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Open Letter to Sam Harris on “The End of Faith”

 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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06 May 2016 08:11
 

pat said:

Actually, I was not referring to fascism in the least. I am well aware that fascism used religions to justify their actions in order to appeal the the religious in their perspective nations.
The point I am pushing back on is the notion that communist-socialist atheism, whose regimes have a body count that would make Hitler blush, is not separate from their atheism.
What Hitchen’s responds and general response is that one cannot ‘kill in the name of no god’. While that’s true, my point is that the correlation between these atheist states and the deliberate and direct targeting of religious peoples for the crime of being religious is not one that can be ignored. The Soviets, the Chinese, N. Koreans, Romanians, etc. Made no secret of their hatred of religions and justified their murderous actions by illuminating the danger religions posed to the state. No they didn’t do it in the name of ‘no god’ but they did do it to get rid of belief in God. They did it and are doing it because of their atheist ideology.  It’s a militant atheism to be sure, but it’s atheism none the less.

We are talking about exactly the same situations. All of the movements you describe were / are extremely dogmatic. They were / are anti-EXISTING-religion, but they attempt to replace EXISTING religions, with authoritarian, dogmatic, religious-adjacent ideologies. If you choose to bring atheists into these situations (and I believe atheism is orthogonal), then I would counter that atheists *tend* to be free thinkers, and the regimes you mention were the antithesis of free thinking.

 
 
KathleenBrugger
 
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06 May 2016 09:11
 
SkepticX - 06 May 2016 05:43 AM
KathleenBrugger - 05 May 2016 06:34 PM

I disagree. I don’t think SH and Dawkins represent themselves as focusing on fundamentalism. They are arguing against God, period. If you’re going to do that, you need to address more than just fundamentalists.


Not if you’re just focusing on the veracity of the subject of the beliefs and the associated problem child thinking and behavior. So often I see or hear arguments against what Harris has said or written that are all about things that were isolated out of his scope. If the description of the issue doesn’t fit what you’re defending, you’re defending it against a personal ghost. But I don’t know the specifics of what you’re talking about so I have no idea if that’s the case here—not really interested in going there in any case. I’m not exorcised enough over the fact that Harris is being criticized—not really much of an issue to me personally, but I do know that the lion’s share of his critics are failing to keep up, which is entirely understandable to some extent—such is the cost of a high degree of nuance and focus—but most of that lion’s share is projection and just intellectual laziness, which I don’t think is at all likely in your case.

I think Harris in particular (and Dawkins to a lesser extent) is issued many words by many of his readers because he is a very focused and mentally disciplined dude, and a lot of people are simply not equipped to deal with that—seems to be more and more the case over these last few decades. Often people will criticize Harris for taking a position he explicitly rejects in the very text he’s being criticized for. For whatever reason, our collective ability to maintain context is faltering, often quite problematically. That disproportionately effects nuanced and focused writers and thinkers like Harris. I’m certainly not suggesting there’s nothing to any of the criticism he gets (he gets some of it from me, after all), but as these kinds of themes (memes?) go, this one is very reliable. A huge amount of Harris’ criticism can be addressed, pretty completely, by simply pointing out that’s not the issue.

Thanks for the vote of confidence. I’m really not into a huge discussion about this because I am no expert on SH’s positions on God and religion. However I kept notes while I was reading End of Faith a couple of months ago and I am fairly confident about my assertions that his arguments against God are quite shallow. The main argument was in a few pages about theodicy, and were based on these concepts of God:

Biological truths are simply not commensurate with a designer God…The deity who stalked the deserts of the Middle East millennia ago…A close study of our holy books reveals that the God of Abraham is a ridiculous fellow…The problem of vindicating an omnipotent God in the face of evil…

These are direct quotes from the theodicy section. I laughed aloud while reading it because his arguments were so ridiculous. This is what I mean by shallow and centered on the God of the Bible. There are many conceptions of God that are much more subtle than this and I haven’t seen Harris or Dawkins address them.

Of course what SH was trying to do with this book is bring about the ‘end of faith.’ He wrote: “I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance—born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God—is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss.” This sounds like the thought police to me.

