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The End of Faith as Propaganda
Posted: 08 February 2008 08:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]  
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CanZen - 09 February 2008 12:09 AM

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.

From The End of Faith, chapter 4, The Problem with Islam:

While my argument in this book is aimed at faith itself, the differences between faiths are as relevant as they are unmistakable.  There is a reason, after all, why we must now confront Muslim, rather than Jain terrorists in every corner of the world.  Jains do not believe anything that is remotely likely to inspire them to commit acts of suicidal violence against unbelievers.  By any measure of normativity we might wish to adopt (ethical, practical, epistemological, economic, etc.), there are good beliefs and there are bad ones—and it should now be obvious to everyone than Muslims have more than their fair share of the latter.

To say that Harris isn’t especially hard on Islam ignores chapter 4.

mikel357 - 06 February 2008 01:11 AM

One facet of Sam’s book I have not seen mentioned here, and that is propaganda…  Where it is most clear, however, is the chapter on Islam.

Why is singling out Islam propaganda?  Propaganda implies an underlying doctrine.  What doctrine is Harris trying to propagate that requires singling out Muslims if they don’t deserve it?  Maybe he’s trying to win market share from Michael Savage?

mikel357 - 06 February 2008 05:19 PM

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.

Why does it matter to Harris whether we think those in Washington should be our biggest fear?  Is he a secret government agent on a mission to win atheists over to the Neocon point of view?

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Posted: 08 February 2008 08:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]  
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Why is singling out Islam propaganda?  Propaganda implies an underlying doctrine.  What doctrine is Harris trying to propagate that requires singling out Muslims if they don’t deserve it?

 
  I answered that above.  Propaganda doesn’t ‘imply’ anything, go look up the term at wikipedia to see what I mean.  The ‘doctrine’ for lack of a better term, that he is propagating is that the chief threat to humanity is muslim fundamentalists.  That is far from the case, while it may be popular here, worldwide it doesn’t rank in the top five in most polls, the university of chicago being the latest.  You can reread my posts to see all the relevant examples I give as to why that is not close to being true. 

 

Why does it matter to Harris whether we think those in Washington should be our biggest fear?  Is he a secret government agent on a mission to win atheists over to the Neocon point of view?

  The first is a question for Harris, not me.  I have no idea who or what he is, I am only engaged in textual criticism.  All I know is what I read from the text.  As I said, it sounds like something a white house press secretary would put out there-I said state department but that’s not fair because usually the state department is quite forthright on what they are doing and why.  Like I said, that somebody would believe what he believes is not surprising, and following 9/11 with all the muslim hysteria its not even surprising that it would be a best seller.  Racism is always alive and well, we can return to Serbia and you can go watch that Chomsky video on Yugoslavia and it is very interesting not only for the video but for the comments section.  THere you will find horribly slurs and slanders against each respective ethnic group, and again, thats not ‘all’ religion, in fact its not even mostly religion as many cultures define themselves by language, geography, political structure,etc., rather than religion.

  Again for every inquisition you have a world war.  For every religious atrocity you have a dozen political ones.  Tutsis are not a different religion from Hutu’s. Rwanda was ethnic, not religious.  As I said, even the inquisition had clear political roots which Sam admits, although he doesn’t call them the roots.  The slave trade wasn’t religious, neither were native ‘savages’ killed because they weren’t christian-many of them converted.

  He is not even remotely consistent, as we agreed above, IF it were only the beliefs that were the problem then the book would be far different.  In fact, for any entrepreneurs out there, that would be a good book-but I guess ‘the god delusion’ covered it pretty well.  Like I said, the feeling I get is that he’s simply trying to pad up his anti-muslim sentiments with ‘some other stuff’ to legitimize it.  His definition of belief-also very restrictive- leads up to it.  HIs examples are extreme hypotheticals, and of course the chapters on eastern mysticism just border on bizarre-they remind me of Martin Heidegger, who held his chair in Philosophy during the nazi regime and then following the war just wrote essays on mysticism.  As Sam admits himself, he gets considerable grief from atheists-and righty so.  Clearly it is NOT ‘irrational beliefs’ he has a problem with, he has plenty of his own. 

