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Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile 
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Post criticism
Well, here goes. I didn't start marking Chapter 1 until I joined this discussion, then I started running out of book darts. P. 20: ". . . we cannot say [fundamentalists] are mistaken in religious terms, because their knowledge of scripture is generally unrivaled." This is patently not true. Though many fundamentalists carry Bibles religiously (sorry) and can repeat quotes their pastors often use, many, many of them only read it selectively at the direction of their pastors. And not even the big cheeses always do well. John Shelby Spong is one of Harris's "religious moderates," I suppose, and is quite vocally critical of fundamentalism and all it stands for, and he overwhelmed Jerry Falwell (I may be a little off on this, sometimes having trouble distinguishing Fundamentalist #1 from Fundamentalist #2) by his deep knowledge of the Bible.

So this sort of also blows the sentence on p. 21 that religious moderation is the product of scriptural ignorance. I've yet to read a Biblical scholar who was a fundamentalist; they've all been religious liberals with a thorough understanding that the Bible is not to be taken literally.

P. 22: Referring to the fourteenth-century Christian, "he would know more or less everything there is to know about God." As soon as you meet someone who knows everything about God, run as fast as you can. I am an atheist by the standards of fundamentalists, but by Harris's standards I believe in God, God as the creative force that manifests itself throughout the universe (and beyond). There is no way the human mind can even begin to comprehend God, and any god someone knows everything about is a very small god indeed.

I shall keep reading and I hope I shall run into fewer shallow statements that the author does not bother to substantiate. It is perhaps not a good idea to write about religion unless you know a lot about it. ?????




Wed Apr 12, 2006 4:20 pm
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Post Crusades
Mad:

The religious justifications for Crusade were necessary to overcome the religious injunction against war...

A more significant obstacle to the Crusades was the fact that the Christian nations kept fighting wars against each other. The Middle Ages was a very violent time.




Fri Apr 14, 2006 2:55 am
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Post Re: What is God?
Not to mention the fact that the 'uniqueness of each tree, rock, cloud...' can also, just as easily, point to random occurence.

God is fake, most humans are gullible.

Mr. P.

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

Once you perceive the irrevocable truth, you can no longer justify the irrational denial. - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper

Edited by: misterpessimistic  at: 4/14/06 12:58 pm



Fri Apr 14, 2006 11:58 am
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Post What is God?

Quote:
Tobiasgirl: I see, hear, touch, smell God every day as I look at the miraculous world around me: the uniqueness of each tree, each rock, each cloud, the animals, wild and domestic. But my actual experience of God is inexpressible.

Someone famous (anyone remember who?) once asked someone with similar views to TobiasGirl: "If you call the Universe God, then why do you need to use the word God?" To me, the word God means "superhuman being worshipped as having power over nature and human fortunes" (OED definition). So by redefining the word God to mean "miraculous world" or "inexpressible" TG is confusing matters.




Fri Apr 14, 2006 12:41 pm


Post Re: fundamentalist atheism

Quote:
Having read some psychology myself (in College as a major), I am of the opinion that Harris is completely right about Bin Laden. He is certainly not suffering from pscyhological dysfunction. Are his ethics and morals not compatible with modern civilizaed society? Absolutely. The man is responsible for terrible crimes not to be permitted in civil society by our standards. But being responsible for the murder of innocent people does not mark someone as suffering from a psychological dysfunction. Tis' why pleading insanity for charges of murder in the courtroom almost never works (less than 1% of insanity pleas work, iirc). Sane people commit terrible acts all the time not because of sanity issues but rather because their belief system has been ammended to justify their actions.


You are confusing legal sanity versus insanity here with psychological dysfunction; the two are not at all the same. Many psychologists (and psychiatrists, I believe) define sanity as the ability to perceive reality, a reality that has some objective basis. For example, believing in the Rapture is definitely a sign of a break from reality, and it doesn't matter how many people believe in it. As social psychologists phrase it, just because lots of people believe an insane premise does not make their belief sane.

