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

 
pat2112
 
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pat2112
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10 May 2016 08:31
 
icehorse - 09 May 2016 04:15 PM
pat2112 - 09 May 2016 12:34 PM
icehorse - 06 May 2016 09:30 AM

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.

Mother Teresa was evil? That’s not even sane. I cannot take you seriously if you are not going to bother to investigate this stuff as to it’s validity. You are just regurgitating meme’s and talking points as fact and have done nothing to investigate if there is any fact to it at all.

I can simply come here and say atheism is the most evil thing on Earth and not back it up and it would have as much validity as what you said.
Have you read the Quran? I don’t know if it, itself is evil, I have never read it and hence cannot judge the text. I know that a disproportionate amount of Muslims are evil because I can observer their behavior
Have you read the Bible? I have and it’s not evil, far from it. That doesn’t mean there are not troubling things in it, but to me that increases it’s validity rather than detracts. If it were all sunshine and unicorns then I don’t think I could take it seriously because life is not like that. I have read it and I continue to read it and study it.
The Roman Catholic Church is evil? Have you read the Catechism? Are you basing this loosely on some old historical events? Or is it the preist sex scandal where by some truly evil people were acting in opposition to what the church teaches? It’s also the largest charitable organization in the world.
If you choose only to see bad things, you will find them, but it’s not an honest look and it’s certainly not an informed view point.

You can believe all these things if you want to, but you cannot claim them as well informed beliefs. If you cannot make informed comments or ask honest questions then I will not dignify unwarranted vitriol with a response.

Why yes, I have read the Quran. And I’d have to say that I’ll favor Hitchens’ researching concerning M. Teresa more highly than I favor yours until YOU trot out some evidence that counters Hitchens’ claims. As for the RC church, why yes, I think the systematic shielding of pedophiles is significant. I also think it’s significant that the church acts as though condoms are worse than AIDS - that’s despicable. I’m not overly fond of the churches stance on large families either - that seems to be the height of arrogance on this over-crowded, under resourced planet of ours. As for charity work, I’d say that TRUE charity work ought to come with no strings attached. Church driven charity work typically comes with evangelistic strings attached, not clean at all.

Hitchens just dropped some unverified claims about MT withholding ‘life-saving’ medicine to children to satisfy some bizarre sadistic nature. It’s he who needed to provide the evidence that such a thing even, remotely occurred. Her charity is well documented, feel free to look it up.
I am not going to accept the burden of proving bizarre accusations that have a near zero chance of having occurred false.
And you clearly haven’t done any homework on the Catholic Church. Again, it’s not my job to educate you. If you want to know, all the information is free on the internet. The Catechism and all it’s teachings are 100% public. If you want to know where the church stands on an issue, it’s easy to find out.
And no, the charity comes with no strings attached again, patently false.

Again, here’s the problem. You are gathering information about religion, from atheists. If you want to know about religion, then go to the source. If I want to learn about Greece, do you go to a Grecian or a Frenchman?

Your admonitions illustrate perfectly what I was talking about. You are accepting false information, put forth by atheists as propaganda, as fact. It’s not true. But you won’t lift a finger to find out the facts before you level accusations.
If you want to hate God, church, religion, religious people, etc. go nuts. If you are going to level public accusations all I am asking is that one simply fact check to make sure it’s true and that is not happening.

I can base my opinions on atheists based on militant atheism. A whacked group of people who want to advance atheism by force and killing. Should I assume that since you share similar ideals, that you are them?

OR perhaps you do agree with China’s methodology? Technically, they are hero’s of atheism. Razing churches, imprisoning and punishing both clergy and lay up to death in order to quash faith and force atheism on the public. After all, they are taking actionable advance in the course of atheism. They are taking action. Do you celebrate their efforts to rid the world of ‘evil religion’?
If it’s as evil as you say, then all of you should do the same as China so as to save the world from the evils of Christian faith.
This is happening now, not in the past. This is happening in 2016. Don’t believe me, then look it up. By all means don’t take my word for it. Fact check.

