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Talking to ourselves 
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Post Talking to ourselves
Susan Jacoby has a relevant editorial in today's LA Times.
Quote:
As dumbness has been defined downward in American public life during the last two decades, one of the most important and frequently overlooked culprits is the public's increasing reluctance to give a fair hearing -- or any hearing at all -- to opposing points of view.
...
Whether watching television news, consulting political blogs or (more rarely) reading books, Americans today have become a people in search of validation for opinions that they already hold. This absence of curiosity about other points of view is the essence of anti-intellectualism and represents a major departure from the nation's best cultural traditions.

This forum is a good example of that: largely atheists discussing books about atheism with other atheists.

I'm guilty of her accusation, since I mainly read books and blogs that validate my liberal views. While there would definite value in exposing myself to more opposing ideas, it's so tempting to avoid the resulting challenge to my beliefs.



Sun Apr 20, 2008 11:00 pm
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That editorial is an excerpt from The Age of Unreason. It emphasizes an undervalued aspect of intellectualism - the ability to entertain and potentially learn from opposing viewpoints.

I don't think Jacoby suggests that atheists must engage and learn from theists - I'm quite sure she considers that matter as settled. However, this brings up a dynamic where many people believe any opinion they hold is a settled matter and the opposing viewpoint deserves zero contemplation. Global warming might be one example where there's not much actual consideration of the evidence - each side seems convinced the other is objectively wrong and therefore cannot be taken seriously.

Jacoby's contrast between the Watergate hearings and the Petreaus testimony was interesting. I remember watching quite a few hours of the Watergate testimony. I admit I watched none of the Petreaus testimony. Jacoby thinks the limited media coverage totally missed the most important points.



Mon Apr 21, 2008 12:45 am
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Hi Guys
Nice point. Dialogue is a rare thing. Maybe I am strange, but I am a theist who generally has more respect for atheists than for other theists. At least atheists don't generally wilfully believe things that are false. Suggesting I am interested in booktalk just to validate my existing opinions would be a rather superficial take.

I have been taking up this theme of dialogue in a church monthly magazine insights.uca.org.au/ (circulation 15,000). In a running series of letters I have argued that theology must be compatible with science in order to be credible, and various supernaturalists have accused me of promoting a God-free outlook, which I am not. Sadly the magazine has such little respect for dialogue that they do not publish their letters page on the website.

People have to be willing to enter the lion's den if they wish to change the lion's opinion (er, maybe not :roll: )



Mon Apr 21, 2008 5:41 am
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There is not an equal risk involved.

If one has been a theist all of ones life....and then begin to be swayed by atheist 'doctrine'. There is the most awful sense of loss of direction.

If one has been an atheist all of ones life.....it must be wonderful to be swayed in the other direction.

It is still good to talk though.......because before I stumbled upon this website....I just assumed that there must be a God because some of us seem to have an inbuilt need for a 'pattern and a reason' and one is inclined to believe that everyone else feels the same.

Just as I once assumed that everyone believed in 'human rights' when it is patently obvious to me now, that everyone does not.

I assumed that because I didn't really want to do 'wrong' things.....ie hurt anyone else.....then it was easier for me to be a 'believer'. I assumed atheists must want to do wrong and hurtful things....and that was why they denied God.

Now I know how wrong I was. I have felt quite a warmth, affection and a feeling of kindred spirit with some people on this site. Before our dialogue, I wouldn't have thought this possible.



Mon Apr 21, 2008 7:05 am
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Bravo to JulianThe Apostate. This needs to be said from time to time within any open community, and BookTalk I take to be a community striving for openness. Freethought is the objective here, but some vigilance will always be required to make sure that "free" thinking does not in fact become a restricted type of thinking, characterized by an informally sanctioned viewpoint. Talking to other like-minded individuals can be satisfying, I certainly agree, but that is the trap as well.

The culture wars that have so occupied this society are for me the main obstacle to an exchange of ideas that is truly free. We are polarized in this larger cultural way, not just politically. Reading Susan Jacoby's book, I become uneasy at times. Does she herself really value an exchange of all wiewpoints? I'm not sure. Does her approach sharpen rather than blunt the knife-edge of the cultural divide?



Mon Apr 21, 2008 7:36 am
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Julian wrote:

Quote:
This forum is a good example of that: largely atheists discussing books about atheism with other atheists.


I understand what you're saying.
I don't know if anybody will be interested in my immediate reaction on reading Julian and Will's answer.

I had NEVER heard so much talking about religion before joining Booktalk (well, if you except Catholic school when I was 11)!

