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Religiosity, Spirituality, Fraud, and Atheism

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Local Rebel
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0 posted 05-16-2011 01:13 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

quote:

Religious truth is notoriously difficult to gauge given the competing claims of the world's great faiths. For Jews the deification of any man is an act of sacrilege yet the divinity of Jesus is central to Christian belief. Likewise, Christianity affirms that Christ is the sole path to salvation. Yet Islam insists that Muhammad was a prophet who lived after Jesus and paved a new and exclusive road to heaven. Religious truth, therefore, is established by a different criteria entirely, namely, its ability to shape and mold righteous character in its adherents.

As a Jew I do not believe that Joseph Smith discovered golden plates written in Reformed Egyptian in 1823 which he translated with seer stones. But having had extensive exposure to the strong families and charitable communities that the Mormon Church has built worldwide, I do believe that in Western New York where he claimed to have found the plates Smith encountered universal religious truths that were incorporated into Mormonism and which account for the high ethical standards of his followers. Conversely, when a religious figure devotes his life not to compassionate acts but to a blood-filled apocalypse it is either him or his religion which is fraudulent.

Bin Laden never walked in the footsteps of Muhammad but worshipped a god of his own making. While the Koran expressly prohibits the taking of an innocent life in the strongest terms -- "We ordained for the children of Israel that if anyone slew a person, unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land, it would be as if he slew the whole of mankind" (Sura 5:32) -- bin Laden told Al Jazeera in 2001 that those who say "killing a child is not valid" in Islam "speak without any knowledge of Islamic law" because murdering a child may be done in vengeance. Bin Laden subscribed not to Islam but to Osamaism, a satanic faith of his own making where he devised the rules.

Indeed, bin Laden and others who preach murder in the name of G-d are in no way analogous to the Pastor or Rabbi caught cheating with a congregant or the Priest found to be molesting a child, and not just because the taking of a life is more a more serious sin. For while the latter involves acts of religious inconsistency, however heinous, the former constitutes outright religious hypocrisy.

The difference is not merely semantic but cuts to the core of human nature. Few pastors believe that adultery is not a sin and few priests would argue that child molestation is a virtue. So why do so many religious people disgrace themselves by acting in contravention to basic morality? Because humans are fallible and selfish, weak and inconsistent, which is not to excuse their actions so much as to explain their failings. They mean what they preach but tragically cannot always live up to their own moral preaching.

The hypocrite, however, is he who professes a piety that he himself never believes in merely for public consumption. I was not surprised that the video trove captured by our Navy SEALs displayed bin Laden as a vain and shallow man obsessed with his celebrity and tinkering with his physical appearance. It confirmed the hypocrisy of a man who inveighed against Western corruption while enthusiastically embracing its emphasis on image to the exclusion of spiritual substance.

The same hypocrisy can be found in home-grown religious hate groups like Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church who, with their loathsome slogan 'G-d Hates Fags', protests the military funerals of fallen soldiers claiming that their death is the revenge of a G-d angered by America's tolerance for homosexuality. Here is an ostensibly Christian Church whose very foundation -- whatever it thinks of homosexuality -- is in direct contravention of the Bible's core teachings of reward and punishment: "The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him." (Ezekiel 18:20)

But notwithstanding the larger point of the difference between inconsistency and hypocrisy, the growing chasm between faith-based teachings, on the one hand, and the actions of the faithful on the other, is the greatest cancer afflicting modern religion and accounts for the popularity of the new high priests of atheism like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. They exploit the duplicity of religious ritual unaccompanied by religious values and use it to make a wider point, that religion is itself a control-motivated fraud and faith a money-making scam.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-shmuley-boteach/bin-laden-muslim-burial_b_862224.html



Brad
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1 posted 05-16-2011 06:15 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Wow!  To be honest I enjoy watching Rabbi Boteach.  He's a passionate man but he slides here.

The new atheists do not exploit a chasm. They contend (among other things) that religion is immoral at its core.  True, there are many good and moral people who are also religious but those people are that way in spite of religion, not because of it.

Of course, we don't expect people to conform to an impossible standard either.

quote:
For while the latter involves acts of religious inconsistency, however heinous, the former constitutes outright religious hypocrisy.


