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Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile 
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
I see what you're saying. However, because the Muslim countries' politics and government are based on their religion, isn't it fair to say that they disapprove of the intervention "on behalf of the Muslim populations". The US and other countries intervene to foster Democracy (which includes freedom of religion) or for economic reasons, not to help continue the Muslim beliefs.



Fri Nov 19, 2010 9:01 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
Dexter wrote:
I find his arguments about the motivation of suicide bombers to be persuasive for the most part, but I think you also have to consider the mindset of the soldier who is willing to die for his country as an example. If they have convinced themselves it is a just cause, then it doesn't require religious beliefs to be willing to kill and die and to become desensitized to what most of us would consider horrific violence.

Sure, and you can't discount the power that becoming a hero has for a young man without prospects, either. Also the financial reward coming to his family. Not to mention that, from the little that I've read about suicide bombers, they are carefully indoctrinated by handlers. I think it could be an exaggeration to say that they step forward having this great desire to die, begging to strap on a bomb, and all because of the 72 virgins thing. It takes an awful lot to get most people to disregard self-preservation.


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Sat Nov 20, 2010 5:54 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
I found it surprising that Harris put in that bit about data attesting to the reality of psychic phenomena being ignored by mainstream science (p. 41). That makes me (slightly) curious about some of his sources. But while it's true that the universe is stranger than we might think, I suspect I'd be more skeptical than he is. If there really are anomalous results, surely some respectable scientists are interested in replicating the studies. See some comments on the recent story about evidence for pre-cognition. I think the basic idea is that statistical significance alone doesn't tell you much.



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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
DWill wrote:
Dexter wrote:
I find his arguments about the motivation of suicide bombers to be persuasive for the most part, but I think you also have to consider the mindset of the soldier who is willing to die for his country as an example. If they have convinced themselves it is a just cause, then it doesn't require religious beliefs to be willing to kill and die and to become desensitized to what most of us would consider horrific violence.

Sure, and you can't discount the power that becoming a hero has for a young man without prospects, either. Also the financial reward coming to his family. Not to mention that, from the little that I've read about suicide bombers, they are carefully indoctrinated by handlers. I think it could be an exaggeration to say that they step forward having this great desire to die, begging to strap on a bomb, and all because of the 72 virgins thing. It takes an awful lot to get most people to disregard self-preservation.



Later in the book Harris has some interesting things to say about the financial and educational level of many suicide bombers. He discusses this to prove his point that Muslims are motivated by religious beliefs and not money, education,or lack there of.
Perhaps the underlying question is which comes first in Muslim countries the religion or the soldier?



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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
I'm dipping in here rather late in the discussion, but hopefully not all ears have moved on... This is the first I've read of Sam Harris (apart from quotes on other threads) and I have to say I'm appalled at all the attention his writing gets, particularly on a forum that prides itself in citing 'evidence' and valuing 'critical thinking'. OK but since we're hear to talk about it, here are my initial thoughts.
Sam Harris' word choice alone is inflammatory and his broad sweeping generalizations have all the charisma of a religious fanatic. Many of his truth claims are given with no evidence. He has a novel idea--let's do away with all religion and faith. Interesting idea, not original though. Who does he propose will mandate such a thing? If indeed he's opposed to 'every human being [being] free to believe whatever he wants about God' (14,15) how is this an answer to violence and bloodshed? There have been/are communist states trying to enforce such things. Has he not read history? It doesn't appear that he has tallied the results and compared them to those resulting from 'religious' causes. The numbers would tell a different story than the sensational picture he is painting.
OK specific quotes that I would call inflammatory rhetoric without validity....

Quote:
p16 "There is no more evidence to justify a belief in the literal existence of Yahweh... than.. Zeus."


re: the Bible
Quote:
"...showing neither unity of style nor internal consistency"
Has he studied the Bible? or even read it?

p19 We know more than we did 2,000 years ago "and much of this knowledge is incompatible with Scripture."

p45
Quote:
"It is time we admitted there is no evidence that any of our books was authored by the Creator of the universe."


My personal undocumented hunch is that SH has a 'beef' against religion and this is his 'big chance' to get the whole world on board to hate it too, in the name of saving us all from 'the abyss'... no need to agree with me, just my hunch.

Anyway, but a critique should always have something good to say. And I do too, but am going to submit this post first then on to the good stuff ( : Thanks for bearing with my gripes!


