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The End of Faith as Propaganda
Posted: 06 February 2008 12:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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Since we’re down to arguing semantics I’ll assume that people at least don’t have any argument with the main thesis.  Like I said, Sam Harris is the one who puts jingoistic patriotism into the same category as ‘religious patriotism’.  But here we’re really getting into semantics, which wasn’t really my main point. 

  IF Sam had included patriotic ‘faith’ in with religious faith then it would make sense.  It would be ALL unchallenged faiths that would be at issue, in other words, as a poster said above, the idea of believing anything because ‘somebody says so’.  Its’ no surprise Sam doesn’t do that, because it simply isn’t feasible.  Virtually EVERYTHING is taken on faith to some degree, and we couldn’t function if everything we heard we then embarked on a scientific journey of experimentation to prove.  However, with a background in science I can tell you that there are plenty of ‘faiths’ in the scientific world that are also disrupting.

  I certainly never said ‘you don’t have to worry about religion’.  There’s a poster above whose chief concern is evolutionary theory and that people may end up believing hypothesis C without challenge.  IF that is your biggest concern then obviously you have to worry about that.  Sam hardly even mentions evolution, thats not what his book is about. 

  I said that I’d put what I call ‘jingoistic patriotism’, or ‘blind’ patriotism if you prefer, into the same category as ‘blind’ religion.  Both have that ‘blindness’ in them.  That doesn’t mean they are identical and forgive me if that’s what I said.  Things can be similar but not the same. 

  If you live in Iraq in a community where somebody is recruiting for suicide bombers by threatening their families, your concern isn’t religion-it is coercion, just like if the mafia visited your shop you didn’t worry about catholicism. 

  If the local cleric is preaching on the corner that all people not like X must be killed if they are not X- and YOU are not X, then obviously religion is somethign to worry about and you’d either have to move or quickly get religiously (and politically) active to counter that.

  If that’s not straight forward its because Sams’ book if often inconsistent.  In the chapter on Islam he counters Chomsky’s arguments with ‘we’, as though the US were a secular democracy acting in union.  In places where there are policies he doesn’t like, he then switches to Bush’s ‘fundamentalism’.  In other words, whenever he doesn’t like something he lumps it in with religious faith, as he does with the Soviet union and germany.  But then in the chapter on islam he talks about ‘our’ morality and its superiority to ‘theirs’, something he ‘proves’ simply by saying that ‘I know its not politically correct to say so’.  That’s not actually a ‘proof’. 

  Why I call Sams book propaganda is because of where that ‘action’ should go.  If you think the biggest danger is muslim fundamentalists then you will back policies that kill and torture them in order to solve the problem. 

  So the point about what is the ‘biggest’ threat is a very relevant one, and again I’ll point to chomsky and you can read or download them yourselves.  Sam doesn’t want you thinking that those in Washington who typically act and vote against the will of the population should be your biggest fear-it is those evil menacing fundamentalists.

  In the first chapter, Sam maintains that ‘this can’t be tolerated anymore because of the possibility of nuclear weapons falling into anybody’s hands’.  Of course nuclear material has been readily available since Chernobyl, but apparantly thats not his fear.  His fear is some religious group may use it for religious reasons.  That’s fair enough, I’m scared of going downtown after dark, so I don’t go, there is nothing wrong with healthy fear.

  However, far more worrying is the fact that the US and its ‘hangers on’, namely NATO are now rewriting policy to make a ‘first strike’ a regular policy objective INCLUDING use of nuclear weapons.  That is far more worrying because it basically TELLS other countries they damn well better make sure they have nuclear weapons and should even strike first because of what MAY happen. 

  Again, its understandable why people would think that, particularly in the US if you aren’t politically active and this is all a hypothetical fun exercise.  If you are any other country though it is a far different story.  And while the White House certainly doesn’t listen to the will of the people, there is at least space for political activity against those decisions-protesting the hardline against Iran, writing letters, joining organizations, etc.


  As for bosnia, the best thing I can suggest is go to youtube and type in bosnia and chomsky and watch the documentary, its very interesting.  He recounts what is in recently released state department documents on the subject.