I do not think Osama bin Laden would pass even the most basic psychological evaluation. He is a narcissistic megalomaniac, among other traits, which means he has a lot in common with most other people in power. I certainly believe that people who are disconnected from reality (and our president is a sterling example) have a very tenuous hold on sanity, at best. But in the courtroom: Would they pass a legal definition of sanity? Probably yes. So would most psychopaths; they do not fit a legalistic definition of insanity. Does that make them sane? I don't think so.

And I wouldn't go there with civilization, civilized society, etc. "Civilization" has been responsible for more horrors than any "noncivilized" society. Where shall we begin? The Shoah, another 20-plus million dead in the USSR, slavery, the extermination of American Indians, apartheid, lynchings and other popular pastimes, the Inquisition, the murder of 3(?) million women as witches in medieval Europe, Vietnam, . . .




Fri Apr 14, 2006 1:10 pm


Post Re: What is God?
Quote:
Someone famous (anyone remember who?) once asked someone with similar views to TobiasGirl: "If you call the Universe God, then why do you need to use the word God?" To me, the word God means "superhuman being worshipped as having power over nature and human fortunes" (OED definition). So by redefining the word God to mean "miraculous world" or "inexpressible" TG is confusing matters.


I use the word God because there are many people who know what I mean when I use the word. It doesn't matter what word I use; the word is irrelevant. For you the word God means its first definition in the OED; I, too, do not believe in God as a supernatural or superhuman being. What I don't understand here is that you cannot seem to comprehend that someone has different experiences, different perceptions from yourself. I certainly understand that others do not experience what I do when I sit amongst the trees or look into my dog's eyes or watch the frost come out of the ground. Until we understand that OUR experience of the world is not EVERYONE's experience of the world, we are stuck somewhere in adolescence.

And, of course, each rock is different through random chance. The conception of "God" as the ultimate CEO nauseates me; only human beings could come up with such shrunken, puny concepts. It occurs to me that atheists should be the first people to realize that the universe is NOT human-centered; this is definitely a religious concept, and one of the worst sort.




Fri Apr 14, 2006 1:22 pm
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Post Re: What is God?
Tobiahsgirl, I am not taking about a legal definition, I am taking about the DSM-IV-TR. Any one got a copy on hand so we can break this out and take a closer analysis? Not that someone without having interviewed Bin Ladin could accurately assess his sanity... but I think he is more than sane based on DSM-IV-TR standards. Also, to suggest someone is insane just because they believe something that is insane is not accurate, IMO. By your example, President Bush would be insane because he is a Fundamentalist Christian which would seem to indicate a belief in rapture. By those standards, any one who believes in religion could be judged insane, IMO. See what type of slippery slope that type of judgement entails? Guilt and Insanity are too completely different things, you can do horrible and terrible acts but not be insane. A terrible person for sure, but insanity indicates something in the mental wiring is off. Is Bin Ladin any more insane than the leaders of various countries that have gone to war? Leaders that have reigned down death and destruction, often times on innocents without a legitiment reasons? Posturing on the brink of nuclear war for defense of what? The same things Bin Ladin thinks he is defending, most likely.




Fri Apr 14, 2006 7:56 pm
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Post Re: What is God?
I guess my only question is: Do you believe we live in a sane world? A sane society?

Erich Fromm: "But to speak of our realism is almost like a paranoid distortion. What realists, who are playing with weapons which may lead to the destruction of all modern civilizations, if not of our earth itself! If an individual were found doing just that, he would be locked up immediately, and if he prided himself on his realism, the psychiatrists would consider this an additional and rather serious symptom of a diseased mind."

DSM-IV-TR was developed, from what I know, for just the sort of legalistic purposes I mentioned. For example, to get my former foster daughter into a "special needs" school, she would have to qualify through quantification using DSM-IV. I know it is used for insurance purposes, for trying to get therapy for children who are wards of the state, and this sort of thing, but for me it doesn't really say much about the human condition. And the people who use it every day can be appallingly ignorant of basic human dysfunction, just as substance abuse.

