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The End of Faith as Propaganda
Posted: 07 February 2008 12:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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When a contradiction in your argument is pointed out, it is not semantics, it is a flaw in your reasoning and a reflection of the validity of your argument.  Mike, you do not seem to be listening to anyone.  In fact, you are so set to your pre-conceived beliefs that you will not even listen to someone who experienced US intervention in Bosnia firsthand.  To avoid another lengthy, somewhat disorganized, intermittently capitalized response on your part, Mike, allow me to try to clarify what you have said. 

You believe that TEoF is propaganda, particularly the way it condemns religion, and especially in its portrayal of Islam.

You believe that there are more serious, dangerous beliefs than religion.  (e.g. jingoistic patriotism, secularism, polital moderation??)

It seems that you have great contempt for US foreign policy, particularly that of the Bush administration.  Condemning politcal causes as problematic does not exonerate religion as another source of violence, wrongdoing, and an impediment to progress.  It does not have to be “politics is the problem not religion,” instead of “religion is the problem, not politics.”  Both issues should be examined separately in order to determine their respective effects.  Please don’t give examples like “religion is good because people build houses in its name or people make donations because of religion.”  These are invalid arguments.  People do good acts in the name of secularism also.  Charities and kind acts do not only occur in the name of religion.  Religion is not needed to justify moral acts, only immoral ones.  I think you should pause for a second and decide what aspects of the religious vs. secular debate are actually applicable to your politcal opinions.

Finally, you keep saying that the what (actions) are to be judged and the why is secondary.  Our response to the actions are necessary for justice, for determining the consequences for evil actions.  Only a simple mind would stop there.  By thinking about ‘why’ we give ourselves the opportunity to prevent more of the ‘what’ and improve the world in which we live.  Asking ‘why’ is the best thing we can do, and by your investigations, Mike, you are attempting to answer the ‘why’ questions.

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Posted: 07 February 2008 01:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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People get awards all the time for doing volunteer work? Why would you, M357, volunteer to do something good? Is it for extrinsic awards, or intrinsic rewards? Is it to look good on your resume? Or a genuine concern for the cause? Honesty, sincerity, and generosity from the heart, are more valued and esteemed.

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Posted: 07 February 2008 04:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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I didn’t understand the point above, so I can’t comment.  The one above it raised some interesting issues, but most were just a recap of what I said.

  Contrary to what is posted I have responded to all the arguments, as for Bosnia, again, that was beside the point and even if somebody disagreed with that in the list it has no bearing on the point I made.  It certainly isn’t contradictory, as I pointed out in my last post. 

  The comment above makes it sounds as if condemning american foreign policy somehow makes that particular point invalid.  I don’t quite understand how that is, besides, we were talking about MILITARY foreign policy, not every single aspect of US policy, which would be probably hundreds of thousands of different issues. 

  As for what it is I’m not listening to I can’t comment except on what I read.  If somebody wants to point out why exactly its inconsistent then they’ll have to cut and paste it again because I certainly didn’t see it in any replies. 

You believe that there are more serious, dangerous beliefs than religion.  (e.g. jingoistic patriotism, secularism, polital moderation??)

  Thats a little too simplistic and don’t think I said that. I don’t think beliefs are dangerous AT ALL.  The vast majority of beliefs do not have people acting immorally at all.  Political moderation isn’t a ‘belief’, I don’t know what you’d call it but a collection of beliefs that lead to certain actions.  And I think what I said was that political moderation is far more a problem than religious moderation.

It seems that you have great contempt for US foreign policy, particularly that of the Bush administration.

  That is irrelevant, however, I think I can safely say that the Bush administration generates not much more than contempt, and that is true even among republicans (I’m on the mailing list of several republican organizations and can safely say that).  But again, thats’ a little too close to ‘your just unamerican’ as though that itself renders arguments void.  But again, we are talking about military, and only a few cases, and only typically at the behest of a very few, albeit powerful people’. 

Condemning politcal causes as problematic does not exonerate religion as another source of violence, wrongdoing, and an impediment to progress.  It does not have to be “politics is the problem not religion,”

  That is very true and I tend to agree with that.  However, again, that is NOT what Sam’s book says.  I showed numerous cases, I can easily show more if you like.  If you haven’t read the book then its hard for you to comment on what I am talking about because I am talking specifically about Sam’s book, not ideas in general.  The comments about american foreign policy have been introduced as showing WHY ‘politics’ SHOULD take precedance over religion-as it is the chief motivator of most of the problems that actually threaten the world. 

