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My problem with Sam and his books
Posted: 09 April 2007 07:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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[quote author=“HappyHeathen”]

If this is true, then no replacement is needed. Only some explanation.

Well this explanation could be the “replacement”. Of course a replacement that wont have the same flavor of what it replaces.

Don’t forget that philosophy is somewhere between religion and science plus that explanation is one of it’s aims.

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Posted: 09 April 2007 07:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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I have said this earlier in this discussion I believe, but I do not think explaining errors will make them go away.  There will be far too many too scared to question what they were brought up with.  They will keep calling the “enlightened” heretics.  The war between atheism and theism started when humans began asking questions.  If it were possible to win on those terms, atheists have had thousands of years to win, and they haven’t even made a dent.  Time to reframe the question.

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Posted: 09 April 2007 10:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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I think Sam does not propose that we burn our religious texts, but look at them with more honesty. We can find beauty and compassion which are high ideals from some of the words of the OT prophets and Jesus while throwing away the things that are not useful. The justification of violence, rape, murder, misogyny etc.  Call it an Evolution of Ideas.

My problem with Sam is not his questioning of religious ideas, but rather the weight he gives it. 

If religion is at fault with toxic ideas, is not science equally to blame with industrialization, pollution and the extinction of our planet?  I also think economics trumps religious extremism in most cases. The economic rulership caused by the more “advanced” or “modern”  societies have oppressed third world countries and upheld dictatorships (the hotbed of extremism) and has given justification for survival at any means…including religion. 

Is this Darwinian “survival of the fittest” cause for concern? 

Is religion just the “fruit” while the “love of money” is at the root?

Pharmaceutical companies have helped cure us, kill us and turned some of us into addicts and puppets for marketing….is this good medicine?

Even if you remove religion, you will have Atheists of “compassion” vs Atheists of “survival of the fittest.”

From one Atheist to another tell me why Compassion should trump survival and if it ends with me, why should I care?

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Posted: 09 April 2007 10:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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[quote author=“nomad”]I think Sam does not propose that we burn our religious texts, but look at them with more honesty. We can find beauty and compassion which are high ideals from some of the words of the OT prophets and Jesus while throwing away the things that are not useful. The justification of violence, rape, murder, misogyny etc.  Call it an Evolution of Ideas.

My problem with Sam is not his questioning of religious ideas, but rather the weight he gives it. 

If religion is at fault with toxic ideas, is not science equally to blame with industrialization, pollution and the extinction of our planet?

I think you ask the right question concerning an evolution of ideas. I’ve been thinking much the same.

Now: what’s the difference between science and religion? Scientists don’t kling on to old bad ideas - when there are new and better ideas there, but there are people today who still find the bad parts of the religious texts valid.

EDIT:
Let me correct myself on the first part, because I was a bit quick. Yes, there has been an evolution, also within religion, and I think that liberal religion is the result. It combines common sense and scientific thinking with a little mystique and a pie in the sky. It is unprincipled, theologically wrong, scientifically wrong… but it works for the believers. Just like biological evolution, it’s not about what’s best, but about what works.
But as any compromise, it leaves a lot to be desired. For the Atheist, the problem is that a living religion can still go back to old bloody habits which is what has happened in Islam, and to an extent in USA. And violent or not, it continues to cloud people’s judgement.
And for many of the conservative religious, it’s a perversion of true belief…

So, while I certainly can find sympathetic traits in liberal religion, I find a much more sympathetic totality in i.e. secular humanism. It’s without superstition and with the interests for mankind in mind. Why should we then need religion?

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Posted: 11 April 2007 10:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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Not sure if this was discussed but,

In terms of finding good viewpoints on secular morality that Sam touches on, I would suggest reading the philosophies of John Stewart Mill, Immanuel Kant, John Rawls, John Locke and Thomas Jefferson.  Kant uses the terms duty for what is considered moral, but the basis is similar to human happiness…. not exactly the same, but similar. 

These philosophers give a good range of why people choose or should be moral.  Obviously I don’t agree with everything they say, but their arguments in many areas help solidify morality as being a part of something separate from religion.

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Posted: 19 April 2007 10:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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When embedding rights in legislation I think that it is a generally good idea to be vague.  When things are specified in great detail it leaves the door open for governments to expand into the areas outside of what is specifically listed.  When the language is vague it leaves the door open for further limitation of what governments can do.  There are certain things, of course, that have to be spelled out setting limits of government.

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Posted: 20 April 2007 03:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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[quote author=“nomad”]

If religion is at fault with toxic ideas, is not science equally to blame with industrialization, pollution and the extinction of our planet?

I’m late in joining this thread, but I have to jump in here.

This sentiment is, I think, absolutely false.

The job of the scientist is to discover physical truths about ourselves, our world, and our universe.

Pure science is pure discovery.  Knowing that a small amount of mass contains a vast amount of energy is one thing.  Application of that knowledge can come in many forms.  Is it better that we remain ignorant of the nature of the fundamental concepts of nature, and in the process remain free of all possible applications of that knowledge, or that we gain a greater understanding of the wonderful universe in which we live, and recognize that we have a duty to protect it?  I am firmly in the latter camp.

