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Interesting critique of TEoF
Posted: 23 December 2005 12:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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[quote author=“Cody”]However, I think she had a little harsh response coming.  She herself was harsh, for one.  But mostly because, it seems to me, she is doing the very thing we here at the forum are trying to stop—using her intelligence to spread ignorance.


I don’t see it that way at all, actually. I agree with you regarding the idea she misread TEoF (I think), but I don’t think it’s an unreasonable reading—lacking rigor to some degree perhaps, but maybe only to a relatively small degree. I also think that her edge would be warranted if she were right (or possibly is warranted, though I doubt it).

So, if I’m right and she wasn’t unreasonably off the mark, it seems harsh to judge her from the perspective of recognizing her misreading. She obviously didn’t recognize it herself, so she’s writing for all intents and purposes about someone guilty of what she says Sam is guilty of, and such a person would deserve such a criticism as she offers.

In short, IMO Nanda’s not overly harsh, she just got the wrong impression due to a failure to catch some relatively subtle and critical distinctions, and that’s a relatively easy error to make.

So there it is . . .

Byron

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Posted: 23 December 2005 02:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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I think she’s sincere in her biased criticism, just as our religious friends are sincere in their biased readings of history and science.  I think she’s just doing what Champ and Thomas do—arguing passionately about “facts” that by and large exist only in their minds—and the rest of us should hold them accountable for their ignorance.  (Which seems to be the whole point of Sam’s book!)

I’m more than happy to hear another informed opinion, but it seems pretty clear to me that she has not thoroughly read the book.  If so, then she has no more business trying to write thorough criticisms of it than Champ and his kind have of writing their long-winded ‘arguments’ against evolution. 

Imagine someone making a Fahrenheit 911 type movie about you, accusing you of doing and saying horrible things you didn’t say or do.  (You hate Muslims, you’re secretly a New Age missionary, etc)  Because the filmmaker was really making the movie about his image of you, not the real you.  Would you make a similar defense of such a critic?

On the contrary, any of us would defend ourselves.  Defend the truth.  And just as we should do unto others, we should protect all truth as we would the truth about ourselves.

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Posted: 05 January 2006 03:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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Cody wrote, very early in this thread:

First, may I say, I too was made uncomfortable by Harris’s comments about consciousness being something independent of the brain, that we ‘don’t know what happens after death’, etc. It seems to me, that while it may technically be true that we do not fully understand the process of consciousness…..

For a good exposition of conciousness, and a startling potential idea of where it came from, read “The Origin of Concsiousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”, by Julian Janes. It’s an old book,but considered so seminal and profound that there is, even after Janes death, a Julian Janes Society, with members all over the world (sort of an intellectual cult, as it were). The book also gives an explanation, perhaps, of the seeming, nearly imperative, requirment that most people need to have, or believe in, a “god” of some sort. It also gives a hint of why “looking inside” by meditative practices may be the place to find the atavistic “spark of divinity” within.

Finally, a comment on all the Eastern religion and practice stuff. A lot of the words really are mumbo jumbo, but IMHO, meditative practice is simply a learned skill, a process,  that can be taught straightforwardly. Mysticism can be a result, in some sense, of proper practice, but no mystic (very thin on the ground) would ever tell you that his or her internal experiences represent the real world. And,to me, spirituality is just too fuzzy a word and even concept to mean very much.

Warren

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Posted: 07 January 2006 10:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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Oops.  I posted my thoughts seperately on a diff thread but did not know SkepticX had already put Nanda’s review up for scrutiny.  I will delete the other thread and re-post what I wrote here:

Nanda writes:  2. A Rationalist Jihad against Jihad
The End of Faith is a response to religious extremism from a rationalist extremist perspective. Disturbed by the rise of religious violence around the world, especially the 9-11 attacks on America , Harris has taken on the tradition al theological beliefs about God and afterlife that motivate some to kill innocents. Brushing aside all political and historical factors that have contributed to religious extremism in the contemporary world, Harris singles out theological beliefs as the primary and pretty much the sole cause of religious violence.