[ Edited: 10 May 2016 08:34 by pat2112]
 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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10 May 2016 09:21
 
pat2112, to icehorse - 10 May 2016 08:31 AM

. . . A whacked group of people who want to advance atheism by force and killing. Should I assume that since you share similar ideals, that you are them?

OR perhaps you do agree with China’s methodology? Technically, they are hero’s of atheism. Razing churches, imprisoning and punishing both clergy and lay up to death in order to quash faith and force atheism on the public. After all, they are taking actionable advance in the course of atheism. They are taking action. Do you celebrate their efforts to rid the world of ‘evil religion’?
If it’s as evil as you say, then all of you should do the same as China so as to save the world from the evils of Christian faith.
This is happening now, not in the past. This is happening in 2016. Don’t believe me, then look it up. By all means don’t take my word for it. Fact check.

Most atheists seem to understand that religions can serve a positive psychological function for some people. They also realize that attempting to destroy religions would be as futile as religions attempting to destroy sexual cues. The more forbidden it’s portrayed to be, the more appeal it gathers, whether it’s theism or people rubbing up against each other.

 
 
pat2112
 
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10 May 2016 09:35
 
SkepticX - 09 May 2016 04:41 PM
pat2112 - 09 May 2016 01:46 PM
SkepticX - 09 May 2016 11:37 AM

I don’t see “stupid” being generalized in Harris’ stuff—he takes definite aim at his specific targets. .... Aside from that I don’t think you’re gonna have a very easy time making your case.

Eh, he’s not as direct with it as Dawkins who calls for the open mocking and insulting of religious people in public, but it feels inferred.

Yeah, it’s subtle ... as if it’s a seemingly more or less innocuous comment—you’re obviously set up to infer the insult, not because you’re overly defensive of course, because that’s how people who think they’re super smart and use big words treat those who disagrees with them.

Does that cover the sentiment, more or less?

All those deceptive atheist religion critics play that same psychological game, making what they say seem as if it’s reasonable so they can manipulate you.

Yup. I think I get it.

 

What website did you copy and paste that from?
Clearly your fangs are starting to show. Reasonable discussion is leaving the building…

 

pat2112 - 09 May 2016 01:46 PM

Not withstanding, my point is and remains that what he thinks we believe and what we actually believe are completely different things. And the opinions he expresses based on the things we do not believe is hardly positive. So it makes me wonder, if he had better information would he still have made the same judgments?

So the problem beliefs he’s talking about don’t match yours ... but yet he’s talking about you and those who think like you. Or is it that all believers basically agree with you, so if he’s targeting a specific group of beliefs that aren’t yours he can’t be talking about other believers with different beliefs?

Merely suggesting getting the facts straight. Is that a ridiculous request? I am not talking about my beliefs. What is wrong with presenting the facts accurately?

pat2112 - 09 May 2016 08:37 AM
SkepticX - 09 May 2016 11:37 AM

I do not have a problem with judging the behavior of a particular group. ... Those beliefs can and frequently do lead to and/or enable poor behavior though.

Well which of these core beliefs falsifies Christianity:
- Love of God
- Love of neighbor
- Golden Rule

Are those the only choices you’re willing to consider? Do you think they’ll survive scrutiny if they’re fleshed out rather than being so vague and general?

 

Those are the core tenets of Christianity. Like it or not. All of it boils down to that.
Don’t take my word for it. Look it up.

pat2112 - 09 May 2016 08:37 AM

The core beliefs in Christianity also lead many to do remarkably good things. Serve the poor, serve those in prison, serve the divorced, serve the sick, serve the depressed, etc. There are ministries and outreaches to every walk of life and the recipients are not judged on their beliefs, race, sexuality, etc.

I agree there are ministries in which good people do good things, absolutely, it’s just a terrible, tragic shame that we’re socialized to re-distribute the credit for what’s obvious on its face (that people are generally good and tend to get a long pretty well by nature, just like other social animals) so that we can prop up Religion (reified) even if it means rejecting and even denying our own humanity.