 
 
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06 May 2016 09:15
 
Dennis Campbell - 05 May 2016 02:19 PM

There are at least two major issues here. The first major issue is the proposition that God exists. That has occupied the human race for the last few thousand years, and I do not expect to resolve that here; I’m not quite that grandiose Obviously I do not believe that any such God exists. Just as obviously approximately three out of four of the human race does believe in some kind of a God.

The second issue is one that I do address with great seriousness. And that is what kind of prescriptions, power, control, or morality is associated with a believe in a God.  Neither Theists nor atheists have any claim to superior morality.  Perhaps one difference is that if a theist screws up they can claim that God told them to do so. If an atheist engages in injurious behavior, he or she does not have that rationale.  But, being human, they will likely blame something else.

The existence or nonexistence of any God is of no interest to me. What is of interest to me is how people use that believe in a God or that nonbelief in a god to justify their behavior.  One of the members of this forum has for a long time used his belief in a God to justify condemning everyone else here who does not agree with him.  That kind of thinking I will indeed oppose.

As you may or may not have noticed, according to my biography, I have been a clinical psychologist for the last 45 years. Therefore I have some biases.

Arguments for the existence of God go all the way back to Aristotle. And if you actually spend any time with any of the arguments, they are all essentially “Cosmological” arguments at least in structure. Whether or not you believe in God, is not particularly relevant and as you said, it does not really matter to you. So I will not belabor the point except to say that the argument for the existence of what we call God, has strong philosophical grounding.

On your second point, my only contention is that theists, or religious people use “God” as an excuse to act badly. By and large, no we don’t. As a matter of fact the opposite is true. When we do evil that is in opposition to God. St. Francis famously said “Never do evil, even to achieve good”
That being said, their are those who have and continue to use God as a basis for their carrying out egregious crimes against humanity. And we know that the ones doing it now just happen to be Muslims. I honestly do not know where they get this from, they claim the Koran and I am not in a position to argue because I do not know their religion in any detail. I will say that Islam is in great turmoil at this time and the amount of evil actors, though not a majority are still breathtakingly large. 

Now I have talked to muslims who are clearly not in agreement with the radical factions and their opinions on the radicals are the same as mine. That in a religious sense what they are doing is blasphemy. It’s one thing to do evil, it’s a whole other to blame God for it. That’s what we Christians know as the unforgivable sin, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

I even went to a Mosque with a Muslim friend of mine for their service. I did not hear anything bad that day, actually the Imam or whatever he was, was preaching against terrorism and calling for the congregation to reach out and make peace with people.
Sadly though, despite all this positiveness, I ask this Muslim friend of mine about Jews…. He hates them.


Personally, it angers me to no end when religious people of any cloth, claim they are do said evil because ‘God said so’. Obviously, it’s not only tragic for the victims and their families, but it’s personally offensive for somebody to say God put them up to evil deeds. It also damages every person of faith for someone to carry out evil in the name of God. It makes us all look like idiots even if we understand that to be the complete opposite of what God expects of us.

Were it not for radical Islam, or Islamism, these books like “The End of Faith” and “The God Delusion” would not have been near as popular. I understand why you’re angry, I understand why a lot of people are angry. If I thought God were evil, I would be joining your ranks.

 

 
KathleenBrugger
 
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06 May 2016 09:21
 
likota - 06 May 2016 06:17 AM
KathleenBrugger - 05 May 2016 03:40 PM

... But how simple is a Big Bang? And how improbable is something arising out of nothing?
... Plus I get so tired of reading books that never even mention religion outside of the Abrahamic Big Three. How can these New Atheist authors be so oblivious to ignoring half the planet? I don’t get it.

I’ll try to be short as possible.

You probably missed many points reading works of SH and Dawkins. Let me just add something to the above.

a) You asked totally surprised: “And how improbable is something arising out of nothing?”
Well, if there is a God or gods, they also had to arise from ‘something ’ or from ‘nothing’.  Do you have any idea to offer how that may have happened?  Although theoretical and plausible, Big Bang has its merits through recent observations and calculations.

b) There are many books about the other religions if you are interested in searching for the truth. However, as Christianity and Islam are the closest to us in many ways. it is logical to examine them in depth, as well it is logical for individuals in the Far East to discuss Buddhism or maybe Hinduism. And trust me: discussing Horus or Oziris in depth is utterly boooring.