Betrayal of a child's innate trust in authority figures does not constitute outright religious hypocrisy?

Advantage, new atheists.

Capricious
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2 posted 05-16-2011 07:21 PM       View Profile for Capricious   Email Capricious   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Capricious

"True, there are many good and moral people who are also religious but those people are that way in spite of religion, not because of it."

I certainly don't think being religious makes you good, but I think this goes a bit overboard in the other extreme...

Perhaps you might say "[moral people] are that way regardless of religious belief," and be more credible.

Brad
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3 posted 05-16-2011 11:59 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

quote:
"The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him."
(Ezekiel 18:20)

Deuteronomy 5:9

quote:
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,


To be honest, I'm far more interested in hearing how people reconcile these 'apparent' contradictions than I am in trying to show any incoherence in scripture.

But the basic ideas of the new atheism see faith as immoral:

"What does God need with a starship?"

or for a more serious look at the problem, Jon Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven".

Would you accept that people are good and moral in spite of dogma?
Capricious
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4 posted 05-17-2011 12:55 AM       View Profile for Capricious   Email Capricious   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Capricious

Religions, like the civilizations that birth them, do evolve ... as do the people who follow them.

You don't see Christians burning witches (or athiests, for that matter) these days, despite the admonition in Exodus.

As to the contradictions?  I have never heard of any Holy book that claimed to be written by 'God' (or Goddess).  Since Man is an imperfect being, it must follow that the writings of Man, divinely inspired or no, are limited by the understanding of the man who transcribed them.  Or the second man, who translated ... and so on.

I am simply playing devil's advocate here, mind you.  I am not 'religious,' per se, but I do know many good people who are ... and whose good works are, as often as not, expressed as an affirmation of their faith, with the glory being given to something greater than themselves.  

Humans are a bundle of contradictions.  It is no surprise that a prophet might (however mistakenly, or perhaps not) project those same flaws onto his deity.  It's this whole free will thing ... very inconvenient for PR.

Brian James
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5 posted 05-17-2011 03:59 PM       View Profile for Brian James   Email Brian James   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brian James

quote:
"What does God need with a starship?"

That's just the kind of statement that really makes me dislike the new atheism.  The old Atheism at least grappled with the real subject matter of religious experience - which is not scientific but philosophical.  Meaning, justice, the human condition, on these the New Atheism is just so blithely silent.  I'll never forget Dawkins, in a debate, said something like, "Some questions are just stupid questions, and 'Does God exist?' is one of them."

The inherent hypocrisy of religious who condemn as sinful behaviors of which they themselves partake is one of the core subject matters of Christianity, or at least of the sayings of Jesus.  Read the New Testament and you'll see that that is his entire critique of the religious folk of his time.  Conceptions of what is sinful are supposed to awaken an inward eye that improves not for the sake of appearances, but for the sake of private salvation.  The problem of hypocrisy does not prove anything about the integrity of a belief system.  I may think it's bad to eat junk food, and want to teach my children the same thing, even though I will have the odd lunch at McDonald's.

There's a lot of bad teaching in Christendom, especially in the USA, and this has really given Christianity a bad rap.  But there's a difference between Christianity and Christendom, this difference is one of which the religious scriptures are painfully aware and to which they pay much lipservice.  It won't prove anything about God.  It is one of the very good questions with which every believer must grapple.

Now, compare that quote about "what does God need with a starship," with another quote by one of my favourite atheists, Albert Camus:  "Whether the earth or the sun revolves around the other is a matter of profound indifference."  Think Dawkins would say such a thing?  Think he's ever read Camus in his life?  He seems to have his mind made up about a lot of things he just doesn't understand.
Brian James
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6 posted 05-17-2011 04:13 PM       View Profile for Brian James   Email Brian James   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brian James

quote:
True, there are many good and moral people who are also religious but those people are that way in spite of religion, not because of it.


I'm not so sure about this.  I think I've become a more ethical person since becoming religious.  Though, I've also grown older, and correlation is not causation.  I do know that religion does tend to segregate people and create a "holier-than-thou" mindset for a lot of people, which is certainly immoral in and of itself.

