‘A Religious Case Against Belief’
Posted: 07 December 2008 06:57 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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by James P Carse, Emeritus Professor of Religion at New York University. Strong recommendation here from me, as this is indeed a thought provoking read.

Even a short critique of Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett in this, although I disgreed with it. However, this read is well worth your time.

Here is the synopsis.

A provocative, insightful explanation for why it is that belief—not religion—keeps us in a perilous state of willful ignorance

In The Religious Case Against Belief, James Carse identifies the twenty-first century’s most forbidding villain: belief. In distinguishing religions from belief systems, Carse works to reveal how belief—with its restriction on thought and encouragement of hostility—has corrupted religion and spawned violence the world over.

Galileo, Martin Luther, Abraham Lincoln, and Jesus Christ—using their stories Carse creates his own brand of parable and establishes a new vocabulary with which to study conflict in the modern world. The Religious Case Against Belief introduces three kinds of ignorance: ordinary ignorance (a mundane lack of knowledge, such as ignorance of tomorrow’s weather or the reason why your stove is malfunctioning), willful ignorance (an intentional avoidance of accessible knowledge), and finally higher ignorance (a learned understanding that no matter how many truths we may accumulate, our knowledge falls infinitely short of the truth).

While ordinary ignorance is common to all people, Carse associates the strongest manifestation of willful ignorance with the most fervent (and dangerous) of believers. He points to the historic conflict between Martin Luther and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V both to reveal this seemingly religious collision as a clash of belief and to identify belief ‘s inherently destructive characteristics. From Luther to the contemporary Christian right, we learn that believers construct identity by erecting boundaries and by fostering aggression between thebeliever and the other. This is why belief systems choose—at great cost—to remain locked in bloody conflict rather than to engage in dialogue, recognizing the great deal they have in common. This is willful ignorance.

In fierce contrast to willful ignorance, higher ignorance is an acquired state enhanced by religion. Those traveling the path to higher ignorance recognize faith teachings (such as the Bible) as poetry intended to promote contemplation, interpretation, and a sense of wonder. For evidence of religion’s deeply embedded rejection of singular truth and its acceptance of diverse dialogue, Carse looks to the many faces of Jesus presented in the books of the Bible and elsewhere. Uncontaminated by belief systems, religion rejects the imagined boundaries that falsely divide people and ideas, working to expand horizons.

The Religious Case Against Belief exposes a world in which religion and belief have become erroneously (and terrifyingly) conflated. In strengthening their association with powerful belief systems, religions have departed from their essential purpose as agencies of higher ignorance. Carse uses his wideranging understanding of religion to find a viable and vital path away from what he calls the Age of Faith II and toward open-ended global dialogue. Far from abstract philosophical musing, The Religious Case Against Belief is required reading for our age.

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Posted: 07 December 2008 08:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Thanks for the reference, directly relevant to my attempts to separate “faith” and “belief.”

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Posted: 07 December 2008 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Sounds interesting. But isn’t that just another attempt at shifting blame from religion to something else? It seems to me that every religion apologetic always finds some reason to explain the problems with religion, and it’s never religion itself. It’s the Church, or it’s the extremists, or it’s the wrong interpretation of the bible, or now it’s Belief.

Eventually, if you assemble all the reasons that the apologetics use to excuse religion, you realize there is nothing good left to say about it.

MH

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Posted: 07 December 2008 02:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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If you read this book, you will find that Prof Carse is no apologetic to ‘belief’ His discussion of the christian bible interpretations and the New Testament are a scathing report, believe me. Now, he is not a scientist, so he does not present that view. However, he points out major problems with belief systems and how they hijack religion.

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‘If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature destroys them’

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Posted: 07 December 2008 07:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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OK McC,

I am so thoroughly confused by this that I will go out and find this book.

What I’m finding confusing:

-What, exactly, is religion without belief? A set of ceremonies and traditions? A fuzzy history?