  The sudden thought I just had is that Sam appears to like religious beliefs that don’t encourage people to fight back.  Be a nice jainist and ‘get over’ being atomically blasted.  Be a nice polite buddhist while neighbouring countries take over, and be a nice atheist and don’t fight back.  What these religious texts do is inspire people to seek justice-to fight back.  You may remember liberation theology in central america. So Sam thinks that if only muslims would be conquored without a peep then all would be well.  Again, if the US did as most of us want, and were nominal isolationists, then suicide bombs would not be a concern.  Somebody somewhere made the statement that that means ‘doing whatever Bin Laden says’, thats hardly true,  it is doing what the majority of americans WANT.

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Posted: 08 February 2008 10:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]  
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mikel357 - 09 February 2008 01:58 AM

Why is singling out Islam propaganda?  Propaganda implies an underlying doctrine.  What doctrine is Harris trying to propagate that requires singling out Muslims if they don’t deserve it?

I answered that above.  Propaganda doesn’t ‘imply’ anything, go look up the term at wikipedia to see what I mean.  The ‘doctrine’ for lack of a better term, that he is propagating is that the chief threat to humanity is muslim fundamentalists.

Propaganda is “the systematic propagation of a given doctrine or of allegations reflecting its views and interests.”  If you’re going to label The End of Faith propaganda then you’d better be prepared to back it up by citing the doctrine it’s propagating.  That Muslim fundamentalists pose the chief threat to humanity is hardly doctrine.  Just because you can’t think of a better term for it doesn’t make it doctrine. 

It’s no more propaganda to state that Muslims are a threat than to say they aren’t.  Are you spouting propaganda when you claim Muslims aren’t a threat?

I’ve read your posts and I’ve seen your examples.  They’re nothing new.  I’ve seen plenty of reasonable arguments on both sides of the issue.  But you’re the first person I’ve seen to claim The End of Faith is “propaganda.”

mikel357 - 09 February 2008 01:58 AM

Why does it matter to Harris whether we think those in Washington should be our biggest fear?  Is he a secret government agent on a mission to win atheists over to the Neocon point of view?

The first is a question for Harris, not me.  I have no idea who or what he is, I am only engaged in textual criticism.  All I know is what I read from the text.

Bullshit.  You claim to know what Harris doesn’t want us to think.  Did he tell you that?  I certainly don’t recall him saying it in The End of Faith.  If he did, please provide the quote.  Otherwise, back up your claim with something more concrete than:

mikel357 - 09 February 2008 01:58 AM

As I said, it sounds like something a white house press secretary would put out there.

It sounds to me like you’re labeling The End of Faith as propaganda for the sole reason that you personally disagree with it.

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Posted: 08 February 2008 10:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]  
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Well Mike, I will admit that you are definitely correct in your thesis that Sam is largely ignoring the threat to world security posed by corporate American influence in the world.  I completely agree with you there, but I think that ultimately everything goes back to the kind of mindset that accepts religious faith as legitimate. The same mindset will also naively accept government propaganda as legitimate policy, will accept corporate manipulation as legimate business practices, will accept supremacy (they accept the idea of a supreme being) of one immoral sort or another, and basically will accept all sorts of false and manipulative statements as true.  It’s in this sense that i agree totally with Sam Harris on the corrupting influence of a faith-based mindset.  If people weren’t so gullible, so uninformed, so superstitious, and were truly morally aware, then we wouldn’t have the kind of political and economic mayhem and extortion threatening the stability of the world-wide human community.