I’m sure I did miss things. But let me address your two points:

a. One of Dawkins’ main arguments is that God is improbable. What I was asking was: Improbable compared to what? There being something rather than nothing? How probable is that? The fact that some thing does exist is mysterious and awe-inspiring.

b. What I’m talking about are more sophisticated models of God. Not the bumbling God of the Old Testament, but not those of Eastern religions either. There are many people in the Western world who understand God in more subtle ways and I think that’s what the OP was about largely. By attacking a simplistic model of God the New Atheists are limiting their audience and weakening their arguments.

 
 
icehorse
 
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06 May 2016 09:26
 

kathleen:

These are direct quotes from the theodicy section. I laughed aloud while reading it because his arguments were so ridiculous. This is what I mean by shallow and centered on the God of the Bible. There are many conceptions of God that are much more subtle than this and I haven’t seen Harris or Dawkins address them.

Of course what SH was trying to do with this book is bring about the ‘end of faith.’ He wrote: “I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance—born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God—is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss.” This sounds like the thought police to me.

On the other hand, apologists often twist the very definition of “religion”. The most common understanding of “religion” is that sacred texts are an essential component. To declare that attacks on scripture are “shallow” is to be evasive.

 
 
icehorse
 
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06 May 2016 09:30
 

pat:

Were it not for radical Islam, or Islamism, these books like “The End of Faith” and “The God Delusion” would not have been near as popular. I understand why you’re angry, I understand why a lot of people are angry. If I thought God were evil, I would be joining your ranks.

The world’s most popular scripture IS evil. The Quran and the Bible are evil. The RC church is evil. Mother Teresa was evil. Christian fundamentalists are evil.

 
 
SkepticX
 
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06 May 2016 10:26
 
KathleenBrugger - 06 May 2016 09:11 AM
SkepticX - 06 May 2016 05:43 AM
KathleenBrugger - 05 May 2016 06:34 PM

I disagree. I don’t think SH and Dawkins represent themselves as focusing on fundamentalism. They are arguing against God, period. If you’re going to do that, you need to address more than just fundamentalists.

Not if you’re just focusing on the veracity of the subject of the beliefs and the associated problem child thinking and behavior. So often I see or hear arguments against what Harris has said or written that are all about things that were isolated out of his scope. If the description of the issue doesn’t fit what you’re defending, you’re defending it against a personal ghost. But I don’t know the specifics of what you’re talking about so I have no idea if that’s the case here—not really interested in going there in any case. I’m not exorcised enough over the fact that Harris is being criticized—not really much of an issue to me personally, but I do know that the lion’s share of his critics are failing to keep up, which is entirely understandable to some extent—such is the cost of a high degree of nuance and focus—but most of that lion’s share is projection and just intellectual laziness, which I don’t think is at all likely in your case.

I think Harris in particular (and Dawkins to a lesser extent) is issued many words by many of his readers because he is a very focused and mentally disciplined dude, and a lot of people are simply not equipped to deal with that—seems to be more and more the case over these last few decades. Often people will criticize Harris for taking a position he explicitly rejects in the very text he’s being criticized for. For whatever reason, our collective ability to maintain context is faltering, often quite problematically. That disproportionately effects nuanced and focused writers and thinkers like Harris. I’m certainly not suggesting there’s nothing to any of the criticism he gets (he gets some of it from me, after all), but as these kinds of themes (memes?) go, this one is very reliable. A huge amount of Harris’ criticism can be addressed, pretty completely, by simply pointing out that’s not the issue.

Thanks for the vote of confidence. I’m really not into a huge discussion about this because I am no expert on SH’s positions on God and religion. However I kept notes while I was reading End of Faith a couple of months ago and I am fairly confident about my assertions that his arguments against God are quite shallow. The main argument was in a few pages about theodicy, and were based on these concepts of God:

Biological truths are simply not commensurate with a designer God…The deity who stalked the deserts of the Middle East millennia ago…A close study of our holy books reveals that the God of Abraham is a ridiculous fellow…The problem of vindicating an omnipotent God in the face of evil…

These are direct quotes from the theodicy section. I laughed aloud while reading it because his arguments were so ridiculous. This is what I mean by shallow and centered on the God of the Bible. There are many conceptions of God that are much more subtle than this and I haven’t seen Harris or Dawkins address them.

