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If you open Karen Armstrong's new book, The Case for God, expecting to find a list of mysterious cures, scientific curiosities, or certified miracles all pointing toward the physical presence of a divine influence in the world, you will be sorely disappointed.  Armstrong has no interest in, and is in fact completely antithetical to, trying to prove God's existence.  Despite this, her book is positioned -- both in marketing and from its opening pages -- as a direct challenge to books like Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation, and Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. How can you make a defense of God if you've no interest in the existence of God? Quite well, actually, and if you do it as sharply as Armstrong, you can make hundreds of pages of what is basically theological analysis both entertaining and informative.

Armstrong argues for an idea very similar to the "non-overlapping magisteria" that were put forward by evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould (and in fact, Gould gets several nice mentions in The Case for God).  She refers frequently to the idea that, in the past, people tended to break arguments into two groups for which she uses the Greek terms logos and mythos. Logos reflects practical, immediate reasoning -- how do we build that aqueduct, what can we make from this wood, which crop would grow best in that field?  Mythos is more aimed at the why -- what does it mean that my friend has died, how can I recapture the joy I felt in a moment of pure experience, how can I find meaning and peace among the world's noise and violence? This sort of approach could easily fall into a gooey cheer for "being spiritual," but Armstrong is not talking about having a nice little breathing session now and then.  She focuses on the 3000 year history of monotheism and the great effort that was put into building flexible, thoughtful religions, on how those religions continue to have a meaningful role in the life of millions, and how the recent history of those religions has led to unfortunate developments that are unique over those three millennia.

No civilization of the past thought it could get by without logos. Pyramids were built with extensive use of mathematics and the most advanced technology of the time. The same could be said of the Acropolis and of medieval cathedrals. When we see those past societies as ignorant and driven out of unreasoning "myths" it's because we are the oddities of history. Having acquired so much new data to feed logos over such a short time, we've become completely centered in scientific reasoning and entirely dismissive of mythos -- perversely, that's even true when we talk about fundamentalist religion. We look back on some ritual of the past and dismiss it as mindless following of tradition and superstition. You don't need to plant at midnight, or sacrifice a lamb, or ferry a statue around the town to satisfy some some dumb animal-headed deity. We search for the hint of reasoning that might be behind these rituals, and discount the idea that they served to establish meaning in lives that were just as busy, joyful, tragic, and brief as our own. We've turned "myth" into another word for fantasy, or lie. In doing so:

We lost the art of interpreting the old tales of gods walking the earth, dead men striding out of tombs, or seas parting miraculously. We began to understand concepts such as faith, revelation, myth, mystery, and dogma in a way that would have been very surprising to our ancestors.

In particular, the concept of faith comes in for a close examination. We understand faith today as a kind of blind acceptance -- like Indiana Jones stepping off into space in his quest for the Holy Grail. Religious people cheer this kind of "faith" and many Christians tout this as the one and only qualification to be among Christ's chosen.  But that's not what the word translated as "faith" meant in Biblical times. It's not even what it meant when the Bible was first translated into English.

The term used in most New Testament texts (the Greek word pistis) meant something closer to loyalty or commitment, than unreasoning belief. When Jesus chastised his followers for their lack of faith, or commended a non-Jew for having faith, he wasn't talking about some unspoken creed. He certainly wasn't praising them for seeing that he was divine. He was talking about follow-through, about living up to ideas of selflessness and humbleness. Even the word "belief" has changed from a Middle English sense of "prize" to our modern idea of "accept at face value." Imagine how different every Christian creed would sound today if we replace "believe in" with "value" and "have faith in" with "commit myself to."

Unquestioning acceptance doesn't figure into the vigorous ethical and theological debates that ran through street conversations and popular songs of previous centuries, and Armstrong sees it as an invention of modern religion. Unable to separate logos and mythos, and trying to view everything through a lens of the logos-based society in which they live, fundamentalists reacted not by rediscovering the transcendent ideas of the past, but by inventing something new. Instead of science and religion, they tried to build a scientific religion in which every aspect of the world must conform to a literal interpretation of scripture (one that ignores the inherent, and quite intentional, contradictions built into that text).  Blind acceptance had to be inserted into the mix because only blind acceptance allows stepping around the wreck trying to force mythos to conform to logos makes of both. If you look for reviews of Amrstrong's book, you'll find that that the harshest reviews are not from the general "secular" press, but from fundamentalists. "Demon inspired" is one of the milder phrases you'll encounter if you make a search for reactions from Christian fundamentalists.

Though the heart of the book is a lengthy examination of theology that starts with the paintings of Neolithic caves and ends with twenty-first century philosophers, don't get the impression that Armstrong asserts that the meaning of religion can be found in a text -- whether that text is the Bible, the Torah, or her own book. The Case for God might as well be called The Case for Religious Practice. And by practice she doesn't mean doing something once, she means doing it over, and over, and over -- like practicing piano -- until you discover the passion at the end of all that rote, mechanical repetition.

Religion... was not primarily something that people thought, but something they did. It's truth was acquired by practical action. It is no use imagining that you will be able to drive a car if you simply read the manual or study the rules of the road. You cannot learn to dance, paint, or cook by perusing text or recipes. The rules of a board game sound obscure, unnecessarily complicated, and dull until you start to play, when everything falls into place. There are some things that can be learned only by constant, dedicated practice, but you find that you achieve something that seemed initially impossible. Instead of sinking to the bottom of the pool, you can float, you may learn to jump higher and with more grace than seems humanly possible, or to sing with unearthly beauty. You do not always understand how you achieved these feats, because your mind directs your body in a way that bypasses conscious logical deliberation, but somehow you learn to transcend your original capabilities. Some of these activities bring indescribable joy. A musician can lose herself in her music, a dancer becomes inseparable from the dance, and a skier feels entirely at one with himself and the external world as he speeds down the slope. It is a satisfaction that goes deeper than merely "feeling good."  It is what the Greeks called ekstatis, which means a stepping outside the norm.

Religion is a practical discipline that teaches us to discover new capacities of mind and heart. ... It is no use magisterially weighing up the teachings of religion to judge their truth of falsehood before embarking on a religious way of life. You will discover their truth -- or lack of it -- only if you translate those doctrines into ritual or ethical action. Like any skill, religion requires perseverance, hard work, and discipline.

Not only does Armstrong see the blind acceptance of doctrine as an impediment to religious practice, she discounts the idea that religious beliefs can have any value unless they are placed into a framework of daily practice, commitment, and ethical action.

If you're waiting for her to stop explaining where the fundamentalists went wrong and start her case against "Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens," you're going to be disappointed again -- because Armstrong seems them as both as flip sides of the same coin.

Like all religious fundamentalists, the new athesists believe that they alone are in possession of the truth; like Christian fundamentalists they read scripture in an entirely literal manner and seem to never have heard of the long tradition of allegoric or Talmudic interpretation... Harris seems to imagine that biblical inspiration means that the Bible was actually "written by God." Hitchens assumes that faith is entirely dependent on a literal reading of the Bible, and that, for example, the discrepancies in the gospel infancy narratives prove the falseness of Christianity: "Either the gospels are in some sense literal truth, or the whole thing is a fraud and perhaps a moral one at that." Like Protestant fundamentalists, Dawkins has a simplistic view of the moral teaching of the Bible, taking it for granted that its chief purpose is to issue clear rules of conduct and provide us with "role models," which, not surprisingly, he finds lamentably inadequate. He also presumes that since the Bible claims to be inspired by God it must also provide scientific information. Dawkins' only point of disagreement with the Protestant fundamentalists is that he finds the Bible unreliable about science while they do not.

Armstrong is not worried about the claim that God can't be found in science. Which is, in fact, a very old claim.

In fact, the new atheists are not radical enough. Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theologians have insisted for centuries that God does not exist and that there is "nothing" out there...

Her concern is that the Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins camp concern themselves only with tackling a theology that is itself "decidedly unorthodox" and limited -- they want to knock down a sickly child and then proclaim they've won the heavyweight title.

By taking on fundamentalism at both ends of the scale, Armstrong has assured that her book will draw the ire of both camps. In the process she's written a book that's fascinating, packed with information about the history of religion and philosophy, and illuminating when it shows the paths we followed to end up where we find ourselves today (from a political point of view, it's very instructive to look at the origins of modern Christian fundamentalism and in particular to look at how mainstream Protestantism fanned the flames of a dying fundamentalist movement by heaping on ridicule). If nothing else, The Case for God is a terrific reference -- and a splendid bit of long form argument. If you've read any of Karen Armstrong's books in the past -- including her biography of the Buddha, or her personal account of losing faith as a young novitiate -- you'll find some of the same points repeated here, but in new historical contexts. If you haven't read her works before... well, she warns you right in the introduction that this isn't exactly light reading. If you don't want to face detailed descriptions of theological conflicts and the development of religious frameworks, turn back now.

Whether anyone will find that argument convincing, in a world that's increasingly divided into extremes, is difficult to say.  But at least it should inspire some good conversations.

Update [2009-11-8 11:6:2 by Devilstower]: One thing that I greatly regret leaving out of the initial review: if there is a "hero" in this book, it's not God. It's Socrates. You can see the admiration that Armstrong has for that Socratic dialog -- a deep challenging of beliefs, but one that takes place in a friendly and open environment. The point of drawing a line between the fundamentalists and the Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris camp isn't to make an equivalence in beliefs, but an equivalence in approach. That is, yelling past each other doesn't lead to either side moving toward the middle. In fact, that kind of approach has, many times in the past, been the spark for more extremism. No matter what position we hold, I'd like to think that in this place we can take that Socratic approach -- challenging, tough, but still friendly and not resorting to punching below the belt.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:00 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  In addition to reading the book... (28+ / 0-)

      I picked up an audio version and listened to it in the car.  Seventeen hours of unabridged English-lady theology discussion.

      I enjoyed it very much, but I think this is easily something that falls into the "heaven for some, hell for others" category.

      •  really satisfying analysis (16+ / 0-)

        reminds me of reading so many different perspectives... Jung, Moyers, Coleridge, (Thomas) Cahill, Pagels et al . .

        btw: love books on tape whilst driving! one of my favorites was Claire Bloom reading Thomas Cahill's "The Gifts of the Jews"

        it was her voice and the subject... wOw!

        Obamabots are another matter completely, though. They're the political version of teenage girls passing out at a Backstreet Boys concert... JayinPortland

        by pfiore8 on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:11:15 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I learned quite a bit from Gifts of the Jews (7+ / 0-)

          but I can't say I actually liked the book.

          I think it was Cahill's refusal to historicize the bible, to basically accept it as a valid historical source in and of itself, that bothered me.

          Richard "The Dick" Cheney: screwing America since 1969

          by litho on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:21:09 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  there are problems with trying to use the Bible (6+ / 0-)

            as a history book; while Schliemann was successful (apparently) in using literary texts to locate archeological sites, generally the biblical archeology operates in reverse to classical archeology where a site or artifact is found and then analyzed. In contrast, using the Bible as a historical source, artifacts are found and not examined or analyzed in situ but are analyzed with an eye towards where it fits in the narrative. Christianity now has too much of an investment in having the Bible literally true to back off now.
            Hence we have the problem of the Davidian Pomegranate and the John Ossiary as examples of the rich market for biblical forgeries  

            •  regarding the Bible as literally true - a heresy (5+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              lcrp, max stirner, ignatz uk, entlord1, jayskew

              Catholics and mainstream Protestants theologian have never (since St Augustine, 4th C) imagined that the Bible was literally true.

              They have found a lot of stuff that confirmed some of the accounts in the Bible (place names, personal names and the like). It is too bad we have spent the last 8 years bombing and allowing to be looted the irreplaceable archeological record in Iraq (the biblical Babylonia), and some want to do the same for Persia. Even the Nazis spared Paris.

              •  check out the Chicago statement on inerrancy (0+ / 0-)

                teh google is your fiend.

                What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

                by agnostic on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:18:18 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Um, what? (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  max stirner, vets74

                  The comment specifically mentions "Catholics and mainstream Protestant theologians." Even if you read the Chicago statement as favoring literal interpretations (not a given), there's a difference between that document, Dei Verbum, and the much more liberal consensus among mainline protestant denominations.

            •  The seeds were planted in the late 70s, Chicago (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              behan, vets74, entlord1

              The christian conference which determined that the bible is inerrant took place in 1978, at a hotel outside O'Hare airport.

              About ten years later, they created a guide on how to apply the bible. The group either fell apart, or disbanded right afterwards.

              Funny, while this was big news in the south, it caused barely a ripple in Illinois newspapers. (we had three thriving dailies at the time, with huge local news staff)

              What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

              by agnostic on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:17:44 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  as some one who's ideas on religion (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pfiore8

          was in formed by them- I have to agree

          Necessity is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.-- Wm.Pitt the Younger

          by JeffSCinNY on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:24:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  she's clever, yes, but so are Sufi writers. (53+ / 1-)

        Richard Dawkins revealed Armstrong's theology for what it was:

        Now, there is a certain class of sophisticated modern theologian who will say something like this: "Good heavens, of course we are not so naive or simplistic as to care whether God exists. Existence is such a 19th-century preoccupation! It doesn't matter whether God exists in a scientific sense. What matters is whether he exists for you or for me. If God is real for you, who cares whether science has made him redundant? Such arrogance! Such elitism."

        Well, if that's what floats your canoe, you'll be paddling it up a very lonely creek. The mainstream belief of the world's peoples is very clear. They believe in God, and that means they believe he exists in objective reality, just as surely as the Rock of Gibraltar exists. If sophisticated theologians or postmodern relativists think they are rescuing God from the redundancy scrap-heap by downplaying the importance of existence, they should think again. Tell the congregation of a church or mosque that existence is too vulgar an attribute to fasten onto their God, and they will brand you an atheist. They'll be right.

        Read the whole thing, it's great.

        •  What is your gripe with the SUFI writers? (15+ / 0-)

          I'm just curious.

          "It's better to die on your feet then live on your knees" E. Zapata

          by Blutodog on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:18:25 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Harumph. (19+ / 0-)

          There's more to belief in God than mere mental justification, and those Sufi writers, as you refer to them, are presenting something experiential. We each are our own little universe based on our own experience. The challenge is gaining clarity, not trying to convince someone else of your pov. Nothing "clever" about seeking clarity. Actually, it's quite sincere.

          "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." ML King

          by TheWesternSun on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:22:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  That completely misses the point (28+ / 0-)

          of Armstrong's writing.  

          An reinforces the point that Dawkins, while extremely knowledgeable in his own area (I certainly quote him in my upcoming book) is unwilling to do any research into religion. His criticism of religion is about as deep as what I could tell you about Mexican culture by watching a few telenovelas.

          It's a fun read if you're inclined to agree with him, but doesn't advance the actual argument on iota, as Dawkins is fighting an opponent he's dreamed up himself.

          •  the point (6+ / 0-)

            you just gave the courtier's reply.

            Apparently the 2nd amendment mean that psychotics can get AK-47s to kill cops. And we have a supreme court that supports this.

            by kennyc on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:43:32 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Nonsense, DT (29+ / 0-)

            Dawkins merely wants to see some evidence for all this folderol, as do I. Research into religion and in-depth study of theology are pointless when you know that, other than the resultant cultural phenomena, it isn't real. So why would one want to waste time on it?

            The opponent Dawkins is "fighting" is the sort of mental chicanery one can undergo in numerous aspects of life when you are non-skeptical and believe in ghosts, or bronze-age fairy tales, or have absolute confidence in your singular ecstatic experiences.

            Life isn't a battle between good and evil, it's a battle between signal and noise.

            by ChemBob on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:49:09 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  right! as Dennett says (11+ / 0-)

              "something not worth doing, is not worth doing well."

            •  Dawkins is fighting God (11+ / 0-)

              he doesn't get what goes beyond the God concept. Research and in-depth study, without practice, will certainly get you nowhere. Our species is in its teenage years at best. And like any good teenager, we think we've got it all figured out. Anyone who's done sincere experiential practice will probably not find this God, and indeed will have proof that there is no God, as defined by Dawkins. That's when the fun really begins.

              Subjective, but of course. What isn't? The master Sufis, by the way, were not about finding God really. They were about transcending the subjective. Dawkins thinks he has done this by having no proof of God. Which is hilarious. He's not even asking the right questions.

              "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

              by MillieNeon on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:16:18 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Teenage years? Sincere experiential practice? (5+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                chase, Brooke In Seattle, fayea, yaque, VTCC73

                What on earth are you talking about? Our lineage is as old as the first cells to form on the planet, billions of years ago. No one said everything is figured out, but science has certainly figured large parts of "it" out. Mythology keeps getting squeezed into ever smaller gaps, now doesn't it? BTW, everything isn't subjective, science wouldn't work at all if that were so.

                Life isn't a battle between good and evil, it's a battle between signal and noise.

                by ChemBob on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:47:30 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Our lineage yes (5+ / 0-)

                  but our species no . . . humans are maybe 200 million years at most. Compared to a species like the dinosaurs, we're not even teenagers really. We're still in diapers.

                  BTW, everything isn't subjective, science wouldn't work at all if that were so.

                  Quantum physics sees it differently. The act of observing affects the outcome. Are you saying quantum physics isn't science? Luddite! Keep up.

                  And by experiential practice I mean just that. EXPERIENCE, not mythology. I distinctly said it wasn't about God, but you obviously do not know how to entertain that concept.

                  "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

                  by MillieNeon on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:55:44 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  LOL, I've been a practicing scientist since 1975 (14+ / 0-)

                    and you are completely misrepresenting quantum mechanics if you think that it supports mystical happenings in some way. The observational impacts are based on physical effects, such as the wavelength of light impacting the subatomic particle, etc., and also that these particles are stochastic with regard to the point that they occupy. They aren't "magic."

                    Life isn't a battle between good and evil, it's a battle between signal and noise.

                    by ChemBob on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:02:16 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Lol yr misrepresenting me (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      max stirner

                      I clearly said nothing about mysticism. My post was addressing the previous poster's saying that "if all science is subjective then science wouldn't work."

                      I hope you do your science more carefully than you read my post. Your response had a big injection of your own subjectivity in it, as you seemed to need to see it as being about mysticism rather than subjectivity.

                      I do, however, believe that there is often a connection between philosophy and theoretical physics. Isn't it interesting that Nietzsche described stochastic elements of philosophy and linguistic philosophy year before Bohr was on the scene?

                      Here is Bohr fave philosopher:

                      Hoffding was affirming that a personal choice was as operative in the ultimate methodological commitments of scientists and in their analogies, as it was among religious philosophers and metaphysicians... Hoffding’s unique contribution to scientific thought was his insistence on the heuristic potentialities of the notion of discontinuities in existence.

                      And speaking of Bohr, here's one of my fave jokes:

                      Why did Albert Einstein cross the road?

