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Our discussion of The Four Horsemen: Hour 1 of 2 
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 Our discussion of The Four Horsemen: Hour 1 of 2
Our discussion of The Four Horsemen: Hour 1 of 2

Please use this thread for discussing the 1st hour of The Four Horsemen discussion. You can watch the discussion on YouTube if you don't want to read the book/transcript.



Wed May 15, 2019 11:18 pm
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 Re: Our discussion of The Four Horsemen: Hour 1 of 2
The first 9 minutes center around rudeness: How have religious people earned the right not to be offended? In no other area of life - sports, science, the arts - is an opposing view taken with such deep offense. Harris mentions physicists are not deeply offended by opposing viewpoints on scientific theory. However, Dennett concedes there is no way to suggest to a religious person that they have wasted their life chasing a myth without being extremely rude, but it must be done.

Must that be done? Someone 'round here has stated several times there is nothing new with the new atheism. But one aspect is new - the willingness to attack aggressively, poking a finger in the other's chest and stating you are wasting your life! On the other side, Christians have also been screeching for milliennia that non-believers are wasting their lives and will regret an unpleasant eternity; they have no compunction about rudeness, it's a core belief. Nevertheless, although I rarely discuss religion with believers, I can't imagine myself attacking at such a core level. I'd be more inclined to answer questions about my beliefs and try to plant a seed of doubt. (Please describe the story of Noah's Ark. OK thanks, now justify the morals of a loving God in that episode.)

One aspect briefly mentioned is even atheists and agnostics support religious beliefs against extreme rudeness. I s'pose as in the old atheism, we should disagree without insulting them about being deluded, etc. Perhaps the Four Horsemen get into this later, but one aspect of this split is Islamophobia. Harris came up with the concept of combining iron age mythology with modern technology when flying airplanes into buildings. In The End of Faith, Harris doesn't make a huge distinction between religious terrorists and the family down the street that goes to church twice a week. It is sometimes impossible to separate atheists from right wing extremists about Islam and terrorism - that's fugly.


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Sat May 18, 2019 2:49 am
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Post Re: Our discussion of The Four Horsemen: Hour 1 of 2
At the 9 minute mark, Harris mentions there are indeed spiritual or mystical experiences separate from religion. Whether due to hallucinogens (Harris has a fair amount of experience), meditation, or a "labile neurology," some people do have transcendent experiences. Religion is the only context where these experiences are discussed seriously, but thereby become intertwined with superstition.

Hitchens says if he could change one thing it would be "to separate the numinous from the supernatural."

(That's where I stopped at 12 minutes - wowzer this could be good...)



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Sat May 18, 2019 3:25 am
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Post Re: Our discussion of The Four Horsemen: Hour 1 of 2
Yes, this is really good. I've watched the discussion on YouTube and now I'm listening on Audible.com. I agree that we really need to do away with the idea that questioning religious beliefs is somehow taboo and offensive. No other worldview or position is placed on a pedestal like religion and as a result it escapes critical examination. Nonbelievers are guilty of giving religion a free pass all in the name of being politically correct and tolerant.



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Sat May 18, 2019 9:26 am
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Post Re: Our discussion of The Four Horsemen: Hour 1 of 2
LanDroid wrote:
Dennett concedes there is no way to suggest to a religious person that they have wasted their life chasing a myth without being extremely rude, but it must be done.
The issue is framed wrongly on so many levels. If you meet a person who thinks they are trying to live a good life in order to avoid supernatural punishment and receive supernatural reward, they are confused about their own religion. The confusion even appears in Paul's letters, but it is still wrong.

Suppose I told a member of the Communist Party, or a Humanist, or a Buddhist, that they were wasting their life chasing a myth. (The HorseMen even approach that issue in the dialog.) The person thus accosted would probably say, "What are you talking about? This is how I think life should be lived. This is what I think makes life meaningful and worthwhile. Why would I ever consider it a waste?" And so it is with a thoughtful Christian or Jew.

The thought of one of these HorseMen feeling regretfully obligated to inform religious people that they are wasting their lives is rather comical, I must say. If they really had any concern, they would consider approaching the question from within the framework the religious people use to orient their lives, and look at the words of Jesus, for example, to help the person understand. "Go and learn what it means when God says, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice' ". "Nothing you eat can make you unclean. What you think and what you say can defile you, though." "What will it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose their soul?" There are excellent passages from Paul as well that make the point: we seek inner transformation, not external reward.

