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Old 11-25-2015, 03:24 PM   #1
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The Sam Harris interview from Salon

The Sam Harris interview from Salon
http://www.salon.com/2015/11/25/harr...orrespondence/
If you believe that the historical Jesus was born of a virgin, resurrected, and will be coming back to Earth, you are a Christian. Indeed, it would controversial is to call oneself a Christian without believing these things. But each of these claims rests on terrible evidence and stands in contradiction to most of what we now know about the world. The odds are overwhelming that Jesus was neither born of a virgin, nor resurrected. And he didn’t ascend to some place in the sky where he could abide for thousands of years, in a form that leaves him free to use his powers of telepathy to eavesdrop upon the private thoughts of billions of people. Nor will he return from on high like a superhero, flying without the aid of technology, or magically raise his followers to meet him in the stratosphere for the Rapture. All of these expectations—which most Christians harbor in one form or another—entail claims about biology, history, physics, and the nature of the human mind, that defy the centuries of intellectual progress we’ve made on these topics. To believe any of these things is to ignore one’s commonsense and a dozen specific sciences at the same moment.
one mustn’t ignore the fact that our world has been dangerously riven by divisive nonsense, simply because most people were told, since the moment they could speak, that one of their books was written by the Creator of the universe
"dangerously riven by divisive nonsense" sounds accurate to me
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Old 11-27-2015, 07:24 PM   #2
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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one mustn’t ignore the fact that our world has been dangerously riven by divisive nonsense, simply because most people were told, since the moment they could speak, that one of their books was written by the Creator of the universe
Repetition of something by parents and respected authority figures, from an early age, produces a result that contradicts our self-image of "free will".
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Old 11-27-2015, 10:33 PM   #3
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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Repetition of something by parents and respected authority figures, from an early age, produces a result that contradicts our self-image of "free will".
This donkey statement is really funny for two reasons:

1. Believing in God in and of itself has absolutely nothing to do with free will

2. Posting that statement in a thread touting Sam Harris is pretty damned funny, because Sam Harris doesn't believe in free will, and wrote a whole book about why he doesn't.
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Old 11-27-2015, 10:35 PM   #4
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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This donkey statement is really funny for two reasons:

1. Believing in God in and of itself has absolutely nothing to do with free will

2. Posting that statement in a thread touting Sam Harris is pretty damned funny, because Sam Harris doesn't believe in free will, and wrote a whole book about why he doesn't.
And I find your post funny because you completely avoided the main point.
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Old 11-29-2015, 08:03 PM   #5
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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And I find your post funny because you completely avoided the main point.
Obviously because I find your statement to be ridiculous.
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Old 11-30-2015, 06:25 PM   #6
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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our world has been dangerously riven by divisive nonsense, simply because most people were told, since the moment they could speak

Harris logic:

1. People are taught nonsense.
2. The world is violent and polarized.
3. Ergo, the violence is caused by the nonsense.

It's been explained to Harris a million times that he can't explain a war monocausally -- there's a great range of factors, of which religion is just one. But he keeps doubling down. Harris is a fool.

Rationalism does not lead consistently to pacifism, nor religion to violence.
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Old 11-30-2015, 06:54 PM   #7
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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1. People are taught nonsense.
2. The world is violent and polarized.
3. Ergo, the violence is caused by the nonsense.
Broadly, I don't think there's anything wrong with this logic.

Its just missing 'boredom'.

People and societies do a lot of nonsensical things out of sheer boredom. War is entertaining after all.
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Old 11-30-2015, 08:07 PM   #8
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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[/INDENT]Harris logic:

1. People are taught nonsense.
2. The world is violent and polarized.
3. Ergo, the violence is caused by the nonsense.

It's been explained to Harris a million times that he can't explain a war monocausally -- there's a great range of factors, of which religion is just one. But he keeps doubling down. Harris is a fool.

Rationalism does not lead consistently to pacifism, nor religion to violence.
I think Christianity has probably had a cohesive effect on the countries where it was/is practiced. The idea of one people under God is powerful and I think serves to diminish difference.