Anyhow, all these discussions seem to be going nowhere. You can argue that Osama bin Laden is a sterling model of human sanity, and I will not agree. By the way, things "rain" down on us, not "reign," and I don't think there is such a word as "legitiment."




Sat Apr 15, 2006 3:56 pm
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Post Re: What is God?
Quote:
I guess my only question is: Do you believe we live in a sane world? A sane society?

Sanity of society apply humanistic characteristics that do not apply to the world and society at large. Sanity is a definition of an individual human's state of mind. As my arguements follow, sane people do extremely bad things. I do not believe you can measure a sanity of a society.

Quote:
DSM-IV-TR was developed, from what I know, for just the sort of legalistic purposes I mentioned.

Not really. The DSM is most heavily used by psychologists and other mental health professionals of all kinds from counellors to social workers to licensed psychologists to diagnos a mental illness (very much like a doctor might reference a text on physical illness for a list of criteria to diagnos a physical illness). Other aspects of our society might seek validation of certain claims from professionals utilizing the DSM, but its actual creation was for diagnosing mental disorder by the mental health professional.

Quote:
Anyhow, all these discussions seem to be going nowhere.

If that means you wish to agree to disagree, I agree. We just see things from different perspectives. But that is the reason Discussion Boards exist, to exchange different perspectives.




Sat Apr 15, 2006 4:40 pm
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Post a sane society
This is exactly why I suggested that Sam Harris needs to read some social psychology. Individuals do not exist in vacuums, they exist within families, schools, churches, society. The notion that the individual is insane while everyone around him is sane was pretty thoroughly put to rest in the 1950s and 1960s, but it is a stubborn conceit that serves an insane society very well. We can then all pretend that we function well, reasonably and sanely, while THAT person needs to be medicated, hospitalized, marginalized.

Sanity is not simply a definition of an individual's state of mind. What do you call the state of mind of Germans during the Shoah? Yes, most were paralyzed with fear, but what about the ordinary people who committed unspeakable acts, let alone the madmen at the top? What is the state of mind of people who picnic at a lynching, bringing their children to see the black man hanging from a tree, taking pictures and making them into postcards?

This is where I cannot subscribe to fundamentalist atheism. M. Scott Peck defines mysticism as seeing the connection between all life, and not falling into the illusion that we are each separate and discrete (and, yes, that is spelled correctly). I respect the notion of individual rights and liberties (and responsibilities), but individualism is a limited way of viewing the universe and a limited way of functioning in this world.




Sun Apr 16, 2006 6:52 am


Post Re: a sane society
Quote:
Tobiahsgirl, I am not taking about a legal definition, I am taking about the DSM-IV-TR.

A failrly complete version is available online.
Bu the DSM-IV-TR has big problem. For instance, it suggests that someone has depression if a certain number of things apply to that person. But Andrew Solomon, in the Noonday Demon, suggested that if fewer things apply, but are very strongly present (enough to make the person suicidal, say) then surely they are depressed!

Also is someone with clinical depression insane? Someone with mild depression? Insanity is incredibly difficult to define - the OED didn't help me much! The definition I liked most was from [Google define:] : "An obsolete term used colloquially to describe a person with a psychotic disorder. Now a legal term applied by the courts to a person who, because of mental disease or developmental disability, is unable to appreciate the wrongfulness or criminality of his or her conduct at the time of an offense, or in some jurisdictions, is unable to control his or her actions."

I like the idea of it being an "obsolete term", now we can stop using it and use terms that mean something (unless the people with you know you are using the exact legal definition).

By the legal definition, Bin Laden is not insane because he has never been in a court of law. OK, that's a bit glib. I reckon he would be able to appreciate that he was being criminal according to US or UK law, but would declare he was not wrong in what he did. Assuming an exclusive-or in the above definition (as I think we should) then he would not be declared insane. But what about the clever Paranoid serial killer? He thinks killing is an interesting sport, but knows the government thinks it is a criminal act. Therefore he is not insane. (You can see why the term's obsolete - I suggest you need to use the exact descriptors - depressed, paranoid... or be lost in confusion...).