Please don’t give examples like “religion is good because people build houses in its name or people make donations because of religion.” These are invalid arguments.  People do good acts in the name of secularism also.

  To quote our other friend, don’t tell me what to write.  Because you don’t like an argument doesn’t render it invalid,  and just because good deeds can be done in the name of secularism means nothing.  IF that were true, we could simply reverse it and say that just because you do good acts in the name of secularism that is invalid because you can also do them in the name of religion.  In other words NOTHING would be ‘good’. 

  But that is a bit of a generalization, I didn’t say ‘religion is good’ simply because people do good in its name.  We could say ‘religious belief’, but not ‘religion’ its too big a concept.  But again, a ‘belief’ is neither good or bad, thats a very specific moral theory.  All I say is that contrary to the above, religious belief is JUSTIFIED if it results in good acts, in fact I’d even say that belief is ‘good’ if it results in good acts.  If somebody believes space aliens told them to go out and feed the poor I say more power to them. 

Religion is not needed to justify moral acts, only immoral ones.

  That is plainly false.  In fact I’d say that you CAN"T ‘justify’ immoral acts, thats exactly what makes them immoral. In morality, it all depends on the grounds of the moral theory.  If your moral theory says that ‘goodness comes from god’ then you need religion to ‘justify’ both moral and immoral acts.  Many moral theories do not include religion, that just makes them a different moral theory.

Finally, you keep saying that the what (actions) are to be judged and the why is secondary.  Our response to the actions are necessary for justice, for determining the consequences for evil actions.  Only a simple mind would stop there.

    The first sentence is true, but yes, absolutely we have to look at the ‘why’-but again only as it concerns illegal acts.  That’s exactly what we are talking about and what my examples were meant for. 

  The point about propaganda is simply that individual belief is not the most pressing concern.  I mentioned about the suicide bombers, but say for example it WAS true that that one guy did it because of religion.  Sadly, that results in tragedy, but certainly is not a danger to the world.  Compare that to the example of Madeline Albright being interviewed on 60 minutes and being asked whether sanctions against Iraq were
‘justified’ even though (in her words) it resulted in the deaths of more children than the atomic bombs on Hiroshima-and her replying ‘yes’.

  That latter is a policy decision, one which its possible to lobby against.  It takes A LOT of suicide bombers to do the damage that just those sanctions did-and that doesn’t even get into the wars.

  So like I said, in polls the vast majority of the world sees ONE thing as an overriding problem-US foreign policy (and countries that sign on).  Its not a coincidence that environmetal concerns rank up there at the top during elections, but are usually rarely discussed.  Sam’s book says nothing about those, again it says that the MAIN problem in the world today is religious belief, specifically muslim beliefs.  That is in the book, and thats why I say it reads more like propaganda. 

  Now, I replied to each point directly, so I don’t know what is meant by ‘not listening’, I usually try to do that and respond to the points that I can at least understand.

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Posted: 07 February 2008 04:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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So, since you did not reply to any of my points in posting #27, I assume that you did not understand it?  What parts did you not get?

Bob

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Posted: 07 February 2008 05:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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mikel357 - 06 February 2008 01:11 AM

  The point of this criticism is to state that OTHER beliefs are far more dangerous than religious ones, and those are secular ones, in particular jingoistic patriotism.

mikel357 - 07 February 2008 09:03 PM

  Thats a little too simplistic and don’t think I said that. I don’t think beliefs are dangerous AT ALL.  The vast majority of beliefs do not have people acting immorally at all.  Political moderation isn’t a ‘belief’, I don’t know what you’d call it but a collection of beliefs that lead to certain actions.  And I think what I said was that political moderation is far more a problem than religious moderation.

mikel357 - 07 February 2008 04:21 PM

 
  And its not ‘belief’ that is the problem, it is, as it always has been, actions.

That is just nonsense.  Beliefs lead to actions.  Beliefs absolutely can be dangerous.  They can be dangerous to the person who holds those beliefs, to others, or to both.  I don’t see how you can possibly justify that beliefs are not dangerous.

All I say is that contrary to the above, religious belief is JUSTIFIED if it results in good acts, in fact I’d even say that belief is ‘good’ if it results in good acts.

No, it is not.  It is still a delusion.  It is a perversion of our current understanding of our existence.  Your example is a hypothetical one anyhow.  Religion has a lot of good things done in its name, but it is not necessary for those good acts and is accompanied by many bad aspects as well.

