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Sam Harris and pacifism - How would Jesus respond?

 
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12 December 2016 12:03
 

Quoting Sam Harris from ‘THE END OF FAITH:

“For pacifism seems to me to be a deeply immoral position that comes to us swaddled in the dogma of highest moralism - but most of us are not pacifists.  . . . Pacifism is ultimately nothing more than a willingness to die, and let others die, at the pleasure of the world’s thugs.  It should be enough to note that a single sociopath, armed with nothing more than a knife, could exterminate a city full of pacifists.  There is no doubt that such sociopaths exist, and they are generally better armed.”  -  Sam Harris

 
 
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12 December 2016 13:42
 

I’m just catching up with this book in free podcasts of it. Didn’t catch that bit. It’s a bit extreme, but there is a point where doing nothing becomes immoral. I’m glad there are a few pure pacifists in the world, but they depend on the protection of morally strong people who use force in a measured way.

 
 
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12 December 2016 14:06
 

I think the giant mistake Sam made in his argument, is that a city full of pacifists would probably take the lone sociopath down in a non-violent way. They could throw a net over him, dart him with a tranquilizer, trap him in a locked room, etc.; there is a whole range of ways a dangerous person can be neutralized without violence, which, in my opinion, is what pacifism is about.

What would Jesus do? I suspect Jesus would calmly ask the knife-wielding man why he was doing what he was doing. If Jesus was the person they say he was, even a murdering psychopath may have stopped in his tracks when confronting him. Jesus managed to calm and angry mob that wanted to stone a woman for adultery. If he could pacify a mob, he could probably do the same with one angry person.

[ Edited: 12 December 2016 16:58 by Cheshire Cat]
 
 
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12 December 2016 16:07
 

Jesus wasn’t a complete pacifist.  When he got angry at the money changers ripping off people at the Temple, he turned over their tables and made a scene.  He also had some pretty harsh words with the Pharisees.  These actions are viewed as righteous indignation over hypocrisy, greed, hard-heartedness, or arrogance, and thus justified.

Jesus’s pacifism was radical.  He preached the idea that not allowing oneself to be provoked, and even taking abuse sometimes, can be ennobling and life changing.  We saw how it worked in Gandhi’s India.  We see how it worked recently in Standing Rock.  Jesus talked the talk and walked the walk, inspiring his followers to believe he spoke with power from God.

It seems that the choice of action or pacifism is up to the the individual, depending on the situation.

 
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12 December 2016 17:42
 
Sarcastic Fringehead - 12 December 2016 02:06 PM

I think the giant mistake Sam made in his argument, is that a city full of pacifists would probably take the lone sociopath down in a non-violent way. They could throw a net over him, dart him with a tranquilizer, trap him in a locked room, etc.; there is a whole range of ways a dangerous person can be neutralized without violence, which, in my opinion, is what pacifism is about.

Works great in the abstract, but not so much in the real world.

I agree that Harris is going into purely theoretical extremes that don’t have real world analogs as well though—two sides of the same coin.

I think Harris has a solid case to make that pacifism is nothing at all like the packaging it comes in—that it’s an abrogation of social responsibility that puts others at risk, not only the pacifist, and that part’s pretty much always just swept under the rug—clashes with the packaging.

 

Sarcastic Fringehead - 12 December 2016 02:06 PM

What would Jesus do? I suspect Jesus would calmly ask the knife-wielding man why he was doing what he was doing. If Jesus was the person they say he was, even a murdering psychopath may have stopped in his tracks when confronting him. Jesus managed to calm and angry mob that wanted to stone a woman for adultery. If he could pacify a mob, he could probably do the same with one angry person.

When we learn to practice magic maybe we can bring this ideal into the real world. Certainly better Jesus than most literary heroes anyway—particularly the Jesus of the modern West.

 
 
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12 December 2016 18:19
 
SkepticX - 12 December 2016 05:42 PM
Sarcastic Fringehead - 12 December 2016 02:06 PM

I think the giant mistake Sam made in his argument, is that a city full of pacifists would probably take the lone sociopath down in a non-violent way. They could throw a net over him, dart him with a tranquilizer, trap him in a locked room, etc.; there is a whole range of ways a dangerous person can be neutralized without violence, which, in my opinion, is what pacifism is about.

Works great in the abstract, but not so much in the real world.

I agree that Harris is going into purely theoretical extremes that don’t have real world analogs as well though—two sides of the same coin.


I think Harris has a solid case to make that pacifism is nothing at all like the packaging it comes in—that it’s an abrogation of social responsibility that puts others at risk, not only the pacifist, and that part’s pretty much always just swept under the rug—clashes with the packaging.