-While I think I understand what Carse means by “higher ignorance”, how do religions serve an “essential purpose” as agencies of this when philosophy or a simple acknowledgment of one’s limitations would seem to serve as well.

Yup, curiosity piqued. I’ll pick it up and come back to this thread.

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Posted: 08 December 2008 06:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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mp

Yes it is a somewhat different perspective and thats what makes the book so interesting. However, it is along the lines of Sam and Dan Dennetts criticality of ‘faith’

I will be interested to see what you think.

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‘Every reflecting mind must acknowledge that there is no proof of the existence of a Deity’

‘If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature destroys them’

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Posted: 09 December 2008 03:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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McCrea:... it is a somewhat different perspective and thats what makes the book so interesting. However, it is along the lines of Sam and Dan Dennetts criticality of ‘faith’

I know you were responding directly to mp McCrea, but this post cracked me up and I will not suppress myself…

Criticality? What exactly is a criticality?
Man… <sigh> eight years of ‘W’ and even intelligent individuals are making up words.

I’m having trouble making sense of this…. how is this professor emeritus of religion being critical of faith if he’s pushing religion? My initial reaction is the same as MHunter’s:

But isn’t that just another attempt at shifting blame from religion to something else? It seems to me that every religion apologetic always finds some reason to explain the problems with religion, and it’s never religion itself. It’s the Church, or it’s the extremists, or it’s the wrong interpretation of the bible, or now it’s Belief.


The topic of this book seems so oxymoronic that only a retired professor would come up with such a concept…

My bullshit detector is on high alert (in case it wasn’t obvious). The entire concept of “higher ignorance” being a state of:

an acquired state enhanced by religion.

Sounds suspiciously guru-esque to moi. Only those with a deeper self-awareness can achieve these magical and mystical states. ohh  “An acquired state enhanced by religion?” Also sounds like a set-up for positioning specific individuals (those on the path to higher ignorance) in a place of authority. Please tell me I’m incorrect on this one.

Those traveling the path to higher ignorance recognize faith teachings (such as the Bible) as poetry intended to promote contemplation, interpretation, and a sense of wonder.

LOL

I’ll take the path of minimal ignorance, thank you very much professor Parse, I mean Carse. And wait a minute here, I thought the synopsis said it differentiated belief from faith/ religion… is he saying “faith teachings” found in the bible = “true religion?” Is he suggesting that the bible plus:

the many faces of Jesus presented in the books of the Bible and elsewhere…

... are where true religion lies? (shockingly, no pun intended here)

From the makers of The three Faces of Eve Professor Emeritus, James P. Carse brings you The Many Faces of Jesus.

I thought this was quite hilarious: only those “traveling the path to higher ignorance” can recognize the bible as “poetry intended to… (you know the rest)...

Methinks the good professor has too much time on his hands (and possibly too much to drink) now that he’s emeritus.
Other than a handful of psalms (songs), there is not much poetry in the bible in my estimation. (gee, hope that wasn’t too negative for some sensitive soles on the forum).

All in all, McCrea, it does pique interest, but not for purchase… I think I’ll wait until it’s available at the local library.

[ Edited: 09 December 2008 03:14 PM by isocratic infidel]
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Posted: 09 December 2008 06:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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If Thomas Jefferson can make up words and redline the New Testament, whats your beef with me and Prof Carse for Gods sake?! (no pun intended there)

I am becoming skeptical of you Iso. First it took me an entire 3 day thread to make you understand the argument from incredulity and now this.

WTF??

You will read ‘The End of Faith’ but you will not touch ‘A Religious case Against Belief’?

Where in the hell has your curioisty gone anyway. grin

Carse see’s a difference between religion and belief systems.

Not sure I agree totally, but it is an interesting concept.

I am not that afraid of religion to read a book by a professor of religion, and see what he has to say. Besides, as I mentioned above, he ridicules the Abrahamic religions (especially christianity), pretty heavily here.

After reading this book I would think that Carse is at least agnostic if not an atheist FWIW.