One of the lessons I derived from scripture, which I could just as easily have derived from personal experience, was tolerance of others.  Teachings of religions seem largely to consist of things that are demonstrably good, illustrated by parable or storytelling, that you can draw broad conclusions from.  Whether it's Aesop or the Gospel writers, you're inheriting a moral that contains its own justification or explanation.  This is the problem with irresponsible religious who just know the morals of the story and not the stories themselves.

I guess I'm still saying "Don't blame religions for the shortcomings of their followers," though, so I'll put a lid on it for now.
Brad
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7 posted 05-17-2011 07:34 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Exodus: 22/18
quote:
18Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.


Luke 12:53
quote:
They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.


Africa, today:

child witches in Nigeria

Brian,

Religions ask you to accept their teachings unquestioned.  What religions consider a virtue, new atheists consider a vice.

I donít doubt that your studies may have helped you.  

But how does one give credit to religion if one isnít willing to consider its responsibility?

I have no doubt that Muslims for the most part are good and moral people.  I find it difficult not to see Islam in (insert appropriate atrocity).


quote:
Albert Camus:  "Whether the earth or the sun revolves around the other is a matter of profound indifference."


I donít know what to make of this. I have read Camus with satisfaction in the past but this statement is deeply disturbing.  Is it saying that facts donít matter or that there is no fact of the matter?

quote:
Think Dawkins would say such a thing?


No, I donít think he would.


  
quote:
Think he's ever read Camus in his life?


I donít know.  Probably.

quote:
He seems to have his mind made up about a lot of things he just doesn't understand.


Well, weíre all guilty of that at times, arenít we?

quote:
Meaning, justice, the human condition, on these the New Atheism is just so blithely silent.


If you have time, please take a look at some of the stuff in the Hitch thread and some of the stuff in the moral thread.  These are very serious questions and new atheists do address them.  Sam Harris has a new book out addressing morality.  Dennettís whole career can be seen as an attempt to address the human condition.  And Hitch is tireless in his attacks on injustice (the Kurds in Iraq, the fatwa on Rushdie etc.).  

[This message has been edited by Brad (05-18-2011 07:10 AM).]

Brad
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8 posted 05-17-2011 07:53 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

C.

quote:
I do know many good people who are ... and whose good works are, as often as not, expressed as an affirmation of their faith, with the glory being given to something greater than themselves.


I wonder if religion often opens up a part of ourselves that we neglect: the joy of helping, of working for a cause greater than ourselves.  That's certainly a good thing but I see no difference in their reactions than I see in those who do not give credit to a greater glory.

Example: The most recent Survivor run has Matt, a devoutly Christian man, who continually gets screwed over.  The words may be a little different but the reactions are the same.  
Bob K
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9 posted 05-18-2011 02:44 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     For a religion or a philosophy to be workable it has to make sense to a broad range of people.

     Some of them will be idiots.  Others will be geniuses.  This doesn't mean one is better than the other except in terms of scores on some pretty useless tests.  The geniuses will be able to understand a lot of what the idiots are saying.  The idiots will be able to understand a lot of what the geniuses are saying, too, about a lot of the important stuff; but some of the important stuff will just not register.

     I don't know how many different levels of this stuff there are cognitively and religiously and ethically, but I've seen eyeball guesses at five or six with some research to back them up.  This is the Kohlberg stuff on morality that I've mentioned before, and the Jane Loevenger stuff on cognitive development.  It may be old hat by now.

     Ethically, morally, religiously, you're going to be talking about people who think on at least one or possibly more of these five or six different "levels," for lack of a better word.  A lot of the problem seems to come from people's difficulty in being able to process information from a more complex level.  Their brains can't do it.  What makes sense to Edith Bunker is complete gibberish to Archie Bunker because Archie bunker doesn't understand Edith's need to filter everything through how other people see things, what's important to the community.  Archie automatically thinks in terms of whose fault things are, and how to place the blame elsewhere if it looks like it might be heading in his direction.  The notion of taking one for the team doesn't even enter the picture for him.

     And things get more complex from here.

     Morality and religion get more complex from there.

     And that's simply how you look at my religion and my morality and how it deals with the world.  It doesn't take into account how my religion and my morality relate to your religion and your morality.  Let alone how my religion and my morality relates to your religion and your religion and your morality relate to each other, let alone how all that happens along five or six different levels of abstraction.  

     The result is a freaking nightmare.