That is exactly what I meant when I wrote that religion is not needed to justify moral acts, only immoral acts.  Despite your disagreement, it must be true.  All psychologically healthy people can understand the difference between right and wrong, moral and immoral.  Therefore we can judge an action based on those qualities.  If something is moral, we have the ability to acknowledge that it is.  If something is immoral, we can determine that as well.  The only exception here is that the supposed existence of a higher power as a moral authority can lead followers to believe that immoral acts are moral in certain cases.  Murder for example, if commanded to do so by your religion.

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Posted: 07 February 2008 05:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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mikel357 - 06 February 2008 01:11 AM

  The point of this criticism is to state that OTHER beliefs are far more dangerous than religious ones, and those are secular ones, in particular jingoistic patriotism.

mikel357 - 07 February 2008 09:03 PM

  Thats a little too simplistic and don’t think I said that. I don’t think beliefs are dangerous AT ALL.  The vast majority of beliefs do not have people acting immorally at all.  Political moderation isn’t a ‘belief’, I don’t know what you’d call it but a collection of beliefs that lead to certain actions.  And I think what I said was that political moderation is far more a problem than religious moderation.

mikel357 - 07 February 2008 04:21 PM

 
  And its not ‘belief’ that is the problem, it is, as it always has been, actions.

That is just nonsense.  Beliefs lead to actions.  Beliefs absolutely can be dangerous.  They can be dangerous to the person who holds those beliefs, to others, or to both.  I don’t see how you can possibly justify that beliefs are not dangerous.

All I say is that contrary to the above, religious belief is JUSTIFIED if it results in good acts, in fact I’d even say that belief is ‘good’ if it results in good acts.

No, it is not.  It is still a delusion.  It is a perversion of our current understanding of our existence.  Your example is a hypothetical one anyhow.  Religion has a lot of good things done in its name, but it is not necessary for those good acts and is accompanied by many bad aspects as well.

That is exactly what I meant when I wrote that religion is not needed to justify moral acts, only immoral acts.  Despite your disagreement, it must be true.  All psychologically healthy people can understand the difference between right and wrong, moral and immoral.  Therefore we can judge an action based on those qualities.  If something is moral, we have the ability to acknowledge that it is.  If something is immoral, we can determine that as well.  The only exception here is that the supposed existence of a higher power as a moral authority can lead followers to believe that immoral acts are moral in certain cases.  Murder for example, if commanded to do so by your religion.

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Posted: 07 February 2008 06:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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mikel357 - 07 February 2008 04:21 PM

But since you are so insistent, I will explain very briefly why I put it in there.  If you are as you say you are, then you will respect MY opinion of why I put it in the list and not challenge me.

Well that one kind of sums you up, in my opinion.  You don’t like being challenged with those pesky little things called facts.

mikel357 - 07 February 2008 09:03 PM

Contrary to what is posted I have responded to all the arguments, as for Bosnia, again, that was beside the point and even if somebody disagreed with that in the list it has no bearing on the point I made.  It certainly isn’t contradictory, as I pointed out in my last post.

Excuse me sir, but it was at the very least inconsistent with your overall disparaging tone with regard to the American government.  I can’t say whether it was contradictory or not because I don’t know the nature of the American involvement in those other places on that list (Nicaragua etc.), but I know the nature of the American involvement in Bosnia very well.

And you haven’t responded to anything I said about the actual intervention.  Your reply was obfuscating and nonsensical.

But since you obviously don’t care I will just drop it.  I see that you have no interest in anything that contradicts your preconceived notions and you will dismiss it out of hand so it would be futile to continue this exchange.

However, I would like everybody else reading this to know that Mikel got the American involvement in Bosnia completely wrong, and he obviously doesn’t care about facts because he explicitly states that nobody can change his opinion (because, after all, he and he alone has the ultimate truth).  Whoever goes into a debate with that kind of a mindset is on par with the “I know there’s a god and nothing you say can make me change my mind” crowd, so what’s the point of talking to him?  The fact that he’s unwilling to concede anything in the face of facts is irrelevant in the big scheme of things, but it’s a waste of time to engage with him on anything.

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Posted: 07 February 2008 09:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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As I said, Bosnia isn’t central to the main thread.  But if you don’t understand what I said, thats hardly my fault, if there is something you don’t understand, then just ask.  People subscribe to different moral theories just as they subscribe to different religions.  I explained why I don’t characterize Bosnia as a moral intervention and included it with other military incursions, and again referred you to chomsky’s video and John Norris’ book.  Again, thats not opinion, thats straight from the state department, if you have problems with that ‘characterization’, take it up with the state department and the pentagon.