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‘If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature destroys them’

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Posted: 10 December 2008 01:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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author=“McCreason” date=“1228894776”]If Thomas Jefferson can make up words and redline the New Testament, whats your beef with me and Prof Carse for Gods sake?! (no pun intended there)

I have no beef with any of the above mentioned, McCrea, I was simply teasing you for making up a word that doesn’t exist in the english lexicon. I’m sorry if I offended you, I didn’t realize you were of the same influential caliber as Thomas Jefferson, or that you might be the reincarnation of James Joyce.  wink  C’mon man, “criticality?” You have to admit it sounds like something ‘W’ would say. (What part of “intelligent individuals” in my razzing escaped you? And pah-lease don’t put an angry voice in your head when reading my posts… I assure you I am not an angry person as certain forum goers would have you believe.)

I am becoming skeptical of you Iso.

Skeptical of what exactly? My ability to recognize fuckwittery when I see it? Did you think I was being critical of you when I was actually analyzing the synopsis of Carse’s work? Do you take alternative positions personally McCRea? IF so, I’ll try to remember that next time I respond to one of your posts.

First it took me an entire 3 day thread to make you understand the argument from incredulity and now this.

As I recall, we had that discussion in one day and my confusion stemmed from my understanding that the term incredulity has been traditionally used in the context of incredulousness toward supernatural claims and beliefs rather than toward scientific inquiry. Also, I thought our dialogue served to show Immediate Sup. that two people can disagree, challenge one another and still be friends in the end.

WTF??

A failure to communicate, perhaps?

You will read ‘The End of Faith’ but you will not touch ‘A Religious case Against Belief’?

I’m pretty sure I just said I wouldn’t spend money on it, but will check it out when it arrives at the local library.

Where in the hell has your curioisty gone anyway. grin

I was curious enough to analyze the synopsis. Why did you take my skepticism toward Carse’s premises so personally?

Carse see’s a difference between religion and belief systems.

So because Carse sees a difference and goes to pains to make a distinction I’m supposed to automatically be impressed? Like I said before, I agree with MHunter’s assessment of Carse’s parsing.

I am not that afraid of religion to read a book by a professor of religion, and see what he has to say.

Neither am I. I am, however, highly selective about which books I will spend cold cash on to add to my collection.

Besides, as I mentioned above, he ridicules the Abrahamic religions (especially christianity), pretty heavily here.

Well, by golly, pin a gold star on his lapel.

After reading this book I would think that Carse is at least agnostic if not an atheist FWIW.

What does FWIW stand for? And what does his being agnostic or an atheist FWIW (?) have to do with the legitimacy of his premises and conclusions?

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Posted: 10 December 2008 01:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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McCreason - 07 December 2008 11:57 AM

and finally higher ignorance (a learned understanding that no matter how many truths we may accumulate, our knowledge falls infinitely short of the truth).

There’s no upside to volunteering so joyfully to fall infinitely short of the truth. Or succumbing. Or whatever you wish to call it.

People who talk like this creep me out. If Carse wants to focus on the deficiencies of the human intellect, it’s probably due to those he senses in himself. “Falling infinitely short of the truth” is already ecclesiastical language, and all he is doing is inviting people back to a little woo-fest where we can drop the Bible and buy lots of books by NDW. FHATHHRIO.

But he’s right in a way. Those who buy what he has to sell are doing a great job of leaving themselves infinitely short of the truth. In other words (IOW) with zilcho, plus their own feelgood for having the disposable income to waste on tripe like this.

By the way, FWIW is an acronym giving the first letters of the words in the title of a famous song by Buffalo Springfield. FWIW.