                      To get away from Neils Bohr, but when he got there Bohr was there too.

                      Oh, I've been a practicing poet since 1977.

                      "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

                      by MillieNeon on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 09:38:39 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  you still got it wrong (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        RandomActsOfReason, yaque

                        on quantum mechanics

                        Education is the best provision for the journey into old age. -- Aristotle

                        by not2plato on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:25:56 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Please explain (0+ / 0-)

                          in theoretical quantum physics, there is no objectivity.

                          "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

                          by MillieNeon on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:32:31 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Quantum physics applies to quantum phenomena. (4+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            AaronInSanDiego, Adzam13, BPARTR, yaque

                            Not to speaking with the dead or levitating the Pentagon with our thoughts, or healing Aunt Jane by praying for her 10 miles away.

                            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:28:47 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I've seen some scientists on here, (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            RandomActsOfReason

                            including some atheists, seemingly fail to recognize that point.

                            Economic Left/Right: -4.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.82

                            I rebuke myself when under stress - The Lord/King Crimson

                            by AaronInSanDiego on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 12:04:57 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Yes (0+ / 0-)

                            but theoretical physics and philosophy have a history of informing each other. Which is one reason you get postmodernism after quantum physics arrives on the scene. And postmodernism has a lot to say about it all being subjectivity.

                            Even if you are a "scientist" you cannot think outside of your historical epoch. This renders you subjective.

                            Reason itself is an ideological construct that isn't 100% reliable. So be careful with those random acts.

                            "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

                            by MillieNeon on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 12:49:33 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Philosophy is one thing (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            yaque

                            claiming that quantum physics in any way shape or form provides evidential support for supernatural claims is quite another.

                            Reason itself is an ideological construct that isn't 100% reliable.

                            Please provide evidence of reason not being reliable, and please explain how the process of reasoning -  which you use as much as I or anyone else, albeit not always accurately - is "an ideological construct", as oppose to an empirically proven way to acquire knowledge unparalleled by any other known method.

                            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 01:12:46 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                    •  Immunity to wonder is a salient characteristic (5+ / 0-)

                      of a surprising number of scientists.  Name it the "placebo" effect, and you have not difficulty claiming the mind/body connection is superstitious hogwash.  It's just the placebo effect.  Likewise the "spooky action at a distance" demonstrated in quantum experiments.  Please don't misunderstand me, as a scientist, I'm not going down the road of such popular books as the Tao of Physics, etc.  Those definitely take experiments out of context and generalize out the yazoo.  But I am saying that there is much evidence that we really don't understand a lot about what is going on.  I feel the natural human resistance to the feeling of uncertainty is often mistaken for being "scientific."  If you can read about some quantum experiments and not have a sense of wonder, my friend you are protecting yourself from uncertainty.

                      I'm just starting a book which would make a good companion piece to the one reviewed here.  It's called On Being Certain:  Believing You are Right Even When You're Not by Robert A. Burton, M.D.  I haven't read it yet, but the author, a neurologist, offers the caution that feeling we know something is a mental sensation rather than evidence of fact.  The feeling stems from primitive areas of the brain and is independent of active, conscious reflection and reasoning.  The feeling of certainty happens to us, we cannot make it happen.

                      I suggest that people such as Dawkins are blind to the subjective nature of their feelings of certainty.  The thought process is so satisfying, and they are demonstrably so brilliant, and the whole argument and feeling feels so good.  That quote above is a terrific example.  It's especially telling to me that the makes up an argument for Armstrong, then puts it into quotes.  His fundamental mistake, to employ the terminology of this review, is to ignore the world of mythos altogether.  Another way of saying this is to say he disregards the role of his unconscious impulses in leading him to the feeling of being right.

                      It is important to remember that it is quite common, and easily seen in studies of history, for people to be absurdly mistaken while adamantly certain of themselves.  It's simple human nature, a human nature which will never be fully explained or understood through logos.  Practice, practice, practice.

                      War has another bad effect--it makes young people feel guilty and conscience-stricken. Henry Miller

                      by geomoo on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 09:56:02 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I have a great sense of wonderment (8+ / 0-)

                        at the universe. I experience it very often, even with things as mundane as seeing trends emerge from datasets and being thrilled at what it means. I just don't ascribe anything mystical or supernatural to my wonder. I know that there isn't anything magical about it, that it is comprehensible and explainable if we just keep working at it. Just saying GODDIDIT removes the wonder, imho.

                        BTW, I deal with uncertainty every day in my work. That is pretty much my only certainty.

                        Life isn't a battle between good and evil, it's a battle between signal and noise.

                        by ChemBob on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 10:16:11 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Good on you (3+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          ignatz uk, jayskew, BornBlue

                          And I have read Dawkins' description of a feeling of wonder while at the Wilson Observatory.  I really did go down the wrong road there in trying to express what I'm trying to get at.

                          Perhaps pre-emptive certainty would be a better way of expressing it.  Again, I refer to what I consider an incredible lack of consistency shown by experimenters treating the placebo effect as a given in all their experiments at the same time that the vast majority of physicians claim that there is no such think as the mind/body connection.  As late as the last few years, the last time I saw a number, something like half the doctors questioned denied the existence of mind/body connection.  It seems that they just toss the concept of a mind/body connection into the bin of "mystical" or "supernatural" that you mention.  It seems sort of mystical or supernatural like, so science already knows it's wrong.

                          Your response re uncertainty is a frustrating one to get at.  It's the kind of response I almost always get from the doggedly scientific minded.  Nothing I say will move them off a spot.  Sure, you aren't certain how things are going to turn out in specific work your are doing, but I doubt that gets in the way of a feeling of generally having your feet on solid ground.

                          Fact is, everyday you employ thinking which rests on no less fantastical notion than other mythological thinking, such as notions of god.  If you use an idea of an electron as a hard little ball circling an atom to organize your thinking, for example, or of ions as solid particles with little pieces of electricity attached to them, then you are relying on notions of things which do not actually exist in the precise manner you are thinking of them.  If you want to argue, as someone does above, that the difference is that you know you are approximating, as opposed to religious folks who believe literally, then you are underestimating the understanding of truly spiritual folks.  Demonstrating more humility than the scientists who thought electrons were like planets, early Jewish thinkers acknowledged that the very word for god was a quite coarse approximation.  The fundamentalists aside (a la Armstrong), there are plenty of believers who are painfully aware that their notions of god are limited and imperfect.  In fact, doubt is a respected and integral part of most faiths.

                          There really is not such a difference between the thinking of people who get their sense of certainty from religion or spirituality, and those who get it from science.  We are all working with the same brain parts, the same powerful subconscious impulses, and the same evolved human nature.  All of our thoughts, of scientists and philosophers are rough approximations stemming much more from unconscious impulses and presumed concepts than from actual alignment with reality.  My objection is the delusion of certainty which causes scientific thinkers to deal with spiritually-minded folk contemptuously.  If are wedded to the material world, then I invite you to think of religious notions as methods for accessing the unconscious impulses which drive us and wreak so much havoc in our personal and pubic lives.  You have your concept of the electron to guide your thinking--let them have their notions of god.

                          War has another bad effect--it makes young people feel guilty and conscience-stricken. Henry Miller

                          by geomoo on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 10:42:15 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Say what? (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            BPARTR, yaque

                            "In fact, doubt is a respected and integral part of most faiths."

                            Excuse me, but which faiths would those be? I've never encountered one that permitted doubt, and I've been around a number of them. So forgive me if I have trouble believing this statement.

                            This is why I despise theistic, dogmatic religions and won't be part of any of them anymore. You're supposed to just take all this woo-woo nonsense as read and not question it.

                            There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

                            by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 04:35:27 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  This is a fairly unremarkable observation. (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            ignatz uk, jayskew

                            It has been called the great doubt.  Off the top of my head I am aware of its presence in both Catholicism and Buddhism.  If you're really interested in documentation, I'll do a little fishing around.  Plenty of people who have done serious searching in a religious context are aware of this aspect. It's not particularly esoteric.  Any serious person who has grappled with faith, and I'm not talking about the easy-mark fundamentalists here, is aware of the issue of doubt.

                            Of course, based on your apparent kneejerk dismissal of my statement on the grounds that you've never heard of it before, an unsubstantiated dimissal which nonetheless immediately became more evidence for the rationality of your spite, I suspect you really aren't open to learning anything.  I certainly never asked you to accept anything I said on faith.  If you're interested, I'm sure I could scare up some references to this rather mundane notion.  If you want to just keep feeling right and justifying without facts, please don't ask me to waste my time.

                            War has another bad effect--it makes young people feel guilty and conscience-stricken. Henry Miller

                            by geomoo on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:24:12 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Here you go (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            jayskew

                            (written twice, just for you.)

                            These are what I found on doubt with a simple search, just off the top of the search results.  With buddhism, there is no ambiguity:  faith is an integral and necessary part of the practice.

                            Here is a sample:

                            a Zen proverb says that a Zen student must have great faith, great doubt, and great determination. A related Ch'an saying says the four prerequisites for practice are great faith, great doubt, great vow, and great vigor.

                            Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.

                            Doubt in the religious sense acknowledges what is not understood. While it actively seeks understanding, it also accepts that understanding will never be perfect. Some Christian theologians use the word "humility" to mean about the same thing. The other kind of doubt, which causes us to fold our arms and declare that all religion is bunk, is closed.

                            How about Christianity Today, that radical religious magazine:

                            Thomas's doubt is ours, too, our nemesis and companion, our secret haunting. Unless I see it with my own eyes, touch it with my own hands, I will not believe. This is the heart of the matter. This is what stands between Thomas's believing and his doubting: Unless I . I know what he means. I can have all the personal testimony and logical airtightness and empirical verification in the world, but Unless I  see it, touch it, have an experience of it, a shade of doubt exists. Nothing—not the witness box, not the lab report, not the field dispatch—substitutes for the power to convince that my own seeing and touching can deliver. Unless I  is the doubter's mantra.

                            Even the cathechism, for all its rigidity, can't afford to ignore the presence of doubt altogether.

                            Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated, doubt can lead to spiritual blindness (CCC 2088).

                            Involuntary doubt is not sinful and may be experienced by any sincere believer.

                            Not that I'm under any illusion that, having readily shown you to be mistaken in your dismissal of my claim as bogus, I will receive the least acknowledgment that you have learned anything new or this discussion has moved an iota from its starting point, in your mind, of me being stupid and you being right.  Apologies for the attitude, but I've really taken a ration of crap here, and I'm starting to bounce it right back.  My apologies if I've mistakenly characterized you as like all the other arrogant geniuses who feel no need to listen.

                            War has another bad effect--it makes young people feel guilty and conscience-stricken. Henry Miller

                            by geomoo on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:53:23 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Involuntary doubt is not sinful? (0+ / 0-)

                            Well, I do voluntary doubt. All the time. I question everything. It's why I'm no longer a Catholic. You aren't allowed to "cultivate" doubt, and that's what I do. So by their book, I'm a sinner.

                            I'm a much bigger doubter than Thomas ever was. I'm a die-hard skeptic when it comes to religious beliefs, and I get incredibly irritated by people who claim they "know" there's a God, because they DON'T know. They just pretend they know, and pretense isn't good enough for me. In fact, the pretense is incredibly arrogant to me. And then they harangue me about my lack of faith (by which they mean "accepting our doctrine without any proof") and how sinful it is that I won't just believe.

                            My mother-in-law is a Mormon and every time I have to spend time with her, she says something to twist the religious knife. My father was an Episcopalian in later life, and while he didn't push me about religion, his priest did his best to guilt me into religious nonsense while we were at my father's deathbed. So forgive me if I'm just a bit touchy about religion in general and religions that demonize doubt in particular.

                            I'll grant that Buddhism is different. However, Buddhism is as much a philosophy of life as it is a religion. And you aren't threatened with eternal damnation if you don't believe in its tenets, so it's not quite the same thing as what I was talking about.

                            You have mistakenly characterized me, but I understand about taking a ration of crap and being tired of it. I shouldn't have participated in this discussion in the first place - it's too difficult a subject for me to stay rational about.

                            There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

                            by Killer of Sacred Cows on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 08:06:10 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  It's always something that was encouraged (0+ / 0-)

                            in my Jewish upbringing. Up to a point.

                            Economic Left/Right: -4.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.82

                            I rebuke myself when under stress - The Lord/King Crimson

                            by AaronInSanDiego on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 10:40:27 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  It's that "up to a point" thing that bothers me. (0+ / 0-)

                            You're allowed to doubt, but you're not allowed to doubt everything. Only "up to a point." I doubt everything because of my life experiences.

                            The only religion I've ever encountered where doubt was permitted as an ongoing thing is Unitarian Universalism. I'm a UU atheist (as are almost all the folks in the local UU church) and I doubt everything I'm told. Maybe it's partly because I'm just a contrary git who doesn't like it when people assert that they "just know" there's a God or whatever (because, sorry, but that's arrogant as hell for anyone to say that), but it's at least in part from my experiences - I have no reason NOT to doubt.

                            So when there's limits placed on how much I'm "allowed" to doubt, I have no use for that religion.

                            There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

                            by Killer of Sacred Cows on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 07:57:20 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Yes, it got to me too (0+ / 0-)

                            which is one reason I'm no longer religious. But I still have a certain respect for my background.

                            Economic Left/Right: -4.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.82

                            I rebuke myself when under stress - The Lord/King Crimson

                            by AaronInSanDiego on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 08:45:42 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Why? (0+ / 0-)

                            Why respect something that is so obviously incorrect?

                            See, this is where I really run aground. To me, if it's incorrect, it's not worth respect. I don't get why anyone would continue to respect things that are obviously incorrect.

                            There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

                            by Killer of Sacred Cows on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 09:12:14 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I don't see it as a black and white issue. (0+ / 0-)

                            There is more to religious history than belief and cultic practices.

                            Economic Left/Right: -4.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.82

                            I rebuke myself when under stress - The Lord/King Crimson

                            by AaronInSanDiego on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 09:16:54 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  yes (0+ / 0-)

                            there is also murder, torture, shunning for apostasy.....

                          •  Of course. (0+ / 0-)

                            I'm not denying that.

                            Economic Left/Right: -4.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.82

                            I rebuke myself when under stress - The Lord/King Crimson

                            by AaronInSanDiego on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 05:40:59 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Perhaps the scientifically minded feel certainty (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Killer of Sacred Cows

                            because they deal with the reproducible, the falsifiable and can communicate a set of parameters via which others can achieve the same results.

                          •  Perhaps the actual falls short of the theory (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            jayskew

                            I have certainly seen a lot of claims made in these comments, claims made as adamantly and unyieldingly as if they had been handed down from god him- or herself, claims made by people who love to strut their familiarity with the theory of scientific knowledge, I have seen such claims made concerning matters which have never been subjected to scientific scrutiny.  It seems that an understanding of how science works somehow empowers people to also know when other people are stupid, fraudulent, immoral, and all manner of other things.  And naturally, anyone who disagrees with any of you preening idiots must be woefully unschooled in the magic of the scientific method which apparently empowers those adepts in its magic never to be wrong about anything, to see into the hearts and minds of others, and to be freed of even the most basic civility in discourse.

                            If you guys are so sold on science, why are you so desperate to shout down, humiliate, abuse, and otherwise silence anyone who dares challenge any of your cherished propositions.

                            Sorry about taking this all out on you for a simple comment, but I have really had it with the pompous, arrogant, condescending, and half-blind crap spewing from those who think they know science.  I have been sworn at and called names from those who are quite certain I have nothing to offer, apparently with no hint of recognition of the irony of such over-the-top irrational arguing from those who would be rational.  Screw you all.

                            And btw, if you respect science, perhaps you will accept what the neurologists are telling us about certainty.  It is a feeling, a mental sensation, arising from primitive areas of the brain and independent of active, conscious reflection and reasoning.  The feeling of knowing is something that happens to us, like anger.  This view is certainly supported by the concomitant emotional reactions on embarrassing display in these comments by those who seem most addicted to feeling certain.  No, they don't feel certain because they happen to know a thing or two about science; it has more to do with their brain stems.

                            War has another bad effect--it makes young people feel guilty and conscience-stricken. Henry Miller

                            by geomoo on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:17:57 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Direct ad hominem (3+ / 0-)

                            To go along with straw man and poisoning the well in the irony stew of accusing your opponents of a lack of civility.

                            It is my understanding that all emotion is a sub conscious processing of information (or a basic response brought about by the inability to do so), but that does not make someone who is certain of something wrong. They just need to offer up more proof than their certainty for their conclusions. An obligation that at the same time those who would condemn them conveniently extract themselves from.

                            Or to put it another way, are you CERTAIN that those you vitriolically condemn for their certainty are, in fact, not on stable ground?

                          •  No, I'm not certain (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            jayskew

                            What I want is a discussion carried on with respect.  Despite numerous claims to the contrary in these threads, I am neither an idiot nor a fool, and I happen to know something of this topic.  My hope is to find people who are true to their claims of being scientific in the sense of being rational, avoiding claims based on emotion put forth as bullying, and able to discuss ideas and knowledge rather than the imagined flaws in the adversary's character.  My initial complaint is simply that the arrogant, over-the-top dismissal of a whole class of people which this diary represents is more likely to alienate than convince those who really need to understand that vaccination is perfectly safe.  From that starting point, in attempting to respond in good faith and with clarity to various interlocutors, I have so far only enjoyed one actual interaction involving respectful response to the words actually being said.  Every other interaction has hinged on the perspective put forward by the other person, to wit that I am an idiot and know nothing of science.  As I say, I'm not certain, but I have a very strong sense of a problem with the arrogance and unyielding attitude represented by this diary.  It's become something of a study of mine.

                            So, yeah, I'm pretty fucking frustrated.  In reading your initial comment, I see that perhaps it actually was an question, not a snide putdown.  But sadly, it's human nature.  If you want to take a glance through the comments, I think you'll see me maintaining civility in the face of being called a "fucking idiot," "an idiot and a fraud" and most frustrating of all, not being responded to but rather dismissed.  I have been met with derision, scorn, dismissal and insult.  And I see that you continue the trend of side-stepping the substance of my remarks in order to pick one aspect of my comment, an aspect I actually apologized for beforehand, and ignore anything I said which may prove inconvenient to actually respond to.  Of course, in this case that's understandable given the way I came on so strong.

                            So yeah, I finally lost it.  But it's not ad hominem.  There's plenty of meat in that comment if you want to see it.  As I said, if the shoe doesn't fit, I apologize.  But I know the drill by now.  The point is to prove you're right and I'm wrong, not to listen, respond, and move the discussion.  As to straw men, I'll copy and paste the comments I'm referring to if you like.  I wouldn't be able to make this shit up.