When I first read TEoF I wrote to Sam and challenged his criticism of Chomsky, in his reply he suggested that I come to this forum and join the discussion on that topic, which I did.  I think the problem with people who dislike Chomsky is that they see his thesis as the report of a historical unfolding of a vast conspiracy theory where American economic/political interests are a diabolical, scheming, and sinister force determined to control the whole world and to reorganize all worldly institutions into their own maleable puppets.  I, for one, do not believe that the American hegemony is such a deliberate evil, but Chomsky does seem to be obsessed about portraying things in that light.  On that point I tend to agree with Sam that Chomsky is prone to exaggeration.  I feel that it is the natural mindset of a capitalist to be largely devoid of any moral considerations, so when the capitalist elites act as they tend to do internationally it is no surprise to me.  Capitalists don’t give a shit about the natives in Angola because they don’t have that sort of capacity to care. Capitalists just want to get the most money they can from the oil off the Angolan coast, but if AIDS suddenly infected 90% of the population, British Petroleum and Shell would just turn a blind eye as they always have before. Same thing goes for Iraq and Nigeria, and every other country in the world.  It is difficult to blame these corporate interests for their inhumane actions because they are just doing what comes naturally and we are just stupid enough to allow them to continue the pillaging.  On this forum I attempted to make the case that it is immoral and reprehensible that a CEO of a large corporation is now making 400 times the salary of the average employee of that same company (20 years ago that ratio was 40-to-1).  All those who responded felt that there was nothing wrong with the situtation and even defended the CEO’s as being successful examples of the capitalist “ethic.”  Now there’s some successful propaganda at work there!

My position Mike is that if we can get rid of the faith-based mindset, then we might have a chance of reversing the economic/environmental madness that passes today as legitimate capitalist practices. An education in science is our only hope, but this can only happen in an environment where faith is deprecated and despised - and I wholly support the effort that Sam Harris (and Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, et al) have contributed to that end (of faith).

Bob

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Posted: 09 February 2008 07:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]  
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As for the first post, again, go look up propaganda at wikipedia to see how I am using it.  I have no idea what that poster above means by ‘doctrine’ but the idea that ‘muslim fundamentalists are the cheif danger to humanity and here’s why’ is certainly a doctrine-from ‘dictionary.com’:

a particular principle, position, or policy taught or advocated, as of a religion or government: Catholic doctrines; the Monroe Doctrine.
2.  something that is taught; teachings collectively: religious doctrine.
3.  a body or system of teachings relating to a particular subject:

  If you don’t believe that, well, then obviously that debate is over.  As for propaganda, I somewhat agree with your definition, but again, go to wikipedia for at least a LITTLE more detail, and of course there are lots of in depth analysis of it.

  My examples were not meant to be NEW, I certainly didn’t read through the posts to see if others stated the same, but like I said, and you agreed, I never saw the mention of propaganda-therefore I put in my thoughts on it. 

  I don’t want to repeat it all, we can make an exagerated, and I stress exagerated comparison with nazi germany simply because thats a situation everybody knows about. So you had massive poverty in germany, so much so that communes were setting up all over the place, and the government comes along and says ‘the jews are taking all the wealth of the world’.  However, it was the restrictions placed on their economy after world war one that was wreaking havoc (among other things, but it certainly wasn’t because jews were taking all the wealth).  So the government starts with the propaganda about the jews-again, to make a bad comparison but at least equivalent, had Sam’s book been written THEN, it would have said much the same things about religious beliefs, maybe even a few token remarks about how the german government may have too many religious beliefs, but saving its chief venom for, say, jewish attention to wealth accumulation.  It is the belief that jews want to get too rich which is the central problem to humanity.

  As you see, that of course is absurd.  Recently I saw some stats from Afghanistan which said that last year 327 died because of suicide bombers.  Again, FAR more people died at that hands of NATO bombing, and it would take hundreds of years to match the death toll of the invasion.  So, yes, its a tragedy that 327 people died, but that beggars in comparison.

  Thats how propaganda works.  To change the policy of aggression (which by no means in unique to the US, however, nobody else has that world domination), requires considerable political work and risk.  But like those germans, IF you believe jews accumulating all the wealth is the problem then you will tacitly support robbing them of rights, you may justify torture, you may even support curbing the rights of EVERYBODY because that main threat may demand it.

  But again, with the value of historical hindsight, we can say that germans who actually believed that were mistaken.  And again, all my examples are meant to point out that belief that muslim fundamentalists are the cheif threat to humanity is tragically similar.  People may give tacit approval to Guatanamo, they may simply ignore abu gharib, they may simply ignore foreign policy and the wars altogether.  But of course that beleif is largely inconsequential because WE don’t form foreign policy.  If WE did then it would look far different (and keep in mind ‘we’ have at least a little more responsibility than, say afghans who got bombed but certainly didn’t support the taliban)-we have at least some power and freedom to challenge our authorities. 

