheri, evolutionary scientists of the real variety (rather than the devious caricatures concocted by Creationists) NEVER think of mankind as being preeminent over anything.

sewells1951

01/24/2007 03:47:15 PM

Sheri, "assumes the preeminence of man, in his/her limited capacity to discover all that there is through what s/he can see, touch, taste and smell" is awfully hard for me to comprehend. Science, as I know it, is extremely sensitive to the bias introduced by seeing, touching, tasting and smelling. Which is why most experiments are constructed in such a way that evaluation of the experiment is a matter of logic rather than, for instance, a judgement that a particular color is magenta. For my money, the real arrogance lies in wanting absolute certainty; i.e., knowledge that is not contextual, so badly that one is even willing to stoop to religion for it.

jacknky

01/24/2007 03:47:14 PM

sheri, "sorry if I offend," Thank you for saying that. You haven't offended me. I hope I haven't offended you. This discussion has been remarkably civil considering the volatile topic. Peace...

tinisoli

01/24/2007 03:44:55 PM

You are equating verifiable knowledge with the unverifiable variety. As long as you do that, of course you will think it odd that atheists aren't interested in mythology, magic, and superstition. On the one hand you want me to think of you as valuing the same knowledge I do, but you also want me to think that your religious "knowledge" is equally legit or meaningful.

jacknky

01/24/2007 03:44:21 PM

Solus, "I actually know quite a few atheists who REFUSE to look into or accept the potential wisdom of those who just might have been given knowledge about the best ways to act and treat one another by a God." Could it be that these atheists don't accept that the very human wisdom available in religion is not from God but simply human? "Love one another" and the Golden Rule are available across cultures, times and belief systems. Religions appropriate these human wisdoms to justify their supernatural claims. ""Love one another" works. Therefore there must be a god." Nooo, it just means that "Love one another" is basic human wisdom.

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 03:43:14 PM

GTG, it's been nice agreeing with you Solus, and debating you jacknky, tinisoli, sewells, et. al. jd, sorry if I offend, I'm not from any Buddhist persuasion.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 03:39:32 PM

The moral of your sailor story is that incorrect beliefs are overturned by testing them out.

SolusCado

01/24/2007 03:37:36 PM

tinisoli - I agree with you... all it takes is observation to see that "a great many theists ... REFUSE to look into or accept all kinds of things that are fact-based, testable" - and you are in fact describing a subset of theists, but again - to judge all of theism based on that subset - is bad logic. Furthermore, while you claim that you "don't know a single atheist who, upon deciding that there's no god, ceased to involve themselves in inquiry, culture, society, life", you are just picking your terms to fit your argument. I actually know quite a few atheists who REFUSE to look into or accept the potential wisdom of those who just might have been given knowledge about the best ways to act and treat one another by a God.

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 03:37:13 PM

no it just claims that its methodologies are all that there is and assumes the preeminence of man, in his/her limited capacity to discover all that there is through what s/he can see, touch, trase and smell. is this all there is to knowledge? and anything that doesn't comply is necessarily superstition, magic and fable/myth. very arrogant.

jacknky

01/24/2007 03:37:09 PM

sewells, "I'm thinking of the folks who spin prayer wheels, etc. when I speak of it as a religion." I understand. It's complicated. I'm an American Buddhist and here, if you bother to "be" Buddhist, you're way more likely to practice meditation than to spin prayer wheels. In Buddhist countries though, the Buddha's teachings have acquired religious trappings. I guess most humans need that. Peace...

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 03:35:59 PM

no it just claims that its methodologies are all that there is and assumes the preeminence of man, in his/her limited capacity to discover all that there is through what s/he can see, touch, trase and smell. is this all there is to knowledge? and anything that doesn't comply is necessarily superstition, magic and fable/myth. very arrogant.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 03:32:08 PM

The difference is, atheists (as well as some as openminded theists) value facts and the verifiable more than they value baseless or unsubstantiated beliefs. I don't know a single atheist who, upon deciding that there's no god, ceased to involve themselves in inquiry, culture, society, life. I do, however, know a great many theists who REFUSE to look into or accept all kinds of things that are fact-based, testable, and verifiable, or in contradiction to reality. And all good scientists never stop asking questions.

jacknky

01/24/2007 03:31:57 PM

Solus, "Jacknky - I just don't believe love and compassion are the same thing." OK. I tend to use the words interchangably. I think we can agree there's not enough love OR compassion in the world. Peace...

sewells1951

01/24/2007 03:31:54 PM

jacknky, hopefully that was the same Krishnamurti with whom Bohm collaborate. Smart man. I don't know much about Buddhism. But, I would say that if it is as you say it is, it really doesn't qualify as a religion. I'm thinking of the folks who spin prayer wheels, etc. when I speak of it as a religion.

jacknky

01/24/2007 03:29:47 PM

sheri, "the errors in science" a common misconception. Science is constantly evolving. That's its nature. constant revision based on new knowledge. What you call "errors" is new knowledge. BTW, it was the theists of the day, the Church, that imprisoned scientists for uncovering new knowledge that the Earth is NOT flat nor does the Sun revolve around it. Unlike religion, science doesn't claim to be the unchanging Word of God.

SolusCado

01/24/2007 03:28:58 PM

Jacknky - I just don't believe love and compassion are the same thing. I believe love to be something that causes someone to sacrifice themselves at the expense of the one they wish to save (escalating that up or down to any degree of applicability), and compassion is simply the want to help - not necessarily at the expense of oneself. Thus, love is a subset of compassion - and I believe it is the superset of compassion that slows, if not stops or even reverses, evolution.

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 03:27:50 PM

Amen, Solus.

SolusCado

01/24/2007 03:26:44 PM

Now, based on the statement I just made, I would point out that at one point in time, our ability to observe the world around us limited us to believing the world had an edge off of which one would fall if one sailed to far. It would have been ridiculously foolish for those who didn't have the technology to build a boat that could go far enough to test that theory to as a result claim any other belief was just bad logic.

jacknky

01/24/2007 03:25:00 PM

SolusCado, "jacknky - I never once even mentioned the word love;" True. You used the word "compassion". So, how does substituting "love" for "compassion" invalidate what I said or are we merely playing rhetorical games?

SolusCado

01/24/2007 03:24:13 PM

tinisoli - Your example would in fact give me cause to not believe what you believe, but I could not speak to whether it was 'unfounded' and you were 'insane' are both claims I could not make without seeking to understand how you came to your conclusions. As far as I can tell, the key difference between what your believe (I can't speak for all atheists) vs. what I believe (I can't speak or all theists) is that you believe that - based on your limited ability to observe the world around you - you have such insight that you do not need any ideas other than those based on what you can test at that very moment, and I believe that there is a significant amount of wisdom to be gained by listening to ideas that cannot currently be tested. (More above)

jacknky

01/24/2007 03:20:55 PM

Sewell, "jacknky, Don't Buddhists believe in reincarnation?" Short answer, yes, some do. I personally have never bought into it but you're correct from that standpoint. I was referring to what I consider the basis of Buddhism, meditation, learning to see ourselves and our world more clearly. As the Buddha said: "Be a light unto yourselves." He advised us to not blindly accept what was written in holy texts or spoken by great men but to test everything. I was struck when I heard Krishnamurti speak and he said words to the effect "Don't trust anyone, not even me." I took that to mean "Don't BLINDLY trust." This is why many consider Buddhism to be the most friendly to science.

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 03:20:16 PM

atheists are just as arrogant, if not more so. we used to believe that the earth was flat, and in a geocentric universe, but now in a heliocentric one; but, both of the latter views were held with the same tenacity. who's to say that we won't, upon scientific discovery, find it's something else? the errors in science are far more forgiven than religious error carried out by fallible human beings. what if God were, although we couldn't 'prove,' to atheistic satisfaction? I ground my morality on something I don't believe to change, that I feel is better than myself; given the expressions throughout history, in the religious camps and in the secular, I don't think humanity - evolved, enlightened/rational, cultural or otherwise - qualifies.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 03:17:07 PM

Sure, we atheists can use the word "believe" too. But that doesn't change the fact that what we believe is substantively different from what you believe. And it is also a fact that throughout your day you make decisions--you "believe" things--based on the same fact-based, observable things that non-theists tend to do. But you also spend part of your day believing in things for which there is no proof. How would you like it if I came to your door and said "My faith, my God in fact, tells me that you are going to die tomorrow." If you didn't die the next day, might you not think that my wholehearted "belief" was unfounded and insane?

SolusCado

01/24/2007 03:14:30 PM

jacknky - I never once even mentioned the word love; I'm not quite sure how you come to your conclusion. My statement was not targeted toward theism/atheism at all, but merely an observation of reality.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 03:13:00 PM

Some murderers have remorse; some are sociopaths and truly feel no remorse. And some murders are justified, whether by the individual or by a society. Are you asking why we have a moral against murder?

sewells1951

01/24/2007 03:12:57 PM

Sheri, I understand your point about experiences. But, private, non-communicable and MOST IMPORTANTLY non reproducible experiences shouldn't be accorded much value when it comes to proscribing behaviours or standardizing world views. I had such an experience upon encountering David Bohm's Wholeness and the Implicate Order as a young man. Intensely felt, deeply profound. Even met other people who had the same reaction. None of that means it was a sound basis for a moral code.

SolusCado

01/24/2007 03:12:54 PM

Tinisoli - the arrogance is in the 'knowing'. If one knows "The Truth", then one is not seeking "The Truth", and as such will surely never find it. I Believe, and I have acknowledged that time and again. My claim is that atheists also 'Believe', but just don't realize it. Probably out of arrogance. :)

jacknky

01/24/2007 03:10:52 PM

SolusCado, "I have long been fond of the saying (coined myself) "With the advent of compassion mankind must take a proactive role in evolution." The meaning behind that is basically that in helping those that need help, we are aiding those who are the complete opposite of 'the fittest', and if anything REVERSING evolution." I believe you are distorting our valuing reason over myth. You seem to associate love as being possible only by theists. This is not true. In my experience, almost all the Buddhists I know are not theists and yet are capable of great compassion. Many atheists and agnostics are capable of great compassion. Supernatural beliefs are not required for love and compassion. God is not love. Humans are love.

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 03:09:36 PM

no one is questioning one having a problem with being murdered, or with having one's friends or family murdered. I said we, as a society, take issue with murder, in general, to the point of murdering one's enemies, but at the same time, sometimes kill those who do so. Does the murderer feel that murder is wrong? And before you pull out the fear of punishment, think about the one who feels that s/he can get away with it.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 03:07:55 PM

What drives Harris crazy, I think, about moderates is they slap themselves on the back with one hand for being reasonable and rational and then they slap themselves on the back with the other for also being irrational and unreasonable. Talk about arrogant...

sewells1951

01/24/2007 03:06:53 PM

jacknky, Don't Buddhists believe in reincarnation? Isn't that a core tenet? Is that core tenet based on and consonant with experience? Has it been changed / modified based on experience? I don't think so. It's not necessary that all of a religion's tenets be immutable for it to be a religion. If there are core beliefs that are not mutable based on experience then it is a religion. Doesn't mean Buddism is as bad as most others but it still has it's immutable dogmas and is therefore not up to the standard of the scientific method and reason.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 03:05:55 PM

Which is more arrogant: Knowing things based on observable, testable, verfiable facts or knowing things based on unobservable, untestable, unverifiable beliefs? You're professing yourself to be wise, too, you know. The difference is, your "wisdom" comes from a single, unverifiable source fraught with contradictions and piss-poor logic.

jacknky

01/24/2007 03:03:21 PM

sheri, "as culture changes, and indeed it does, so do values, which is why we have the problems that we do. with nothing inherently wrong -" I would say it's just the opposite. Thank goodness our values change and evolve. Ohterwise we'd still have slaves, stone our non-virgin daughters and burn heretics. Now THAT'S having problems.

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 03:02:16 PM

funny you should mention consistency with experience, sewels, because that is exactly what the faithful have: experiences that they cannot explain or verify to non-theists, which, not having exprienced them themselves, are quick to dismiss.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 03:01:41 PM

This applies to murder, too. Murder can be hugely advantageous to a person or a population, but it is also damaging, and from individual to individual it is fairly clear why we'd take issue with someone trying to murder us, our kids, our friends, our family, whomever. Murder, and the anti-murder moral, both exist because they both WORK. Everything that exists does because it can, either for that moment or because it is advantageous. And the advantage can be taken away by changes in environment and, in humanity's case, by cultural change.

SolusCado

01/24/2007 03:01:29 PM

We (mankind) do not know all ends, and in ignoring the insight given to us by God (I am of course speaking from my own beliefs at this point) we presume to know best, based on our limited knowledge at any one point in time. To believe that you sufficiently understand the psychology of humans - and for that matter the flow of time - to decide you know what's best for the universe based on reason alone is not only arrogant (in my opinion), but foolish. Again, to quote the Bible: "Those who profess themselves wise become as fools."

SolusCado

01/24/2007 03:01:24 PM

"If I read this right it appears to be a good example of what Harris is talking about- belief in a religious book trumping reason." Read Nietschze to find out exactly where you get when reason exclusively trumps religion. I have long been fond of the saying (coined myself) "With the advent of compassion mankind must take a proactive role in evolution." The meaning behind that is basically that in helping those that need help, we are aiding those who are the complete opposite of 'the fittest', and if anything REVERSING evolution. (More cont'd above)

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 02:58:58 PM

as culture changes, and indeed it does, so do values, which is why we have the problems that we do. with nothing inherently wrong - and you can't base absolute value on mutating genes of humans - anything goes.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 02:58:32 PM

re: adultery If I was arguing that adultery is absent from the world then your comments about the particulars of adultery would be relevant. But I'm not arguing that. I've given you explanation for why adultery persists, exists, and also why the anti-adultery moral may have come about.

sewells1951

01/24/2007 02:57:42 PM

Sheri, I would disagree that faith and reason are mutually exclusive for someone of a scientific bent. After all, everyone has to start from some position that is taken on faith. For instance, I cannot prove I exist but I still have faith that I exist. The disagreement is about what one ought to have faith in. I don't think it's healthy to have faith in things or ideas that present themselves as a fait accompli, perfect for all time not revisable based on experience. It seems to me that all religions, without exception, do this. The methods of science call for the exact opposite, that beliefs are to be held only to the degree that they are consonant with experience. All reason does is give one a way of making principled judgements. It's not a suit of armour that protects one against all the slings and arrows of outrageious fortune.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 02:56:18 PM

Duty? That's easy. Duty (or altruism) may indeed get you killed, but if it improves the odds of your offspring surviving, then you've done your job. Even if you don't have kids, but you are protecting individuals (or a population) that has similar genes to yours (i.e. you are more related to them), then you are still doing right by your genes. But even without the evolutionary explanation, duty and kindness and violence and racism all kinds of ideas can come about and become popular because of CULTURE. And we do not need God or religion for any of this to occur.

jacknky

01/24/2007 02:55:37 PM

sewell, "In short, I know of no religion that allows it's core beliefs to be modified based on observations of how the world actually is." Buddhism does, which is why many don't think it's a "real" religion. Here's a nice story. The Dalai Lama was allowing the brains of some of his monks to be studied during meditation by scientists. He was asked what Buddhists would do if the scientist's findings contradicted Buddhist teachings. The Dalai Lama said: "Change the teachings."

jd70

01/24/2007 02:54:59 PM

Why can't adultery be wrong because we recognize the hurt it causes the other person?

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 02:54:39 PM

I never said that you wre mean or arrogant, only that your values are necessarily ungrounded.

SolusCado

01/24/2007 02:53:03 PM

jd- I too have found a lot more confluence of ideas since coming to that understanding regarding "God's Will" - in Buddhist and Stoic philosophies especially, but even in such writers as Nietzsche.

