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The Ënd of Faith"' argument,
Posted: 14 January 2005 01:54 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Sam harris seems to argue that all religions should be abolished because of their capacity forprovoking violent action which, with WMD's available, could destroy the planet. The problem I have is that religion has been shown, by writers such as Karen Armstrong, to exist in some form in all human cultures. One could argue that, as a human mental construct, it is not entirely an irrational option to explain the mysteries of existence, in that it can be modified as science produces new facts about our universe. Some writers e.g. those associated with the Westar Institute, argue for a new world religion arising out of the Judeo-Christian stream of the past three millenia. Harris appears to accept that something we call mysticism or spiritualiy is wired into the human psyche. One could therefore argue that ''religion"', as a human construct in which we have "'faith"',  is unlikely to be replaced by "'An End to Faith"'.
Jasper.

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Posted: 16 January 2005 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Some suggest there can be no reasonable faith but I feel otherwise.

“As a human mental construct, it is not entirely an irrational option to explain the mysteries of existence, in that it can be modified as science produces new facts about our universe.”

Many are already on this path and I believe this is the path humanity will ultimatly follow if it wishes to survive its childhood.

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Posted: 17 January 2005 01:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“lawrence”]Some suggest there can be no reasonable faith but I feel otherwise.

“As a human mental construct, it is not entirely an irrational option to explain the mysteries of existence, in that it can be modified as science produces new facts about our universe.”

Many are already on this path and I believe this is the path humanity will ultimatly follow if it wishes to survive its childhood.


That’s just equivocating with the term “faith” though. The religious faith that’s problematic and that Sam wrote about (definition 1 in most dictionaries) doesn’t allow for such open revision. That’s one of the fundamental reasons it’s a problem. If it did allow for its articles to be revised freely according to new evidence (or whatever) we’d have a very different ballgame.

You can’t just apply a different definition as if it applies to the comments someone else has made about another. It’s odd to me that almost everyone seems to want to protect faith’s status as a high virtue, and that most of those people will equivocate fluidly with various definitions (coming up with new ones if necessary) in order to do so.

Byron

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Posted: 17 January 2005 01:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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I don’t see how one can take comfort exactly in a plan to outlaw religion. It probably just ain’t gonna happen. I agree that people in every culture seek answers to their existential concerns. As Vonnegut wrote,

Fish got to swim
Bird got to fly
Man got to sit and wonder, why, why, why?

Fish got to .... (can’t recall)
Bird got to land
Man got to think he understands.

There is no elimination of this drive in the human psyche. Yet, I somehow agree with Sam Harris that even moderates, who believe that they remain open to truth, are dangerous. What about strict secularism, where extremism (ie when faith determines policy) and theocracy are outlawed worldwide? Seems like a good beginning to me, and perhaps the only plausible one.

I like the Quaker model, if one just has to get religion, where silent meditation replace sermons, where every mind is free to share equally, where life and human rights are valued over dogma, and where the emphasis turns away from questions about the “afterlife” in order to focus upon service in this life. The Unitarians seem to have it relatively together too, in that they emphasize the discussion of the existential questions, the pursuit of truths without the hope of certainty.

And yet, I can’t quite get myself to join either one.

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Posted: 17 January 2005 02:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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[quote author=“SkepticX”][quote author=“lawrence”]Some suggest there can be no reasonable faith but I feel otherwise.

“As a human mental construct, it is not entirely an irrational option to explain the mysteries of existence, in that it can be modified as science produces new facts about our universe.”

That’s just equivocating with the term “faith” though.  If it did allow for its articles to be revised freely according to new evidence (or whatever) we’d have a very different ballgame.

Yes, this “faith” would be something like our scientific method: adherence to a set of propositions until evidence points elsewhere.  This requires no dogmatism, an open mind, and a humble epistemology. 

Since we’ve already got a superior mode of knowledge creation, one that allows for revision, fallibility, and verification, and does not require intellectual suicide, nor leaves our world and its citizens vulnerable to huxters of all stripes, let’s drop the special pleading for faith.