No, religion doesn’t do these things, it’s just an aspect of our nature—ideas and behaviors humans think and do. It’s not some sort of separate Thing Unto Itself. It’s what people do in social groups. That goes for all of it. Religion can be an ideological enzyme that allows us to digest ideas and engage in behaviors we wouldn’t without it, but it all comes from us—from people.

A quick glance at the world does not give one the impression that ‘people are generally good’. Maybe in our society that may be true. But if an alien were to come down from space, knowing nothing about us, and looking at how we behave as a species, I am pretty sure ‘generally good’ would not be the first thing that comes to mind.
- 80% of the world lives on less than $10 a day.
- 1.6 billion people live without basic rights
- 12% of the world is illiterate
- 151 countries are currently involved in armed conflict right now.
- Atheists are dramatically less charitable than their Christian counter parts by a ratio of 2:1, even when church giving (tithing) is excluded.

http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats
http://www.livescience.com/21368-measuring-freedom-and-repression-infographic.html
http://www.literacypartners.org/literacy-in-america/literacy-facts
http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/499884/Global-Peace-Index-reveals-only-11-countries-are-not-involved-in-conflict
http://www.conservapedia.com/Atheism_and_charity

So no, people are generally shitty to each other according to statistics. And if it were merely human goodness, the charitableness of atheists should be equal to those of Christians, but that is not the case. The irreligious give less and do less for their fellow man, that is a fact backed up back statistics.
As Bill Maher would say “We have facts on this.” And the facts do not support your assertions, at all.

pat2112 - 09 May 2016 08:37 AM

I don’t know a single Christian who is out to do evil based on their faith. We screw up, we make mistakes, but we don’t intentionally seek to do harm, so where is the evil?

Part of the problem there is forcing things into a binary model of good and evil—major problem, bot intellectual and social. It’s a Flatlander’s view of reality, basically, and filtering out dimensions of reality is obviously gonna seriously distort how one understands reality to work. It can even allow people to believe evil has to be intentional, and that only those who think they’re doing evil actually do evil, for example (or sometimes it just allows people to think that makes sense when it works for the rhetoric they’re trying to sell—very likely to themselves as much as or more than others).

pat2112 - 09 May 2016 08:37 AM

I know the life, I live the life, it’s not an easy life, but it’s a rewarding life. It’s definitely not easy. Atheism is much easier. It requires no sacrifice.

That’s how I’d describe my former Christian life too—no axes to grind against it or the great people I was lucky enough to associate and socialize with in the churches I grew up in. I have nothing of significance negative to say about them overall—lots of good people. But what’s real and true isn’t about me or what I want to believe, or what those good people would like me to believe. That’s completely irrelevant, because it’s not the religion, it’s the people—that’s why there are versions of Christianity that are nasty and hateful and versions that are kind and loving and positive. The sociocultural labels people feel the need to align with are just window dressing, as are the dogmas and club rules they adopt. That’s what makes a social group a religious one, which tells us that’s what religion really is. The good things people typically try so hard to morph into religion are really just the way people behave in social groups. That’s why the All Good Things model utterly fails to account for the All Bad Things aspects of reality—why they just have to arbitrarily exclude them from the picture based solely upon the prefabricated conclusion that they’re not part of what they don’t want them to be part of.

As stated above, the facts do not support these assertions. You may surrounded by generally good people, that does not mean people are generally good.

pat2112 - 09 May 2016 08:37 AM

And we do not ‘do it’ because we fear hell or want to get to heaven. We do it out of love.

You don’t speak for all believers though, and you clearly know this.

I never asserted I spoke for all of any demographic.

pat2112 - 09 May 2016 08:37 AM

I can say with confidence, that Christians like the Westboro’s of the world, who go out on their own, provide their own interpretation of the Bible, and act badly are acting in opposition to the core tenets of Christianity.

How can any Christians not work from their own interpretation of the Bible? But yeah, it’s the people, not the labels they claim. You just filter out the inconvenient and accept only the affirmational.

The same can be said about you.

pat2112 - 09 May 2016 08:37 AM

Westboro has like 70 members and they are whack jobs. I am not going to disagree that they are out of their minds. Obviously, the golden rule only works on the sane, I would prefer a masochist keep their own desires to themselves. You’re talking about the out liars and if you are saying there are exceptions to every rule, I would agree.