What sort of problem do you have with what he said there, anyway?

Are you suggesting Harris and Dawkins must tackle those concepts of God even if they aren’t at issue then?

Harris does address this though, when he talks about ad hoc god concepts—gods/religions of one, basically. It’s not entirely reasonable to expect a critic to address all conceptions and variations of the idea they’re criticizing. Instead they mention the ones they address, and we can ask questions about any others. We seem to be socialized to see it the other way around when it comes to religion though. It’s obviously not reasonable in other contexts, but that same sense is generally inactive when the subject of criticism is God or religion.

 

KathleenBrugger - 06 May 2016 09:11 AM

Of course what SH was trying to do with this book is bring about the ‘end of faith.’ He wrote: “I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance—born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God—is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss.” This sounds like the thought police to me.

I wouldn’t use such hyperbolic terms (abyss), but he really just saying that reality matters, and that when we choose to believe things that don’t mesh so well with it, that can be problematic. I don’t seen an issue there.

 
 
Poldano
 
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07 May 2016 00:49
 

This discussion may turn interesting.

KathleenBrugger - 06 May 2016 09:21 AM

...

b. What I’m talking about are more sophisticated models of God. Not the bumbling God of the Old Testament, but not those of Eastern religions either. There are many people in the Western world who understand God in more subtle ways and I think that’s what the OP was about largely. By attacking a simplistic model of God the New Atheists are limiting their audience and weakening their arguments.

Actually, I think that these authors are attacking a simplistic model of believers, or perhaps a simplistic model of belief metaphysics. One of the common tactics is to frame a belief in terms that its most concrete believers assert, then attempt to fit every believer into the same category of concreteness. The assumption regarded as axiomatic seems to be that if one member of a class has a particular definition of its class predicate, then all members of the class must have the same definition of their class predicate.

To whit, is it necessary for me to assert something in order to say that I believe it, and for my expression of belief to be credible? What if I assert nothing about the state of reality or anything in it, then assert that I believe in reality? Is that credible? Do I need to make up stories about reality in order to convince others that I believe something real, or will others take my word for it that I believe something that cannot be adequately stated?

 
 
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07 May 2016 07:37
 
SkepticX - 06 May 2016 10:26 AM

What sort of problem do you have with what he said there, anyway?

Are you suggesting Harris and Dawkins must tackle those concepts of God even if they aren’t at issue then?

Harris does address this though, when he talks about ad hoc god concepts—gods/religions of one, basically. It’s not entirely reasonable to expect a critic to address all conceptions and variations of the idea they’re criticizing. Instead they mention the ones they address, and we can ask questions about any others. We seem to be socialized to see it the other way around when it comes to religion though. It’s obviously not reasonable in other contexts, but that same sense is generally inactive when the subject of criticism is God or religion.

Yes they must tackle those concepts. How are they not at issue? Harris didn’t title his book “The End of Judeo-Christian-Muslim Faith.” Dawkins didn’t title his book “The Abrahamic-model-of-God Delusion.” They are tackling GOD. If you are going to argue that people have to stop having faith in God, or that God is a delusion, wouldn’t you think you would feel compelled to address as many people’s interpretation of God as possible? I’m not sure where you are referring to Harris’s reference to ad0hoc god concepts, I don’t remember that in End of Faith but I could have missed it.

I am an agnostic shading into panentheism. My conception of God is very different from what Harris and Dawkins discuss. The panentheist God is not a Creator, the universe is an aspect of what God is. There is no intervention by God, because the unfolding of the universe in the process of evolution is the whole point of existence, to experience all forms of limitation. This is why I laughed out loud in the theodicy section because from this perspective there is no theodicy problem.

SkepticX - 06 May 2016 10:26 AM
KathleenBrugger - 06 May 2016 09:11 AM

Of course what SH was trying to do with this book is bring about the ‘end of faith.’ He wrote: “I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance—born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God—is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss.” This sounds like the thought police to me.

I wouldn’t use such hyperbolic terms (abyss), but he really just saying that reality matters, and that when we choose to believe things that don’t mesh so well with it, that can be problematic. I don’t seen an issue there.