The Muslim world should be the same (it teaches brotherhood with other Muslims as a central theme), but the Muslim world unfortunately has suffered greatly from religion. For example, much of the trouble in the Middle East is due to philosophical differences between Sunnis and Shias, which is a purely religious difference. Much of the oppression of minorities in the Middle East is due to Muslim attitudes toward outsiders. I think you'd agree that if we could wave a wand and make the entire Muslim world either Shia or Sunni, there would be far less strife and killing (at least of fellow Muslims).

I don't think Sam Harris is off with this at all:
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one mustn’t ignore the fact that our world has been dangerously riven by divisive nonsense, simply because most people were told, since the moment they could speak, that one of their books was written by the Creator of the universe
Hundreds of millions of women live as virtual and practical prisoners, unable to interact with others outside their family circle, because of divisive and sexist nonsense. Some of it is cultural mores, but it's reinforced and made holy and binding by religious beliefs. Religious beliefs have made liberalism of ancient cultural mores nearly impossible, as the two bind each other together. How can you have a viable feminist movement when a women believes that to be a good Muslim and attain heaven, she must obey her husband? It was bad enough in Christianity, which had a fraction of the sexism that Islam does. I'm convinced that without Islam, the Middle East would be a far more modern place. Look at Iran when it was colonized and secular, vs now, after Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile. That's religion - you can't put it down to anything else.
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Old 12-01-2015, 09:33 AM   #9
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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much of the trouble in the Middle East is due to philosophical differences between Sunnis and Shias, which is a purely religious difference. . . . look at Iran when it was colonized and secular, vs now, after Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile. That's religion - you can't put it down to anything else.
A difficulty here is that you are considering Islam as one thing, defined by the more extreme practitioners. But it is like any ideology, different people use different parts for their own purposes. Millions of people don't care if their neighbors are Shia or that bikinis are worn on Beirut beaches. The tremendous variation in interpretation of Islam comes from history -- the different experiences and contexts people are in.

Case in point. You suggest a single cause for fundamentalism in Iran. But under the Shah, the political opposition was tortured and mutilated, the mosque was the only place were dissent could prosper. Or Northern Ireland, which is routinely referred to as a Catholic-Protestant dispute, yet that violence is not replicated anywhere else. Saying "you can't put it down to anything else" but religion is a head asplode statement. But it's what Harris says. He is on the level of random guys on the internet.
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Old 12-03-2015, 03:48 AM   #10
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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Broadly, I don't think there's anything wrong with this logic.

Its just missing 'boredom'.

People and societies do a lot of nonsensical things out of sheer boredom. War is entertaining after all.
The bully instinct plays a huge part. Look, if you have a lot of resources and someone else doesn't, and you don't really like them, why not blow up their ****? It's a pretty primal instinct but it's alive and well. It's a zero sum game. You don't want them to get powerful and bully you.

I would actually say that ZERO wars have been caused by religion. Most rulers of countries have been astute enough to not get emotionally involved in their beliefs. They use religion, not the other way around. They might rouse their people using religion as a catalyst, but they are after power and gold.
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Old 12-03-2015, 05:21 AM   #11
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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The bully instinct plays a huge part. Look, if you have a lot of resources and someone else doesn't, and you don't really like them, why not blow up their ****? It's a pretty primal instinct but it's alive and well. It's a zero sum game. You don't want them to get powerful and bully you.

I would actually say that ZERO wars have been caused by religion. Most rulers of countries have been astute enough to not get emotionally involved in their beliefs. They use religion, not the other way around. They might rouse their people using religion as a catalyst, but they are after power and gold.
Religiously argued violence and warfare is a real thing, and there is very little to indicate that most people who engage in it are not motivated by actual beliefs.

Wars are obviously influenced by multitudes of factors such individuals, power, economy, politics and whatnot. To pick out a single religiously inspired conflict and say "religion caused this" will therefore always be overly simplistic. Similarly ideas don't really act, people do. People, however, do act on their beliefs!

To say that religious beliefs don't play a part and can't be blamed however, is both naive and dangerous. Religious belief often provides a zeal to conflicts that can both push it over the edge and make people define sides much more easily. It also problematic that religious arguments are often above and beyond rational inquiry. If "God wills it", it is hard to argue against it or with it. More traditional conflicts of a geopolitical nature might be just as bad, but they are often more susceptible to reason and diplomacy.