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Posted: 06 February 2008 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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—>“As for bosnia, the best thing I can suggest is go to youtube and type in bosnia and chomsky and watch the documentary, its very interesting.  He recounts what is in recently released state department documents on the subject.”<—

That documentary is too long for me to listen to the whole thing, I’m in the middle of writing a paper right now, and besides I wasn’t asking about Chomsky’s take on it, I was asking about why you included Bosnia in that list.

It’s just like one of those IQ test type of questions where they give you a list and ask you which one doesn’t belong there, i.e. stands out.

Do you know what happened in Bosnia?  In the context you were using it, it seemed like you meant it to be disparaging to the American government, and that’s why I’m asking.  Nothing the US did in and around Bosnia can be construed as immoral, and I should know as a Bosnian who lived there during and after the war.

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Posted: 06 February 2008 01:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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There are lots of Iraqi’s who lived in Iraq who may call the US invasion ‘moral’ but thats a matter of opinion.  Suffice it to say, if you’re writing a paper then you shouldn’t be wasting time here and the bosnian conflict, like all conflicts, is complicated.  It stands out simply because of the propaganda that surrounds it, yes, I do consider it ‘immoral’ in the same sense as most international military intervention is immoral (though not all).  Besides, the morality or immorality is based on either the acts themselves, or as one poster above would have us believe, only the ‘intent’ or reasoning behind those actions-none of which have anything to do with those living is bosnia.  Its doubtful somebody ‘living in Dresden’ could afterward say that their opinion of whether it was moral or not to bomb it was more valid just because they were there.  Sorry to be so contradictory, but there’s no polite way to say that.  If you feel it doesn’t belong there then feel free to ignore it.  However, Chomsky gives the outline behind the state department in the first five minutes, so I think you can spare that much time.  And yes, I’m in some way ducking the question as it really had nothing to do with the main point and that would send it WAY off tangent-and I’ve got a life too and don’t want to spend forever debating Bosnia.

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Posted: 06 February 2008 02:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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Thanks for your concern about my paper, but I’ll be ok.  Now, I think that you don’t really know what happened in Bosnia, and I’m not saying that to disparage anything you’ve said, but just to inform you.  The very fact that you would compare Bosnia to Iraq or Dresden shows that you misunderstand the nature of the American involvement there.  Bosnia was invaded by the Serbs, who proceeded to systematically and undiscriminately murder what turned out to be tens of thousands of innocent Bosnian muslim civilians.  If there’s one thing that the US can be blamed for, it’s for not intervening sooner.  The US intervention is what finally put a stop to the Serbian genocide of Bosnians and brought the war to an end by them brokering the Dayton agreement.  There are O (read: zero) parallels to be drawn to Iraq here.  You admit that not all international military intervention is immoral, and I assure you that this was one of those times.  In fact, it would have been immoral for the US, as the world’s strongest military force, to do nothing - just idly stand by and watch as a militarily superior nation (Serbia) exterminates (the official term was ethnic cleansing) an entire population of innocent people.

“All it takes for evil to triumph in the world is for good men to do nothing.” 
Edmond Burke

Sometimes the quote above applies on a larger scale, i.e. nations.

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Posted: 06 February 2008 03:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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I know plenty about Bosnia, again, if you don’t like it in my list, just ignore it.

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Posted: 06 February 2008 04:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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mikel357 - 06 February 2008 08:19 PM

I know plenty about Bosnia,

Evidently not, and your insistence on that makes me question your reasoning on some of your other points.

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Posted: 06 February 2008 04:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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You should question everybody’s reasoning on EVERY point.  Blind faith belongs in a church, not here.  But get used to people not agreeing with you, thats the nature of humanity. If you think your view was ‘divinely inspired’ then you’re definitely at the wrong site.

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Posted: 06 February 2008 04:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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What I meant was that I give your words even less credence than I usually would (which isn’t a lot to begin with) as a result of knowing you’re not right on this one thing, not “up until now I’ve taken everything you said as true.”

And people disagree with me all the time, believe me, just like I disagree with other people (hence this exchange).

And what’s this stuff about my view being “divinely inspired?”  My view stems from the fact that I was actually THERE and I know what went on.  You’re going off in a whole different direction there.