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 02:52:13 PM

you're assuming that there are offspring in the adulterous situation.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 02:50:57 PM

jackny, Bingo! Somehow an atheist or a scientist is mean and arrogant because his or her beliefs are based on reality, but a "believer" is to be admired for having faith in the unprovable or the ludicrous.

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 02:50:00 PM

I guess you've also got a rationale for duty, when it conflicts with what's in one's own best interests or the evolutionary good of society, tinisoli?

jacknky

01/24/2007 02:49:13 PM

"Frankly, I feel that it is a sign of a weakness of faith to be unable to admit that you DON'T KNOW, but instead simply BELIEVE." I think this is also an example of what Harris is talking about- the raising of faith in magic to the level of a virtue equal to or above reason. I think what Mr. Harris is asking is for us to examine our assumptions, something we all find uncomfortable. Why should faith in the supernatural have anything to do with human ethics?

tinisoli

01/24/2007 02:48:49 PM

No kidding it doesn't require leaving your spouse. Duh. But in many species, including (arguably) ours, adultery puts offspring at a disadvantage because the adulterous parent IS not around at all or not as much, or he/she is distributing resources in a way that is a disadvantage to some or all offspring.

jd70

01/24/2007 02:47:41 PM

I would agree with jacknky's last post that is.

jd70

01/24/2007 02:46:47 PM

I would agree.

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 02:46:19 PM

adultery (undiscovered) doesn't require that one vacte one's spouse, tinisoli; and, I feel that you have only established my point that nature/science doesn't establish that it is wrong.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 02:46:02 PM

BTW, Sheri, "survival of the fittest" is a much-misused phrase that evolutionists scarcely use anymore. It is usually used by deniers of evolution who employ it. As for the idea running smack into compassion, that is nonsense. Compassion and empathy and even altruism can all confer an adaptive advantage. It doesn't take a evo biologist to understand how kindness, cooperation, compassion, and other things that you seem to think are possible only through God, would help people (and other organisms) survive and reproduce. Got any more softballs? I can do this all day long if you want.

jacknky

01/24/2007 02:44:07 PM

"Firstly, I am not convinced that the Bible does indeed CONDONE slavery, though it is very true that it does NOT CONDEMN it. I actually came to notice that just a short time ago, and was surprised. As such, I changed my moral belief that slavery is inherently evil." If I read this right it appears to be a good example of what Harris is talking about- belief in a religious book trumping reason.

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 02:43:37 PM

This whole article and most of those posting have supported the position that science and reason are bedmates, whereas faith and reason are but mutually exclusive. Yet science does nothing, IMHO, to support what you say you assess through reason; faith does, and more so than reason, in that there are positions such as adultery is wrong (even that undiscovered by one's spouse), and killing one's enemies, which are rationally indefensible.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 02:41:14 PM

I didn't dodge the issue of adultery, sheri. One thing at a time. The sinfulness of adultery could be easily explained by evolution. Offspring that receive better care while they are dependent are generally more likely to reach adulthood and reproduce (pass on genes) than offspring that receive worse care. In many animal species, care is "better" if both parents are involved. If a parent runs off to mate with another, then the offspring may suffer or die. You may notice though that that adulterer might be increasing his chances of passing on his genes because he's spawning offspring all over the place. This explains why adultery exists and persists in the first place! And why it will likely persist for eons to come, no matter how rigid our morality. Adultery and monogamy make sense from an evolutionary perspective; they are not mutually exclusive. Culture plays a role, too. But nowhere in any of this is there a need for your big "Enforcer."

sewells1951

01/24/2007 02:40:50 PM

Sheri1555stl, I don't understand why you think religion and science cover two different arenas. I can't think of any reason to believe that. I think of science as being a method of knowing and, in that sense, I think of religion and science as claiming exactly the same territory. While I think the claims of science to be reasonable and accurate, I don't think the claims of religion are supportable. Not any religion, anywhere, anytime. That is because religion always makes knowledge claims that are not modifiable based on experience and / or experimentation. In short, I know of no religion that allows it's core beliefs to be modified based on observations of how the world actually is.

jacknky

01/24/2007 02:40:10 PM

Sheri, "What is it that we "clearly see" that would universalize our moral assessments into 'good' and 'bad' without the Grand Enforcer...?" Well, first we make a virtue of learning to see clearly rather than make a virtue of blindly believing myths. Then hopefully, as is happening in my meditation practice, we begin to "see" our similarities and that our similarities are more abundent than our differences. We begin to "see" that we are one rather than read it in books. Granted this won't happen overnight or with everyone. Buy perhaps the first step is to challenge the perception that non-evidentiary belief is a virtue that can't be challenged.

jd70

01/24/2007 02:36:08 PM

My statement was not based on science, but rather reason. What do you suppose is wrong with my moral position?

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 02:31:22 PM

no you didn't say "survival of the fittest," but it is an axiom of evolution, science's brain-child to explain the nature of things, such as they are."

jd70

01/24/2007 02:28:22 PM

"survival of the fittest runs right smack into culitvating compassion." What do you mean Sherri? I did not say anything about survival of the fittest?

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 02:27:04 PM

tinisoli, if morality is reducable to what's in our genes, then we really can't hold serial killers (now believed to have mutated genetics) accountable for thei actions, can we?

jd70

01/24/2007 02:26:05 PM

"God's Will" as it manifests itself in our Physical Universe is synonymous with the physical laws that govern everything about our universe. I like that definition of "God's Will" SolusCado. I just have found science and the Buddhist path to be more reflective of such. I just find it difficult to interpret the Bible in such a way. Thank you for sharing. I think I understand where you are coming from now.

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 02:24:10 PM

jd, survival of the fittest runs right smack into culitvating compassion.

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 02:19:32 PM

I noticed how you dodged my example of adultery, which is considered wrong by most, even if undiscovered. how would natural selection or evolution explain that moral code? You can't explain everything by science, and saying that using religion to "fill in the blanks" is irrational is still putting a premium on your manner of discovery in the universe which is obviously inadequate. I don't subscribe to the "God of the gaps" theory because I don't believe that science necessarily is the preeminent explanation leaving the gaps for religion to fill; they deal with two totally different arenas. And while religion may only halfheartedly address scientific issues; science doesn't address religious issues at all. Both issues are real however.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 02:18:22 PM

Well, sheri, if you are looking for guarantees then you might as well just stick to religion and hope you're right. If scientific Laws and Theories aren't convincing enough, oh well. As for the diversity of moral codes and behaviors in both humanity and the rest of nature, the specific conditions of environments accounts quite nicely for all of it, even, to some extent, for differing human codes of morals and ethics. Distinct population have different frequencies of genotypes and phenotypes (traits). The same principle that explains why Swedes are white and Africans are dark applies to all kinds of traits. But once humans' mental abilities evolved, we also had the option (depending on your ideas about free will) to let ideas steer our evolution.

jd70

01/24/2007 02:16:01 PM

sheri: "What is it that we "clearly see" that would universalize our moral assessments into 'good' and 'bad' without the Grand Enforcer" We see that each of us lives in a world filled with suffering. When we recognize that not only ourselves, but our neighbor shares in the same predicament we cultivate compassion within ourselves and toward others and this is what determines our "moral" code.

SolusCado

01/24/2007 02:14:58 PM

2- Basically, yes - that is my belief. I believe those insights to be the 'Hand of God' at work in mankind. And yes, like many things taken on faith, there is not necessarily evidence one way or another. 3- You are right, we do agree - and I will be the first to condemn fanatics who do not recognize that they do in fact BELIEVE rather than KNOW any given aspect of their faith. Frankly, I feel that it is a sign of a weakness of faith to be unable to admit that you DON'T KNOW, but instead simply BELIEVE.

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 02:12:05 PM

evolution that we have seen still doesn't guarantee it as the most plausible explanation for the origin of the species, which requires your inferences backwards; and, you do not account for the differing moral codes in society or nature, for that matter, that you believe are the result of evolution. further, even if they were, that does not make them rational, only instinctual.

SolusCado

01/24/2007 02:11:53 PM

jd70: 1- Firstly, I am not convinced that the Bible does indeed CONDONE slavery, though it is very true that it does NOT CONDEMN it. I actually came to notice that just a short time ago, and was surprised. As such, I changed my moral belief that slavery is inherently evil. That said, there are many aspects in mankind's historical implementation of slavery which the Bible DOES CONDEMN. Those are the actions that are in fact 'evil'. Additionally, to me, "God's Will" as it manifests itself in our Physical Universe is synonymous with the physical laws that govern everything about our universe. As such, both good and evil are the results of "God's Will". (There is even a verse somewhere in the Old Testament where God says he is the creator of both good and evil.)

tinisoli

01/24/2007 01:55:30 PM

There are many books that you can read that will actually explain many of the mysteries that you, understandably, assume can only be explained by "faith." There is a mountain of evidence for evolution; it's not just a flimsy idea with no "proof."

tinisoli

01/24/2007 01:53:13 PM

sheri, Here's how it works: A population of animals experiences the particular challenges of its particular environment. Certain traits, which are found in some but not all individuals, are more advantageous than others. Over time, because of these advantages, these traits become more and more prevalent. Fast forward in time, and these traits may now be "normal" or even or "moral." One such trait might be the selective use of force: an animal kills its competitors and its prey but does not kill its offspring. Over time, because of the success of this trait in terms of reproduction, infanticide could be totally abnormal in the population. This is how our morals actually came about. And we came up with religion to explain that origin, and to enforce the moral code.

filmalicia

01/24/2007 01:40:52 PM

Wow. I just read the entire discussion between Harris and Sullivan to this point, and I am impressed. Now, I want to read both their books. I don't agree with Harris' point that religion must end, but do agree with many of his very pointed criticisms, and love his skepticism. I do think he is right that it is much harder to reconcile faith and reason than religious moderates would like to imagine. But, we keep trying, don't we?

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 01:40:17 PM

What is it that we "clearly see" that would universalize our moral assessments into 'good' and 'bad' without the Grand Enforcer that atheists insists we don't need (and I'm not trying to reduce God to only a moral authority, but just for the purposes of rgument...)? What is considered right or wrong differs from society to society, as much as there are different religions in the world, APART FROM the religion itself. How does reason, which scientists/empiricists/logicians/mathematicians/psychologists/etc. would claim that we all have or are capable of, play into the moral realm? I still don't see how the faculty that determines the value of pi also tells me not to cheat on my spouse.

jacknky

01/24/2007 01:26:54 PM

sheri, "To divorce God and religion from our ethics/morality is the one lying to oneself." To do so would indeed be a radical change for most humans in the world. But so far basing our ethics and morality on magic hasn't been working real well. Even though religion claims the best human instincts for itself (God is love.) I still think that we could do better if we started basing our ethics more on what we clearly see and less on what we wish. Peace...

jd70

01/24/2007 01:20:11 PM

sheri1555stl: "We are influenced by the religion-based morality" Would you not agree that we should determine the validity of religion-based morality through the eyes of compassionate reason?

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 01:15:38 PM

Funny how Harris gives the MORAL authority - not just scientific - to the atheists. How does reason or science tell one to be tolerant to gays, to not own, let alone, beat, slaves, or even for a mother to love her own child? We've all seen and heard of plenty of those who murder their own offspring, among humans and in nature. Yet, the Scriptures are neither a good authority on science, history - (because it is OBVIOUS that the universe was started with a Big Bang, which has been proven by what?; and, that evolution is the explanation behind the origins of the species, again, proven by what?) - or even an ethical authority. We are influenced by the religion-based morality, whether we want to accept it or not. To divorce God and religion from our ethics/morality is the one lying to oneself.

jd70

01/24/2007 01:15:15 PM

"This new paradigm might include testing religious thought as rigorously as any other aspect of human endeavor. No longer should the question be "What does God want?" but "What is humane, just and compassionate?"" Yes jacknky, well summed up.

jd70

01/24/2007 01:12:11 PM

SolusCado: Based on you posts I will try to sum up your concepts as I understand them. 1- You believe that the Bible is authoritative of "Gods Will". I pointed out that the Bible condones slavery. Does this mean slavery is part of "Gods will"? 2- You believe that the writers of the Bible had insights into knowledge not yet known until years later. Since I cannot get into the "heads" of those writers I cannot confirm or deny that, but I personally do not see the evidence for it. 3- You have seemed to indicate that faith and reason can coexist I would agree that one can have faith in say that Jesus will return in the next 50 years and still be a reasonable and rational person. The problem though as I have seen is such a belief needs to be looked at as just a belief and not dogmatic world view, but from your posts I think we agree on this point. Please correct me if I am wrong. I am just trying to understand your position. peace..

jacknky

01/24/2007 01:02:19 PM

LostSocks, "It is humanity that is the problem, not religion, which can be manifested into a multitude of different worldly stances." Good point. Perhaps you'll agree though, that what we've been doing so far isn't working as well as we might like. One change we could begin making, and I hope the writings of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and others is just the beginning, is a new paradigm emerging. This new paradigm might include testing religious thought as rigorously as any other aspect of human endeavor. No longer should the question be "What does God want?" but "What is humane, just and compassionate?"

jacknky

01/24/2007 12:52:42 PM

Lostsocks, "whilst all the time dodging the issue at hand, that actually moderates are indeed rational and no more a threat to the world than atheists like himself," Mr. Harris said: "One of the greatest problems with religion is that it is built, to a remarkable degree, upon lies." I don't think that's dodging the issue. It may sound harsh but not dodging. I had actually arrived at the same conclusion myself before I read Mr. Harris. Religions claim to know what can't be known and asserts what is believed as what is known. In my book that's lying, either to themselves or to others or both. Much mischief comes from untruths. At the very least non-evidentiary belief obfuscates issues from "What works?" or "What is compassionate?" to "What does God want?"... an unanswerable question.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 12:47:25 PM

Right on, jackny. The issue is not whether some religious people are moderate or decent. It's that there's no good reason to not use reason all of the time. Acting on logic and reason 99% of the time doesn't excuse the oddity of the remaining 1%.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 12:44:47 PM

SolusCado, I now see what I wish I'd seen a day ago: You read the Bible in whatever way allows you to marry it to scientific knowledge and fact. I'm not going to waste any more time pointing out the obvious flaws of Creationism, because you will just say "Well, maybe it was foggy for a while so the moon and sun weren't visible." Well, why would God say that he made the sun and moon later on if what he really means to say is he made those things visible? And even if we allow for your cloudy skies, what were the plants living on for all that time that the sun was obscured? By the way, the planet and the sun and the moon are composed of matter, so I have no idea what you mean when you say that you weren't talking about those things in the first place. You keep demanding that I reread your posts but what you really mean is "I'm changing my story."

jacknky

01/24/2007 12:41:04 PM

Lostsocks, And, whether the statement relates to you or not I stand by it: "I don't believe Mr. Harris is saying that theists are incapable of using reason. I think he's saying that to the extent we base our knowledge and ethics on "magic" to that extent we aren't using reason."

jacknky

01/24/2007 12:39:29 PM

Lostsocks, "Since I am a Buddhist I cannot honestly care what the bible says about slavery." Excuse me. As a Buddhist meditator I'm not used to hearing a Buddhist speak so vehemently about the importance of "faith". It's my understanding that in Buddhism faith IS based on what can be observed, not on what is taught in holy books or by great men. "Be a light unto yourself". Perhaps you are not using the term the same way the great monotheistic religions do?

jacknky

01/24/2007 12:34:24 PM

I think there are a number of folks on this board who need to go back and re-read what Mr. Harris said and pay attention to the words this time.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 12:34:08 PM

Yes, it is likely that if religion were to vanish that humans would continue to murder, rape, steal, and destroy. Indeed, these crimes predate religion. But that does NOT mean that religion and irrationalism in general isn't making things WORSE. You are ignoring the reality that wars have been waged quite literally in the name of God. Sure, sometimes it's not about religion, but it often is. Do you disagree?