Mon Apr 17, 2006 4:53 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
riverc0il: i could understand being sceptical of what set off the big bang or put everything into motion, but science and the scientific method can only disprove religious belief (the few that can be tested) and untestable phenomena do not stand up to the standards of science. it is perplexing.

I wonder if we're not inferring to strong a connection between the people and their occupations. I don't often carry my work home with me, and I think the same is probably true of scientists. The methodology of science has a specific range of applications, and I think that the well-oriented of those scientists who do have religious beliefs probably draw a fairly conscientious line between where scientific method is appropriate and where it is not.

Tobiahsgirl: Sam Harris, in the bit of his book I read, before disgust took over, couldn't seem to conceive of "God" in anything but the most literalistic terms, and I assume he brought this outlook to his reading of Gould, for example.

Whether or not Harris is capable of conceiving of God in the same terms in which Gould believes in the same may be beside the point. It's a fairly common rhetorical device among atheists attempting to discredit religious belief -- reducing it to its most ridiculous terms, that is. The easiest way to discredit the idea of God, in some people's eyes, is to pretend that all conceptions of God are essentially analagous to Superman or the Great and Powerful Oz.




Fri Apr 28, 2006 2:05 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
Quote:
The easiest way to discredit the idea of God, in some people's eyes, is to pretend that all conceptions of God are essentially analagous to Superman or the Great and Powerful Oz.


Thank you, MadArchitect. But, of course, this is the god that most people "believe" in, some sort of tribal deity who, if they bow down to him, will send them expensive cars and luxury cruises. Or whisk them to heaven and let them watch all the rest of us sinners fry in the flames. It always amuses me when people talk about how human beings are "evolving." Where is this happening? Am I allowed to move there?




Fri Apr 28, 2006 7:35 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
Tobiahsgirl: But, of course, this is the god that most people "believe" in, some sort of tribal deity who, if they bow down to him, will send them expensive cars and luxury cruises. Or whisk them to heaven and let them watch all the rest of us sinners fry in the flames.

I don't know that this is true. These are a very vocal contingent among religious believers, but it doesn't necessarily fit my personal experience to say that they're the majority, and I don't know that there are any surveys or studies that draw reliable lines between different perceptions of God. I've known and talked to people in urban, suburban and rural regions, and I wouldn't say that there's any particular monopoly on religion by those who believe in a simple, black and white, hell and highwater kind of God. What I have noticed is that those who don't believe that God has placed a moral premium on converting heathens on the assembly line model tend to be more conservative in their religious expression. That doesn't mean that there's fewer of them. And honestly, it's to be expected -- when you believe that your religious conceptions are an intimate personal matter, it only stands to reason that you'll feel less inclined to make it the major topic of conversation. If nothing else, I think a lot of people are hesitant to talk about their belief in God because they're worried about misrepresenting it.




Mon May 01, 2006 8:53 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - Reason in Exile
MadArchitect, I think you are absolutely right in suggesting that many people are reluctant to discuss their ideas of God. But in my (and my husband's) experience of "ordinary" (as distinguished from a liberal minority) Christians, ranging from mainstream Methodists to True Believers in The Rapture, I would definitely describe their deity as a tribal god. In the mainstream cases, they view God as a personal deity who has blessed their comfortable lifestyle (Calvinism is not dead), and they abhor any notion of religion as something to challenge them. As one goes deeper into evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity, God becomes less mild-mannered and suburban. There is a huge percentage of Americans who worship this vengeful, ugly deity (who worship evil, in the words of Bruce Bawer), and who are fighting the teaching of evolution, banning books in libraries, standing by the roadside with pictures of bloody fetuses, and joyfully awaiting the world blowing up. My husband is a nursing student and working CNA and you would be horrified how many nurses, nursing students and THEIR teachers believe this grotesque stuff.




Tue May 02, 2006 1:54 pm
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