  WHich leads us into the above points about chomsky, because he believes (and I agree with him, I didn’t ‘put faith in him’), that it is national governments, primarily the US because it has hegemony, that ‘has to be changed’.  The central problem is getting people organized, essentially, to be blunt, in DEMOCRATIZING the United States-getting representatives to actually represent what their constituents want, not what their lobbyists and oil buddies want.  For example, Mike Gravel was a presidential contender, he is also one of the leading advocates for national referenda (you can look it up, I forget the organizations name).  Of course media made a point of ignoring him, with the predictable results.

  But if people don’t see that as the main problem, they certainly won’t do anything about it.  And if they are always seeing a foreign enemy (1984 again comes to mind) whether its commies, sandinistas, muslims, etc., then THAT is propaganda, and I’ve attempted to give numerous examples of why that is.  If you want more, I can go chapter by chapter in the text. 

  Now, its obvious that lots of people don’t agree with Sam.  Again, many have mischaracterized Sam and put in what THEY think, and I (and another poster above who saved me some trouble above) have shown where Sam says exactly what I attribute to him (if not, feel free to post the relevant quotes from the text). 

  To me that’s GOOD, but I’m not arguing ideas here, I’m criticizing Sam’s text and what he says.  Contrary to the post above, I’ve given dozens of examples of how this is propaganda, yet I’m yet to see ANYBODY say why it is NOT.  If they did, I’d debate it but I’m yet to see it.  I’ve seen lots of arguments that have taken us on side tracks, but apart from post 27 I haven’t seen any.  I think I dealt with post 27, if not, then somebody just mention it and I will.

  As for Chomsky, I tend to disagree with the above and you’ll have to point out where Chomsky says what you think he does.  Never have I heard him ‘exagerate’, in fact that is often what finds him critics on both sides of the spectrum. He does what I’ve attempted to do here, which is evaluate based on the information right in front.

  For his ‘theories’, say the propaganda model, or language theory, its right from the sources.  I’ve NEVER seen him claim that corporations are ‘evil’, in fact, if you haven’t seen it, I urge you to watch the documentary “The Corporation” which he appears in briefly, mainly to say exactly what the poster above says, which, not coincidentally, is exactly what Naomi Klein says in her book (I’m not sure if the above poster is the same one that referenced Klein’s book a ways back) and who also appears in the documentary, again, to say almost verbatim what the poster says above. 

  That the chief problem is the US foreign policy is hardly new and hardly contentious, its almost mainstream now.  Huge protests went on before the war in Iraq even got started.  That the US government acts with different interests in mind than those of its population is hardly ‘new’, I don’t mean it to be new.  Again, it is so obvious that polls show overwhelmingly that the world already knows it-and is rightly scared.  As Chomsky references, just before the war an article in ‘foreign relations’ had two US academic experts proclaiming that what is needed is for the Chinese to gather allies to oppose the ‘regime’ in Washington.  Again, thats not me saying that, or Chomsky, but two experts from the council on foreign relations.  So this is hardly contentious stuff.

  What nobody has mentioned, and Sam certainly didn’t, is whether the ‘desire for power’ has any kind of connection with religious belief.  It could, I don’t know, its an interesting thought and IF it turned out that that case could be made, then religious belief WOULD be the ‘cheif problem’.  But again, muslim fundamentalists are hardly the problem there.

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Posted: 09 February 2008 08:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]  
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It looks like we are not that far apart Mike.  If you are interested in the critiques of Chomsky’s position, you can check out the Chomsky postings somewhere near the beginning of the Politics thread. I am not convinced by those who claim that Chomsky is a proponent of “conspiracy theory” with regards to US economic domination of the planet, in fact I mostly agree with Noam Chomsky. I will definitely try to get hold of “The Corporation” it’s a documentary I’ve had on my ‘to watch’ list since it came out.