Lostsocks

01/24/2007 12:33:58 PM

tinisoil I'm afraid I have to go so I won't be able to reply to any more posts, but I look forward to seeing the rest of the debate and how it pans out.

Lostsocks

01/24/2007 12:30:51 PM

Harris pays lip-service, he does not pay credit. Since he ignores the ramifications of not all religious believers being under the label he so easily applies to "religion." I have read the whole debate. Sullivan's argument is not flimsy, Harris takes it out of context. Sullivan points out that no true observation could be against gods will, since if it is a fact, it must be part of god's created universe. It is an entirely sensible reason as to why science and religion could not logically be at odds. Some moderates may defend fanatics, a great deal actively oppose them. Once we actually examine the demographic Harris attacks, we see that in reality it is a very small one. If Harris truly paid credit to intelligent and rational believers, he would admit that his argument does not hold true

Lostsocks

01/24/2007 12:26:31 PM

Harris' problem with religion is that it is a kind of societally acceptable form of illogical, irrational belief. And that these beliefs have led to mass murder, war, and all kinds of horrors. Yes, of course, one need not be theistic to be murderous. But the fact remains, thousands of people are committing acts of violence right now because they are convinced that they are doing right. And the thing that gives them this conviction is religion And when we remove religion from the equation people continue to commit atrocity, as demonstrated by history. It is humanity that is the problem, not religion, which can be manifested into a multitude of different worldly stances. I maintain that his use of the word "religion" is inaacurate, and always a generalisation. He takes leave of reason so as to primarily attack religious believers, and not simply those that commit atrocity as a whole.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 12:26:18 PM

Read the whole debate, and you will find Harris answers every "point" that Sullivan makes while Sullivan is content to use flimsy devices like "God is truth" and "God is definitonally" behind the creation of everything. Sullivan DOES give himself and other moderates credit for being faithful and rational. He does this all the time. Harris takes him to task for this because a) giving examples of decent moderates or fundamentalists is avoiding the question of religion's role in the bad behavior of some believers, and b) moderates tend to align themselves with fundamentalists, or at least come to their defense, and Harris wants this to stop.

Lostsocks

01/24/2007 12:24:00 PM

Jacknky That's a curious assumption you have made about me (a person you have never met) Since I am a Buddhist I cannot honestly care what the bible says about slavery. Harris' claim about ethics is again ill-informed. There is a multitude of ethical approaches within religion, many of them being extremely functional and well-reasoned. My faith does not use "magic" to explain ethics, it uses simple logical principles

SolusCado

01/24/2007 12:23:29 PM

tinisoli - You really aren't reading my posts, are you? I've already said twice, and this will make the third time, that item 1 (in my belief/interpretation) is not in fact referring to the sky and planet, but to matter and the spiritual realm (i.e. the Physical and Spritual universes). As for your declaration that the sun, moon, and stars are all item number 5, I am suggesting that it is not referring to the genesis of all stars in the universe, but instead to any number of alternatives, such as: 1) The earth may have at this time in pre-history had an atmospheric change that actually made the stars visible. 2) The expansion of the universe, and the travelling of light, may have only at this point actually made the stars visible. (More cont'd above)

Lostsocks

01/24/2007 12:20:53 PM

tinisoil Which is a straw-man since no moderates have claimed that they did. Harris (who we can quite easily read just to our left) brushes aside the good nature of moderates and launches an attack against a limited set of beliefs held by limited sets of people. He is attacking points that sullivan never made, and then acting as though this leaves sullivan refuted, whilst all the time dodging the issue at hand, that actually moderates are indeed rational and no more a threat to the world than atheists like himself, and certainly in no way responsible for any atrocity performed by fundementalists. He merely pays lip-service to the fact that many moderates are as rational and intelligent and well-informed as he, and then ignores the ramifications of that

tinisoli

01/24/2007 12:19:54 PM

Harris' problem with religion is that it is a kind of societally acceptable form of illogical, irrational belief. And that these beliefs have led to mass murder, war, and all kinds of horrors. Yes, of course, one need not be theistic to be murderous. But the fact remains, thousands of people are committing acts of violence right now because they are convinced that they are doing right. And the thing that gives them this conviction is religion.

jacknky

01/24/2007 12:19:25 PM

Lostsocks, "I accept science fully, there is no scientific principle I reject on grounds of religion." Mr. Harris makes the point that religious texts are not only poor science, which you seem to agree, but poor ethical guides as well. Are you forgetting that part? If you don't own slaves or burn heretics (which good Christians did for hundreds of years) it's not because the Bible clearly admonishes you not to. It's because our societies secular reason (including Christians using their human reason) now forbid it. I don't believe Mr. Harris is saying that theists are incapable of using reason. I think he's saying that to the extent we base our knowledge and ethics on "magic" to that extent we aren't using reason. And that makes things worse, not better.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 12:16:47 PM

lostsocks, Have you actually read Sam Harris? The attack on moderates is not an attack on straw men. Many so-called moderates, including Andrew Sullivan in this very blogologue, DO give themselves credit for doing good deeds, practicing kindness and compassion, and NOT committing atrocities. Harris merely points out that the decency and sanity of many (or most) religious people does not mean that there isn't a strong connection between irrational religious beliefs and horrible things done in the name of those beliefs or in the name of gods.

Lostsocks

01/24/2007 12:11:37 PM

Jacknky His beliefs about religious moderates are misinformed and based on generalisations and misunderstandings about various world faiths. He points out the fact that moderates being nice doesn't prove their beliefs, which is in fact a straw-man argument since nobody claimed that they did. He uses the word "religion" inaccutely and misrepresents the beliefs and attitudes of moderates

tinisoli

01/24/2007 12:09:01 PM

SolusCado, Here's the sequence in Genesis: 1. heaven/earth 2. light,firmament 3. waters, land, seas 4. grass, herbs w/seed, fruit 5. sun, moon, stars 6. "moving creatures", fowl 7. whales, and more creatures 8. beast of the earth, cattle, every thing that creepeth 9. man First of all, it is absurd that the stars and the sun and the moon appear after earth and heaven and plants. Plants do not exist without the sun, and the moon has been alongside the earth all along. Do you disagree? Second, much of the plant life that Genesis has appearing early on (fruit trees and seeds and grasses) didn't arise until hundreds of millions of years after the "moving creatures" and the "fowl" were established. And I don't mean microscopic moving creatures. We're talking large, intelligent, terrestrial vertebrates.

Lostsocks

01/24/2007 12:08:39 PM

You'll notice both Dawkins and Harris are very touchy about the prejudice accusations, devoting sometimes whole articles to defending themselves from them.... And yet remain unable to give a satisfactory refutation. Dawkin's last excuse in beliefnet was that "because he didn't crash planes into buildings he wasn't a fundementalist or extremist." Which was a purely illogical statement, most fundementalists don't do that either. All he proved was that he wasn't a terrorist/militant.

SolusCado

01/24/2007 12:07:58 PM

Sheri - As I see it (I've been trying to convey this), people like Harris attribute the fundamentalism to fanaticism (there is a difference - and you are right - fanaticism is as present in the atheistic crowd as it is the theistic one), and one can be fundamental (as I would consider myself), while at the same time a 'man of reason'.

jacknky

01/24/2007 12:07:40 PM

SolusCado, "Fanaticism exists independent of religion." Yes, that's true. But go back and re-read Mr. Harris' writing about why religious moderates are also dangerous.

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 12:05:09 PM

I don't see how Harris is considering 'nonharmful' religious people or harmful/irrational, non-religious people at all, in that his major premise is that there is fundamentally no difference between 'rational' religious people (moderates) and irrational religious people (fundamentalists), which reflects his bias against religion, not problematic dogmatic people (which can be found in both camps) destroying world peace.

Lostsocks

01/24/2007 12:02:17 PM

And it appears to me that he is taking on ALL religious believers, rational or otherwise. He doesn't care that we are good people (this is a peripheral issue for him) he simply wants us to stop holding beliefs that are not his own

Lostsocks

01/24/2007 12:00:34 PM

My beliefs ARE rational however. As I said, nothing in science actually pertains to my faith, which teaches us to put our teachings to the test. Through practice and personal experience I have found my teachings to be true, they make sense logically and are explained in non-mystical terms. My beliefs are also religious. I work actively to curb fundementalism, as do a great deal of moderates and I encourage people to use reason. Every decision you come to is done using reason, be it your religious beliefs or otherwise. Religions do not appear fully formed in the mind at birth, we choose to accept or reject them. Sam Harris assumes that there is only one set of beliefs (his beliefs) that are rational, and all else must be a deviation thereof. In fact, if he were to explore philosophy, religion and science in greater depth he might find that his assumed rational foothold is not so strong as he imagined.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 11:54:47 AM

Harris is taking on religious irrationalists because he views them as a threat to peace. I'm sure he could write well about non-theistic crazy people, too, and you should know that he certainly does give time to considering those peeople and explaining that in many ways their dogma was equally problematic. He also goes out of his way to admit the obvious: many religious people are not dangerous or murderous or harmful. But his thesis remains legitimate because irrational beliefs are the fertile soil for much that is destructive about humanity, and a great deal of contemporary and historical irrational beliefs are created and fostered by religion.

sheri1555stl

01/24/2007 11:53:37 AM

I never said there was no superiority to secular/empirical knowledge, tinisoli; only the empiricists claim to have that superiority with which they critique religrious quests for knowledge and truth, and that that claim is an assumption not proven, like any untested theory. If it checks out, given the standards for testing it, we call it true. But the very standards are all chosen arbitrarily up front, very much like certain tenets of faith have certain 'ground' which areaccepted arbitrarily - (number one among theists being that God is, as the Bible never attempts to prove the existence of God, which is assumed in its pages - only what He is saying to us). Arguing science vs. religion/intuition is arguing apples and oranges because the standards used to test their 'truths' aren't the same. You can't prove (or disprove) religion through science or vice versa.

SolusCado

01/24/2007 11:50:26 AM

Lostsocks - I concur wholeheartedly.

SolusCado

01/24/2007 11:47:51 AM

tinisoli - In response to the 'bullshit', then what exactly is your problem with religion?

Lostsocks

01/24/2007 11:47:20 AM

He makes generalisations about all religious believers, assumes that we are irrational in our beliefs, a statement he is not qualified to make given his inexpert knowledge of all world faiths. He aims specifically at religion, why not make "irrational thinkers" his target? since there are many examples of mad, fundementalist nd irrational atheists in history and the present day. The fact that chooses only to attack people of faith betrays his prejudice. He doesn't care about compassionate reason so much as he does having a stab at those who believe differently to the way he does.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 11:37:36 AM

lostsocks, Prejudiced? How?

tinisoli

01/24/2007 11:36:19 AM

Bullshit. To quote you, "Read my post again." I say "some religions" and "plenty of Dominionists" and "other believers..." Nowhere do I take on religion as a whole and nowhere am I nitpicking. You seem to think that pointing out anything specific about anything at all is nitpicking. As for your relentless focus on the adjectives and refusal to acknowledge the susbtantive flaws of Creation, stay tuned...

Lostsocks

01/24/2007 11:35:02 AM

tinisoli I wouldn't disagree - but irrational thinking isn't the sole domain of religion, no is rational thinking the sole domain of atheists. I accept science fully, there is no scientific principle I reject on grounds of religion. I take issue at being branded with the same brush as those that do not think this way. By targetting only religion, Sam Harris is being prejudiced and generalising.

SolusCado

01/24/2007 11:29:33 AM

tinisoli - In your response to lostsocks you are once again 'nitpicking' the beliefs of some to judge the entirety of "Religion", which is the fanaticism to which I am referring. As to the continuing saga of the sequence of events in Genesis, I am still not seeing your 'glaring incosistencies' - they seem to refer to 'nitpicking' of various adjectives (i.e. 'flowering plant life' vs 'plant life'). Can you please explain to me, excluding adjectives, the order of development that is inconsistent?

tinisoli

01/24/2007 11:21:41 AM

lostsocks, Some would argue that one of the worries about some religions and believers is that their faith does indeed affect how they perceive reality, including things like the "shape of the world." For example, plenty of Dominionists think the world exists for us to make use of it, which tends to make conservation a laughable or even offensive proposition. Other believers in the End Times aren't very concerned about climate change, extinction rates, pollution, or mankind's role in ecology, because they believe a) the world is ending soon anyhow, or b) God will take care of us or do whatever his will compels him to do.

tinisoli

01/24/2007 11:09:29 AM

SolusCado, You wrote that the Bible captured the essence of evolutionary history long before science did, and that this lends credibility to Christianity in your opinion. In response to that, I merely pointed out that the sequence of creation in Genesis--which YOU brought up, not I--is fatally flawed. The flaws are not just in the adjectives, but in the sequence of events and the NOUNS. I don't know how I could make this more clear other than to place a geologic time scale next to Genesis so you can underline all the glaring inconsistencies. All I'm saying is, your Bible is plainly wrong about how life arose on Earth. I understand that you are trying to earnestly reconcile your faith with reason. You are failing at this if you think that Creationism is consistent with evolutionary history. This is not about nitpicking Genesis' language, unless you think that each and every word of the Bible is open to any individual's interpretations.

Lostsocks

01/24/2007 11:01:33 AM

I think the problem is, Sam Harris doesn't have a very complete understaning of the word religion - no one does it being essentially a huge umbrella term. Science doesn't conflict with my religion because nothing science discovers actually pertains to my faith. I honestly don't care what shape the world is - I care about how I choose to live on it

SolusCado

01/24/2007 09:42:37 AM

MonkeysNephew - I am no fool - I am not presuming to tell everyone that I along understand the true meaning of everything in the Bible. What I AM suggesting is that people don't approach religious texts with the preconception that they are either inerrant or wholly errant. Instead, attempt to reconcile one's faith WITH reason. I can understand religious fanatics objecting to such a point of view, but I find it somewhat surprising to have the proclaimed 'reasonable men' have such difficulty with it as well. The posts on this thread have just solidified my point for me... Fanaticism exists independent of religion.

SolusCado

01/24/2007 09:39:36 AM

(At the 'deliberate obtuseness')

SolusCado

01/24/2007 09:39:15 AM

jd70 - Read my last post. My lashing out is not at the facts that have been presented, but at the concepts that are being ignored.

SolusCado

01/24/2007 09:38:32 AM

You are ignoring context, you are ignoring historical reality (regarding the authors). You are doing everything you get so up in arms about regarding 'religious fundamentals'. And Steppen - I use the dictionary when it comes to understanding our use of terms. That's what Dictionaries are for. As I have repeatedly said, faith does not negate reason. It is no wonder you have trouble understanding this concept if you cannot even understand me using reason to define a word, instead expecting me to rely on some magical 'faith' in what the word 'faith' actually means.

SolusCado

01/24/2007 09:38:24 AM

Tinisoli and Steppen - you are both missing the point, and I believe it to be deliberate - thus the cause of my frustration. Neither of you are as obtuse as you would have to be. You are not trying to understand the point; you are trying to argue it. I am not trying to shoehorn the Bible into a scientific text - I provided examples of how there was a wisdom in its words long before there was science to give us the actual, physical explanations of things. I do not have such faith in a) the translators that give us our English version, b) the historical evolution of language, and c) the biological understand of the first authors of the Old Testament to purport there would have been the necessary scientific knowledge to spell out the distinctions between 'plant life', and 'flowering plant life'. So yes Tinisoli - you ARE in fact being a fanatic... You are taking specific words to make your point. (More cont'd above)

gadje

01/24/2007 04:12:17 AM

frjimod 1/23/2007 8:54:28 PM " The violent "orthodoxies' of Marxist -Leninist Communism ... killed more than all the victims of religious fanaticism combined." Its telling you call communism an "orthodoxy". The bolshevik revolutionaries were just as devoid of reason and critical thinking as orthodox christians were in rome thru medival europe and beyond. If you had actually read "The End of Faith", sam harris actually adresses this. And can we honestly say the death toll would've remained much less if the inquisitors had access to machine guns and chemical gas? Free markets more often than not means an abundance of food, communist states always had a big problem with starvation, meaning bigger death tolls attributed to it. Are we now going to equate every peasant death from the fuedal system to christianity?