I also don't agree with conspiratorical notions that figures of authority never actually hold the religious beliefs, but just use them. I'm sure that can happen, but I'm equally certain that a lot of the time those beliefs are genuinely held. Many kings throughout history has likely honestly believed they were chosen by God, and that their creeds and acts were thus divinely ordained. Likewise since religious beliefs do not always answer to reason, I think they make it easier to rationalize action; "I want this because God wants it" and so forth.

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Old 12-03-2015, 06:14 AM   #12
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

Even if you accept what he says its still a bad look. Religion is a good tool to use by leaders for war.
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Old 12-03-2015, 06:44 AM   #13
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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A difficulty here is that you are considering Islam as one thing, defined by the more extreme practitioners.
No, I'm considering Islam as defined by a large proportion of Islamic people:



And how am I "considering it as one thing"? I already mentioned Sunni and Shia in my post, two different sects, which is precisely the opposite of "considering it as one thing". Your comment in nonsensical.
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But it is like any ideology, different people use different parts for their own purposes. Millions of people don't care if their neighbors are Shia or that bikinis are worn on Beirut beaches.
I agree. But this does not mean that people are just using religion for their purposes. Religion works both ways - it is used to validate worldviews and to achieve ends, and it creates worldview and its own ends. What you're doing is common among people wanting to be "polite" to bring up all manner of spurious and specious and one-sided objections rather than honestly look at reality. When racism was in fashion, the educated set did that with those who said blacks were equal. When aristocracy was in fashion, the educated set did that with people who said people should determine their own government. Now, cultural relativism/anti-criticizing other cultures is in fashion, and the educated set have the same rabid and anti-intellectual defense of their mores.

It's incredibly boring. Can we please move past it and actually talk about truth? You're not different in your heart to the racists and the king-lovers - you're just operating under a different cultural more.
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The tremendous variation in interpretation of Islam comes from history -- the different experiences and contexts people are in.
Yes, but the interpretations of Islam also come from the source material.

99% of Muslims agree that Muhammed was a prophet and lived a good/admirable life (that's what it is to be Muslim!). You don't think the fact that he was a warmonger, headlopper, brutal with those who opposed him, deeply xenophobic, and a man who had sex with a 9 year old, might inform some of their opinions on those matters? Might that inform some of their worldview and morality? Of course it does. To the extent that it informs them, this is the result of religion.

You're acting as if interpretations are everything, and the source material is irrelevant. It's a two way street. And the second way is precisely what Sam Harris is talking about. No one is disagreeing with the first.
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Case in point. You suggest a single cause for fundamentalism in Iran. But under the Shah, the political opposition was tortured and mutilated, the mosque was the only place were dissent could prosper. Or Northern Ireland, which is routinely referred to as a Catholic-Protestant dispute, yet that violence is not replicated anywhere else.
Khomeini was able to take power because in Islam, he was a high level respected religious scholar, in a world of belief where theocracies are an ideal (in fact mandated under some sects). This is a religiously based belief. Khomeini had power because people believed based on their religious indoctrination he was a righteous leader and expert on Islam according to a great cosmic power and that Islamics peoples should be ruled by such leaders. The anti-secular viewpoints in Egypt for example are from the same source. It's not manipulation by leaders; this is a public groundswell of support for putting in horribly oppressive Sharia law. This is the pure result of religion.

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Saying "you can't put it down to anything else" but religion is a head asplode statement. But it's what Harris says. He is on the level of random guys on the internet.
Your insult is noted, but amusingly ironic because you're wrong. There are many things that can't be put down to anything but religion.

The cloistering of thought during the Middle Ages by the Catholic Church - religion. Now, the Catholic Church might be an evil atheist organization, but their power came from the fact that people genuinely believed that they had (as Bertrand Russell put it) "the power of the keys", and that power came from religious indoctrination. Can everything be interpreted differently? Of course. But if Buddhism ruled Europe, Europe would look very different, so religion is clearly a causal factor in how Europe played out.

Religion informs reality and action as well. For example:

Deadly Muslim terror attacks since 9/11: Over 27,000, spanning dozens of countries with different politics, customs, views of Islam.
Deadly Buddhist terror attacks since 9/11: 5? 10? 50?