     This ignores completely the possibility of purposeful deception or the accepted conventions of rhetoric in debate.  This assumes perfect honesty insofar as such a thing is possible, and utter goodwill.  

     Now I know you have utter goodwill, dear friends, but the question remains whether on not you may trust me to have it.  I would suggest that, given the history of human discourse, you would be foolish to extend me that level of trust.  I am a rascal, despite my efforts to better myself.

     While you would be foolish to trust me as a religious man or as an atheist or as an agnostic for that matter, you will notice that I keep returning to the conversation because there is something about your presence as a human being that appears to be important.  You may be here to convince me of your point of view, I don't know; but I believe that there is something about my presence that is important as well.

     If not me, personally, then me in the abstract, my humanity.  I know I'm replacable by act of God or Ron or by personal decision to be at another site to to spend this time reading.  I could be somebody else, though I'm not, and in this hall of mirrors, we are reflections that are attempting to comfort each other in the best ways that we understand.  Trying to look past the surface representations that may be all that we can see:  Religiosity, spirituality, fraud, atheism, whatever they may be.
Stephanos
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10 posted 05-19-2011 10:44 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad:
quote:
...The new atheists do not exploit a chasm. They contend (among other things) that religion is immoral at its core.  True, there are many good and moral people who are also religious but those people are that way in spite of religion, not because of it.


But it's irrational to contend that religion is "immoral at its core' unless one defines what the core is.  For example, can one say that Christianity is immoral at its core, if its core is the character and person of Christ?  Does the prescriptive ethic of the Gospels strike anyone (other than Hitchens I suppose) as immoral?  Does the character of Christ lead anyone to that conclusion?

The greater difficulty is describing "good and moral" in any meaningful way within the framework of atheism.  A transcendent, religious, or spiritual view of things must be borrowed from (however anonymously) in order to make such statements.  It's the very reason why Paul wrote in his epistle to the Romans that we "suppress the truth" in unrighteousness.  Suppression does not imply complete alienation.  

quote:
Betrayal of a child's innate trust in authority figures does not constitute outright religious hypocrisy?


I have to agree with you here Brad.  I don't think that Jihadism and adultery are fundamentally different in their status as "hypocrisy", one being a perversion of justice, and the other a perversion of love.


quote:
(Ezekiel 18:20)

Deuteronomy 5:9


...To be honest, I'm far more interested in hearing how people reconcile these 'apparent' contradictions than I am in trying to show any incoherence in scripture.


My take on this, is that in context, the passage in Ezekiel is speaking to those who were seeking to avoid their own repsonsibility and lapsing into fatalism.  In such a case, hope is given for change, to differ from their fathers regarding all the behaviors that the prophet brings to their attention.  

The Deuteronomy passage, is an address to the Hebrews about the importance of staying true to the Covenant that God made with them and their Fathers.  Obviously the benefit of remaining faithful is contrasted with the disadvantage of not doing so.  But more interestingly the two results are contrasted in their respective scopes;  the reward for faithfulness being more far reaching than the punishment for infidelity.  But in this passage, the importance of faithfulness is communicated by reminding that how we live will affect others, even our descendants of future generations.  

The latter statement need not contradict the former if we view the one as affirming accountablity for one's own actions (for those who are seeking to deny responsibility), and the other as affirming duty to others (for those who are seeking to deny obligation).  

In contemporary language, it can be expressed as the difference between saying "do your duty to your children", and "you can't always blame your father".  

quote:
Would you accept that people are good and moral in spite of dogma?


And would you accept that people are not good and moral enough in spite of dogma (including the atheistic kind)?  For the dogma of Christ is not simply that we need more goodness and morality.  


quote:
Luke 12:53

They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.



This is an example of prooftexting without even beginning to discuss context.  In view of Jesus' Olivet discourse, is it even remotely plausible (textually speaking) to think that all this about divided families is a kind of command or recommendation?  Or have you mistaken the descriptive for the prescriptive?  These kinds of irksome questions are still essential to exegesis, if one is to make either a pious or impious point using the Bible.  

  
quote:
Religions ask you to accept their teachings unquestioned.  What religions consider a virtue, new atheists consider a vice.


They do?  Repeated stereotype of religions noted.  As far as I know the Bereans in the book of Acts were praised for their limited and careful incredulity.  

