Re podcast “On the Maintenance of Civilization”

 
The Old Fart
 
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The Old Fart
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29 November 2015 06:57
 

Although I generally agree with Sam on many issues, I have to point out the blatant double standard where following his guests impassioned (if silly) demands about “women with a penis” and “men without a penis” followed relatively closely by dead serious discussions of “Christian atheists”, “Jewish atheists” etc.

If, as his guest claimed that there are assaults on our language when some contradictory terms are associated, then surely “Christian atheists” is at least as big an assault as “woman with a penis?”

In fact, I’d argue that “Christian atheist” is a bigger assault on the language because “a woman with a penis” is the sort of mindless dismissal of complex human biology and human nature that Sam and his guest (sorry, forgot his name) (not sorry that I forgot it, just sorry that I can’t inform you of his name) accuse the left of committing.

In Christianity and atheism, if there are no gods then there can be no Christianity (unless you want to play games with the “Jesus as an ordinary philosopher who couldn’t even write a decent bumper-sticker quality aphorism of his own”...and I think that would probably be called Jesusism, not Christianity, wouldn’t it?)

In gender, as in all things that arise from human physiology, there is a fantastically complex set of interactions going on. Is it possible for a human being to be born 100% female _and_ be unfortunate enough to have genitals shaped like a penis? Well, is it possible for one person to be born with two heads? Yes. So how can you call them a person? Two heads in a head count, that’s a people, isn’t it? Visions of Monty Python here, with the English language crying “Help help! I’m being repressed!”

I’m not arguing the particular person they were discussing is in fact transgender, I’m arguing that it is very easy to accept the clear physical evidence that the human embryo development process can produce babies with their skin turned inside out (Harlequin babies), so it is not much of stretch (if any at all) to accept that it can also produce babies with their sexual orientation “turned inside out.”

I don’t see any reason to doubt that there really are men with vaginas and women with penises, any more than there is to doubt that human beings are born with two heads or their skin turned inside out.

In my opinion, the media-coverage of the transgender community tends to go to those who overstate their case, usually appealing to emotion rather than reason and usually focusing on ridiculous demands that amount to “the psychological or behavioral problems of a few drama queen-prone personalities must be accepted at face value as normal”, but I still do not doubt for a second that there really are women with penises and men with vaginas out there.

 
Twissel
 
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Twissel
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29 November 2015 07:18
 

I think the point Douglas Murray was trying to make is that the time spend on complex gender issues is less well spend than trying to protest against the treatment of homosexuals in countries that have Sharia law; it’s not that grievances due to insensitive treatment of people with more complex psychology and/or physiology than basic male/female should be ignored: they should just be treated with much lower urgency than voicing concern over the (often judicial) killing of hundreds of presumed homosexual in US allied countries.
Murray and Sam hare shocked that people will go to all kinds of lengths to chasten others for not properly addressing someone as Cis/ etc., but won’t say a word about homosexuals being throw off high buildings.

 
 
The Old Fart
 
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The Old Fart
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29 November 2015 09:05
 
Ubik - 29 November 2015 07:18 AM

I think the point Douglas Murray was trying to make is that the time spend on complex gender issues is less well spend than trying to protest against the treatment of homosexuals in countries that have Sharia law;

I think that point can be made simply the way you state it, without his emotional diatribe about women with penises. He’s indulging in the precisely the same sort of vacuous demand that he assails the left for, that we take him seriously when he speaks of “Christian atheists.” “Christian atheist” is just as much an oxymoron as “woman with a penis” IMO.

Evidence that we talk more about pointless things than about things that really threaten our lives and safety is everywhere. They’re *still* talking about Trump, Cruz and the rest of the passengers in the Republican clown car in today’s “news.” The mindless distractions aren’t strictly an attribute of the left, they’re an attribute of popular culture. The Republicans have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and countless hours fighting Obamacare and not so much as a dollar or 15 minutes trying to bring the Powell Doctrine back into discussion.

Murray often seems to be doing a rather poor sort of stand-up comedy, sounding like Bobcat Goldthwaite going on a rant. The difference is that when a comedian rants for precisely the thing he was ranting against earlier in the sketch, he doesn’t expect anyone to take both of the rants seriously.

It’s also straying vaguely into the territory that they were ridiculing when they discussed the left offering excuses for the terrorist that the terrorists didn’t ask for. By introducing “Christian atheist” they’re offering an excuse for the Christians, Jews and Muslims that _they_ didn’t ask for. Clearly there’s a huge difference on the moral scale between the types of excuses, but still they’re unasked for. How many people have you seen running around self-identifying as Christian atheists? The fact that there are secular Jews is only due to the dual meaning of “Jew.” I’m betting you’d need the Hubble telescope equivalent microscope to find a Muslim who declares themselves to be a “Muslim atheist” even if they don’t live in a country where that’s equivalent to tattooing “Apostate” on their forehead and then wearing a short skirt to an ISIS soiree.