MonkeysNephew

01/23/2007 11:02:06 PM

Frjimod, Hitler was a Christian. He had his own blend of Protestantism and there are plenty of Hitler quotes that show he was a theist. These other regimes, we just religions of another flavor, with their own set of dogmas and unsupported claims. Secularists are as against these unreasonable beliefs as they with their bronze-age counterparts.

MonkeysNephew

01/23/2007 10:59:06 PM

How many times do we hear the same “If you read the Bible CORRECTLY...here's what it REALLY means..." How is that an argument? “Forget what the Bible says 90% of the time and just focus on The Sermon of the Mount and be happy.” There is no biblical justification for doing so…this is human reason and common sense at work, weeding out what’s wrong with the Bible and savoring what works. This is hardly something you’d expect of divine book.

frjimod

01/23/2007 08:54:28 PM

We should also consider antireligious antitheist fundamentalisms and the great and irrational carnage that they have done in the past few generations. The violent "orthodoxies' of Marxist -Leninist Communism claimed to be truly scientific and was definitely secular and materialist yet the ideologies of Lenin, Stalin,Mao and Pol Pot enslaved,tortured and killed more than all the victims of religious fanaticism combined. When religion and spirituality and all heretical dissent do not 'wither away', then the "progress" must be assisted by silencing,imprisonment and murder. If we throw in the modern,scientific and pragmatic" racist ideologies of Nazism and other national supremists of the enlightened secular 20 th Century in,the dogmatic,irreligious fundamentalisms seem to be the winners in the dstructive force category.

gbuckles

01/23/2007 08:41:35 PM

This conversation between Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan is about the best thing I have seen on BeliefNet. I hope they continue it.

tinisoli

01/23/2007 07:38:47 PM

Amen to that. Now, it's time for me to go eat some roast fowl and other creatures that hath moved.

jd70

01/23/2007 07:30:46 PM

I think this is what Sam Harris has aluded to. In any other forum no one would be called a fanatic for presenting good reason and well documented scientific evidence, but when one views it as contradictory to their religious beliefs then the lashing out begins. I think it is time to put the "holy books" away, and as Jacknky stated start using compassionate reason.

tinisoli

01/23/2007 07:20:23 PM

SolusCado, The only reason I'm getting into the geologic timescale is to point out that your earlier contention of an eerie symmetry between evolution and Creation was based on your disingenuous reading or ignorane of evolutionary history. If you want to now retract the meaning of words like "fruit" and "moving" and "seeds" and "fowl" and "whales," well, you're just doing what Creationists always do: interpreting your book however you want or need to. Anyhow, FYI, here's plant evolution: 440-410 mya: earliest land plants 410-360: first forests and trees (seeds, but no cones or fruits yet) 360-248 mya: first conifers 248-213: first ferns and cycads 213-145: more trees (still no flowers/fruits) 145-65: flowering plants 65-1.8: more flowering plants, grasslands Your Bible claims we were given seeds, fruit, and herbs long before we had animals. This is completely backwards from reality. But I suppose I'm just being a fanatic.

steppen0410e

01/23/2007 05:47:27 PM

Tell me, SolusCado, which version of creation from the book of Genesis are we to believe, considering they contradict each other?

steppen0410e

01/23/2007 05:45:11 PM

Uh oh! Seems like anyone who disagrees with SolusCado is a fanatic. Yes, SolusCado, I have been reading your posts, and it seems strange to me that someone advocating the Bible has to go to a dictionary in order to define faith. As I said, one can believe anything, and this is what makes St Augustine's remark that 'faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward for faith is to see what you believe', so sinister; for one can believe anything, one can 'see' anything - and therefore feel entitled to do anything accordingly.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 05:34:53 PM

Ahh; I see what you are doing - you are taking issue with the adjective 'flowering', as opposed to plant life in general. You are not trying to understand this perspective - you are trying to argue it away. Fine - some fanatics just can't be reasoned with. I see that now.

jacknky

01/23/2007 04:39:40 PM

SolusCado, "You are indeed describing faith INSTEAD of reason, not in addition to. Are you even reading my posts?" Forgive me for jumping in but in reality, to the extent that blind religious faith is used then reason is not used. They may co-exist but not overlap. I use faith as that which has no evidence. I have "faith" the sun will rise in the morning because I have evidence to corroborate that assumption. I don't have faith that Jesus is the Son of God. no evidence.

tinisoli

01/23/2007 04:38:41 PM

Yes. Birds evolved before flowering plants. The order of your Genesis timeline is INCOMPATIBLE with known evolutionary timelines. Birds arose in the Jurassic; flowering plants in the Cretaceous. And, like I said, your "moving creature" also predates flowering plants, and by several hundred million years. But I suppose this is a matter of mistranslation, or we haven't yet found the fossils that will support God's order, or whatever.

jacknky

01/23/2007 04:33:00 PM

SolusCado, "What I AM suggesting is that anyone who dismisses of belief system simply BECAUSE it is a belief system is displaying a complete lack of reason." Why? If I told you there were little green men living in my toothpaste tube I hope you would ask to see it for yourself. Yet we are supposed to suspend the same reason we use in every other area of our lives for religion. Perhaps you are lumping the human wisdom available in the Bible with the supernatural claims. The "Golden Rule" is basic human wisdom. Our personal lives and our societies work better when we apply the Golden Rule and it has been available in societies throughout time. But the fact that the Golden Rule is reasonable doesn't mean it's also reasonable that Jesus was born of a virgin and when we take the sacrament we're literally drinking his blood and eating his flesh. It's not required to believe the supernatural to see basic human wisdom. In fact, it seems to me that the supernatural obscures the wisdom.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 04:28:07 PM

tinisoli - "You're still off by 100-300 million years".. What are you referring to? I haven't introduced any time frames, merely time lines. In my order of development, what is out of order? Are you suggesting that birds evolved before plant life?

SolusCado

01/23/2007 04:23:14 PM

Steppen - "Faith is the acceptance of the truth of a statement in spite of insufficient or contradictory evidence, which has never been consistent with reason" You are still calling faith what you want, not what it is. You are indeed describing faith INSTEAD of reason, not in addition to. Are you even reading my posts?

steppen0410e

01/23/2007 04:22:18 PM

Well explicated, tinisoli. There is just no way one can, as you say, "tweak" the two contradictory creation accounts in Genesis with what we know about the evolution of life upon the earth.

tinisoli

01/23/2007 04:18:55 PM

SolusCado, Doesn't matter if you tweak your interpretation of Genesis so that the "moving creature that hath life" is macroscopic or terrestrial or even mammalian. You're still off by 100-300 million years. Also, the "fowl" that God was so fond of also evolved before flowering plants.

steppen0410e

01/23/2007 04:18:50 PM

Exactly, SolusCadus, belief that is not 'based on proof', or even the slightest evidence, is the negation of reason. And I would only dismiss a belief system that is wholly grounded on baroque assumptions and which cannot advance a scintilla of compelling evidence that might even suggest that its elaborate assumptions are justified. Faith is the acceptance of the truth of a statement in spite of insufficient or contradictory evidence, which has never been consistent with reason. Faith, by its very invocation, is a transparent admission that religious claims cannot stand on their own two feet.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 03:58:27 PM

Steppen - from dictionary.com: "faith... 2. belief that is not based on proof" That is not even remotely the same thing as "belief even in the face of contrary evidence". That said, you are right - one can believe in (or on, as you said) anything. So what? I'm not suggesting that everyone who believes anything is correct, or that 'men of reason' must acknowledge all belief systems as 'plausible explanations of reality'. What I AM suggesting is that anyone who dismisses of belief system simply BECAUSE it is a belief system is displaying a complete lack of reason.

steppen0410e

01/23/2007 03:53:17 PM

Faith is the negation of reason. Reason is the faculty of proportioning judgment to evidence, after first weighing the evidence. Faith is belief even in the face of contrary evidence. In the branch of philosophy called 'epistemology, knowledge is defined as belief which is both true and justified. One main theory describes knowledge as a relationship between a state of mind and a fact. The content of the mental state is a judgment responsibly made, and the fact is (for example) some arrangement of the world which, when the judgment is true, is what makes it so. Belief differs from knowledge in that whereas the latter is controlled by facts, and depends upon a right relationship between mind and the world, the former is all in the mind, and does not rely on anything in the world. One can, in short, believe on anything.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 03:40:17 PM

OK; I can't keep going back and forth all day, and I find myself continually repeating myself. One last time: "I am NOT (REPEAT - NOT, NOT, NOT) suggesting that anyone ABANDONS reason, but instead APPLIES REASON to ALL things, INCLUDING faith. As the Bible says, "There is no faith without reason."

SolusCado

01/23/2007 03:38:33 PM

tinisoli - If you are going to keep refusing to listen to me I am going to stop explaining to you. The very first thing I did was to identify a difference between 'earth' and 'Earth'. According to the interpretation I suggested, the 'earth' referenced in Genesis is actually matter itself - again, the people of the time had no scientific knowledge of these truths - and the 'Earth' was not created until verse 10. Regarding the tree yeilding fruit, you make a good point, one that I had considered previously. I would counter that perhaps (and again, this is of course all conjecture, aka THEORY) multi-cellular life is NOT 'moving creature that hath life'. I would perhaps categorize those as non-microscopic creatures.

steppen0410e

01/23/2007 03:38:28 PM

Jonathan Swift in his novel Gulliver's Travels has one of his scientists propose that there are two potatoes in orbit around the planet Mars, and this was way before modern telescopes had identified the planets two potato-shaped moons. Am I to conclude, then, that Swift was divinely inspired in the authorship of his book?

tinisoli

01/23/2007 03:35:48 PM

Also, whales are the descendants of terrestrial mammals. Once again, your Bible is out of order.

jacknky

01/23/2007 03:34:34 PM

SolusCado, "I all the time learn things from other philosophies" But that isn't applying faith. It's applying your reason. QWeall are capable of using our reason to a greater and lesser extent. Reason can atrophy if too much belief is used.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 03:32:44 PM

Furthermore (steppen) - "that the sages of old alrready knew the law of conservation of matter and energy" That is the opposite of what I am suggesting - which is that there are (or were) truths only known spiritually, without understanding the science behind them. The sages knew " what does not exist cannot come into existence and what exists cannot be destroyed", even though they did NOT understand the law of conservation of matter and energy.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 03:30:28 PM

steppen - "There is no good reason to isolate out the biblical creation myths as having any more significance than the other creation myths" I am not suggesting anything to the contrary - merely that (in hindsight) there are truths I can see in religious texts (I quote the Bible because I know it best) that we only later discover the science behind. It doesn't mean the the truths weren't there all along, just that we didn't understand them.

tinisoli

01/23/2007 03:29:47 PM

SolusCado, steppen0410e's got it right. As for the sequence of your paraphrased Genesis, it would appear that your Big Bang (light) comes after God made the earth. So, right off the bat, you're good book has got it wrong. And then we get to your "tree yeilding fruit." Fruits come from flowering plants, which only evolved about 150 million years ago--about 400 million years after multicellular animal life, or the "moving creature that hath life." Ooops!

SolusCado

01/23/2007 03:28:58 PM

tinisoli - "SolusCado, You are telling us that because science doesn't currently provide answers or explanations for everything, your religion, therefore, is a reasonable or viable provider of those missing answers." There you go again, extrapolating my statements into something I am NOT saying so that you can dispute the thing I am NOT saying. I do agree that the information to be learned from science and religion are two separate things - I wouldn't rely on religion as an explanation of anything scientific - I don't know of a single religious text that even attempts to do so. Finally, regarding your comparison of religion to novels... that gets us to the core of the disagreement here, which is to say that I have faith in my 'religion', and you do not. I agree.

steppen0410e

01/23/2007 03:28:10 PM

(continued) From such unlikely prescience of science, Jain, or his counterpart in other religions, asserts concurrence between Hindu sages and modern scientists too improbable to be mere chance and concludes Hinduism to be divinely inspired. The problem in this game is that the probability calculation in the argument is bogus. The probability of Hindu sages and modern scientists concurring is not what is at stake. What is at stake is the probability of someone finding an interpretation of a text that concurs with something said by scientists. And, as anyone familiar with the exegetical excesses of theism will testify, such 'coincidences' are all but inevitable.

steppen0410e

01/23/2007 03:21:02 PM

This error of attempting to interpret religious texts in such a way as to make them consistent with modern science is a game almost all the major religions play. Their aim is to show that the author of the religious text knew the truth all along. A Hindu example of this is Nem Kumar Jain, who sees the lines 'What does not exist cannot come into existence and what exists cannot be destroyed' (Bhagavad Gita) that the sages of old alrready knew the law of conservation of matter and energy. Other religions offer other examples.

tinisoli

01/23/2007 03:15:58 PM

SolusCado, You are telling us that because science doesn't currently provide answers or explanations for everything, your religion, therefore, is a reasonable or viable provider of those missing answers. What I am saying is, there's a huge difference between the explanations provided by religion and those provided by science. I think you would agree. But I would presumably take it further and say that you have no more reason to trust or respect your religion than you have to trust or respect the teachings of a your favorite novel.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 03:15:37 PM

Next, sea creatures developed (the first animals, according to the theory of evolution). Only after that did land animals develop, and then after that mankind. Now, what did I list that was out of order with our scientific understandings of the genesis of the universe?

steppen0410e

01/23/2007 03:14:34 PM

There are literally hundreds of creation myths from around the world that share, like the Bible's creation myths, some (accidental, I'm sure) convergences with modern views of the origin of our universe. There is no good reason to isolate out the biblical creation myths as having any more significance than the other creation myths. To do so is simply a manifestation of cultural chauvinism.

jacknky

01/23/2007 03:14:21 PM

SolusCado, "I believe there is a lot about our Physical Universe that can only CURRENTLY be understood through Spiritual Faith." Can you give us an example, please?

SolusCado

01/23/2007 03:13:34 PM

Next, the soupy mass of matter began to separate out, forming gaps of empty space (the firmament in the midst of the waters). After that, the matter started to form into planetary bodies ("the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear"). After that, plant life start to grow. Interestingly, it is at this point that the moon actually started to develop, before the development of anything other than the most basic forms of life. More cont'd in next post.

steppen0410e

01/23/2007 03:09:34 PM

I think that tinisoli is correct in his assessment of faith, at least, the kind of faith that requires belief in historical and metaphysical propositions without sufficient evidence. And I'd agree with SolusCado that there are "things we do not yet know/understand but are yet true", but I'd be hard pushed to believe that the Bible contains any of that as yet unknown knowledge and understanding.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 03:08:19 PM

Finally, regarding how "the first several verses of Genesis actually give us a very clear picture of the path of evolution", Genesis paints a picture of creation in which first thing to occur is the creation of our physical universe (heaven and earth [not to be confused with our planet, Earth - we'll get to that later]). And immediately thereafter, Light (the Big Bang, if you will. In the creation of Light of course, darkness also must exist. (At this point we have made it to Genesis 4.) Cont'd in next post...

jacknky

01/23/2007 03:06:47 PM

Sheri, "jacknky, the "strong delusion" is that He is not, or that we are He/sufficient in and of ourselves without Him." Yes, Bible verses are pretty much open to any interpretation we want to give them. Which is the point. And those who don't agree with our interpretations are "mis-interpreting". Seems like if the Bible was indeed the "Word of God" it might have been a little clearer.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 03:02:08 PM

tinisoli - "there are things within the Bible that happen to be correct, therefore the Bible must be onto something and should be trusted to provide answers and guidane 'til science yields the definitive truth" Once again, you are extrapolating a statement into an untruth in an attempt to invalidate the statement. Stop doing that. It only serves to move away from the conversation at hand. To understand what I am saying, read the post I just made. Furthermore, the statement "Faith (belief without evidence) doesn't help you understand anything" is naive at best. I all the time learn things from other philosophies that help me better understand my own religion, because they give me alternate perspectives. Explanations that 'sound or feel right' are the first step to the Scientific Method. Without it, we have no theories upon which we can build better Science. Again - you seem to be trying to put two things against each other that are simply NOT in antithesis to one another.

