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Sam Harris and pacifism - How would Jesus respond?

 
hannahtoo
 
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hannahtoo
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13 December 2016 06:41
 

SkepticX:

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.

Right, I am not a pacifist by strict definition.  Few people are.  I respect the right for people to be pacifists.  They play an important role in society. 

And Jesus played an important role as well.  He got people to stop and think in new ways.  Unfortunately his message was warped after his death.  He preached against legalism, but Christianity became a religion with an extremely “narrow gate” for redemption.  It is all about salvation by faith in the resurrection and divinity of Jesus, rather than being primarily about his teachings on living life.

 
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13 December 2016 11:12
 
unsmoked - 12 December 2016 12:03 PM

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

I don’t have a copy on hand, but I remember a paragraph in Sam Harris’s LETTER TO A CHRISTIAN NATION in which he refers to the U.S. as a “lumbering bellicose giant” - armed with thousands of weapons of mass destruction, alarming to friends and enemies alike.  What must it be like to enlist in the military now with Donald Trump as your Commander in Chief?  What must it be like to be ordered to do something that you know to be a stupid blunder?  Flee to Canada as a political refugee as many young men did in the late 1960’s as veterans like John Kerry and thousands of others came home from Vietnam and told what was really happening there?  (a different story than what General Westmorland was telling Johnson and the media) 

Have you seen that PBS episode of the series, ‘SECRETS OF THE DEAD’ called, ‘The Man Who Saved the World’?  It is the true story of a Soviet submarine commander who was ordered to fire a nuclear missile during the Cuban missile crisis.  He refused, probably avoiding a nuclear exchange between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.  When he got home he was dishonorably discharged.  You can watch the episode online.

 
 
Lausten
 
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Lausten
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16 December 2016 09:41
 

I marched against nukes, and wrote Reagan and told him I wouldn’t register for the military (that was post draft). I suffered no consequences for that. When we setup the “peacekeeping” in the former Yugoslavia, I had to rethink my pacifism. I saw there are times when it is morally wrong to do nothing, to allow a real and imminent threat to do actual harm. We need pacifists, we need people who refuse to fight, but it can’t be everyone, not even a majority.

 
 
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16 December 2016 14:52
 
hannahtoo - 13 December 2016 06:41 AM

SkepticX:

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.

Right, I am not a pacifist by strict definition.  Few people are.

That’s kind of like saying you’re not a purist by strict definition. Few people are ... because they’re okay with some impurities.

It makes no more sense to say you’re a pacifist, just not by a strict definition than to decide you’re a purist, but you’re just okay with some impurity.

 

hannahtoo - 13 December 2016 06:41 AM

I respect the right for people to be pacifists.

Is there an actual option?

 

hannahtoo - 13 December 2016 06:41 AM

They play an important role in society.

In spite of the fact they take their view on violence too far, some of them are certainly eligible to play an important role in society, but are you speaking of a specific pacifist role of some sort? What exactly is this pacifist role you speak of?

 

hannahtoo - 13 December 2016 06:41 AM

And Jesus played an important role as well.  He got people to stop and think in new ways.  Unfortunately his message was warped after his death.

Interesting. I gather you’re talking about one source for Jesus’ real message and another for his corrupted message? Because the Bible speaks resoundingly in the voice of Bronze Age social criticism—arguably fairly enlightened Bronze Age social criticism, granted.

 

hannahtoo - 13 December 2016 06:41 AM

He preached against legalism, but Christianity became a religion with an extremely “narrow gate” for redemption.

It is all about salvation by faith in the resurrection and divinity of Jesus, rather than being primarily about his teachings on living life.

That’s not exactly the product of pure fabrication or even loose interpretation ... eh? There’s ample biblical support for both Jesii.

 
 
hannahtoo
 
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hannahtoo
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16 December 2016 16:28
 

Okay, I’m exhausted by point-by-point argument style, but I’ll try.

1.  I meant to say, I’m not a pacifist.  I’d never really understood that the definition was all or nothing.  Thank you for educating me.  I guess there’s a whole continuum of possibilities from pacifist at one end, to Attila the Hun at the other.  And I’m more toward the pacifist side.

2.  I feel the important role of pacifists is to balance the Attilas.  Legions of naive, young pacifists helped end the US warring in Vietnam. 

3.  Jesus challenged people to think in many ways.  One was his willingness to challenge rules in order to get to the practical heart of a matter.  For example, he and his disciples picked grain when they were hungry on the Sabbath.  When they were criticized, he pointed out the priority of mercy.  He also disputed tradition saying, “Nothing that goes into a person from the outside can make him unclean.  It’s what comes out of a person that makes him unclean.”  He made people think about justice as he stopped the mob from stoning the adulteress, claiming, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”  There are countless examples in which Jesus turned traditional thinking on its head.