[ Edited: 06 February 2008 05:04 PM by matriculated01]
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Posted: 06 February 2008 06:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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Just because you are somewhere during something means little.  If you think your opinion gives you special credence because you were there then you’re mistaken. Online we have no idea who you are so you can make up anything. But I’ve been to many places during many events, that doesn’t mean I think my opinion means more than somebody else’s.  Thats’ like saying that a soldier can comment more on the morality of a military occupation just because he was there.

  Apparantly you have plenty of time so go check out that video.  An unchallenged belief is exactly what Sam Harris’ book is about.  I posted an argument, and anybody is free to debate it or post an opinion.  Whether people want to give it credence is up to them, it certainly doesn’t break my heart that some guy I never met doesn’t give credence to my view of Bosnia or anything else.  Anybody else that wants to comment on the actual topic can feel free to.

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Posted: 06 February 2008 06:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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The fact that I was there does give me special credence.  You give a false analogy with the soldier being on the scene of a military occupation - that has nothing to do with my position.  I actually LIVED the events that went on, and never saw it through any type of propaganda lens until I came to the United States.  Therefore, yes, I do have way more credence than you when commenting on Bosnia.  Now, if you just simply don’t believe me because it doesn’t fit your preconceived notions, that’s a whole different deal.  It doesn’t break my heart either, that some random internet guy can’t deal with the truth.  That sounds more like your problem.  It seems like you’re so dead set on vilifying the US that you’ll ignore any evidence that the country actually did something benevolent.  Is it really that hard to believe?  And what exactly is your criticism of how I described the US involvement?  You never say anything specific, just babble on about “you’ve got time, question everything, I don’t care bla bla…”  You showed more coherence in your earlier posts, what happened?

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Posted: 06 February 2008 07:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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It has nothing to do with preconceived notions- some anonymous person says “I know better than you and you’re wrong” and you think people are supposed to say “Oh, gee, thanks for informing me”.  Like I said, I don’t know who you are or whether you’re a mental patient.  As I said, if you want my view all you have to do is take twenty minutes to watch the video-you refuse, and go on to state that I’m being unreasonable in not changing my opinion based on the fact that you keep saying ‘I was there’. 

  In any military exercise there are morally benefecial jobs, that doesn’t change anything.  If a soldier saves a child in Iraq does that therefore mean that the invasion of Iraq was morally justified because that child was saved?  Does that mean that the US is morally unjustified because violence is going on in Country X and the US military isn’t there?  Morals are a huge issue, thats why I didn’t get into it, it all depends specifically what a person is talking about. 

Again, if you don’t like that statement, then ignore it, its not hard.  For the rest, like all information it is meant as something new to think about and research, if the earlier messages made more sense it was because they were actually on topic-unlike now. If people want to reject it out of hand, then that’s fine too-although its sad, since that is what everybody seems to have such a problem with from religious sorts.  Again, none of it is contentious, go to youtube and watch some noam chomsky or any of a hundred other critics of US hegemony.  Thats not ‘vilifying’ the US unless you think of the US as ONLY the executive of its white house.

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Posted: 06 February 2008 08:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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In posting #11 Mike, you wrote,
““Sam Harris’ book quite emphatically does NOT state that ‘religion is a problem because religous people are more gullible and susceptible to propaganda’.  That may be YOUR view, but it is not Sam’s, he NEVER says that but often states the opposite.  Religious ‘faith’ is the central problem he says . . .”“

Where is your argument?  Religious faith - the exact thing that Sam Harris so often refers to in TEoF - IS the concrete expression of people who are gullible and susceptible to propaganda.  Having faith in the existence of supernatural beings and following the scriptures of other faithful believers IS an expressed fact of being gullible and susceptible to propaganda!  Sam says hundreds of times in TEoF that it is FAITH that is the problem, he could have equally well have said that GULLIBLITY AND SUSCEPTIBILITY TO PROPAGANDA is the problem.

I do however commend you to bringing up the point that secular interests are as much of a threat to the stability of the international human community.  The corporate interests that Chomsky so rightfully blames for much of the discord, immoral behaviour, and “terrorism” in the world, are obviously not religious entities.  I have recently read Naomi Kline’s “The Shock Doctrine” and I am appalled by the amount of death and destruction orchestrated by corporate interests the world over in the past 5 decades.  Add to that, look at the corporate control over government (in AMerica and elsewhere) that has used patriotism as a method of basically raping and plundering the third world for generations.