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Posted: 17 January 2005 02:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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[quote author=“child”]special pleading for faith.

I suppose if it is possible to completely rebuild the human psyche then “the end of faith” might be possible.

Have you ever considered that their is a reason that humans gravitate toward asking questions of the unknown? Have you ever considered that this very part of our psyche might be the part that has allowed us to step out from the jungle and build sky scrapers?

Faith and belief are necessary to function in the reality of ones environment.

I have faith that I can accomplish a particular task because I understand the factors involved in successfully completing such a task. I believe that I can accomplish the task and I do so through faith and belief.

I do not see most peoples religious beliefs set into a separate compartmentalized section of the brain that basically understands the difference between ‘types’ of faith and beliefs. Several individual writers here have already stated that faith and beliefs can not be compartmentalized.

If such human psyche rebuilding is possible in an entire culture would we have not already seen such a culture spring up? Which culture’s have no gods?

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Posted: 17 January 2005 03:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Lawrence you persist in your equivocation and it is getting us nowhere.

[quote author=“lawrence”]
I suppose if it is possible to completely rebuild the human psyche then “the end of faith” might be possible.

Have you ever considered that their is a reason that humans gravitate toward asking questions of the unknown?

Yeah, it’s called curiosity and thirst for knowledge.  This is not the “faith” we are talking about.

[quote author=“lawrence”]Have you ever considered that this very part of our psyche might be the part that has allowed us to step out from the jungle and build sky scrapers?

Not that skyscrapers are my idea of the greatest achievements of humanity, but I’d say that this sort of advance has little to do with faith as Sam Harris’s book and we all have been discussing it.  I don’t suppose you are referring to the Tower of Babel myth are you?

[quote author=“lawrence”]Faith and belief are necessary to function in the reality of ones environment.

I have faith that I can accomplish a particular task because I understand the factors involved in successfully completing such a task. I believe that I can accomplish the task and I do so through faith and belief.

Here is a good example of your equivocation, Lawrence.  What you refer to signifies something like “confidence” or “positive self-estimation,”  which are great things.  What these do not signify is a religious sense of the word faith.  We have all been assuming the same meaning, having read Sam’s book, but perhaps it needs to be spelled out, which we can do if needed.  Suffice it to say for now that faith, as you have been using it, means something entirely different than the rest of us understand. 

This sort of equivocation and shielding is an example of exactly the kind of threat moderates pose to the rest of us.  By hiding the dangers of religious conformity to unverifiable metaphyscial propositions which divvy the world up into holy huddles, your ruse of moderation is dubious at best.

[quote author=“lawrence”]I do not see most peoples religious beliefs set into a separate compartmentalized section of the brain that basically understands the difference between ‘types’ of faith and beliefs.

Well if not, they should, because there are many different senses of the word we have been using.  It still amazes me that we will ostracize and war with our fellows because we take a word as having a univocal, static meaning.  Language does not work that way.

[quote author=“lawrence”] Several individual writers here have already stated that faith and beliefs can not be compartmentalized.

I don’t recall reading that outlandish theory, but it occurs everyday, and is a fact of life.

[quote author=“lawrence”]If such human psyche rebuilding is possible in an entire culture would we have not already seen such a culture spring up? Which culture’s have no gods?

The fact that there are gods and myths in every culture which have gone by the wayside speaks more to our ability to outgrow irrationalities.  This is no grand “psychic rebuilding” that you cry out for; it is simply maturity. 

Now none of the foregoing calls for a jettisoning of humane behavior, hope in a better world, or even a hankering for things spiritual.  Sam says as much in the last part of his book.  All he (and most of us along with him) clamors for is an end to the special pleading allowed for faith—in the metaphysical claim leading to hegemony sense of that word.

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Posted: 17 January 2005 04:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“child”]  It still amazes me that we will ostracize and war with our fellows because we take a word as having a univocal, static meaning. Language does not work that way.