                            Here's a little sample:

                            Nice subject line:

                            what a fucking idiot

                            Perhaps it's not uncivil to call someone a fool and an idiot.  It seems so to me, but maybe I'm just too old for the hip young crowd:

                            I see no reason to gladly suffer fools, idiots, or quacks.  You are apparently in both of the first two categories.  Your "naturopath" is also in the third.

                            Anyway, I'm about burned out, as I'm sure is quite plain.

                            I really am sorry for the rudeness.  It's not at all my usual style. If you are interested in a discussion, and weren't just dropping by to casually dump on me some more, I'm willing to give it a little attention.  I could use one decent interaction before calling it a day, or probably more likely a week off from here. Here's a possible start:

                            They just need to offer up more proof than their certainty for their conclusions. An obligation that at the same time those who would condemn them conveniently extract themselves from.

                            You make a good point here.  I wish that those who want to label all anti-vaccination activists as "cultists," "immoral," "ignorant," and "delusional" would be willing to accept that these are speculative, mostly unverifiable, notions which would require a lot more evidence (btw, I have certainly been dismissed for casually using the word "proof" around here--don't you know that scientists never "prove" anything, you idiot).  When someone is certain I am wrong, and that certainty seems to based on the fact that I'm a liar or an idiot, then that is an emotional certainty.

                            But even that isn't my main point.  My main point is to encourage a little humility among those who think a little understanding of the scientific method means they're always right about everything, including the value of another person's religion.  Understanding that the feeling of being right is useless as a measure of whether one is actually correct is a good first step in learning to practice the humility necessary to actually put one's prejudices and assumptions aside in order to think scientifically.

                            Oh hell, I've gone on long enough.  Thanks for actually responding to what I said, because your critique was in many ways valid, and in every case sensible.  (Except that there was no straw man in there.)

                            War has another bad effect--it makes young people feel guilty and conscience-stricken. Henry Miller

                            by geomoo on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:46:34 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I do not think scientists (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            chidmf

                            myself included, feel certainty about anything.  that is the great difference between science and faith.  Believing the unbelievable is the definition of faith.  Scientists "believe" that for which there is evidence- and are ready at the drop of a hat to  change those beliefs if new evidence arises.  

                            I don't believe pigs can fly.  show me one pig flying and I will change my mind.  the 19th century zetetics ( and some up to the 1970s) believed the earth was flat, because of scripture.  no amount of experimental evidence,or even photos of th earth from space, convinced them otherwise.  With sufficient faith no evidence is necessary, or even accepted.

                            Science is belief in the presence of evidence.
                            Faith is belief in the absence, or even in the denial of evidence.

                          •  82% of American theists believe in a personal God (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Killer of Sacred Cows, BPARTR, yaque

                            not the amorphous philosophical concept you and Armstrong pretend is the "modern" view.

                            9 out of ten American theists believe that the prayers of one person can heal another person - without even being in the same room.

                            9 out of 10 American theists believe that a doctor can't heal, that in fact it is God acting through the doctor who is doing the healing.

                            Since 80% of Americans are theists, and 55% of Americans are Creationists, that means that more than two-thirds of American theists are Creationists. Virtually all the others believe that God is actively guiding evolution, or at least human evolution.

                            Face it - Daily Kos is not America.

                            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:35:16 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                      •  Why do people become scientists (5+ / 0-)

                        if not because of a sense of wonder?

                        Economic Left/Right: -4.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.82

                        I rebuke myself when under stress - The Lord/King Crimson

                        by AaronInSanDiego on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:49:18 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  What fatuous nonsense. (3+ / 0-)

                        Scientists are "immune to wonder."
                        Skeptics are "blind to the subjective nature of their feelings of certainty," but people of religious faith aren't.

                        No wonder that atheists are tired of being shut out of the discourse and tired of being stereotyped by religious bigots.

                    •  What about about virtual particles? (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      amsterdam

                      Or Kaluza Klein dimensions?  

                      Meanwhile, mythology is meant to express deep psychological truths, and, as such, is often as truthful as science if one understands metaphor.  The fact that many people take it literally does not mean it was necessarily meant to be taken as such.  

                  •  "Species" is a convenient term (6+ / 0-)

                    used to classify groups of living things, but there is no definitive demarcation for when one species cuts off and another begins. Not that it makes any difference to your point, or metaphor, or whatever.  

                    All living things are directly related to one another, and we claim just as much heritage from the dinosaurs as the birds do.  All living things claim a direct decendancy from the first living things, unbroken since it started.  Humans, toads, mushrooms, viruses.  I suggest reading "The Ancestor's Tale," for a clearer understanding of the lineage of life on Earth.

                    Although what the length of time any one "species" can claim to have existed has to do with the price of tea in China is not entirely clear.  How does that bear on the argument in question?  Are you suggesting that the longer a species retains a constant external form (or phenotype) it is imbued with more and more wisdom and granted access to higher plains of understanding? Are you suggesting that dinosaurs understood the concept of god better than we do?  If so, what was their verdict?  they ultimately "decided" to go extinct: what does that say?

                    AND you got your years very wrong.  According to Wikipedia:

                    Dinosaurs (Greek: δεινόσαυρος, deinosauros) were the dominant terrestrial vertebrate animals for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period, about 230 million years ago (Ma), until the end of the Cretaceous period, about 65 Ma, when most of them became extinct in the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event.

                    As for "Our Species," the suggested date that hominids split off from the other ape species currently sits at around 6 million years.  However 200 million years is roughly the time that the first mammals appeared amongst the dinosaurs.

                    Keep reading books!

                    •  Yr right about the years (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Jagger, jayskew

                      200 thousand years is more like it. I was thinking 200,000 years for humans and 2 million years for tool-making hominids and converged the two.

                      I've been up all night and I was typing fast. I do know it wasn't 200 million years.

                      And I do keep reading books, as I hope everyone does.

                      However, since I am a "practicing" poet, and have been for years, I will stick by my metaphor. Because I sincerely believe that if we make it another 100 years, these times will appear very backward and barbarian to those future humans . . . if they will still be humans . . . perhaps the McDonald's/Coca-cola/right guard/revlon pressure on genetic mutation will have forged an entirely new species

                      "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

                      by MillieNeon on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 09:27:09 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  I agree with you about the species concept (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      jayskew, RandomActsOfReason, yaque

                      but I'm not sure about this point

                      All living things are directly related to one another, and we claim just as much heritage from the dinosaurs as the birds do.

                      Clearly, birds are directly descended from dinosaurs, whereas we are not. I would expect our genetic and phylogenic differences reflect that.

                      Economic Left/Right: -4.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.82

                      I rebuke myself when under stress - The Lord/King Crimson

                      by AaronInSanDiego on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 09:54:30 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  but we share a common ancestor, (0+ / 0-)

                        and exactly the same length of time has b[assed between then and now for both.  In a sense you are also right, since birds and dinosaurs may share a common ancestor mroe recently than the common ancestor of humans and dinosaurs.  Still, evolution has been acting for the same period of time on both.

                •  You don't understand mythology. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  jayskew

                  It has nothing to do with explaining the universe in a childish and unscientific way. You're missing the point entirely.

                  If you were a poet, or an artist, you'd be a little closer to understanding the role of metaphor and symbolism (and consequently mythology) in the way humans perceive reality. Apparently, you are not. Hell, even if you paid attention to your dreams, or tried to figure out why the storyline in Star Wars strikes a nerve in every human that sees it, you'd be closer.

                  And everything IS subjective. Please explain how it is not. The entire universe, for you, is happening inside your head. How can that be anything other than pure subjectivity, no matter how much you emotionally require a purely mechanical materialistic universe?

                  Think of all sentient beings as Buddha, but keep your hand on your wallet.

                  by CathodeRay on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 09:34:03 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Solipsism is not a viable philosophy (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    yaque

                    Solipsism:
                    (philosophy) the philosophical theory that the self is all that you know to exist

                    Between your solipsism and the naive realism of the atheists here there is considerable ground. It isn't either/or.

                    I think where I am not, therefore I am where I do not think.

                    by MnplsLiberal on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 09:59:21 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Solipsism (4+ / 0-)

                      No. Solipsism is the belief that you are the only real being in the universe, and everything else is a reflection of you, or a mindless actor - kind of like the situation that you encounter in a dream.

                      Just as an aside, you cannot disprove solipsism. Solipsism and agnosticism are the only intellectually honest arguments one can make... but that's not what I was trying to get at it initially.

                      Saying "everything is subjective" is a neurological fact, not a philosophy. Your nervous system ends at the boundary of your body; how can you experience reality except through your own nervous system? You never deal with reality directly. For example, the image that ends up on your optic nerve is actually upside-down until your brain flips it. What else is your brain adding or subtracting in its filtering of reality? That's subjectivity.

                      Do you see the difference between neurological subjectivity and solipsism? I'm not making the claim that others don't exist.

                      Think of all sentient beings as Buddha, but keep your hand on your wallet.

                      by CathodeRay on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 10:37:32 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  So you're an Idealist then? (0+ / 0-)

                        Well that is another can of worms. And also as an aside:

                        "Solipsism and agnosticism are the only intellectually honest arguments one can make"

                        No, solipsism is not intellectually honest and can be pretty easily refuted.

                        "And everything IS subjective. Please explain how it is not."

                        I refute it thusly:

                        Why are you speaking to me?

                        I think where I am not, therefore I am where I do not think.

                        by MnplsLiberal on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:14:58 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  I doubt anyone is a solipsist (0+ / 0-)

                          Though Wittgenstein was sorely tempted I think, which explains his obsessive insistence on public criteria for meaning as a way of escape.

                          To say "everything is subjective" may be a sloppy relativism, but i may mean that the only concrete reality that we know, perhaps the only reality that exists, is mind. Its not solipsism because it does not imply that MY Mind is the only thing that exists.

                          It is also perfectly compatible with natural science, which is neutral with respect to the intrinsic (as opposed to structural) features of reality.

                          •  That is idealism (0+ / 0-)

                            the belief that the only concrete reality is Mind is Idealism. I'm a pragmatist, which is sometimes confused with relativism, and irritates the hell out of some atheists as they are Naive Realists.

                            Wittgenstein was a dualist.

                            I think where I am not, therefore I am where I do not think.

                            by MnplsLiberal on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:49:45 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  W. was not a dualist! (0+ / 0-)

                            you will make all the W scholars spin around backwards saying that.

                            But yes I am an idealist, its a lonely view, but true.

                          •  Oh... yes he was (0+ / 0-)

                            I enjoy watching they heads as they go all explody.

                            Kvond discusses it here.
                            Wittgenstein’s Mysticism: One World or Two?

                            The sense of the world must lie outside the world. In the world everything is as it is, and everything happens as it does happen: in it no value exists — and if it did exist, it would have no value. If there is any value that does have value, it must lie outside the whole sphere of what happens and is the case. . . . It must lie outside the world. (Tr. 6:41)

                            The solution of the riddle of life in space and time lies outside space and time. (It is certainly not the solution of any problems of natural science that is required). (Tr. 6.4313)

                            How things are in the world is a matter of complete indifference for what is higher. God does not reveal himself in the world. (Tr. 6.432)

                            THAT, my friend, is dualism. And you really should check out the rest of Kvond's blog if you're not already familiar with him.

                            I think where I am not, therefore I am where I do not think.

                            by MnplsLiberal on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 12:09:10 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I had in mind the Philosophical Investigations (0+ / 0-)

                            The Tractatus is a kind of transcendental idealism

                        •  Not exactly idealism either. (0+ / 0-)

                          No, solipsism is not intellectually honest and can be pretty easily refuted.

                          "And everything IS subjective. Please explain how it is not."

                          I refute it thusly:

                          Why are you speaking to me?

                          "I refute it thusly." You're actually supposed to kick a rock at this point, since you seem to be riffing on the guy who was trying to demonstrate to Bishop Berkeley that idealism was crap. ;) (Who was that guy anyway?)

                          Can you be 100% sure that I even exist? No, you can't. You had dreams last night where you were convinced of their objective reality, and every character in that dream was a projection of your own mind. There is absolutely no proof that anyone other than you exists.  

                          The reason I said that solipsism and agnosticism are intellectually honest is because neither require any faith. They take the known facts at face value; to assume that others exist is exactly that: an assumption.

                          Please notice - AGAIN - that I am not claiming that I subscribe to solipsism, because I believe that others exist. But, that is an act of faith, and I recognize it as such.

                          Think of all sentient beings as Buddha, but keep your hand on your wallet.

                          by CathodeRay on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 12:31:35 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  If I don't exist (0+ / 0-)

                            Why would you speak to me? If all that exists is your own subjective experience why do interact with other people at all? The Idealist would answer that we are all one, all extensions of the One Mind that is assumed to be god.

                            As to solipsism, Bertrand Russel one claimed that someone wrote to him saying: "I have recently become a solipsist, I wonder why more people don't take it up?" Which is pretty hilarious but it is emblematic of the kind of blindness people can fall into.

                            I believe that the New Atheists have a similar blindspot.

                            I think where I am not, therefore I am where I do not think.

                            by MnplsLiberal on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 12:40:16 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Technically... (0+ / 0-)

                            I'm not arguing for solipsism.

                            I'm not saying you don't exist. I choose to believe that you do exist, and that you have a separate existence from me and are not a figment of my imagination.

                            But I have no proof of this. That's what this conversation is about: if any one philosophy had been proven to be the "correct" one, there wouldn't be any reason to debate philosophy, right? Some people think they can categorically dismiss certain lines of thought, and I guess what I'm really saying is no, you can't.

                            There is no proof that solipsism is not the "correct" philosophy. Instead of repeatedly trying to persuade me that the whole concept is nonsense, perhaps it would be more instructive for you to try and figure out why you have such a strong emotional need for it not to be true. Emotionally, I would be perfectly fine if I was all alone in the universe and all of you were in my head.

                            Think of all sentient beings as Buddha, but keep your hand on your wallet.

                            by CathodeRay on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 01:10:52 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  You don't have to consider it an act of faith (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            yaque

                            100% of your experiences prove you exist, to you. You have never experienced not being the thing that is experiencing.
                            Some of your experiences at least seem to indicate an external reality. As you point out, this is some, not all. Your dreams (or mine) don't prove there's an objective external reality, nor do either of us's emotions, nor any time either of us has been fooled by a sensory illusion. Some of either of our memories seem to support an objective external reality, but we likely have both had mistaken memories on occasion.
                              I think elephants exist 'out there' in external objective reality land. Much, much less than 100% of my total experience points to this conclusion, but I am of the opinion that enough does to consider it true, because even if only one experience out of thousands seems connected to this idea, I have very much fewer indicators elephants don't exist. For shortness, I'll give it 100%, even though if I weighed all chances I might be misremembering elephants, the number might go down to 99.9999%. I do that with most things in the external universe. I act like my senses are trustworthy except on rare occasions when they prove they weren't. I doubt them just a little, but very little, and when I talk casually to people, I usually treat them as totally reliable, in part because that's how English is built.
                               Now, I also remember polar bears, but all the local zoos have gotten rid of polar bears, and I don't think I've seen a live one in 20 years. There's some reasons to think they are dying off from the ice caps melting. Hey, maybe all the polar bears have already gone extinct, and the TV footage I've seen is all old filmstock. That's not very likely, but I would have to assign a chance of polar bears still existing that is at least a bit less than 100% until I see one again. The most rational thing would be to assign a very, very low chance there's a conspiracy to make people think polar bears aren't extinct yet, just like I would assign a very, very low chance there is a living plesiosaur in Loch Ness.
                              But going with a probability of very close to 100% while remembering it's less than the absolute 100% that I am a thing which is experiencing something, isn't what most people mean by an act of faith. 99.999% odds are better than what most people bet on. I'd bet my entire bank account that there are still polar bears because the odds look that good, and in theory the odds that there's a universe out there are better than that.

                      •  Solipsism is easily disproven. (0+ / 0-)

                        Education is the best provision for the journey into old age. -- Aristotle

                        by not2plato on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:30:28 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  I'm not convinced that this is true (0+ / 0-)

                        Solipsism and agnosticism are the only intellectually honest arguments one can make

                        which is why I'm neither a solipsist nor an agnostic, although I considered both positions at one point.

                        Economic Left/Right: -4.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.82

                        I rebuke myself when under stress - The Lord/King Crimson

                        by AaronInSanDiego on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:55:13 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Intellectually honest... (0+ / 0-)

                          ... meaning, I guess, "making no assumptions".

                          Solipsism requires no assumptions because one takes the sense data at face value and comes to the conclusion that waking reality is no different than dreams, and that all seemingly external objects/beings are, in fact, internal projections.

                          (Once again, I absolutely do not subscribe to this view, unless one were to make a really convoluted argument that any kind of non-dualism amounts to this philosophy.)

                          Agnosticism is intellectually honest because it says: "I don't know." The exact definition of "I make no assumptions"!  

                          Gnosticism is "to know for one's self", but good luck proving to anyone that your ecstatic experience of everything in the universe being one has any bearing whatsoever on materialistic western ideology.

                          Think of all sentient beings as Buddha, but keep your hand on your wallet.

                          by CathodeRay on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 12:38:59 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  OK, I understand the term (0+ / 0-)

                            "intellectually honest" differently. In any case, I'm not sure that these views make no assumptions. My understanding of agnosticism is different, and I don't think it's the only position compatible with saying "I don't know."

                            Economic Left/Right: -4.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.82

                            I rebuke myself when under stress - The Lord/King Crimson

                            by AaronInSanDiego on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 01:03:38 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                  •  If everything is subjective (0+ / 0-)

                    then nothing is such that it is as it is regardless of what we think of it.  But there are lots of things that are as they are regardless of our thoughts about them.  Therefore, it is not the case that all things are subjective.

                    Postmodern subjectivism is at the heart of fox news and its lying attitude toward reality -- they too, like you, deny that there are objective facts.  They believer, like you and the postmodernists, that reality is synthesized in the brain.  

                    The world is simply not a projection of our own minds, and therefore subjective idealism of the sort you describe is just another false philosophy in the world.

                    Education is the best provision for the journey into old age. -- Aristotle

                    by not2plato on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:29:52 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  You're missing the point. (0+ / 0-)

                      The world is simply not a projection of our own minds, and therefore subjective idealism of the sort you describe is just another false philosophy in the world.

                      Please demonstrate the proof for this statement. And how is it a "false philosophy"? As far as I know, no philosophies have been proven to be false, that's why intelligent people still debate these things. Only the unintelligent have decided that the big questions have already been answered, and are not worthy of further discussion.

                      And: "But there are lots of things that are as they are regardless of our thoughts about them.  Therefore, it is not the case that all things are subjective."

                      That's ridiculous. That's all you have, is your thought about things. And thoughts are subjective.

                      You do understand the nervous system, correct? And that you can't perceive reality directly, but only in an interpreted form through that nervous system?

