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Teaching Sam's book
Posted: 01 March 2006 04:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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[quote author=“mudfoot”]Charles, I think a lot of wind goes out of Harris’ sails regarding Islam if moderation can make inroads just as it’s made inroads into Christendom.  )—Islam’s basically incompatible with modernity.[quote author=“mudfoot”]

I agree. More than one person I’ve talked to has mentioned that Islam just needs time. It follows Christianity by half a millennia or so and if we give it time, it’ll liberalize. I have my doubts.
I think that the liturgical disaster of the protestant reformation coupled with the theological inconsistencies between the OT and NT made christianity more suitable for liberal interpretation.

Parts of the Koran and Islam are theologically sophisticated. The absence of confession for example.  The overwhelmingly timeful ( instead of timeless) passages regarding punishing infidels, exacting vengeance etc. make it difficult to uncover anything really noteworthy.

The examples of syncretism involving Islam, I agree are a bit more interesting. Subjectively speaking of course.
—ck

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Posted: 02 March 2006 05:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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About my idea for a student roundtable discussion with all the world’s religions represented -  if you live in a homogeneous community where everybody believes the same thing - have the students draw a religion out of a hat.  At the table they must then represent, speak for, the religion they have drawn.  If a student draws ‘Buddhism’ and tells you (the moderator) that he doesn’t know anything about Buddhism, then you suggest a book to him.  That is his homework.  When everyone has done their homework, and has some grasp of the religion they have drawn out of the hat, then a debate.  If you tried this, I’d like to know if it was helpful, or if the students enjoyed the challenge of representing and defending another belief system.  Depending on how many students there are, put equal numbers of tickets into the hat for each religion, including atheism and agnosticism.

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Posted: 02 March 2006 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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[quote author=“unsmoked”]About my idea for a student roundtable discussion with all the world’s religions represented -  if you live in a homogeneous community where everybody believes the same thing - have the students draw a religion out of a hat.  At the table they must then represent, speak for, the religion they have drawn.  If a student draws ‘Buddhism’ and tells you (the moderator) that he doesn’t know anything about Buddhism, then you suggest a book to him.  That is his homework.  When everyone has done their homework, and has some grasp of the religion they have drawn out of the hat, then a debate.  If you tried this, I’d like to know if it was helpful, or if the students enjoyed the challenge of representing and defending another belief system.  Depending on how many students there are, put equal numbers of tickets into the hat for each religion, including atheism and agnosticism.

An excellent idea. I very well may try this later on in the semester when we get a bit more material covered. I will let you know how it goes. Thanks for the idea.
—ck

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Posted: 03 March 2006 10:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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If you are interested in really starting some interesting discussion, and making them think about a whole range of issues, you might start with this story:

 

Boy, what an interesting can of worms that is.  What particular brand of Christianity do your students think should be chosen?  When will the book and people-burnings start?  Will the state still hire folks who don;‘t believe in the state religion?

Do your students think James Madison is turning over in his grave?  Jefferson?  Adams?  Paine?  Franklin?

You say you think that islam will “mello” over the next 500 years.  Why is it then that Christianity is going in the other direction?  Is this a good direction for the country to go?  The world?

Right now, this is just a few nuts in one state.  Would your students like to see something like this happen in your state?  How about such a resolution in the US Congress?

Frankr, if you are still following this thread, what do you think about this?  Remember, they are fundies, and they think you belong to a cult.  As I see no difference between you and them, they see no difference between me and you, no matter what they say.  Watch what they do!

On Edit, our founders gave us a secular government ON PURPOSE, with treatment of religion modeled upon the approach taken by Virginia, which establised a “wall of seperation” before the constitution did.  Guess what?  The greatest supporters, on the religious side, for both the Virginia and the federal position were the evangelicals!  They did not want the more moderate Christian sects, then and still the majority, to gain control of the government and ban fundamentilism.