The Buddhists are no less oppressed, or poor (many are more oppressed, and more poor). What is informing this difference? Ice cream? Balloons? Angela Merkel? Or religious teachings of how one should see and deal with oppression and outsiders?

Number of people killed for mocking or drawing Muhammed: thousands
Number of people killed for mocking or drawing Buddha: zero

What is informing this difference? Ice cream? Balloons? Angela Merkel? Or religious views about the holiness of Muhammed and what must happen to those who mock him? You think religion isn't to blame for this differential of thousands of deaths?

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Old 12-03-2015, 09:37 PM   #14
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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Wars are obviously influenced by multitudes of factors such individuals, power, economy, politics and whatnot.
I have an overarching theory (probably wrong) that all of these reasons for war, especially power, are caused mainly by boredom.

Why, after all, do people take pleasure in playing power-games? For the same reason they take pleasure in playing games in general. It gives them something to do, to escape an otherwise boring existence.

Picture yourself in a power position, with the control of a vast navy and airforce. Sure it would make most sense to avoid using it. However, that gets boring, so after a while, you want to do something with that navy and that airforce. After a longer while, you're almost eager for someone to attack you in any way, so you can play with your toys. Boredom.

Sounds overly simplistic I know, but paradoxically, most complicated things are.

I don't think 'boredom' as a broad concept has been explored enough academically.
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Old 12-04-2015, 02:28 AM   #15
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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Religiously argued violence and warfare is a real thing, and there is very little to indicate that most people who engage in it are not motivated by actual beliefs.

Wars are obviously influenced by multitudes of factors such individuals, power, economy, politics and whatnot. To pick out a single religiously inspired conflict and say "religion caused this" will therefore always be overly simplistic. Similarly ideas don't really act, people do. People, however, do act on their beliefs!

To say that religious beliefs don't play a part and can't be blamed however, is both naive and dangerous. Religious belief often provides a zeal to conflicts that can both push it over the edge and make people define sides much more easily. It also problematic that religious arguments are often above and beyond rational inquiry. If "God wills it", it is hard to argue against it or with it. More traditional conflicts of a geopolitical nature might be just as bad, but they are often more susceptible to reason and diplomacy.

I also don't agree with conspiratorical notions that figures of authority never actually hold the religious beliefs, but just use them. I'm sure that can happen, but I'm equally certain that a lot of the time those beliefs are genuinely held. Many kings throughout history has likely honestly believed they were chosen by God, and that their creeds and acts were thus divinely ordained. Likewise since religious beliefs do not always answer to reason, I think they make it easier to rationalize action; "I want this because God wants it" and so forth.

There are kings who think they are chosen by God. King Henry VIII is one. But to say he was religious is taking religion very loosely. I think most people have a deep need to worship on some level. If they don't end up worshiping true religion (which ultimately ends in people serving others, living humane lives, etc) then they end up worshiping false idols (themselves, false religions of hate, etc). Even if the world were stripped of religion, people would end up worshiping something.

The zealots you speak of who fight in wars are what I would call proponents of false religion. It's not that their religion caused them to fight. It's that they are deeply afraid and threatened, their way of life is threatened (multitudes of cultural factors, fear of deprivation, of the unknown, etc) and they cling to their notion of religion because it separates them from the other. It provides a sense of belonging. The same Us versus Them mentality exists with rival football teams. It's not going to go away if religion dies. Hopefully it does, hopefully the world can learn to think rationally. To do that, people first have to learn to think individually. And I think we are very, very far from doing that unfortunately. That's the real issue facing the world - lack of individual thought, too much groupthink.
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Old 12-04-2015, 02:47 AM   #16
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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There are kings who think they are chosen by God. King Henry VIII is one. But to say he was religious is taking religion very loosely. I think most people have a deep need to worship on some level. If they don't end up worshiping true religion (which ultimately ends in people serving others, living humane lives, etc) then they end up worshiping false idols (themselves, false religions of hate, etc). Even if the world were stripped of religion, people would end up worshiping something.