                      Go talk to a cop about material witnesses, and how any group of people that witness the same thing can have individuals who give wildly differing accounts of what happened.  THAT is subjectivity.

                      Think of all sentient beings as Buddha, but keep your hand on your wallet.

                      by CathodeRay on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 12:54:47 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  If I were to place a Blue cube in a round white (0+ / 0-)

                        room and have 1000, 10000, hell, 100000 people enter that room and then tell me what they saw...

                        How many do you think will report to me as having seen a red frog in a cave reciting biblical verses?

                •  Do you really think believing in central (0+ / 0-)

                  consciousness as the beginning of the cosmos as we know it is that much more absurd than believing in a singularity in a vacuum that exploded?

                  •  Yes. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Killer of Sacred Cows

                    There is evidence that the Big Bang occurred. There is not evidence for a central consciousness.

                    Anyway, the real issue with the "consciousness" theory is that it doesn't have any explanatory value. It's a useless theory unless it helps us to interpret future observations more accurately. Since it's non-falsifiable, it also is empty of explanatory content. So because it explains nothing, why bother with it?

                    •  I know that there is evidence that the Big Bang (0+ / 0-)

                      occurred (the background radiation among other things), but to jump from that to a singularity in a vacuum is a leap, though it may be a reasonable one.  As for the evidence of central consciousness, there are many who would differ with you on that, as they have had pretty conclusive personal proof of it, but because science does not have a theory that relates to it, they ignore it.  I admit that there is no one answer for everyone, but I'm not sure that science deserves the position of the only privileged stance as there is a good deal of experience out there that points to other planes of reality -- in fact, it might be argued that the quantum world IS another plane of reality which we don't yet know how to interpret.  And experimental science proceeds by isolating incidents and phenomena from their background and abstracting them, so right from the beginning, it is less than objective.  At any rate, I've been reading Paul Feyerabend's memoir Conquest of Abundance and I am obviously influenced by it.

              •  "Think They Have It All Figured Out!" (8+ / 0-)

                This complaint is made every time religion or supernatural beliefs are revealed for what they are: Fantasies and wishful thinking.

                It's not that Dawkins and the rest of us atheists believe "We have it all figured out." It is, in fact, the opposite.  Religion is that which claims to have it all figured out!  Religion and religious authorities claim knowledge and certainty about the entirety of the cosmos, far beyond anything they or their intellectual forbears could possibly have experienced, examined or studied.

                Atheists do not claim to have all things figured out, we simply claim that your silly fantasies are just that; fantasies, without substance, without merit, and ultimately very harmful. Atheists have heard your stories, many times over, and are not convinced.  

                •  To add to you idea, atheists (8+ / 0-)

                  are those who are not insecure with not having figured it all out.  

                  I think that at least many of the religious folk need to "believe" or they just can't deal with that feeling of being mentally at sea.  

                  I also realize many other religious folk are more attracted to the compassion aspect of religions and, perhaps see science as not capable of compassion.

                  However, science can involve compassion just as much as any sky god story.  After all, compassion is real and its effects would presumably measurable with psychological testing.  You can experience the boundless wonder of compassion without having to attach it to stories about anyone or anygod.  Stories are a nice way to communicate.  So is art.  So is music.  

                  I was wise enough to never grow up while fooling most people into believing I had. - Margaret Mead

                  by fayea on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 09:51:12 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  but atheism claism to have figured it out (0+ / 0-)

                    in more or less naturalistic terms. theists claim to have it figured out, in more or less supernatural terms,.

                    I do agree the best approach in the disinterested pursuit of truth

                    •  Not true re: atheists (4+ / 0-)

                      First of all, atheism is lack of belief in gods. It has nothing to do with anything else you are arguing against.

                      Second, those who practice critical thinking and the scientific method as the most effective way of gaining understanding about the universe, most definitely do NOT claim to have "figured it all out" - otherwise, there would be no more need for scientific inquiry.

                      It is rather illogical to say that the pursuit of science demonstrates a belief that there is nothing more to understand.

                      On the other hand, claiming to have answers to unsolved mysteries and to know about things for which there is as yet no evidence, is a hallmark of religious thinking and the raison d'etre of Religion itself.

                      One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                      by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:44:05 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  the pursuit of science (0+ / 0-)

                        is not the same thing as the defense of atheism. The two are logically distinct. It is an obfuscaation to confuse them.

                        Its also a mistake to identify reason and science, a mistake the positivists made long ago. (quick counterexample: mathematics and logic are paradigms of rationality, but not natural science)

                        I think you might have agnosticism and atheism confused as well. Atheism is a claima bout reality: there is no God.  It is not simply failing to believe in God

                        I don't believe there are aliens living on a planet circling alpha centauri. But that does not imply that I think there are no aliens living on alpha centauri

                        •  Read my comment again (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          J Ash Bowie, BPARTR

                          my first point was precisely that the pursuit of science is not the same thing as the defense of atheism. It was you who were obfuscating the two, with your statement:

                          atheism claism to have figured it out in more or less naturalistic terms

                          which is why I made my clarifying comment that atheism is about nothing more than not believing in gods.

                          There are more than a few superstitious atheists, and there are even religious atheists such as many Buddhists.

                          I think you might have agnosticism and atheism confused as well. Atheism is a claima bout reality: there is no God.  It is not simply failing to believe in God

                          Sigh, this old canard again. I'm tired of arguing it over and over, especially with people who have been around here long enough and know better.

                          I don't believe there are aliens living on a planet circling alpha centauri. But that does not imply that I think there are no aliens living on alpha centauri

                          There is no basis for your belief. There is no particular reason to draw a conclusion one way or another.

                          If we visited Alpha Centauri and checked out all the planets there, and saw no signs of life, then it would be rational to conclude that there is no reason to believe there are no aliens there. Particularly if we had never had any evidence they were there in the first place - no radio transmissions, no other signs of life, nothing.

                          Even prior to visiting, anyone who said, "I just believe they are there, I can feel it", would be making an irrational conclusion.

                          On the other hand, the conclusion, "there is no reason to believe aliens are on a planet on Alpha Centauri, since there is absolutely no evidence they are there, we've been there for centuries and they have had ample opportunity to show themselves or communicate with us unambiguously", would be quite rational.

                          That still is not an absolute, 100% certain conclusion - on the same basis as "2 + 2 =4" - because there is a non-zero possibility that there may be aliens underground, or they may be hiding themselves, or they may be utterly transparent, or they may live in a different dimension than us. That is, of course, true about anything anyone ever dreams up - there is a non-zero possibility of it being true, but, absent any evidence, it is not reasonable to believe it.

                          But, reasonably speaking, it is not irrational, nor is it mere "belief", to state that, there being absolutely no evidence of the existence of aliens on Alpha Centauri, then there is absolutely no reason to believe they exist."

                          Finally, your analogy, which as you see works against your argument, is fatally flawed, in that there is nothing contrary to the known physical laws of the universe about aliens living on Alpha Centauri - there is nothing in science that says it is impossible, nothing in science we'd have to "throw out" if it turned out there were aliens on Alpha Centauri.

                          But claims of a "god" - or any supernatural phenomena - are something quite different.

                          Not only is there zero evidence supporting them, but their existence would contradict fundamental laws of physics as we know, have observed, and have predictably verified are true.

                          One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                          by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 10:09:04 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                  •  I think both sides are projecting here (0+ / 0-)

                    Which is one reason how this debate gets so knotted up.

                    Most atheists are not rigidly set in their belief that there is no God.  In fact, Dawkins (I think) is explicit in saying he claims agnostics on his side, as they don't have faith.

                    However, likewise most religious people are also fully aware that they don't have all the answers.  They just practice faith rather than doubt.

                    I really like Armstrong's stress on the term "practice" as an active verb.  At the end of the day, I think there is less distance between either atheists or believers than either group would like to think.

                    I think religion is less about what you believe, and more about what you do about it.

                    •  Unfortunately, the facts do not support (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      J Ash Bowie, BPARTR, yaque

                      your assertion regarding religious people, at least in the US.

                      Most reject much scientific knowledge, and the overwhelming majority believe that they have the answers to everything - and, their answer, even to things for which we now have natural explanations, is "Goddidit".

                      Those are simply the facts. You can check out the surveys and studies yourself, starting with ARIS 2008.

                      Facts are stubborn things, as John Adams said.

                      False symmetry fail.

                      One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                      by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:46:32 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I don't agree with your characterization of (0+ / 0-)

                        what religion "is". I accept the statistics about how many people are Christian in the US, and how many believe in a personal God.  However this doesn't necessarily  reveal a belief system that's as rigid as you portray it.  Surveys tend to put people into either/or boxes, and you seem to want to do the same.

                        I've had many conversations with US missionaries for Presbyterian churches in the Northern states.  I've asked them about their work and the character of their churches.  While they certainly affirm belief in a personal God, they are perfectly happy to accept that the search for knowledge doesn't end there, that they may be wrong in the detail, and that ultimately they don't know what's going on any more than I (atheist) do.

                        This is called nuance.  The idea that I'm somehow anti-factual or resorting to false symmetry is low.

                        •  False symmetry refers to the (3+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          J Ash Bowie, BPARTR, yaque

                          notion that the proportion of reasonable and extreme theists and atheists is similar.

                          Which only serves to feed, however unwittingly, the all too frequent meme that atheists like Dawkins are no different than militant religious fundamentalists, that they are "opposite sides of the same coin".

                          There is a huge difference, on both counts.

                          First difference is quantitative: there are proportionately many many more fundamentalists among theists than there are extremist atheists among atheists.

                          Second difference is qualitative: Dawkins writes books - the overwhelming majority of which do not deal with atheism at all.

                          Fundies kill people, harass and intimidate people, foment hysteria and violence with violent rhetoric, seek to impose, by law, their will on others, and burn more books than they write.

                          There is no equivalence whatsoever between the two.

                          One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                          by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 01:08:03 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  I'd say that you're missing the point there (0+ / 0-)

                            by quite some way.

                            I would never equate atheists with fundies in terms either of number or of damage done.  It's a ridiculous proposition.

                            And this is not the argument that I've seen anyone - anyone at all - use, least of all DT or the author he's reviewing.

                            The argument is specifically that there's a similarity in the way both groups perceive religions as literalist, un-nuanced, rigid belief systems.  That's all.

                            Anyone should be able to grasp that to say two things share one attribute is not to say that they share anything else.

                            Atheists are not being equated with dangerous, antisocial authoritarians.  It's an insult that exists only in your head.

                          •  I respect your point of view (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            ignatz uk, J Ash Bowie, BPARTR

                            but not your insulting assertion that I am making shit up.

                            Right here on Daily Kos, atheists are regularly called "militant", "fundamentalists", "no different than fundamentalists", "terrorists", "bombthrowers" (twice just yesterday), "no different than Al Qaeda", "just like the Religious Right", "militant fundamentalists" (the favored combination these days") "hateful", and, my favorite, "just like Hitler".

                            The notion that there is equivalence between fundies and atheists is a popular one here. When folks want to be clever, they refer to "New Atheists" - but, when pressed to define that term, they either ignore the request, or reveal that they mean any atheist who speaks out about their beliefs.

                            I should note that not a single one of those comments received a single HR from a theist, nor a single condemnation from a theist, nor a single "that's a bit over the top" from a theist.

                            Right here, on Daily Kos.

                            And that was just in the past week.

                            We regularly, literally daily, fight the old canards here that "atheists have no moral compass", "there are no atheists in foxholes", etc.

                            Just the day before yesterday, I had the wonderful experience - right here on Daily Kos - of someone who claimed to be a hospital chaplain defend the fact that there are religious but not atheist chaplains ministering to the sick, that many atheists "won't be atheists on their deathbed".

                            You know the wonderfully "tolerant" Street Prophets, with the wonderfully "tolerant" Pastor Dan?

                            Back when he was a real pastor, I noticed that in all the surveys of beliefs in America that he would post here, he always left out atheists.

                            He claimed that he was open to all faiths, and supported "interfaith dialogue".

                            So, I asked him, right here on Daily Kos: have you ever invited an atheist to speak to your congregation, to tell them about our beliefs?

                            His answer: "why would I invite the enemy into my house?"

                            I don't remember how many recs his comment god, but it was a shitload.

                            Atheists may be far more numerous here than any where else that is not an explicit atheist forum, and as a result we may feel that this is the only place we can speak more freely.

                            But, that doesn't mean we don't face the same kind of overt, unapologetic prejudice here that we face everywhere else.

                            I've read Armstrong, and heard her interviewed on the radio, and listened to her talks online.

                            To me personally, the most offensive smear, and the one that is becoming the most common adjective associated with atheists, is "militant".

                            In an age when true militants represent a serious threat to all of us, when true militants murder and torture and intimidate and where all of our freedoms are restricted in the name of defending against militants, to call someone like Dawkins who writes a book - or to call someone like me, who makes comments on a single Internet forum - who can't even be "out" as an atheist in my profession - "militant", is truly beyond the pale.

                            And yet, I have yet to see a single theist on Daily Kos push back, criticize, much less HR comments calling atheists "militant" - much less "just like Hitler".

                            And that's here, on Daily Kos. You have no fucking idea what it is like to live as an atheist in the United States of America, in the real world, not this sheltered atypical corner of progressivism.

                            So, with respect, don't tell me it's in my head. I live it every day of my life, and so does my family.

                            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 09:54:48 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  here, here. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            RandomActsOfReason

                            Well put. sir

                          •  I wish I could rec this 100 times (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            RandomActsOfReason

                            The irrational and often hateful rhetoric spewed at atheists is a true and shameful reality in America. And yet when someone like Harris or Dawkins writes a book refuting faith-based ideas, they are described as divisive extremists who foment hatred and intolerance.

                            After earning my Bachelors in Social Work in 2005, I am now closing in on my doctorate to practice clinical psychology so I can help people cope with and recover from severe emotional and cognitive pain. In my training, I have worked with highly disturbed young children who were abused and neglected. I have worked with autistic teens. I am currently working to help adults with traumatic brain injuries. While I don't want any medals for my work, I would at least like the benefit of the doubt that I am perhaps not a morally rudderless cretin due to my lack of belief in any gods.

                            I don't need a belief in a god to care about people, or to want to improve their well-being. I have reason to believe that the vast majority of atheists would say the same.

                            PS. For what it's worth, Hitler was a Christian.

                            Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

                            by J Ash Bowie on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 08:09:00 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  OK. I apologize. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            RandomActsOfReason

                            Lots of stuff in there I wasn't aware of.

                    •  many so-called deists (0+ / 0-)

                      are really jsut practicing fire-insurance.  Just in case there is a hell.  

            •  the Alice in Wonderland school of investigation (4+ / 0-)

              First the verdict, then the evidence. You know it's nonsense from the beginning so why waste any time actually investigating and understanding that which you seek to refute.

            •  that is like saying, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              no way lack of brain

              why investigate theoretical physics when you know nothing is there.

              ??? How can you know PRIOR to analysis

            •  With all due respect ... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ignatz uk

              ... I think you're arguing from inside the same box that Dawkins is in -- namely, that you simply don't understand the other side of the argument, and in trying to understand it, interpret it from the rules of your own side.

              You say:

              Research into religion and in-depth study of theology are pointless when you know that ... it isn't real.

              That misses the whole point that the "mythos" side defines "real" in a completely different way.  

              To left-brained rationality -- the "logos" side -- "real" (or "true") equals "literal, material, measurable."  And that is completely valid, from that perspective.

              From the other, more right-brained perspective, "real" and "true" doesn't necessarily have to be "factual" or "literal."  And that is equally valid -- although the "logos" side is unable to grant that.

              Cultures that are based more in the "mythos" perspective know darn well that their "bronze age fairy tales" (as you typically dismiss mythology from the "logos" perspective) are not literal truth or history.  They know it isn't science, or an "attempt to explain natural phenomenon.  

              They can accept modern science perfectly well.  I've known Native American healers who do sweat lodges, go into altered states to commune with "spirits" (whatever those really are), do prayerful healing work ... but also work in local hospitals using the latest, most up-to-date scientific methods.

              However, they also recognize that the myths contain a deeper, non-literal truth about the mysteries of life and reality, and that reality become fuller and richer when it is allowed to acknowledge the non-literal, non-material, subjective side as well.  

              And no, this is not just an allowable self-indulgent acceptance of "non-real" things just because they "make us feel better" -- as the "logos" side tends to interpret it.  It is accepted as very real -- but in a different way.  "Mythos" acknowledges that things can be differently real.  (For myself, I can only say that for me the characters and situations in the Arthurian legends, Native American myths, or even in The Lord of the Rings, often seem more real, and to contain more truth than many of the literal, factual, material people I meet on a daily basis.)

              As, Joseph Campbell said, the problems have come from people confusing "myth" with "history" or "literal, objective truth."

              The frustration is that while the "mythos" perspective, because of its wholistic,  right-brained, non-literal nature, can accept and encompass the "logos" perspective (while acknowledging its limited perspective) ... the "logos" perspective, because of its concrete, logical, left-brained nature, cannot understand -- let alone even accept -- the "mythos" perspective.

              Both are valid, and neither is superior.  Rather than seeing them as in competition -- black-and-white, right-or-wrong, all-or-nothing (as "logos" tends to interpret things) -- rather, they should be complementary.

              •  The right-brained perspective irritates me. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Brooke In Seattle, BPARTR, yaque

                See, the right-brained perspective leads to people expecting me to take them seriously and respect them when they say "I just know that gays are going to hell because God said so," or when they say "Your father went to heaven and you'll see him someday." That might be comforting to them, but it's all bullshit to me.

                Forget it. They can take their mythos and shove it. Logos provides much better explanations of how and why things happen, and doesn't require the existence of a fairytale sky father to do it.

                There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

                by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 04:41:13 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •   (0+ / 0-)

                  The right-brained perspective irritates me.

                  Again (and, yes, with genuine respect), I wonder if that might perhaps be your own limitation.

                  See, the right-brained perspective leads to people expecting me to take them seriously and respect them when they say "I just know that gays are going to hell because God said so," or when they say "Your father went to heaven and you'll see him someday."

                  I think that is a misunderstanding of right-brain perspective -- and I think it is an example of the problems Armstrong is saying come up when the mythological perspective is  confused with the concrete, literal Logos perspective.  

                  What I have found is that so-called "primitive" shamanistic-type cultures are much more sophisticated at this differentiation than we are.  When I was living and working at a Native American lodge, people would regularly say things like, "Last night an owl came and talked to me," or "The roof of the sweat lodge opened up and the stars came in," -- but as I said above, they knew darn well it didn't literally happen as a factual, material event.  