Quick observation:  Of course Harris singles out theological beliefs.  Why would any human willingly exterminate himself from this life? Because his faith dictates that glory awaits him in some way shape or form. Thus, Harris calls an end to this faith.  No faith in that, and the person will not detonate himself into a paradise he does not believe will be his.

[Harris] indulgently turns a blind eye on the “spiritual” teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism, both of which have a proven track-record of justifying nationalistic wars and ethnic cleansings.

Reincarnation is a teaching inherent to these cultures. Honorable death no matter how it is accomplished gratifies this ideology. Die honorably, and you proceed up the ladder of progression in the next life experience. God is not a part of Buddhist faith, but Buddhist faith does have a mechanism that can propel a fanatical practitioner to self exterminate if the conditions are right.

Instead, he saves all his venom against the Koran, condemning it as if it were a manual of war. His analysis of religious extremism goes on these lines:
Question: Why do Islamic terrorists do what they do? Why has Osama bin Laden chosen the path of violence against the West, especially against America ?
Answer: Because men like bin Laden actually believe in the literal truth of the Koran. And because the literal truth of Koran is “intrinsically” violent and intolerant, they have no choice but to commit acts of violence.
In short, it is the theology stupid!

Nanda incorrectly summarizes Harris. Bin Laden targets the West in part for political reasons, yes, but Nanda fails to place in the equation the irrational approach of the Jihaddist mentality. Why is the Jihaddhist willing to fly a plane into a building? Because his faith dictates that he is glory bound if he does it. It does not matter that other factors enter the equation as the book is entitled “The End of Faith” not “The End of Political Dischord”.

Faith is the fuel that fires the engines of theology. Harris is calling for rationality to take a higher priority in human interaction than ephemeral strainings at what a god may or may not reward humans for their murderous behaviors in his name.

This bilious attack on faith only sets the stage for what seems to be his real goal: a defense – nay, a celebration of – Harris’s own Buddhist/Hindu spirituality.

I did not come away with this thought at all. Harris attacked faith, for certain. Rather than leave the reader empty handed with no solution, rather than have me doubting what Harris thinks he should be done in place of faith… Harris provides an alternative solution for human interaction. I did not feel he was pushing a “religion”. Nanda over reaches with this theme throughout her review.

(He has been influenced by the esoteric teachings of Dzogchen Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta and has spent many years practicing various techniques of meditation, Harris inform s his readers). Spirituality is the answer to Islam’s and Christianity’s superstitions and wars, Harris wants to convince us.

No. Meditative introspection is a way to slow the mind that is so quick to kill another human out of rage or out of fanatical irrationality. Nanda overstates again.

[Nanda] grew up as an observant Hindu in [her] native India . Unlike Harris, who seems to have found a shelter in spirituality after he found faith wanting, I insist upon subjecting both to an equally rigorous test of reason and evidence, and I find them both equally wanting.

Fair point, but she is running with the assumption that Harris compels others to become mystical.  He discusses an alternative to dogmatic, fanatical faith and had he not done so, he would have been called on the carpet for it.

What I find particularly galling about spirituality is its pretensions of “higher” rationality, its false and dangerous claims of being “empirical” and “scientific” in the sense of being testable by “experience” (which invariably means non-sensory experience). Western converts to Eastern spirituality, along with Eastern apologists themselves, end up presenting an air-brushed, sanitized picture of the real thing.

There is a western version of Hundu meditative religion called Eckankar. If one studies the cult of Eckankar for even a couple of weeks, one can see that the results are real and any person who dedicates themselves to the breathing and chanting excersizes can experience degrees of success. The cult’s foundational claim is that one can travel outside his body and meet with the Mahanta who will guide him back to ultimate “god” consciousness. I have met with a 5th level initiate who led me through some more rudimentary excersizes. I had relevant success enough to see that the claim is likely true. Real thing or not, Eckankar and the like provides a plausible non- god answer to the faith question for many people.

3. New Age Mystifications
Spiritualism is not just good for your soul, Harris wants to convince us, it is good for your mind as well: it can make you “happy, peaceful and even wise …by searching for truth” (p. 215).