  As for the claim ‘that everybody knows right from wrong’ that is not true, because obviously everybody has different notions of right and wrong-very clearly.  You can go a couple of posts down and see all about ‘all in favour of capital punishment’.  You can see another on the morality of torturing muslims.  It’s very clear that people have radical differences of what is right and what is wrong.  For some people capital punishment is ‘murder’, in other words ‘killing is right’.  In fact, you can find fundamentalist christians who cry about abortion in one breath and approve of killing criminals, even retarded ones, even child ones in the next. 

    Saying ‘it must be true’ isn’t actually an argument. There is no ‘apriori’ knowledge of what is right or wrong.  We can note that capital punishment is not always debated along religious lines.  Morality changes all the time, both within religious circles and without. That is quite a ‘leap of faith’ to believe that we all know right from wrong-or at least have the same notions of right and wrong. 

  As for the ‘dangerousness of belief’, again, beliefs are only dangerous when they result in violence.  Absolutely they are dangerous in those conditions, but contrary to Sam’s notion of belief, belief doesn’t necessarily connect with action.  I have lots of beleifs, but follow my footsteps and you’ll see they have very little impact on how I live my life.  I get up, eat, go to work, read, sleep, etc.  If I choose to believe that there are dancing gnomes in my garden, thats my business and who would care? 

  If those gnomes start telling me to kill people, thats a different story entirely-it is dangerous and a cause for concern.

  That leads me into post 27, which I didn’t even see, and thats too bad because its exactly the kind of debate the post was meant to spark.  It is precisely that assertion that the issue here and where we differ in opinion-and that is that it is ‘belief’ that is the central problem.

  Belief is largely irrelevant for the vast majority of problems in our world simply because we have little power.  So ask which is worse, that I believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11 or that I believe that God wants me to read to the blind?  In the first case, it is largely irrelevant because I have no control over what Bush or other leaders do.  But again, the ‘action’ of invading Iraq on trumped up charges with a first strike scenario is FAR more horrifying than my reading to the blind. 

  For the posts above, we have the situation where it is MORE ‘moral’ or ‘good’ or ‘justified’ that George Bush invaded Iraq than it is for me to read to the blind simply because ‘god didn’t tell bush to do it’.  Now, that may be your view of morality, but good luck with that and I hope you can understand why religious people aren’t willing to dump their beliefs and sign onto that.

  For the book though, if it were just ‘irrational beliefs’ that Sam were concerned with the book would look far different.  As post 27 says, some of the most horrifying corporate decisions are made, not on ‘belief’, except perhaps ‘the belief that this will make us more money’, or ‘I believe this will give us more power’. 

  That is a TESTABLE belief, it is scientifically verifiable, at least insofar as we understand science.  Questions of power and wealth are VERY ‘rational’.  So again, it is the RATIONAL beliefs that are by far the most worrying, not the irrational ones. 

  But its far from the case that Sam’s cheif worry is that religous people are more susceptible to propaganda.  In fact he fully justifies torture with the argument that ‘since we all accept war, that is torture on civilians’.  Of course ‘we’ don’t accept war. 

  In a book barely 200 pages politics hardly enters into it except to explain to readers that horrible atrocities are NOT racial or political but religous.  There is a reason that he picks the inquisition and holocaust, because most other cases are so clearly racial or political.  Of course even the holocaust was ‘racial’ as far more than jews were headed for the gas chambers.  It was ‘racial purity’ that drove the germans, and Sam tries to deal with that by saying that the germans were really being religious-but its mentioned as an afterthought.

  So we can look at world war one and two, the vietnam war, the balkans, south america, the conquest and genocide of natives, slavery, poverty, homelessness, AIDS, Africa-virtually NONE of that even gets mentioned.  Rather than the numerous wars of the past century, Sam is more concerned that muslims may think suicide bombing is justified.  Again, I recommend Richard Dawkins book “The God Delusion” because at least it is cogent.  He cites a poll done in Israel where kids are asked whether it is ‘right’ to kill people to protect your culture.  When asked about palestinians they almost all said yes, it was ok to kill other cultures in case their morals infect yours (again, showing we don’t all have the same notion of right and wrong).  When the location was switched to asia, they all said that it was morally wrong. 

  That wasn’t based on religion, or whether ‘god wanted them dead’, as Dawkins points out, one of judaisms main thinkers, Moses Maimonides said essentially the same thing that Sam cites in the koran-that its ok to kill people of a different culture.