I apologize for a failure to be able to communicate with you on your level. My brain is spatially oriented as opposed to verbally. I agree absolutely with you on the above statement and agree that much if not all of humanities problems revolve around an inability to communicate.

I have gone about this wrong in that one of the very things that I know to be true is that meanings of words shift over time. I never did well with English and not well at all with foreign language.

As words are simply attempts to express concepts we can be sure that the ‘audience’ may get the overall concept of the intended message but may not see all the connections that the speaker intends, connections that may cause the message to have an entirely different meaning.

For example, the common statement of ‘reading between the lines’ may be well understood by us but not by another individual that does not understand that what is not said can sometimes be more important than what is said.

I am not trying to offend you. I am trying to communicate. Is it not true that individuals very often have to exchange thoughts and ideas just to begin to understand the position taken by another consciousness?

As far as faith and belief are concerned what I am trying to say is that as all things are connected is it possible to remove from consciousness the trait you term ‘faith’ and the trait you term ‘belief ‘ from everyday thought and action.

The religious people I have known throughout my life have really spent very little time thinking critically about their faith and belief. Obviously if cult members did they would not stay cult members.

I just do not think you can take a particular thought process and separate it out from all other thought process’.

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Posted: 17 January 2005 11:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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[quote author=“lawrence”]I have gone about this wrong in that one of the very things that I know to be true is that meanings of words shift over time.

I can assure you that the definition of faith in TEoF and that we’re using hasn’t shifted in the time since the book was published. In fact it’s not going to shift—maybe in a future edition, theoretically, but the definition of faith used in TEoF (‘04) will always be the same.

You’re not talking about our useage or even consistent useage, but a vague notion of common useage over time. That’s not a factor here. We’ve agreed on a definition (TEoF) to take care of all of that confusion (that’s a pretty basic element of meaningful discussion). Other “faiths’ aren’t at issue here (they aren’t generally problematic), so it’s pointless to defend them when the issue is the problematic version of faith that’s been established as the basic underlying issue to all of this—eh?

Byron

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Posted: 18 January 2005 01:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“SkepticX”]You’re not talking about our useage or even consistent useage, but a vague notion of common useage over time. That’s not a factor here.

Well duh! who do you think you are talking to? The common populace (that you seem to think is going to get your esoteric message) is going to define these words (symbols) in the excepted and common usage over time.

(Well maybe not if you can convince them that they have a false conception of the word and can convince them that their definition is incorrect. Good luck!)

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Posted: 18 January 2005 01:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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[quote author=“SkepticX”]We’ve agreed on a definition (TEoF) to take care of all of that confusion (that’s a pretty basic element of meaningful discussion).

It might have been nice and it might have avoided wasted time if you had clued me in to this. I have absolutely no idea of what you are talking about.

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Posted: 22 January 2005 06:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Child said:

The fact that there are gods and myths in every culture which have gone by the wayside speaks more to our ability to outgrow irrationalities. This is no grand “psychic rebuilding” that you cry out for; it is simply maturity.

Do you mean to say that supplanting the beliefs, traditions and gods i.e. the myths, which developed independently in so many cultures, with Christianity, Islam and Judaism somehow represents the achievement of maturity and rationality? I hope not. These beliefs did not just by the wayside. They were defeated and not always peacefully, by focus evangelical campaigns.
I find more truth and wisdom in the myths that in all the world’s religions. Try it, you might like it.

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Posted: 22 January 2005 09:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Wottanson,

Other than the general and not always true sense that progress is improvement, I did not mean to imply that there was an inherent value to any stage of what can be termed an evolution of religious thought; rather, I was arguing there was no need for “rebuilding the psyche,” as an old friend of this site tried to assert in his effort to undermine Sam’s premise.

Having dodged your arrow (I hope), let me hasten to agree that I find much of value in the ancient myths, and that they speak to me in a way the Judeo-Greco-Christian myth does not.

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Posted: 22 January 2005 11:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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[quote author=“child”]Wottanson,

Other than the general and not always true sense that progress is improvement, I did not mean to imply that there was an inherent value to any stage of what can be termed an evolution of religious thought; rather, I was arguing there was no need for “rebuilding the psyche,” as an old friend of this site tried to assert in his effort to undermine Sam’s premise.

