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Was The End of Faith the Beginning?
Posted: 24 December 2008 08:30 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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I like to think that Sam Harris’s The End of Faith book in 2004 was really the start of this 21st century Atheist Revolution, call it what you may. Next came Dawkin’s God Delusion and Hitchens’s God Is Not Great. So did Harris’s book start it all? Can you remember any atheist books published before it that could be said to have started it? I can’t, and it makes me proud to know that an American began the revolution considering the surplus of media attention over Dawkins’s publication.

This does bring up one interesting question, though. In all these publications 9/11 is mentioned as a kind of crucial point in these authors’ minds. Would any of these books have been likely to have come out were it not for 9/11?

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Posted: 25 December 2008 12:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Giova - 25 December 2008 01:30 AM

I like to think that Sam Harris’s The End of Faith book in 2004 was really the start of this 21st century Atheist Revolution, call it what you may. Next came Dawkin’s God Delusion and Hitchens’s God Is Not Great. So did Harris’s book start it all? Can you remember any atheist books published before it that could be said to have started it? I can’t, and it makes me proud to know that an American began the revolution considering the surplus of media attention over Dawkins’s publication.

This does bring up one interesting question, though. In all these publications 9/11 is mentioned as a kind of crucial point in these authors’ minds. Would any of these books have been likely to have come out were it not for 9/11?

His books were entertaining but really brought nothing new to the table. Atheists and atheism were here long before Sam Harris, he simply had the right book at the right time. He later created a shit storm when he wrote, The Problem of Atheism, which many Samites supported.

http://richarddawkins.net/article,1702,The-Problem-with-Atheism,Sam-Harris

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Posted: 25 December 2008 12:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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It really is unfathomable to me how ‘the problem with atheism’ could become such an issue.

I mean, except for reading the topic name out of context, there is nothing at all provocative about it.

I didn’t react when I heard that speech at AAI, it did not occur to me to be anything but just common sense observations.

He just said, having a name for not believing in this thing, puts us in the line of fire for those who do believe it. Since it could be interpreted as an admission that the issue itself carries more weight than it actually does.

And that speech actually, perhaps even subconscioussly made me alter how I spoke about non belief. If someone asks me today if I believe in god, I no longer reply that no I’m an atheist. I just reply that, no I don’t believe in any god.
Its the same thing but as Sam did point out, the word atheist, by how our language is constructed sort of hints at a doctrine or an ism. Even though its essentially a mind trick that the word comes through that way in our head.

We note the ism at the end of the word because putting an a in front to indicate negation is not a common practice. If the word was nontheist we would hear it very differently.

Usually after I answer that I do not believe in god people still try to reel me in by following up with “so you are an atheist?”
To which I will just reply, “well a-theist just means not a theist, as I don’t follow an organized religion that obviously means that I am not a theist yeah”.

Likewise do I now actually push people when they say they are an agnostic and not an atheist, by asking them what they mean, either they are a theist or not. If they do not follow a religion, which is true for all people who call themselves agnostics, then they are atheists. Regardless of whether or not they think for sure that there is no god, or if they are just not interested in a stance.

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Posted: 25 December 2008 01:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Unbeliever - 25 December 2008 05:34 PM

It really is unfathomable to me how ‘the problem with atheism’ could become such an issue.

I mean, except for reading the topic name out of context, there is nothing at all provocative about it.

I didn’t react when I heard that speech at AAI, it did not occur to me to be anything but just common sense observations.

He just said, having a name for not believing in this thing, puts us in the line of fire for those who do believe it. Since it could be interpreted as an admission that the issue itself carries more weight than it actually does.

And that speech actually, perhaps even subconscioussly made me alter how I spoke about non belief. If someone asks me today if I believe in god, I no longer reply that no I’m an atheist. I just reply that, no I don’t believe in any god.
Its the same thing but as Sam did point out, the word atheist, by how our language is constructed sort of hints at a doctrine or an ism. Even though its essentially a mind trick that the word comes through that way in our head.

We note the ism at the end of the word because putting an a in front to indicate negation is not a common practice. If the word was nontheist we would hear it very differently.

Usually after I answer that I do not believe in god people still try to reel me in by following up with “so you are an atheist?”
To which I will just reply, “well a-theist just means not a theist, as I don’t follow an organized religion that obviously means that I am not a theist yeah”.

Likewise do I now actually push people when they say they are an agnostic and not an atheist, by asking them what they mean, either they are a theist or not. If they do not follow a religion, which is true for all people who call themselves agnostics, then they are atheists. Regardless of whether or not they think for sure that there is no god, or if they are just not interested in a stance.