CarolineJobe

01/23/2007 02:57:08 PM

jacknky, I interpret "skew" not to be in reference to all religious practice. The skewing is what Jim Jones, Fred Phelps, David Koresh, and Warren Jeffs do with Christianity and Osama bin Laden does with Islam. The trick is how to tease the real message out from the skewed interpretations of others. Do people really have complete agreement in their congregations? I do not see complete agreement in my 200-member congregation. To think all Christians, all Muslims, all Jews are going to have the same understanding is unrealistic.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 02:57:01 PM

sewells1951 - I agree with you completely. My assertion is simply that I BELIEVE there are things we do not yet know/understand scientifically but are yet true. Again, I'm not suggesting at all that people abandon science and reason - see my earlier post quoting Proverbs. It seems to me that those who continually raise such statements are 'anti-religion' for reasons beyond the religion itself.

tinisoli

01/23/2007 02:54:03 PM

SolusCado, So, what you want me to grasp is that there are things within the Bible that happen to be correct, therefore the Bible must be onto something and should be trusted to provide answers and guidane 'til science yields the definitive truth? Sorry, that just doesn't make sense. The Bible is obviously full of material that is understandable and relevant because, duh, humans wrote it. So what? That means I'm supposed to use this book to fill in any gaps in knowledge that haven't been dealt with by science? That's nuts. I'm just as well off poring over Nostradamus. Faith (belief without evidence) doesn't help you understand anything. It may give you an explanation that sounds or feels right, but that's not on par with, say, a scientific Theory that's been verified by thousands of experiments and millions of data. Go ahead: Explain how Genesis matches up with evolutionary theory. Let's hear it.

sewells1951

01/23/2007 02:53:13 PM

SolusCado, there were aspects of truth in Aristotle's physics and in Ptolemy's cosmology too. Most people don't try to design semiconductors with Aristotle's physics these days. Nor do we plot the Mars rovers trajectories with Ptolemaic cosmology. The things that were true in Aristotelian physics are still true, they are simply understood in a different context that more accurately accounts for the how and why of things. One would hope that any system of belief would not be completely divorced from reality and hence would contain some truths. I don't think it's about containing truth. I think the real issue is a methodological one. Science provides a more fertile ground for discovery and for the correction of current beliefs than does superstition.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 02:15:28 PM

Finally, regarding tinisoli's continued inability (or unwillingness) to grasp my initial statements: "There are truths in religious texts that have been borne out to be true in spite of a lack of science." It doesn't prove anything, but it is evidence about why I believe there is a lot about our Physical Universe that can only CURRENTLY be understood through Spiritual Faith. I am still a huge supporter of using Science to better understand things. I just don't assume that all things religious are necessarily false.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 02:11:34 PM

tinisoli - see my last post. I too do not attempt to use faith to 'explain the universe', but likewise do not dismiss it as 'hogwash' just because I don't have proof staring me in the face for every aspect thereof. As to your claimed superiority regarding knowledge of Genesis and Evolution, please enlighten me as to what I must not know to have formed my opinion. (This should be interesting, since you've yet to even ask how I come to those conclusions.)

SolusCado

01/23/2007 02:08:24 PM

jd70 - I acknowledge that different people have different values to their faith, and I personally don't use my faith to 'explain the universe'. I incorporate my faith into every aspect of my life, and at times change what I believe when new information becomes available to me.

jacknky

01/23/2007 02:04:39 PM

SolusCado, "...which is that you cannot judge a 'philosophy' based on the results of those who skew it." Yes, you can if following the philosophy isn't "skewing" it. If we base our ethics on a "philosophy" that tells us to burn non-believers and stone our non-virgin daughter, for example, then shame on us for burning non-believers and stoning our daughters. But if belief in that "philosphy" is considered a virtue then we must hold the philosophy/religion accountable.

tinisoli

01/23/2007 01:56:22 PM

And what is the meaning of pointing out that before epidemiology people were able to recognize that diseases were spread? So what? What does that prove? Science is possible because of human intelligence. No one is saying it's the other way around

tinisoli

01/23/2007 01:50:22 PM

SolusCado, No, my search for knowledge is not about becoming superior. But if I had to choose which approach to understanding the universe is superior, faith in god or faith in science and observation, I'll take the latter. I do not need to pore over Genesis to know that if you think the Bible matches up well with evolutionary theory and natural history then you are ill-informed, just as I don't need to read Dinesh D'Souza's new book to know that it is a piece of crap borne of ignorance.

jd70

01/23/2007 01:49:24 PM

that should of been "unknown component of such"

jd70

01/23/2007 01:48:11 PM

Fair enough SolusCado, but I would still contend that faith is not about understanding the universe, but rather a means of becoming at peace with the unknown component such.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 01:38:05 PM

tinisoli - "If there's no superiority in knowledge, why bother learning anything?" Is your entire search for knowledge simply to be superior?

SolusCado

01/23/2007 01:33:36 PM

jd70 - I do not disagree with you at all regarding "the potential dangers of understanding our physical world through faith rather than rational inquiry". Where I disagree is in your use of the word 'rather'. I am instead suggesting use of the phrase 'in addition to'.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 01:30:38 PM

tinisoli - Your statement that awareness of cause and effect being one of the most basic skills a sentient being can have does not actually address my statement - which is that long before we had scientifc answers to why, there were SPECIFIC causes that we knew to yield negative effects, even if we didn't know scientifically how. As to the notion that I must not understand how evolution works because I think it matches up with Genesis at its core represents what I was talking about earlier - that people get so caught up in arguing their point that they don't listen to others'. Without asking how, you jumped to the conclusion that I must not understand evolution, without even considering that perhaps you didn't understand how Genesis applies.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 01:27:02 PM

sewells1951 - You say "Logic tells us that if a premise that necessarily entails contradictions is valid, then there is no difference between true and false via the method of modus ponens", and then draw conclusion after concolusion based on that statement - and I don't see how you draw that conclusion. Is it based solely on the question "Can god make a rock so heavy god can't lift it?"? Because that question in and of itself is limited to the physical universe. Those who believe in God believe in a universe outside the physical, which is necessary to understand the notion of an omnipotent, omnicient God.

CarolineJobe

01/23/2007 01:16:32 PM

I would love it if every person on the planet could accept that it's not possible to know all & to have absolute answers for everything whether religious or scientific. The most frightening people to me are those who see the world as black & white, no gray. I do the best I can with the info available to me, recognizing I will make mistakes. I study (religious & scientific) to add the info available, pray for guidance, & ask for forgiveness for sins known AND unknown.

jd70

01/23/2007 01:14:36 PM

I can't argue with that CarolineJobe. Good Post!

jacknky

01/23/2007 01:12:45 PM

Child, "So what is one to do to stop rampant fundamentalism from its destructive path?" Good question.I think that moderate Christians should propose a different virtue from blind faith. They seem to give fundementalists a free pass about faith. Rather than argue about Bible verses let's discuss what is compassionate. one small step.

tinisoli

01/23/2007 01:12:07 PM

sheri1555stl, If there's no superiority in knowledge, why bother learning anything? If it's all an illusion, why not skip work today and do whatever you want?

CarolineJobe

01/23/2007 01:08:50 PM

I teach my children about Christ & his message. I have also taught Sunday School for other people's kids, & I have taught them about the Five Pillars of Islam, held a mini-seder, discussed Purim & Yom Kippur, Buddha & Baha'i. I believe that peace is to be found not by rejecting religion, but by learning about the beliefs & values of others. In every time & every culture a form of spirituality has existed. It is clearly a strong human need. Even if I didn’t think it was a mistake, it CANNOT & WILL NOT happen, so let’s try to find something that can & should happen. It is hard to vilify the person you look in the eye, the person you see experiencing joy, grief, pain, recognizing yourself in him. The mysterious, faceless atheist, Christian, hedonistic American, atavistic Muslim is much easier to hate, attack and destroy. So let’s put a face to these people, learn about them, their needs, believes, and lives and show them our faces.

sheri1555stl

01/23/2007 01:04:28 PM

jacknky, the "strong delusion" is that He is not, or that we are He/sufficient in and of ourselves without Him. "Even the devils believe and they tremble." Jam.2.19.

sheri1555stl

01/23/2007 01:00:21 PM

Is this because only scientists have claim to what is true, tinisoli? I.Cor. 1.25; 2.14; 3.19. You are still claiming an air of superiority in your "knowledge," which could be illusion as much as the superstition that you claim theists hold to. Ever heard of mirages? Wonder why we have philosophy? I could argue with you all day about this, but I won't. I must be about the business of living it and doing. That is the only 'proof' that you sign-seeking (see it, tase it, touch/feel it, hear it)generation shall ever receive. You shall see.

jacknky

01/23/2007 12:59:05 PM

Soluscado, "I attempt to draw a distinction between the opined conclusions of fanatacists and the usually far simpler statement in the Bible itself." Like this one? "God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie." (II Thess. 2:11) It appears to me that the "strong delusion" God is sending is being able to justify just about any human behavior in the Bible, no matter how compassionate or horrible. personally I think we ought to be promoting the use of compassionate reason.

CarolineJobe

01/23/2007 12:55:18 PM

Tinisol, Yes, the USSR and China are examples of abuses, but remember Karl Marx’s vision was to improve the lives of all people. On paper Communism sounds wonderful and is based on a lot of the same ideas that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, etc. include, but in the hands of certain humans, it became something completely different than Marx’s utopian dream and a perfect analogy to what certain fundamentalist religious leaders have done. Stalin in a different country and time might have been Osama bin Ladden or Tomas Torquemada, but where and when he was, communist ideology was factory-installed “software” he had to work with.

tinisoli

01/23/2007 12:47:28 PM

sheri1555stl, Truth revealed through empiricism, science, logic, and observation is different than your religious "truth." You are hijacking the word "true" and you are trying to meld two wholly different meanings of the word "faith." It doesn't work.

jd70

01/23/2007 12:46:55 PM

SolusCado: I would have to concur with tinisoli's last post. In terms of the example I gave I was only trying to demonstrate the potential dangers of understanding our physical world through faith rather than rational inquiry.

tinisoli

01/23/2007 12:39:29 PM

SolusCado, If you think evolutionary theory matches up with Genesis than you have no idea how evolution works. "What comes around goes around" (awarness of cause and effect) is one of the most basic skills that a sentient being can have, and you sure as hell don't need religion to spell it out or possess it.

sewells1951

01/23/2007 12:36:58 PM

Anyone who tries to understand reality using complex constructs that violate the rules of logic is in a very bad position. Things are complicated enough without accepting a premise that entails contradictions. What can possibly be the value of basing a system of beliefs on an invalid premise? Any such theoretical system would be better off starting from a premise that at least MIGHT be valid.

sewells1951

01/23/2007 12:33:38 PM

I understand the difficulties associated with applying logic to highly complex systems. It's a little like trying to accomplish industrial chemistry using only quantum mechanics. Surpassingly difficult and computationally intractable. On the other hand, people who do industrial chemistry don't try to do it in ways that they know violate the principles of quantum mechanics either.

garryg24

01/23/2007 12:33:30 PM

Andrew's second response made more sense than his first, but he's relying a lot on what I call the "Dennis Prager" argument for the existance of God. It goes, "The world will be better off if God exists, therefore God exists".

sheri1555stl

01/23/2007 12:32:43 PM

Faustus50 and tinisoli, what you cal "proof" requires faith, just as much as what theists have to apply to accept their beliefs. Science is based on theories, that when tested empirically, and hold up are called 'true.' Religion doesn't test empirically, so its 'truths' are established differently. Its the same fundamentalism in science and atheism that holds its standards for truth-establishment ABOVE that of theists that is found in religion. You feel that yours is better; theists feel that theirs is. Believing in love, justice, peace, etc. aren't empirically 'proven,' but most of us do - theist or atheist. many atheists hold to the same codes of conduct found in the Bible but disallow the passages about homosexuality, e.g. I guess if you can't be a moderate without 'picking and choosing' what you want to believe, then there are no moderates period - theists or atheist - all are fundamentalist.

tinisoli

01/23/2007 12:31:40 PM

SolusCado, The point is, believing in something despite all the facts suggesting otherwise--or, more precisely, NONE of the facts suggesting you are right--is problematic behavior. Every day you and all other functional human beings make decisions, great and small, based on learned and instinctive knowledge and judgements. If a car is careening down the street toward you at 60 mph, you probably know not to walk across the street until it has passed. If you simply believe, for no real reason, that you'll be just fine if you step in front of that car, well, you're ignoring reality and disabling your ability to make sound, reasoned judgements. Believing in a deity is the same kind of willing suspension of disbelief. It's as though you've watched "Star Wars" at the cinema but instead of walking out and shutting off your suspension of disbelief, you keep it on, and you try to book a flight to Degoba to train with Yodda.

sewells1951

01/23/2007 12:30:03 PM

I am confused about what Mr. Sullivan thinks. If he is speaking of an omnipotent, omniscient being I think it is clear that no such being can exist. Logic tells us that if a premise that necessarily entails contradictions is valid, then there is no difference between true and false via the method of modus ponens. Children ask exactly the right questions. Can god make a rock so heavy god can't lift it? Can god tell himself a secret he didn't already know? The notion of an omnipotent, omniscient god necessarily entails contradiction. Since the reality we inhabit is one in which there is a difference between true and false, it is not possible that the premise of an omnipotent, omniscient god can be a valid premise.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 12:21:06 PM

Additionally, I believe the first several verses of Genesis actually give us a very clear picture of the path of evolution - written LONG before the notion of evolution was ever considered. The fact that the order of creation parallelled what scientists now understand in the theory of evolution is (in my opinion) profound. Anyway, a key point I keep trying to make is that for either side to simply ignore the other is a mistake. You say "Wow! Imagine where medicine would be today if we relied on spiritual faith to investigate the workings of the human body." yet I never suggested that we do. For that matter, I know of nowhere in the Bible where it suggests that either - so how do you come to that sort of statement?