I often thought to myself that claiming to be an almost atheist site must be a magnet to encourage religious discussions.

It's interesting to see that the same forum can be seen by different people as atheists talking to themselves. :smile:


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Mon Apr 21, 2008 8:07 am
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Halle suggests that the brain compartmentalizes most knowledge because just "living" is hard enough on the brain. The brain does this through broad generalizations.

There is a separation between nominal individuals and corporate entities. Every time you say Americans or people or atheists, you are using a corporate entity and saving your brain the trouble of considering every individual as a nominal human being. The brain is economizing and seeks to reduce the many to one.

Ideas, Halle explains, are like the generalizations that our brains make, although a little different. The idea is like the perfect individual of that generalization. The one you create from the generalization (logos



Last edited by President Camacho on Mon Apr 21, 2008 7:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Apr 21, 2008 8:33 am
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My dear PC,
I think there was no beer involved in your last post. Go, Mr. President! I also liked very much what DWill had to say:
Quote:
Talking to other like-minded individuals can be satisfying, I certainly agree, but that is the trap as well.


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Last edited by Saffron on Tue Apr 22, 2008 8:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Apr 21, 2008 6:51 pm
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That's what you think. Me an D did some keg stands before posting! :drunk:


I shouldn't have posted here. I didn't realize it was for the read of the month. I haven't read this book, although I've heard good things.



Mon Apr 21, 2008 7:14 pm
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President Camacho wrote:
That's what you think. Me an D did some keg stands before posting! :drunk:


I shouldn't have posted here. I didn't realize it was for the read of the month. I haven't read this book, although I've heard good things.



Au contraire! I have not read the book either.


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Mon Apr 21, 2008 7:19 pm
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President Camancho's signature:
Quote:
Saffron is mooning you.


Not anymore, I'm back in the poppy field.


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Mon Apr 21, 2008 9:46 pm
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Hey, that was darn good, el Presidente, what you said about that fella Halle. I'm curious now and will look him up.
DWill



Tue Apr 22, 2008 8:01 pm
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Robert Tulip wrote:


Quote:
People have to be willing to enter the lion's den if they wish to change the lion's opinion


This is what is so strange to me (but Mr President gave a very good text by Halle which explains about the brain's reluctance to stretch itself :smile: ).

I have no difficulty imagining and living the situation of an atheist speaking to/ living with believers, and vice-versa, because this is part of life.
We talk about life, politics, society...
But the idea that the conversation is often about the other's beliefs or lack thereof, and especially that the dialogue is undertaken with the ultimate aim of persuading the other to stop/ start believing
is bewildering to me.
I can't see the point of trying to persuage. Do people change their religious beliefs because of of arguments based on reason?


Instead of dividing the world between atheists and Christians, we could say we're Hindus and Moslems. Would we argue to convert each other?

I suppose the comparison isn't quite right. If tolerant, the Muslim would see/think that the Hindu is right in believing in a God/ Gods, and respect him for it, and would leave it at that (and vice versa).
If they're intolerant, they would wish to use other means than persuasion to convert each other.


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Last edited by Ophelia on Wed Apr 23, 2008 7:25 am, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Apr 23, 2008 6:47 am
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Penelope wrote:

Quote:
It is still good to talk though.......because before I stumbled upon this website....I just assumed that there must be a God because some of us seem to have an inbuilt need for a 'pattern and a reason' and one is inclined to believe that everyone else feels the same.


Penelope,

I think this inbuilt need is extremely strong for everybody.
We all want pattern and reason.
People just take this urge and turn it into a thousand possible religions, into marxism, etc...
Which God/ cause/ political system should I choose? Why should I choose one that already exists?
"Denying God" may just be that you haven't yet chosen what you want to do with this urge to create a pattern, and you 're not worried about when you make a choice, if ever.

Where I agree with you is that once you've made a choice life must be much easier --but even then, human beings can change their minds/ religions/ good causes... and some believers go through what seem to be very painful periods of doubt ...so I guess the order and reassuring beauty of the pattern is rarely seen with 100 % certitude.

Quote:
I assumed atheists must want to do wrong and hurtful things....and that was why they denied God.

Now I know how wrong I was. I have felt quite a warmth, affection and a feeling of kindred spirit with some people on this site. Before our dialogue, I wouldn't have thought this possible


I must say this is an eye-opener.
How about the people around you who never mention religion and are decent human beings and you haven't seen harm anybody? Did you think they meant to do all sorts of hurtful things?
And isn't every other person you meet in England an atheist? (If not, it must be at least one in three).


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Wed Apr 23, 2008 7:00 am
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