 

Sarcastic Fringehead - 12 December 2016 02:06 PM

What would Jesus do? I suspect Jesus would calmly ask the knife-wielding man why he was doing what he was doing. If Jesus was the person they say he was, even a murdering psychopath may have stopped in his tracks when confronting him. Jesus managed to calm and angry mob that wanted to stone a woman for adultery. If he could pacify a mob, he could probably do the same with one angry person.

When we learn to practice magic maybe we can bring this ideal into the real world. Certainly better Jesus than most literary heroes anyway—particularly the Jesus of the modern West.

I recently read (here) about a military vet who was working in W Virginia as a police officer.  He was sent to respond to a hysterical woman whose boyfriend had a gun.  The officer was trained by the military how to de-escalate situations, and he nearly had the boyfriend talked down.  Suddenly, two more officers arrived and the situation amped up again, leading to the man being shot and killed.  Turns out, his gun had no clip (unloaded).  His girlfriend told the dispatcher that he was trying to commit “suicide by cop.”

So it doesn’t have to involve magic.  De-escalation certainly won’t work in all situations, but it can sometimes.

 
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12 December 2016 18:46
 
hannahtoo - 12 December 2016 06:19 PM
SkepticX - 12 December 2016 05:42 PM
Sarcastic Fringehead - 12 December 2016 02:06 PM

I think the giant mistake Sam made in his argument, is that a city full of pacifists would probably take the lone sociopath down in a non-violent way. They could throw a net over him, dart him with a tranquilizer, trap him in a locked room, etc.; there is a whole range of ways a dangerous person can be neutralized without violence, which, in my opinion, is what pacifism is about.

Works great in the abstract, but not so much in the real world.

I agree that Harris is going into purely theoretical extremes that don’t have real world analogs as well though—two sides of the same coin.

I think Harris has a solid case to make that pacifism is nothing at all like the packaging it comes in—that it’s an abrogation of social responsibility that puts others at risk, not only the pacifist, and that part’s pretty much always just swept under the rug—clashes with the packaging.

Sarcastic Fringehead - 12 December 2016 02:06 PM

What would Jesus do? I suspect Jesus would calmly ask the knife-wielding man why he was doing what he was doing. If Jesus was the person they say he was, even a murdering psychopath may have stopped in his tracks when confronting him. Jesus managed to calm and angry mob that wanted to stone a woman for adultery. If he could pacify a mob, he could probably do the same with one angry person.

When we learn to practice magic maybe we can bring this ideal into the real world. Certainly better Jesus than most literary heroes anyway—particularly the Jesus of the modern West.

I recently read (here) about a military vet who was working in W Virginia as a police officer.  He was sent to respond to a hysterical woman whose boyfriend had a gun.  The officer was trained by the military how to de-escalate situations, and he nearly had the boyfriend talked down.  Suddenly, two more officers arrived and the situation amped up again, leading to the man being shot and killed.  Turns out, his gun had no clip (unloaded).  His girlfriend told the dispatcher that he was trying to commit “suicide by cop.”

So it doesn’t have to involve magic.  De-escalation certainly won’t work in all situations, but it can sometimes.


You seem to think you’re informing me of something new and/or disagreeing with me.

So who shot and killed the man, by the way, if the subject’s gun wasn’t loaded?

Sounds like a case to point out the merits of better police training or psychological screening or some such rather than to highlight the merits of pacifism. In fact it doesn’t really say anything at all about pacifism, just that violence isn’t generally a best first or early option when you have options.

 
 
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12 December 2016 20:35
 

Ghandi and Martin Luther King used passive resistance to ultimately achieve their goals. I would say that passive resistance would fall under the broader umbrella of “pacifism” – they are achieving their goals without the use of violence.

Done correctly, passive resistance can bring down governments or even stop wars. This is not an abrogation of social responsibility; it’s quite the opposite. But it is not the answer for all situations.

There are times when violence must be used, and used on a grand scale. America’s involvement in World War II is one such case.

I was raised Catholic and was given the standard model of who Jesus was supposed to be. I’ve read a few books about the historical Jesus, and I now tend to think that he was an apocalyptic preacher. Regardless of who he was in reality, he must have had an extraordinary force of personality.

 
 
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13 December 2016 05:32
 
SkepticX - 12 December 2016 06:46 PM
hannahtoo - 12 December 2016 06:19 PM
SkepticX - 12 December 2016 05:42 PM
Sarcastic Fringehead - 12 December 2016 02:06 PM

I think the giant mistake Sam made in his argument, is that a city full of pacifists would probably take the lone sociopath down in a non-violent way. They could throw a net over him, dart him with a tranquilizer, trap him in a locked room, etc.; there is a whole range of ways a dangerous person can be neutralized without violence, which, in my opinion, is what pacifism is about.

Works great in the abstract, but not so much in the real world.