Yes, but this argument came as a suggestion for alternatives to the faith he just got done destroying. Harris was not pushing this.

For Hindus, this attempt to divest the ego by consciously realizing its identity with the ground of the entire macrocosm – what the Hindus call the Brahman – is the very essence of what the Vedas and Upanishads teach: “Thou art That,” “all this Brahman” and the atman (self) in you is the Brahman. Brahman, the Vedas teach, is the sole, truly existing, non-material, eternal reality which is beyond space, time and causation. Once you experience the sense of being beyond space, time and causation through yoga, breath control and meditation, you will realize the truth of the Vedas, namely, the self in you (atman) is identical with Brahman, your consciousness encompasses the entire macrocosm, and that you are, in fact, God. Once you reach this state of mind, you are not held back by fears or tempted by desires: the here and now of the material world become illusionary and lose their grip on one’s mind. Thus, the achievement of the sense of one-ness with the universe is a central commandment of Hindu and Buddhist teachings.

Brahmanism enters the meditative anhilation of self as a meditative technique suggesting a religion unto one’s self. The key is being able to realize that looking inward has more merit than looking to an unproven god for answers or direction or influence in the decision making process. Particularily when said decision involves choices of whether or not one should kill another (war). Interestingly, by achieving the anhiliation of self through meditation, one is arguably better disposed to peaceful means of conflict resolution.

Harris calls for an end of fanatical faith in gods. I agree that Harris also suggests to replace irrational faith with another belief structure found in meditative mysticism. But such a faith is in one’s self. Faith in self asks an unproven, non- falsifiable god to exit and the more tangible parts of self to enter. That concept empowers rational thought.

In the end, Harris celebrates the sacredness of self. Harris focuses on the value of life found in the human being. It is a call to arms for humanity. Humans have mortgaged or brokered the concept of self out to the fringe charlatans who readily take them in bound and shackled, chained forever more to irrational dogmatic prose that leaves them with nothing but an empty soul.

CONCLUSION:

I could go on bantering about what Nanda has written, but this is long enough. I have made my points. Nanda continues blasting away at The End of Faith. Her agenda tripped her up. I find it interesting to witness again that people really will come away with whatever they want or need to.

Noggin

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Posted: 08 January 2006 12:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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[quote author=“Noggin”]

Harris calls for an end of fanatical faith in gods. I agree that Harris also suggests to replace irrational faith with another belief structure found in meditative mysticism. But such a faith is in one’s self. Faith in self asks an unproven, non- falsifiable god to exit and the more tangible parts of self to enter. That concept empowers rational thought.


Noggin

This is called, simply, “growing up.”  Of course, it takes a certain maturity to leave a false god in the first place, i.e., a degree of rational thought over time but also a willingness to forego the emotional wants for accusation and consolation which summarizes what religion is for.  Ongoing maturity is the ‘replacement’ and not dependence on another belief structure.  Perhaps meditative mysticism is ‘a way’ to mature but it is not the only way.  It’s a matter of preference as to method.

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Posted: 08 January 2006 06:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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[quote author=“cocallag”][quote author=“Noggin”]

Harris calls for an end of fanatical faith in gods. I agree that Harris also suggests to replace irrational faith with another belief structure found in meditative mysticism. But such a faith is in one’s self. Faith in self asks an unproven, non- falsifiable god to exit and the more tangible parts of self to enter. That concept empowers rational thought.


Noggin

This is called, simply, “growing up.”  Of course, it takes a certain maturity to leave a false god in the first place, i.e., a degree of rational thought over time but also a willingness to forego the emotional wants for accusation and consolation which summarizes what religion is for.  Ongoing maturity is the ‘replacement’ and not dependence on another belief structure.  Perhaps meditative mysticism is ‘a way’ to mature but it is not the only way.  It’s a matter of preference as to method.

Clarice, I am interested in any method that would get an individual to, simply, “grow up”.  I have a few ideas but am interested in yours.

What are your thoughts?  What is the simplest method you can think of?  I ask because so many are willing to subrogate their ability to live according to truly their own conscience or create their own moral code within the context of society law and order… they employ a god to do it for them.  Is that laziness?  fear? Ignorance?