  Although we can note that Sam doesn’t make that comparison, his vehemence is saved primarily for Islam, and again, IF your moral theory says that it is the belief that is the problem and not the action, then ALL faiths would be equivalent.  In other words, you don’t believe the same thing Sam does.  The last part of the book is new age jibberish, and apart from a short chapter on beliefs, the book is primarily simply an attack on islam.  It’s true there are some short sections about how silly it is to ban marijuana and such things, but that pales in comparison to the attack on muslims. 

  That’s why I state the book is propaganda.  If you read post 27 then you can ask, what would a book about that look like?  It certainly wouldn’t look like sam’s book.  Again, his emphasis on suicide bombing is almost laughable.  Here we have a country that arbitrarily decided to wage war under what we now know were false allegations, after more than a decade of sanctions that killed more children than the atomic blast in hiroshima, and Sam’s most strident comment is that ‘just one person saying suicide bombing is justified is horrifying’.  Yet going to war illegally is given a miss?  It’s not horrifying that people ‘believe’ its morally right to inflict collateral damage because ‘its collateral’. 

  A book on irrational faiths would indeed be a welcome one.  Ironically Sam vaguely hits on something with his attack on midieveal christians for their ‘irrational belief’ that ‘things will work out’ (which they did, depending on how you look at it).  Today, take a look at global warming and how many deaf ears the doomsday scenario falls under.  Huge sections of the population figure that even though we pump more and more pollution into the atmosphere that ‘we will be ok’.  And that has little to do with religion. 

  A book like that SHOULD have as a central theme the irrational belief that if you set up a first strike scenario where you are willing to use nuclear weapons that other countries WON"T be terrified into getting nuclear weapons of their own and perhaps even using them first because we have publicly said that we’ll use them if we want.

  Sams’ biggest concern is suicide bombers, but again, NATO pilots killed more innocent civilians in Afghanistan than all the suicide bombers put together.  So is suicide bombing really the world threat that he portrays?

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Posted: 07 February 2008 09:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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“When asked about palestinians they almost all said yes, it was ok to kill other cultures in case their morals infect yours (again, showing we don’t all have the same notion of right and wrong).” 

That is exactly my point.  Those beliefs are dangerous!  How is it that you can not see that.  Everybody knows what is right and wrong to them.  It does not matter if we agree between each other.  The point is that they know it is wrong to kill somebody….unless there is a chance their morals might be infected.  It is dangerous when people believe that they can do something, they would otherwise believe to be wrong, because of a system of beliefs. 


“As for the ‘dangerousness of belief’, again, beliefs are only dangerous when they result in violence.”

No, you just want to believe that.  How about: “Beliefs are dangerous whenever they result in something bad.”  How about when they infringe on the rights of others?  Beliefs can be dangerous in many ways.  You have already listed beliefs you think are dangerous several times.

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Posted: 08 February 2008 05:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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That narrows it somewhat, but again, thats a matter of opinion.  When somebody spray paints a mosque it is the act that is ‘bad’, not the belief. We don’t put them on trial and jail them for their beliefs.  Most of the world recognizes this, thats why courts try actions and we have freedom of religion enshrined in the constitution.  Like I said, here I disagree with Sam’s definition of belief-he says it HAS to result in action, and thats not always the case.  If Sam’s book were just an epistemology text then I certainly wouldn’t say that its propaganda.  Again, most posters here agree with me about the text-if it WERE beliefs that were bad, then it is the action that is secondary.  We’d all be talking about theories of knowledge and epistemology and the psychology of belief.  Sam is being logically inconsistent, he says beleif, or faith, is the problem, but then goes on to characterize the central problem as being islam and suicide bombers. 

  We can even use the method of reasoning mentioned above to show how inconsistent that is.  Sam states that the violence that occurs is “explicitly” because of religion.  However, each and every case can easily be explained without religion, in fact is far more easily explained WITHOUT religion.  Sams defense of his claim about Islams suicide bombers is to say ‘well, other religions aren’t doing it’.  Of course other religions and parties HAVE used it (Sam even admits this), therefore that reasoning makes no sense-by the reasoning presented by the poster above. 

  As for belief, that is a question for epistemology but to try to tie it into the main point, IF the US were a complete democracy and everybody were voting on whether to go to war with Iraq then I would say that in that case ‘what people believe’ IS very dangerous.  That polls showed a majority of americans believed that Hussein was behind 9/11 WOULD be dangerous IF people were voting on whether to go to war.  That’s what I mean-there was no vote, what people thought was largely irrelevant because those in power were making all the decisions and we know from documents the decision was made long before. 

