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no_profundia
 
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no_profundia
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16 February 2017 14:42
 

I want to post a second post about this because my last post is already ridiculously long but this has turned into a more interesting discussion than I originally anticipated and it turns out I have more to say.

I made the point in my last post that the good that is done by religion is actually done by religious people and it is possible that those people would continue doing good even if they gave up their religion. Of course, you could make a symmetrical argument and say that the evil done by religion is actually done by religious people and it is possible those people would continue doing evil even without religion.

What I think Sam would say is: religion provides good people with motives that allow them to do evil while believing they are doing good (bombing abortion clinics, stoning adulterers, throwing homosexuals off of buildings, etc.). Sam has said repeatedly that he is not interested in the sociopaths who would be doing evil no matter what. There is no doubt that there are people who do evil for religious motives that would be doing evil even without those religious motives.

The question is: Is Sam right that there is a group of people that commit evil acts who would not have committed those evil acts if they were not “tricked” by religion, so to speak, into thinking they were good? That is an empirical question and it is one that is not all that easy to answer but I think the answer is likely yes. It has been shown that most violence is committed by people who feel they are in the “right” or doing what is “moral” (there is a book about this called Virtuous Violence and it is referenced in Steven Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature).

I think it is reasonable (though certainly not proven) to think that there is an asymmetry between good religious people who become atheists (and would likely continue doing good) and good religious people who do evil for religious motives (and would no longer do evil if they were not religious). If you have empirical evidence suggesting otherwise I would love to see it but it is not a priori illogical to think this might be the case.

Also, when you asked for examples of secularists doing good. Well, I mentioned Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature above. He documents the drop in violence over the last few thousand years and a huge contributing factor was the Enlightenment, the development of secular ethics (religious tolerance, etc.) and secular social institutions (secular states, etc.).

So, if you claim that secularism has never done any good, or cannot compete with the good religion has done, I would say you are being just as selective as you accuse Sam of being. The rise in standards of living only really began around the Industrial Revolution. Of course, the inheritances of the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution have not been an unmitigated good, but on balance I think most people would prefer to live in the current century as opposed to the 14th century.

And a good deal of that has to do with a break from religion (science developing its own methods for reaching truth independent of scripture and faith, ethical systems based on universal principles rather than particular religious books, social decisions and institutions based on the will of the governed rather than religious law, and so on).

I would also point out: the current welfare state helps a lot more people than private charities and is a secular institution and secular universities have proven to be just as good at preserving knowledge and culture as the old monasteries. So there are already plenty of examples of secular institutions that have taken over functions that used to belong to religious institutions and do the job just as well or better.

[ Edited: 16 February 2017 15:00 by no_profundia]
 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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16 February 2017 15:45
 

I’ve enjoyed reading these posts, no_profundia.

 
 
PolymathLevel8
 
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PolymathLevel8
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16 February 2017 16:05
 

I’m starting a new job, so I won’t have much more time for this. But here’s a few points.
I’ve seen that you all are starting to meditate. And I know this sounds mean. But you’re late to the party. There are many spiritual disciplines besides meditation to refine the psych. And because so many emotional issues are showing, in the regular disrespect you show to others, and the ease with which you excuse secular crimes, you all have a way to go.
I’m sorry for the harsh tone. But you guys have been in open disrespectful for many years. Or maybe you haven’t noticed the regular insults that fill this site. Comparing religion to a virus and epidemic, and priests to Machiavelli are just the latest examples of a constant flow of contempt. And you have the gall to call me out on it after one day? Please.
Also, I make judgements based on logic and reason, and the ethical standards of some of my favorite religions traditions. I won’t bother to list or explain them. Since you want to do away with them, you wouldn’t appreciate their value.
Finally, I think it shows colossal arrogance to think that secular culture could take over all ethical systems, especially when it has yet to demonstrate any real social conscience.
But I think the guy who warned me at the start of the thread was right. We are too far apart.

 

 

 
no_profundia
 
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16 February 2017 17:11
 
PolymathLevel8 - 16 February 2017 04:05 PM

I’ve seen that you all are starting to meditate. And I know this sounds mean. But you’re late to the party. There are many spiritual disciplines besides meditation to refine the psych.