                  But at the same time, they meant it as a true, real experience that they had, with profound meaning for them.  And because they all understood it as a subjective experience, there was no sense of pressuring, to try to force their subjective understandings and experiences on to others as some kind of objective reality.  I was impressed at the great sense of tolerance and openness for people's different experiences.  Understanding the true nature of those experiences, they wouldn't have expected you to "take them seriously when they said ... [whatever]" and they wouldn't have expected anyone else to take their subjective experiences as objective truth.

                  While I was there it really struck me that they didn't have a "theology."  They didn't think or talk about spirituality;  they did it.

                  As you refer to above, when people mistake their metaphors for divinity for concrete, literal truth, and their subjective feelings and metaphorical, visionary experiences for objective, "out there" truth -- i.e. that there really is a literal big "King" guy up there making rules who just somehow happens to agree with their own person prejudices ...

                  Well, we know the problems that come up then.

                  Logos provides much better explanations of how and why things happen, and doesn't require the existence of a fairytale sky father to do it.

                  Exactly.  If you'll read the diary again you'll see that the point of Logos is to figure out the mechanical, material hows and why.  That's what it's good at, exploring that side of reality.  When Mythos tries to do that, it screws up.  That's not the domain of Mythos.  But at the same time Logos is completely ill-equipped to grasp the other, more subjective aspects of reality, related to meaning, personal truth, and so on.

                  •  Dang. (0+ / 0-)

                    Sorry, forgot a subject heading for the above comment.

                  •  I'm sorry, but your defense of mythos (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    J Ash Bowie

                    doesn't work for me.

                    What I get out of this review, and your comment, is that mythos is for those who can't handle reality and have to pretend in order to get by. Logos is for those who can handle it and don't need to pretend. And I don't believe even for one split second that logos can't explain the subjective aspects of reality that you mention - like meaning - too, because those subjective things have to have an objective basis somewhere, at some time, even if we've forgotten what that is now. Otherwise, they're just fantasies, and not applicable to the real world except as deluded people act on them.

                    Example: Marvin Harris showed pretty conclusively that the original source of pig hate in Jewish and Muslim cultures had nothing to do with religious beliefs and everything to do with environmental/ecological conditions. Pigs eat the same things that humans do, and can't be used as draft animals or milked or shorn as cows and sheep and goats can be. So it is expensive to keep pigs. If only two or three people in the tribe owned pigs, then it created infighting between them and those who didn't have them, so an objectively-based rule emerged: no pigs. They're too expensive, and they cause us to fight with one another.

                    Over time, this became a moral value that the tribes carried around with them, and then a religious law: pigs are bad. Why? "Because they're unclean." That was the excuse used to continue the pig ban. But that ban had a basis in objective reality - in logos. There's no "meaning component" except what was tacked onto it after the fact. And the meaning component is irrelevant to why this practice came about, and why it was and is practiced. Mythos meant NOTHING in the evolution of the pig ban.

                    I'm of the firm opinion that every such religious belief can be traced back to a logos-based objective reason like that. Mythos really isn't necessary. It's just a method to find an excuse for logos-based decisions.

                    There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

                    by Killer of Sacred Cows on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 08:24:33 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

              •  You start with all due respect... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                yaque

                And then completely poison the well.

                Anyway, in kind, I would contend that when two left brain assertions are mutually exclusive (at least within the same domain) at least one of them must necessarily be wrong and those so inclined endeavor to determine which.

                It would seem to be your contention that the left brained should not speak to the right for it does not understand it.

                But so then what does occur when two right brained assertions are mutually exclusive?

                History would lead me to believe the answer is "much evil".

                •  I don't understand you. (0+ / 0-)

                  I genuinely meant it with respect, and wouldn't have taken the time to write so much if I wasn't coming from such a place.

                  I have no idea of what you mean by "poisoning the well."

                  As for the rest of your comment, I'm afraid I honestly can't follow your meaning or question at all.  If you could rephrase it, or give more specific examples, I could try to reply.

              •  Your mythical enlightened theist (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Killer of Sacred Cows, BPARTR, yaque

                is a distinct minority in the US at least, not the norm, as you (and Armstrong, and many others here including the diarist) assume.

                82% of American theists believe in a literal personal God. 9 out of 10 Christians do, and also believe in the healing power of remote prayer, and either disbelieve evolution outright (2 out of 3) or say, "well, yeah, ok, but God is guiding it every step of the way, and created humans deliberately".

                One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:49:22 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  No, I don't assume that. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  yaque

                  I'm fully aware of what you point out, and frankly don't really have much faith in or respect for Western religious practice in general, as I think it got off track several thousand years ago -- i.e. approaching it all in an overly left-brained, literal, rationalistic way.

                  That can only lead to problems, as in:

                  "I had a vision of God wearing a green hat."

                  "Well, I experienced God as wearing a red hat!  You're wrong!"

                  "No, you are!"

                  "You're both wrong!  God doesn't wear a hat at all!  And God's a woman!  I know because it feels true to me!"

                  etc.

                  As Joseph Campbell said, confusing mythology (which contains valid metaphorical, symbolic truth) for literal, factual history and concrete objective reality.

                  •  Where does this population of non-Western (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Killer of Sacred Cows, BPARTR, yaque

                    enlightened theists who live Armstrong's utopian harmony with atheists and all other faiths exist?

                    What are their numbers?

                    Are there vacant apartments there?

                    One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                    by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 12:26:22 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I was actually thinking of a long, serious ... (0+ / 0-)

                      ... thought-out response for you, but your sarcasm makes me think it would be a waste of time.  Sorry, but I'll respond to respectful comments from people who really seem open to a discussion.

                      •  No sarcasm (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        BPARTR

                        I'd love to move to such a place, if it exists. The "vacant apartments" was meant as a joke, not a disrespectful comment.

                        I simply see no evidence to support Armstrong's claims, and yours.

                        In the real world, theists are not like the theists you describe - in my experience.

                        So, I ask, sincerely - where are they?

                        One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                        by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 11:24:30 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Thanks, I mistook you. (0+ / 0-)

                          I don't think there is a "place," as such.  I wish there were.  I would move there!

                          Really, in our country, and in most countries where Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are predominant, I think such people are rare, a small minority, sprinkled about here and there, but quietly living their lives and not talking about it much.  After all, by definition they would be the ones who would be more tolerant of others' subjective spiritual experiences (or lack of) and wouldn't be out there loudly trumpeting theirs or trying to change other people.  

                          I think they are perhaps more common in Eastern countries, where there is a long, very sophisticated history of "inner" exploration and experimentation with consciousness and the mind;  but again, there are of course the nitwit literalists there too, taking it all wrong, rampaging around India killing each other, and so on.  

                          I've also described here how I was very impressed with the openness and tolerance at the Native American lodge I went to regularly.  I think that openness to individual experience is more common in shamanistic cultures in general, where everyone is seen as able to be in touch with the divine, in their own individual ways, rather than having to go through the approved priests and churches and dogmas.

                          (Those Eastern traditions -- especially Buddhist psychology -- and my experiences in shamanistic cultures have had a huge effect on the counseling work I have done with victims of abuse.  I rarely talk about it in those terms, of course, as it's all metaphor anyway -- but it works.  The model of consciousness and the "Mind" -- whatever that is -- that it provides allows people to understand their own complexities and contradictions, predict what stages they will probably go through next, understand why certain things are happening ...)

                          I simply see no evidence to support Armstrong's claims, and yours.

                          In the real world, theists are not like the theists you describe - in my experience.

                          I think they are out there, if you would learn more about it and keep an open eye and ear out.  I guess I know they are, because I run into them now and then!

                          But I guess I'm rather cynical about humanity in general, for I think most human beings are very concrete and literal and not like the ones I describe too.  It makes me sad.  I think every religion has its small "mystical" tradition -- but for the most part they end up being poisoned by literalism, power, human screwed-up-ness, etc.  As someone said, "All religion begins in mysticism and ends in politics."

                          I remember reading of an international conference on religion somewhere -- probably decades ago.  There were representatives from religions from all over the world, and the "externalists" of those religions (as I think of them) -- the priests and administrators and theologians -- fought and argued and created a lot of tension among themselves.  But the mystics of those religions -- the inner-looking contemplatives, monks, nuns, and so on, all got along just great.  They could understand each other and relate to each others' experiences, and could see beyond the literalistic, dogmatic wallpaper to the truthful core underneath.

                          Anyway.  Again, sorry to have mistook you before.

                          •  Again, I communicated poorly (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Rieux, niemann, J Ash Bowie

                            I didn't mean to imply that NO such religious people exist.

                            Clearly, they do - and many here fit that description.

                            What I meant was that there is no place I know of where they are anything but a small minority - probably fewer than atheists, definitely fewer than people with no religion in general.

                            That is surely true in the US.

                            My point being that I'm concerned with reality, and the reality is that the overwhelming dominant form of religion that has and is and in my opinion will be practiced is not the kind Armstrong talks about.

                            I believe that another alternative to trying to reform all religion, is to offer an alternative to religion altogether. I believe that organized religion contains inherent flaws that predispose followers to behavior that has negative effects on society and acts as a drag on progress.

                            These are the product of the basic things that make organized religion survive - unambiguous beliefs, hierarchical structure, propagandizing youth through education, a narrative that supposes that followers know the real truth, and an inherent division between "us", the believers, and "them" the nonbelievers (or believers in other faiths).

                            I know all about these international conferences where everyone claps each other on the back and thinks they are being "inclusive" because they have invited people of all different kinds of faiths.

                            Funny, but atheists never seem to get the invitations - even at the conferences that feature the likes of Karen Armstrong. That's not an accident. That's built into the DNA of organized faith.

                            I have no opposition to a theoretical "live and let live" personal type of faith. But, that is not the dominant face of religion in the world, and certainly not in the U.S., and I don't think you can change that without destroying the "organized" part of religion altogether. Good luck with that.

                            Meanwhile, more and more people are identifying themselves as "nonreligious", and an increasing number either don't believe in god, or are agnostic about it. They just can't use the terms "atheist" or "agnostic" in prejudiced America, which is why 12% say they either don't believe or aren't sure or there's no way to know, but only about 1.5% combined will identify using the words "atheist" or "agnostic", in the same survey.

                            Meanwhile, instead of focusing on reforming religion, Armstrong and others like her are piling on atheists, equating us to fundamentalists and using terms like "militant" to cement the picture in the minds of the public of rabid terrorists blowing shit up and plotting to eat Christian children.

                            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 12:09:07 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I pretty much agree with all this. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            RandomActsOfReason

                            I think the "organized" part of religion often (usually?  almost always?) gets in the way of an individual's taking responsibility in finding their own truth to live by.  That's why I prefer Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Native spirituality, etc. -- at least in their more mature forms.  They seem much more about supporting individuals in finding their own way, rather than telling people what the right way is.

                            To me, that is the key -- taking responsibility for one's own life.  I think that is what mature religion is about -- and I do agree that most religion, at least in the US, is pretty immature.

                            And although I am not an atheist -- (in my studies of consciousness and own practices related to it, I've simply had so many weird experiences and bizarre coincidences, and have heard so many similar stories from credible others, and have seen how it all matches the mystical traditions of many cultures going back thousands of years, that I simply have to lean toward thinking there is a form of consciousness that transcends brains and brain chemicals) -- I am very bothered by the prejudice toward atheists, in this country especially, such as the shocking percentage of people who wouldn't vote for an atheist for president, wouldn't want an atheist teaching their kids, etc.

              •  Also, you say (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                J Ash Bowie

                "That misses the whole point that the "mythos" side defines "real" in a completely different way."

                Yeah, defining it in a way that makes it meaningless. This is why I have very little use for mythos. It asks untestable questions ("should," and "ought," for example) and accomplishes nothing tangible.

                But I suppose you'd say that I'm once again judging mythos by logos standards. I admit it, I am. I can't accept the mythos standards, because they are inherently nonsensical. I don't deal well with nonsense. It's inherently not valid to me.

                Frankly, I don't give a damn that my mother-in-law "feels it in her heart" that there's a god. So what? It has exactly zero effect on my life (except that she keeps acting as if what she "feels" is the truth, and her actions have negative effects on me - such as when she tithes money to her church, which then turns around and uses it to deny me my civil rights).

                I'll examine why people keep acting on feelings as if they're objective reality, but I won't pretend that their feelings are proof that some phenomenon is real, because they're not proof. They're just feelings.  

                The irony here is that as a social scientist, I'm examining why people invest so much in their feelings and act on them instead of acting logically, and I'm discovering that there are actual objective bases for the stories they tell themselves - stories that produce those feelings. So these folks are still acting on logos, originally, although it may be at several removes. Mythos is just a veneer that people place over the reality of logos to make it more palatable. I'd rather strip away the veneer so people have to deal with the reality.

                There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

                by Killer of Sacred Cows on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 08:58:55 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I actually agree with you to a point. (0+ / 0-)

                  But I suppose you'd say that I'm once again judging mythos by logos standards. I admit it, I am.

                  Actually, yes, I think you are.  And I think your mother-in-law is too.  (Which I think might be an example of what Armstrong talks about when she says both fundamentalists and disbelievers are approaching it in the wrong way.)

                  I'll examine why people keep acting on feelings as if they're objective reality, but I won't pretend that their feelings are proof that some phenomenon is real, because they're not proof. They're just feelings.  

                  Yes, exactly.  Feeling are feelings, and they can be very true and meaningful subjectively, and can change a person's life much for the better.  

                  (And to allude to something that could fill a whole book, there are whole different categories of "feelings" with different levels of validity -- from really primal emotional "feelings" [which are pretty dumb and definitely not good at interpreting outside reality], to deeper, ineffable meditative experiences [which in their consistency across cultures seem to really point to something transpersonal, deeper and subtler and more objective in the web of reality], etc. ...  

                  Buddhism and other cultures who have experientially studied minds and consciousness for thousands of years are really familiar with this stuff -- much more psychologically sophisticated than we are.  For them, the word "feelings" would be so simplistic as to be meaningless;  like simply saying "energy" to a scientist.  Well, what kind of energy?  Energy in what form?  Under what conditions?)

                  But I think you're right:  the problem is when people act on them as if they are objective reality.  They're not.  They shouldn't be taken that way.  They are not proof.  That's not even their purpose.

                  For your mother-in-law (and an organized church) to think what she "feels in her heart" is THE truth, rather than HER truth, is an example of the sickness that comes from the confusion of Logos and Mythos.  Because that leads to all the problems with so many religions and dogmas -- "I'm right, therefore you're not, therefore I have a right to ... [pressure, evangelize, intrude, oppress, kill]."  

                  Buddhist psychology -- speaking metaphorically, as it tends to, to point to things that are really nonverbal -- might call that a case of "someone mistaking her own demons (i.e. personal prejudices, fears, psychological screwed-up-ness) for God" -- just because they both are non-rational things that are experienced inside and subjectively.  

                  I like the phrase that we in Western cultures tend to be "mythologically illiterate."  We don't know how to handle this inner stuff in any sort of sophisticated way.  And doing this internal work is a lot of hard work, and does require a very sophisticated understanding, for it's like going into a hall of mirrors, trying to differentiate what is really true, what is your own distortion of a true image, what is a reflection of a reflection ...

                  I think that is what mythology is really about -- metaphorical for the inner, subjective experience -- and in that spirit I would use images from mythology from all over the world in my counseling work with abuse victims -- a picture of Kali and her bloody sword of truth, Buddha and his flower sermon, Jesus in the garden, Luke Skywalker and Yoda ...  And people would get it that way.  It felt true to them, and the ones who took it to heart would find their inner strength, learn to recognize their "demons" (false beliefs), and go on to live better lives.

                  I also think of a European scholar who lived in India for years and became very familiar with religion there -- again, very psychologically sophisticated (not that every person understands it that way, of course) -- and when he went back to Germany he was appalled at how "childish" Western religions are in their concrete, literal, comic-book-like approach.  

                  It is also what I was impressed by in the Native American lodged I worked with.  They had no "theology" or "dogma" -- things people had to believe.  They were tolerant, and recognized we are all working at different levels through our own personal crap, trying to get to the deeper truths.  The leader's son-in-law was actually acknowledged as a "contrary spirit," which was sort of like having an approved blasphemer there to remind people that nothing is to be taken as written in stone.

                  Anyway, I'll stop here for now.   All best ...

                  •  You've given me some food for thought. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    niemann

                    I'll try to respond tonight when I get home from work; I have to let this sink in a bit.

                    I will agree with you that the West is mythologically illiterate. I don't see that as a problem, however. I see that as the solution to the problem of clashing belief systems. Eradicate the myths and you'll eradicate the problem - that's how I see it. I still see myths as lies/fantasy, not reality, so I'm still working on that.

                    But thank you for taking the time to respond here.

                    There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

                    by Killer of Sacred Cows on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 11:13:28 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Thanks for this. (0+ / 0-)

                      I am very grateful for your reading and thinking about it.

                      I guess for me the solution to the problem of clashing belief systems is tolerance -- letting people be where they are at the moment, respecting their individual, subjective truths in the moment, without everyone thinking other people should be somewhere else and trying to force them to be the way you think they should be.  (Speaking in the general "you" here, of course!)

                      There are even myths representing that:  One of my favorites is the Arthurian story of the knights going to seek the Holy Grail.  What it really represents, of course, is the quest for truth, divinity, etc.  What I like is, the knights don't all enter the forest as a group, charging in down the road in a big pack.  Rather, they all find their own places in the forest to enter individually, in wild places where there is no previously set-down road -- because that quest is an individual one, with no pre-ordained guideposts or maps.  You can't trust others to help you find your truth and meaning and way in life.  You have to listen to yourself, trust yourself, take responsibility -- and allow others to do the same.

                      I think it is easier to take myths when you don't see them as literal, factual truths (as fundamentalists do), or at the other extreme as lies -- but rather as symbolic metaphors for deeper truths -- as in the example above, or in the way a good fantasy story can move you and strike deep chords in you and make you a better, more thoughtful person.

                      Again, thanks for the nice reply.

            •  Huh? How can you not have confidence? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              niemann

              Anyone would be nuts not to have absolute confidence in their ecstatic experiences. Why wouldn't you? You experienced them.  Empiricism at its finest.

              Now, there are a zillion ways to interpret any given experience. But the experience itself - sometimes including the fact that it feels like it's self interpreting - is as hard a datum as the reading on a seismograph.

              The problem comes with allowing some authority figure to interpret your experience for you, and according that figure absolute confidence.  Or, at a somewhat more sophisticated level, in falling for the idea that because it seems self interpreting, the interpretive work is already done.

