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Ch. 4 - The Problem with Islam 
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Post Ch. 4 - The Problem with Islam
Ch. 4 - The Problem with Islam


Please use this thread to discuss Chapter 4 - The Problem with Islam. You are also free to create and use your own threads. ::204




Wed Mar 29, 2006 12:54 am
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The Problem with Islam
Harris starts off the Chapter on really shakey ground, gets into earthquake territory, then throws a nice changeup with a good point, before dropping a frigging bomb that makes me question the author's entire arguement. It is going to be a struggle to get through this Chapter given the extremely serious terminology the author has used. Here is just my thoughts on the first three pages of the Chapter:

All quotes following are from p108-109.
Quote:
"It is a truism to say that people of faith have created almost everything of value in our world, because nearly every person who has ever swung a hammer or trimmed a sail has been a devout member of one or another religious culture. There has been simply no one else to do the job. We can also say that every human achievement prior to the twentieth century was accomplished by men and women who were perfectly ignorant of the molecular basis of life. Does this suggest that a nineteenth century view of biology would have been worth maintaining? There is no telling what our world would bow be like had some great kingdom of Reason emerged at the time of the Crusades and pacified the credulous multitudes of Europe and the Middle East. We might have had modern democracy and the Internet by the year 1600. The fact that religious faith has left its mark on every aspect of our civilization is not an argument in its favor, nor can any particular faith be exonerated simply because certain of its adherents made foundational contributions to human culture."

This is such a great selection that I wanted to quote it in its entirety. Harris really should have wrote a book focusing on the dangerous of organized religion and their sacred texts instead of an anti-religion anti-Islamic anti-Muslim text. Thoughts and quotes like this one are scattered throughout the text and are true gems in my opinion.

Quote:
"By any measure of normativity we might wish to adopt (ethical, practical, epistemological, economic, etc.), there are good beliefs and there are bad ones



Tue Apr 04, 2006 5:27 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The Problem with Islam
After five pages or direct quotes from the Koran ::11 (excessive much?), I have finally stumbled upon some amazing food for thought. Harris includes a chart summarizing the results of a poll conducted by the Pew Center that asked Muslims if they believed Suicide Bombing against Civilian targets were justified. The country with the lowest approval rating is Turkey at 13%!!! The Islamic country with the lowest approval for civilian suicide bombing has better than one in ten in favor of the practice. Lebanon is the highest with a 73% approval rating; however, the survey did not include countries such as Palenstine, Iraq, Egypt, Saudia Arabia, etc. I am amazed by these numbers especially in the context of civilian bombing. This certainly supports Harris' some of Harris's conclusions about Islam, though I am of differing opinion with what should be done about the issue it seems.




Tue Apr 04, 2006 6:42 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The Problem with Islam
Man, this chapter is rediculous! Harris is coming full on against Chomsky! Rediculous!




Tue Apr 04, 2006 9:04 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The Problem with Islam
Finally, finished Chapter Four and not too soon before I lost complete interest in reading any further.

While tearing Chomsky a new one ::70 ::11 ::73 , Harris introduces his thoughts on Collateral Damage. Apparently, Harris sees no difference between people who are accidently killed because we launch a bomb at someone versus someone killed accidently due to a defect in a product or because a product's intended use contributed to their death (automobile accident, swinging a bat at someone's head, etc.). This is one of the most lame brained comparisons I have ever seen, Harris couldn't pass a logic test to save is life. To suggest the Chomsky equates all deaths equally is ludicrous by virtue of the very fact that Chomsky singles out deaths contributed by weapons, especially those that do not hit their intended targets. It baffles me why Harris is so anti-Chomsky, but what baffles me more is why Harris decided to utilize his text to take issue with Chomsky, especially when he does a very bad job of it and his conclusions about Chomsky do not help his premises.

I do like how Harris concludes the chapter, especially in regards to his definitoin of a "Civil Society." Harris defines it as "At a minimum, it is a place where ideas, of all kinds, can be criticized without the risk of physical violence." Not that people in the United States and else where in the West don't risk physical violence for proposing new ideas (recently, gay activists and abortion doctors have taken abuse including murder); however, the rare occurence of violence for proposing challenging ideas is not condoned by society and makes criminal any behavior intended to harm someone else just for proposing an idea. Unlike in many Middle Eastern states where it is criminal to even propose god does not exist.

However, Harris goes on to suggest we lead the charge in cleansing the world of intolerance. A noble idea, but not likely. He happens to specifically name countries included in the infamous "Axis of Evil" for cleansing *raises eye brow*. Harris does make the point that ideas need to be changed from the inside out or else citizens will not follow the changed mind set. Many would not tolerate freedom of speech even if their leaders proposed it, they are so brain washed! I made a point in another thread that having global powers work with secular and religious leaders in the Middle East to tone down the fundamentalist and literal koran reading rhetoric may be a worth while pursuit, this seems to be in agreement with Harris as a possible step towards a solution.