And how do you suppose an atheist, one without god, is able to achieve good morality?  The theist will tell you the atheist cannot be moral or as moral as a theist is.

Noggin

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Posted: 08 January 2006 07:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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What are your thoughts? What is the simplest method you can think of? I ask because so many are willing to subrogate their ability to live according to truly their own conscience or create their own moral code within the context of society law and order… they employ a god to do it for them. Is that laziness? fear? Ignorance?

And how do you suppose an atheist, one without god, is able to achieve good morality? The theist will tell you the atheist cannot be moral or as moral as a theist is.

Interesting, inadvertant, maybe, choice of words. Morality versus ethics always equates to me as pushed by religion versus arrived at semi-rationally (or at least not pushed by religion). Sort of the difference between a sin and a crime.

Apopos to Clarice’s point and your question, Noggin, there was an interesting survey article in the Christmas issue of the Economist about Human Evolution which points out that:“The researchers conclusion is that humans are hard-wired not for logic, but for detecting injustice…...Trust and the detection and punishment of injustice lie at the heart of human society. They are so important that people will harm their own short-term interests to punish those they regard as behaving unfairly…....This makes no sense in a one-off transaction, but makes every sense if the two participants are likely to deal with each other repeatedly…..” The other point is that the “natural” size community of significant concern for humans is about 150 (an infantry comany size, interestingly enough). None of this has anything to do with religion or morality.

All this seems to say that at least one hard-wired basis for close-in group ethics or morality is to simply treat everyone in your close-in group fairly, and, presumably, defend the “tribe”, as it were, also. I would think that, once interpersonal ethics are established, then they could be generalized to relations between groups of various sizes. If you remove the “god” stuff from the ten commandments, they are all pretty well interpersonal and close-in (who else would you commit adultery with?  ;-{))  )

Just a thought.

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Posted: 08 January 2006 08:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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[quote author=“Noggin”]

Clarice, I am interested in any method that would get an individual to, simply, “grow up”.  I have a few ideas but am interested in yours.

What are your thoughts?  What is the simplest method you can think of?  I ask because so many are willing to subrogate their ability to live according to truly their own conscience or create their own moral code within the context of society law and order… they employ a god to do it for them.  Is that laziness?  fear? Ignorance?

And how do you suppose an atheist, one without god, is able to achieve good morality?  The theist will tell you the atheist cannot be moral or as moral as a theist is.

Noggin

With the goal of living life without escapes such as religion:  a liberal education, i.e., the humanities including syllogistic logic.  Also, self-knowledge (Socrates).  What are your ideas?

Since we all have minds and can think, we have the capacity to figure out how to behave that is in the best interests of ourselves and others.  No god is needed for this, in fact, it’s a hindrance, as we’re learning.  A problem is that our feelings get in the way of rationality.  People want to feel good instead of facing life head-on as it is.

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Posted: 08 January 2006 01:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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[quote author=“cocallag”][quote author=“Noggin”]

Clarice, I am interested in any method that would get an individual to, simply, “grow up”.  I have a few ideas but am interested in yours.

What are your thoughts?  What is the simplest method you can think of?  I ask because so many are willing to subrogate their ability to live according to truly their own conscience or create their own moral code within the context of society law and order… they employ a god to do it for them.  Is that laziness?  fear? Ignorance?

And how do you suppose an atheist, one without god, is able to achieve good morality?  The theist will tell you the atheist cannot be moral or as moral as a theist is.

Noggin

With the goal of living life without escapes such as religion:  a liberal education, i.e., the humanities including syllogistic logic.  Also, self-knowledge (Socrates).  What are your ideas?

Since we all have minds and can think, we have the capacity to figure out how to behave that is in the best interests of ourselves and others.  No god is needed for this, in fact, it’s a hindrance, as we’re learning.  A problem is that our feelings get in the way of rationality.  People want to feel good instead of facing life head-on as it is.

I think that the notion of god is fine for romantisizing existential problems of life.  But to go beyond that is perilous.  At least for me.  What I mean about that is god is like a tonic that assuages ones fears that they will just wither and dry up into nothingness at death.  No one really wants that.  Most of us want to fantasize about going beyond this world somehow.