In other words, it makes religion a straw man.  The fact is, both atheists and religious people consider recognizing authority a virtue and blindly following someone claiming authority a vice.  Likewise both atheists and religious people consider inquiry and scrutiny a virtue, and endless cynicism a vice.  

It's really disconcerting to me that someone as bright as you is repeating these authoritarian saws of the New Atheists without more skepticism of your own.  

  
quote:
But how does one give credit to religion if one isnít willing to consider its responsibility?


How does one hold a religion responsible rather than particular adherents of said religion?  And how does one determine whether the core teachings of respective religions are more inclined to immorality or virtue, if one isn't inclined to take effort and seriously ascertain what they teach, or if one is more inclined to paint religion with with widest possible negative generalization?  The method is like trying to look at cells with a Telescope.


quote:
Well, weíre all guilty of that at times, arenít we?


Perhaps, but we don't all claim, like Dawkins, that science is the only valid means of knowing anything.  Half the battle for me, is trying to show people how religious the new Atheism actually is, though from my perspective, that's certainly not why it's wrong.  


And Brad, if it seems like I only respond to you lately, it's a compliment on my part.


Stephen  
Brad
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11 posted 05-20-2011 09:57 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Wow, Stephen, well done.  I am always learning from you.  Still, we have much to talk about. I just can't do it now. I, um, have to sleep.  
Bob K
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12 posted 05-20-2011 07:07 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     And, Ouch, of course.
Stephanos
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13 posted 05-20-2011 09:05 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Bob, I just didn't want Brad to think I was picking on him or something.  Sometime I think it could be perceived as rude to constantly answer questions posed to other people, almost like muscling in, or forcing a direction.  

Frankly, since Brad initiated this whole series of threads (excepting maybe a couple), I have been inclined to respond mostly to him.  And I enjoy his terse style of conversation.  I wish I had the time and energy to respond to each and every one.  

I certainly don't want you to think my compliment to Brad implies an insult to anyone else, especially you, my ever thoughtful and articulate philosopher friend.     

Stephen
Brad
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14 posted 05-20-2011 09:07 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I hope I'm not getting too off target here, but this quote by Sam Harris might just count as a kind of manifesto:

quote:
The goal is not to get more Americans to merely accept the truth of evolution (or any other scientific theory); the goal is to get them to value the principles of reasoning and educated discourse that now make a belief in evolution obligatory. Doubt about evolution is merely a symptom of an underlying condition; the condition is faith itselfóconviction without sufficient reason, hope mistaken for knowledge, bad ideas protected from good ones, good ideas obscured by bad ones, wishful thinking elevated to a principle of salvation, etc. Mooney and Kirshenbaum seem to imagine that we can get people to value intellectual honesty by lying to them.

While it is invariably advertised as an expression of ďrespectĒ for people of faith, the accommodationism that Mooney and Kirshenbaum recommend is nothing more than naked condescension, motivated by fear. They assure us that people will choose religion over science, no matter how good a case is made against religion. In certain contexts, this fear is probably warranted. I wouldnít be eager to spell out the irrationality of Islam while standing in the Great Mosque in Mecca. But letís be honest about how Mooney and Kirshenbaum view public discourse in the United States: Watch what you say, or the Christian mob will burn down the Library of Alexandria all over again By comparison, the ďcombativenessĒ of the ďNew AtheistsĒ seems quite collegial. We are merely guilty of assuming that our fellow Homo sapiens possess the requisite intelligence and emotional maturity to respond to rational argument, satire, and ridicule on the subject of religionójust as they respond to these discursive pressures on all other subjects. Of course, we could be wrong. But letís admit which side in this debate currently views our neighbors as dangerous children and which views them as adults who might prefer not to be completely mistaken about the nature of reality.


Harris on accomodationism
Stephanos
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15 posted 05-20-2011 11:00 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

A manifesto for whom?  Atheists?  Intelligent and thoughtful atheists?  The fact that he is (in this very article) countering the views of other scholarly atheists should cause us to have to narrow it further than that.  

quote:
But letís admit which side in this debate currently views our neighbors as dangerous children and which views them as adults who might prefer not to be completely mistaken about the nature of reality.