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Thu Dec 02, 2010 2:05 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
OK so Sam has done some intriguing thinking... His analysis of 'religious moderates' as people who have simply neglected to be faithful to the things they say they believe...have grown lax in their appraisal of their holy texts...and have hoped to accommodate other's views even if contrary to their own... is at least partially accurate. Of course I don't agree that their main fault is toleration of fundamentalists...but it's a unique idea(?)

What I found most surprising is his acknowledgement of the 'sacred dimension' of our existence, that there is indeed a 'need' for more than reason. [Thanks to DWill for the heads up on this in the Chap4 thread too, which I never responded to...re: there being more to atheism than reason, now I'm reading it for myself] It will be interesting to see where this idea leads. Is there any means of 'testing' the spiritual realm? I'm looking forward to more about using our knowledge of neuroscience (his specialty) to address this dimension. I guess we'll see whether (or not) "Science will not remain mute on spiritual and ethical questions for long".(43)

One shortcoming in his analysis of all the troubles caused by 'religion/faith' is the failure to discriminate between different religions. Because Islam has certain destructive tenets, does this mean all religious belief is dangerous. I would like to see more clear thinking on this. The fact is it is not faith/belief that is dangerous, but belief in a lie. Believing truth will bring freedom and life. Believing a lie always has the opposite effect. This is applicable in every realm of life. Of course it brings up the question of what is truth? And who's got it... but better turn to the real questions than thrash around in the dark at every one who believes anything strongly.


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Thu Dec 02, 2010 2:56 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
Dawn wrote:
I'm dipping in here rather late in the discussion, but hopefully not all ears have moved on... This is the first I've read of Sam Harris (apart from quotes on other threads) and I have to say I'm appalled at all the attention his writing gets, particularly on a forum that prides itself in citing 'evidence' and valuing 'critical thinking'. OK but since we're hear to talk about it, here are my initial thoughts.
Sam Harris' word choice alone is inflammatory and his broad sweeping generalizations have all the charisma of a religious fanatic. Many of his truth claims are given with no evidence. He has a novel idea--let's do away with all religion and faith. Interesting idea, not original though. Who does he propose will mandate such a thing? If indeed he's opposed to 'every human being [being] free to believe whatever he wants about God' (14,15) how is this an answer to violence and bloodshed? There have been/are communist states trying to enforce such things. Has he not read history? It doesn't appear that he has tallied the results and compared them to those resulting from 'religious' causes. The numbers would tell a different story than the sensational picture he is painting.
OK specific quotes that I would call inflammatory rhetoric without validity....

Quote:
p16 "There is no more evidence to justify a belief in the literal existence of Yahweh... than.. Zeus."


re: the Bible
Quote:
"...showing neither unity of style nor internal consistency"
Has he studied the Bible? or even read it?

p19 We know more than we did 2,000 years ago "and much of this knowledge is incompatible with Scripture."

p45
Quote:
"It is time we admitted there is no evidence that any of our books was authored by the Creator of the universe."


Quote:
My personal undocumented hunch is that SH has a 'beef' against religion and this is his 'big chance' to get the whole world on board to hate it too, in the name of saving us all from 'the abyss'... no need to agree with me, just my hunch.

Anyway, but a critique should always have something good to say. And I do too, but am going to submit this post first then on to the good stuff ( : Thanks for bearing with my gripes!

Dawn, I think it's as important to catch the nuances about an argument as it is to pay attention to the main thrust. Today, especially, with such a "toxic" atmostphere created by conservative vs, liberal bomb-throwing, few seem to care about nuance. I get the feeling you're one of the few, though. But I would suggest that at the start of your post, you imply that everyone discussing the book has been uncritical about it. If you read the threads I think you'll see this isn't so. We've disagreed with him on several particulars.

As for your opinion that he slings around unsubstaniated charges, okay. But I wonder if a couple of factors might be involved in this opinion. He is writing an introductory chapter, in which typically the writer sums up what he's going to say more fully later on. Also, if you are expecting him to try to prove the presence of so much dangerous unreason in articles of faith, he's not going to do that. He's writing to an audience for whom that is not necessary. I doubt there is a book out there or a writer in the world who could change minds on this score, anyway. He's not going to try to convince the reader, for instance, of the irrationality of belief in a god-man whose father sacrificed him to expiate the sins of humans, and who after his death rose to heaven to dwell with his father, where he awaits the time of a cataclysm on earth to beckon him back to separate the saved from the lost. I would say that his core audience already agree with him here, as well on other matters of faith, and readers who do not will probably just not be able to stomach the book.