Lastly Mike, I don’t think you are getting my point about authentic morality.  I do not believe that the ideas behind the actions are more important than the actions themselves in evaluating the moral worthiness or immoral malevolence.  My only point on that score was that if one believes in a “higher moral authority” (as in: a supernatural being) holding all the power to decide what is good and what is bad, then there is no authentic moral action to be evaluated (by normal humans).  My perspective is that morality is ONLY a real value when it is a measure of how we treat one another authentically (from the heart, through our conscience, etc.).  Any ethical standard that puts god in the position of THE MORAL AUTHOR, deprives us (real humans) of achieving authentic compassion, empathy, sympathy, and love.  That’s the problem! If we are supposed to just blindly follow god, then building a house for a poor person in Guatemala or killing your own children (both because god supposedly commands it) are worthless in an real ethical sense.  Naturally Mike, in an authentic human sense, building a house for someone is commendable and killing your children is despicable.  Don’t you see my point that for a person of faith, killing her children because god commanded her to do so IS commendable, otherwise she wouldn’t have done it - (if she had been acting by the principles of authentic human compassion)?

Bob

[ Edited: 07 February 2008 04:24 PM by CanZen]
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Posted: 06 February 2008 09:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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Mikel, the difference between us is that you have to watch Noam Chomsky to get your info on this matter and I don’t.  I’ve watched some of the video and he talks about Panama and Nicaragua, I couldn’t find the part where he mentions Bosnia.  But that’s irrelevant, as I don’t need him to tell me what happened. I grew up in Bosnia, lived there through the war, and years after the war as well.  It’s pure arrogance on your part to claim that my actual firsthand experience is irrelevant while you’re the expert because you watched a Noam Chomsky documentary.  And you continue to compare Bosnia to Iraq, which further shows that you have no clue what you’re talking about.  You still refuse to say exactly what your objection to my assessment of American intervention in Bosnia is.  You avoid that issue and talk about nonsense like “you could be a mental patient” or “you’re not gonna change my opinion.”  That’s high school debating tactics, just avoid the actual argument and attack your opponent’s: credibility, character, (fill in the blank).  I’m not posting on here to convert everybody to my way of thinking, which is what you seem to be suggesting.  I couldn’t care less about what you think.  You seem to have some grandeur delusions.  Maybe that’s why you post on here so you naturally assume that everybody else does as well, but you’re wrong, so you can stop with your incessant “you don’t know better than me” whining.

In fact, that’s what seems to be bugging you.  That somebody might know something better than you.  Why else would you keep avoiding the actual substance of the issue: what is your objection to what I said about USA’s intervention in Bosnia?

And also please stop trying to dictate what we’re allowed to post about what we can’t discuss.  This is a public forum and people can post whatever they like wherever they like.  That’s life, pal.  Now you deal with it.

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Posted: 07 February 2008 11:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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No, the difference between us is that I’m trying to be NICE.  Thats it.  I TOLD you why I avoid it, because I started this thread to talk about propaganda and why I put this book into that category.  As you were personally involved I have a feeling that it really serves no purpose to ‘get into it’.  I notice there is ALREADY a thread on Bosnia, so you certainly have lots of opportunity to talk about it there.  If I mentioned an aside about why I like black pants and you went off saying that I was wrong and crazy for liking black pants instead of white ones, then I’d say the same thing.  The thread is not about fashion. 

  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.  Again, it has nothing to do with the thread, and like I said, I’ve read enough so there isn’t anything you can say to change my mind so we can just leave it at that. 

  As Chomsky states, the highest heads of the state department now have publicly said why they were interested in the balkans.  As the director of communications of the pentagon John Norris says, the balkans was the one area of eastern europe that wasn’t carrying out the necessary political and economic reforms that the US and other ‘neo liberal’ trading states wanted to see. THEY say that, not me. That’s not MY opinion, you can go read his book.  So by no means can I call that ‘moral intervention’ no matter whether YOU or, say, Kosovar Albanians think it is.  Like I said, if the US invaded, say, Canada, and a soldier saved the life of a child who lost their parents and was about to get hit-while we can agree that saving a child is morally right-at least by most standards, that doesn’t justify the intervention.  Even if those parents were hurting their child that doesn’t make it right. 