  So what you believe in that case makes no difference.  As for suicide bombers, like I said, it is the action of bombing that is the problem-NOT the question of whether the person believes he has virgins waiting for him because there is little evidence that that is the main motivation-and plenty of evidence to show that it isn’t.

  So next you can ask, IF the religious belief is not the MAIN motivator-what is?  That’s easy, and we know it from history and all the people who have used suicide bombing, as well as from the aforementioned BBC documentary on Iraq- they ‘believe’ that to fight against a far superior military power sacrifices must be made and individuals must make that choice as to whether they wish to sacrifice themselves for their country or culture.  Again, THAT is the belief that is ‘dangerous’, and not only is it dangerous but its PERFECTLY
‘rational’.  You can bet if a superior military (when one exists someday, as I’m sure it will-if we’re still around) were on the streets of the US and many americans were ‘colluding with the enemy’ that practically everyone here would be at least THINKING about the same decision (or of course you could be colluding with the enemy).

  The other specific points about moral beliefs I didn’t quite understand.  Its true people ‘know what is right’ to themselves-sort of.  I may give money to the poor without even thinking of it.  It MAY be religious, but it may not.  Sometimes I may give money to the poor, and sometimes I may refuse for any number of reasons.  Sam even recognizes this and so stays away from moral reasoning with the claim ‘someday science will answer these questions for us’.  An odd thing to say, but at least he recognizes that morality isn’t just a ‘religious’ belief but one that may be ingrained in our brains (and our brains are not the same).

  That is WHY there are as many moral theories as there are theorists, that is why people ‘believe’ all kinds of things, and why we don’t actually understand what is meant by ‘belief’.  If we all meant the same thing by it, then Sam wouldn’t have to have almost a whole chapter defining it and trying to justify it.  Unfortunately, Sam has the habit of using extreme hypothetical examples to make his point, not understanding that terms can have more than one meaning, and be different at different times.  IF I believe i will die today that MAY effect what I will do.  The belief that I still have a job probably will to, but that is a different kind of belief.  The belief that global climate change will have catastrophic consequences MAY effect my behaviour-I sort of believe it but not enough to do much about it, certainly not enough to get politically active.  Those are all different types of belief, some are ‘dangerous’ (sort of) because not becoming politically active MAY partly cause more environmental damage.  That I believe I have a job, whether its because I think god wants me to go to work or any other reason isnt dangerous-in fact its good, it feeds my family. 

  So when I say its not ‘faith’ that is the problem, it is because it is what faith points to that is the problem, and only when it points to something bad that it is a problem for society.  Sams book certainly isn’t all ‘bad’, I didn’t say that, I simply said its propaganda.  IF all muslims believed every word of the koran it would be VERY dangerous-but we know they do not, any more than jews believe every word of the old testament or their talmud which says, like those kids, that its fine to kill other people in some cases.  That MAY be dangerous, but ask those kids WHY and the reasons may be religious, but they may also be perfectly rational.  So the problem is not ‘accepting things blindly’, because as he avoids in the afterword, people do that anyway.  We take it for granted the sun will rise, and I know atheists who will swear by evolution even though they have never read a single book on it.  I highly doubt that people here will start saying that belief in evolution is a problem because some people might believe it without questioning it.

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Posted: 08 February 2008 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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I did forget one connection on the propaganda angle, and that is WHY it acts as propaganda.  In the example of the suicide bomber, like I said, it is perfectly rational to make that decision if your reasoning is that you feel you have to in order to combat an occupying force.  As I said, that belief is ‘dangerous’ because it will result in a person’s exploding themselves with other victims.  That is Sam’s chief concern.  However, THAT is not the dangerous part, the far greater danger is WHY a person is in that position to make that decision in the first place.  That is the occupation of a country by a foreign force-in this case the US.  Under Hussein we heard very little about suicide bombers, in fact nothing at all from what I’ve read, it was a brutal regime but it was secular-and there were no suicide bombers.  So obviously religion is only a very marginal concern here, in fact hardly a concern at all.  A poster a ways back made the claim about extremist muslim rhetoric, and I would agree that such claims are ‘dangerous’, just as they were dangerous when Hitler was propagandizing. However, we KNOW that there is little effect, that rhetoric has gone on for ages, and there is no massive bloodletting anywhere, even in the so called ‘muslim hotbeds’ of europe.