The zealots you speak of who fight in wars are what I would call proponents of false religion. It's not that their religion caused them to fight. It's that they are deeply afraid and threatened, their way of life is threatened (multitudes of cultural factors, fear of deprivation, of the unknown, etc) and they cling to their notion of religion because it separates them from the other. It provides a sense of belonging. The same Us versus Them mentality exists with rival football teams. It's not going to go away if religion dies. Hopefully it does, hopefully the world can learn to think rationally. To do that, people first have to learn to think individually. And I think we are very, very far from doing that unfortunately. That's the real issue facing the world - lack of individual thought, too much groupthink.
Here you are not making an empirical claim about the causal relationship between religion and war or violence. Instead, you are taking all the activities or motivations typically classified as "religious" and dividing them into two categories: "true religion"--which by definition in nonviolent--and "false religion" which is all the bad stuff.

As a matter of analysis this is a transparent case of special pleading. However, it doesn't really matter. All you are really doing here is changing the labels we use to refer to these activities or motivations. A different label doesn't change the underlying reality or the criticisms that apply to it. That is, Harris's criticisms would apply just as much in the analytic framework you propose here as they do in the more ordinary one. The claim would then be that true religion causes false religion that causes war.
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Old 12-04-2015, 03:44 AM   #17
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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Here you are not making an empirical claim about the causal relationship between religion and war or violence. Instead, you are taking all the activities or motivations typically classified as "religious" and dividing them into two categories: "true religion"--which by definition in nonviolent--and "false religion" which is all the bad stuff.

As a matter of analysis this is a transparent case of special pleading. However, it doesn't really matter. All you are really doing here is changing the labels we use to refer to these activities or motivations. A different label doesn't change the underlying reality or the criticisms that apply to it. That is, Harris's criticisms would apply just as much in the analytic framework you propose here as they do in the more ordinary one. The claim would then be that true religion causes false religion that causes war.
What I'm really doing is saying that the underlying causes are more psychological and that religion is not the root cause. Looking at religion from an empirical, sociological point of view negates what religion is; you can only look at from within, from an existential point of view. It is impossible to say if if a person is religious or not. I can't judge a man's relationship with God from the outside. Bill Clinton might be a much more religious guy than George Bush, even though Bush says he goes to church more.

I'm helping clarify what religion is. If someone characterizes something, and that characterization is wrong, it's called a straw man. I'm trying to help people who criticize "religion" so they don't attack straw men. Religion is a massive, massive body of knowledge with thousands of years of research and teachings in many traditions. When people criticize it without really understanding it, they make a big mistake. It's easy to look at religion from the outside and say it is x, y, and z beliefs.

I don't believe that true religion causes false religion. Let's say an example of false religion is the Westboro Baptist Church. I do not believe that those people would be less bigoted had they never read a Bible. They would be equally bigoted but in a different way. They might hate Mormons, or Muslims, or black people, some other group than gays. It's just their nature, they have a lot of hatred in them and it has to come out. Why? That's a bigger question. I don't know why those people are full of hate. To blame religion for that is really lazy thinking. More likely, humans have a need to belong to something, and it makes them feel special when they have a scapegoat or out-group to blame for their problems.
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Old 12-04-2015, 05:15 AM   #18
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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There are kings who think they are chosen by God. King Henry VIII is one. But to say he was religious is taking religion very loosely. I think most people have a deep need to worship on some level. If they don't end up worshiping true religion (which ultimately ends in people serving others, living humane lives, etc) then they end up worshiping false idols (themselves, false religions of hate, etc). Even if the world were stripped of religion, people would end up worshiping something.

The zealots you speak of who fight in wars are what I would call proponents of false religion. It's not that their religion caused them to fight. It's that they are deeply afraid and threatened, their way of life is threatened (multitudes of cultural factors, fear of deprivation, of the unknown, etc) and they cling to their notion of religion because it separates them from the other. It provides a sense of belonging. The same Us versus Them mentality exists with rival football teams. It's not going to go away if religion dies. Hopefully it does, hopefully the world can learn to think rationally. To do that, people first have to learn to think individually. And I think we are very, very far from doing that unfortunately. That's the real issue facing the world - lack of individual thought, too much groupthink.
Frankly I think your reasoning is dangerous. You have reduced some very threatening groups and people to bogeymen and classified them as conspiratorial, scared and threatened. Why is this reasoning dangerous? Because it essentially assumes that violent zealots agree with you. Basically the world boils down to a place where almost all people ultimately agree, but some lie and cheat on what they know is true.