Here’s my other point, I read Sam Harris in the larger context, taking his stance to be against religious faith in general and using the muslim examples as evidence of his position.  You, on the other hand, focus entirely on the muslim aspect of Harris’ attack and then you claim that he is issuing propaganda in saying that muslim faith is the greatest threat to humanity.  If that’s what Harris is saying, then obviously everyone would agree that he is propagating an erroneous doctrine, but honestly Mike, do you think that Sam Harris is really that ignorant?  I am trying to equate his intelligence with the scope of his entire work, you seem to pick out several examples of his evidence and blow out these instances to represent the entirety of his critical work.  Your intent, it appears, is to make Harris look stupid, small-minded, and somewhat like a nazi.  If that’s your game, then indeed you have convinced yourself of Harris’ ignorance, but you are not going to convince the rest of us.

Bob

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Posted: 09 February 2008 05:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]  
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Absolutely go check out ‘The Corporation’, it is a magnificent documentary.  Anybody tired of Michael Moore’s rants will be pleasantly surprised (and again, most corporations are now international so we are not even talking about ‘anti americanism’ here).

  I’m not going to check out the thread on Chomsky, he defends himself very well and few people that criticize him have actually READ him.  He is clearly not in the ‘conspiracy theory’ game, and Sam, quite frankly, isn’t even in the same intellectual camp.  In fact what pisses off a lot of people is that IF he were so anti american then he’d at least sign on with the VAST, and I do mean VAST number of people who subscribe to the whole ‘911 was not the work of terrorists’ camp.  He consistently refuses to buy into that, simply saying ‘there is no documentation’.  The one thing i’ve always respected is that when people ask him the ‘why’ of anything he always says ‘we can only speculate’.  Again, in the case of Bosnia referenced above, when asked about it, the first thing he does is reference senior state department officials.  He doesn’t say ‘here’s why they got involved’-its not ‘his theory’, he is quoting the people involved.  Now, perhaps they are lying, we don’t know that, but when somebody who does something tells you why they did it, you can at least give it some credence.  And as he further says, ‘its something you could have guessed before’.  Again, it wasn’t for humanitarian reasons, we KNOW that because there are humanitarian crises all over the world since, well, ever.  And not only does the government not help the victims, it often supports the aggressors.  So its quite a ‘leap of faith’ to suddenly say ‘in this case it was a concern for humanity’.

  And give the corporation lots of time, the doc is like three hours long!

  As for the next point, I’m not trying to ‘convince’ anybody about anything about Sam.  I’m stating a thesis and providing evidence for that thesis.  As other posters say when disputes get heated, its hardly a point of interest to try to convince perfect strangers who are anonymous of anything. 

  However, the portrait of Sam is far from my intention, thats not even close.  I haven’t tried to portray him as ANYTHING, I am only looking at the text.  He could simply be a bad writer who doesn’t express himself very well, and I suspect that’s part of it, at least from the replies to critics that he has written.  He’s more of a ‘sloppy thinker’ as his chapter on belief attests.  You can’t do epistemology in a chapter, no way, no how. 

  As for propaganda, its far from true that this makes those who write it ‘ignorant’ and ‘small minded’.  I’m not even saying that Sam is malicious, he well could be, I don’t know.  Like I said, that somebody would believe what he believes isn’t that surprising, hell, imagine what people who only get their news from Fox believe about the world!  Propagandists by nature have been the SMARTEST people around.  Goebbels was an absolute genius, and the public relations people successfully turned the pacifist british people into raving anti-hunists just prior to the first world war, and this is despite the considerable german connections (like their royal family). 

  So lets take it a step further, say I was GOING to say something ‘nasty’ about Sam.  Let’s pretend he’s actually an employee of the CIA or something like that (again, highly doubtful but we’re just pretending here).  The book could hardly be more genius.  First, if he had just said ‘muslims are bad’, then everybody would say that he’s just a racist.  So you can’t do that.  If his thesis was ‘its muslim suicide bombers that are the greatest threat’, then again he’d have to deal with the facts I mention above, that suicide bombers often act with no regard to religion, and that by comparison the numbers they kill are nowhere near the fatalities in other areas (by that reasoning drunk driving is the ‘greatest threat’ to humanity because FAR more people are killed.