SolusCado

01/23/2007 12:18:11 PM

jd- An example is the idea - common in many religions - that 'what comes around goes around'. In Hindu (or Buddhism, I can't remember which), it is called karma. In Christianity, there is a verse that says that the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon their children. There are undoubtedly many other statements in many other religions that share this 'understanding'. Now, only in the last 10 centuries have we been able to start matching up some of the more direct links (e.g. the spread STDs as a result of multiple sexual partners), and in even more recent centuries have we begun to understand human psychology well enough to start identifying some of these cause/effect scenarious with some of the more indirect scenarious (abusive parents leading to screwed-up kids), but the truths to this understanding was written long before the science behind them was understood. (More above)

tinisoli

01/23/2007 12:15:08 PM

jd70, Spot on. Gotta wonder sometimes how much more rabid and violent some American Christian fundamentalists would be if they weren't sedated by their television, their shopping mall, their decent healthcare, their superpower economy... Mix religious fanaticism with economic despair and--voila!--it's time to bomb somebody and give up your miserable life for a trip to paradise/heaven.

jd70

01/23/2007 12:13:19 PM

childoftheuniverse I think it has to start by raising our children to be rational and reasonable human beings. As the Buddha said I think we need to teach kids to be light unto themselves.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 12:13:10 PM

tinisoli - Your statement is again an issue in and of itself... Here you have stated your opinion with no evidence to support it. I will say again and again - that is a problem whether your 'god' is religion or science.

sheri1555stl

01/23/2007 12:12:05 PM

How can Sam Harris at one and the same time claim that 'God is not a moderate,' and, that there is no god, unless he's trying to describe something he says doesn't exist. How can you describe something that doesn't exist? Maybe only the true believers should discuss the nature, as revealed to them, of the divine.

jd70

01/23/2007 12:09:29 PM

SolusCado "I believe there is a lot about our Physical Universe that can only currently be understood through Spiritual Faith?" Do you have an example? Faith as something to give one comfort and peace I can understand, but to understand our physical universe? Wow! Imagine where medicine would be today if we relied on spiritual faith to investigate the workings of the human body.

tinisoli

01/23/2007 12:08:35 PM

SolusCado, Believing in something despite no supporting evidence is always going to cause problems, even if some people keep their "faith" to themselves and don't take things so seriously that they are willing to kill and die for their God or their "good book."

SolusCado

01/23/2007 12:04:50 PM

tinisoli - You completely missed CaralineJobe's point - which is that you cannot judge a 'philosophy' based on the results of those who skew it. By referring to someone who skewed the 'philosophy' eschewed of the governments at hand to prove a point, you simply made Caroline's for her. The enemy here is neither Religion nor Science, but rigidity. Those who rigidly say (without proof) that 'Religion is Wrong', are just as fallible as those who rigidly say (without proof) 'Science is Wrong'.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 12:01:28 PM

CarolineJobe - I agree with you completely. I am reminded of a recent 'South Park' episode, in which 'Religion' was eliminated, and Cartman found himself in a future where multiple factions were at war with attitudes that cleary paralleled our current attitudes regarding various religions. Ultimately, at the end of the episode, you find out that the point of disagreement between the factions was merely in what to call themselves (the choices were along the lines of "The Atheist League", "Scientist Supremacists", and something else - all saying the same thing at their core, but disagreeing on details. That reminds me of something else - written in the Bible Itself: "Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits." -Romans 12:16. The point there being (in my mind) to give people a certain degree of freedom in what they choose to believe, because at the end of the day - most of the discrepancies are simply irrelevant.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 11:54:34 AM

JD70 - Yes, I personally believe the Bible to be authoritative on something - God's Will. I also believe that "God's Will" as it pertains to our Physical Universe is synonymous with the "laws of the universe". I believe there is a lot about our Physical Universe that can only currently be understood through Spiritual Faith. Of course, that very belief is one of Faith. I have no proof (though I could give you ample 'evidence', which is in and of itself insufficient to prove anything). However, your statement "can always use it to justify their irrational beliefs" speaks well to my point (though I would replace 'fundamentalists' with 'fanaticists'), and that is that one cannot blame the entirety of a philosophy/faith/religion for the actions of those who twist it (or use it) to express THEIR will.

tinisoli

01/23/2007 11:52:04 AM

CarolineJobe, Citing the atrocities and failures of the USSR and communist China is not evidence of the fruitlessness of atheism, for those nations were dominated by dogma and fervor that are comparable to religious fundamentalism in their rigidity and illogical nature. For example, Stalin appointed a "scientist" named Lysenko to lead agricultural science in the USSR. The guy was a terrible scientist who eschewed the scientific method, suppressed colleagues, faked data, and thought that treating potato seeds to cold would make them more tolerant of cold. He was, like Intelligent Design, a fraud. But a cursory glance at Soviet history might lead you to think "Oh, those Soviets were all about science and godlessness, and look what happened to them! Atheism isn't the answer!"

SolusCado

01/23/2007 11:47:02 AM

FutureShy - I have to disagree with your statement that "religious moderation is the result of taking Scripture seriously but not literally" - and draw attention to my previous posts. While religious moderation may indeed at times be the result of taking Scripture seriously but not literally, I personally would take offense to that statement. I consider myself both a fundamentalist and a moderate, in that I take the literal parts of the Bible literally, I take the parables as parables, and I take it ALL seriously. However, I attempt to draw a distinction between the opined conclusions of fanatacists and the usually far simpler statement in the Bible itself.

childoftheuniverse

01/23/2007 11:35:01 AM

While the atheists and the religious moderates seem to agree on the problem of fundamentalists, my question is this: what can be done about the fundamentalists? Ignoring them doesn't make them go away, and trying to have an intelligent debate with them is rarely fruitful. So what is one to do to stop rampant fundamentalism from its destructive path?

CarolineJobe

01/23/2007 11:29:56 AM

If religion ceased to exist, do you really think all of those people and their type would disappear and never be seen again? No! They would just find some other means of achieving their warped goals. Religion is not the problem. It is the manipulators of men and women who use the better instincts of those same men and women to turn them against humanity and against themselves and the religious leaders and believers who are intimidated by or reluctant to publicly criticize those who claim to be their fellow believers for whatever reason that are the problem. Christians, Muslims, Jews, and all the other religions need to add to their list of commandments “Thou shalt not use the sacred texts to manipulate and destroy your fellow humans and thou shall condemn publicly your leaders if they do.”

CarolineJobe

01/23/2007 11:29:16 AM

To say that the only way to "cure" religious extremism" is to eliminate religion is simplistic, illogical, and naïve. If you want to see what happens in societies where religion is actively discouraged, look at the USSR or Communist China. Do either of those cultures look like utopia to you? Yes, religion can be and unfortunately has been used to manipulate people to do horrible things, but the same can be said of many other things--airplanes, philosophy, political activism, and a desire to better others existence--and I do not hear anyone calling for the abolition of those. The Osama bin Laddens, Jim Jones, Koresh/Howells, or Fred Phelpses of the world have warped aims, and they use religion as a convenient and frequently pre-installed biological software to manipulate their followers.

jd70

01/23/2007 11:21:42 AM

SolusCado: If the Bible is not a history book or a science book, which is obvious, then what kind of book would you consider it to be? From your post I got the idea that you were defending it as being authoritative on something. Morality? Like others have posted here one can pick and choose moral verses, but there are just as many that are not moral. For example, there are ones that not only condone slavery, but prescribe the best way to do it among others. As long as one has the belief that the Bible is authoritative (ie Gods word), then fundamentalists can always use it to justify their irrational beliefs. The only way for things to change is to take the Bible off it's pedestal and treat it the same way we would any other book, by examining it through the eyes of reason (shell I even say gift of reason). Even the most respected books in science are not laid down as authoritative, but continually open to revision as new evidence comes to light.

jacknky

01/23/2007 10:29:40 AM

poet (cont'd) The assumption that the Bible is God's word, which almost all Holy Books make, is what allows non-evidentiary beliefs like "Homosexuality is a sin.". Harris makes the point that liberal theists who pick and choose what parts of the Bible to believe are kinda watered down. They don't quite fit in with the skeptics or the fundamentalists. Don't get me wrong. I like the more rational Christians 1000 times more than the fundementalists.

jacknky

01/23/2007 10:29:19 AM

poetographer, "just because parts of the Bible contain human prejudices and misconceptions doesn't mean it has nothing to say about our relationship to something non-quantifiable." Isn't the underlying assumption from those who study the Bible that there is something unique about it? Otherwise, why put so much stock in a 2000 year old document from a group fo whom the wheelbarrow would have been innovative technology? There are plenty of old Holy Texts that have something to say about our relationship with the non-quantifiable? Why choose this one unless there something unique about it?

jacknky

01/23/2007 10:17:38 AM

steppen, "Perhaps, jacknky, but how much of that 'experience' is conditioned by expectation, belief, and all manner a priori conviction?" That is a part of the inquiry. Seeing clearly our expectations, beliefs and, a big one, our fears. "I think experience in conjunction with reason and logic (the art or skill of non-contradictory identification) is a far better teacher than simple subjective - and as you concede - inconsistent and contradictory experience." I understand. Your assumption though, that there is a passivity to Buddhist meditation, "simple subjectivity", is incorrect.

FutureShy

01/23/2007 10:15:36 AM

PART 2 of 2: I do credit Sullivan for calling Harris on this comment: "Religious moderation is the result of not taking scripture all that seriously." Wrong: religious moderation is the result of taking Scripture seriously but not literally - to quote Marcus Borg. It is the "middle way" to borrow a Buddhist term, where the "good" Christianity has to offer will be found. Literal reading of the Bible is in contrast the wellspring of fundamentalist hatred and delusion, for which a mountain of examples exist. The sailent question is: How can we encourage a "middle way" of Christianity while successfully keeping the mental illness of fundamentalism on a tight leash?

FutureShy

01/23/2007 10:13:41 AM

PART 1 of 2: Sullivan's 2nd blog response begins persuasively ("As a gay Catholic, I know what the cold draft of fundamentalism is like" -and- "(W)hen fundamentalism enters politics, I will resist it mightily as an enemy of political and social freedom...") But: "(B)eneath what might appear as a bigot may be a soul merely seized by misunderstanding or fear or even compassion." Here I feel he lets fundamentalists off the hook far too readily. (cont'd)

SolusCado

01/23/2007 10:12:17 AM

I could go on and on, but just don't have the time...

SolusCado

01/23/2007 10:11:31 AM

Regarding the argument(s) regarding whether Christianity is monolithic, whether it is flawed because of or in spite of that, or whether it is true because of or in spite of that - are all invalid. They treat 'Christianity' as some clearly defined code (like Judaism), but the reality of the situation is that a different belief represents a different faith. Christianity isn't full of disagreements, rather the world is full of different 'Christianities'. To judge every single one based on the discrepancies between it and another would be comparable to saying "Science is flawed" because different (mutually exclusive) theories exist.

SolusCado

01/23/2007 09:56:13 AM

And those that push that it is are either following the opined rhetoric of others, or are themselves deluded by their own personal fears (I suspect that most are afraid of disbelief, and so refuse to accept reason.). However, the Bible itself has passages (in Proverbs I believe) stating that 'there is no faith without reason'. The Bible is not meant to be a Science Book, or a History Book, and those that claim it is cannot support that claim with text from the Bible. (Next example above)

SolusCado

01/23/2007 09:55:30 AM

Example 1: "And considering that the tome is riddled with contradiction and inconsistency, of what real value is it to modern man anyway except as a museum piece?" This statement USUALLY solicits a response regarding the inerrancy of the Bible, and quickly degrades into an argument of faith vs. reason, further contributing to the idea that the two are mutually exclusive. However, the underlying assumption is that the Bible is meant to be taken as a historical tome. As such, yes of course it is at best incomplete, and certainly doesn't paint a picture that would be accepted by any 'man of reason'. (Cont'd Above)

SolusCado

01/23/2007 09:47:03 AM

Back to the thread at hand, the fundamental argument here is not the legitimacy of the Bible, whether or not it is full of errors, or whether or not (to get back to the actual article) fundamentalist religion is the reasoned equivalent of sticking one's head in the sand. Invariably, every argument I've ever heard in support of any of the above items at its core reflected not an interpretation of the religious texts, but the rhetoric of people. It can be easy to confuse the two, as the rhetoric is usually accompanied by so many 'quotes' that it becomes difficult to distinguish when the quotes end and the opinions begin. (Further example cont'd above.)

SolusCado

01/23/2007 09:43:25 AM

I hope jd70, steppen0410e, and poetographer log back in and see this post, because I believe their thread perfectly represents the fundamental flaw in the very existence of this argument. Like so many elements in public dispute, they are arguing different things. (I am reminded of the 'pro-life/pro-choice' campaigns - where both sides are so busy pushing their point that no one seems to realize no one is disagreeing with them. Those in favor of pro-life are saying a baby has a right to live, and the pro-choice proponents are not disputing that, merely saying that a woman has a right to choose what to do with her own body. Meanwhile, back on the other side of the camp, the pro-lifers aren't disputing that - but reiterating their point. Everyone is ignoring the fundamental question - where does life begin?) But anyway - I digress: (Cont'd Above)

Zero-Equals-Infinity

01/23/2007 08:02:27 AM

Sam Harris said: "But take a look good look at commandment #2. No graven images? Doesn’t this seem like something less than the-second-most-important-point-upon-which-to- admonish-all-future-generations-of-human-beings? Remember those Muslims who recently rioted by the hundreds of thousands over cartoons?" People seem to strenuously misunderstand the second commandment. A dogmatic belief is as much or more of a graven image than any sculpture. To create an image of God is to make a representative form and to treat it as the genuine item. And religion does this continuously. It is a reminder to not to attempt to frame what is a mystery within humanly defined boundaries. Kurt Godel tells us this as well in his theorems. When the ego sets up an axiom as unquestionably true, we run into the problem of the 2nd commandment.

UUGreenfrog

01/23/2007 01:03:07 AM

Do we need to decide? Are not doubt and wonder brothers? Do they not walk hand-in-hand in awe? Do those that doubt certitude not search for answers? Do not those of faith seek greater understanding? We have much to teach one-another. Ribbitt.

jd70

01/22/2007 09:36:04 PM

steppen, one last thing. I don't know about cows, but my dog shows plenty of impulse to explore my back yard.

jd70

01/22/2007 08:30:59 PM

poetographer "Even today Christians continue to dispute the divinity of Christ." Maybe some liberal denominations that recognize Christ as an example of one that realized their divine nature that is innate in all of us, but I have yet to hear of a Christian church that would dispute the divinity of Christ? Do you have examples?

jd70

01/22/2007 08:07:06 PM

Steppen: No offense taken. While the pursuit of knowledge fills my intellectual need, it does little to fill the emotional, controlling anger, cultivating compassion etc.. I can understand your perspective though.

steppen0410e

01/22/2007 07:20:01 PM

"You can know what 'bits' you took to heart, but not with any certainty what I nor anyone else has." Obviously, poetographer, but that doesn't prevent me from knowing that Bible readers more often than not approach the scripture in a cafeteria-like manner. And just who is to say what parts of the Bible are to be taken literally or otherwise? And considering that the tome is riddled with contradiction and inconsistency, of what real value is it to modern man anyway except as a museum piece?

steppen0410e

01/22/2007 07:16:01 PM

I'm not attempting to paint any picture, poetographer, but simply trying to point out that any Bible study undertaken on the assumption of the existence of God is not justified.

steppen0410e

01/22/2007 07:12:20 PM

Oops. Make that 'chewing' rather than 'shewing'.

poetographer

01/22/2007 07:11:51 PM

steppen - 1) you can know what "bits" you took to heart, but not with any certainty what I nor anyone else has. 2) Are you kidding ME? There was no official New Testament canon until about 300 years after the death of Christ, specifically because within the faith there were doubters, skeptics, etc. There was no source of official "Christian" doctrine because there weren't even officially self-identified "Christians" for a century or so. "No one comes to the father but through me" is from John, which is generally dated 90-100 CE, so 1) for the first century, it could hardly be called "doctrine" if it didn't exist, and 2) the christology of John is hardly credited as transcription. As late as Luther, several books were in dispute, and today appear in a different order in German-language Luther bibles. Even today Christians continue to dispute the divinity of Christ. The picture you are trying to paint of a monolithic Christianity just doesn't wash.