I am totally in agreement that reality matters. But I don’t think that means we have to give up on the existence of a non-material reality. There are people who are working towards a scientific spirituality. One author who I really admire is Ken Wilber. His integrative approach involves bringing empirical testing to the ‘inner’ realms.

 
 
KathleenBrugger
 
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07 May 2016 07:52
 
Poldano - 07 May 2016 12:49 AM

This discussion may turn interesting.

KathleenBrugger - 06 May 2016 09:21 AM

...

b. What I’m talking about are more sophisticated models of God. Not the bumbling God of the Old Testament, but not those of Eastern religions either. There are many people in the Western world who understand God in more subtle ways and I think that’s what the OP was about largely. By attacking a simplistic model of God the New Atheists are limiting their audience and weakening their arguments.

Actually, I think that these authors are attacking a simplistic model of believers, or perhaps a simplistic model of belief metaphysics. One of the common tactics is to frame a belief in terms that its most concrete believers assert, then attempt to fit every believer into the same category of concreteness. The assumption regarded as axiomatic seems to be that if one member of a class has a particular definition of its class predicate, then all members of the class must have the same definition of their class predicate.

To whit, is it necessary for me to assert something in order to say that I believe it, and for my expression of belief to be credible? What if I assert nothing about the state of reality or anything in it, then assert that I believe in reality? Is that credible? Do I need to make up stories about reality in order to convince others that I believe something real, or will others take my word for it that I believe something that cannot be adequately stated?

I think you’re right that the arguments seem to be assuming a monolithic class of believers.

Recently I read someone making the argument that God doesn’t exist, because in order to ‘exist’ that means something must be an entity with boundaries. The essence of what we mean by God (at least some of us) is unlimitedness, therefore it’s absurd to talk about the existence or nonexistence of God. Personally I think this is splitting philosophical hairs since in the real world of language what we mean by that statement is “Is there a God or not?”

But I like what I think you are saying here. Lately I’ve been thinking there is “some thing more.” That is, there is something more than the material, physical realm of reality. I have no idea what that STM might be, but i have had experiences that lead me to believe that there is something. This relates to the discussion of consciousness that was going on in the Chalmers podcast thread. The STM is in the realm of consciousness. But do I have to be able to articulate STM in words in order to defend my belief?

As you say, does anyone have an adequate definition of ‘reality’? Yet we confidently assert we believe in reality and base all our opinions about what is real on our confidence in our understanding of reality. A bit circular when you start thinking about it this way.

 
 
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07 May 2016 07:54
 
icehorse - 06 May 2016 09:26 AM

kathleen:

These are direct quotes from the theodicy section. I laughed aloud while reading it because his arguments were so ridiculous. This is what I mean by shallow and centered on the God of the Bible. There are many conceptions of God that are much more subtle than this and I haven’t seen Harris or Dawkins address them.

Of course what SH was trying to do with this book is bring about the ‘end of faith.’ He wrote: “I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance—born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God—is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss.” This sounds like the thought police to me.

On the other hand, apologists often twist the very definition of “religion”. The most common understanding of “religion” is that sacred texts are an essential component. To declare that attacks on scripture are “shallow” is to be evasive.

I am not defending religion, be sure of that. Am I being evasive? Please explain.

 
 
SkepticX
 
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07 May 2016 08:32
 
KathleenBrugger - 07 May 2016 07:37 AM
SkepticX - 06 May 2016 10:26 AM

What sort of problem do you have with what he said there, anyway?

Are you suggesting Harris and Dawkins must tackle those concepts of God even if they aren’t at issue then?

Harris does address this though, when he talks about ad hoc god concepts—gods/religions of one, basically. It’s not entirely reasonable to expect a critic to address all conceptions and variations of the idea they’re criticizing. Instead they mention the ones they address, and we can ask questions about any others. We seem to be socialized to see it the other way around when it comes to religion though. It’s obviously not reasonable in other contexts, but that same sense is generally inactive when the subject of criticism is God or religion.

Yes they must tackle those concepts. How are they not at issue? Harris didn’t title his book “The End of Judeo-Christian-Muslim Faith.” Dawkins didn’t title his book “The Abrahamic-model-of-God Delusion.” They are tackling GOD. If you are going to argue that people have to stop having faith in God, or that God is a delusion, wouldn’t you think you would feel compelled to address as many people’s interpretation of God as possible? I’m not sure where you are referring to Harris’s reference to ad0hoc god concepts, I don’t remember that in End of Faith but I could have missed it.