Now you have the opposite situation.  You have the fundies wanting control of the governments, at all levels, so they can legislate dogma.  Hell, they already are, if not with legislation, with decisions by various government agencies making decisions that counterdict establish science.

There are a wealth of subjects in this simple story for your students to look at, if you have the courage to do it!  If the fundies have their way, they will establish a government here modelled upon Iran.

Question for you and your students:  Should any government anywhere be based upon unfounded, irrational religious beliefs? 

Pete

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Posted: 04 March 2006 03:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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http://www.house.mo.gov/bills061/biltxt/intro/HCR0013I.htm

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Posted: 05 March 2006 03:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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[quote author=“hampsteadpete”]If you are interested in really starting some interesting discussion, and making them think about a whole range of issues, you might start with this story:

What particular brand of Christianity do your students think should be chosen?  When will the book and people-burnings start?  Will the state still hire folks who don;‘t believe in the state religion?

Do your students think James Madison is turning over in his grave?  Jefferson?  Adams?  Paine?  Franklin?

Right now, this is just a few nuts in one state.  Would your students like to see something like this happen in your state?  How about such a resolution in the US Congress?

On Edit, our founders gave us a secular government ON PURPOSE, with treatment of religion modeled upon the approach taken by Virginia, which establised a “wall of seperation” before the constitution did.  Guess what?  The greatest supporters, on the religious side, for both the Virginia and the federal position were the evangelicals!  They did not want the more moderate Christian sects, then and still the majority, to gain control of the government and ban fundamentilism.

Question for you and your students:  Should any government anywhere be based upon unfounded, irrational religious beliefs? 

Pete

Thanks Pete. I’m going to use this as a discussion starter tomorrow. They (my students) are familiar with framers intent, loose and strict constitutional interpretation, etc so I anticipate some good stuff. They’re Catholic kids so I can’t really answer your question as to what they’d prefer be dominant in american politics. To be truthful, I think they don’t give it much thought. As with most people in this country, they’re sufficiently distracted.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

—ck

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Posted: 06 March 2006 03:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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[quote author=“ckitzman”]Thanks Pete. I’m going to use this as a discussion starter tomorrow. They (my students) are familiar with framers intent, loose and strict constitutional interpretation, etc so I anticipate some good stuff. They’re Catholic kids so I can’t really answer your question as to what they’d prefer be dominant in american politics. To be truthful, I think they don’t give it much thought. As with most people in this country, they’re sufficiently distracted.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

—ck

Mixed bag. Many read the bill and thought the 3rd provision was good enough to cover dissenting views and since the prayer part is voluntary, they saw no problem with it. Still, the class was divided. Many thought that public school is no place for it. Thanks again for the idea.

—ck

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Posted: 06 March 2006 04:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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Here is a topic for discussion.  Consider a free and open society that prided itself on the right of its citizens and its media to discuss, criticize, ridicule and otherwise evaluate the merits of scientific or social ideas and ideologies and the personalities associated with those ideas and ideologies.  This freedom and its exercise had but one limitation; Group X and its founder, He Who Must Not Be Named (HWMNBN), was above reproach, above criticism, above ridicule.  What effect do you think this sort of special treatment or status for Group X and HWMNBN will have on the minds of the children growing up in this otherwise free and open society?  Do you think that this sort of special treatment alone, regardless of the merits of the ideas propounded by Group X, will actually set Group X apart from and elevate that group above all others in those young children’s minds?  Wouldn’t this special status alone actually work as a lure to gain more converts to Group X? 
I am not trying to insult anyone’s intelligence with this simplistic and obviously transparent post, but my concern with many of the posts in this forum is that they deliberately or unconsciously accord or acknowledge that religion has or should have a special status in human society.  This special status is many times reinforced even by those who attack religion and faith and profess to be adamantly atheistic.  What I gleaned from Sam’s book is that religion and faith can not, must not, be given any special status and must be held to the same standard of review, criticism, scorn, ridicule, etc., as any and all other ideas.
Our effort, as I see it, is to refuse to be drawn into any suggestion that faith or religion has any edge or insight whatsoever into the reality of the world.