I promise, if I didn't know Harris was speaking, from this sentence, I wouldn't presume to know which "side" the author is on, nor which "side" he is speaking of.


Also the science versus religion stance is again put forward, as if belief in evolution was of one piece with intelligent atheism/agnosticism (David Berlinski would call this into question), and that young earth creationism is conterminous with Christianity, or even Evangelicalism (The list of those who don't fit the mold here, would be too long to even begin).


My question is, can Sam Harris "accomodate" reasoned argument that goes against what he's saying?  I think he's overstating the case if he implies that there have been no articulate or reasoned counter-responses to his ideas.  Timothy Keller, Dinesh D'souza, Alister McGrath, Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, John Lennox, are just a few that I have read personally.  The notable thing is, is that when I read these authors, they tend to answer the New-Atheist arguments (typically in a more respectful way, though there will of course be those who do not) rather than to resort to ad hominem slurs about the lack of intelligence among atheists.  When I read McGrath for example (A frustrating public speaker to me, but a devastatingly good writer), even I sometimes tire of the praise he offers his atheist opponents, just before taking them to the polemic woodshed.

And even those who disagree with Harris with unrestrained satire, seem to have more fun doing it than Harris does somehow.  So is this a manifesto for angry cranky atheists who won't even admit there are some points on the other side, who treat a rich Theological and Philosophical repository of thought as if it were a discarded comic strip, and who come off as good but somewhat forgettable scientists, but absolutely atrocious philosophers?

Sorry, that wasn't about you Brad.    

Stephen          
Brad
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16 posted 05-21-2011 06:21 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

The immorality of religion.

Iíve made the accusations abstract and I havenít included everything.  Why?  Well, we still live in cultures that believe we should not interfere in private beliefs as long as they donít harm others. I am still influenced by that.  The New Atheists are still influenced by that.  Yet, the distinction between public and private are no longer as strong as they once were. As that distinction has weakened, the New Atheists have challenged the idea that one should not question anotherís faith.  Religious zealots challenge other faiths and meet objections to their faith with violence; the New Atheists challenge faith with words.

Itís also important to understand that Iím trying to represent the New Atheists as honestly as I can and represent my own thinking as honestly as I can.  As a result, I donít think either position is particularly clear.

Well, what is my position?

I am not an anti-theist.  I do think the following are immoral but I also believe that immoral acts can be committed for pragmatic reasons (this is one of the reasons that human beings are, well, complex).  Of the four horsemen, I am most deeply influenced by Dennett but I think Hitch is the better writer.  I have strong disagreements with all of them except Dennett.  With Dennett, Iím usually stuck with ďbut that can be said simplerĒ).  It is probably no accident that Dennett is the least contentious of the four.            

And yes, I do think Christianity can help people do good things, but I do not think that Christianity on the whole is a good thing.

Atheism is neither good nor bad; it is not a dogma.  Iíve said it before, Iíll say it again: precisely nothing follows from atheism.  How could it?  Yet, there are dangers too and we should be aware of them.  False conclusions, unsupported zealotry, and violence are not limited to religion.  Iím not talking about fascism or communism, Iím talking about Columbine.

I believe that atheism, secular humanism, and skepticism are difficult positions to maintain.  They are unstable.  That doesnít make them any less important, any less valuable, but it does mean that those who promote these ideas can never be complacent.

Is that clear?  Probably not.  

I guess Iíll divide it into three parts:

Supernaturalism:

Credulity and the encouragement of credulity in an undefined realm that cannot, by definition, be tested or demonstrated.

(Why is this immoral?  It gives false hope and false fear.)

The amorphousness of authority.  

Theism:

Celestial dictatorship.

The oppression of women.

Permanent infantilism.

Christianity:

Vicarious redemption.  

Human sacrifice.

The doctrine of Hell.


How many families, how many lives, were hurt or destroyed today?  I think it safe to say that we all hope for as few as possible.  But I also hope that quoting Jesus today brings you little comfort when considering those lives and families that have been destroyed.  
Brad
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17 posted 05-21-2011 06:37 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Matthew 24:36
Brad
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18 posted 05-24-2011 06:55 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

quote:
But in this passage, the importance of faithfulness is communicated by reminding that how we live will affect others, even our descendants of future generations.  