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Posted: 08 February 2008 11:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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Well I still have to insist that I believe a pattern of detrimental actions stemming from a common system of beliefs, can justify classifying those beliefs as dangerous, regardless of any good actions stemming from the same beliefs.  We could carry on debating this but I may start another thread concerning that issue when I have time.  I apologize for distracting the discussion from your original criticism.

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Posted: 08 February 2008 12:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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That’s no problem, you were friendly enough and it does have some bearing on the original post.  If I find time I may post at your thread:)  The one thing to think about before you post is the definition of this ‘pattern’.  For example, ‘god told me to kill people’ cannot be a belief that somehow has good consequences.  The pattern you ‘may’ be talking about is IF a single text says ‘god told me to kill people’ AND ‘god told me to feed starving puppies’.  Those are two DIFFERENT beliefs that may be from the same text (which I assume is part of the ‘pattern’).  And again, it is IMPOSSIBLE to take all religious texts literally (as ONE belief), so there is no real ‘belief’ in a handed down from on high book.  If there were, no christian in the world would get through puberty with their eyes-they would be ‘plucked out if they offend’.  And who got through puberty without their eyes offending them plenty?  That’s the biggest lie we hear, that there are religious fundamentalists who take their books LITERALLY-it doesn’t happen, it CAN"T happen, they are too contradictory.


But of course what you say is perfectly VALID, it simply depends what criteria you use for your moral theory.  Sam makes the basic beginner mistake of saying that ‘moral relativism’ means ‘you can’t criticize other systems of belief’.  That’s not actually moral relativism.  Moral relativism simply acknowledges that morality is relative.  Here we can use either common sense, or at least the law, or more importantly, the Universal declaration of Human Rights.  Those were global rights that set standands of conduct for governments-which makes the world far less ‘relative’.  The big problem has always been countries refusal to adopt many of the rights, and the current sliding back of rights. 

  That sort of ties in with my point because the sliding back of human rights is (in my view) FAR greater danger than some suicide bombers (who at this point have only a tiny statistical chance of hurting me).  Yet being on a ‘list’ simply for going to a protest or being arrested without charge is VERY applicable to my life.  That’s the propaganda angle again-you are supposed to think its OK to ‘clamp down’ on civil rights because of the possible threat of other people.  That the threat exists in large part because of OUR actions is supposed to be beside the point.  And its not religion or religious principles that are being used to threaten civil rights, its those plain old secular rational beliefs that a tightly controlled society is a, well, tightly controlled society.  In this instance it falls on ‘us’ to challenge the imposition of martial law, while books like Sam’s have you looking at muslims and people far away as the problem, meaning being prepared to accept clamping down on civil rights.  That’s what propaganda does, thats why communists pointed at evil capitalists, nazi’s pointed at jews and undesirables, etc.,-its a way of controlling ones population.

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Posted: 08 February 2008 07:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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Here’s a question Mike, if those of us who believe that religion is the greatest threat to the future of humanity in a nuclear age are simply falling for propaganda (from Sam Harris) are we then just as gullible and susceptible to propaganda (and therefore part of the problem) as those of theistic faith? 

I think you have grievously misread Harris’ thesis.  He is using the example of muslim suicide bombers and the text of islam as evidence, but Harris is equally hard on christian moderates and fundamentalists, and states the case over and over again that all religious faith (believing in the existence of supernatural beings) is the problem.

I’m also certain that he would acknowledge that a vast array of ideologies (like communism or capitalism, like racial/ethnic supremacy or economic hegemony) are also factors that contribute to the violence in the world today and through history.  Harris is saying that given all that religious faith is the most threatening of all the morbid indecencies of human undertaking.  Given the availablity of nuclear armaments today and the apparent incapacity of the religious believers to use and to accept the standards of reason, then we have no greater threat to our continued existence on this planet than the one that comes from them.

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Posted: 08 February 2008 07:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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if those of us who believe that religion is the greatest threat to the future of humanity in a nuclear age are simply falling for propaganda (from Sam Harris) are we then just as gullible and susceptible to propaganda (and therefore part of the problem) as those of theistic faith?