I agree that Harris is going into purely theoretical extremes that don’t have real world analogs as well though—two sides of the same coin.

I think Harris has a solid case to make that pacifism is nothing at all like the packaging it comes in—that it’s an abrogation of social responsibility that puts others at risk, not only the pacifist, and that part’s pretty much always just swept under the rug—clashes with the packaging.

Sarcastic Fringehead - 12 December 2016 02:06 PM

What would Jesus do? I suspect Jesus would calmly ask the knife-wielding man why he was doing what he was doing. If Jesus was the person they say he was, even a murdering psychopath may have stopped in his tracks when confronting him. Jesus managed to calm and angry mob that wanted to stone a woman for adultery. If he could pacify a mob, he could probably do the same with one angry person.

When we learn to practice magic maybe we can bring this ideal into the real world. Certainly better Jesus than most literary heroes anyway—particularly the Jesus of the modern West.

I recently read (here) about a military vet who was working in W Virginia as a police officer.  He was sent to respond to a hysterical woman whose boyfriend had a gun.  The officer was trained by the military how to de-escalate situations, and he nearly had the boyfriend talked down.  Suddenly, two more officers arrived and the situation amped up again, leading to the man being shot and killed.  Turns out, his gun had no clip (unloaded).  His girlfriend told the dispatcher that he was trying to commit “suicide by cop.”

So it doesn’t have to involve magic.  De-escalation certainly won’t work in all situations, but it can sometimes.


You seem to think you’re informing me of something new and/or disagreeing with me.

So who shot and killed the man, by the way, if the subject’s gun wasn’t loaded?

Sounds like a case to point out the merits of better police training or psychological screening or some such rather than to highlight the merits of pacifism. In fact it doesn’t really say anything at all about pacifism, just that violence isn’t generally a best first or early option when you have options.

I thought from reading your comments that you were agreeing with Harris that pacifism is a cop-out.  But maybe just my reading.

Yes, better police training.  If you have time, read the link from NPR.  It’s not very long.  The girlfriend told the dispatcher that the gun had no clip and her boyfriend was trying to get himself killed.  But the dispatcher and the officers weren’t sure whether this was true.  The man was shot by the officers who came upon the scene secondarily.  The point of the story is that sometimes the military does a better job of training on gun use and de-escalation than the police departments do.

 
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13 December 2016 05:39
 
Sarcastic Fringehead - 12 December 2016 08:35 PM

Ghandi and Martin Luther King used passive resistance to ultimately achieve their goals. I would say that passive resistance would fall under the broader umbrella of “pacifism” – they are achieving their goals without the use of violence.

Institutionalized social injustice usually isn’t easily confused with a violent assailant—at least not in their concrete forms.

 

Sarcastic Fringehead - 12 December 2016 08:35 PM

Done correctly, passive resistance can bring down governments or even stop wars. This is not an abrogation of social responsibility; it’s quite the opposite. But it is not the answer for all situations.

There are times when violence must be used, and used on a grand scale. America’s involvement in World War II is one such case.

I was raised Catholic and was given the standard model of who Jesus was supposed to be. I’ve read a few books about the historical Jesus, and I now tend to think that he was an apocalyptic preacher. Regardless of who he was in reality, he must have had an extraordinary force of personality.

Since you recognize the potential for the necessity of violence, you’re not arguing for pacifism.

 
 
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13 December 2016 05:39
 
Sarcastic Fringehead - 12 December 2016 08:35 PM

Ghandi and Martin Luther King used passive resistance to ultimately achieve their goals. I would say that passive resistance would fall under the broader umbrella of “pacifism” – they are achieving their goals without the use of violence.

Done correctly, passive resistance can bring down governments or even stop wars. This is not an abrogation of social responsibility; it’s quite the opposite. But it is not the answer for all situations.

There are times when violence must be used, and used on a grand scale. America’s involvement in World War II is one such case.

I was raised Catholic and was given the standard model of who Jesus was supposed to be. I’ve read a few books about the historical Jesus, and I now tend to think that he was an apocalyptic preacher. Regardless of who he was in reality, he must have had an extraordinary force of personality.

As for examples of pacifism, don’t forget the current Standing Rock protest.  Images of the people standing in the snow—American Indians, non-Indian supporters, and a large contingent of veterans—were powerful in getting a delay, with the the potential for re-routing of the pipeline.  Unfortunately for the protesters, it is unlikely that Trump’s administration will be as sympathetic as Obama’s.

 
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13 December 2016 05:47
 
SkepticX - 13 December 2016 05:39 AM
Sarcastic Fringehead - 12 December 2016 08:35 PM

Ghandi and Martin Luther King used passive resistance to ultimately achieve their goals. I would say that passive resistance would fall under the broader umbrella of “pacifism” – they are achieving their goals without the use of violence.