Convenient take, don’t you think?

Accurate take.

pat2112 - 09 May 2016 08:37 AM

I find issue with the Utilitarianism that Sam tends to subscribe to. Because a strict adherence could also have negative consequences.
Say a man gets stranded in a storm in the ocean, and it’s a high risk rescue for a Coast Guard crew, do you leave the guy to die to spare the risk to the Coast Guard? I’d say no, you risk it. I suspect Sam would too, though it does not fit neatly into Utilitarianism.
Not to mention that ‘well being’ and ‘thriving’ are very subjective terms.

Okay ... ?

 

pat2112 - 09 May 2016 01:46 PM
SkepticX - 09 May 2016 11:37 AM

Anybody who claims to be a Biblical literalist is a liar by default.

Would you have others call you a liar for your sincerely held beliefs? How about just wrong or mistaken rather than imbuing it with unsavory motivations and/or character deficiencies? Those problems can certainly accompany religious views and maybe even disproportionately so for the category of believers at issue, but you need to be a bit more specific before you’re clear of causing collateral damage here. I tend to agree with your take, just not with its apparent eager harshness. (Is that how you’d have others consider you? Is it the example you see in the gospels?)/quote]That’s not a ‘sincerely held religious belief’, it’s a fact. Biblical literalism is literally impossible.

Interesting. So you think you can determine motivations based upon your take on the situation?

Extreme overconfidence in that sort of thing is a good example of a potentially rather dangerous belief for which religious thinking/belief can act as an intellectual enzyme enabling (and enhancing) an otherwise good and reasonable person to believe and to think that way.

Who’s being over confident? I am simply arguing that actual facts on religious belief be taken into account rather than conjecture. You are clearly confident in your psychoanalysis, you clearly don’t feel it a dangerous belief. Even if the APA is an evil, draconian, brainwashing institution :O <- joke.

pat2112 - 09 May 2016 01:46 PM

There are contradictions in the Bible where one thing nullifies another. And have you seen the Tent of Meeting? I haven’t because it doesn’t exist and no one has made one according to the prescriptions in Exodus. A true literalist is somewhere in the Sinai looking for the Arc. Without it, you cannot be a true literalist.

Are you familiar with psychological/ideological compartmentalization? If not, I recommend you look into it. If so ... well, there you go.

Yes, I am familiar with it. It’s my academic background as well. Something I abandoned, but studied. Not sure what it has to do with my claim, especially since few claim true literalism anyway.

{NOTE: Text was removed to fit. Ellipses demark the removed text.}

[ Edited: 10 May 2016 09:45 by pat2112]
 
icehorse
 
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10 May 2016 10:01
 

Hey Pat,

Let’s not have a Gish gallop here. So starting with Teresa, Hitchens’ book has been in print for four years, and on Amazon it currently has 323 reviews, with a 4 star rating. The book is clearly controversial. If it’s been debunked, it’s not evident. So you’re saying that you’re correct, and that the 10’s of thousands of readers who have failed to debunk this book are wrong. I think the evidence is on my side, not yours.

 
 
SkepticX
 
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10 May 2016 10:55
 
pat2112 - 10 May 2016 09:35 AM
SkepticX - 09 May 2016 04:41 PM
pat2112 - 09 May 2016 01:46 PM
SkepticX - 09 May 2016 11:37 AM

I don’t see “stupid” being generalized in Harris’ stuff—he takes definite aim at his specific targets. .... Aside from that I don’t think you’re gonna have a very easy time making your case.

Eh, he’s not as direct with it as Dawkins who calls for the open mocking and insulting of religious people in public, but it feels inferred.

Yeah, it’s subtle ... as if it’s a seemingly more or less innocuous comment—you’re obviously set up to infer the insult, not because you’re overly defensive of course, because that’s how people who think they’re super smart and use big words treat those who disagrees with them.

Does that cover the sentiment, more or less?