  So he can’t do that either.  He’s got to go broader, he’s got to find some common ground that won’t single out a race.  He does that with religious belief.  Then you can dump all the ‘crazy fundamentalists’ in together-but point at islam because it is a ‘special case’.  Of course if you discount religion altogether then you have the huge percentage of the population that has no moral theory or principles, and an exquisite fear of death-enter the final two chapters on ‘mysticism’ (the polite kind).  Now, if he were just saying that, then thats one thing.  And by saying that he gets readers, like the above, stating that they ‘read Sam in a larger context’.  What that means I don’t know, but I again refer you to the quote directly from the book that another poster quoted above.  He SPECIFICALLY says that while ‘belief’ is a problem, Islam has a ‘special place’ I think he calls it-again, go up and look at the quote.

  And keep in mind that this is only a 225 page book.  In his criticisms of religion, Islam takes up the lions share, he even calls it ‘the problem with islam’, while the chapter on christianity isn’t called ‘the problem with christianity’ but ‘the shadow of god’ (which again includes islam).  And of course the entire book starts off with his muslim example and much of the first chapter deals with it as well. 

  So again, thats analysis of the text.  It’s good to see the admittance that ‘IF Sam were actually saying that ‘we’d agree that it is propaganda’.  So what I’m doing is showing where Sam IS saying exactly that.  The last two chapters aren’t even criticisms of religion, in fact they are proponents of it.  Sam claims that ‘mysticism is rational, religion is not’.  That is just ludicrous, and even newspaper literary critics have pointed that out-even the ones who like the book.  Much of religious doctrine has been propagated through mysticism, much of the traditions has been formed around many of the mystical texts.  If somebody wants to go deeper into that then feel free.

  On page 294 you can read Sam’s analysis of ‘religious mysticism’ which essentially says ‘because it is tied to religion it is invalid, only the parts not tied to religion is valid because it is not tied to religion’.  And I’m serious, read the text on those two pages three or four times, its literally jibberish.

  So actually IF Sam were being malicious, he is INCREDIBLY intelligent.  He has succeeded in making atheists, people who tend to avoid taking anything on faith, believe that the greatest threat to humanity are people who have so far been responsible for only as many deaths as drunk drivers cause here in the US. 

  That is hardly small minded or ignorant.  It’s absolutely GENIUS.  If I could write a book and make such people believe that transport trailers, which cause the deaths of HUNDREDS more people than suicide bombers, and trucking company owners, who are actively lobbying to ‘soften’ trucking regulations are the greatest threat to humanity-then I would be absolutely ecstatic. I don’t think I ever could. 

  By the above reasoning, this guy is like a salesman I used to work with who said “I could sell ice to eskimos”.  This guy wasn’t small minded or ignorant, he was one of the best salesmen I ever met.


  But again, I have no idea what Sam’s intent is, all I can do is go by the text.  The conclusion given above about Sam was not my intent, in fact could not be.  Like I said, I’m not too worried about the above scenario because virtually everybody who has posted has said “well, I don’t believe that, and I don’t think Sam does either”.  That’s great, so people like the above poster who thought I was calling everyone a sucker can rest easy.  If you DO believe that people who killed a fraction of the people who died in construction accidents are the biggest threat to humanity, thats another story entirely.  But again, its hardly surprising, Fox basically has run with that theme from day one, and most corporate media tout that theme non stop.  So its no surprise at all that lots of people would believe it-again, a majority of americans thought Hussein was behind 911-its no surprise they thought it, but again, it was ‘wrong’ , even though only a minority in the US KNEW it was wrong.  And at that time plenty of people were posting to say WHY that opinion was wrong. 

  As for morality, we have here a SECULAR theory that says that torture is not only acceptable but may actually be ‘good’, or at least ‘not bad’.  Virtually NO religious beliefs have maintained that for hundreds of years, so again, if it is ‘belief’ that is a danger, by far atheism would be higher on my list than religious beliefs.

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Posted: 09 February 2008 07:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]  
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I remain unable to grasp why you keep playing this game Mike, that you yourself have basically made up by taking a few crucial quotes and using them as the foundation of the Harris thesis.  Look, the book is called “The End Of FAITH” it isn’t called “The End of MUSLIMS” or “The End of ISLAMMIC SUICIDE BOMBERS.”  It becomes embarrasing to continue debating with you because you keep issuing the same, silly dogmatic statement “suicide bombers are the greatest threat to humanity” and claiming that this is what Harris is saying.  Yes, Fox News probably believes that, but hardly anyone else with a working brain does.  You are the one who has deliberately set up this Straw Herring (thanks S.C.) and then you proclaim that it is nonsense.  Of course it’s nonsense, your nonsense!