Scientists (Disclaimer: I am a scientist…Ph.D., molecular biology) are not responsible for what they discover.  Scientists do not have a responsibility to only discover things that are palatable to society.  Society has a responsibility not to use scientific discoveries in a destructive manner.  But make no mistake, the hydrogen bomb exists because of the equivalence of mass and energy; this is a real, demonstrable, physical truth.  Its use may be evil, but that’s not the fault of science; it’s the fault of those who use it; these people are not scientists, and they are not doing so in the name of science.

Similarly, religion presents a set of tenets.  Of course, none of them are based on actual, demonstrable truths.  And once again, the fault for evil things done in the name of religion lies squarely with those who do evil things; and those things are done in the name of religion.  Moreover, we have no idea whether or not those things are what god actually wants; if god wants us to kill adulterers, then that would be a literal truth about the universe.  I’m still waiting on the evidence that suggests this is the case.

Science presents a set of truths, derived from evidence.  That’s it.

Religion presents a set of beliefs, derived from nothing.  That’s it.

The users of this information are to blame for evil things.  When science teaches us that killing in its name is a universal truth (which would, by definition, be based on evidence), then science will be to blame.  Religion already does this, but based on nothing.

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Posted: 20 April 2007 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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[quote author=“edge100”]

Science presents a set of truths, derived from evidence.  That’s it.

Religion presents a set of beliefs, derived from nothing.  That’s it.

The users of this information are to blame for evil things.  When science teaches us that killing in its name is a universal truth (which would, by definition, be based on evidence), then science will be to blame.  Religion already does this, but based on nothing.

 

I would disagree with this in a couple of ways.  The mild way is that the evidence collected by science is always done within a theoretical/paradigmatic context that is evaluated by other than empirical means (it is also evaluated empirically).  The more serious disagreement is with the second statement: I would say that religion presents a set of beliefs derived from personal experience with particular states of consciousness.  These beliefs are presented in a symbolic way that allows a follower of the religion to attain those states.  In almost every case, however, followers focus attention on the beliefs and treat them as dogma rather than as working tools of personal development.  This means that the beliefs “crystalize” and it is the job of religious teachers in each generation to renew the beliefs (and their symbolic representations) in the context of the times.  That is why every major religion has a range of adherents from rabid fundamentalism to mystical transcendence.  In one of his books, the sufi teacher Idries Shah commented on people who sought to become sufis by studying the teaching manuals of the medieval dervish orders: he remarked that such people would end up as exemplary medieval gentlemen, unfit for the modern world. 

My point is that religious beliefs are not based on nothing, but because the methods of using them in the way they were originally intended are not as easy to transmit as the methods of science, they become dogma much more easily.  Scientific theories can be taken dogmatically as well, however, and there are examples of this through the history of science.

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Posted: 26 April 2007 05:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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[quote author=“HappyHeathen”][quote author=“MDBeach”]What philosophy to guide morals and ethics does Sam or anyone recommend for general use? 

If it’s true that morals and ethics are already present, without religion, and that believers simply use the existence of morals and ethics to buttress their belief in religion, then wouldn’t it also be true that if they drop religion, the morals and ethics would remain nonetheless?

If this is true, then no replacement is needed. Only some explanation.

There is a book which I have not really begun called “Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism” by Richard Carrier. That might be a good place to start.


On the contrary, there needs to be a replacement in the form of foundation. It is of my understanding that Atheists cannot provide a philosophical groundwork for absolute morality since there is no objective source in which to draw such a conclusion.

Unfortunately Atheists are stuck with the fact that morality is subjective, and this being the case makes your assumptions on the morality of the religious and anyone else pointless really.

I mean no rudeness in my remarks, but there really is no way to create this objective standard. Period. You guys are stuck with what you have, which is basically personal preference and the Iron Rule.


And I have read some of “Sense and Goodness Without God”, and from what I have read I agree with said reviewer on the matter when he states all the obvious contradictions and lipservice played to a morality that Harris can only fabricate in the deepest areas of his desires.

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Posted: 26 April 2007 05:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”][quote author=“edge100”]

Science presents a set of truths, derived from evidence.  That’s it.

Religion presents a set of beliefs, derived from nothing.  That’s it.

The users of this information are to blame for evil things.  When science teaches us that killing in its name is a universal truth (which would, by definition, be based on evidence), then science will be to blame.  Religion already does this, but based on nothing.

 

I would disagree with this in a couple of ways.  The mild way is that the evidence collected by science is always done within a theoretical/paradigmatic context that is evaluated by other than empirical means (it is also evaluated empirically).  The more serious disagreement is with the second statement: I would say that religion presents a set of beliefs derived from personal experience with particular states of consciousness.  These beliefs are presented in a symbolic way that allows a follower of the religion to attain those states.  In almost every case, however, followers focus attention on the beliefs and treat them as dogma rather than as working tools of personal development.  This means that the beliefs “crystalize” and it is the job of religious teachers in each generation to renew the beliefs (and their symbolic representations) in the context of the times.  That is why every major religion has a range of adherents from rabid fundamentalism to mystical transcendence.  In one of his books, the sufi teacher Idries Shah commented on people who sought to become sufis by studying the teaching manuals of the medieval dervish orders: he remarked that such people would end up as exemplary medieval gentlemen, unfit for the modern world. 

