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Posted: 26 March 2007 11:19 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Now some books are important, and some books are interesting, and some
books are simply a good read; but 'The End of Faith Religion, Terror, and the
Future of Reason' (2004), by Sam Harris, is notable for being all three at once.
In fact, one could even go so far as to say that this book is (and will remain)
perhaps the most important work of the entire 21st century, as it directly
addresses the single greatest source of evil, death, and moral and mental
corruption in the world today; namely, organized religion.
.
Harris is not merely a good writer with an engaging and readable writing style,
but also a professional philosopher who dares to tackle the 'problem of faith'. He
marshals a ton of evidence showing that organized religions are little more than
a cult of violence, death, and irrationality that directly threatens the survival of
global civilization. In this regard, Christianity and Islam are both equally guilty of
crimes against reason, liberty, and civil society.
.
This may be a good point at which to insert a couple of my favorite snippets
from the book "And yet, religious faith obscures uncertainty where uncertainty
manifestly exists, allowing the unknown, the implausible, and the patently false
to achieve primacy over the facts" (p.165). ... "Faith is rather like a rhinoceros,
in fact it won't do much in the way of real work for you, and yet at close
quarters it will make spectacular claims upon your attention" (p.215).
How true!
.
At first, I thought that the last two chapters of the book - '6. A Science of Good
and Evil' (on ethics), and '7. Experiments in Consciousness' (on spirituality) -
were somewhat off topic, not to mention unduly philosophical in nature, but only
a little reflection was required to show the error of this judgment Religion loves
to claim that without faith in things stupid and irrational, ethics and spirituality
must both necessarily suffer; but in these last two chapters Harris shows up this
claim for the bald-faced lie that it is, and then demonstrates how reason is the
only valid and secure foundation upon which these prime areas of human
experience can rest. And this is a remarkable achievement in itself, quite apart
from the merits of the core of the book (ie. chapter four on 'The Problem with
Islam').
.
In sum, this book is a wake-up call to all those who foolishly believe that
tolerance of the religious beliefs and practices of others is a good and virtuous
thing. Religion, in fact, is nothing more than a source and cesspool of ignorance,
bigotry, hatred, stupidity, intolerance, and fascism. Wake up and smell the sewer-
stink of bronze-age faith. Wake up and realize that the only war that really
matters anymore is the war against irrationality and unreason the war against
religion (in all its idiotic forms)!
.
For who is going to harm you if you are devoted to what is sensible and good?
But in fact, if you happen to suffer for doing what is right, you are still rational.
And do not be terrified of Believers, or be shaken by them; but set Reason apart
as lord in your hearts. And always be ready to give an answer to anyone who
asks about the hope for sanity which you possess. Yet do it with strength and
passion, keeping a good conscience, so that those Pious Believers who slander
your good conduct in Reason may be put to shame when they accuse you of
atheism and blasphemy. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if Fortune wills
it, than for doing evil. [No apologies to Silvanus; cf. 1Peter 313-17]
.
                - the zealously anti-religious one - textman ;>

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Posted: 27 March 2007 01:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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I agree, but it is also extremely dangerous because it points us in no direction.  Sam says that is our job, but all anyone wants to do is argue about certain passages.  kind of like atheists who chastise christians for selectively quoting scripture and missing the point of the whole.

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Posted: 28 March 2007 03:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“MDBeach”]I agree, but it is also extremely dangerous because it points us in no direction.  Sam says that is our job, but all anyone wants to do is argue about certain passages.  kind of like atheists who chastise christians for selectively quoting scripture and missing the point of the whole.

Well, I felt pointed in a direction after I read it.  I became somewhat galvanized in my opinion that god probably does not exist.  That’s a direction.  And because of Sam’s book and last 2 chapters, I started meditating again.

And that’s the thing.  The book destroys the reasons people feel justified for believing in the gods, and so then imagine the rare theist who might denounce his faith during the book—wouldn’t that person be inclined to say something like:

uh, ok, so… now what?