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Posted: 06 March 2006 11:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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I wrote this for Freethought Radio, and am in the process of recording it now.  It’s part of a series I’m doing for them about the writings of the founders relating to church and state.  This letter can be found in most Madison writing collections:

Today, we have a letter written in April of 1774 by James Madison to his friend, William Bradford of Philadelphia.  Residents of Pennsylvania enjoyed a large measure of religious freedom, as the governing charter agreed upon in England in 1682, stated:  persons “shall, in no ways, be molested or prejudiced for their religious persuasion, or practice, in matters of faith and worship, nor shall they be compelled, at any time, to frequent or maintain any religious worship, place or ministry whatever.”

In Virginia, at this time, the Anglican Church of England was the established religion, was supported by taxes, and no competing faiths were officially allowed.  Madison’s letter contrasts conditions in Pennsylvania with those in Virginia, creating a picture of what life was like under the yoke of state-sponsored religion:

“That liberal and equitable way of thinking as to the rights of conscience, which is one of the characteristics of a free people and so strongly marks the people of your province is but little known among the zealous adherents to our hierarchy.  We have, it is true, some persons in the legislature of generous principles both in religion and politicks, but number, not merit, you know is necessary to carry points there.  Besides, the clergy are a numerous and powerful body, have great influence at home by reason of their connection with and dependence on the bishops and crown and will naturally employ all their art and interest to depress their rising adversaries, for such they must consider dissenters who rob them of the good will of the people and may, in time, endanger their livings and security.

You are happy in dwelling in a land where those inestimable privileges are fully enjoyed and the public has long felt the good effects of their religious as well as civil liberty.  Foreigners have been encouraged to settle among you.  Industry and virtue have been promoted by mutual emulation and mutual inspection, commerce and the arts have flourished and I can not help attributing those continual exertions of genius which appear among you to the inspiration of liberty and that love of fame and knowledge which always accompany it.  Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect.  How afar this is the case with Virginia will more clearly appear when the ensuing trial is made.”

The trial Madison speaks of was the looming conflict with England, and the effect that would have on the established religion in Virginia.  Madison’s damning condemnation of organized religion is all the more poignant today, for as I write, a group of dominionists are trying to have Christianity declared the official state myth of Missouri, joining the state bird and flower, I suppose.

We have been down this road before!  In the aftermath of the revolutionary war, a concerted effort was required by a number of brilliant, farsighted men to save our nation from the fate Madison so eloquently described when he wrote about conditions in Virginia.

We have no such leaders today!  Our politicians are much like the clergy Madison characterizes in the first part of his letter, they care little about the effects their policies may have upon our nation, they care only about stifling any hint of dissent, and perpetuating their own power and influence.  They understand that pandering to the rapture right is the quickest, easiest way to obtain re-election, which is really all any of them are working for.

This will stop when we decide to stop it by supporting the few politicians who don’t believe that our problems can be solved by faith-based solutions, and by making our voices heard above the prayerful din of the superstitious adherents of ignorance.

Here is a letter from James Madison, the “intelligent designer” of our constitution AND bill of rights, clearly indicating his views on the establishment of religion in our republic.  If you like, I can provide more data concerning this subject, but you can do your own research if you are interested.

I think you are doing a fine job, by the way, to even have them questioning this stuff.

Pete

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Posted: 07 March 2006 01:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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Question for you and your students: Should any government anywhere be based upon unfounded, irrational religious beliefs?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

What a zealot.

Pete
It is unfair to characterize Madison’s letter as being anti-organized religion. It is clearly anti-state established religion. He is clearly praising Pennsylvania’s pluralistic government where there was religious tolerance vs. Virginia’s state established religion. Don’t let the facts get in the way of your argument. You are not arguing for a state that is tolerant of religion. I believe the goal is intolerance albeit a conversational intolerance only.