The latter statement need not contradict the former if we view the one as affirming accountablity for one's own actions (for those who are seeking to deny responsibility), and the other as affirming duty to others (for those who are seeking to deny obligation).  

In contemporary language, it can be expressed as the difference between saying "do your duty to your children", and "you can't always blame your father".


This is good.  It doesn't strike me as a flip either, the language used can be seen this way.  Yet, that I concur here shouldn't be surprising.  Stephen, our cultural backgrounds are close enough that we will tend to agree, when we can, on certain moral points.  Unfortunately, I don't think this particular point frees Christianity from the more general moral dilemma of Original Sin.

But what happens when the cultural background is not similar?

That's my point with the Nigerian video.  Take certain aspects of scripture and they will see them differently than you do.  The distinction between description and prescription is not as clear cut as you seem to think.  I'm not blaming you, I'm saying this happens.  It is a point of responsibility that is too easily glossed over in the attempts to exonerate those passages and many, many others.

-----------------------

What is the dogma of atheism?


  
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19 posted 05-25-2011 10:10 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

quote:
I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of the evidence is against it.

--C.S. Lewis

quote:
Repeated stereotype of religions noted.  As far as I know the Bereans in the book of Acts were praised for their limited and careful incredulity.  

In other words, it makes religion a straw man.  The fact is, both atheists and religious people consider recognizing authority a virtue and blindly following someone claiming authority a vice.  Likewise both atheists and religious people consider inquiry and scrutiny a virtue, and endless cynicism a vice.  

It's really disconcerting to me that someone as bright as you is repeating these authoritarian saws of the New Atheists without more skepticism of your own.


I do not see it, Stephen.

If this is a strawman, I don't get it.

Perhaps, it is time for you to see what I see. I have two children plus my own staying with me today.  The parents have left to do what they have to do.  They are Confucian.  Their grandparent had died (They are also Christian by the way).  They have rituals to go through that take a long time. I know they take a long time because I have gone through them as well.

I accept all of this because I am an atheist. I believe that ritual does help people.  I do not accept that most of them believe it.

I do not accept that most Christians accept skepticism. I think skepticism makes them uncomfortable.

I think that most Christians don't care.  I think that most Buddhist don't dare.  I think that there is nothing out there.  I think.

Can you?

I can.

[This message has been edited by Brad (05-25-2011 10:42 AM).]

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The people that make religion a negative thing are the minority but they always get the majority of attention now a days because they are the ones most in the news and media, whether it be a terrorist that believes in the religion, a koran-burner, a doomsdaysayer, etc.  It is no wonder that more and more people seem to think of religion in those terms instead of in terms of the majority, the common and everyday religious men that make religion a positive thing but don't make it into the news like the extremists do.
 
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21 posted 05-26-2011 02:15 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Perhaps, Ess.  I don't know.  I just don't see most religious people exercising doubt.  Some, sure.  But would proselytizing be what it is if there were more doubt?

To be honest, I would love to be shown wrong here.  I would love to know that what I see are what you would call the extremists.  
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22 posted 05-28-2011 01:01 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad,

You seem to be repetitious of one thing in particular ... The Christians you know don't think, or don't see value in skepticism.  Atheists I know take skepticism too far.  Or, conversely, don't apply a whole lot of skepticism to their atheism.  Atheism for most is indeed a dogma, I know you disagree with that by your presupposition that atheism is basic, and theism is an irrational addendum.  But I am quite certain that Theism is basic, and atheism the addendum.  

In addition to your quote above, I'd like to add the following Lewis quote:

"When we exhort people to Faith as a virtue, to the settled intention of continuing to believe certain things, we are not exhorting them to fight against reason. The intention of continuing to believe is required because, though Reason is divine, human reasoners are not. When once passion takes part in the game, the human reason, unassisted by Grace, has about as much chance of retaining its hold on truths already gained as a snowflake has of retaining its consistency in the mouth of a blast furnace. The sort of arguments against Christianity which our reason can be persuaded to accept at the moment of yielding to temptation are often preposterous. Reason may win truths; without Faith she will retain them just so long as Satan pleases. There is nothing we cannot be made to believe or disbelieve. If we wish to be rational, not now and then, but constantly, we must pray for the gift of Faith, for the power to go on believing not in the teeth of reason but in the teeth of lust and terror and jealousy and boredom and indifference that which reason, authority, or experience, or all three, have once delivered to us for truth."