I understand your view it is the more common one, but as a positive atheist I do not “lack belief in gods” I deny they exist.  We just had a nice rehash of atheistic views on one of IS’ threads.

oops this is the thread http://www.samharris.org/forum/viewthread/11356/

[ Edited: 25 December 2008 01:40 PM by GAD]
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Posted: 25 December 2008 02:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Whats the difference really. The difference between “denying” the existance of god, and not believing in the existance of god?

Its non theism all the same, I feel that this constant drawing of lines between how “sure” you are that there is no god is just completely irrelevant. As if there were not enough actual differences between people to debate.

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Posted: 25 December 2008 03:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Giova - 25 December 2008 01:30 AM

So did Harris’s book start it all? Can you remember any atheist books published before it that could be said to have started it? I can’t, and it makes me proud to know that an American began the revolution considering the surplus of media attention over Dawkins’s publication.

Continue on with your pride in America, and I can’t say who was first, but I would certainly include Twain’s “Letters from Earth,” 1909 I believe, excerpt to follow.  (Note, Twain would also lampoon your pride “to know that an American began the revolution…”

For instance, take this sample: he has imagined a heaven, and has left entirely out of it the supremest of all his delights, the one ecstasy that stands first and foremost in the heart of every individual of his race—and of ours—sexual intercourse!

It is as if a lost and perishing person in a roasting desert should be told by a rescuer he might choose and have all longed-for things but one, and he should elect to leave out water!

His heaven is like himself: strange, interesting, astonishing, grotesque. I give you my word, it has not a single feature in it that he actually values. It consists—utterly and entirely—of diversions which he cares next to nothing about, here in the earth, yet is quite sure he will like them in heaven. Isn’t it curious? Isn’t it interesting? You must not think I am exaggerating, for it is not so.

and this ...

One of his principle religions is called the Christian. A sketch of it will interest you. It sets forth in detail in a book containing two million words, called the Old and New Testaments. Also it has another name—The Word of God. For the Christian thinks every word of it was dictated by God—the one I have been speaking of.

It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.

This Bible is built mainly out of the fragments of older Bibles that had their day and crumbled to ruin. So it noticeably lacks in originality, necessarily. Its three or four most imposing and impressive events all happened in earlier Bibles; all its best precepts and rules of conduct came also from those Bibles; there are only two new things in it: hell, for one, and that singular heaven I have told you about.

What shall we do? If we believe, with these people, that their God invented these cruel things, we slander him; if we believe that these people invented them themselves, we slander them. It is an unpleasant dilemma in either case, for neither of these parties has done us any harm.

For the sake of tranquility, let us take a side. Let us join forces with the people and put the whole ungracious burden upon him—heaven, hell, Bible and all. It does not seem right, it does not seem fair; and yet when you consider that heaven, and how crushingly charged it is with everything that is repulsive to a human being, how can we believe a human being invented it? And when I come to tell you about hell, the stain will be greater still, and you will be likely to say, No, a man would not provide that place, for either himself or anybody else; he simply couldn’t.

That innocent Bible tells about the Creation. Of what—the universe? Yes, the universe. In six days!

God did it. He did not call it the universe—that name is modern. His whole attention was upon this world. He constructed it in five days—and then? It took him only one day to make twenty million suns and eighty million planets!

What were they for—according to this idea? To furnish light for this little toy-world. That was his whole purpose; he had no other. One of the twenty million suns (the smallest one) was to light it in the daytime, the rest were to help one of the universe’s countless moons modify the darkness of its nights. [...]

For three hundred years, now, the Christian astronomer has known that his Deity didn’t make the stars in those tremendous six days; but the Christian astronomer does not enlarge upon that detail. Neither does the priest.

[...]According to the Book and its servants the universe is only six thousand years old. It is only within the last hundred years that studious, inquiring minds have found out that it is nearer a hundred million.

During the Six Days, God created man and the other animals.

He made a man and a woman and placed them in a pleasant garden, along with the other creatures. they all lived together there in harmony and contentment and blooming youth for some time; then trouble came. God had warned the man and the woman that they must not eat of the fruit of a certain tree. And he added a most strange remark: he said that if they ate of it they should surely die. Strange, for the reason that inasmuch as they had never seen a sample death they could not possibly know what he meant. Neither would he nor any other god have been able to make those ignorant children understand what was meant, without furnishing a sample. The mere word could have no meaning for them, any more than it would have for an infant of days.

Presently a serpent sought them out privately, and came to them walking upright, which was the way of serpents in those days. The serpent said the forbidden fruit would store their vacant minds with knowledge. So they ate it, which was quite natural, for man is so made that he eagerly wants to know; whereas the priest, like God, whose imitator and representative he is, has made it his business from the beginning to keep him from knowing any useful thing.

Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and at once a great light streamed into their dim heads. They had acquired knowledge. What knowledge—useful knowledge? No—merely knowledge that there was such a thing as good, and such a thing as evil, and how to do evil. they couldn’t do it before. Therefore all their acts up to this time had been without stain, without blame, without offense.

But now they could do evil—and suffer for it; now they had acquired what the Church calls an invaluable possession, the Moral Sense; that sense which differentiates man from the beast and sets him above the beast. Instead of below the beast—where one would suppose his proper place would be, since he is always foul-minded and guilty and the beast always clean-minded and innocent. It is like valuing a watch that must go wrong, above a watch that can’t.

[...]Very well, Adam and Eve now knew what evil was, and how to do it. They knew how to do various kinds of wrong things, and among them one principal one—the one God had his mind on principally. That one was the art and mystery of sexual intercourse. To them it was a magnificent discovery, and they stopped idling around and turned their entire attention to it, poor exultant young things!

In the midst of one of these celebrations they heard God walking among the bushes, which was an afternoon custom of his, and they were smitten with fright. Why? Because they were naked. They had not known it before. They had not minded it before; neither had God.

In that memorable moment immodesty was born; and some people have valued it ever since, though it would certainly puzzle them to explain why.

Adam and Eve entered the world naked and unashamed—naked and pure-minded; and no descendant of theirs has ever entered it otherwise. All have entered it naked, unashamed, and clean in mind. They have entered it modest. They had to acquire immodesty and the soiled mind; there was no other way to get it. A Christian mother’s first duty is to soil her child’s mind, and she does not neglect it. Her lad grows up to be a missionary, and goes to the innocent savage and to the civilized Japanese, and soils their minds. Whereupon they adopt immodesty, they conceal their bodies, they stop bathing naked together.

[...] To proceed with the Biblical curiosities. Naturally you will think the threat to punish Adam and Eve for disobeying was of course not carried out, since they did not create themselves, nor their natures nor their impulses nor their weaknesses, and hence were not properly subject to anyone’s commands, and not responsible to anybody for their acts. It will surprise you to know that the threat was carried out. Adam and Eve were punished, and that crime finds apologists unto this day. The sentence of death was executed.

As you perceive, the only person responsible for the couple’s offense escaped; and not only escaped but became the executioner of the innocent.

In your country and mine we should have the privilege of making fun of this kind of morality, but it would be unkind to do it here. Many of these people have the reasoning faculty, but no one uses it in religious matters.

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Posted: 25 December 2008 05:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Unbeliever - 25 December 2008 07:03 PM

Whats the difference really. The difference between “denying” the existance of god, and not believing in the existance of god?

Its non theism all the same, I feel that this constant drawing of lines between how “sure” you are that there is no god is just completely irrelevant. As if there were not enough actual differences between people to debate.

The difference in the world view between the two is large. My views are stated on the referenced thread. This is one of the things I disagree with Harris on, but more then that it is all the little Samites who didn’t feel good about calling themselves atheists who think Harris is brilliant for saying atheist is a dirty word that really bugs me.

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Posted: 25 December 2008 05:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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teuchter - 25 December 2008 08:49 PM

Continue on with your pride in America, and I can’t say who was first, but I would certainly include Twain’s “Letters from Earth,” 1909 I believe, excerpt to follow.  (Note, Twain would also lampoon your pride “to know that an American began the revolution…”

I’m talking about the movement that began in the 21st century, particularly after 9/11. I’m well aware of nonreligious people like Bertrand Russel and Robert Ingersoll who are of a much earlier date. And there’s nothing wrong with my admiring a fellow American who beat everyone else to the chase. I’m saying nothing against any one else.

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Posted: 25 December 2008 05:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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teuchter - 25 December 2008 08:49 PM

(quoting Mark Twain)
For instance, take this sample: he has imagined a heaven, and has left entirely out of it the supremest of all his delights, the one ecstasy that stands first and foremost in the heart of every individual of his race—and of ours—sexual intercourse!

I am interested in knowing what the women on this forum would think about Mark Twain’s observation here. Is sexual intercourse “the one ecstasy that stands first and foremost” in your hearts?  If the women on this forum could create their own heaven, what place, if any, would sexual intercourse have? I think Mr. Twain is speaking more from the male perspective.

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Posted: 25 December 2008 05:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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GAD - 25 December 2008 10:33 PM

The difference in the world view between the two is large. My views are stated on the referenced thread. This is one of the things I disagree with Harris on, but more then that it is all the little Samites who didn’t feel good about calling themselves atheists who think Harris is brilliant for saying atheist is a dirty word that really bugs me.