Having dodged your arrow (I hope), let me hasten to agree that I find much of value in the ancient myths, and that they speak to me in a way the Judeo-Greco-Christian myth does not.

***
Myths, traditionally, have been thought of having been BASED on truth (history, historical fact).  This is completely wrong.  Virtually (if not all) ancient near-east derived religions are 100% myth with NO basis in any facts at all.  Certainly, since many “characters” are anthropomorphized, you’re going to have factual attributes like “he walked along the path”, etc.

Alford states: God is the personification of myth.

If you look at Sumerian or Ancient Egypt AS WELL AS monotheism, there is no basis in fact anywhere whatsoever.  These are people’s BELIEFS.  They need not have any historical basis.  The Ancient Egyptians believed that meteorites were returning to earth from the time of creation (i.e. geocentric view of the universe).  Sure, meteorites DID descend to the ground (and were sacred objects) but they didn’t come from earth as the AE thought they did.

Is this clear?  Does it make sense?

JL

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Posted: 06 February 2005 05:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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I just caught Sam Harris on Book-TV, and will stop by a bookstore tomorrow to pick up a copy (I promise). Since I am judging from the presentation rather than the actual book, my comment may be arguably somewhat invalid. But I am assuming that the author has made a pretty fair presentation of his own book. It seems to me that the fundamental flaw of his premise is that religion is somehow a problem, and secularism is somehow devoid of problems; that religion somehow makes people behave badly, and secularism will allow everyone to act decently.

Although religious fervor certainly has a long and dreadful legacy to answer for, I don’t think religion itself is a problem—it is just another tool which has been abused. The real problem is human nature. The advantage of religion, tempered with reason and a healthy fear of rigid dogma, is that it gives us a reason to move out of ourselves and be concerned about others beyond our immediate family and friends. The problem is when we decide we know what is best for everyone else and try to force our views on others.

I know some wonderful people who are self-avowed Atheists, others who are Agnostic, and still others who are moderate Christians and a few who are self-identified as born-again, fundamentalist Christians. I also know some terrible people who fit into each of these categories. The common element is that people who think of themselves (or their ideas) as being the chief good, with no real interest in the welfare of others, seem to be the terrible people. The wonderful people are those who believe what they believe, and are willing to discuss it reasonably even with people who disagree with them, but ultimately accept that what they believe is personal and that the only really uncompromising ideal is that other people are important too. Balance is always the key.

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Posted: 07 February 2005 12:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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[quote author=“JAS”]It seems to me that the fundamental flaw of his premise is that religion is somehow a problem, and secularism is somehow devoid of problems; that religion somehow makes people behave badly, and secularism will allow everyone to act decently.

Although religious fervor certainly has a long and dreadful legacy to answer for, I don’t think religion itself is a problem—it is just another tool which has been abused. The real problem is human nature.

That’s why he specifies that faith is the problem. The reason Harris says moderate religion is problematic is that it fosters and enables faith.

[quote author=“JAS”]The advantage of religion, tempered with reason and a healthy fear of rigid dogma, is that it gives us a reason to move out of ourselves and be concerned about others beyond our immediate family and friends.


Interesting—it seems you identify human nature rather than religion as the source of the problem, but then give religion rather than human nature credit for curbing the problem.

[quote author=“JAS”]The wonderful people are those who believe what they believe, and are willing to discuss it reasonably even with people who disagree with them, but ultimately accept that what they believe is personal and that the only really uncompromising ideal is that other people are important too. Balance is always the key.

I think the balance you’re talking about is a by-product of proper skepticism (taking intellectual honesty and integrity seriously). If honesty and intellectual integrity aren’t compromised by faith then the results you speak of follow. But the doctrines of Western religion put pretty heavy limitations on tolerance.

That’s why the nature of faith is the focus of the book, and of some of the more interesting discussion in here (IMO).

Byron

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