  As well, in the mid nineties the LDK President (I assume you know who that was) was BEGGING for UN involvement in Yugoslavia.  THis was a peaceful president who was absolutely opposed to violence (at least publicly) and wanted simple protection for their civil disobedience.  THERE I probably would say that at least the argument can be justified for military intervention-at least on the ground, certainly not bombing with planes.  However, this was rejected at the Security Council by the US representative Madeline Albright.

Whenever a sizeable population of a region wants independance from a national government unwilling to grant it, then the argument can be made for military intervention (especially under those conditions). 

  So no matter the outcome, I don’t classify it as being a ‘morally justified’ thing to do simply because Clinton made the decision to ignore the situation when it WAS clear and not grant the UN security council the right to intervene (what they would have done is another question entirely), and as mentioned above, those who made the decision didn’t do so for ‘moral’ reasons but for ‘immoral’ ones (the desire to ensure a region conformed to their political ideology).

  So I hope that makes you happy.  That’s WHY I put the balkans in the list with the rest, because of what the State Department SAID-that military action is justified when foreign countries do not subscribe to the demands of US hegemony. 

  Perhaps you are right and I should have said that sooner, since I suspect you are talking about something else.  Again, for any other readers, I urge you to listen to some Chomsky, military intervention can be justified, but as he says, it has never been where it can be.  So he mentions Turkey’s genocide against kurds, where the US increased arms, or East Timor where a helpless population was crying for help, and none came.  Indonesia got more arms however.  So the idea that the US is a ‘giant who sometimes makes mistakes’ is contradicted by the very people who run the government (not by me, and not by Chomsky-we just don’t ignore them like media does). 

  So again, IF people knew all those things-say if media actually reported what the government was saying and not their lapdog, then people would know that it is not religion that is the root of all evil.  There’s a reason why they say ‘money’ is the root.  So again, just to repeat the main theme here since this all is beside the point, the book SAYS that religious belief is the main threat to civilization.  Far from it.  It is SECULAR beliefs, or rather secular desires for power that are the chief problem.  So like I said, the book serves as a distraction-‘look here, its crazy muslim fundamentalists that are going to end the world’.  The reality is FAR different, the biggest problems today are economic, political, and environmental.  You have to take a pretty big ‘leap of faith’ to state that religion is the undercurrent of all of those (what, say, does the current housing crisis have to do with theology?)  It’s not nearly as big a leap to state that the roots of religious ‘problem’s are political. 

  And its not ‘belief’ that is the problem, it is, as it always has been, actions.  If somebody believes we came from apes, thats not a problem.  If that person wants their local school system to ensure that only that view is mentioned, then THAT is a problem, but its a political one.

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Posted: 07 February 2008 12:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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mikel357 - 06 February 2008 03:15 PM

However, thats also a very specific moral theory you have if you think doing good has no moral worthiness because it all depends on WHY you are doing it.  That flies in the face of all reason, people get awards for volunteer work all the time, they aren’t based on why they do them, they could be because aliens tell them, but if a person reads to the blind and makes them happy, that is ‘moral’ in just about every ethical theory-except yours. What you claim as ‘being moral’ is just ONE theory of morality, and a pretty fringe one.

A moral motive and a moral outcome are not the same thing. When a person who is in submission to an authority believes that the authority has commanded him to perform a specific act, he doesn’t value the morality of the act’s outcome. The morality or immorality of the act’s outcome is purely incidental. So the person is equally capable of committing immoral acts as well as moral acts.

mikel357 - 06 February 2008 03:15 PM

the main problem to me, and most people-certainly the victims, is the ACT of suicide bombing, in other words the fact that it kills people.  What the person believes is secondary.  As I’ve said, what people ‘believe’ is largely irrelevant except in very specific cases.

It certainly is relevant, because the person believes that he must please the alleged authority of a god. If the person didn’t believe that, there is a very good chance that his conscience would lead him to question the morality of suicide bombing.

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