          •  DT this would (27+ / 0-)

            be a valid response to such criticisms if Armstrong's portrayal of religion were accurate but the problem is that it's not.  You can't wish away witch burnings, the treatment of schizophrenia, drug abuse, epilepsy, etc., through exorcisms, millions of people who believe we're living in an age of prophecy, etc.  At best Armstrong's analysis is wishful thinking that's wildly at odds with the actual history, practices, and beliefs of monotheistic religion.  At worst it is steal camoflage that attempts to sneak all these superstitions through the back door by saying "but all this God stuff is really just about 'meaning'".  We can talk about meaning just fine without having to lend credibility to religious belief, so why does she feel that it's necessary to do this rather than talking about art and literature?  In my view folks like Armstrong are the worst of the worst as they muddy the debate and the real stakes of that debate.

            •  Would you apply the same things to science (10+ / 0-)

              And call it invalid because of the application of leeches, texts on the four humors, the miasma theory of disease? What about eugenics? And hey, what about the treatment of schizophrenia, drug abuse, epilepsy? What about the "refrigerator mom" theory of autism?

              If every aspect of commercialism or nationalism worthless because of the crimes that have been carried out in their names?

              I'm not sure what value it brings to a discussion.

              •  That's why science is better. (24+ / 0-)

                Science is nimble and ever-changing.  When one hypothesis is disproven, science tries to build upon the new idea, creating a new theory, unless it is also inadequate and wrong.  Through science, I can show you why leeches don't work.

                Religion, on the other hand, will often use religion itself to explain the unexplainable, and often with nothing other than faith.

                •  Seconded (13+ / 0-)

                  To many think that science is like religion in the sense of having a "canon" of accepted beliefs about reality. However, science is completely unlike religion in the sense you mention: it is inherently changeable by design—the moment a better theory is presented or new data discovered, the tapestry of understanding changes. And it doesn't change laterally or arbitrarily—it arcs towards increased veridicality.

                  In science, nothing is sacred: the moment a better model comes along, it pushes out the old model. That is what makes it superior to any form of religion in terms of objective understanding about nature.

                  Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

                  by J Ash Bowie on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:07:55 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  um, religious beliefs change too (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Jagger

                    The Catholic church has given up purgatory. Witch burning was carried out in the name of science (demons were thought to be scientific fact). Most of it occurred in the age of science (the seventeenth century).

                    In the early twentieth century, the human rights movement against the cruelties of colonial exploitation was carried out by Theosophist such as Conan Doyle. "Scientists" such as Louis Agazis of Harvard were convinced at the time that white supremecy was a scientific fact. Science without morality is a scourge, surely. What about the Atom bomb that was supposed to bring about Utopia?

                    Armstrong points out that fundamentalism is rather new.

                    •  Again, if you read me (11+ / 0-)

                      carefully you would have seen that I did not merely say science changes but that science is self-correcting.  Science has a methodology that allows it to discard false theories and hypotheses.  We get nothing analogous in religion.

                      Also, I'm intrigued as to why you would bring up morality.  Are you somehow suggesting that religion is the sole domain of morality?  You really believe we need the divine to find the moral?

                    •  science is flawed (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Journalist Julia, yaque

                      because it is practiced by humans who cling to belief over evidence.  Religion suffers the same flaw.  But religion assumes in too many cases that belief is the most important ingredient in practice.  Its when the cognitive dissonance grows so great that both move forward, but science by its nature is predisposed to move forward more quickly, by engaging the new, rather than being forced to abandon parts of the old with reluctance. But there will be people who will abuse science to prove irrational beliefs.

                      Neither can explain all phenomenon.  I personally have more faith in science's eventual ability to explain more and provide more guidance in the long run. I cannot ever recall having faith in god or a religion.

                      •  Science is too limited (0+ / 0-)

                        Science is limited by the scientific method.  Yet much of existence is outside the bounds of measureable data required by science.  

                        The scientific process is excellent for what lies within its realm and useless beyond.

                        Not surprisingly, reality is much vaster and grayer than the small world of black and white scientific process.  

                        •  What lies (7+ / 0-)

                          beyond the realm of science?  What parts of existence are beyond knowing now and what parts are truly beyond knowledge, period, and will always have to rely on faith, belief without rational basis?

                          •  experience of existence (0+ / 0-)

                            The experience of existence.  Love, joy, hatred, sorrow.  The pleasure of enjoying a sunset.  

                          •  I don't agree (7+ / 0-)

                            with that list, as lying beyond science or the scientific method.

                            And if there was a scientific basis for each of those emotions and those experiences, would the explanation lessen the experience?  Does understanding why it happens keep you from giving yourself up to the experience?

                            What about a god or some outside force you can't explain but must accept on faith creating the experience makes the experience richer, fuller, better?

                          •  Unmeasureable (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            niemann

                            Science cannot directly measure the unmeasureable. Subjective experience is not a quantifiable experience and thus cannot be measured.  Which means the subjective experience lies outside of the realm of the scientific method.

                            Subjective experiences are just another part of existence lying outside of science.

                          •  What makes it subjective? (4+ / 0-)

                            I suspect that most "subjective" experiences CAN be measured and quantified. Or are you making a metaphysical statement that the subjective can never be quantified? If so, that's basically solipsism. Possible, but not useful.

                          •  Read Dawkin's "Unweaving the Rainbow". (6+ / 0-)

                            Understanding the explanation for something does not necessarily detract from the beauty and wonder of it, but in fact can add to it.

                          •  Not my point (0+ / 0-)

                            Understanding the explanation for something does not necessarily detract from the beauty and wonder of it, but in fact can add to it.

                            I agree but that wasn't my point.

                          •  Actually, science is making inroads in all (7+ / 0-)

                            of those areas.  The aesthetic is not immune to scientific investigation.  Even if it was, it is a far narrower area than the entire cosmos and the nature of life, which are objects of science.  

                            Joy, hatred, sorrow -- this is what we poets have and the sciences do not.  

                            HA!  

                            Your war against rationality and reason is sickening and belongs in the 19th century, or on Fox News, or in some hellish English department at a university (that is, in a medieval torture institution).

                            Education is the best provision for the journey into old age. -- Aristotle

                            by not2plato on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:37:22 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  That's what they used to say about playing chess. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            yaque

                            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:52:55 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  But isn't this at base a ... (0+ / 0-)

                            ... philosophical choice or preference?

                            What lies beyond the realm of science?

                            Maybe a lot!

                            I have almost never -- perhaps never -- seen it acknowledged by "scientific fundamentalists" (as I call them) that at it's base science is based on a metaphysical belief -- i.e. that only what is material, measurable, and quantifiable is to be counted as real.

                            Where is the evidence that that is so?  It's a choice for a starting point -- but what if is is not true?

                            I remember the scholar of religion, Huston Smith, saying that in all his discussions with the Carl Sagans, Richard Dawkins, etc., he was never able to get even one of them to acknowledge that science might be limited.

                            I have nothing against science, and have graduate school training in it myself.  Really, I love science.  But it is a human-invented method, and like all methods, by definition, it is limited.  It has tunnel vision.  It studies reality through a certain filter of accepted techniques, and whatever makes it through that filter is studied very well.

                            But is it rational to assume that it is the only method that is unable to uncover all aspects of reality, all the time?  

                            Who is to say that there aren't other aspects of reality best explored by more right-brained, non-verbal, non-quantifiable, more subjective techniques?  (In fact, why should we have developed whole brain chunks devoted to non-rational, "illusory" experience and perception?  Where's the evolutionary value in that?)  

                          •  Correction (0+ / 0-)

                            But is it rational to assume that it is the only method that is unable to uncover all aspects of reality, all the time?  

                            I of course meant, "the only method that is able to uncover all aspects of reality, all the time."

                          •  It's not based on a belief, it is based on eviden (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            yaque

                            There is no evidence that contradicts science.

                            There is no case of a nonscientific explanation replacing a scientific one - yet the entire history of science is about scientific explanations replacing nonscientific ones.

                            There is no reason to believe that trend will not continue indefinitely.

                            There is no evidence that the scientific method cannot be applied to anything.

                            Saying it is "limited" is a bald statement of faith.

                            Demonstrate to me something to which the scientific method cannot be applied.

                            But is it rational to assume that it is the only method that is unable to uncover all aspects of reality, all the time?

                            It is rational to assert that is is the only method known to us that has proven consistently and universally effective.  

                            Who is to say that there aren't other aspects of reality best explored by more right-brained, non-verbal, non-quantifiable, more subjective techniques?

                            Who is to say that there isn't a square circle or a train fueled by lefts, or a one-legged wave?

                            Show me an aspect of reality which is better explored by some non-scientific method than by the scientific method? What results are yielded by each?

                            What is your criteria for "best explored"? What is the purpose of acquiring knowledge in the first place?

                            If it can't predict future phenomena, or explain past phenomena, if it doesn't affect anything measurable, how does it help us, and of what relevance it is?

                            If it matters, it can be measured. Even if it is a thought, it can be measured. Thoughts are the product of physical interactions of matter and energy in a physical substrate, the brain. We can measure those interactions.

                            If you "cant' measure" it, you can measure it's effects. If it has no effects on anything, it doesn't exist for all intents and purposes.

                            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 12:01:57 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                        •  Its not that science is flawed, but that (6+ / 0-)

                          scientists are flawed.  And what you say is out of bounds for science to measure may be simply because we have not YET developed those particular yardsticks.  We are measuring stuff now that 50 years ago was "out of bounds".  

                          I do not worry that my experience of love, compassion, sheer joy might one day be quantified and located in certain neurons and chemicals.  I would be just as happy to find out that love is chemistry as if it were a blessing from a god.  I want to know what the truth is.  I am delighted that humanity has finally come upon the scientific method which is devoted to actual truth and does not rest as long as there is one more question to ask.  This, to me, is a much more exciting and ecstatic approach to life than belief in a loving god tinkering with us.  

                          I was wise enough to never grow up while fooling most people into believing I had. - Margaret Mead

                          by fayea on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 10:03:18 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  admirable quality. (0+ / 0-)

                            And what you say is out of bounds for science to measure may be simply because we have not YET developed those particular yardsticks.

                            You have great faith.  It is an admirable quality.

                          •  Nothing to do with faith - (3+ / 0-)

                            simply a logical prediction based on past performance.  I have no certainty that we will continue to develop better measuring tools anymore than I have certainty that we don't all explode 12/21/12.  However, what I do have is an open mind awaiting the data, with the little gambler center in my brain placing bets on the continuing to develop horse.  

                            I was wise enough to never grow up while fooling most people into believing I had. - Margaret Mead

                            by fayea on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:16:47 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  What evidence do you have to cast doubt (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            yaque

                            on that prediction? What reason do you have to doubt that practicing the scientific method will suddenly have different results than it has had in the entire history of science?

                            Everything we now explain via natural causes was once explained via supernatural causes.

                            There is not one, single, solitary example of the opposite occurring.

                            What reason do you have to suppose that will not continue indefinitely?

                            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 12:03:54 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                        •  science is not black and white (0+ / 0-)

                          and its purview is quite wide when compared to the ravings of poets and religious asses like Buddha and Jesus.  These types are limited to their stupid feelings, and thus to their own dumb bodies.  Nothing a poet ever said goes beyond "I feel thus" and neither do the ravings of Buddha or the nonsense muttered by Jesus.  

                          Education is the best provision for the journey into old age. -- Aristotle

                          by not2plato on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:34:37 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Please describe more your take on Buddha ... (0+ / 0-)

                            ... that is, his history, teachings, methods, etc.  

                            Please be more specific.  Why do you call them "ravings"?

                            I have studied various types and teachings of Buddhism for years, and what you say sounds nothing like what I've seen.

                          •  Don't resort to name-calling and simplistic (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            niemann, yaque

                            hyperbole.

                            Don't play the game theists want us to play, the game they play against us all the time.

                            You're just justifying prejudice against atheists.

                            Stick to substance.

                            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 12:05:07 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                    •  Sure it changes (8+ / 0-)

                      But religious belief most often changes in response to science and reason! When we make new discoveries or invent things like human rights, religious belief is usually dragged along behind them.

                      Science without morality is a scourge, surely. What about the Atom bomb that was supposed to bring about Utopia?

                      You are mistaking science with utility. The fact that nuclear weapons are horrible does not discount the fact that we have developed a fundamental understanding of matter.

                      Moreover, morality is not dependent on religion. Humanism, for example, is a highly ethical system of thought that eschews supernaturalism. And even so, no reasonable atheist claims that science is a source of morality or that science somehow negates ethics. Again, science is a method for gathering new data and forming theories about the nature of reality, and it is a very successful method. Religion simply has no parallel.

                      Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

                      by J Ash Bowie on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 09:03:39 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I'm not so sure morality is even (5+ / 0-)

                        out of bounds for science.  It's part of behavioral science and human neurophysiology.  We developed morality in an evolutionary process to facilitate the survival of us all.  Empathy is a necessary ingredient to a successful society.  Humans thrive best in society, rather than as loners.  Doing beneficial things for others produces "happy" chemicals in our brains.  Measuring this does not make it any less good to be good.  

                        I was wise enough to never grow up while fooling most people into believing I had. - Margaret Mead

                        by fayea on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 10:08:38 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  There is a great deal of science of morals (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          fayea, yaque

                          in the world today.  But the fools from the medieval English departments of our nation don't know about it -- and the journalists are mostly a bunch of English majors who think they know something about the larger world.  

                          See Pinker's The Blank Slate for some reviews of the literature.

                          Education is the best provision for the journey into old age. -- Aristotle

                          by not2plato on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:40:11 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                    •  Um, when did the Catholic Church give up (3+ / 0-)

                      purgatory?  The concept is still being taught in catechism classes as far as I am aware.  If the Catholic Church has given up purgatory, why did Pope Benedict XVI bother to give Ted Kennedy his Apostolic Blessing, the primary element of which is a plenary indulgence?  (For non-Catholics wondering what a plenary indulgence is, it is a "get out of purgatory free card" and just happens to lie at the heart of Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses.)

                      "I believe that ignorance is the root of all evil. And that no one knows the truth." - Molly Ivins

                      by Involuntary Exile on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 10:05:41 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Ya, religion changes (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      J Ash Bowie, yaque

                      but it never gets closer to truth

                      Education is the best provision for the journey into old age. -- Aristotle

                      by not2plato on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 10:54:47 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  you completely miss the point. Science changes (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      J Ash Bowie

                      its views in the face of new evidence.  Belief, upon which religion sits (since no one has yet to provide evidence) is the denial of evidence in order to retain a point of view.

                      When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race. ~H.G. Wells

                      by Adzam13 on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 02:29:49 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                •  leeches work fine (5+ / 0-)

                  still used today. but they're no substitute for aspirin. great for delicate circulatory procedures, not so great for curing headaches.

                  "my humours are perfectly balanced, so put down that drill! i said, good day sir!"

                  Aperture Science. We do what we must, because we can.

                  by lincoln deschain on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 09:02:09 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

              •  most of those bugaboos (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Philoguy

                do not constitute "science".

                I'm certainly not aware of any scientific writings about the benefits of leeches.  

                "I've been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help me out? No." - Craig T. Nelson

                by RickD on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:48:58 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Well, then, (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  fayea, jfromga, yaque

                  go to GoogleScholar and enter "leech" and "therapy". And try other search terms. You'll find benefits, and, of course, complications (mostly infectious, and nasty)
                  Love your sig line!
                  Joe

                  Our president is headed for Oslo. Their president is headed for the Hague.

                  by CitizenJoe on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:43:15 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

              •  No, I would not (9+ / 0-)

                because science is self-correcting.  This is not the case with religious belief.  But really, the bottom line here is that you're writing a defense of something that is kicking the heads of women, homosexuals, and science in in this country.  Pardon me if I'm a bit bothered by the argument Armstrong puts forward when so many horrible things are being done by these groups.

              •  I will also say that (5+ / 0-)

                I find it a bit jaw dropping to see our resident "science writer" referencing the doctrine of the four humors as a scientific hypothesis.  Do you actually know the history of science?  The experimental method did not begin until about the 17th century with folks like Boyle.  A few centuries later this would lead to the transformation of medicine.

                •  Would it make you feel better if I said... (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  bara, fayea, yaque

                  that I believe there's great value in the Socratic questioning of beliefs, and that I'm entirely guilty of putting things forward simply to elicit a response? (a strategy that, in technical terms, might is also known as "being an asshole").

                  I do think it's a bit disingenuous to think that science if a fluid, self-correcting system but that religion is forever indicted by the actions of previous centuries.

                  After all, we're not still burning witches.  Well in any case, not this week. At least, not at my church.

                  •  Devil's advocate (0+ / 0-)

                    (a strategy that, in technical terms, might is also known as "being an asshole").

                    Devil's advocate, anybody?

                  •  The point is that religion (5+ / 0-)

                    is still very much doing these things Devilstower.  You seemed baffled by a lot of the response you're getting here, however what do you expect?  You throw up a post defending religion and calling Dawkins et all a bunch of fundamentalists while meanwhile, in this country, we have religion assaulting the rights of entire groups of people (did you forget what happened in Maine last week?), undertaking foreign military operations based on apocalyptic beliefs, striving to undo science, etc., etc., etc.  It's rather tasteless and tone deaf if you ask me.  

                    •  I don't find it at all tasteless (0+ / 0-)

                      for someone to suggest that blanket claims of the evil of religion only encourages fundamentalism, and more behaviors of the kind you're citing.

                      It sounds like you're pretty determined to close down any and all space for people to enjoy their -- very human -- "irrational" beliefs.

                      Armstrong is correct that dogma follows practice rather than the other way around.  If people are encouraged to practice more open and tolerant forms of faith, everyone wins.

                      Which is another way of saying that faith is not the problem, it's the underlying politics.

                      •  That's one alternative (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        yaque

                        Armstrong's remedy to the inherent, eternal problems of religion is to reform religion - and, to pretend that her form of utopian theoretical religion has any meaningful traction in the real world, which it doesn't.

                        Another approach is to say, "religion is inherently flawed, has outlived its utility, and is a drag on progress."

                        And, to suggest that the world will be a better place, the less religion there is in it.

                        YMMV, but I would point out, just for the benefit of everyone here, that suggesting the second alternative is not "rude" or "militant" or "fundamentalist" or "extremist", let alone "like Hitler" or "like Al Qaeda" or "bomb throwing" (this is a new one I've heard three times today alone) or "no different than terrorists" or "just like teabaggers" (another new smear today).

                        It is simply a different philosophical position, one which is not followed by violence, violent rhetoric, or teabagging.

                        One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                        by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 12:11:18 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  More canards (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        RandomActsOfReason

                        It sounds like you're pretty determined to close down any and all space for people to enjoy their -- very human -- "irrational" beliefs.

                        This is a common response to atheistic argument, that atheists are somehow trying to take away rights or "force" people to abandon their beliefs or some other variant on this basic nonsense. Explaining to people why their beliefs are irrational or hurtful is not the same thing as trying to "close down any and all space for people to enjoy their irrational beliefs."