When I said “the larger context” I meant that Harris is arguing for the end of all religious faith, and that’s the way I interpret the text (in that context) and not limited to suicide bombers with islammic beliefs.  I don’t know how you could not understand that this is the LARGER CONTEXT of the Harris thesis? 

Then you go off into comparing total numbers of deaths and equating those with threats to humanity by bringing in semi-truck drivers and the trucking industry . . . more straw herrings Mike. 

I’m grasping at straws here, but I can only assume that you are a person of faith and you are determined to defend that faith against one who calls for its immediate destruction.  Unfortunately, the tactics you have chosen to mount your defense are purely specious arguments.  The unfortunate part is that while you accuse Harris of spewing propaganda, the contents of this so-called propaganda are precepts that you yourself have invented and erroneously attributed to Harris.  So while you defend your faith you are basically lying through your teeth in order to save it.  It’s a pathetic sight really!

However, I do give you credit for a very well orchestrated attempt to assassinate by false witness the point of view of the author of “The End of Faith.”  If indeed you are a person of faith, I would completely understand why you cannot see “the larger context” because you are firmly implanted within that context and thus can only view certain parts of it.  If you could step out of your faith-based beliefs, then you would be able to grasp the wholeness of Sam’s argument and then it wouldn’t appear to be like propaganda to you. I’m guessing that such a move is not possible for you Mike, so perhaps you should go and preach your propaganda thesis to people of a like-minded philosophy . . . maybe on a christian forum?

Bob

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Posted: 09 February 2008 09:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]  
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Like I said, I presented a thesis, and I defended it.  I did far more than present a few crucial quotes-although the quotes are pretty darn crucial.  I can list them all point form if you have trouble following them.  I don’t know what ‘game’ is being played-when somebody replies I attempt to answer.  If its ‘embarassing’ to continue the debate then there is an easy solution to that. 

When I said “the larger context” I meant that Harris is arguing for the end of all religious faith, and that’s the way I interpret the text (in that context) and not limited to suicide bombers with islammic beliefs.

  That is simply false, and the last two chapters show that Harris is NOT arguing for the end of all religious faith.  Mysticism is CLEARLY a religious faith, virtually every part of the end of the book is propagating a religious belief in mysticism.  Mysticism has ZERO scientific evidence for it:

There also seems to be a body of data attesting to the reality of psychic phenomena, much of which has been ignored by mainstream science.

  pg. 41

The unfortunate part is that while you accuse Harris of spewing propaganda, the contents of this so-called propaganda are precepts that you yourself have invented and erroneously attributed to Harris.  So while you defend your faith you are basically lying through your teeth in order to save it.


  I have no idea what that means.  Again, it is hardly out of line, you can go back and read the posts above and there is one where somebody states their agreement that indeed Sam singles out Islamic beliefs over other beliefs.  In that poster’s case they simply AGREE that their should be the emphasis on Islamic beliefs.  A page or so ago there was a post from somebody saying ‘so you think somebody who thinks suicide bombers are the greatest threat to humanity are brainwashed?’ or something to that effect.  Clearly other people came to that conclusion-even if you did not.

  But obviously for some reason even though he has an entire chapter dedicated to Islam, there needs to be some concrete quotes, so here goes:

“We are at war with Islam….it is unambiguously so.”
pg. 109

“We are at war with precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all muslims in the Koran”  ibid

“A future in which Islam and the West do nto stand on the brink of mutual annihilation is a future in which most muslims have learned to ignore most of their canon”  pg 110


“islam is undeniably a religion of conquest”

“the duty of jihad is an unambiguous call to world conquest”

“the basic thrust of the doctrine is undeniable: convert, subjugate, or kill unbelievers; kill apostates, and conquor the world”

“western countries now appear to be ‘hotbeds of Islamic militancy”

  I can, of course, go on and on and on, this is literally from three pages.  Other pages set out explicitly why islam is stuck in the fourteenth century and how they have not learned the moderation of christianity and judaism.