That isn't how the world is. Most of us believe in what we say and do, not perfectly, but close enough for comfort. To assume that people who oppose your worldview violently must be somehow lying or panicking is very naive.

The uncomfortable truth is that while there are no shortage of violent loonies, a lot of reasonable and moral people in this world want each other dead. They just happen to disagree on what is reasonable and moral. Sometimes they don't even disagree, but still kill each other at an industrial level of effort.
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Old 12-04-2015, 12:28 PM   #19
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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What I'm really doing is saying that the underlying causes are more psychological and that religion is not the root cause. Looking at religion from an empirical, sociological point of view negates what religion is; you can only look at from within, from an existential point of view. It is impossible to say if if a person is religious or not. I can't judge a man's relationship with God from the outside. Bill Clinton might be a much more religious guy than George Bush, even though Bush says he goes to church more.

I'm helping clarify what religion is. If someone characterizes something, and that characterization is wrong, it's called a straw man. I'm trying to help people who criticize "religion" so they don't attack straw men. Religion is a massive, massive body of knowledge with thousands of years of research and teachings in many traditions. When people criticize it without really understanding it, they make a big mistake. It's easy to look at religion from the outside and say it is x, y, and z beliefs.

I don't believe that true religion causes false religion. Let's say an example of false religion is the Westboro Baptist Church. I do not believe that those people would be less bigoted had they never read a Bible. They would be equally bigoted but in a different way. They might hate Mormons, or Muslims, or black people, some other group than gays. It's just their nature, they have a lot of hatred in them and it has to come out. Why? That's a bigger question. I don't know why those people are full of hate. To blame religion for that is really lazy thinking. More likely, humans have a need to belong to something, and it makes them feel special when they have a scapegoat or out-group to blame for their problems.
A few comments/questions.

1) You say that "true religion" doesn't cause "false religion." By this I think you mean that when people act hatefully towards other people or groups, they are doing so exclusively because of some innate feature of their character rather than from a religious impetus. I wonder if you are consistent here and also believe that when people act lovingly towards others that they are also doing so because some innate feature of their character rather than from a religious impetus.

2) You are here assuming a particular view of religion where its inward mystical character is the primary or only authentic part of what is ordinarily called religion. I think this view goes wrong in at least a couple of ways.

First, this is a parochial view of religion--many religions do not view the internal as their primary aspect. For instance, Shinto is an "action-centered religion," where the heart of the religion is its ritualistic character rather than the beliefs or mythology that underlie those rituals. Alternatively, the foundation of Orthodox Judaism is not belief in God, but obedience to the Law.

Second, even if we were to adopt your view of religion as purely internal, we could still use the tools of sociology and science more broadly to study it. For instance, we can still use a person's self-reported beliefs/experiences to find correlations between religion and a person's actions.

3) You are still just engaged in special pleading. You assert, with no evidence, that the members of the Westboro Baptist Church would be just as bigoted even if they weren't members. All you are doing is elucidating what follows from your view of religion. But that won't convince those of us who think your view of religion is incorrect.

If anything your claim seems obviously wrong. Yes, it wouldn't be surprising if many of the members of the Westboro Baptist Church were bigoted towards other people if they weren't members. However, being a member of the WBC gives them the means to act on that bigotry in a way significantly more damaging* than they would otherwise.

And this is where I think your criticism really misses the mark. The criticism that people like Harris are making is not just that religion poisons people's minds, but that it provides institutional frameworks that affect people's lives in significant and primarily deleterious ways. Even if we accept your view that religion is just some unknowable part of people's psychology, then there would still remain the entire debate about the role of religious institutions. That is, religious people still would not accept the claim made by Harris that their churches, social norms, community groups, political impact are primarily negative.


*Maybe the WBC isn't a great example here as they are mostly clowns and it isn't clear to me that they actually do much damage beyond being incredibly rude and discourteous.
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Old 12-04-2015, 12:34 PM   #20
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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Frankly I think your reasoning is dangerous. You have reduced some very threatening groups and people to bogeymen and classified them as conspiratorial, scared and threatened. Why is this reasoning dangerous? Because it essentially assumes that violent zealots agree with you. Basically the world boils down to a place where almost all people ultimately agree, but some lie and cheat on what they know is true.