Charles
Keep up the good work. I am sure the Jesuits who educated you are proud. I am also sure the diocese considers your salary money well spent. Its funny that in an earlier post you said you were afraid teaching in a public school. So Catholicism is a very useful little religion for you isn’t it? They pay your salary and provide a safe work environment with (dare I say) better and more manageable kids. The parents, I bet, also take more interest in their children’s education.  Of course none of this has to do with the religion itself, it is just a strange accident.  You are one courageous free thinker.

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Posted: 07 March 2006 02:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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[quote author=“frankr”]

Charles
Keep up the good work. I am sure the Jesuits who educated you are proud. I am also sure the diocese considers your salary money well spent. Its funny that in an earlier post you said you were afraid teaching in a public school. So Catholicism is a very useful little religion for you isn’t it? They pay your salary and provide a safe work environment with (dare I say) better and more manageable kids. The parents, I bet, also take more interest in their children’s education.  Of course none of this has to do with the religion itself, it is just a strange accident.  You are one courageous free thinker.

Thanks frank. It means a lot.
I might feel guilty (which is the reaction I think you’d enjoy) if I thought I were doing poor work.

—ck

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Posted: 07 March 2006 03:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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So according to the frankr buybull in the following, “. . . that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights . . . ” somehow the words “their Creator” seem to point directly to the christian god.  Are you so sure that such a thing was meant?  The “heathen” First Nations people in America had a creator, so did the pagans of Europe, and just about every primitive culture, why couldn’t those words “their Creator” refer to any deity whatsoever?

From a secular perspective, those same words might point directly to ‘the planet earth itself’ or to some version of the living earth commonly referred to as Gaia. 

frankr, why do you so pompously have to discredit every other point of view in your obvious attempt to maintain the fading legacy of the big christian kahoona?

Bob

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Posted: 07 March 2006 03:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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[quote author=“CanZen”]So according to the frankr buybull in the following, “. . . that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights . . . ” somehow the words “their Creator” seem to point directly to the christian god.  Are you so sure that such a thing was meant?  The “heathen” First Nations people in America had a creator, so did the pagans of Europe, and just about every primitive culture, why couldn’t those words “their Creator” refer to any deity whatsoever?

From a secular perspective, those same words might point directly to ‘the planet earth itself’ or to some version of the living earth commonly referred to as Gaia. 

Bob

Most framers were Deists. God as “Clockmaker” with no involvement in the daily lives of humans. At least that’s my understanding.
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Posted: 07 March 2006 05:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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I never mentioned a Christian God. You seem to be the ones against God in general. Yes a capital C Creator does point toward an existent God. You may want to write the belief off as Pagan but I do not think you will find much historical evidence of paganism of gaia in the writings of the forefathers. As to Mother Earth do you really honestly believe that a rock hurtling through space has the power to endow powers? Who is being irrational now? Even if the founders were Deists that still makes them believers or in simpler terms not Atheists.

You guys crack me up you love to rail against the irrationality of God. You refer to him as an invisible friend, the tooth fairy, or Santa Claus, then you quote believers to make your point. A deist is a believer. A blind watchmaker is a God argued from the existence of design in the universe. It would be difficult to read the writings of Washington (especially his farewell address, take note history teacher) and say that he sees religious belief as adverserial to the Rebublic. One could easily infer from the reading that he had a very positive view of organized religion. 

C.K. I think you should change your quaint little sign off to something more appropriate like ” The canal loves to believe that the river does not exist. The water and the canal have always existed on their own and the belief in the river is stupid and irrational.

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Posted: 07 March 2006 05:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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[quote author=“frankr”]

C.K. I think you should change your quaint little sign off to something more appropriate like ” The canal loves to believe that the river does not exist. The water and the canal have always existed on their own and the belief in the river is stupid and irrational.

I like Rabindranath Tagore

[ Edited: 07 March 2006 06:34 AM by ]
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