They’re non-practicing/failed/lapsed/disinterested/unthinking/vague/uncritical/credulous/silly/stupid/disengaged/irrational Christians, but they’re not “Christians atheists.” If you asked them if they believe in gods, I bet they’d all give an unequivocal “yes”, even if the gods they believe in don’t match the description of the gods of their declared religions.

I admit to really stretching the analogy here, but no terrorist would ever claim or admit to being a sadistic mass murderer (which is what they actually are) and no sane Christian/Muslim/religious Jew would claim or admit that they’re an atheist.

That one grates a bit because it conflicts with my own personal claim that when it comes to theism, the more religious people are, the less honest they are. If you think about it, a religious fundamentalist who demands that their holy book is absolutely, factually true and correct, they’re the most dishonest. An ordinary religious person is less dishonest, they don’t demand that the Earth is 6,000 years old or that the globe was covered in a flood, but they do still claim that the supernatural world is real, that it has a hierarchy of supernatural creatures, and that the gods are at the top of that hierarchy. A vague deist is the least dishonest of all because they don’t make specific claims about gods, angels and daemons, they just insist that some gods must exist.

On the honesty scale, the more religious theists are, the less honest they are.

The idea of a “Christian atheist” screws that up. If they can still accept/believe religious supernatural claims without believing in gods then my claim becomes just a general statement on stupidity vs. honesty, because to be a Christian atheist or Muslim atheists is simply to be stupid (per the dictionary definition of the word)

The religious aspect to my claim is critical because unlike mental impairment, theism is contagious. Theists can infect smart people with theism and make them stupid (or at least think and act stupidly)

 

[ Edited: 29 November 2015 09:09 by The Old Fart]
 
MrButts
 
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MrButts
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21 December 2015 01:46
 

@ The Old Fart,

My Flatulent Friend, I believe you are getting in an uproar over a misunderstanding.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that Mr. Murray is invoking the adjective, Christian, to describe the origin of said atheist rather than describing a new belief system.  The confusion, I’m guessing, arises from the common occurrence of “secular Jews” Many of whom, in practice, are atheist but still identify and congregate as Jews.

Murray’s new way of describing atheists as Christian/Jewish/Muslim isn’t to say that the atheist identifies as such, but rather to bookmark which religion the atheist grew away from.  He seems to think that this communicates some extra knowledge of what/how the atheist thinks.

I do not agree with Murray.  I don’t even like to use the word atheist because it carries too much baggage.  Telling someone I’m an atheist gives them no extra positive knowledge into my world view, let alone if I tell them I’m a Catholic atheist. (I specify “positive knowledge” because by labeling myself as an atheist they can guess about many of the obvious things that I don’t believe, but not what I do believe)

 
Poldano
 
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22 December 2015 22:53
 
MrButts - 21 December 2015 01:46 AM

@ The Old Fart,

My Flatulent Friend, I believe you are getting in an uproar over a misunderstanding.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that Mr. Murray is invoking the adjective, Christian, to describe the origin of said atheist rather than describing a new belief system.  The confusion, I’m guessing, arises from the common occurrence of “secular Jews” Many of whom, in practice, are atheist but still identify and congregate as Jews.

Murray’s new way of describing atheists as Christian/Jewish/Muslim isn’t to say that the atheist identifies as such, but rather to bookmark which religion the atheist grew away from.  He seems to think that this communicates some extra knowledge of what/how the atheist thinks.

I do not agree with Murray.  I don’t even like to use the word atheist because it carries too much baggage.  Telling someone I’m an atheist gives them no extra positive knowledge into my world view, let alone if I tell them I’m a Catholic atheist. (I specify “positive knowledge” because by labeling myself as an atheist they can guess about many of the obvious things that I don’t believe, but not what I do believe)

I second this opinion.

When one is brought up religiously, one chooses to disbelieve a particular religion when one becomes atheistic. Often, the cultural trimmings of the original religion strongly influence the manner in which atheism is professed. Moreover, one cannot completely unlearn one’s native culture. Some elements of it that may correspond to religion but which are actually non-theistic (i.e., possess nothing in the way of subject matter of theology) may remain distinctive cultural markers distinguishing culture of origin, and may influence other beliefs such as ethical and political attitudes.