One other point I'll try to make is that the context of the threat from radical Islam is very important to note. He doesn't say that religion itself represents the "abyss," but that the denouement of the campaign of radical Islam could be the abyss for us. Again, it's nuance that needs to be considered, and if you do consider it I think you might see that it's not all religion that he hates so much.

I didn't address all your points, but have to go!


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Last edited by DWill on Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
"One other point I'll try to make is that the context of the threat from radical Islam is very important to note. He doesn't say that religion itself represents the "abyss," but that the denouement of the campaign of radical Islam could be the abyss for us. Again, it's nuance that needs to be considered, and if you do consider it I think you might see that it's not all religion that he hates so much"....Dwill

Fellow Readers
DWill's statement is a very important point to remember while reading this book. Also, the fact that it was written immediately following 9/11. The author was obviously greatly affected by the attack on the Trade Centers and hammers away on the threat of Islam throughout the book. He offers the theory that all true believers in Islam must be prepared to kill non-believers, in order to reach heaven.



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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
DWill wrote:

Dawn, I think it's as important to catch the nuances about an argument as it is to pay attention to the main thrust. Today, especially, with such a "toxic" atmostphere created by conservative vs, liberal bomb-throwing, few seem to care about nuance. I get the feeling you're one of the few, though. But I would suggest that at the start of your post, you imply that everyone discussing the book has been uncritical about it. If you read the threads I think you'll see this isn't so. We've disagreed with him on several particulars.


You're right. And I do appreciate that. I guess the fault may lie with my own expectations. I anticipated reading a more scholarly, well-documented work. Harris is new to me. And his style drives me crazy. An opinion is one thing. Having a thesis when you write is essential. But throwing words around with so little respect to truth... just undermines everything he's trying to say. It seems more emotional than rational.
Having said all that, I really should get off here and get reading and give him a chance to redeem himself.

Oh, first one thing I found fascinating. Harris' reference to the old guy from the 14th century being so out of date as far as technology is concerned and yet right on top of things as far as religion is concerned. This to me is an argument in favor of religion's validity! If it can last unchanged all that time it must be based on some real truth claims. Scientific claims are always in flux, theories being discarded and replaced. While the truth claims of the Bible don't have much to say about science, perhaps we can trust them on what they do say. They've stood the test of time. (And no, refusal to accept a heliocentric world has no foundation in the Bible. It was a mistaken view of the church at that time.)

Thanks for your feedback. I know I'm late to the game here.


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Fri Dec 03, 2010 9:09 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
Okay, I'll bring up a beef of mine with SH. On page 47, this negativity: "we have the likes of Bill Moyers convening earnest gatherings of scholars for the high purpose of determining just how the book of Genesis can be reconciled with life in the modern world." I saw some of that series and read some of the book. It's inaccurate to say its purpose was to "reconcile" the book with our times. There was some that was irreconcilable. And I consider his attitude to be illiberal as well. Not seeing the Bible as the literal truth is one thing, a thing I obviously agree with. Saying that it doesn't have value for us today is wrongheaded. SH elsewhere says there is good stuff in the Bible. He flatly contradicts himself above.
Dawn wrote:
You're right. And I do appreciate that. I guess the fault may lie with my own expectations. I anticipated reading a more scholarly, well-documented work. Harris is new to me. And his style drives me crazy. An opinion is one thing. Having a thesis when you write is essential. But throwing words around with so little respect to truth... just undermines everything he's trying to say. It seems more emotional than rational.
Having said all that, I really should get off here and get reading and give him a chance to redeem himself.

I don't think you'll find much of a change in tone, Dawn (not wanting to spoil it for you). The book is a polemic; I think we can safely say that SH isn't shooting for scholarly detachment. But that is pretty much evident even just from the title.
Quote:
Oh, first one thing I found fascinating. Harris' reference to the old guy from the 14th century being so out of date as far as technology is concerned and yet right on top of things as far as religion is concerned. This to me is an argument in favor of religion's validity! If it can last unchanged all that time it must be based on some real truth claims. Scientific claims are always in flux, theories being discarded and replaced. While the truth claims of the Bible don't have much to say about science, perhaps we can trust them on what they do say. They've stood the test of time. (And no, refusal to accept a heliocentric world has no foundation in the Bible. It was a mistaken view of the church at that time.)