You might laugh, but meditation, even on the novice levels that I do it, can fill the void created when god is sent packing.  It’s a big hole and a mighty strong (uncomfortable) draft blows through it for a time.  Well?  In that light, the last two chapters make more sense as to why they are there.

Noggin

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Posted: 28 March 2007 03:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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[quote author=“Noggin”][quote author=“MDBeach”]I agree, but it is also extremely dangerous because it points us in no direction.  Sam says that is our job, but all anyone wants to do is argue about certain passages.  kind of like atheists who chastise christians for selectively quoting scripture and missing the point of the whole.

Well, I felt pointed in a direction after I read it.  I became somewhat galvanized in my opinion that god probably does not exist.  That’s a direction.  And because of Sam’s book and last 2 chapters, I started meditating again.

And that’s the thing.  The book destroys the reasons people feel justified for believing in the gods, and so then imagine the rare theist who might denounce his faith during the book—wouldn’t that person be inclined to say something like:

uh, ok, so… now what?

You might laugh, but meditation, even on the novice levels that I do it, can fill the void created when god is sent packing.  It’s a big hole and a mighty strong (uncomfortable) draft blows through it for a time.  Well?  In that light, the last two chapters make more sense as to why they are there.

Noggin

Noggin:

You know I have the utmost respect for you. 

Meditation is a beautiful tool.  Considering that meditation has nothing to do with religion, I applaud your newfound tranquility.  You of all people deserve it after what you have been through.

The book destroys all justifications for all gods.  It also destroys justifications for any known philosophical theory that could have taken the place of a persons religion.  That is my point.  Once you strip the mystical powers of religion away, you are left with a philosophy on life.  Sam actually destroyed these philosophies.

Sam wrote his next book detailing the need to remove christian philosophy from the United States Government.  However, he does not give a philosophy to fill that void.  This is why I maintain that his books, when not applied to the specific mission articulated by Sam like changing politics and removing a religion from power, these books become very danerous.

As an example, atheists are now using these books as a Bible to find arguments concerning everything.  Much like Christians have done with their own bible, and Muslims with the Koran.  Yet, atheists apparently do not see the hypocritical nature of what they are doing, because when inside atheist circles, there is no one to challenge them.  They cling to other people’s ideas, and what some person who they deem to be an expert says.  Instead of using another person’s ideas and expanding on them, they are quoted as if scripture.  How many times have someone on this board said something like, I’m not sure about this, but so and so says this, so that must be right. They loose sight of the fact that even Sam calls on each of us to display our own reason and our own logic.  Yet, many of us rely on other people’s works to back up our own logic. 
HUH?
Especially on this site, the atheists have a majority.  When a counter opinion arises, the majority is quick to point out the minorities flaws, WHILE QUOTING THEIR VERSION OF THE CHRISTIAN BIBLE.  Am I the only person who sees this?

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Posted: 28 March 2007 04:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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It seems to me MDBeach that you are applauding Sam Harris for rendering the bible a pitiful guide to human life, but then you admonish him for not replacing it with something full of similar answers.  You feel that Sam has first rejected the bible, but then he has gone on to reject modern philosophy as the replacement.  I’m not sure how you arrived at that conclusion? I see that Sam has found some philosophies (i.e., Scientific Realism, Eliminative Materialism, Pragmatism) to be less than they promise to be, but there are a variety of other godless philosophies that have some valid guidance for human beings and even those mentioned above are not entirely lacking in loads of common sense.

You also appear to slap those atheists on this forum for a lack of genuine or original thinking, while they quote bible verses to make their points.  From my perspective, this is a complete misreading of what is going on here.  I have been on this forum since 2004 and I have read some of the most ingenius thoughts and provocative ideas from the atheists venting here.  We do not refer to bible scripture when we discourse amongst ourselves, but when christians challenge our positions by quoting scripture we are limited to quoting more (counterfactual) scripture in return, it simply wouldn’t be productive quoting Darwin or Wittgenstein when arguing with a christian.  Sometimes we do regress into bible-bashing amongst ourselves, but that is also productive in creating arguments that we can throw back at christian apologists at some future debate.