Never does he say that atheist is a dirty word, he said that it is a word that makes it easier to misrepresent non believers, and perhaps its not very strategical long term to use that word.

Again, I can’t fathom why people are making such a fuss about that.

edit: And I read the thread you linked. I don’t find anything that really relates to what I said.

Please explain what the big difference is between claiming that you deny god, and that you don’t believe that there is a god, or any other non proven things for that matter.

Where are the “large” differences. To me its just words, both statements means the same to me and I could use both statements to describe my own position without feeling like I am misrepresenting the truth.

[ Edited: 25 December 2008 05:50 PM by Unbeliever]
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Posted: 25 December 2008 05:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Bruce Burleson - 25 December 2008 10:42 PM
teuchter - 25 December 2008 08:49 PM

(quoting Mark Twain)
For instance, take this sample: he has imagined a heaven, and has left entirely out of it the supremest of all his delights, the one ecstasy that stands first and foremost in the heart of every individual of his race—and of ours—sexual intercourse!

I am interested in knowing what the women on this forum would think about Mark Twain’s observation here. Is sexual intercourse “the one ecstasy that stands first and foremost” in your hearts?  If the women on this forum could create their own heaven, what place, if any, would sexual intercourse have? I think Mr. Twain is speaking more from the male perspective.

The male perspective, unlike the bible…....

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Posted: 25 December 2008 06:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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GAD - 25 December 2008 10:51 PM

The male perspective, unlike the bible…....

No doubt, the Bible is written more from the male perspective than female. But I would like to hear a woman comment on Twain’s claim.

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Posted: 25 December 2008 06:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Bruce Burleson - 25 December 2008 10:42 PM

If the women on this forum could create their own heaven, what place, if any, would sexual intercourse have? I think Mr. Twain is speaking more from the male perspective.

Underestimate female sexuality at your own peril, Bruce.  I realize that you follow a religion in which poor Mary got pregnant without even getting to have sex with god.  Leda had it better.

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Posted: 25 December 2008 06:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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teuchter - 25 December 2008 11:04 PM
Bruce Burleson - 25 December 2008 10:42 PM

If the women on this forum could create their own heaven, what place, if any, would sexual intercourse have? I think Mr. Twain is speaking more from the male perspective.

Underestimate female sexuality at your own peril, Bruce.  I realize that you follow a religion in which poor Mary got pregnant without even getting to have sex with god.  Leda had it better.

I’m still waiting for the chicks to respond. Where are the chicks? This forum has more men than the Bible. Too many dudes.  We need gals, babes, chickipoos, anybody with estrogen. I ask for female comment, and all I get are those who piss against the wall.

And then there’s teuchter, who apparently thinks sex with swans is cool.

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Posted: 25 December 2008 06:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Giova - 25 December 2008 10:34 PM
teuchter - 25 December 2008 08:49 PM

Continue on with your pride in America, and I can’t say who was first, but I would certainly include Twain’s “Letters from Earth,” 1909 I believe, excerpt to follow.  (Note, Twain would also lampoon your pride “to know that an American began the revolution…”

I’m talking about the movement that began in the 21st century, particularly after 9/11. I’m well aware of nonreligious people like Bertrand Russel and Robert Ingersoll who are of a much earlier date. And there’s nothing wrong with my admiring a fellow American who beat everyone else to the chase. I’m saying nothing against any one else.

I’m sorry.  I didn’t realize you were asking whether Harris was the first person to articulately criticize religion as of the date of the publication of Harris’ book.  Yes, from the date of the publication of Harris’ book forward, Harris was the first.  However, the first person to raise these issues as of 12/25/08 at 8:30 p.m. is YOU!  Congratulations. Be proud!

Now, who will be the first person after 12/25/08 at 8:30 p.m. to sort this statement out?

Giova - 25 December 2008 10:34 PM

I’m well aware of nonreligious people like Bertrand Russel and Robert Ingersoll who are of a much earlier date. And there’s nothing wrong with my admiring a fellow American who beat everyone else to the chase.

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Posted: 25 December 2008 06:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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teuchter - 25 December 2008 11:13 PM

I’m sorry.  I didn’t realize you were asking whether Harris was the first person to articulately criticize religion as of the date of the publication of Harris’ book.

Yeah. Realizing isn’t exactly your strong point. 

Yes, from the date of the publication of Harris’ book forward, Harris was the first.  However, the first person to raise these issues as of 12/25/08 at 8:30 p.m. is YOU!  Congratulations. Be proud!

And the first person to answer these issues is YOU! Congratulations. Be proud!

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