The standard evangelical version of this idea is that we do not accept God's way as a matter of "fire insurance". There is plenty of twisted doctrine out there, with a long history, all about manipulating people so they will behave better. (Much of it amounts to precisely what Jesus objected to: rules aimed at others out of a sense of self-righteousness). But there is also plenty of common sense understanding that following (much less believing) just for the reward is fake following.

LanDroid wrote:
Someone 'round here has stated several times there is nothing new with the new atheism. But one aspect is new - the willingness to attack aggressively, poking a finger in the other's chest and stating you are wasting your life! On the other side, Christians have also been screeching for milliennia that non-believers are wasting their lives and will regret an unpleasant eternity; they have no compunction about rudeness, it's a core belief.
I am not too worried about the rudeness on either side. I mean, having a sense of rudeness is valuable, as it helps us to see the world from the point of view of others. On the other hand, I have no compunction about setting the record straight on Global Warming if someone has ignorant things to say about it. Rude? Maybe, but that's a secondary issue. Makes a difference? Who knows, but silence gives consent.

LanDroid wrote:
Nevertheless, although I rarely discuss religion with believers, I can't imagine myself attacking at such a core level. I'd be more inclined to answer questions about my beliefs and try to plant a seed of doubt. (Please describe the story of Noah's Ark. OK thanks, now justify the morals of a loving God in that episode.)
Yes, when faced with an absolutist about supernatural revelation in the Bible, that sort of question probably makes sense. I have been known to give Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses a hard time when they ring my doorbell. I don't try to persuade non-believers of my frame of reference, but I do try to exemplify the qualities I seek to cultivate.

LanDroid wrote:
One aspect briefly mentioned is even atheists and agnostics support religious beliefs against extreme rudeness. I s'pose as in the old atheism, we should disagree without insulting them about being deluded, etc.
Yes, I think labeling people as delusional is probably not helpful to anyone, including the labeler. Some people are delusional, of course, including some religious people, but the willingness to endorse dubious propositions about the nature of reality for the sake of solidarity, especially solidarity for the sake of gentle and nurturing values, is probably not in the same category of mental phenomena. Yuval Noah Harari is good on this in a recent New York Times piece.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/24/opin ... truth.html

LanDroid wrote:
Perhaps the Four Horsemen get into this later, but one aspect of this split is Islamophobia. Harris came up with the concept of combining iron age mythology with modern technology when flying airplanes into buildings. In The End of Faith, Harris doesn't make a huge distinction between religious terrorists and the family down the street that goes to church twice a week. It is sometimes impossible to separate atheists from right wing extremists about Islam and terrorism - that's fugly.
Not sure what you meant in that last sentence, but the inability to make the simple distinction between believers in mythology and terrorists does indicate a position adopted for rhetorical purposes, which when you think about it is pretty much what the HorseMen are attacking.



Mon May 27, 2019 2:56 pm
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Post Re: Our discussion of The Four Horsemen: Hour 1 of 2
The conversation opens with Dawkins and Dennett lamenting that religious people, even the seemingly intelligent ones, lambast any critical comment as rude, strident, arrogant, vitriolic, shrill and aggressive, effectively shutting down any dialogue between religion and modern thought. Harris chips in that reason is taboo for religion, and Dennett adds that this taboo is the spell that must be broken. Hitchens says the basis of religion is a supernatural celestial dictatorship, and that atheism offends the core of any serious religious person.

What to make of this? These authors have been able to engage with their intellectual critics in public platforms in ways that most people cannot. These points reflect their broad experience of religion as it actually exists, as a large scale human cultural activity that is deeply, perhaps intrinsically, stupid, but somehow sustains itself by meeting deep instinctual needs.

What if a different explanation for this lamentable situation were possible? What if the prevailing emotional sentiment of religion points toward some inchoate rational underpinning?

That is my view, that all the supernatural nonsense can be viewed as purely symbolic allegory. When this switch is made, the Bible presents a deeply rational morality. Furthermore, I think it is clear that just such an allegorical method was the agenda of the original authors, but their high enlightened vision was captured and corrupted by political forces who produced the Christendom fantasy of the Nicene Creed. Once criticism was banned as the capital crime of heresy, recovery of the original intentions was suppressed and fragmented.

So it does not surprise me that these Four Horsemen of the Atheocalypse encounter such stony reactions from the religious. Their atheist goal, based on their scientific training, is the abolition of religion, rather than any effort to see an underlying meaning in religious traditions, discerned through respectful dialogue. They offer attacks that often seem patronising and insulting and ignorant, without any hint that a middle way between their total reliance on science and the religious traditions of mythology may be possible.