                        One general point is to convince theists that their beliefs are indeed irrational (you can leave off the scare quotes). Another aim is to promote reason and a basic regard for the scientific method. This isn't a case of two dogma's duking it out, it's a case of two fundamentally different ways of approaching reality: one that is based on reason and empirical evidence and one that is grounded in superstition, myth, and irrationality. While the latter can have benefits in terms of emotional satisfaction, it cannot compete with the former in terms of objective accuracy, reliability, and pragmatic usefulness (except when it comes to motivating people to do terrible things—religion wins on that one).

                        You are right that faith itself isn't the problem; the problem is the underlying cognitive processes behind fantastical thinking, processes that tend to shut down curiosity, inhibit the ability to tolerate difference, and justify otherwise abhorrent ideas (i.e. that slavery is acceptable, that women are inferior, or that Goldman Sachs is good for society).

                        Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

                        by J Ash Bowie on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 09:12:25 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                  •  Science cannot be a self correcting system (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ignatz uk

                    Godel's second theorem proved that any sufficiently powerful formal system would have theorems that could not be proved but were never-the-less true. Now either science is not sufficiently powerful to generate such theorems, in which case we can actually rely very little on science, or it is powerful enough to be relied on, in which case it cannot possibly prove everything that is actually true. (In fact, there's a formal proof in mathematics that the rules of the real number system, limited to integers, rational numbers, and just the operations of addition and subtraction, would be powerful enough, and since science uses all those and many other mathematical operations, plus formal logic, it is certainly way beyond powerful enough. Ergo, it can't internally correct all its errors.).  

                    •  Sure it can (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      ignatz uk, RandomActsOfReason, yaque
                      It's self-correcting, it's just not perfectly self-correcting. Science is explicitly incomplete, it doesn't have to "prove everything that is actually true" in order to be an extremely useful tool - proving almost everything that is actually true would still be very worthwhile.

                      Investigate or be incriminated.

                      by chase on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:03:58 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Zeno's Paradox (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      chase, yaque

                      I guess we really can never get anywhere, and the scientific method really doesn't work, and we're not really communicating using the Internet, and flu vaccines really do not exist, and we're all dead from drinking rat-infested homeopathy "remedies" or lead-infused Ayurdeva "medicines".

                      And, in fact, the Sun does orbit the Earth and we never sent anyone to the Moon and there is no cake. The cake is a lie.

                      Sigh.

                      One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                      by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 12:13:45 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

              •  No, since religious abuses still abound (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                yaque

                while science marches on.

                There are very, very few theists who match Armstrong's utopian myth, at least in the U.S., and they have little if any cultural, social or political sway in America.

                One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:51:57 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  it is evident that you have not actually read (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Eloise

              any of Armstrong's books because if you had you would know she does not endorse this kind of religion.  You are conflating any form of spiritual seeking or practice with the fundies who use religion as a means to power.

              •  That is not the issue... (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                chase, RandomActsOfReason, yaque

                The issue here is the assertion that "religion is just a practice that produces meaning" when clearly it is not and the cavalier equivocation of Dawkins et all with religious fundamentalists.  With all due respect, Armstrong's characterization of religion is a minority position that makes it much more difficult to discuss these serious issues.

                •  yes and (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ignatz uk

                  Armstrong's characterization of religion is a minority position

                  Yes, and her point is that religion is, or ought to be, a set of moral and spiritual practices rather than a means to beat up on people with different beliefs.  She is pointing out the fundie version of religion is a perversion.

                  makes it much more difficult to discuss these serious issues.

                  On the contrary she sets forth a criticism that is much more to the point for people of faith than the screeds of Dawkins et al.

                  •  Not just a minority position (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    yaque

                    a vanishingly small minority position.

                    If she restricted her efforts to reform religion, you wouldn't see me or anyone else here. It is her gratuitous attacks on atheists that are the issue, particularly when they are based on false premises and this myth that religious people don't actually believe what the evidence shows that religious people actually believe. At least in the U.S. of A.

                    Since you assume her critics haven't read any of her books, may I ask which books of Dawkins you have read?

                    One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                    by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 12:16:17 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  For someone who claims to represent the voice of (0+ / 0-)

                      reason and science, one would think you would take the trouble to be accurate. One would be wrong, however:

                      Not just a minority position ... a vanishingly small minority position.

                      The fact that her current book is on the NYT best seller list renders your claim of "vanishingly small" to be FALSE.

                      her gratuitous attacks on atheists

                      I didn't see any such in the Battle for God.  Do you have any examples of this?

                      •  Faulty conclusion (0+ / 0-)

                        Dawkin's book was also on the NYT best seller list. It reached #4 in bestseller, and remained on the list for 51 weeks. It was also #2 on the Amazon bestseller list.

                        Using your logic, we should conclude that majority of Americans are atheists now.

                        One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                        by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 02:11:22 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

            •  I wonder if the problem here ... (0+ / 0-)

              You can't wish away witch burnings, the treatment of schizophrenia, drug abuse, epilepsy, etc., through exorcisms, millions of people who believe we're living in an age of prophecy, etc.  

              ... isn't just what Armstrong seems to be saying:  

              That is, that the problems come when people start to apply a "logos" perspective to things that are in the "mythos" domain, and vice versa:  e.g.  thinking in that fundamentalist way that there are literally, factually "demons" and "a devil fighting for our souls," rather than seeing that as a metaphor for a deeper, more psychologically true experience of reality.  Or that "reading the stars," or tea leaves, or whatever, should be as systematic and literal as reading a vacuum-cleaner instruction book, rather than using it as a method to spur an exploration of one's own inner, subjective sense of truth -- which is actually all about accepting one's own personal power and responsibility.

          •  Unbelievable! (14+ / 0-)

            What total superstitious bullshit, DT!

            There is no there, there.  

            That some people choose delusion over reality is not news.  Dignifying it is a distraction.  It's one thing that Marx was totally corrrect about: Religion IS the opiate of the masses because it distracts them from dealing with their oppressors.

            Fuck!

            Religion and so-called spirituality is no more valid than twirling around until you're dizzy.

            I am so fucking sick of people trying to justify what amount to warm feelings as somehow more that our interaction with the biological, material world.

            This machine kills fascists!

            by Zotz on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:03:55 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  One of my favorite quotes (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              fayea, Fixed Point Theorem, yaque

              Man created god in his own image, to endorse his wars and his oppression of women.......The author of the quote?   Me!

              We know you've got to blame someone For your own confusion But we're on guard this time Against your final solution

              by minerva1157 on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:29:01 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Yeah (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              yaque

              I am sick of it too.  Glad to read your disgust with this.  

              Justifying religion?  On one hand, it needs none since it is as common as breakfast and as simple as toast.  On the other hand, it amounts to belief without reasons or in defiance of counter evidence; and in that sense it defies justification, because justification implies rationality and religion is irrational.

              Education is the best provision for the journey into old age. -- Aristotle

              by not2plato on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:46:29 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  which is the problem for professional atheists (10+ / 0-)

            I was once asked why (mayhap sarcastically) why I did not write a book exposing religion and my response was that I did not care enough to either do the work necessary to do a good job or cared enough about the subject to do a hack job.
            Maybe a new category of religionist is needed, that of apatheist.

          •  Imagined opponents and straw men (20+ / 0-)

            "Dawkins is fighting an opponent he's dreamed up himself."

            Which is more "real", given the current state of US culture? The literalist and intolerant fundamentalism that's taking over school boards, tea-bagging, and working to block gay marriage? Or the cosmopolitan de-theizing Christianity of the Karen Armstrongs? Where I live it's pretty apparent which kind of Christian is more numerous, more activist, and more dangerous.

            I've met a few believers who see the world as Karen Armstrong does, and I respect them. But they haven't played much of a role in public discourse since the end of the Vietnam War, their churches are empty, and they no longer even represent "Christianity" to most Americans.

            •  Lance, haven't you heard? (9+ / 0-)

              All these people you're referring to here are just talking about "meaaannnnninnnnggggg".  They don't seriously believe these things or try to enact legislation based on them.  It's just sunshine and roses discussions of meaning.  Wicked atheists (anyone apparently who objects to this characterization) just can't see the deep truth of this and that it's really about meaannnninnnng.

            •  these fundies of which you speak (0+ / 0-)

              are not about to read Dawkins and are certainly not about to give up their belief systems based upon his writing. If one wants to confront these types a much more effective way is to point out to them that Genesis contains 2 contradictory stories of Creation. If the bible is an inerrant historical record how can this be?  I have used this myself - with some effect.

              The problem with Dawkins et al is they are unwilling to do the work that could actually make them effective.

              •  Why doesn't Armstrong maintain focus on fundies (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                yaque

                and stop attacking atheists?

                All we are doing is talking. Nonviolently,

                Fundies are acting, violently, legislating, oppressively, and teaching hate, aggressively. All supported by increasingly violent rhetoric.

                Dawkins wrote a book - one - about atheism out of dozens of books he's written about science.

                He debates theists - far more politely than theists here debate me - from time to time.

                He has a website where there is a forum for people to talk, and some branded merchandise to buy.

                What is the big deal? Why this obsession with Dawkins, and the obsession with equating him with militant fundamentalists?

                One has to wonder about the sincerity and honesty of Armstrong's argument, if she equates intellectual atheists like Dawkins with fundamentalists like the guy who murdered the abortion doctor, or the teabaggers parading around pictures of the Holocaust to show what will happen with a public health care option.

                Really. This has to stop. It is profoundly dishonest, and it is creating a culture of demonization of atheists that has already poisoned the well here beyond redemption.

                One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 12:23:02 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  Dawkins' blindspots (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Jagger

            Dawkins has even said it is not worthwhile to read anything before 1800.

            That said, I rather like Richard Dawkins. He is a wonderful explicator of evolution and scientific reasoning. But I'm not in favor of throwing away thousands of years of human wisdom literature and culture, virtually all of it written by deeply religious folks.

          •  If it is just poetry,they should say so (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RandomActsOfReason, yaque

            like Christian fundamentalists they read scripture in an entirely literal manner and seem to never have heard of the long tradition of allegoric or Talmudic interpretation... Harris seems to imagine that biblical inspiration means that the Bible was actually "written by God."

          •  Dawkins's bias (0+ / 0-)

            You're the third to bring up Dawkins's limitations as I read through (about 45 posts down), and I think its worth chiming in. What Dawkins does is really a version of the No True Scotsman fallacy, and as a person who loved his earlier works, he's really losing it now. The remarks about how most religious types would view the Sufis, already quoted above, are a great example. Dawkins hates religion, on a completely emotional level. He accuses it of universally having various bad properties, and when he gets pointed at a counterexample, he argues that those people don't count as true religionists.
              I'm not a Marxist. When two Marxists argue, I don't think I have the right to say - That guy's an orthodox Marxist, and the other one is a Trotski-ite deviationist. I'm not an exotic materials specialist, so when two people argue about how big we might eventually make carbon nanotubes, I shut up and listen.
             Dr. Dawkins has reached the point where he will say "I'm not a Christian, but that guy has the right attitude about the Bible and the other guy has the wrong one." (My paraphrase, but I think its clinically accurate as taken from many examples). That's called shedding more heat than light.

            •  Really poor analogy (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              yaque

              the data supports Dawkin's contention.
              And one need not be an expert on religion in order to comment on the effects of religion. On that, we're all, sadly, experts.

              One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

              by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 12:25:05 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  82% of American theists (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            yaque

            believe in a literal personal god. 9 out of 10 American Christians do.

            9 out of 10 believe that prayers by one person can heal another person.

            80% believe that God works through doctors to heal, rather than the doctor doing the treatment.

            More than half of Americans believe in Creationism, another 40% believe that God guided evolution.

            Read that first stat again - 82% of American theists believe in precisely the kind of embodied personal god who personally intervenes and responds to human prayer that Armstrong pretends is no longer common, and that Dawkins points out, correctly, is the prevailing view.

            What is the empirical basis for your statement that Dawkins has not done research on religion, or that his critic is shallow, let alone incorrect?

            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

            by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:26:29 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  There's a good reason Dawkins and Hitchens (24+ / 0-)

          are polemicizing against literalist fundamentalist Christianity, not Armstrong.

          For every Karen Armstrong there are ten or twelve US Christians who are literalists and fundamentalists with no tolerance for Armstrong's views on God and faith. And those literalists and fundamentalists are dominionist bullies who refuse to coexist with science, pluralistic liberal democracy, or  gender and racial tolerance.

          They would suppress Karen Armstrong's Christianity as surely as they would suppress free-thinking. Karen should be thankful that Dawkins, Hitchens et al. are fighting on her behalf as well as their own.

          •  And why should she be thankful? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wilderness voice, Bradjo

            What exactly has this "fighting" achieved, other than an opportunity for like-minded folks to get together and slap each other on the back? Please show where one person who wasn't already a rock-solid atheist has been persuaded by Dawkins, Hitchens, etc.

            "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

            by Alice in Florida on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:39:27 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Currently, (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RoyT, Fixed Point Theorem, yaque

              there are 719 such people here:
              http://richarddawkins.net/...

              •  Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens are (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                yaque

                probably not going to "convert" the fundy core to rationalism and tolerance-- we've seen how stubbornly attached to self-delusion that core is-- but they do

                show that free-thinkers are not about to acquiesce to dominionist dictatorship;
                that we're not going to be intimidated any more but demand that our voice, too be heard (even HERE);
                that the Enlightenment was a good thing and its values deserves defending;
                that science and faith remain very different ways of seeing the world and creationism does not substitute for science;
                that relentless religious proselytizing, demonizing free-thinkers as immoral monsters, and condemning to eternal hellfire those who do not belong to your religious sect are not just rude but ultimately  incompatible with modern democracy.  

                It's entirely necessary to include free-thinkers in discourse about religion and to engage them. Recent polls show that while a large part of the US population remains fundy, more and more young people describe themselves as agnostic or atheist, and they're the fastest growing group on the spectrum.
                Meanwhile the Catholic Church continues to rebuff Liberal Christians like Karen Armstrong (she used to be a nun-- no longer) and the mainstream Prot churches of the last generation-- the other place Liberal Christianity used to find a home-- continue to hemorrhage members have become such a passive and acquiescent camp they've allowed the Darbyites to usurp the label "Christian" exclusively for themselves.

                Liberal Christians have done a wretched job of defending intellectual freedom and Enlightenment values. So let the atheists take over the task.  

            •  I am one (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              chase, yaque

              I was at a christian college, raised in an evangelical church, baptised by Rick Warren, and at one point thought I might attend seminary. I saw Dawkins speak in Stratford when I was studying abroad, but wasn't impressed at that time.  Later though, I read his book as well as "Letter to a Christian Nation", which helped me to be firmer in wanting answers to my questions. My professors couldn't satisfy my questions, nor could any of the Christian apologetics books I read. Just to cover my bases, I also prayed a lot. No intervention, either natural or supernatural occurred, thus I lost the faith.  I did most of the thinking, but Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens certainly gave food for thought along the way.

        •  God is a 3-letter word that (0+ / 0-)

          makes people stupid. The Dawkins passage you cite is a case in point.

          They believe in God, and that means they believe he exists in objective reality, just as surely as the Rock of Gibraltar exists.

          For this passage to make sense in a rigorous way Dwakins has to define what is meant by "God".  Most fundies have created God in their own image instead of the other way around - an angry old man in the sky.

          Armstong's point is one cannot achieve spiritual experience and understanding via an intellectual discussion of the matter. You have to take it on as a practice and see where it leads.

          •  In other words, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            yaque

            You have to whole heartedly embrace the ideals of your counterpoint for an indeterminate amount of time before you're judged qualified to speak on the matter...

            And if you still disagree I guess you just didn't try hard enough, or for long enough.

            Nice.

            •  no. (0+ / 0-)

              this has nothing to do with embracing someone else's ideals, it's about practices. If you were to claim that, say, meditation has no value, it would be well to actually try it first.

              •  Undertaking the practice without embracing the (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                yaque

                ideals?

                No, the issue is that there is no point trying to satisfy those who would demand that you can not possibly possess sufficient a priori knowledge of a topic to make reasoned arguments about it without experiencing their side of it first hand. Because they will simply be able to claim that if you still disagree with them then you did not undertake the experience correctly.

                •  oh (0+ / 0-)

                  By that logic you are equally qualified to weigh in on the validity of Wiles' proof of Fermat's last theorem without having studied his work.  Along the lines of "something not worth doing is not worth doing well".

                  •  Really? (0+ / 0-)

                    Armstong's point is one cannot achieve spiritual experience and understanding via an intellectual discussion of the matter. You have to take it on as a practice and see where it leads.

                    It seems instead that you're asserting noone is qualified to discuss reletivity without having traveled at relativistic speeds, for example.

                    You made no mention of simple having studied the other side (infact you directly discount the ability to achieve an understand through intellectual discussion... say like you might of Wiles proof), you insisted the disagreer HAS to undertake the opponents side in practise.

                    I simple pointed out how little this would achieve and you... countered an argument I never made. Well done.

                    •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

                      The practice of mathematics involves understanding and proving the theorems. The practice of physics involves relating experiment to theory. The practice of spirituality might involve, say meditation.  You are not qualified to dismiss any of them without having engaged in the practice thereof.

                      •  You are wrong. (0+ / 0-)

                        I can have a scientific theory explained to me, understand it, and explain it to someone else without ever having conducted an experiment proving the theory myself.

                        I can have a discussion on morality without ever having committed a murder.

                        You are wrong.

                        And this is without even acknowledging the simple reality that should your opposition acquiesce to your ridiculous demands of having engaged in the practices of your side before they are qualified to speak... then they are a fool, because should they still disagree with you then the very nature of your imposition allows you to claim they did not undertake the endeavor with the right attitude, or did not participate correctly or for a sufficient period.

                        And a lack of willingness to do so apparently allows you to begin your argument by categorizing your opposition as stupid. I would contend the contrary.

        •  I'm not sure I understand why there is a (0+ / 0-)

          conflict here.

          Economic Left/Right: -4.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.82

          I rebuke myself when under stress - The Lord/King Crimson

          by AaronInSanDiego on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 09:37:47 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  You've made the mistake dozens of others (0+ / 0-)

          have made here:

          She's not equivalent to Sufi writers. Sufi writers were contributing to a theological dialogue.

          Drawing an equivalence between Armstrong and Sufi writers would be like drawing an equivalence between Margaret Mead and a south sea islands shaman.

          Though a good many people are bound to misuse her writing as theology, it isn't. She writes descriptively about the histories and practices of religions.

        •  I agree (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          vets74, orlbucfan, yaque

          (not surprisingly, since I was a doctoral student of dawkins in the 70's, and most of what he writes about was common fodder for the pubs and discussion groups of the time.)  Armstrong is basically arguing that feel good gods, in the absence of any scriptual or natural evidence are good enough.  That one's "personal" experience is sufficient.  (I think of god , therefore god is).  Even the flat earthers of the 19th cen, with their zetetic philosophy of personal experimentation had more sense than that.