As usual, whenever I want to take another look at a passage, I can't find it. But what SH is saying I agree with: in the 14th Century, religion was considered to be perhaps the main collection of human knowledge. That changed beginning a couple centuries later, until the knowledge load shifted toward science (I don't mean just science per se, but the scientific spirit, which would include higher criticism of the Bible). The educated person today would reflect in full this changed environment.

What are the truth claims of the Bible that don't have to do with science but are immutable? That's not a challenge question, just asking for your perspective.

Going way off topic, have you ever read the "Women of Genesis" series by Orson Scott Card? He's probably my daughter's favorite author, and she just brought home Rachel and Leah.


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Last edited by DWill on Fri Dec 03, 2010 10:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Fri Dec 03, 2010 10:27 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
Dawn:
Quote:
While the truth claims of the Bible don't have much to say about science, perhaps we can trust them on what they do say. They've stood the test of time.


Christianity has stood the test of time, but not the test of critical examination. People continue to believe in it and rationalize away the problems because they have faith that it is true. With faith, there is no selection pressure provided by evidence. Contrary evidence does not make people disbelieve, as you exemplify. The only thing the longevity of Christianity has done is allowed the refinement of apologetics. Which means, the refinement of rationalization. After being around for 2,000 years, the excuses and rationalizations have had a very long time to be perfected so that they convince otherwise intelligent people such as yourself. In the end, the unavoidable fact is that Christianity does not conform to the evidence. Faith, in this case, means believing in spite of the evidence.

There are many other examples of beliefs that have stood the test of time, yet are false. Believe it or not, there are still people out there who believe the Earth is the center of the solar system. There are also people who believe the Earth is flat. That a belief survives for a long time certainly doesn't say anything about how true it is.



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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
DWill wrote:
Dawn wrote:
....Oh, first one thing I found fascinating. Harris' reference to the old guy from the 14th century being so out of date as far as technology is concerned and yet right on top of things as far as religion is concerned. This to me is an argument in favor of religion's validity! If it can last unchanged all that time it must be based on some real truth claims. Scientific claims are always in flux, theories being discarded and replaced. While the truth claims of the Bible don't have much to say about science, perhaps we can trust them on what they do say. They've stood the test of time. (And no, refusal to accept a heliocentric world has no foundation in the Bible. It was a mistaken view of the church at that time.)

As usual, whenever I want to take another look at a passage, I can't find it. But what SH is saying I agree with: in the 14th Century, religion was considered to be perhaps the main collection of human knowledge. That changed beginning a couple centuries later, until the knowledge load shifted toward science (I don't mean just science per se, but the scientific spirit, which would include higher criticism of the Bible). The educated person today would reflect in full this changed environment.

What are the truth claims of the Bible that don't have to do with science but are immutable? That's not a challenge question, just asking for your perspective.

Going way off topic, have you ever read the "Women of Genesis" series by Orson Scott Card? He's probably my daughter's favorite author, and she just brought home Rachel and Leah.


The interesting thing about that time when a 'scientific spirit' came in, incl. highter criticism of the Bible, is that it was also the time when many cults arose. When the fact of divine inspiration was discounted the door was opened for a flood of religions viewed as false by traditional Christianity including Mormonism, Christian Science, and Jehovah's Witnesses all of which diverge from a literal interpretation of the Bible. We have to be careful in assuming that every 'advance' or change that comes about is a beneficial one. The 14th century Christian would rightly have stood his ground on the infallable truths of the Bible which indeed do not change over time.

You ask for some examples...
Open a 'red-letter' edition of the Bible and read some of Jesus own words:
They are forever true.
... "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish." (John 10:27)
"I come that they may have life and have it abundantly!" (Jn.10:10)
or head over to Paul's letters :
where he quotes from Joshua in the Old Testament, reaffirming God's promise to the believer: " I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Anyway, you get the idea... These are immutable truth claims.

As for the book series, no I haven't read them. Is your daughter religious? Is this author a Mormon? I noted some references to Mormonism in the reviews. Now there's an interesting religion if you want to be your own god! Well, thanks for your remarks. I've finished chapter 2 and was hoping to make some comments... Will head over to the Chapter 2 thread and see if anyone's listening in...