Who said we were just starting? I have been meditating for years. Let me tell you what annoys me about your posts. You adopt this condescending attitude of spiritual superiority like you are the only person who is sincere in their spiritual practice, you know more about spiritual practice than anyone in the world, you are the only person who is sincere in their care for the unfortunate, you are the only person who has respect for moral principles or a social conscience, you are the only person who knows “the rules of logic or rhetoric”, you have totally transcended all your “self-esteem” issues and “emotional problems” and can look down on us mere mortals who still feel human feelings and such.

Remind me: was it the sinful tax collector or the self-righteous Pharisee who Jesus said would get into heaven?

In case you can’t remember: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

If you think that you have transcended the human condition, and your own emotional problems, you are deluding yourself. We are all sinners.

And because so many emotional issues are showing, in the regular disrespect you show to others, and the ease with which you excuse secular crimes, you all have a way to go.

Show me one place where I have shown you disrespect. All I have done is honestly express my own opinions. You have:

1) Baselessly claimed that I “know nothing about liberal, rationalist spirituality”.
2) Baselessly implied that I “don’t know the rules of logic or rhetoric”.
3) Implied that I am deliberately presenting arguments I know to be false.
4) Implied that I must be motivated by emotional problems of which I am unaware.
5) Implied that I am incapable of self-awareness.
6) Implied that I am being “vindictive” and “irrational” for merely presenting my honest opinions about a topic I assumed you were interested in discussing.

I have not responded to any of these personal accusations by making any personal claims about you (until now). It actually does not bother me much when people attack me personally but I find your hypocrisy and lack of self-awareness pretty grating. The fact that you continue to attack me personally in every one of your posts while at the same time self-righteously lecturing atheists for being disrespectful and having “self-esteem” issues is pretty unbearable. The cognitive dissonance involved in your self-righteous attitude is like a high screeching noise that is very unpleasant to listen to.

All I did in my two first posts was express my personal disagreement and ask for further clarification of your position and you immediately responded as if I was guilty of some heinous act of betrayal. You immediately starting making up falsehoods about me, someone who you have never met. Seriously, if you cannot handle someone disagreeing with you without flying off into baseless personal attacks…well…I don’t think you should be lecturing anyone on “self-esteem” issues or “emotional problems.”

And show me ONE PLACE where I “excused secular crimes.” You are just making stuff up. You have no intellectual conscience. I said specifically that secular people commit crimes and it would be great if we could reduce it. I even asked you for any suggestions you might have. You ignored it. 

I make judgements based on logic and reason

You have repeatedly responded to my arguments with made up psychological diagnoses, claims of spiritual superiority and insults. I have not seen much logic or reason in your posts. You have repeatedly accused me of not understanding the basic rules of logic but when I asked you to point to a place where I violated any of those rules you remained silent and returned to your no doubt expert psychological diagnoses. Most of the time when people say “I base my opinions on reason or logic” what they really mean is “I base my beliefs on what seems reasonable and logical to me.”

Well, of course you do. Who would base their opinions on what seems unreasonable and illogical to them? However, logic and reason are not based on personal whims. Logic is a well developed formal science. There are actual rules that everyone has to follow if they want their arguments to conform to logic. You claim I know nothing of logic because you disagree with what I have to say but you are misusing the term logic when you do that.

In other words, the fact that something seems “illogical” or “unreasonable” to you does not mean it is actually guilty of violating any of the actual rules of logic. If you think I have violated any of those rules, I challenge you again to point it out, and be specific. The general charge is easy to level…

Finally, I think it shows colossal arrogance to think that secular culture could take over all ethical systems, especially when it has yet to demonstrate any real social conscience.

It is not arrogant. It is based on simple observation. The process of replacing religious institutions with secular institutions has been going on for a couple hundred years. The claim that it will likely continue is mere extrapolation. But this gets to the heart of your problem with logic. It makes no sense to call an empirical statement “arrogant.” An empirical statement can be true or false, justified or not justified, etc. but not arrogant.

You continually evaluate arguments based on the psychological attitudes that you think lie behind them. This actually is a logical fallacy known as ad-hominem. It doesn’t matter whether I am personally arrogant or not. The claim that religious institutions will eventually be replaced by secular institutions is either true or false and whether I am an arrogant person is totally irrelevant. The fact that you dismiss this claim based on its “arrogance” is more proof you know nothing about logic as a system of actual rules that everyone needs to follow.