All those deceptive atheist religion critics play that same psychological game, making what they say seem as if it’s reasonable so they can manipulate you.

Yup. I think I get it.

What website did you copy and paste that from?

Thanks for complimenting my writing.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to traumatize you, but I trust my point was clear in any case?

 

pat2112 - 10 May 2016 09:35 AM

Clearly your fangs are starting to show. Reasonable discussion is leaving the building…

Actually I get that impression from you—maybe you’re projecting your own inclinations here? Projection is a very common and natural defense mechanism, and all human brain owners are so inclined it seems (one of the many cognitive faults and frailties we have that unequivocally demand intellectual humility from those human brain owners who understand this). You do seem to have the perceptual overconfidence of youth (hopefully it’s just youth anyway—confirmed having gone back and read some of your material, having done which is why I’ll ... well, why I’ll remain true to my normal pattern with such posting habits), and you certainly are also rather quick to seize on excuses to dismiss views and positions that don’t affirm your own. If my “fangs” were out I’d present you with the term for that, but I’ll refrain. Frankness is often not pregnant with derision even if it may feel that way to the recipient. Also, note when a perceived insult actually would include the author if it were. That’s pretty significant.

That’s all more rhetorical than engagement, by the way ... hopefully it’ll turn out to be for you, but it’s more just musing for anyone interested in the pseudo-assessment info.

 
 
pat2112
 
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10 May 2016 12:57
 

It seems to me that the conversation is devolving, as they often do when carried out to their ontological border, so I am going to cease responding and carrying on because I do not want to muddy the waters. I have said everything I wanted to say and clarify on this topic. Will continue to monitor the thread and read responses, though.
It seems for a topic that was projected not to have much of a future it did pretty well over all. Certainly, if you have any questions or comments for me you can message me, but I will not be answering anymore here.

Thanks everybody. I think it was a good talk for the most part.
Regards

 
KathleenBrugger
 
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12 May 2016 17:56
 
pat2112 - 10 May 2016 12:57 PM

It seems to me that the conversation is devolving, as they often do when carried out to their ontological border, so I am going to cease responding and carrying on because I do not want to muddy the waters. I have said everything I wanted to say and clarify on this topic. Will continue to monitor the thread and read responses, though.
It seems for a topic that was projected not to have much of a future it did pretty well over all. Certainly, if you have any questions or comments for me you can message me, but I will not be answering anymore here.

Thanks everybody. I think it was a good talk for the most part.
Regards

Hey Pat, I know these discussions can get ugly. I’m sorry I abandoned you. I was on a trip that took all of my focus. I’m glad you liked my posts. I’ve got a little more to say here.

 
 
KathleenBrugger
 
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12 May 2016 17:58
 
icehorse - 09 May 2016 04:06 PM
SkepticX - 09 May 2016 11:54 AM
KathleenBrugger - 08 May 2016 07:31 PM

I’m going to come up with a string-theory religion complete with rituals to amuse myself while I travel.


Heh ... kewl.

Keep us posted—I may want to work with some of your ideas. I earned a clerical ordination way back when from the Universal Life Church. Very mindful of giving the title its full due respect I earned the ordination prerequisites through my academic library work ($5.00 or $10.00 I think it was) and found a worthy source of the honorary on eBay—a business called the Emerald Castle, if I recall, which sold spells (cast on the buyer’s behalf), specializing in the penis enlargement variety (the feedback on the effectiveness of which is amusing if predictable).

In a clerical setting I’m properly addressed as Your Supreme Holiness and/or Grand Exarch (which in my religion is synonymous with Supreme Holiness or Great Leader—that sort of thing). I haven’t come up with anything else official yet, but I have some ideas the Cosmos (or the Allness) has given me. I’m thinking I’ll call my religion allness, but I’m not sure there will be any external doctrine in allness—only what the Grand Exarch says at any given time, and recording such pronouncements will likely be deemed blasphemy (that would of course include biological memory, at least once a revision has been pronounced by the Grand Exarch).

Anyway ... still a kind of tabled proto-notion at the moment—all but the ordination and official title.