steppen0410e

01/22/2007 07:11:04 PM

Fair enough, jd70, but the peace I have found has come as a result of trying to understand the world. I mean no offence, but a cow happily shewing its cud in the field is probably at peace with the world, but it knows nothing about the world it lives in, nor feels any impulse to do so. But, surely, this is one of the very things that sets we humans apart from the other animals. We are, if you like, the universe become aware and studying itself. I tend to agree with Jacob Bronowski when he says that things like Zen Buddhism represent something like "a terrible loss of nerve, a retreat from knowledge into...what?" "We are nature's unique experiment to make rational intelligence prove itself sounder than the reflex. Knowledge is our destiny." - Bronowski

jd70

01/22/2007 06:26:51 PM

Steppen: "I think experience in conjunction with reason and logic (the art or skill of non-contradictory identification) is a far better teacher than simple subjective" I can't speak for jacknky with regards to Buddhist meditation, but for me it is not about learning more about the world, but rather training myself to be at peace with the world. Knowledge is gained as you say through reasoned observation. They are fundamentally different goals

steppen0410e

01/22/2007 06:24:10 PM

"And steppen, you have no idea which "bits" of scripture anyone takes to heart, let alone whether they're the "nice comfortable" ones." Actually, poetographer, I do. I was raised in a Christian family where the Bible focused significantly. I read it several times from cover to cover before realizing how accurate Twain's synopsis of it was. But I can still, after all these years, remember the bits I was rather fond of at the time and took to heart. One shouldn't draw too many assumptions.

steppen0410e

01/22/2007 06:19:26 PM

"Christianity has never - since its inception - been universally doctrinaire." What! Are you kidding me? From its very inception Christianity's declaration that "No one comes unto the Father but by me" is in very essence doctrinaire, not to mention divisional. Furthermore, your "One can seriously study scripture as a history of man's attempt to understand the nature of God" still assumes the existence of such an entity. I do not think that assumption is justified, nor the study that makes it.

poetographer

01/22/2007 06:10:51 PM

And steppen, you have no idea which "bits" of scripture anyone takes to heart, let alone whether they're the "nice comfortable" ones.

poetographer

01/22/2007 05:57:08 PM

There is something fundamentally dishonest in that approach...i> There's a false dichotomy between "the Bible is the inerrant word of God" and "it's worthless." The cafeteria style argument is a non-starter, because it has to assume the authors of the various texts believed they were writing the inerrant word of God, intended to be placed in the finished form of the present-day Bible. Meaning, historicity, etc. of all the books have been subject to debate and conversation for a very long time. Fundamentalism as we know it in the US is a pretty recent and unfortunate development. All your use of the cafeteria argument shows is that you refuse to see any person of faith as anything but a fundamentalist or a hypocrite. Christianity has never - since its inception - been universally doctrinaire. Only persons determined to oppose it insist that's the case.

steppen0410e

01/22/2007 04:15:14 PM

How can anyone claim they are take=ing scripture seriously when they simply approach it in a cafeteria style, picking and choosing what they want (the nice comfortable bits) and disregarding the rest (especially the segments that are reprehensible to modern sensibilities)? There is something fundamentally dishonest in that approach, akin, as I suggest below, to that particular Mormon article of faith.

poetographer

01/22/2007 04:05:34 PM

(cont.) I agree with you that we get out of the Bible what we want. IMO, people wanting a reference book with easy answers take a literal reading; people who want to study it and account for cultural biases and not insist on inerrancy rarely get hard answers, but still seek truths. Harris's argument leaves little room for people like me (of whom I believe there are many), who take scripture very seriously but can't take it all literally. This analogy is likely to get me lambasted, but just because string theory is beginning to come under serious criticism and depends on unverifiable alternate universes doesn't mean I think quantum physics as a whole is malarkey; just because parts of the Bible contain human prejudices and misconceptions doesn't mean it has nothing to say about our relationship to something non-quantifiable.

steppen0410e

01/22/2007 03:59:43 PM

Perhaps, jacknky, but how much of that 'experience' is conditioned by expectation, belief, and all manner a priori conviction? I think experience in conjunction with reason and logic (the art or skill of non-contradictory identification) is a far better teacher than simple subjective - and as you concede - inconsistent and contradictory experience.

jacknky

01/22/2007 03:56:23 PM

steppen, "I think the inquiry into the nature of the 'self' does matter, as so much of what religions teach, including Buddhism, hinges on just what constitutes the 'self'. While interested in Buddhist philosophy myself, I have always had the uneasy feeling that some of those quaint Buddhist stories - like the one you quoted - are simply an attempt to brush the whole difficult issue under the meditation mat, so to speak." LOL. In Buddhist meditation the inquiry IS on the meditation cushion, not in the intellect. Buddhist inquiry is seeing, not thinking, not mental conception. (That's not to say that Buddhist don't have mental conceptions.) That's why we have so much trouble with these "quaint stories". We're used to "figuring it out" rather than just seeing as it is. It's more fun though, at least to me, to try and figure it out rather than sit on a cushion for years learning to see clearly.

jd70

01/22/2007 03:53:55 PM

tinisoli: Could be a dream, but the fact the it happens fairly consistently across the board along with the similarity of experiences leaves no clear cut answer on the issue. Also while not clinically brain dead in many cases the brain is so devoid of oxygen as to be barely functioning let alone having the ability process sensory information, Yet many people including my father in law retain vivid memories of things that would normally require sensory perception. I am not saying this confirms the survival of consciousness after death, but it certainly does not make it an open and shut case.

jacknky

01/22/2007 03:41:35 PM

steppen, "You are right, though, that subjective experience can never constitute evidence because much of it is inconsistent and contradictory." I have to disagree with this. I agree that MOST of us are inconsistent and contradictory in our subjective experience. But that doesn't mean we can't learn how to experience in a more rational way consistent with reality. When the present moment is experienced fully and mindfully, I think our experience is actually the best teacher there is.

steppen0410e

01/22/2007 03:41:04 PM

poetographer: "One can seriously study scripture as a history of man's attempt to understand the nature of God (with maybe even some revelation along the way)." Does that study begin with the assumption of God's existence? And let's face it, if God, assuming that God exists, then he is pretty crappy in terms of revealing his own nature.

tinisoli

01/22/2007 03:29:39 PM

jd70, The key word in "near death experience" (NDE) is "near." The heart may have stopped but the brain is still alive and functioning. Is there any reason to make any more of a so-called NDE than a typical dream? Last night while I was asleep I was on an uncharted island in the South Pacific. So what?

poetographer

01/22/2007 03:27:15 PM

jacknky - At the least, humanity is divided into believers and non-believers. That aspect can give followers excuses for all kinds of unkind behavior. Excellent point. I think this is where Harris's contention that moderates "don't take scripture seriously" comes in. One can seriously study scripture as a history of man's attempt to understand the nature of God (with maybe even some revelation along the way). One can learn the Book of Job was a poem contemplating the nature of suffering, and not alleged history of a capricious God wagering with the devil. If one looks at scripture this way, our understanding of God can continue to evolve. I have gone through serious doubts precisely because I took Harris's "all-or-nothing" stand on scripture, until futher study showed me today's fundamentalists are much more literalist than those closer to the source. (cont.)

steppen0410e

01/22/2007 03:23:59 PM

And I disagreed with BusReilly's metaphor below of a dog chasing its tail. I think it is simply not true that we have gotten nowhere in our understanding of the origin and nature of religion. In fact, as a species, we have thankfully managed to shuck off a great deal of harmful material that was once considered standard religious fodder. In respect to theology, well, it has always been a pastime that has never had to concern itself with those tedious little things called facts.

steppen0410e

01/22/2007 03:16:55 PM

Thanks for your response, jacknky, but, if you will excuse me, I think the inquiry into the nature of the 'self' does matter, as so much of what religions teach, including Buddhism, hinges on just what constitutes the 'self'. While interested in Buddhist philosophy myself, I have always had the uneasy feeling that some of those quaint Buddhist stories - like the one you quoted - are simply an attempt to brush the whole difficult issue under the meditation mat, so to speak. They remind me a little bit of one of the Mormon articles of faith which states that, 'We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly', and who then dismiss anything in the Bible that contradicts or challenges their own theological view as having been incorrectly translated.

jacknky

01/22/2007 03:06:18 PM

BusReilly, "Thus, we resemble a dog chasing its tail: we go around and around and never get anywhere." Amen. "Sam, not all of us Christians are blooming neanderthals." I don't think that's what he was saying.

jd70

01/22/2007 02:17:56 PM

tinisoli: "I would say that all evidence suggests that life really does end with death" I think you also have to make the assumption that consciousness is dependent on matter. I would agree that it is a reasonable assumption, but one that still a long way from being understood. NDEs come to mind.

jacknky

01/22/2007 01:19:37 PM

Merlock, "To answer Mr. Harris' comment---one interpretation is that the Ten Commandments each stand for a set of other commandments, kind of like the "Table of Contents" of all the various rules." It appears to me that the Bible is like a big Rorschach test. It is so contradictory, obscure and open to interpreation that the WAY we interprete the Bible says a lot about who we are. Certainly it appears that Christians who like the "God is Judge-hell-fire and damnation" verses are very different from those who go for the "God is love, judge not" verses. As Mr. Harris points out, ultimately we have to use our own reason, even if that only includes which Bible verses we see as "true".

jacknky

01/22/2007 01:10:48 PM

steppen, "Yes, jd70, but who or what is it that trains the mind?" That's the inquiry, Grasshopper. LOL On the other hand, does it really matter? The story is told of the student who asked his Zen Master to write something profound for him to study. The Zen Master wrote: "Attention". The student said "Is that all?" So the Zen Master took the paper and wrote "Attention, Attention". I love that story.

jacknky

01/22/2007 01:04:14 PM

poetographer, "Jesus... was eager to be done with the tribal concept of "the other." Thank you for your reply and the enclosed link about Judaism not being exclusionary. This will sound a bit obstinant so I apologize in advance. While their obviously can be a wide spectrum among monotheistic religions in its exclusionary and tribal aspects, I would contend that any mono-theistic religion is exclusionary by its basic nature. At the least, humanity is divided into believers and non-believers. That aspect can give followers excuses for all kinds of unkind behavior. I can see this more clearly because I practice Buddhist meditation. At its basis I believe Buddism doesn't make such a dualistic distinction as "believers" and "non-believers". Buddhism teaches that we are all more or less ignorant and it is our ignorance that more or less keeps us from accessing our basic wisdom and compassion. I hope there are no Buddhist scholars reading this.

jacknky

01/22/2007 12:53:22 PM

steppen, "While I have had a deuce of a time attempting to come to grips with the Buddhist doctrine of the 'self' (is it anything but pure subjectivity?)," I have a problem understaning the Buddhist concept myself, at least intellectually, But I believe it is the exact opposite of subjectivity. my interest was piqued by your reference to "the primary Christian denomination"." I believe thw whole sentence referred to Catholicism being the primary denomination that has a contemplative tradition. I used "primary" as a qualifier to allow that there may be other Christian denomonations that I don't know about. Probably a better qualifier would have been "that I know about". Sorry it toolk so long for me to reply. I'm not on the internet much on weekends.

tinisoli

01/22/2007 12:23:34 PM

Faustus5, I know. It's really annoying how the theists continue to whine that Harris, Dawkins, and others are being mean or intolerant. I suppose this will continue until they realize that the argument is all about tolerance, specifically why irrational belief in deities is tolerated whereas irrational belief in UFOs or phrenology is fair game. Harris rightly points out in "The End of Faith" that when an individual talks about drinking blood he is whisked off to the loony bin, but when a couple hundred people do it they are called devout Catholics.

tinisoli

01/22/2007 12:19:05 PM

godma, You've got a point, but only if you discount the physical evidence that is left behind when someone dies: a corpse that swiftly decays, ultimately breaking down into the elements of which we are composed. I suppose if you allow for the idea of a soul, then yes, what I'm talking about is the lack of evidence for anything happening on that front. But that premise is, like the afterlife, unsupported. So, I would say that all evidence suggests that life really does end with death. Show me some proof of a soul and then we can start talking about whether or not the soul dies, too.

Faustus5

01/22/2007 11:48:02 AM

Spot on, tinisoli, Sullivan’s response was utterly without merit, and quite typical of the evasions you get from theists. He did especially poorly in dismissing Harris’ point that one can only be a moderate by ignoring large portions of scripture and cherry picking the parts you like. “Ha, well you’re another!” is not a refutation of Harris’ argument. And then note the whine at the end about Harris’ alleged fundamentalist-style intolerance. This is also typical. Harris is just being passionately critical, that’s all. But theists seem to think their supernatural beliefs deserve protected status—status we don’t apply to political, scientific, or aesthetic beliefs, where passionate criticism is unremarkable. Harris is just taking this guy apart. Is anyone surprised?

godma

01/22/2007 11:29:46 AM

Tinisoli's realization (that there is no afterlife) is actually not based on evidence, but based on lack of evidence to the contrary. Absense of evidence is not the same as evidence of absense.

tinisoli

01/22/2007 10:29:08 AM

yes50- Life is actually a lot easier to take when you realize that you don't have to answer for anything--or do anything at all--when you're dead. This realization (which, unlike religious epiphany, is based on evidence and reality) is actually quite liberating. And no, it doesn't turn you into a nihilist who believes in nothing. You can still hope, love, give, and have "faith" in all kinds of things.

jd70

01/22/2007 10:24:26 AM

apply them "Him" should be apply them to "Him".

jd70

01/22/2007 10:09:13 AM

yes50, Why would "God" punish someone for not believing in something for which there is no evidence for? Wouldn't "God" rather have us be open to the fact that there are components to life that we can't absolutely know rather then make up myths and apply them "Him" and then claim to know.

yes50

01/22/2007 09:44:32 AM

If the man wants to believe there is no hell or heaven let him. Some people believe that. But when they die they will have a real suprise coming to them. When they stand before God.

tinisoli

01/21/2007 11:20:26 PM

Did you all read Andrew's weak response? The usual "some theists are good, rational people" along with the non-argument that Harris' assertion that life ends in death is no more or less verifiable than Andrew's heaven and hell. What a waste of time. After days of waiting for his response I'm disappointed that's the best he can do. But I can't say I'm surprised. In the end, religious faith is believing in something that cannot be proved. And in some ways moderates like Andrew are no less annoying than fundamentalists because they act as though they are the best of both worlds. Sullivan continually congratulates himself for being a logical, rational, evidence-demanding thinker most of the time but a "faithful" believer the rest of the time. It's hogwash. And the irony is every day he takes on an administration for essentially not caring about evidence or reality.

jd70

01/21/2007 08:04:05 PM

Thank you steppen, and likewise.

steppen0410e

01/21/2007 07:24:32 PM

By the way, jd70, it has always been a pleasure discussing these issues with you. You are a excellent example of a thinker with an open mind.

steppen0410e

01/21/2007 07:22:53 PM

Yes, jd70, there is much to be said for the Buddha's "noble silence" about God, and gods, and probably Buddhism has the least to fear from the encroaches of modern science. Mind you, the Buddha didn't live in a secular society where religious groups and organizations were attempting to infiltrate the schools with their outlandish superstitions. Maybe the Buddha would have had something to say if that had been the case.

jd70

01/21/2007 06:43:48 PM

Steppen: For the most part we agree. Lets just say for me the most honest answer is as the Buddha did by keeping silent on the matter. As always I have enjoyed our discussions.

steppen0410e

01/21/2007 03:39:11 PM

BusReilly: I would suggest that your metaphor for theological discussion of a dog chasing its tail is somewhat deficient. For instance, I don't think that the dog, despite its inability to catch it, is under any delusion that his tail actually exists. The same, of course, cannot be said for the notion of God. Theological discussion resembles more a discussion about a blade-less knife without a handle. Furthermore, evolutionary science does not make the assumption of God as you suggest. Evolutionary science is not attempting "to answer the question of HOW God created all of this". Evolution provides a highly successful explanation of how life arose and diversified on Earth, and it is an explanation that does not require the assumption of any supernatural entity.

steppen0410e

01/21/2007 03:24:56 PM

(continued) While we may be, jd70, "the products of process(es) outside our control" (but not entirely, now what with IVF and other techniques), all of those processes can be explained, like the origin of the Earth itself, in perfectly naturalistic terms that do not require to any degree the invocation of a God, or gods. So, I don't think that the atheistic answer to the problem of the existence of God, or gods, is as meaningless as you suggest. In fact, in its stronger version, I think the atheism that says that there is enough evidence to justify disbelieving in God, gods, or any other form of supernatural entity has a great deal of merit.

steppen0410e

01/21/2007 03:09:59 PM

jd70: Thanks for your considered response! Firstly, though, an atheist - or, at least, this atheist - doesn't necessarily argue that there is no God, or gods, but, rather, that there is no compelling evidence that suggests that there is a God, or gods. As to the question, "What is God?", well, that is up to the theist to deal with. Again, though, all theistic responses to that question fall short of advancing even minimal evidence for their assertions. You are right, though, that subjective experience can never constitute evidence because much of it is inconsistent and contradictory. A more reasonable light in which to regard such personal experience is to suppose that there are some people who are disposed to experience extreme conviction and that the substance of the conviction is entirely incidental.