  So thats hardly a ‘straw herring’.  Most of those claims are as absurd as saying that jews are attempting to take over the world.  For heaven’s sake, muslims don’t even evangelize-I get mormons and jehovah’s witnesses at my door fairly often trying to convert me, I’ve NEVER seen a muslim, not to try to convert me, not to try to kill me. 
 
  The fearmongering there is quite unmistakable- if you don’t see it as that, or choose to overlook those phrases in order the see a ‘big picture’ thats your business.  It is in Sam’s book, whether you see it or not-for any others, just read the chapter dedicated to “the problem of islam”, which is 50 pages in a 225 page book where the last 30 pages are new age hokism.

  So even if you don’t AGREE with my thesis, you can certainly see how I come to that conclusion.  It starts right at the first page, which is an emotional dramatization that is reminiscent of the way they told stories of jews using christian blood for their ceremonies.  It is right there in the first chapter on ‘muslim extremism’, which, strangely enough, claims the problem is muslim ‘faith’ in the literal text of the koran.  Yet then he goes on to say that though suicide bombing is not actually IN the koran, it ‘must be inferred’.  So apparantly the problem is NOT faith in the literal koran, since the literal koran says nothing about suicide bombing (just thought I’d stick that in there). 

  Again, thats simple textual analysis.  I don’t read anything into it, and am not interested in a ‘big picture’ from which to base my interpretation.  This is what Sam SAYS, which is pretty clear. 

  And though it has nothing to do with the issue and is nobody’s business I am NOT a ‘person of faith’, if I were I wouldn’t be reading books like this.

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Posted: 10 February 2008 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]  
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Just had to note this as a final reply (unless somebody adds something).  Just for even more evidence you can go read the thread on ‘the morality of torturing muslims’, its clear that a good percentage of people clearly believe Sam’s thesis singling out islam (and accept that it IS Sam’s thesis)-whether because of Sam or watching too much Fox I dont know. 

  And just for a final rebuttal I’ve taken a cursory glance through many of these threads and I think I WILL try to find some christian boards, or even muslim boards-to find a little bit of sanity!  From what I’ve seen its a testament to intolerance and far more evil than anything I’ve heard from islam.  Torture, death penalties, all have been defended (the former even by Sam) all on the basis of ‘tactical reasons’, by people who are adamantly ‘atheist’.  People are espousing the most nefarious views of ‘collateral damage’ as though bombing in the first place is not even a moral question. Even the bizarre claim that because the initial terrorists were muslim, ALL muslims are the same.  By that thinking of course since Jeffrey Dalmer is an atheist, all atheists must be serial killers. 

  And just as one final aside, and something for the even headed poster above (and I’d recommend from your moderateness that you join me at Richard Dawkins website or some humanist websites-or even some religious moderates like mennonites who se ‘beliefs’ rarely are spent on theology but rather on good works) to think about is that your ‘larger context’ argument is EXACTLY the same argument which the majority of religious people bring to their respective texts.  If I told you that your way of looking at his text was ‘dangerous’ or ‘part of the problem’ you would call it absurd.  At most it means you’d be mistaken and giving Sam far too many benefits of the doubt, it hardly means you’re about to commit violence or support it.

  But thats the way people approach religious texts-lots of it is downright crazy and is ignored, but at the core is an acknowledged ‘truth’ shall we say, that a person finds acceptable and desirable.  Again, that is hardly a problem-unless they commit violence (I’d even say ‘accept’ violence which from this board lumps ‘atheism’ into that same category).

  This board has essentially provided evidence that far more problematic than ‘religious beliefs’ are VIOLENT beliefs, and those take atheistic forms just as easily as religious.  Give me religious people who oppose violence any day of the week over an atheist who accepts it, even desires it.

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Posted: 10 February 2008 10:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]  
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Interestingly enough in my last post I wrote ‘embarrasing’ and you wrote back with the word in ‘quotes’ and spelled ‘embarassing’ (obviously you realized that I had spelled it incorrectly and wanted to alert me to my error). So I looked the word up in the dictionary and guess what, we’re both wrong.  Properly written the word is spelled ‘embarrassing.’

This pretty well sums up our debate up to this point Mike, and I will be happy to shut up.

Bob

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