Are you considering Harris’ stuff according to his use of the term faith, or yours?

And no, to address faith you don’t necessarily have to address gods at all. It’s not about whether there’s a god or not. It’s not even really about whether we practice some sort of religion. It’s about faith, and some religious practices don’t even require belief, so faith may not even be in that picture.

I’ll see if I can find the “religion of one” comment. It may have been in Letter to a Christian Nation—possibly even an elaboration on either book in a speech, but I’m pretty sure it’s actually in either or both TEoF/LtaCN.

 

KathleenBrugger - 07 May 2016 07:37 AM

I am an agnostic shading into panentheism. My conception of God is very different from what Harris and Dawkins discuss. The panentheist God is not a Creator, the universe is an aspect of what God is. There is no intervention by God, because the unfolding of the universe in the process of evolution is the whole point of existence, to experience all forms of limitation. This is why I laughed out loud in the theodicy section because from this perspective there is no theodicy problem.

So because the issue of the book apparently doesn’t include your concept of God it’s laughable?

That seems a very odd response to me. What’s going on there? Why would you choose to think it relevant to your beliefs when Harris explains what the issue is, and it apparently your god concept isn’t included? I find it strange when believers choose to leap in front of bullets that aren’t aimed their way. It’s a very common theistic or religious behavior—presume any criticism includes any and all manifestations and concepts of religion, and take them all personally. It seems to be maybe the kernel of the persecution complex we see so prominently in the less rational versions of religion.

 

KathleenBrugger - 07 May 2016 07:37 AM
SkepticX - 06 May 2016 10:26 AM
KathleenBrugger - 06 May 2016 09:11 AM

Of course what SH was trying to do with this book is bring about the ‘end of faith.’ He wrote: “I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance—born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God—is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss.” This sounds like the thought police to me.

I wouldn’t use such hyperbolic terms (abyss), but he really just saying that reality matters, and that when we choose to believe things that don’t mesh so well with it, that can be problematic. I don’t seen an issue there.

I am totally in agreement that reality matters. But I don’t think that means we have to give up on the existence of a non-material reality. There are people who are working towards a scientific spirituality. One author who I really admire is Ken Wilber. His integrative approach involves bringing empirical testing to the ‘inner’ realms.

Accepting reality includes accepting the unknown. Slipping some sort of presumption/fabrication into one’s set of beliefs about reality is inherently contrary to the whole reality matters schtick. What we don’t know is part of reality—ignorance isn’t some sort of realm in which we can somehow make anything we want real. It’s the unknown, the reality of the unknown is that we don’t know about that which properly falls under that description. When we start “choosing to believe” things about it (if that’s even really possible) we’re rejecting that definitive fact about the unknown—about reality.

 
 
icehorse
 
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07 May 2016 09:33
 
KathleenBrugger - 07 May 2016 07:54 AM
icehorse - 06 May 2016 09:26 AM

kathleen:

These are direct quotes from the theodicy section. I laughed aloud while reading it because his arguments were so ridiculous. This is what I mean by shallow and centered on the God of the Bible. There are many conceptions of God that are much more subtle than this and I haven’t seen Harris or Dawkins address them.

Of course what SH was trying to do with this book is bring about the ‘end of faith.’ He wrote: “I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance—born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God—is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss.” This sounds like the thought police to me.

On the other hand, apologists often twist the very definition of “religion”. The most common understanding of “religion” is that sacred texts are an essential component. To declare that attacks on scripture are “shallow” is to be evasive.

I am not defending religion, be sure of that. Am I being evasive? Please explain.

SkepticX - +1

Kathleen,

The authors you’re criticizing are up against overwhelming odds. Us atheists and especially us anti-theists are a tiny, tiny minority of the population, and we see enormous, species-threatening problems with mainstream religion. So I think you have to allow these authors some room for rhetoric, no? Additionally, Harris has said over and over again that he loses no sleep worrying about the Amish. On the other hand, while your particular, rare form of belief is probably benign, it can give cover to the religions that ARE problematic. When you defend religion, you’re running with a dangerous crowd. smile

 
 
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07 May 2016 17:46
 
SkepticX - 07 May 2016 08:32 AM
KathleenBrugger - 07 May 2016 07:37 AM
SkepticX - 06 May 2016 10:26 AM

What sort of problem do you have with what he said there, anyway?