But I agree with you that education is key.  One of the biggest keys.  The more one reads, the better equipped he is to deal with reality.  The less one learns, the bigger the bubble he lives in.  Insulated from reality.

But the biggest motivating factor, if we really are to attempt to live without god prodding us at each decision, is love. 

Love.  Cheesey, but oh well.

I love my kids and would do practically anything for them.  Love for them makes me selfless.  Or I want to act selflessly so that their life can be better than mine was growing up.  I want to create with them.  I want them to be appreciative of the many facets of life.  If I did not love them this way, I would not care.

Love for America.

This country’s concept of free market enterprising in capitalism has created a good life for my family.  I love it.  With this love I feel patriotism and push to further the American ideals that I believe strongly in.  Some ideals I do not care for.  But the ones I do care for I love and embrace and try to extole.  I want to act selflessly when possible for the American ideals we have here.

Love for my freedoms.

Kind of wraps into love for America but deserves its own blurb.  I love my life.  I have a great life.  I would never want to be incarcerated. 

It goes on but you get the idea.  I want my world, which includes my kids, my wife, my family, my business, my community and my social circle to evolve positively.  I am constantly trying to find what I can do to make this happen.  Or at least, by default, try not to negatively affect these ideal through omission.

No god required either!

Noggin

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Posted: 13 January 2006 01:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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[quote author=“SkepticX”] Trading Faith for Spirituality: The Mystifications of Sam Harris by Meera Nanda

I’ll be very interested in what forum members here have to say about this one.

Byron

Okay, here you go:

it isn’t an interesting critique.  It’s a really piss-poor critique.  Harris, who clearly put a great deal of thought and work into his book deserves better than that “critique” which is, frankly, insulting.

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Posted: 15 January 2006 05:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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[quote author=“proximity1”]

it isn’t an interesting critique.  It’s a really piss-poor critique.  Harris, who clearly put a great deal of thought and work into his book deserves better than that “critique” which is, frankly, insulting.

I completely agree.  Nanda strains to make her points, jumps through many mental hoops to gain a conclusion, oversteps what Harris actually said and basically spews venom at a concept that deserves more consideration that what she is allowing for.

I have talked to two people who think she is spot on though.  One of them confessed he feels that Harris built the moat too far from the castle thereby leaving too much for defense purposes.  I shrug my shoulders.  The guy who said that is extremely intelligent.  He is also agnostic.  It is as if he just did not enjoy the appraoch Harris made.

To each his own.

Noggin

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Posted: 25 February 2006 10:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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[quote author=“SkepticX”]I found myself agreeing with Nanda’s comments, just thinking they don’t apply to TEoF.

I think you’re right on here SkepticX.  I think Sam is just trying to point out that while someone might argue that because religion can cause a lot of problems, it’s not true that all experiences that we might attribute to religion aren’t positive, meditation being on of them.

As this thread attests, Nanda isn’t the only one who has problems with section of the book.  Check this out everyone, Brian Flemming (The God Who Wasn’t There), has a little Q/A with Sam posted about this same topic:

 

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Posted: 29 February 2008 11:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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My replying is a bit of a cheek as I haven’t read The End of Faith yet (it’s ordered, though).  I would just like to make some comments about the spirituality/meditation aspect in general.

Meditation makes me feel part of an ever changing universe.  It makes me aware that I am the same as other people in the way in which I function - though the content of my thoughts and the reasons for my feelings may be different, the processes are the same.  Everyone feels fear, is the ‘victim’ of constant thoughts going through ones head.  It makes me (at least temporarily)feel ok about the fact that I am going to die.

The result of feeling part of everything rather than separate is that makes me feel more compassionate to everyone and everything else in the world, including myself.

No supernatural powers, no afterlife, no soul, no ‘Thou shalt’s involved at all.  I am sure there is a scientific explanation for what happens in my mind when I meditate and I would not deny such an explanation because I have no beliefs that this is something mystical or inexplicable.  It’s merely helpful in making my paradoxical human existence a little less painful.

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