My point is that religious beliefs are not based on nothing, but because the methods of using them in the way they were originally intended are not as easy to transmit as the methods of science, they become dogma much more easily.  Scientific theories can be taken dogmatically as well, however, and there are examples of this through the history of science.

While I admire this response I wish to add my own comments to the often stated cliched view that Religion is not based on any foundation at all. It is in fact dishonest to state that religion lacks evidence. If I may, a good example can be brought up within Christianity and Islam, which base much on the foundation of personal testimony and history. These are in fact evidences. Also, both use such things as cosmology for evidence. These are in fact, all evidences. There is also a strong grouping of evidence within Philosophy.

To say that Science is all that is based on truth and backed by evidence is in fact wrong. Science does in fact require substantial amounts of faith, especially today as Science is formed on the foundation of metaphysical naturalism (a philosophy) and reason, which also must be accounted for in it’s own right (but I feel, as Alvin Plantinga has eloquently proven, metaphysical naturalism makes rationale and reasoning impossible to determine). Is this to say that Science is wrong? No, not at all. Also, a Theistic worldview does not dismiss science, but rather uses it as yet another set of evidences.

It is a rather poor fallacy to committ when saying only science has evidence and truth, while religion is for the blind sheep of the world who can’t think and aren’t worthy to express their views.

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Posted: 26 April 2007 06:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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M,

Please explain Plantinga’s argument.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
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Posted: 27 April 2007 03:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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[quote author=“M”]
While I admire this response I wish to add my own comments to the often stated cliched view that Religion is not based on any foundation at all. It is in fact dishonest to state that religion lacks evidence. If I may, a good example can be brought up within Christianity and Islam, which base much on the foundation of personal testimony and history. These are in fact evidences. Also, both use such things as cosmology for evidence. These are in fact, all evidences. There is also a strong grouping of evidence within Philosophy.

I wouldn’t go looking for evidence supporting religion in science, particularly in cosmology.  After all, the great Astral religion of the ancient world did exactly that and wouldn’t you know it, along comes Copernicus and all that evidence vanishes and the Astral religion is reduced to the astrology columns in the daily newspapers.

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Posted: 27 April 2007 04:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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[quote author=“MDBeach”]What philosophy to guide morals and ethics does Sam or anyone recommend for general use?

Morals and ethics don’t have to come from religion and don’t require a belief in the supernatural. I believe Sam addressed this point in his books - if a religion’s morals have value, why bother with the religion at all, at least the doctrines about the supernatural?

Plus, some of the Abrahamic religions’ teachings have nothing to do with human morality and have everything to do with placating deity. The Ten Commandments portray a God who is so jealous that he forbids humans from using his name in vain and demands an entire day be set aside in his honor.

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Posted: 27 April 2007 04:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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Sam said no such thing to my recollection regarding a need to remove spirituality.  Please cite.

This the same topic I attempted to address in my post stating my problem with Sam’s books.

Sam did a great job of attacking every current possible replacement for spirituality at their foundation.  It is allowing atheists to cherry pick his arguments to support any argument like Christians with a Bible.

Look at the only post made by Sam on this forum.  He plainly states that he isn’t attempting to tell us what should be done.

I am personally of the opinion that it is an utter waste of time to debase a majority of societies moral and value system without offering a functional alternative. 

To deny that America’s current moral system is based on anything but Christian belief structure is an attempt to deny the history of America post WWII and post New Deal. 

The truth is Christianity can be beautiful just like Islam can be beautiful if looked at through a moderate lens.  But we fear Christianity not for what it is now but for what it has the potential to be when not being used to justify pacifism.

Because Christianity has not yet become volatile and militaristic enough at this point for public opinion to begin to sway against organized religion, all these books like Sam’s that do not offer an alternative to tradition, will do nothing but drive Christians closer to their roots for comfort.  Sheeple will always need something to believe in.  Not everyone has a desire to find the rationale behind their beliefs.  The easiest way to prove this is to ask a Christian about his faith, then continue to ask why no matter how they respond.  They will most always become irritated when you probe deep enough to find an explanation that defies logic.  Usually, my conversations have become counter productive at that point, and get treated to a heaping helping of blind (unreasoned) faith.

I have a lot to say on this subject, but I believe I have said something for everyone at this point.  I do love a good debate.

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Posted: 27 April 2007 05:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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I recognize the difference between spirituality and the supernatural.  Most Christians fail to make the distinction, and we are doing a piss poor job of illustrating this to unenlightened people.  It seems like we are doing as much harm as good without a clear obtainable plan.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and organized religion probably won’t fall in the near future the way it is currently being fought.

I also recognize the fact morals and values do not have to come from religion, but acknowledging the fact it can further demonstrates the need to show why it is BETTER to not rely on religion.  A stable foundation is always the hardest to undermine.

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