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"For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice."--Jesus


Tue Dec 07, 2010 12:15 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
Dawn wrote:
The interesting thing about that time when a 'scientific spirit' came in, incl. highter criticism of the Bible, is that it was also the time when many cults arose. When the fact of divine inspiration was discounted the door was opened for a flood of religions viewed as false by traditional Christianity including Mormonism, Christian Science, and Jehovah's Witnesses all of which diverge from a literal interpretation of the Bible. We have to be careful in assuming that every 'advance' or change that comes about is a beneficial one. The 14th century Christian would rightly have stood his ground on the infallable truths of the Bible which indeed do not change over time.

I think you're singling out one particular era of cult formation and linking it to the dawn of science. What would account for the explosion of cults around the time when it wasn't even certain what form Christianity would take? Even after Christianity had solidified as a central power with Catholicism, there was no shortage of variations. It makes me smile, frankly, when another Christian mocks Mormonism for its ridiculous beliefs and claims that Mormons aren't even Christians. The beliefs are ridiculous, true, but I suggest that you can't look with objectivity on your own beliefs to realize that to nonbelievers they, too, appear incredible. That 14th Century Christian would not have been much good at interpreting the Bible, anyway. He would have been a Catholic whose authority figures discouraged him from reading it.
Quote:
You ask for some examples...
Open a 'red-letter' edition of the Bible and read some of Jesus own words:
They are forever true.
... "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish." (John 10:27)
"I come that they may have life and have it abundantly!" (Jn.10:10)
or head over to Paul's letters :
where he quotes from Joshua in the Old Testament, reaffirming God's promise to the believer: " I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Anyway, you get the idea... These are immutable truth claims.

I asked for your opinion on the immutable truths, which are different from truth claims that the Bible makes. I was hoping for something of a general nature in your own words.
Quote:
As for the book series, no I haven't read them. Is your daughter religious? Is this author a Mormon? I noted some references to Mormonism in the reviews. Now there's an interesting religion if you want to be your own god! Well, thanks for your remarks. I've finished chapter 2 and was hoping to make some comments... Will head over to the Chapter 2 thread and see if anyone's listening in...

Yes, I understand that he is a Mormon. Would you not read a book that a Mormon wrote? My daughter simply likes Card's books. She has experience with religion but does not now seem to be particularly religious.
She once wrote a high school paper on how Card incorporated his Mormonism into his fiction. Not ever having read his books, I didn't understand the paper well.


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Tue Dec 07, 2010 10:50 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
Quote:
DWill:It makes me smile, frankly, when another Christian mocks Mormonism for its ridiculous beliefs and claims that Mormons aren't even Christians. The beliefs are ridiculous, true, but I suggest that you can't look with objectivity on your own beliefs to realize that to nonbelievers they, too, appear incredible. That 14th Century Christian would not have been much good at interpreting the Bible, anyway. He would have been a Catholic whose authority figures discouraged him from reading it.

:) I see that smile and hear what you're saying. Please don't hear me as mocking. A literal interpretation of the Bible simply does not include the teachings of Mormonism (though it in fact contains much of the KJV in it's own Book of Mormon) or the JW's, nor the Christian Science religion. Each requires either its own version of Bible or its own teachers to guide the follower into the 'right' truths. Traditional Christianity is not dependent on any other text or teacher. And yes, I can only imagine how 'incredible' some of its teachings appear to someone who doesn't choose to believe them. The cross is a stumbling block. (I Corinthians 1: 18) ... blueletterbible.org/search/translationR ... &t=KJV

Any you may well be right about the poor guy in the 14th century without access to the Word in his own language...and discouraged from reading it besides lest he challenge the priest's power. It was a sad era in church history... And I'm a believer in Bible Translation consequently--that's the field my education lies in as a matter of fact. Thanks for your comments.


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"For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice."--Jesus


Tue Dec 07, 2010 11:52 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
It's difficult to appreciate from our vantage point in the 21st C. how brave and revolutionary were those first translators of the Bible. Translation ended up making freethinking possible while also producing biblical literalism. History is full of puzzles like this.


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Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun.

Clifford Geertz


Last edited by DWill on Wed Dec 08, 2010 8:15 am, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Dec 08, 2010 8:15 am
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