And no social conscience? Please. Social security, labor laws, social welfare measures, anti-discrimination legislation, Medicare and Medicaid, progressive income tax, religious toleration, freedom of speech, voting rights, women’s rights, public education, subsidies for higher education for those who cannot afford it, medical research, green energy research, etc., etc.. All of these measures were attempts to help the disenfranchised and unfortunate or solve social problems and they were often motivated by secular ethical principles.

It is crazy to me that you accuse Sam of selectively reading history and yet you continue to claim that secular ethics has never demonstrated a social conscience. Crazy and moronic. You live in a web of social institutions that are based on secular principles and are responsible for the freedoms you possess and the quality of life you possess. You can ignore them because they are so omnipresent as to be invisible.

To you, a religious organization that gives to charity is more visible than the secular governmental institutions that allow that religious organization to exist and function, or the governmental institutions that protect workers from exploitation, help those who live in poverty, provide public education, protect the environment, etc., But those organizations continue to function whether you recognize them or not. If they disappeared you would notice right quick. Go try living in a country with no social safety net, or with poorly functioning SECULAR institutions, and tell me that secular institutions do not do any good. And what motivated us to create those institutions if not a social conscience?

We are too far apart.

We are only far apart in the sense that you are incapable of having a rational discussion with someone who expresses any disagreement about anything you have to say. I expressed agreement with a number of the points you have made in my last post. There are some things we are not that far apart on. But the mere fact that I have expressed disagreement with anything you have to say is apparently enough for you to dismiss me as someone with severe emotional problems who is not worth talking to.

Seriously. If you give up on discussion as soon as someone expresses disagreement why did you come here in the first place? You clearly did not come here to have an actual discussion with anyone. You came here to lecture all of us misguided souls. No one is going to want to talk to you if you assume that attitude and it has nothing to do with their ignorance of the rules of logic or anything like that. It has everything to do with the fact that it is insufferable talking to someone who just wants to lecture you and feels they have nothing to learn.

I agree this discussion has run its course, and it never really got off the ground to begin with, but it was not for lack of trying on my part. I continually responded to your personal attacks with what I thought were well intentioned arguments and you continued to respond by claiming I am just suffering from emotional problems. I certainly hope your new job is going to absorb a great deal of your time because I am afraid I have lost my patience with this non-sense.

[ Edited: 16 February 2017 17:44 by no_profundia]
 
 
no_profundia
 
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16 February 2017 17:11
 
Jan_CAN - 16 February 2017 03:45 PM

I’ve enjoyed reading these posts, no_profundia.

Thank you Jan. I am glad someone enjoyed them smile

 
 
PolymathLevel8
 
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17 February 2017 14:04
 

I’m sorry. I was wrong to say that secularists do nothing on civic issues.
Meditation is a small part of emotional and spiritual growth. There are more important practices, and they often rely on religious ethical systems. But since you want to replace them, you probably wouldn’t be interested.
I criticize the new atheist movement, and you rewrite my comments to make it into a personal attack on you. Nice reversal.
This site has been spitting contempt at religious people for years. Yet I’m the arrogant one. Way to take responsibility.
Religious crimes are all that matter. When secular crimes are mentioned, we quickly make excuses. Biased much?
One minute you want to end all religion. The next you’re willing to work with us. Nice dodge.
But I’m done. I came here to try and get people to stop attacking us. I see now that it’s easier to attack people who don’t hit back than to work on real issues. And I just can’t keep up with all the flip flops.

 

 

 
no_profundia
 
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17 February 2017 15:07
 
PolymathLevel8 - 17 February 2017 02:04 PM

Meditation is a small part of emotional and spiritual growth. There are more important practices, and they often rely on religious ethical systems.

Such as? Why can they not rely on secular ethical systems that do not rely on ontological claims about the existence of God or revelation or anything supernatural?

I criticize the new atheist movement, and you rewrite my comments to make it into a personal attack on you. Nice reversal.

You criticize new atheists and secularists in personal terms. You spent very little time responding to the actual arguments I made (you ignored many of them) and a lot of time dissecting the personalities of new atheists and secularists by creating caricatures of them in your imagination. 