Fri Apr 07, 2006 11:41 am
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The Problem with Islam
I disagree with Harris's thesis that Muslims are significantly worse than everyone else. After all, there has been, and continues to be, plenty of violence around the world. The violence simply takes a different form: Muslims are more like be suicide bombers, while Western nations are more likely to drop bombs out of airplanes.

However, it's true that governments in the Middle East are more likely to be nasty repressive regimes. On average, Muslims are more devoted to religious values and more resistant to secular modernist trend. Still, I don't see that stark of a contrast between the Islamic and non-Islamic beliefs system, at least to the extent Harris does.

Harris's attack on Chomsky and other leftist (not liberal) thinkers alienated me, in part because I agree with Chomsky more than I agree with Harris. I'm anti-violence, whoever is responsible for the violence. It's important to understand the motivation of terrorists, and actions taken by the US and Israeli governments triggered much of that motivation.

Also, most Muslims do want peace; Harris focuses too much on terrorist extremists and the Koran. While it's shocking that so many Muslims support suicide bombing in certain situation, you should remember that a major of US voters supported Bush in the 2004 election, despite Bush's pre-emptive war against Iraq that involved massive bombing. Condoning violence is, unfortunately, common everywhere.




Fri Apr 14, 2006 2:42 am
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The Problem with Islam
I figured out why Harris is so critical of Chomsky. Extremists tend to piss off other extremists.

Chomsky is more hostile towards Western governments that anyone else I've read, blaming them for the world's problems. Harris's attitude towards religion is similar. Harris is angry at Chomsky for blaming a different societal force, contradicting Harris's worldview.




Fri Apr 14, 2006 6:31 am
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The Problem with Islam
JulianTheApostate: However, it's true that governments in the Middle East are more likely to be nasty repressive regimes.

And in the past, Muslim nations have been among the most tolerant and liberal in the world. The difference has to be specific to the historical and political contexts in which different forms of Islamic government have developed. That's part of why I think politics plays a much larger part than this discussion has generally recognized.




Sat Apr 15, 2006 1:43 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The Problem with Islam
Quote:
I figured out why Harris is so critical of Chomsky. Extremists tend to piss off other extremists.


I don't think this is why Harris attacks Chomsky's ideas. Harris is arguing against liberal moral relativism.

FWIW, I like Chomsky.

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Sat Apr 29, 2006 3:11 pm


Post Re: Ch. 4 - The Problem with Islam
Quote:
That's part of why I think politics plays a much larger part than this discussion has generally recognized.


Good to see this recognized. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of seeing the world as one "religious" faction fighting another "religious" faction. Many people pointed out that the struggles in Northern Ireland had a lot more to do with class than religion, it just happened that the poor were Catholic and the middle class Protestant. You can't talk about anything in the Middle East without going into the history there, particularly the history of European imperialism. The legacies of colonialism are nightmarish; factionalism is always encouraged by an occupying power, it's how they keep order, such as it is.

And it's important to remember that "religion" is often simply a mask for a political agenda. Do I think Jerry Falwell is a deeply spiritual person? If I met him, would his presence affect me the same way that Thich Naht Hanh would? I don't think so.

And I think as Americans we had better be pretty careful pompously denouncing others' violence. I can see denouncing violence when you denounce ALL violence, but when you see suicide bombing (always relatively small scale) as worse than megatons of bombs falling from the sky, you suffer from either a lack of imagination or any pretense to rationality.




Sun Apr 30, 2006 3:34 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The Problem with Islam
I don't think this is why Harris attacks Chomsky's ideas. Harris is arguing against liberal moral relativism.
While Harris does argue against moral relativism, you can't label Chomsky a moral relativist. After all, Chomsky has very strong, and often hostile, views on the morality of many government policies.

However, Chomsky comes to different moral conclusions than does Harris, or for that matter, most Americans. Chomsky does equate the 9/11 attacks with the deaths caused by US policies, an attitude that massively pisses off people like Harris with a more charitble view of the US government.




Sun Apr 30, 2006 11:09 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The Problem with Islam
Tobiahsgirl:

Does "faith" only apply to religion? Is religion only an obvious belief in a supreme being?

There's a difficulty in accusing people of basing their beliefs on blind faith. It's tempting for a person to claim that their views are fact-based, while those who disagree are oblivious to real-world evidence. Meanwhile, the disagreers could make the reverse claim.




Fri May 05, 2006 12:13 am
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Post Will the Real Religion please Stand Up?
Tobiahsgirl,

I'm glad you mentioned Farid Esack and his challenge to view Capitalism as a type of Religion. Esack is an example of Liberation Theology in Islam, and represents the kind of self-critical, justice seeking, ecologically astute Religion that I don't think Harris takes into consideration...nor do most Atheists, or Fundamentalists either.