Bob

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Posted: 28 March 2007 05:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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[quote author=“CanZen”]It seems to me MDBeach that you are applauding Sam Harris for rendering the bible a pitiful guide to human life, but then you admonish him for not replacing it with something full of similar answers.  You feel that Sam has first rejected the bible, but then he has gone on to reject modern philosophy as the replacement.  I’m not sure how you arrived at that conclusion? I see that Sam has found some philosophies (i.e., Scientific Realism, Eliminative Materialism, Pragmatism) to be less than they promise to be, but there are a variety of other godless philosophies that have some valid guidance for human beings and even those mentioned above are not entirely lacking in loads of common sense.

You also appear to slap those atheists on this forum for a lack of genuine or original thinking, while they quote bible verses to make their points.  From my perspective, this is a complete misreading of what is going on here.  I have been on this forum since 2004 and I have read some of the most ingenius thoughts and provocative ideas from the atheists venting here.  We do not refer to bible scripture when we discourse amongst ourselves, but when christians challenge our positions by quoting scripture we are limited to quoting more (counterfactual) scripture in return, it simply wouldn’t be productive quoting Darwin or Wittgenstein when arguing with a christian.  Sometimes we do regress into bible-bashing amongst ourselves, but that is also productive in creating arguments that we can throw back at christian apologists at some future debate.

Bob

Canzen:

Thank you for reminding me to be clear about what I mean.  Say what you mean, don’t mean what you say, right?

I will attempt to clear this up after I get back from lunch, but for now, my perception is that quite a few members hide behind experts as if they are quoting the Bible, not atheists quoting the Bible.  My problem is the over reliance on expert’s thoughts instead of using our own logic.

All of the discussions on this board are productive, to an extent.  Some more than others.

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Posted: 28 March 2007 05:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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[quote author=“MDBeach”]The book destroys all justifications for all gods.  It also destroys justifications for any known philosophical theory that could have taken the place of a persons religion.  That is my point.  Once you strip the mystical powers of religion away, you are left with a philosophy on life.  Sam actually destroyed these philosophies.

Sam wrote his next book detailing the need to remove christian philosophy from the United States Government.  However, he does not give a philosophy to fill that void.


The correction of error is a good direction in which to go.


[quote author=“MDBeach”]As an example, atheists are now using these books as a Bible to find arguments concerning everything.  Much like Christians have done with their own bible, and Muslims with the Koran.  Yet, atheists apparently do not see the hypocritical nature of what they are doing, because when inside atheist circles, there is no one to challenge them.  They cling to other people’s ideas, and what some person who they deem to be an expert says.  Instead of using another person’s ideas and expanding on them, they are quoted as if scripture.  How many times have someone on this board said something like, I’m not sure about this, but so and so says this, so that must be right.


0

I don’t see much at all of what you’re suggesting, maybe none, depending upon how much of an argument from authority you’re claiming is common here. I don’t read a lot of the threads, but I’ve never seen this alleged problem in any I do read.


[quote author=“MDBeach”]When a counter opinion arises, the majority is quick to point out the minorities flaws, WHILE QUOTING THEIR VERSION OF THE CHRISTIAN BIBLE.  Am I the only person who sees this?


If I’m criticising a given believer’s position, what other version or interpretation of the Bible should I use? Would it make sense to argue against Bill’s alleged Bible-based position by submitting an argument against Fred’s, or anyone else’s but Bill’s? I’m guessing what you wrote isn’t quite what you actually meant to say. That’s a common (and to a significant degree inherent) problem with the medium of language, unfortunately.

Byron

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Posted: 28 March 2007 05:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“MDBeach”]I will attempt to clear this up after I get back from lunch, but for now, my perception is that quite a few members hide behind experts as if they are quoting the Bible, not atheists quoting the Bible.  My problem is the over reliance on expert’s thoughts instead of using our own logic.