 
 
paolosev
 
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paolosev
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24 January 2016 12:49
 

This podcast was very interesting, a really fascinating discussion.
However, I would like that Douglas Murray had better clarified the part about “Icarus Fallen” and what he means with “Christian atheist”. Ok, there is something missing in the European societies today, in funerals without religion, in big questions without answers.
Murray seems to find his answer in traditional values. But I really don’t like the oxymoron “Christian atheist”... it seems to me that what he really means is Atheism can be ok for us, very smart, educated, few selected people, but the unwashed masses need a religion, and if we undermine Christianity then we will not have the will to oppose worse religions, like Islam. I don’t like as this sounds, but I think this is what he meant.
And in the similar way, I don’t totally understand Harris’ point on spirituality… especially the example he made of his friend’s funeral. I can understand that people cannot be satisfied with a completely materialistic view of death but if heaven does not exist, then does it really matter how the funeral ceremony is organized? Anyway, life ends there and that’s all, so what’s the point? Is not spirituality just another way of fooling ourselves?

 
zer0vital
 
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zer0vital
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28 January 2016 10:56
 
paolosev - 24 January 2016 12:49 PM

I would like that Douglas Murray had better clarified [...] what he means with “Christian atheist”.

Feel free to read the discussion about that very topic above your post.  grin  Kinda hard to expect people to read what you’ve written when you yourself haven’t read the existing posts before chiming in.

 
paolosev
 
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paolosev
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28 January 2016 12:24
 
zer0vital - 28 January 2016 10:56 AM
paolosev - 24 January 2016 12:49 PM

I would like that Douglas Murray had better clarified [...] what he means with “Christian atheist”.

Feel free to read the discussion about that very topic above your post.  grin  Kinda hard to expect people to read what you’ve written when you yourself haven’t read the existing posts before chiming in.

I read the discussion, I don’t think that with “Christian atheist” Murray meant an atheist who is escaping from a Christian tradition. I think what he meant is a little more complicated than that, if you listen to their conversation, Christianity is at the root of his values… This is why he keeps repeating that not all religions are equally bad, which is definitely true, but aren’t all religions equally false anyway? And so we are back to my original question, isn’t he implying that, even if false, Christianity is still good for the people? There can be value in falsehood?

 
Twissel
 
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28 January 2016 12:42
 

No, his definition of christian atheist is a person being brought up in a christian society turned atheist: it’s an acknowledgement that just because you stop believing in God you do not automatically shake off all the influence the religion had over your society in general and your life in particular. You might want to, but it has affected you in ways you might not really be aware of.
If you are brought up by atheists in a very secular society, you might be a ‘true’ atheist.

 
 
glacier
 
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glacier
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28 January 2016 12:49
 

It’s hard to explain to North Americans, but most Swedes are both Lutherans and atheists. Much of Europe is like that. Christianity is more a cultural concept in Europe while it’s more of a religious concept in North America. A Christian atheist is a person who admires and enjoys the traditions, history, and ethics of Christianity while rejecting deity parts.

Douglas Murray was quoting Mark Steyn during that transgender section.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K26kKDCCV9g
http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/mark-steyn-the-barbarians-are-already-inside-theres-nowhere-to-get-away-from-them
http://www.steynonline.com/7292/tomorrow-belongs-to-them

[ Edited: 28 January 2016 12:56 by glacier]
 
Poldano
 
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28 January 2016 22:30
 
paolosev - 28 January 2016 12:24 PM
zer0vital - 28 January 2016 10:56 AM
paolosev - 24 January 2016 12:49 PM

I would like that Douglas Murray had better clarified [...] what he means with “Christian atheist”.

Feel free to read the discussion about that very topic above your post.  grin  Kinda hard to expect people to read what you’ve written when you yourself haven’t read the existing posts before chiming in.

I read the discussion, I don’t think that with “Christian atheist” Murray meant an atheist who is escaping from a Christian tradition. I think what he meant is a little more complicated than that, if you listen to their conversation, Christianity is at the root of his values… This is why he keeps repeating that not all religions are equally bad, which is definitely true, but aren’t all religions equally false anyway? And so we are back to my original question, isn’t he implying that, even if false, Christianity is still good for the people? There can be value in falsehood?

I am of the opinion that every theoretical assertion about the real world is false, because we cannot verify anything in the real world to the accuracy and precision necessary to rule out the possibility of a more accurate assertion. Nonetheless, some of the theories are more accurate than others, measurably so. Religions that acknowledge the implicit limitation of human knowledge of anything are better in at least one respect than religions that assert that perfect knowledge of reality was obtained at one point in the past, is contained in a particular document, and cannot be questioned even regarding interpretation without severe penalty.

 
 
bigredfutbol
 
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bigredfutbol
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29 January 2016 08:18
 

Europe has a long tradition of national churches, and as glacier said, quite often being Lutheran or Anglican or Catholic or whatever is a part of a national/regional identity. After the fall of the Communist regimes, many people turned to the traditional churches not just because of the end of state-enforced atheism, but also because in many of those countries the national church was and is an important institution for maintaining national identity.

This is, if anything, even more true in the Balkans, where Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity rub shoulders with each other and with Islam. Nationalism (as opposed to tribal/ethnic identity) came rather late to the Balkans, and the issue of religious affiliation became deeply entwined with national identity. A century ago, it was possible to find people who were identified as “Catholic Serbs” or “Muslim Croats” but those somewhat porous ethno-national lines were quickly solidified.