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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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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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