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Should we tolerate religion? 
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Post Should we tolerate religion?
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riverc0il quotes p15 Harris "I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance



Mon Apr 03, 2006 3:28 am
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Post Should we tolerate religion?
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Isn't Sam Harris American? Can you point to a single significant view that HAS TO be held by all Americans? The real question is, I suggest: is religous tolerance a good thing? Also, can I make a plea for Americans to be less parochial? The question of tolerance is universal.

Nice to have some views from across the pond! that should keep discussion from becoming biased culturally towards a United States angle.

Yes, Sam Harris is American from what I understand, and that was exactly my point of suggesting that believing in religious un-tolerance seems Un-American. I do not believe there is a single point of view that all Americans must share, we have freedoms guaranteed by our Bill or Rights, and people are certainly free to believe what they want to believe. My point was that the idea of religious in-tolerance goes against the "spirit" of what the country was founded on. United States was actually VERY intolerant of non-majority religions during its founding, but the "spirit" of the idea of tolerence was there because the Founding Fathers knew that their majority religion could easily become the minority and they needed that protection. That didn't stop them from creating laws mandating officer holders be protestent, but at least the spirit of the issue was there and in writing to protect religious freedom which latter budded into a sense of tolerance.

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 4/4/06 9:59 am



Mon Apr 03, 2006 4:58 am
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Post Should we tolerate religion?
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Nice to have some views from across the pond! that should keep discussion from becoming biased culturally towards a United States angle.

Yes, Sam Harris is American from what I understand, and that was exactly my point of suggesting that believing in religious un-tolerance seems Un-American.


The label "un-american" really grates in British ears, or at least in my ears. The closest parallel we have might be the phrase "It's just not British, old chap". This is old fashioned and smacks of Imperialism.

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 4/4/06 10:00 am



Mon Apr 03, 2006 5:29 am
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Post Should we tolerate religion?
mal4mac, i am normally the first person to agree with you about lame jingoistic imperialist flag waving crap. but i think there are certain aspects of the founding of the united states that truly defined the country, and to turn against those aspects defies what made this country great. i only use that phrase in the sense of a harsh critic that see's his country going down the drain.

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 4/4/06 10:00 am



Mon Apr 03, 2006 3:08 pm
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Post Should we tolerate religion?
Mac, the difference of perspective here is probably latent in the two nationalities you guys represent. In America, we keep in mind, without giving much conscious thought to it, the perception that our nation is held together by a kind of democratic volunteerism. We think, "these are the principles that define our nation, and if you don't like them, you can go somewhere else." That mentality bubbles out a lot in all sorts of bigotry ("If you can't speak our language, go back to Mexico") and Jingoism (see McCarthyism), but it isn't, at root, prejudiced, I think. It's just part of the American experiment -- the idea that a nation can be conceived along ideological lines. So when an American says that another American behaves or speaks in an un-American way, what we generally mean is that, given the choice between being American or not, they've taken a step towards the not side of the issue.

It's enlightening to look at the history of nationalistic movements, to see how other nations have solidified their national identity. Language was a big factor (and one that recurs here, as I've hinted above). Myth and folklore played a big part in the Germanic and Scandinavian states, re: Grimm, Christiansen, etc. Skin color and ancestral identity have played their part, especially in Africa and the South Pacific. Before Rousseau, it probably wasn't even possible to conceive of a national identity built around an ideology.

But, I digress.

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 4/4/06 10:00 am



Mon Apr 03, 2006 4:18 pm
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Post Should we tolerate religion?
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So when an American says that another American behaves or speaks in an un-American way, what we generally mean is that, given the choice between being American or not, they've taken a step towards the not side of the issue.


The really funny thing I thinked when reading this is how any one side of an idealistic argument nowadays will use this to accuse the other side of said deficiency!

Mr. P.

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 4/4/06 10:01 am



Tue Apr 04, 2006 8:12 am
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Post Should we tolerate religion?
I'm not sure why this thread was created. Everyone is welcome to create new threads, but this thread starts out indicating it is in reference to Chapter 1 and something riverc0il said in the Ch. 1 thread. It seems using that already created thread would make for a more organized discussion.

I've edited the subject line so it no longer says "Re: Chapter 1," as this was what was confusing people.

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 4/4/06 10:02 am



Tue Apr 04, 2006 8:56 am
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Post Re: Should we tolerate religion?
Perhaps people (is everyone male on this site? or are there any other women out there?) would like to discuss the word "tolerate."




Sun Apr 16, 2006 6:55 am
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Post Re: Should we tolerate religion?
According to this poll, more than half of BookTalk.org is female. Though I suspect the highest posting registered users are mostly male at this point.

The second definition of my American Heritage dictionary defines tolerate as: To Recognize and respect (the rights, beliefs, or practices of others). But the third definition is: To put up with; endure. The two definitions clash in my opinion. Putting up with something versus respecting and recognizing may denote similar actions but bring to mind vastly different attitudes. I appreciate the second definition in regards to tolerance of religion. Rather, I "put up with" fundamentalists and extremists (such as Harris) since their opinions are theirs to have and freedoms ensure such opinions can be held and communicated, which I am fine with.




Sun Apr 16, 2006 9:36 am
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Post Re: Should we tolerate religion?
At last, riverc0il, something we can agree on. Let us say, however, that you are the one being "tolerated" ("put up with"). (You can take this "you" as rhetorical or theoretical.) Let's say that you are not an extremist, but rather a mild-mannered, moderate person, but another person graciously suggests he will "tolerate" you and your beliefs. Or you and your skin color. Or you and your ethnicity. Etc.

How does this make any of us feel? Is there any sense of being patronized? Which is, of course, infinitely preferable to being tied to the stake and set alight.

Then, does Harris's argument for intolerance have any legitimacy in a particular situation? My husband and I have just been discussing "hate" speech; I am very wary of any form of censorship. I do not think people have the right to threaten to harm or kill other specific people (I do not have the right to call you up and say I am going to kill your child, for instance), but I would hate to censor even the ugliest forms of speech that fall short of specific threats.

I think people have the right to say "I hate [fill in the blank] people." I think they have the right to draw insulting cartoons. I think they have the right to write humorous novels about Moses and Jesus and Mohammed. Though some people make take these statements, cartoons, movies, whatever, as hate speech, that does not give them the right to stop such speech.

I stopped reading Harris's book, but if he thinks religion is passe (or whatever; and I don't know how to put an accent in passe), how about attitudes rooted in religion? Does he think the notion that people "deserve" their lot in life (Calvinism) should be rooted out? Does he think the concept of humans as somehow superior to other animals (Genesis) should be outlawed? He says he follows Buddhist practices, but I didn't see much evidence of that in his sweeping statements (not what Buddhists would term "right speech").

Did he write this book just to make a name for himself? I think fundamentalist preachers are essentially grifters, so I'm always skeptical about people's motives.




Sun Apr 16, 2006 2:49 pm
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Post Re: Should we tolerate religion?
mal4mac:
Are intelligent Americans really becoming that intolerant?
Actually, it's rare for an American atheist to be intolerant of theists.

Though atheists decry the power of the religious right and their effect on public policy, I've never seen the intolerance that Harris exhibits.




Sun Apr 16, 2006 10:26 pm
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