Institutionalized social injustice usually isn’t easily confused with a violent assailant—at least not in their concrete forms.

 

Sarcastic Fringehead - 12 December 2016 08:35 PM

Done correctly, passive resistance can bring down governments or even stop wars. This is not an abrogation of social responsibility; it’s quite the opposite. But it is not the answer for all situations.

There are times when violence must be used, and used on a grand scale. America’s involvement in World War II is one such case.

I was raised Catholic and was given the standard model of who Jesus was supposed to be. I’ve read a few books about the historical Jesus, and I now tend to think that he was an apocalyptic preacher. Regardless of who he was in reality, he must have had an extraordinary force of personality.

Since you recognize the potential for the necessity of violence, you’re not arguing for pacifism.

This case is a tragedy.  If the later officers had not arrived when they did, the first officer may have resolved the situation without violence. 

However, I’m not saying that the police were negligent in this case.  Certainly, they felt they acted to protect their own lives in an uncertain, volatile situation.  I gave this example because the first officer was not using “magic” and he was not Jesus, but he showed the ability to use his humanity to connect with the deranged man.  Too bad he was interrupted.  And then he was fired from his job.  Police departments definitely need to take a hard look at their protocols.

 
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13 December 2016 05:51
 
hannahtoo - 13 December 2016 05:32 AM

I thought from reading your comments that you were agreeing with Harris that pacifism is a cop-out.  But maybe just my reading.


I wouldn’t call it a cop out, rather a non-viable, misguided ideology (one that often gets a pass by being mistaken for appropriate reservations about the use of violence—or often it just seems people presume it to be a noble label and like to own it when they’re really only taking the appropriate reservations tack).

 
 
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13 December 2016 05:56
 
hannahtoo - 13 December 2016 05:47 AM

This case is a tragedy.  If the later officers had not arrived when they did, the first officer may have resolved the situation without violence.

Certainly no one’s arguing with that.

 

hannahtoo - 13 December 2016 05:47 AM

However, I’m not saying that the police were negligent in this case.  Certainly, they felt they acted to protect their own lives in an uncertain, volatile situation.  I gave this example because the first officer was not using “magic” and he was not Jesus, but he showed the ability to use his humanity to connect with the deranged man.  Too bad he was interrupted.  And then he was fired from his job.  Police departments definitely need to take a hard look at their protocols.

The topic is pacifism though, not calm under the threat of fire; not that less violence is better than more if less works; not the virtues of deescalation ... etc.

Pacifism—completely different animal than you seem to be on about.

 
 
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13 December 2016 06:05
 
SkepticX - 13 December 2016 05:51 AM
hannahtoo - 13 December 2016 05:32 AM

I thought from reading your comments that you were agreeing with Harris that pacifism is a cop-out.  But maybe just my reading.


I wouldn’t call it a cop out, rather a non-viable, misguided ideology (one that often gets a pass by being mistaken for appropriate reservations about the use of violence—or often it just seems people presume it to be a noble label and like to own it when they’re really only taking the appropriate reservations tack).

I didn’t say that pacifism is always the best.  Often lethal force is needed to survive.  But sometimes pacifism works.  Sometimes negotiations work.  Sometimes brute force fails because it triggers unrelenting resistance. 

I’d say that pacifism must remain a personal choice.  The idea of a conscientious objection.  So many volunteer soldiers come home with PTSD.  And these were men and women who wanted to go fight.  It is not right to conscript people who are morally opposed to killing.  And we shouldn’t judge that they are shirking a responsibility.  The human race has a need of people with all sorts of temperaments—those eager to fight, and those who preach peace.  There are plenty of the former.  And the latter keep us from reverting to the barbarism of our ancestors.

[ Edited: 13 December 2016 06:12 by hannahtoo]
 
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13 December 2016 06:11
 
hannahtoo - 13 December 2016 06:05 AM
SkepticX - 13 December 2016 05:51 AM
hannahtoo - 13 December 2016 05:32 AM

I thought from reading your comments that you were agreeing with Harris that pacifism is a cop-out.  But maybe just my reading.

I wouldn’t call it a cop out, rather a non-viable, misguided ideology (one that often gets a pass by being mistaken for appropriate reservations about the use of violence—or often it just seems people presume it to be a noble label and like to own it when they’re really only taking the appropriate reservations tack).

I didn’t say that pacifism is always the best.  Often lethal force is needed to survive.  But sometimes pacifism works.  Sometimes negotiations work.  Sometimes brute force fails because it triggers unrelenting resistance.


Pacifism isn’t a tool in your tactical tool bag. If you’re acknowledging the potential for the necessity of violence, you’re not arguing pacifism, by definition.

 
 
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