Sound logic is sound logic. I think what you may be seeing is the use of well constructed, well communicated, popular arguments. They’re popular among critical thinkers for a reason, and it’s certainly not because they replace individual thought. It’s a good reason. Such arguments are popular among critical thinkers because they’re good arguments and recognized as such.

I know I’ve personally come up with a number of arguments entirely on my own and then discovered they were already coined. In fact I don’t think I’ve as yet come up with one to which I haven’t been beaten. However, although it’s not an argument, I do think the term religiostupidification is all mine!

Byron

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“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

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Posted: 28 March 2007 06:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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O.k.  what I mean:

It seems to me that in an effort to remove the philosophy of Christianity as our national philosophy, some very intelligent members of our society have chosen to adopt the science philosophy as an alternative.  In hard sciences like math, chemistry, physics, etc. this seems to work.

My problem with relying on experts on areas involving the human condition, the science behind the experts is junk.  Quoting a scientific type study in relation to psychology for example is a misnomer in and of itself.  There is nothing concrete about the study of psychology, and therefore the scientific approach can only attest to the fact that the study was done according to current scientific standards.  The validity of the results and the results themselves are nothing more than the subjective opinions of an interested researcher.  Now, perhaps this person is the world’s most educated and renowned expert on this subject.  Does that make a difference?  No.  He is still basing his findings on his own subjective beliefs.  However, because they are deemed an expert, people mistakenly make the assumption that the study equals truth.  As we know with the progressive nature of science, this is hardly ever the case.  This is the heart of my argument against quoting experts in an effort to bolster an argument.  For someone who does not understand how these studies are created and tested, they mistake a working hypothesis for concrete truth.  This inevitably stiffles original thought.

I can truly appreciate the candor of saying that every time I think I have thought of something new, I find it has already been coined.  It has happened to me several times on this board.  However, don’t make the mistake of assuming you have nothing new to add. 

New ideas never come when a society assumes everything needed to be considered has already been done.  New spins on old songs is how progress is made.

The above is why I openly question the need for anyone on this site to quote any outside source to prove a point.  If we are truly attempting to convert our society to reason and logic, then there is no legitimate reason why we, as freethinkers, can not compete intellectually with any expert out there.  Experts are just people like us who happen to have a lot of education in a specific area.  However, as an attorney, I stand behind the principle that experts are bought and sold by the people funding their research.  The problem is, any expert can use science to create any outcome they desire.  So what is the point in using them here?
I know this is rather short, but I do have a lot more to say about this topic.  Rather than spend oodles of time writing this out, maybe it would help this along if you guys critiqued what I have said so far.  Feel free to attack my statements, but please keep the personal attacks out of this.

[ Edited: 28 March 2007 06:50 AM by ]
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Posted: 28 March 2007 06:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“MDBeach”]my perception is that quite a few members hide behind experts as if they are quoting the Bible, not atheists quoting the Bible.  My problem is the over reliance on expert’s thoughts instead of using our own logic.

I just got done discussing this sort of thing over in Science on the Global Warming Swindle thread.  It’s difficult to solidly opine on items one is not exactly an expert in.  Sooner or later one will run into a field where he is lacking to some degree where he will find himself relying on expert interpretation of data surrounding the issue.

As far as hiding behind experts… we should applaud those who read all sides of any argument, get informed as much as they possibly can and then make the action items/ judgement calls based upon how they see it.  This process is much more difficult to do than appears at first glance.  There is no excuse for anyone to read Dawkins, drool like an idiot, and follow blindly without also knowing, at great depth, why they are doing so.  I hope you aren’t suggesting many atheists do that here. 

Perhaps you did not have GW in mind when you wrote what you did, but I think the same principle applies.

Noggin

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Posted: 28 March 2007 06:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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In fairness to Noggin, I was editing my last post before he wrote his response.

I am not actually commenting on any specific member on this board.  Especially not those that have weighed in so far.  This isn’t about members, it is about our way of reasoning as a whole.  But in small amounts, I can see this happening on this board.  Not to the extent of the Christians with their Bible, much smaller, but significant nonetheless.