That isn't how the world is. Most of us believe in what we say and do, not perfectly, but close enough for comfort. To assume that people who oppose your worldview violently must be somehow lying or panicking is very naive.

The uncomfortable truth is that while there are no shortage of violent loonies, a lot of reasonable and moral people in this world want each other dead. They just happen to disagree on what is reasonable and moral. Sometimes they don't even disagree, but still kill each other at an industrial level of effort.
TD, I don't see how a "reasonable and moral person" wants to murder another group of people. To me, that isn't moral or reasonable. It seems that the only thing we differ on is the definition of what is reasonable and moral.

I buy your premise that these people think they are rational people. But like Socrates said (paraphrasing) a bad person thinks he is doing good. Religious bigots think they are doing the right thing. I'm not going to give them the credit you are that they are actually thinking things through.

Also I find it dangerous that you would classify all religions as equally capable of violence and destruction. The problem with that line of thinking is it leads to the very thing we're trying to stop - persecution. Christians have been persecuted since they began, usually by non-religious states. Which again leads to me to believe that the root of the problem lies in humanity's need for in-group/out-group belonging and scapegoating.
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Old 12-04-2015, 12:51 PM   #21
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

[QUOTE=Original Position;48803475]A few comments/questions.

Quote:
1) You say that "true religion" doesn't cause "false religion." By this I think you mean that when people act hatefully towards other people or groups, they are doing so exclusively because of some innate feature of their character rather than from a religious impetus. I wonder if you are consistent here and also believe that when people act lovingly towards others that they are also doing so because some innate feature of their character rather than from a religious impetus.

Yes, I have stated elsewhere here that I don't think religion causes a person to start being good. I think it can aid a person achieve happiness, provide tools for doing good, a sense of community, etc, but I don't think a person who goes to church all of a sudden becomes a good human being. Far from it. There can be good atheists and good criminals.


Quote:


3) You are still just engaged in special pleading. You assert, with no evidence, that the members of the Westboro Baptist Church would be just as bigoted even if they weren't members. All you are doing is elucidating what follows from your view of religion. But that won't convince those of us who think your view of religion is incorrect.

If anything your claim seems obviously wrong. Yes, it wouldn't be surprising if many of the members of the Westboro Baptist Church were bigoted towards other people if they weren't members. However, being a member of the WBC gives them the means to act on that bigotry in a way significantly more damaging* than they would otherwise.

And this is where I think your criticism really misses the mark. The criticism that people like Harris are making is not just that religion poisons people's minds, but that it provides institutional frameworks that affect people's lives in significant and primarily deleterious ways. Even if we accept your view that religion is just some unknowable part of people's psychology, then there would still remain the entire debate about the role of religious institutions. That is, religious people still would not accept the claim made by Harris that their churches, social norms, community groups, political impact are primarily negative.
I'm not saying religion is an "unknowable part of people's psychology." In a way maybe. The need for religion is. But the practice of it can be described.

Institutions in general are a part of society. I'm not a big fan of people organizing in groups for anything. Religion included. But if religion is gone, people's need to organize in groups won't be gone. Do you agree? To me that seems obvious, I don't need to have a university do a study on that. A lot of things in life should be viewed from the standpoint of common sense, discussion, and just keeping your eyes on the world. Studies and statistics, in my opinion, are really more full of holes than one guy's thoughtful opinion. Just my opinion, as unpopular as it may be. But Aristotle used that method and people seem to think he was smart.

So if institutions continue to exist long after the death of religion, what do you think will happen? People will continue to fight over ideologies. Ideologies won't go away overnight. Differences will always exist. In fact, we're looking at an example of that right now and nobody seems to see the elephant in the room - religion is being singled out and scapegoated. I see a major threat in that. Considering religions have been persecuted for thousands of years, I can easily see a scenario where decent Christians are being shot in the name of world peace.
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Old 12-04-2015, 01:41 PM   #22
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

Who has been persecuting religions for thousands of years? The non religious?


Cause....no...
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Old 12-04-2015, 02:03 PM   #23
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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Who has been persecuting religions for thousands of years? The non religious?