Once you get that tax-exemption thing worked out, I’d like to become a clergyman!

Yeah I’ve thought about starting a church for the tax-exempt thing too. Keep us posted. I have to admit I didn’t come up with any ideas for my string-theory religion. As I wrote in my post to Pat this trip I took was very focused and I had no psychic space for fun.

 
 
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12 May 2016 18:24
 

I got The End of Faith out of the library today and scanned the first couple of chapters. In Chapter 2 SH does get to defining what he means by faith, after regularly referring to religious faith in some variation of “fantastic propositions believed without evidence.” So yeah after hearing him say ‘evidence-based’ or ‘requires evidence’ dozens of times, the reader does get the point that what he means by faith is ‘belief that lacks evidence.’ When he finally gets around to defining ‘faith’ he writes “the truth is that religious faith is simply unjustified belief in matters of ultimate concern.” (page 65 in my hardback version)

So the obvious question is what I asked earlier in this thread: What constitutes acceptable evidence? Who is the authority that decides whether evidence is acceptable or not? When SH gets to this point he sets up a ridiculous comparison of three sources of information: 1. a news anchor reporting on a fire, 2. biologists saying that DNA is the basis of sexual reproduction, and 3. The Pope declaring that Jesus was born of a virgin.
Of course the third one is not acceptable evidence. But this is not a meaningful look at what the requirements for evidence should be. Just an easy assault on religious belief.

For example, let’s take an assertion like ‘love is better than hate.’ What is the acceptable evidence to prove or disprove this assertion? If I say I have evidence based on how I feel when I love compared to how I feel when I hate and that is conclusive for me, is that acceptable? Or are you only willing to accept evidence that is material and physical based on my actions? On what basis do you assert the authority to make that decision?

I will also defend my earlier assertion that his sneering attitude towards religious belief does not serve his cause. SH definitely gives the reader reason to believe that he is after all religious faith, not just that which is evidence-free. For example, on page 14 he writes, “Words like ‘God’ and ‘Allah’ must go the way of ‘Apollo’ and ‘Baal,’ or they will unmake our world.”

 
 
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12 May 2016 18:35
 

Another one of my earlier comments I will also defend after scanning the chapters this afternoon, and that is the emphasis on Western religions. In the first chapter (page 27) SH describes horrific violence that occurred between Hindus and Muslims in India in 2002. He writes, “The only difference between these groups consists in what they believe about God.” So why was there not a word about Hinduism in the rest of the book? I think his focus on the Bible-based religions diluted the power of his argument; the book can really come across as a diatribe against Abrahamic religions.

In The Stone column in the New York Times this week a couple of philosophers wrote that they have been fighting the Western bias in academic philosophy departments for years and are giving up. They’ve decided instead to advocate that universities rename their departments something like “Department of European and American Philosophy” because then it will at least reflect the bias.

Here’s how they start their piece:

The vast majority of philosophy departments in the United States offer courses only on philosophy derived from Europe and the English-speaking world. For example, of the 118 doctoral programs in philosophy in the United States and Canada, only 10 percent have a specialist in Chinese philosophy as part of their regular faculty. Most philosophy departments also offer no courses on Africana, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, Latin American, Native American or other non-European traditions. Indeed, of the top 50 philosophy doctoral programs in the English-speaking world, only 15 percent have any regular faculty members who teach any non-Western philosophy.

 
 
unsmoked
 
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21 May 2016 10:21
 
KathleenBrugger - 12 May 2016 06:35 PM

Another one of my earlier comments I will also defend after scanning the chapters this afternoon, and that is the emphasis on Western religions. In the first chapter (page 27) SH describes horrific violence that occurred between Hindus and Muslims in India in 2002. He writes, “The only difference between these groups consists in what they believe about God.” So why was there not a word about Hinduism in the rest of the book? I think his focus on the Bible-based religions diluted the power of his argument; the book can really come across as a diatribe against Abrahamic religions.

In The Stone column in the New York Times this week a couple of philosophers wrote that they have been fighting the Western bias in academic philosophy departments for years and are giving up. They’ve decided instead to advocate that universities rename their departments something like “Department of European and American Philosophy” because then it will at least reflect the bias.