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Posted: 28 March 2007 07:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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[quote author=“Noggin”]
. . .  It’s difficult to solidly opine on items one is not exactly an expert in.  Sooner or later one will run into a field where he is lacking to some degree where he will find himself relying on expert interpretation of data surrounding the issue.

Noggin, that’s the beauty of a place like this forum. Each contributing member has his/her own individual collection of expertise. It makes no sense even to hope to speak out in argument against some current theory of abiogenesis if you don’t have a substantial background knowledge of chemistry and probably biology. (Just picking a rough example—certainly not to knock what anyone’s said about abiogenesis here.) By “expertise” I mean both formal and informal training. An experienced mother who has raised children to be decent adults is an expert worth hearing from, for instance. This forum is host to various experts in many fields.

Current human civilization requires everyone to rely on the expertise of others. What an amazing fact of nature. We must, to an extent at least, bow down humbly to the brilliance or competence of others.

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Posted: 28 March 2007 07:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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An expert is not one who can explain the complexities of an issue, but rather he is one who can explain the simplicity of it.


Carl Sagan was exemplary in that ability.

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Posted: 28 March 2007 08:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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[quote author=“homunculus”]

Current human civilization requires everyone to rely on the expertise of others. What an amazing fact of nature. We must, to an extent at least, bow down humbly to the brilliance or competence of others.

This is what I honestly believe is the true culprit.  It isn’t religion, it isn’t science, it is our own self doubt that makes us followers instead of leaders.  This is where we have lost our way.

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Posted: 28 March 2007 08:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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[quote author=“MDBeach”][quote author=“homunculus”]

Current human civilization requires everyone to rely on the expertise of others. What an amazing fact of nature. We must, to an extent at least, bow down humbly to the brilliance or competence of others.

This is what I honestly believe is the true culprit.  It isn’t religion, it isn’t science, it is our own self doubt that makes us followers instead of leaders.  This is where we have lost our way.

Self doubt?  It isn’t self-doubt, but rather self-knowledge that causes us to realize that there are many topics about which we know very little.

And it isn’t sheepishness that forces us to trust experts.  Rather it is a recognition that, when we must trust others (which is quite often), we had better trust those with the training and knowledge that put them in a position to make the best decisions.

When I am sick, I don’t trust myself to make a diagnosis, I trust a doctor.  This isn’t blind obedience to authority.  It is pragmatic insight into the reality of the human condition.

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Posted: 28 March 2007 09:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”][quote author=“MDBeach”][quote author=“homunculus”]

Current human civilization requires everyone to rely on the expertise of others. What an amazing fact of nature. We must, to an extent at least, bow down humbly to the brilliance or competence of others.

This is what I honestly believe is the true culprit.  It isn’t religion, it isn’t science, it is our own self doubt that makes us followers instead of leaders.  This is where we have lost our way.

Self doubt?  It isn’t self-doubt, but rather self-knowledge that causes us to realize that there are many topics about which we know very little.

And it isn’t sheepishness that forces us to trust experts.  Rather it is a recognition that, when we must trust others (which is quite often), we had better trust those with the training and knowledge that put them in a position to make the best decisions.

When I am sick, I don’t trust myself to make a diagnosis, I trust a doctor.  This isn’t blind obedience to authority.  It is pragmatic insight into the reality of the human condition.

Are you sure?  Do you not trust yourself enough that you could read the same books and reach the same conclusion?  Especially if that conclusion is based in logic?  I am not talking about Joe who works at the gas station, I am talking about the best thinkers of this board.

In reality, we rely on experts because we are too lazy to look the stuff up ourselves.  I agree that we have to use experts who have training and knowledge to make things easier for us, but in reality we replace their judgment for our own. 

When do you see this human condition starting that required us to rely on experts?  I say this phenomenon is less than 100 years old.  This takes it out of the realm as a truth about human existence and instead places it within a current trend.

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