Since I am a secularist, when you say that secularist critiques of religion are based on “self-esteem” issues and “emotional problems”, you are including me in that group. So, it is not a reversal. You are making a general statement about the personal characteristics of the people who belong to a group I belong to. By simple logic, you are making personal attacks on me. If you say “All x in a particular set posses a certain property” and I am an x in that set than you are saying I possess that property.

If you say “secularists have emotional” problems and you know that I am a secularist…guess what…you are saying I have emotional problems. If you say “saying that secular institutions can replace religious institutions is arrogant” right after I said that secular institutions can replace religious institutions…you are calling me arrogant. Plus, you made claims specific to me that you just made up in your head like “you know nothing about liberal spirituality.” Was that not directed at me? Was I somehow misunderstanding the second person pronoun in that sentence? Come on man, take responsibility.

And just as a reminder: I am not criticizing you for making personal attacks on me. This is a rough and tumble world. People attack me personally on these forums fairly regularly and I sometimes attack other people personally. What bothered me was that you were making all these personal attacks on secularists while, at the same time, lecturing secularists for all the personal attacks they make, and claiming they were evidence of emotional problems.

That is what bothered me. The fact that the personal attacks came packaged with a lecture about how people who engage in personal attacks are not as spiritually advanced as you. I would not have complained if they were just personal attacks. You can say whatever you want about me. I know I am a horrible person.

This site has been spitting contempt at religious people for years. Yet I’m the arrogant one. Way to take responsibility.

This site has a lot of people who disagree with the tenets of religion and they express that disagreement. Sometimes they make cogent arguments and sometimes they engage in insults like all human beings. If you really want to raise the level of the discourse why not come armed with some actual arguments?

I would have been more than happy to have a discussion with you about the value of religion. I actually altered my views slightly as a result of this discussion despite the fact that it never got off the ground. But I am not interested in being lectured to or being talked down to. Most people aren’t. If you wanted to have a rational discussion about our disagreements I think you would find me to be pretty friendly.

When secular crimes are mentioned, we quickly make excuses. Biased much?

Where did I make excuses for secular crimes? You keep repeating this like it happened. It didn’t. I have had to correct you three times now. I assure you, if you see an excuse for secular crimes in anything I have written you are misunderstanding what I have said. I would be happy to correct you if you would kindly point me to a place where you think I made excuses for secular crimes. If you cannot point to a place where I did that…STOP SAYING THIS!

One minute you want to end all religion. The next you’re willing to work with us. Nice dodge.

Not a dodge. In my very first post I said that it is perfectly possible for people to 1) disagree about something and express that disagreement honestly, and 2) still work together. You seem to think that is impossible and with your absolute intolerance for anyone who disagrees with you about anything I can see why. There is no contradiction for me between the following two statements:

1) I think theistic religion and religions based on revelation and the supernatural will eventually disappear and I think that is a good thing.
2) I am willing to support religious people when they are working toward something I believe in (such as: a reinterpretation of their own religion in a non-fundamentalist direction).

Please explain how this is a “dodge” a “flip-flop” or in any way a contradiction. This has been my position from the beginning as you can see if you go back and read my very first post.

But I’m done. I came here to try and get people to stop attacking us.

The problem is: you perceive any expressed disagreement as an attack. Atheists should be able to express their honest opinion if they disagree with something. That was the point of my original post. The problem that atheists face is: if we say “I disagree with this aspect of religion” or “I think religion is on balance harmful” we immediately get accused of attacking religion. So how are we supposed to express those opinions? If I genuinely believe those things what should I say to avoid having people like you tell me I am “attacking” religion?

You express your disagreements with the new atheists, in very personal terms I might add, but when you express your disagreements it is based on “reason and logic” and spiritual superiority. But when atheists express their disagreements with liberal Christians it is an “attack” that is merely a sign of a lack of emotional and spiritual maturity. I don’t like double standards.

I know you think atheists are wrong, but even if they are wrong, they should still be allowed to express their opinion…right?

[ Edited: 17 February 2017 15:22 by no_profundia]
 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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17 February 2017 15:37
 

no_profundia:

Although it appears that this individual is not open-minded enough to be persuaded by your thoughtful and sensible responses, others who visit here may very well be.