And this I've found to be much closer to the truth that what you're saying.  For most people the denial of God is much more visceral.  

Surely there are shallow thinking Christians, incredulous, some even blissfully simple, taking the local imbalanced preacher's words verbatim without much struggle, without much depth.  But there are many who are different than that.  Nor would I say that its immediately evident that skeptical religious belief is better than a more placid and easy belief.  There is an aspect of Christianity that appeals to intellects.  But there is something deeper still, in the gospel, that, as C.H. Spurgeon wrote, makes the ploughboy's eye gleam.  It is accessible to all who will hear the good news of forgiveness, grace, and redemption.


But frankly, there's a lot of posturing going on, about how Christians don't typically scrutinize thought, and rational people (who will, of course as a logical conclusion, be atheists) do.  


Stephen      
  
Stephanos
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23 posted 05-28-2011 01:34 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

quote:
The distinction between description and prescription is not as clear cut as you seem to think.  I'm not blaming you, I'm saying this happens.  It is a point of responsibility that is too easily glossed over in the attempts to exonerate those passages and many, many others.


I don't want to sound flippant Brad, but the scripture you quoted was indeed obviously in the descriptive.  Yes, people take scripture out of context, and use it to do what they will.  Sometimes they really do understand what scripture is saying, and still go contrary to it, using it posingly to influence others.  You mentioned original sin.  But how should scripture or the church be blamed for original sin, though sin gets a hold of scripture and is in the church.  If Satan can quote OT scripture in the New Testament for misapplication, it shouldn't surprise you that it has happened often since.  Whose responsibility is it Brad?  I'm not getting what you're saying.  The tares and the wheat are going to grow together, by necessity and actuality, whatever we think about this.  I just want to do my best to begin my reformation here ... and influence others where I can, and be different, if by grace I am able.  


It doesn't have as much to do with culture as you think, I'm afraid.  It has to do more with human corruption that is trans-cultural.  If I have a heart inclined to division and strife, I'm naturally going to misuse the scriptures that mention it.  Do you understand what I'm saying?


As Much as these families were hurt, by the misguided eschatology of Camping, Jesus or his followers (who hold to his words) should not be blamed.  If you're asking whether it saddens me ... yes it does.  If you're wondering if its new, no it isn't.  The truth is always surrounded by controversy.  Christians believe that the truth is "suppressed in unrighteousness".  Christians believe that there are unseen sentient influences that seek to help us self-distort the truth of God.  And yet still all of this, validates what Jesus said to begin with, warning about the idle tendency to try and set dates for eschatological events.


Stephen  
Brad
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24 posted 05-30-2011 05:32 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Stephen,

Sorry this is taking so long.  I keep looking at your last two posts.  I'm not sure how to add anything succinctly so for the moment I'll just pose some questions:

1.  How do you know?

2.  How does an outsider decide among the myriad of different Christianities, let alone the myriad of religions?

3.  What is the mechanism for God's or the devil's power in this world today?

4.  Are there real world consequences of this battle today?

One is an attempt to understand the epistemology here.  I think I know what you'll say but I'm trying to make it obvious.  

Two assumes one and tries to clarify a difference or lack of difference in the differences of belief.  

Three and four attempt to contrast things unseen and nothing at all.  This is another way of making the same point I was trying to make in the teleological thread.

There are certainly things that we cannot see but they do things.  If something can't be shown to do something then does it makes sense to argue that it is something?

My earlier point concerning responsibility was unclear perhaps.  I'm not blaming God or the Bible.  I tried to clarify it here but I didn't like the way it came out.  I'll have to think about it a little bit more.  It won't surprise you to know that it will revolve around the social and anti-authoritarianism.

I'm also not sure if I think atheism is properly basic. I have to go back and read Platinga on that one (that is your reference, is it not?).  I did say that atheism is unstable.  It's unstable because it offers no recognizable benefits in and of itself.  Many free thinkers love to poke fun at "There are no atheists in foxholes."  Statistically, I think the foxholes argument is probably true.    

PS Received my copy of "The Abolition of Man" last week.


  
 
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