BusReilly

01/21/2007 07:42:52 AM

In a theological conversation like this one, we seem to forget that we make the common mistake of trying to apply logic to something very illogical. Thus, we resemble a dog chasing its tail: we go around and around and never get anywhere. But such discussions do keep the neutrons firing in our brains and I guess keeps Alzheimer's from forming, so let the discussions continue! As a Christian to the left of the theological center, "science" seeks to answer the question of HOW God does things; i.e., evolution seeks to answer the question of HOW God created all of this. Sam, not all of us Christians are blooming neanderthals.

jd70

01/20/2007 08:48:02 AM

stepp: For me there are a couple of problems. 1st what is God? Everything? Prime mover? Universal ruler? etc.. and there are many more. Which one of these concepts of God would you claim their not to be any evidence for? 2nd, can there be evidence for such outside of subjective experience. Subjective experience though would not constitute evidence. In the end perspectives of such an entity are purely subjective so the atheist argues that there is no "God" and the theist argues that there is. Both arguments are essentially meaningless since we cannot know what God is. We can know though that we are the products of process outside our control. Some may call those process God and leave it at that and I have not problem with that. It is when we personify the process and formulate a belief system around it that we impede ourselves as human beings.

steppen0410e

01/19/2007 11:38:04 PM

Yes, jd70, I think I can go along with that. I certainly see no evidence that would suggest that the self exists independently of the brain/mind. And I don't know why anyone would believe that there is any God or spiritual forces that "eclipse the physical". It is not as if there is any compelling reasons why one should.

Merlock

01/19/2007 09:44:10 PM

To answer Mr. Harris' comment---one interpretation is that the Ten Commandments each stand for a set of other commandments, kind of like the "Table of Contents" of all the various rules. The Bible also often uses an extreme example to represent broader rules. "Graven images," I imagine, is thus meant to represent the idea of seeing the physical above the spiritual---the example being belief in a physical god (an idol) as opposed to God, and more broadly physical reality as truer than the reality of the soul. This is a very important lesson---one very few fully understand---if one is going to assume that there is a God and spiritual forces that eclipse the physical. God bless.

jd70

01/19/2007 09:04:26 PM

"but who or what is it that trains the mind?" Good question? Are you assuming that the who or what exist independently of the mind? If so I would say that it is the collective experiences that "I" identify with to give myself an identity separate form the identities of others.

steppen0410e

01/19/2007 08:37:19 PM

Yes, jd70, but who or what is it that trains the mind? While the Jewish tradition of Jesus' day didn't necessarily exclude gentiles who were willing to adopt and undergo the traditional requirements, the New Testament is fairly clear in conveying the fact that Jesus had little interest in anyone from outside of the tradition. There are some very good reasons that identify that the antithesis between "the Christ of faith" - fully enmeshed in the mythology of his day - and "the Jesus of history" is a gross exaggeration, and often a misleading apologetic device.

jd70

01/19/2007 07:33:59 PM

stepp: "While I have had a deuce of a time attempting to come to grips with the Buddhist doctrine of the 'self' (is it anything but pure subjectivity?)" As a practicing Buddhist I have struggled with the same thing. It was not until I understood that Buddhist practice is not about adhering to any specific doctrine, but rather training the mind to see what is more clearly.

poetographer

01/19/2007 03:49:14 PM

jacknky - I think the parable of the Good Samaritan, and the story of the woman at the well, are good illustrations of how Jesus was rooted very much in Jewish tradition, but was eager to be done with the tribal concept of "the other." I'll assume you're familiar with the plot of the Good Samaritan, but the important part for me is that it was told in response to the question: "Who is my neighbor?" The answer: even the people you hate. To the woman at the well, also a Samaritan, he indicated that the faithful were one people before God. Even in the O.T. parable of Jonah (though not intended to be taken literally), God sends one of "His" people to bring salvation to the Ninevites, hated persecutors of the Jewish people. I wonder if the often misunderstood meaning of Jews as “Chosen People” (see this article) leads to further misunderstanding of what it means that Christ came “for the Jews.”

steppen0410e

01/19/2007 03:38:25 PM

Good posts, jacknky. While I have had a deuce of a time attempting to come to grips with the Buddhist doctrine of the 'self' (is it anything but pure subjectivity?), my interest was piqued by your reference to "the primary Christian denomination". I would be interested to know what exactly you mean by this and just what this "primary Christian denomination" in fact was? What has become apparent from a raft of studies in early Christianity is just how fragmented and factionalized the religion was almost from its very incipience, which is why your statement of their being a primary denomination intrigues me.

jacknky

01/19/2007 02:40:17 PM

poet, I knew a Christian meditator once. When we talked about our experiences they were very similar except I felt meditation was bringing me closer to myself and she felt it was bringing her closer to God. Probably each was true for each of us. I have a lot of problems with Catholocism but it is the primary Christian denomination that has a true meditative tradition. I appreciate your posts very much. I find it refreshing for a Christian to even acknowledge tribalism as a problem. It appears to me that any monotheistic religion has a tendency to divide into at least two tribes- "us" and "them", "believers" and "non-believers". I'm interested in your statement that tribalism is anathema to Christ. Didn't Christ say in the Bible that he came for the Jews? Wasn't it later that Paul spread the Gospel to the Gentiles?

jacknky

01/19/2007 02:28:03 PM

FutureShy, I found it. Thanks. And thank you for your kind words.

poetographer

01/19/2007 01:58:48 PM

(cont.) True self-reflection seems to be on the wane in popular Christian practice and discipline. While I appreciate (and often enjoy) the value of inspirational worship experiences, I am disturbed by the ones that seem to be pep rallies, crying "Rah! Rah! Aren't we Christians lucky we've got the lock on God?" These experiences actually seem to appeal to people's baser nature of tribalism, which in my reading seems anathema to Christ.

poetographer

01/19/2007 01:50:03 PM

jacknky - I have to admit I'm not familiar with Buddhist meditative practices. I have had some limited experience with Christian meditative practices, and they have involved shedding the distraction of emotions and personality to reach toward a higher state of being; the "still small voice" of God, if you will. Recently I've begun studying the Quaker practice of silence as sacrament, and find it a valuable alternative to the sensation/emotion-driven liturgy of most worship experiences - precisely because I don't want to fall ito the trap of "feel good" faith, often accompanied by the "personal savior" language that tends to remove Christianity from the community (interconnectedness), which I believe is at its core. Christ even used himself as a metaphor for community (whatsoever you do...).

FutureShy

01/19/2007 01:32:05 PM

Jacknky, good post you just entered. Look for the "Read the Full Text of Sullivan’s Post" hyperlink near the bottom of the first page of this debate.

jacknky

01/19/2007 01:28:50 PM

(continued) These are my interpretations. A basic inquiry for a Christian might be "How much of my belief is based on the fact that I like the emotions?" Peace...

jacknky

01/19/2007 01:28:24 PM

Poet, You raise very interesting and difficult questions. "The inverse - a sort of rationalist fundamentalism - would deny that my own subjective experiences have any validity, because they can't be measured." How familiar are you with Buddhism and Buddhist meditation? I understand that Mr. Harris is a meditator so I'll speak for myself and hope that he would understand. I don't believe Mr. Harris or someone who seriously practices Buddhist meditation would say that subjective experience has no validity. In fact, Buddhist meditation is all about the subjective experience. But our normal subjective experience is so fraught with emotions and turbulence that our subjective experiences are unreliable. Meditation practices calm the mind and teach us to see ourselves and our world more clearly. In fact, Buddhist practice emphasizes the subjective so much that we have a responsibility to learn to see more clearly, not feel more strongly.

poetographer

01/19/2007 12:37:22 PM

jacknky: Holy crap - common ground! ;) I agree that religion tends to be much less flexible than reason, especially when faith is grounded solely in what one has been told by others. I'm intrigued by the concept of evidence; in large part my faith rests on experiences I have had that are strong evidence to me, but don't qualify as evidence in the sense of science or law. The shared evidence of reason, at least as far as public policy goes, should certainly trump the subjective evidence of faith. The refusal to recognize this is, for me, the definition of fundamentalism. The inverse - a sort of rationalist fundamentalism - would deny that my own subjective experiences have any validity, because they can't be measured. Now that I think about it, that may be what bugs me about Harris. methodist/futureshy: Yes, this is a damn hard "blogalogue" to follow!

jacknky

01/19/2007 12:22:44 PM

FutureShy, I can't even find Sullivan's response on his site. Where is it?

FutureShy

01/19/2007 11:08:20 AM

methodistsearching, I'm with you. Why can't Andrew Sullivan's entire responses appear on Bnet just as Harris' are? Was this a condition Sullivan set in order to agree to participate? Why? To boost traffic for his blog which contains paid ads? And when I did click over to Sullivan's site, I read the title of the blog entry "Debating Sam I Am". Obviously Harris has been called a lot worse, but why call Sam Harris "Sam I Am"? If Harris refered to the debate as "Debating Andy-Boy" he'd deservingly be chastized. (I will also leave it up to other readers to decide if Sullivan's comments inject just a drop of caustic candor to this debate.) I think the debate will continue to be well worth reading on both sides, but Sullivan if nothing else deserves to lose a few style/class points IMO.

jacknky

01/19/2007 09:46:35 AM

poet, "For what "reason" should I be concerned with the faceless poor?" OK, ya got me. Obviously reason, like logic, is based on its assumptions.If assumptions are shallow then "reasonable" conclusions will be shallow. So, if my assumptions include that I should only be concerned for myself then it's reasonable to conclude "Screw the poor". But if reason is to be used well then we have an obligation to look closely beneath surface appearances. We hopefully can see our inter-connectedness. What affects you affects me. So it then is reasonable to help the poor because I'm helping myself too. This is an insufficient short answer. But I agree with your underlying assumption that reason can be abused just as religion can. Again, I guess I come back to the point that reason is more open to compromise than is belief, which isn't based on evidence and is therefore open to any assumption.

methodistsearching

01/19/2007 08:12:10 AM

Am I the only one finding this chain difficult to follow because of the organization? I read Mr. Harris' first post on the first day, was absent for a few days and now I see there are responses. That's good. But I got a paragraph of Mr. Sullivan's initial response and a link to his page if I want to see the whole thing. Why can't I read through the whole chain, from beginning to end, with an alternating Harris and Sullivan? Am I missing something?

steppen0410e

01/19/2007 02:08:12 AM

And while it could possibly be true that the "versification" of biblical scripture may, on some rare occasions, lead to some "out-of-context misunderstandings", the religious attitude is often marked by a robust refusal to take things at face value if inconvenient. One could quote any number of passages from the Bible to illustrate - and that despite just how it was originally set out - just how unattractive biblical religion actually is.

steppen0410e

01/19/2007 01:25:53 AM

(continued) I'm sorry if you perceived my earlier post(s) to be an attack rather than an interest in discussion. I'm always ready and willing to discuss these fascinating matters.

steppen0410e

01/19/2007 01:22:05 AM

poetographer: The picture of the world common to Jesus and his Jewish Palestinian contemporaries is known to us from many surviving Jewish and Christian documents, not just the Bible - irrespective of just how the "earliest known texts" were "versed out" - and it was wholly mythological. Consequently, I do not think there is any inconsistency in what I said in my previous post at all. And I'm still of the opinion that it is an enormous stretch to suggest that the Thessalonians quote is an advocacy of the adoption of reason. While it may be recommending that its listeners not believe everything they hear, their comparative benchmark is an undeniably magical and wholly mythical world view.

poetographer

01/18/2007 11:08:49 PM

steppen0410e - Insisting that Christ's worldview was "wholly mythological" in the same post where you ask who can say just how the Bible is to be read is a real inconsistency, since the "wholly mythological" comment implicitly suggests how we are to view the Bible. My point was, the earliest known texts were not versed out anything like they are today, and went through several iterations of versification before the present format. It is my opinion that the versification contributes to a lot of out-of-context misunderstandings, especially among casual readers, so I tend to disregard unless I'm trying to find a reference. You certainly don't preface every one of your comments with "my opinion is" so I don't think you should demand that rigor of others. And I don't think the Thessalonians quote is necessarily a stretch; it's advocating that listeners not believe everything they hear. Your post felt like an attack more than an interest in discussion. Am I wrong about that?

steppen0410e

01/18/2007 06:53:03 PM

And I think it is an enormous stretch to think that 1 Thess 5:21 advice to the believer to "Test everything" is an advocacy of reason. It is, rather, simply counsel to the faithful to measure everything against the Faith.

steppen0410e

01/18/2007 06:31:12 PM

I wonder who can say just how the Bible is to be read? I would agree, though, poetographer, that much of what Jesus was supposed to have said is "unreasonable". His unreasonableness stemmed from the fact that his picture of the world was wholly mythological and, consequently, outside the realm of reason, which can only operate on sensory evidence and rational proof.

Henry7

01/18/2007 06:10:11 PM

Lord Buddha never believed in, nor prayed to, any Creator God concept. Atheism = Rational Thought. Monotheism = Superstition.

poetographer

01/18/2007 05:19:35 PM

jacknky - “Can you give me a Biblical reference that can be interpreted in valuing the use of reason to guide our actions?” Sure: "Test everything. Hold on to the good." 1 Thess 5:21 Not a fan of quoting verses though; the Bible wasn't written that way, and shouldn’t be read that way. I believe almost all of what Jesus is reported to have said is unreasonable, but nevertheless beneficial. On a different track, I feel there's an unquestioned assumption in this thread that good things are likely to rise from reason. What is inherently "reasonable" about treating people equally? I think we agree it is good, but why is it "reasonable" in the strictest sense? I think it is easy and proper to use reason to condemn unjust activities, but that is not the same as promoting activities that don’t benefit us directly. For what "reason" should I be concerned with the faceless poor? I can think of plenty of "reasons" to keep them out of my neighborhood, but that doesn't really jibe with my deeper beliefs.

jacknky

01/18/2007 04:42:12 PM

jd, "I think the Buddha said it best by keeping a noble silence on the issue." point taken. Thanks.

jd70

01/18/2007 04:31:00 PM

jacknky: "Personally, I do have a small problem with calling any unknown component "God". It's just too confusing. There are about as many conceptions of "God" as there are people." I would agree. IMHO it is not the term "God" that i