4.  Yes, there is ample evidence for multiple views of Jesus.  I have a feeling that the actual preacher was not without his personal contradictions.  At this point, it is impossible to untangle what the man said from what story-tellers put into his mouth.  Personally, I think the quotes that are human are the ones that are true.  Like those above.  The ones in which he claims he is god seem more like the words of myth-builders.  But possibly he had delusions.  Many charismatic people do.  Especially when they are encouraged by followers.

I just went back and looked at the Sermon on the Mount.  What a collection!  Very disjointed, often cryptic, provocative, counter-cultural, some contradictory.  Certainly a compilation and not a transcript.  Contradictions appear:

...let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven…(but several verses later) Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven…

Your point is a good one.  Did Jesus intend to be the focus of his message, or did he intend to set an example with his life?  It seems his followers narrowed his message from “love the Lord, and love your neighbor” to add the required faith that Jesus was God and died to release humanity from our sins.  The latter is a much more specific requirement.  Depending on which Gospel you read, Jesus was either evasive/cryptic about the question of being divine, or he proclaimed it unambiguously.  In any case, his followers certainly picked up that ball and ran with it after his death.

 
Lausten
 
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Lausten
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20 December 2016 09:48
 

Nicely done Hannahtoo. Obviously we have no source document in the handwriting of Jesus, so that quibbling is pointless.

SkepticX could, without too much work, look up Christian concepts used today and find them in Papal Bulls or later Councils. Often they will show the half verse they used to base an entire ritual or legal trickery like “Interdiction”. I think it’s pretty fair to call that “corruption” of the original message.

 
 
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21 December 2016 11:30
 
hannahtoo - 16 December 2016 04:28 PM

2.  I feel the important role of pacifists is to balance the Attilas.  Legions of naive, young pacifists helped end the US warring in Vietnam.

I wonder if Einstein’s comments on this subject were inspired more by history and current events than by Bible stories or other religious ideas?  He said, “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophes.”

“Nationalism is an infantile disease, the measles of mankind.  The pioneers of a warless world are the youth who refuse military service.”  -  Einstein

 

 
 
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21 December 2016 11:54
 
Lausten - 20 December 2016 09:48 AM

Nicely done Hannahtoo. Obviously we have no source document in the handwriting of Jesus, so that quibbling is pointless.

SkepticX could, without too much work, look up Christian concepts used today and find them in Papal Bulls or later Councils. Often they will show the half verse they used to base an entire ritual or legal trickery like “Interdiction”. I think it’s pretty fair to call that “corruption” of the original message.


The main point I was making is that the idea Jesus’ words and teachings are all virtuous and noble and pacifistic is quite debatable, regardless of whether Jesus was at all as depicted (vs. the moderin versions of him) rather than an aggrandized version of a real person or a compilation of the writers’ heroes, or maybe a purely fictional mouthpiece. It is nice when believers presume these things—the hippie Jesus—but most don’t, at least not all of that, and certainly not the pacifism (i.e. the issue at hand here).

 
 
Lausten
 
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21 December 2016 12:09
 
SkepticX - 21 December 2016 11:54 AM
Lausten - 20 December 2016 09:48 AM

Nicely done Hannahtoo. Obviously we have no source document in the handwriting of Jesus, so that quibbling is pointless.

SkepticX could, without too much work, look up Christian concepts used today and find them in Papal Bulls or later Councils. Often they will show the half verse they used to base an entire ritual or legal trickery like “Interdiction”. I think it’s pretty fair to call that “corruption” of the original message.


The main point I was making is that the idea Jesus’ words and teachings are all virtuous and noble and pacifistic is quite debatable, regardless of whether Jesus was at all as depicted (vs. the moderin versions of him) rather than an aggrandized version of a real person or a compilation of the writers’ heroes, or maybe a purely fictional mouthpiece. It is nice when believers presume these things—the hippie Jesus—but most don’t, at least not all of that, and certainly not the pacifism (i.e. the issue at hand here).

I think we basically agree. I just didn’t see that in your post here. I’ll try to keep in mind that you are aware of all that aggrandizing and cherry picking.

Separate thread: I find it almost impossible to have a conversation among atheists about what the intentions of the original authors of the gospels (or Paul, or some of the other 1st century sects) actually was. I can’t bring it up without someone pointing that the more important thing is what Christianity became.

 
 
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22 December 2016 10:56
 
Lausten - 21 December 2016 12:09 PM

Separate thread: I find it almost impossible to have a conversation among atheists about what the intentions of the original authors of the gospels (or Paul, or some of the other 1st century sects) actually was. I can’t bring it up without someone pointing that the more important thing is what Christianity became.

In some of his talks I’ve heard Obama telling us that Americans are ‘exceptional’.  Is this related to the Old Testament idea of the ‘chosen people’?  From the dawn of Christianity have followers of Jesus separated themselves from others?  Separated humanity into sheep and goats?  Us vs them?  Is that why we love sports and spend 600 billion a year on weapons?

Repeating that Einstein quote, “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophes.”  From assault rifles, to trucks plowing into crowds, to nuclear devices and other weapons of mass destruction . . . will humanity ever change their modes of thinking? 

 

 
 
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