Unfortunately, the problem here is that I am not aware of leading religious thinkers who acknowledge the high ethical merit in the critique of supernatural tradition. If only religious debate could accept as a moral imperative that the historicity of all Biblical claims should be subject to extreme and radical suspicion, even while their moral content can be respected, there would be good prospect for the reform of religion to make it respectable to a modern audience.

I have also added threads in this forum on the introductory remarks from the surviving authors.


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Post Re: Our discussion of The Four Horsemen: Hour 1 of 2
This thread just reminded me of why I got out of the religious discussion BS...Pissing and moaning on both sides of the aisle. When the fact of the matter is who is to say who is right or wrong? Religion is man made and thus man changes the rules as he goes along...Bottom line is religion was created as an excuse for having to die...A lame way of saying "oh you will see them again". How the hell do people actually know this? They don't!

And Robert you talk of religion reform...It will never reform until both sides believer's and non-believer's alike come to the realization that they are arguing over ancient religion nonsense....Text created by sheep herder's sitting in a field bored from watching sheep and decide to write gibberish that we as a modern society are still pissing and moaning about what they actually mean't.



Tue Aug 13, 2019 7:05 am
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Post Re: Our discussion of The Four Horsemen: Hour 1 of 2
Under_Taker wrote:
.Bottom line is religion was created as an excuse for having to die...A lame way of saying "oh you will see them again". How the hell do people actually know this? They don't!
In my experience "you will see them again" is a way of saying "you can hold them in your heart". As we get better at just coming out and saying such things, the motivation for "you will see them again" seems to be waning.

Under_Taker wrote:
It will never reform until both sides believer's and non-believer's alike come to the realization that they are arguing over ancient religion nonsense....Text created by sheep herder's sitting in a field bored from watching sheep and decide to write gibberish that we as a modern society are still pissing and moaning about what they actually mean't.
Don't sugar coat it. Tell us what you really think of religion.



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Post Re: Our discussion of The Four Horsemen: Hour 1 of 2
[A]ll churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, are simply human inventions. They use fear to enslave us. They are a monopoly for power and profit.

Thomas Paine
"The Age of Reason". Book by Thomas Paine, 1794.



Sat Aug 17, 2019 6:20 am
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Post Re: Our discussion of The Four Horsemen: Hour 1 of 2
Under_Taker wrote:
[A]ll churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, are simply human inventions. They use fear to enslave us. They are a monopoly for power and profit. Thomas Paine "The Age of Reason". Book by Thomas Paine, 1794.


I agree that religion originates within humans. I also agree that fear-based religion was, and is, primarily a power trip. It's a little better than threatening people with flogging or jail, but that doesn't mean it's okay. Of course it says something interesting about people that some people could use the threat of punishment in the afterlife to get other people to behave themselves. To me it says the people being intimidated did actually believe they were being asked to do right. There are limits on that, but I think the essential story is correct: people have emotional turmoil, and it helps them master their own emotions to have someone claiming God will punish them if they do nasty things. If that sounds like telling a three year old that there are monsters under the bed who will get them if they don't stay in bed at bedtime, well, yeah, it is like that. And for the most part we are not three year olds and don't need that stuff. But still, the assent of the one manipulated implies we are using their own values to help them control themselves. Not an entirely bad thing.

But about that "human invention" stuff. It has generally seemed to those proclaiming religious innovations that they were uncovering something true, rather than making up a lie. That's worth thinking about. It implies that Jeremiah, who got a lot of theology wrong but did uncover some brilliant truth, (see David Brooks https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/20/opin ... alism.html, which is an amazingly good essay once you get past the blather in the first half), was doing the same thing as the Buddha. Joseph Smith was a genuine charlatan, but Mohammed was not. Because in the Ancient World, the nature and behavior of the Gods expressed the truth about psychological and spiritual forces, and to come to a realization about the spirit world was to come to a realization about who we are as humans and how we relate to one another.

So yeah, we religionists need to ditch the supernatural language, because it doesn't function the same way in the modern world. It flies in the face of evidence-based understanding of reality and the cosmos, and it is too tainted by authoritarian manipulation. But once you have it straight that religious ideas, especially in the Abrahamic religions, did not come to us at the will of some external supernatural entity, you can start asking what really was going on. My view is that great truths were found, not by making stuff up, but by contemplating what God would do, if God were being God. It's like a novelist asking what Captain Ahab would do, or Mr. Darcy, or Jean Valjean. The requirements of honesty transcend the temptations of manipulation, and so it is actually more accurate to say that religious truth was discovered than to say that it was invented. (Of course to the people of the time, "revealed" was still more accurate, but that is tainted language.)



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