TO WHOM SHALL WE GIVE ACCESS TO OUR WATER HOLES?
by Farid Esack

Quote:
Most of us have a sense of what religious fundamentalism is. The Free Market is one. All adherents of the Free Market see their lives driven to the worship of the One All-Powerful and Jealous God -- Capital. Underpinned by its theology -- economics -- it has numerous huge temples in the form of shopping malls that are bent on driving out all the little corner churches propounding insignificant little heresies such as "the humanness of chatting to your own friendly butcher."

Our lives rotate around the worship of Capital and many of us, like suicide bombers, drive ourselves to death as sacrificial lambs (or martyrs) at the altar of success. (Heard of "shop till you drop?" ) You cannot leave your home or switch on your TV without being confronted by its missionaries or having a pamphlet thrust in your hand: "Convert Now or You Will Lose Out! Buy Now. The Sale Ends Today!" So successful, however, have their missionary activities been that we restrain our annoyance at these intrusions, while we might not do so with Jehovah's Witnesses. The major symbol of this religion, the notorious "M" arch of McDonalds, has driven out that other symbol of a now old-fashioned religion, the crucifix of Christianity, as the most widely recognized symbol in the world. It's as if the arch is telling the cross: "The Lord, Your God is One; You shall have none others in my presence."

Paradise awaits those who believe and hell to those who reject or who fail -- or who have failure written in their destiny. ("The unemployed are just lazy; the poor shall always be with us." ) Consider Free Market images of the ideal: The Gloriously Carefree Resort! The perfect toilet for you! The BMW accompanied by your very own sex-bomb, etc. How do they really differ from the images of paradise presented by other religions that sometimes have your own sex-bomb (an houri or two) thrown in as an added incentive?

The religion of the Market is also a fundamentalist one. The struggle against socialist countries is unashamedly described as a "crusade" with collateral damage. ("There are no innocent victims in our crusade against Cuba; those children dying under our sanctions are the offspring of infidels. So who cares?" ) There is damnation for those who do not believe as we do, and even for those who fail despite being faithful practitioners, as most are. (And, inevitably, many must fail. Under the market economy, success can only come to a minority, for -- and here lies the damning rub -- its paradise is founded upon an earth that has limited resources.)

This fundamentalism of the Market, with Capital as its God, seeks to convert all other cultures in its image, utilizing them for consolidating the system. It presents itself as the only way, and claims that outside its pale there is no salvation for the world, but only the hell-fire of destruction or the limbo of "primitivism." As Buddhist thinker David Loy has said: "The collapse of communism makes it more apparent that the Market is becoming the first truly world religion, binding all corners of the globe into a worldview and set of values whose religious role we overlook only because we insist on seeing them as 'secular.' "





Fri May 05, 2006 12:09 pm
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Post Re: Will the Real Religion please Stand Up?
Dissident Heart, THANK YOU SO MUCH for adding the essay by Esak. When I heard him speak on the radio and talk about this, there was humor in his voice as he described our slavish devotion to "the market." He is passionate about justice and has a deep understanding of what is going on in the world. Interestingly enough, to tie into this thread, he went to religious school in Pakistan with boys who joined the Taliban, and he talked about the unwholesome environment of this school where there were no women, and the relentless indoctrination.




Fri May 05, 2006 5:41 pm
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Post Re: Will the Real Religion please Stand Up?
Quote:
Most of us have a sense of what religious fundamentalism is. The Free Market is one. All adherents of the Free Market see their lives driven to the worship of the One All-Powerful and Jealous God -- Capital. Underpinned by its theology -- economics -- it has numerous huge temples in the form of shopping malls that are bent on driving out all the little corner churches propounding insignificant little heresies such as "the humanness of chatting to your own friendly butcher."

Let me preface this statement with my opinion that the current United States styled Capitalist system is not ideal, that I think more socialistically oriented influences (such as Universial Health CARE--as opposed to insurance) and tighter regulation of corporations (which is actually how corporations originated, with tight public controls) are good things to work towards. I think the invisible money of wall street and the market mentality of pleasing share holders rather than employees, customers, and long term success of a business are bad things. Investment is a powerful tool but the market is getting carried away. I have read and believed heavily in Lasn's "Culture Jam" and the entire Adbusters and subverting movement. But such comparisons of capitalism to religion is quite frankly tough to swallow and kind of silly. Malls are a good way to group together commerce. Does America have a problem buying too much crap? Absolutely! But comparing a mall to a church? Ouch. That would explain why I don't much like malls perhaps? Or rather, I just don't like homogenization in which every mall looks and feels the same and offers the same shops that carry nothing that I want. Rather, malls are usually crowded and full of people that often do annoying things. Capital? A God? Money is a means to an end, something we must obtain to satisfy our needs and desires. In a money less society, our "God" would be the food we grew or the services we offered in echange for other goods and services. Perhaps we could earn credits instead of money, then we have a credit god. All hail the banks! This is just silly to me, an unabashed critic of capitalism.




Fri May 05, 2006 6:35 pm
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