Here’s how they start their piece:

The vast majority of philosophy departments in the United States offer courses only on philosophy derived from Europe and the English-speaking world. For example, of the 118 doctoral programs in philosophy in the United States and Canada, only 10 percent have a specialist in Chinese philosophy as part of their regular faculty. Most philosophy departments also offer no courses on Africana, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, Latin American, Native American or other non-European traditions. Indeed, of the top 50 philosophy doctoral programs in the English-speaking world, only 15 percent have any regular faculty members who teach any non-Western philosophy.

Kathleen, in chapter 7 of THE END OF FAITH - (Experiments in Consciousness), notice the section titled ‘The Wisdom of the East’.  Harris writes, “While this is not a treatise on Eastern spirituality, it does not seem out of place to briefly examine the differences between the Eastern and Western canons, for they are genuinely startling . . . One could live an eon as a Christian, Muslim, or a Jew and never encounter any teachings like this about the nature of consciousness.  The comparison with Islam is especially invidious, because Padmasambhava was virtually Muhammad’s contemporary . . . “

 
 
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21 May 2016 12:21
 
unsmoked - 21 May 2016 10:21 AM
KathleenBrugger - 12 May 2016 06:35 PM

Another one of my earlier comments I will also defend after scanning the chapters this afternoon, and that is the emphasis on Western religions. In the first chapter (page 27) SH describes horrific violence that occurred between Hindus and Muslims in India in 2002. He writes, “The only difference between these groups consists in what they believe about God.” So why was there not a word about Hinduism in the rest of the book? I think his focus on the Bible-based religions diluted the power of his argument; the book can really come across as a diatribe against Abrahamic religions.

In The Stone column in the New York Times this week a couple of philosophers wrote that they have been fighting the Western bias in academic philosophy departments for years and are giving up. They’ve decided instead to advocate that universities rename their departments something like “Department of European and American Philosophy” because then it will at least reflect the bias.

Here’s how they start their piece:

The vast majority of philosophy departments in the United States offer courses only on philosophy derived from Europe and the English-speaking world. For example, of the 118 doctoral programs in philosophy in the United States and Canada, only 10 percent have a specialist in Chinese philosophy as part of their regular faculty. Most philosophy departments also offer no courses on Africana, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, Latin American, Native American or other non-European traditions. Indeed, of the top 50 philosophy doctoral programs in the English-speaking world, only 15 percent have any regular faculty members who teach any non-Western philosophy.

Kathleen, in chapter 7 of THE END OF FAITH - (Experiments in Consciousness), notice the section titled ‘The Wisdom of the East’.  Harris writes, “While this is not a treatise on Eastern spirituality, it does not seem out of place to briefly examine the differences between the Eastern and Western canons, for they are genuinely startling . . . One could live an eon as a Christian, Muslim, or a Jew and never encounter any teachings like this about the nature of consciousness.  The comparison with Islam is especially invidious, because Padmasambhava was virtually Muhammad’s contemporary . . . “

True, there is a brief section (2 1/2 pages) that mentions Eastern spirituality, half of which is a quote from Padmasambhava that Harris does not even take the time to unpack; he just baldly states that this is better than anything in the Western canon. However, what I was criticizing, in both Harris and other writers, is their focus on the west when it comes to discussions of God and faith. In a book called “The End of Faith,” why is he only “briefly examining” the differences between East and West? Isn’t there faith in the East? Of course there is, and this section does not discuss that at all. I think your comment just underscored my criticism, frankly.

And believe me this is a widespread problem. Karen Armstrong, who has made a career out of being an ‘expert’ on God, wrote a book in 2009 as an answer to the New Atheists and she ignores all religions other than the Big Abrahamic Three. Same in her book “A History of God” where there are just brief asides about Hinduism and Buddhism. Obviously God has no history in the East.