I take exception with only one of your statements in the posts on this thread – it is obvious to me that you are quite the opposite of a ‘horrible person’.  And you have the Patience of Job (I don’t see any reason why atheists can’t use a good religious term when appropriate).

[ Edited: 17 February 2017 15:40 by Jan_CAN]
 
 
no_profundia
 
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17 February 2017 17:17
 
Jan_CAN - 17 February 2017 03:37 PM

no_profundia:

Although it appears that this individual is not open-minded enough to be persuaded by your thoughtful and sensible responses, others who visit here may very well be.

I take exception with only one of your statements in the posts on this thread – it is obvious to me that you are quite the opposite of a ‘horrible person’.  And you have the Patience of Job (I don’t see any reason why atheists can’t use a good religious term when appropriate).

Thank you for your kind words Jan. I will say, I do not respond to too many threads on here, partly because I have a hard time being succinct, but I do still browse here quite a lot and I always enjoy reading your posts. They are always fair and thoughtful and interesting. I am glad you found your way to the forums smile

 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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17 February 2017 19:22
 
no_profundia - 17 February 2017 05:17 PM
Jan_CAN - 17 February 2017 03:37 PM

no_profundia:

Although it appears that this individual is not open-minded enough to be persuaded by your thoughtful and sensible responses, others who visit here may very well be.

I take exception with only one of your statements in the posts on this thread – it is obvious to me that you are quite the opposite of a ‘horrible person’.  And you have the Patience of Job (I don’t see any reason why atheists can’t use a good religious term when appropriate).

Thank you for your kind words Jan. I will say, I do not respond to too many threads on here, partly because I have a hard time being succinct, but I do still browse here quite a lot and I always enjoy reading your posts. They are always fair and thoughtful and interesting. I am glad you found your way to the forums smile

Thank you very much.

 
 
icehorse
 
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20 February 2017 18:03
 
PolymathLevel8 - 17 February 2017 02:04 PM

I’m sorry. I was wrong to say that secularists do nothing on civic issues.
Meditation is a small part of emotional and spiritual growth. There are more important practices, and they often rely on religious ethical systems. But since you want to replace them, you probably wouldn’t be interested.
I criticize the new atheist movement, and you rewrite my comments to make it into a personal attack on you. Nice reversal.
This site has been spitting contempt at religious people for years. Yet I’m the arrogant one. Way to take responsibility.
Religious crimes are all that matter. When secular crimes are mentioned, we quickly make excuses. Biased much?
One minute you want to end all religion. The next you’re willing to work with us. Nice dodge.
But I’m done. I came here to try and get people to stop attacking us. I see now that it’s easier to attack people who don’t hit back than to work on real issues. And I just can’t keep up with all the flip flops.

My main point here is this: strawman much?

- It would appear that you’ve assumed we all agree with Harris 100%, nope.
- You appear to want to claim spirituality to be under religion’s purview, I disagree.
- On Cherry-picking - atheists are free to synthesize the best moral thinking from whatever collection of sources makes sense. If you claim to follow a given religion, then it’s you who must do the cherry-picking to ignore certain less-the-wonderful aspects of your religion’s scripture.
- As far as “spitting contempt at religious people”, I’d say not. While I’ve been here, most of the discussions have been a defense of secularism. If you’re not an evangelist, or a theocrat you probably can have some good discussions here.

Let me ask you this, Harris lists several “scientific values”, e.g. discovery, logic, critical thinking, evidence, and parsimony. I value those as well, plus I value the well being of conscious creatures.

What do you value?

 
 
Kalessin
 
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Kalessin
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03 July 2017 06:07
 

The careful, courteous and conscientious work put into this exchange by no_profundia was massively disproportionate to the tone and quality of the OP and his/her peevish ad hominem dismissals.  Actually, constructing thought experiments that might enable protagonists on either side of an argument to strongly and concisely express their position is a really valuable exercise, and in the best cases can cut through crosstalk and obfuscation.  It’s perhaps a family member of the “steel-manning” approach that Sam Harris refers to quite often, and as such I think almost inevitably raises the level of discourse.  So I commend no_profundia for offering shared ground in such a patient and conciliatory way smile

Kalessin

 
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