Cause....no...
Do people actually believe this?
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Old 12-04-2015, 02:57 PM   #24
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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Originally Posted by ToothSayer View Post

There are many things that can't be put down to anything but religion.
No one claims nothing can be traced to religion. The argument is that religion alone does not explain complicated things like war. You are pure game player.

So what ya gonna do with Myanmar, where currently it's the Buddhists massacring the Muslims?

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The cloistering of thought during the Middle Ages by the Catholic Church - religion.
That's just one thing that happens. Look up St. Thomas Aquinas. He revolutionizes thought, not cloisters it. You aren't the slightest bit hesitant about making vast, uninformed generalizations.

Lots of people debate the strength of religious factors. It's a special case to find someone who insists centuries of Middle Ages intellectual history or entire wars can be explained only by religion.

Wait, if I have to explain at all that things is complicated, this is gonna be dreary.
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Old 12-04-2015, 07:18 PM   #25
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Re: The Sam Harris interview from Salon

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Yes, I have stated elsewhere here that I don't think religion causes a person to start being good. I think it can aid a person achieve happiness, provide tools for doing good, a sense of community, etc, but I don't think a person who goes to church all of a sudden becomes a good human being. Far from it. There can be good atheists and good criminals.
The issue is not whether religion starts people being good (or evil), but whether it makes them more or less good/evil on the margins, and the different marginal impact different religions or irreligion generally have on people.

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I'm not saying religion is an "unknowable part of people's psychology." In a way maybe. The need for religion is. But the practice of it can be described.
Okay? You did say that "you can only look at [religion] from within, from an existential point of view," and thus that "it is impossible to say if a person is religious or not" and that "looking at religion from an empirical, sociological point of view negates what religion is." This viewpoint is what I wanted to challenge.

While this might be how you practice or experience religion, that is certainly not universal across people's religious practice or experience. You seem to have an individualistic view of religion (you say that you are not a "big fan" of people organizing into religious groups), but for many people religion's communal character--its ability to create social and cultural bonds with other people--is exactly what draws them to it and is central to their own practice of religion.

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Institutions in general are a part of society. I'm not a big fan of people organizing in groups for anything. Religion included. But if religion is gone, people's need to organize in groups won't be gone. Do you agree?
Sure. I think people's desire to be part of a larger group isn't a creation of religion, but one of the things that leads to religion. The point is to look at the characteristics of that group--is it making them better people or worse?

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To me that seems obvious, I don't need to have a university do a study on that. A lot of things in life should be viewed from the standpoint of common sense, discussion, and just keeping your eyes on the world. Studies and statistics, in my opinion, are really more full of holes than one guy's thoughtful opinion. Just my opinion, as unpopular as it may be. But Aristotle used that method and people seem to think he was smart.
First, that wasn't Aristotle's method. Don't know where you are getting that idea (for instance, think of The Politics, which is chockful of empirical claims about different political orders based on reports from his students and other travelers).

Second, the great problem with using common sense is that it is too easy for our own experience and perspective to influence what seems natural or normal in ways that aren't actually representative of reality. For instance, here I would say that your own seeming preference for a more individualistic religion causes you to deemphasize the communal aspects of religion, which are in many cases at least as important. A good study can broaden the range of experience to include people with very different attitudes and experiences from your own, enabling you to reach verdicts you couldn't reach just from using your own common sense.

Quote:
So if institutions continue to exist long after the death of religion, what do you think will happen? People will continue to fight over ideologies. Ideologies won't go away overnight. Differences will always exist. In fact, we're looking at an example of that right now and nobody seems to see the elephant in the room - religion is being singled out and scapegoated. I see a major threat in that. Considering religions have been persecuted for thousands of years, I can easily see a scenario where decent Christians are being shot in the name of world peace.
Absolutely I agree that the hypothetical society without religion would still have conflict. This is one of the areas of my own disagreement with Harris. He starts by correctly pointing out that religion does have a real effect on the world, in some case for ill, but then goes beyond this to claim way too much of an effect from religion.

I don't currently see much likelihood of decent Christians being shot in the name of world peace. I do see them being shot and worse by ISIS and other violent religious sects, but that isn't in the name of world peace.
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