 
 
pat2112
 
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pat2112
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07 September 2016 12:08
 

“The failure of rationalism is evident. With the best of intentions, but with a naïve lack of realism, the rationalist imagines that a small dose of reason will be enough to put the world right. In his short-sightedness he wants to do justice to all sides, but in the mêlée of conflicting forces he gets trampled upon without having achieved the slightest effect. Disappointed by the irrationality of the world, he realizes at last his futility, retires from the fray, and weakly surrenders to the winning side.

Worse still is the total collapse of moral fanaticism. The fanatic imagines that his moral purity will prove a match for the power of evil, but like a bull he goes for the red rag instead of the man who carries it, grows weary and succumbs. He becomes entangled with non-essentials and falls into the trap set by the superior ingenuity of his adversary.

Then there is the man with a conscience. He fights singlehanded against overwhelming odds in situations which demand a decision. But there are so many conflicts going on, all of which demand some vital choice—with no advice or support save that of his own conscience—that he is torn to pieces.


Evil approaches him in so many specious and deceptive guises that his conscience becomes nervous and vacillating. In the end he contents himself with a salved instead of a clear conscience, and starts lying to his conscience as a means of avoiding despair. If a man relies exclusively on his conscience he fails to see how a bad conscience is sometimes more wholesome and strong than a deluded one.

When men are confronted by a bewildering variety of alternatives, the path of duty seems to offer a sure way out. They grasp at the imperative as the one certainty. The responsibility for the imperative rests upon its author, not upon its executor. But when men are confined to the limits of duty, they never risk a daring deed on their own responsibility, which is the only way to score a bull’s eye against evil and defeat it. The man of duty will in the end be forced to give the devil his due.

What then of the man of freedom? He is the man who aspires to stand his ground in the world, who values the necessary deed more highly than a clear conscience or the duties of his calling, who is ready to sacrifice a barren principle for a fruitful compromise or a barren mediocrity for a fruitful radicalism. What then of him? He must beware lest his freedom should become his own undoing. For in choosing the lesser of two evils he may fail to see that the greater evil he seeks to avoid may prove the lesser. Here we have the raw material of tragedy.”
~Bonhoffer

 
Lausten
 
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Lausten
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21 September 2016 09:28
 

Pat2112; I see your attempt to reboot the conversation. I just joined the forum and didn’t read all of this thread because there are some wordy post that didn’t seem worth it. So, trying to get to the core, if Matthews 22:36-40 is the core of Christianity, then what does “love god” mean? How is that freedom? How is it not duty or moral fanaticism?

For the record, I was a Christian from 1993 to 2010 and still read the Bible regularly . I tried to remain Christian by studying people like Bonhoffer, also Bolf, Volf, and Bolz-Weber and a number of others (complete list at the bottom ). Most boil down to “believe, pray, share”.

If you want to discuss the piece you last posted, here are my comments:

Who ever said reason would put the world “right”? And who is the “winning side”? I agree with his “moral fanaticism” analogy, but I don’t apply it to rationalists. A rationalist has much better tools to determine the source of the “red flag” and how it is being waved. I don’t know what he’s saying about a bad conscience being more wholesome, that’s just a contradiction. The paragraph on “duty” is agreeable. In the discussion of freedom, we are left with too little data to make a choice, too many assumptions to evaluate the evils he alludes to.

[ Edited: 21 September 2016 09:30 by Lausten]
 
 
Throwdare
 
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Throwdare
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12 October 2016 17:10
 

Everybody believes in something. Nobody does not believe. We’re all believers of some sort.

I believe that Self/self-knowledge will set you free.

I believe that being a non-violent person will benefit not just yourself but all others, when being peaceful isn’t just some stance somebody takes on who is too much of a pussy to engage in a proper (non-violent) conflict if that is indicated and neccessary. To be unable to take a stand against what is perceived as wrong, isn’t a sign of strength and courage. Not being able to fight the good fight (with arguments) isn’t a sign of intelligence.

To be a moral/ethical person in an immoral and unethical world is not a walk in the park. That’s all I have to say about being religious…or spiritual or what ever illusionary concept it may be one is into. Reality isn’t a nice, peaceful and encouraging place nowerdays. I think we all can agree on that.

 
 
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