[ Edited: 10 December 2008 01:41 PM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 10 December 2008 02:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Iso

You remind me of those people who only read what they already know in advance they are going to agree with. grin

And by the way-criticality is a word

Main Entry: crit·i·cal
Pronunciation: \?kri-ti-k?l\
Function: adjective
Date: 1547
1 a: of, relating to, or being a turning point or specially important juncture <a >: as (1): relating to or being the stage of a disease at which an abrupt change for better or worse may be expected ; also : being or relating to an illness or condition involving danger of death <critical care> <a > (2): relating to or being a state in which or a measurement or point at which some quality, property, or phenomenon suffers a definite change <critical temperature> b: crucial , decisive <a > c: indispensable , vital <a > <a > d: being in or approaching a state of crisis <a > <a >
2 a: inclined to criticize severely and unfavorably b: consisting of or involving criticism <critical writings> ; also : of or relating to the judgment of critics <the play was a critical success> c: exercising or involving careful judgment or judicious evaluation <critical thinking> d: including variant readings and scholarly emendations <a >
3 a: of sufficient size to sustain a chain reaction —used of a mass of fissionable material <a > b: sustaining a nuclear chain reaction <the reactor went critical>
crit·i·cal·i·ty \?kri-t?-?ka-l?-t?\ noun
— crit·i·cal·ly \?kri-ti-k(?-)l?\ adverb
— crit·i·cal·ness \-k?l-n?s\ noun

[ Edited: 10 December 2008 06:10 PM by eudemonia]
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‘If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature destroys them’

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Posted: 11 December 2008 04:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Aww man… got me McCrea. I’ll be sure to pick the shoe leather out of my teeth with a crow’s feather.

Let this be a lesson to the kiddies: never flap your fingers on the keyboard without checking that trusty dictionary first.  Of course, FWIW, I could blame it on my head cold and the cold medicine… but I won’t.

You know, McCrea, you really could have teased me a lot harder… one thing you have to admit, I’m pretty good for your ego, aye? Feel free to tell the world that McCreason’s smarter than the ditzy blonde with a bad case of smart assery and foot-in-mouth.

I just finished reading “A Case for the Real Jesus”  about three weeks ago… does that count as reading something I know I won’t agree with?

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Posted: 11 December 2008 04:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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isocratic infidel - 11 December 2008 09:12 PM

I just finished reading “A Case for the Real Jesus”  about three weeks ago… does that count as reading something I know I won’t agree with?

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Posted: 11 December 2008 06:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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Iso

Sorry but I am just not impressed. Criticality is a word, deal with it.

Now, you can read whatever you want to. You seem to think you are pretty special. Good for you.

Sorry to have upset you…. kiddie, but you seem a little neurotic to me.

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‘Every reflecting mind must acknowledge that there is no proof of the existence of a Deity’

‘If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature destroys them’

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Posted: 11 December 2008 07:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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McCreason - 11 December 2008 11:07 PM

Iso

Sorry but I am just not impressed. Criticality is a word, deal with it.

Now, you can read whatever you want to. You seem to think you are pretty special. Good for you.

Sorry to have upset you…. kiddie, but you seem a little neurotic to me.

What the fuck McCrea? I just admitted I was wrong and that criticality is a word. What part of picking the shoe leather out of my teeth with a crow’s feather do you not understand? I even called myself a dizty blonde with a bad case of smart assery and foot-in-mouth. I admitted, dumb ass, that I was wrong and advised other posters to utilize that trusty dictionary as I should have before spouting off. Gee wiz man. Loosen your keister. I was hardly upset… get the angry/condescending voice out of your head when reading my posts, please.

You didn’t upset me. I take back the part where I called you an intelligent individual. An intelligent individual would have interpreted my admission correctly. Seems to me that it’s you who gets upset if everyone doesn’t agree with you and your book recommendations.

Beam,
Thanks for the wonder wand in the other thread… and I love the blasphemous image you posted. We’re off on a RoAdTriP tomorrow to see NIN again. YaY! How neurotic of me, aye?  shock

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Posted: 12 December 2008 09:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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isocratic infidel - 12 December 2008 12:03 AM

[ We’re off on a RoAdTriP tomorrow to see NIN again.

Have fun at the Nails concert. (I don’t know how to type a backward N on the pc.)

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Real honesty is accepting the theories that best explain the actual data even if those explanations contradict our cherished beliefs.-Scotty

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