  I can’t answer that, it depends on the individual.  Propaganda is VERY powerful, I don’t think a person is ‘gullible’ at all.  When propaganda surrounds you, then its hard to think differently.  But in short, I would say ‘yes’. IF you think that religion is the greatest threat, I think that is ‘mistaken’, and I’ve tried to show why.  Beliefs of all kinds hold similarities-and again, I have little ‘fear’ of theistic beliefs-so long as they don’t hurt anybody.  But I’m unclear as to what the ‘problem’ refers to.  Like I said, the ‘problem’ is largely irrelevant because the MAIN problems are out of our control anyway.  Sure, we can lobby and protest and say that setting a precedent of using a first strike with nuclear weapons is bad policy but its largely out of our control.  But again, THAT is a far greater threat to stability and humanity than some ragtag groups somehow getting some nuclear weapons-because of course that POLICY leads to everybody running around to get nuclear weapons.  As many critics have stated, Iraq had NO defense, North Korea had TONS of defense-just look at the different strategies employed, if you were a leader, what would YOU do. 

The chances of them using nuclear weapons is slim, there are far more effective ways of inducing chaos-hell, one lone sniper in Washington had the country on pins and needles for days two years ago.  Poisoning ground water is easy, as is germ warfare.  Nuclear is the LAST thing an enemy with any brains at all would be going for. 

 

I think you have grievously misread Harris’ thesis.  He is using the example of muslim suicide bombers and the text of islam as evidence, but Harris is equally hard on christian moderates and fundamentalists, and states the case over and over again that all religious faith (believing in the existence of supernatural beings) is the problem.

  No, that is not true.  If it were I wouldn’t call it propaganda.  He has a whole chapter just on islam and singles it out as a specific case as being FAR worse than christianity.  For christianity he uses marginal examples like stem cells and an emphasis on fundamental morality (paranoia about the body and pot,etc.).  But you should reread the chapter on Islam, he very emphatically puts that on a pedestal as being a far greater threat than christianity.  I read part of ‘letter to a christian nation’ and he attempts to backpedal a bit there by attacking christian fundamentalism, but even the hardcore criticism of christianity goes back to the inquisition.  That’s the chapter where he even goes so far as to stop calling the US fundamentally christian and reverts to the secular ‘we’ in claiming that ‘we’ are significantly more moral than ‘they’ are.  That’s a pretty specious claim and unfounded, but there are simply too many examples of that to list here, though I’ll list some of them if you really want (its pretty obvious in the text, just read the first paragraph of the chapter ‘on islam’.

  That’s far beyond using that as just an example.  Had he wanted to do that he could have just as easily used the example of ‘meditation’ and eastern mysticism which is equally specious as religious belief.  But here he cites fringe studies and ‘future discoveries’ as reasons why THEY are not problematic at all, in fact are very desirable.


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’m also certain that he would acknowledge that a vast array of ideologies (like communism or capitalism, like racial/ethnic supremacy or economic hegemony) are also factors that contribute to the violence in the world today and through history.

  That’s true, he does that, in fact he even murks the water by claiming that several of those are in fact ‘religious’-he mentions communism and fascism, but interestingly enough doesn’t mention neo-liberalism or capitalism.  Again, we are talking about the MAIN threat-which he clearly sees as being muslim fanatics.

Harris is saying that given all that religious faith is the most threatening of all the morbid indecencies of human undertaking.  Given the availablity of nuclear armaments today and the apparent incapacity of the religious believers to use and to accept the standards of reason, then we have no greater threat to our continued existence on this planet than the one that comes from them.


  That is true and clear from the text and is exactly why I posted this thread and called it propaganda.  Sam not only does not prove that, he borders on proving the opposite while still accepting his main thesis.  As I’ve stated, religion is FAR from the chief problem.  When the state department comes out and says that they will use force to hold onto the US’ superiority in the world then that is perfectly ‘reasonable’.  When oil companies mount massive propaganda campaigns to show global change is fiction it is perfectly ‘reasonable’.  As I’ve shown before, suicide bombing is perfectly reasonable under the vast majority of cases-when it is the only way to achieve your desired goals then its the obvious conclusion.

  Even the head of the CIA came out publicly against the White House when Bush said ‘they hate us for our freedoms’.  Virtually every person in the intelligence community said ‘that’s wrong, they hate us for what we are doing in the middle east’.  Sam wants us to BELIEVE that it is the unreasonableness of believers (which of course means muslims, nobody fears fundamentalist christians of getting nuclear bombs)-when in fact the opposite is true.  The government has the very real and valid fear that it is their REASONABLENESS that is what is to be feared.  In other words, no matter how many virgins you line up, its a hell of a lot easier to get fighters to sign up to shoot a short range nuclear device that can do REAL damage than it is to talk somebody into blowing themselves up in a campaign that has a very good chance of not injuring anybody but the bomber themself.

  If they actually get their hands on REAL weapons then there will be serious trouble-then it will be out and out warfare, which is quite ‘reasonable’, but far more costly to lives and the planet.

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