Are you suggesting Harris and Dawkins must tackle those concepts of God even if they aren’t at issue then?

Harris does address this though, when he talks about ad hoc god concepts—gods/religions of one, basically. It’s not entirely reasonable to expect a critic to address all conceptions and variations of the idea they’re criticizing. Instead they mention the ones they address, and we can ask questions about any others. We seem to be socialized to see it the other way around when it comes to religion though. It’s obviously not reasonable in other contexts, but that same sense is generally inactive when the subject of criticism is God or religion.

Yes they must tackle those concepts. How are they not at issue? Harris didn’t title his book “The End of Judeo-Christian-Muslim Faith.” Dawkins didn’t title his book “The Abrahamic-model-of-God Delusion.” They are tackling GOD. If you are going to argue that people have to stop having faith in God, or that God is a delusion, wouldn’t you think you would feel compelled to address as many people’s interpretation of God as possible? I’m not sure where you are referring to Harris’s reference to ad0hoc god concepts, I don’t remember that in End of Faith but I could have missed it.

Are you considering Harris’ stuff according to his use of the term faith, or yours?

And no, to address faith you don’t necessarily have to address gods at all. It’s not about whether there’s a god or not. It’s not even really about whether we practice some sort of religion. It’s about faith, and some religious practices don’t even require belief, so faith may not even be in that picture.

I’ll see if I can find the “religion of one” comment. It may have been in Letter to a Christian Nation—possibly even an elaboration on either book in a speech, but I’m pretty sure it’s actually in either or both TEoF/LtaCN.

I’m splitting these up because I’m like Jeff (jdmd)—I don’t like long posts. Faith in what? What is faith? Unfortunately I don’t own End of Faith or I would look to see if Harris defines faith in there. So you are saying that Harris is just arguing that people should stop having faith in anything unseen that lacks empirical evidence, and that includes all sorts of things besides god? Which is why god is tangential to the argument? 

Correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that string theory, after decades of research, does not have one shred of empirical evidence to estabish its veracity. So if I have faith in string theory Harris would tell me that I should give that up because it’s not evidence-based?

 
 
KathleenBrugger
 
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KathleenBrugger
Total Posts:  1511
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07 May 2016 17:52
 
SkepticX - 07 May 2016 08:32 AM
KathleenBrugger - 07 May 2016 07:37 AM

I am an agnostic shading into panentheism. My conception of God is very different from what Harris and Dawkins discuss. The panentheist God is not a Creator, the universe is an aspect of what God is. There is no intervention by God, because the unfolding of the universe in the process of evolution is the whole point of existence, to experience all forms of limitation. This is why I laughed out loud in the theodicy section because from this perspective there is no theodicy problem.

So because the issue of the book apparently doesn’t include your concept of God it’s laughable?

That seems a very odd response to me. What’s going on there? Why would you choose to think it relevant to your beliefs when Harris explains what the issue is, and it apparently your god concept isn’t included? I find it strange when believers choose to leap in front of bullets that aren’t aimed their way. It’s a very common theistic or religious behavior—presume any criticism includes any and all manifestations and concepts of religion, and take them all personally. It seems to be maybe the kernel of the persecution complex we see so prominently in the less rational versions of religion.

No it wasn’t because the book didn’t include my concept of God. It was because of the earnestness with which Harris went at the theodicy argument as if he was making a really devastating argument against the existence of God (actually this was about the only time he talked about God as I recall so that bolsters your argument that this book was against faith, not God). But Harris only used the Abrahamic model of God in his posing of the theodicy problem. He didn’t consider the problem from any other standpoint. That’s also why I laughed. It was so transparently a straw man argument.

Panentheism is not a fringe belief, btw. It is actually something I am sure Harris is familiar with because it is the way God is viewed in Advaita Vedanta, an Indian spiritual practice better known in this country as ‘nondualism.’ From that point of view there is nothing that is not God, therefore there is no such thing as evil. The entire ‘how could a good god create a world that includes evil’ doesn’t even make sense from within the viewpoint of nondualism.

 
 
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