          As she defines god, there can be no proof. No experience of one person has any bearing on another, and religion (organized or otherwise) is pointless other than as a feel good enterprise.  To argue that only those people long ago believed a literal interpretation of the bible, the koran, etc is just silly.   What modern deists do is to pick those parts of their religious text they wish to believe are inerrant, and to ignore the rest.  They choose which parts are allegorical and which parts are "no longer applicable" and which parts are the inerrant word of god.

          The greater the belief in the unbelievable, the greater one's faith, and the more credit one deserves.

          The notion of "separate magisteria" simply allows one to assume that the laws of the universe can be suspended at any time by a seemingly petty deity ( whose primary concern is that you believe in him, although he seems unable or unwilling to simply make that so).  I would not want to live in a world where at any moment the laws of nature could be suspended by a miracle and , for instance, the sun could stand still in the sky, or a god could decide the outcome of the Super Bowl or a high school football game, let alone the wars which deists start against one another.

          •  How's about a miracle that saves the life... (0+ / 0-)

            of a limo driver from a savage attack ???

            Direct intervention.

            Apparently supernatural intervention.

            Visions, leading to a bystander intervening....

            That is not acceptable to you ? How's about to the limo driver and his wife and children ?

            To some balance of good and evil ?

            Angry White Males + Personality Disorder delusionals + sane Pro-Lifers =EQ= The GOPer Base

            by vets74 on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 04:51:34 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  how about not needing to (0+ / 0-)

              ascribe the outcome to a god who intervenes in this case but lets a 6 year old die a slow painful lingering death from cancer?

              consider the Epicuran paradox, unanswered since 300 BC:

              A god who cannot prevent evil or suffering is impotent.
              A god who can but chooses not to is malevolent.

              •  Epicurus did not allow for a god... (0+ / 0-)

                who was not omnipotent, yet still has a hand in things.

                Similarly, the Catholic Church has been teaching for centuries that any supernatural entity who is not their God or one of his Angels or Mary must be of Satan.

                That position seems to me to be plainly silly.

                Pain and suffered, per se, do not refute believe that there is Good in the Universe. For me that Good is God.

                "God is Good." Matches to Psalm 25, original text.

                Angry White Males + Personality Disorder delusionals + sane Pro-Lifers =EQ= The GOPer Base

                by vets74 on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 11:15:49 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I am not sure (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  vets74

                  that God is good equals good is god.  (sort of like saying that fire is hot  means that hot is fire...)

                  Also, arguing anything from selected scriptual texts  implicitly accepts that the bible (or other religious text of your choosing) is in some way more authoritative than any other written text  (say, an internet comment).  Why should one automaticaly accept that, unless one starts by positing a god who dictated the words to some mortal, ala Smith of Mormon fame.  Only by positing an inerrent god in the first place does such reasoning make sense.  And if one does, then one is placed in the same position as the 19th century zetetics who argued for a young earth and a flat earth based upon biblical texts.

                  •  You know better than that... for both arguments. (0+ / 0-)
                    1. God is Good. Taken literally.

                    That's posited as a personally acceptable definition. My view of a sensible version of "God."

                    Certainly not an assertion that this definition matches anyone else's concepts.

                    "Fire = hot = fire" is an entirely different construct.

                    1. "Arguing anything from selected scriptual texts" is irrelevant.

                    I cited Psalm 25 to show that this idea isn't totally off the wall blognuttery.

                    "Good" has no direct power. Even if there is/are "St. Michael" entities of some description, intervening, that doesn't constitute a god.

                    The argument/definition I offer is for a "God" "who was not omnipotent, yet still has a hand in things."

                    Please don't blame me for authoritarian churches, for Jerry Falwell's spawn, or for concepts that confuse their own "God's Grace" with simple personal goodness. And I'll agree not to confuse the Quakers with Catholicism.

                    Angry White Males + Personality Disorder delusionals + sane Pro-Lifers =EQ= The GOPer Base

                    by vets74 on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 01:04:31 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  no it is not off the wall (0+ / 0-)

                      blognuttery.  It is off the wall scripture nuttery.

                      I really don't see a difference between citing scripture to "prove" god is good and citing scripture to say the earth is flat or god hates fags.  Each of these positions assumes as a starting point that the scripture or at least selected portions of it contain special wisdom and truth automatically.i.e. that they are not simply a point of view written down by someone a few hundred years ago.

                      If your concept of a god is simply as a synonym for anything good, then by definition there is a god- but I think you posit a demi-god sort of being who meddles in the world, sometimes, and with varying results.  I have to say,  that seems an unorthodox (sic) view.  

                      I certainly do not blame you for Jerry Falwell's views, or authoritarian churches.  Did I say something about Quakers?

                      That said, if you find viewing all good as god inspired, but not blaming a god for anything bad allowed to happen, fine.  I cannot see the utility of such a view for myself.

                •  I do agree that (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  vets74

                  the position of the Catholic Chruch is silly- not least because for a supposedly mono-theistic religion, they certainly have a lot of demi-gods, arch angels,angles , saints who can perform miracles (ie suspend the laws of nature) and so on.  I never have even found someone who can explain the trinity as mono-theism. (the trinity being more a historical acident of the council of Nicea than anything reportedly suggested by Christ.)

        •  Dennett keeps the ball rolling (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          vets74

          I haven't read Armstrong's book, but I did read several of her shorter articles and in college and have read some other recent theological works.  I eventually moved on; I got tired of reading about all the mental gymnastics it takes to get to a presupposed conclusion.  Dan Dennett recently spoke about this subject, and it hit home for me:

          http://www.youtube.com/...

      •  Theologians in the late nineteenth century (8+ / 0-)

        tried to accommodate science rather than confront it.  Natural selection was seen as the way that God created men, not an antithetical idea that denied a creator.  The idea that the Bible, or for that matter, the Koran, is the literal truth didn't really gain currency (again?) until the late 20th century.  It's as if they all decided to close their eyes and stuff up their ears and hope that reality would go away.

        The sleep of reason brings forth monsters. --Goya

        by MadScientist on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:32:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Until you define "god" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        yaque

        it is meaningless to say it exists . . . but as soon as you define it someone will (easily, the more specific the definition the more easily) demonstrate that what you have defined does not exist, or that it is meaningless to say that it does.  That part is simple . . .

        What to say about "religion" is rather more complex . . .

        Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

        by Deward Hastings on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 09:48:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you, DT, for reviewing this book. (0+ / 0-)

        Karen Armstrong is one of my favorite writers on the subject of religion. There's always much to ponder after reading one of her books. Thanks! :)

        Calling bullshit on "bracing rhetorical thrusters" since Fall 2006....

        by Got a Grip on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 09:57:20 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The incompatibility of evolution with religion (16+ / 0-)

        Is an error made by both the ignorant fundamentalists and the evangelical atheists.

        Governing well shall be the best revenge

        by Bill White on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:18:44 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  atheists have no problem (9+ / 0-)

          Religion and science are incompatible.  Religious people simply cannot answer the simple question "How do you know what you believe to be the truth is true?"

          Apparently the 2nd amendment mean that psychotics can get AK-47s to kill cops. And we have a supreme court that supports this.

          by kennyc on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:49:00 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Begs the question. (5+ / 0-)

            How do you know the intellect is superior and objective?

            The point is, the answer lies within each human being for him/herself to discover. What you may or may not believe doesn't matter to me. What I believe need not matter to you. We would have many fewer wars on this planet if we all stopped trying to convince each other that "I'm right and you're wrong".

            "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." ML King

            by TheWesternSun on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:01:47 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  ridiculous (7+ / 0-)

              Do you defend the right for parents to deprive their children of medication because it offends their religious beliefs?

              That is what you are arguing western sun.  The answer does not lie within each human being for her/him to discover.

              We find truth in science. That is how we know things.

              What do you know by religion, that you cannot have known any other way?

              Apparently the 2nd amendment mean that psychotics can get AK-47s to kill cops. And we have a supreme court that supports this.

              by kennyc on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:08:57 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well, we could (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MillieNeon, Jagger

                go on forever without convincing each other. Science may be your truth, but it is not mine. What I know by my experience as a mystic (which is not a religion replete with dogma but purely experiential) is who I truly am, not the societal identity that's a collection of reactions and preferences. That's the objectivity I'm talking about, and no amount of book learning could have brought me there. Only meditation and sincerity could do that. Can I explain this to you in a clear way? Of course not, because it cannot be reduced words that would be meaningful to you unless you had had a similar experience. How would I describe the color blue if you had not already seen it?

                At some point in human history, physics and metaphysics will meet. String theory comes a little closer in explaining the nature of the universe in coherent terms.

                So I suggest that we respectfully agree to disagree. I see little middle ground here.  

                "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." ML King

                by TheWesternSun on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:24:00 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  There is no middle ground (13+ / 0-)

                  go on forever without convincing each other. Science may be your truth, but it is not mine

                  "Science" is not a truth, it is a method by which we increase knowledge and form propositions about reality. And it is a profoundly successful method, one that informs your own understanding of the world; if you do not believe me, think about your basic understandings about nature, ranging from the dynamics of heavenly bodies to the forces that make possible the computer you are writing on, down to your basic understanding of life, including DNA, the functions of the brain, reproduction mechanics, and so on.

                  You have all these understandings because of science, and so in this sense, science is indeed your "truth". You simply take for granted that you understand that that Earth orbits the Sun, that schizophrenia is not demon possession, and that we evolved from apes...but you would not know these things if it were not for science.

                  Until religious or mystical experience reveals a reliable, replicable, and testable fact about nature, there is no "middle ground" in ontological terms. Such experiences can certainly inform your sense of meaning and self concept, but they do not reflect objective reality.

                  Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

                  by J Ash Bowie on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:51:44 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Evidence about "concrete* reality only. (0+ / 0-)

                    I have no need to prove anything to you. If you ever experience what I have, then you'll know it for yourself. And it has been replicated by tens of thousands of people doing deep inner work since the dawn of the human race. It's only in the past few centuries that the left brain has become so overly dominant. There is such a thing as balance.

                    The brain is an interesting data base, and reason is an interesting skill. Science changes it's own rules all the time. Knowledge comes from more than just science, but you have to be willing to look beyond the limitations of the intellect and its child, science, before you can discover tat for yourself.

                    The inner and outer life are not mutually exclusive. Wearing blinders just makes it seem that way.  

                    "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." ML King

                    by TheWesternSun on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 08:20:25 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  There is only one reality (0+ / 0-)

                      I have no need to prove anything to you.

                      Who said you did? I'm simply providing an argument for why I think you are wrong.

                      If you ever experience what I have, then you'll know it for yourself.

                      How do you know I haven't? For many years I practiced various spiritual techniques that resulted in some pretty profound experiences that seemed to reflect some non-rational aspect of reality. Even at the time I knew those experiences, while meaningful, reflected nothing outside of my own mind. The mind is more than a database, it is a vastly complex system, a system that can be modified in the right conditions, even resulting in amazing perceptions.

                      But if science has taught us anything about the brain, it is that perception often has little in common with reality. Even lucid, every-day states of mind can easily result in significant errors...never mind altered states. And it doesn't matter how real an event feels subjectively (for example, a study was done for out of body experiences in the OR. The researcher had a computer by the table with an image on it: of all those who swore they had a very real out of body experience during the operation, none of them could describe the image on the screen. This is but one example.) This is one of the reasons we came up with science, to find a way to understand things without relying on perception or pure logic (a la Socrates).

                      And it has been replicated by tens of thousands of people doing deep inner work since the dawn of the human race.

                      But no useful, verifiable data about the nature of the universe has ever been produced in those thousands of years of religious practice...we have learned more about reality in the last year thanks to science than in 10,000 years of religious practice.

                      There is such a thing as balance.

                      Yes, if you mean between logical thought and emotional, creative experiences. Not if you mean a balance between science and supernaturalism. The two simply cannot co-exist: they both make incompatible claims. Again, there is no middle ground between these two perspectives.

                      Knowledge comes from more than just science

                      It depends on the kind and domain of knowledge. For example, I don't need science to tell me that fire will burn my hand or that refusing to bathe will negatively impact my social life. But if I want to learn how fire burns or the causal connection between cleanliness and social dynamics, then science is the only tool we currently have that can reliably provide an explanation.

                      reason is an interesting skill

                      Reason is indeed an interesting skill, but one that is also incredibly useful and beneficial. It has an incomparable track record of successes.

                      Science changes it's own rules all the time.

                      Hm, not really. We have developed new research techniques and increased confidence in reliablity and validity, but the underlying process of science has remained remarkably stable.

                      The inner and outer life are not mutually exclusive.

                      This is 100% true. It is absolutely possible to have an "inner life" of imagination, values, desires, memories, intuitions, and experiences while also looking to reason and science to help us understand the nature of the universe. Having that "inner life" does not necessitate a belief in the supernatural.

                      Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

                      by J Ash Bowie on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 10:28:11 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                •  Forget it Western Sun (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Jagger

                  Many of these people cannot separate religious dogma from the experiential of which you speak. Because language without experience opens no doors in this case.

                  What wakes the drowsy apricot, betide?

                  "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

                  by MillieNeon on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:07:20 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  When unable to defend beliefs, resort to insults (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Brooke In Seattle, majyqman

                    the moral superiority of the believer is thus demonstrated?

                    One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                    by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 05:05:55 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  No, I won't forget it. Just because (0+ / 0-)

                    your view of the world is locked into one way of seeing doesn't mean it's the only way.

                    Try describing to a blind person what the color blue is, what a horizon is and where it begins or ends.

                    There is an ancient expression: "He who tastes, knows." That's as good as your ever going to get with words as descriptors.  

                    "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." ML King

                    by TheWesternSun on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 08:26:30 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                •  Experience is not evidence. Sorry. (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  chase, Dallasdoc, yaque

                  It's way too easy for the human consciousness to lie to us.

            •  Oh, you think so, do you? (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              chase, yaque, VTCC73

              If I believe that I can release a 100 kilogram rock over your head and make it float by the power of my thoughts, or that angels will support it, or that aliens will knock it aside before it crushes your skull, then what I believe matters a great deal to you.  If I believe that whatever ethnic group you originated from isn't worthy to live and you are a parasite on society that should be obliterated, then what I believe matters a great deal to you.  if I believe that based on your language or skin colour you represent a clear and present threat to my life that has to be dealt with before you can do me harm, then what I believe matters a great deal to you.

              If you want to live on the same planet as other humans, what other people believe is a rather important part of your survival as an individual and ours as a species.  Thinking that it isn't is the ultimate in narcissism.

              •  Nonsense. Meditate. n/t (0+ / 0-)

                "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." ML King

                by TheWesternSun on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 08:27:15 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  To qualify. About psychic phenomona, (0+ / 0-)

                that's all it is, just phenomena. I'm talking about the nature of Reality in the sense of its going to the core of who we truly are, not who we think we are. How we see each other also is a consequence of who we think we are in terms of the arrogance of the ego.

                What does it take to move past that arrogance? To stop thinking on the surface. If you are genuinely interested in going deeper, I would suggest that you find a competent teacher of meditation, and spend at least one year seriously practicing. Then go back and read what you've written. I'm not saying it's untrue as far as it goes. I'm saying it is very much incomplete.

                "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." ML King

                by TheWesternSun on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 09:01:20 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  The power of an assertion is its ability (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              chase, yaque, majyqman

              to consistently predict future events and/or explain past phenomena.

              And assertion that does neither is useless. It adds nothing to our understanding and does not give us any means to improve our lives.

              Religious assertions consistently fail in their predicted results - and yet those assertions are not revised, because belief in them is not contingent on evidence or efficacy.

              Scientific assertions consistently succeed in their predicted results - or, they are revised and improved (and occasionally replaced) until they do - because scientific assertions are contingent on evidence and efficacy.

              It is beliefs unsupported by evidence that lead to violent conflict, not rational empirical thinking.

              2 + 2 = 4 does not require any particular belief, is true for everyone regardless of belief, and works every time no matter what you believe.

              There is not reason to go to war about whether 2 + 2 = 4 or 3 or 5.

              One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

              by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 05:04:48 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  My point is smaller . . . (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Alice in Florida, Jagger, catleigh

            The scientific validity of evolution tells us nothing about the existence or non-existence of God.

            Those who claim Darwin being right proves there is no God are wrong, be they Baptist preachers or esteemed professors.

            Whether God exists or not is a larger more difficult question.

            Governing well shall be the best revenge

            by Bill White on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:07:16 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  true (5+ / 0-)

              but the fact is that science has disproved all of religion's claims.  for example, disease is not a punishment from god.  you contracted some bacteria/fungus/virus.  and we have medicine to make you better (flu), or help you survive (HIV).

              god's existence is not that difficult.  In all probability, there is no god.  

              Apparently the 2nd amendment mean that psychotics can get AK-47s to kill cops. And we have a supreme court that supports this.

              by kennyc on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:12:23 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Your example is flawed . . . (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                bara, MillieNeon, Jagger, murasaki

                Science has discovered the mechanism of disease  and devised ways to combat it--yet still people die of diseases.  Just because you understand the mechanism does not 'prove' that it is not a 'punishment from god.'  Not that I believe it is, just saying that the two things are not related.

                "Going to church does not make us Christians any more than stepping into our garage makes us a car." --Rev R. Neville

                by catleigh on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:29:59 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Wow. (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  randorider, yaque, VTCC73

                  "yet still people die of diseases."

                  Well, in that case, why even try right?  Might as well just pray about it.

                  Later on in life, when you have a life threatening disease, make sure you don't go to the doctor and just pray about it.

                  Hell, I guess we don't need health care reform, we just need a bunch of religious folks praying about curing diseases since god's just punishing you anyway.

                  •  Catleigh (7+ / 0-)

                    was making a logical point. And by logical, I'm talking about the discipline studied by many freshman in basic philosophy courses. Logic demands proof be presented in specific forms. Catleigh was merely pointing out that you cannot prove, logically, that disease is not a punishment from god. Which is true.

                    However, it might be possible to prove that untreated disease is a punishment from Republicans.

                    "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

                    by MillieNeon on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:16:05 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  That would, I think, be a very easy proof . . . (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      MillieNeon, yaque

                      "Going to church does not make us Christians any more than stepping into our garage makes us a car." --Rev R. Neville

                      by catleigh on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:57:55 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  we have germ theory but people get sick (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        yaque

                        from all sorts of non-organism causes

                        pollutants, autoimmune phenomena, accidents, stress, other types of chemical derangements...

                        oh, and we can't forget voodoo and curses and evil eyes.  and karma.

                    •  I can't prove diseases aren't a blessing from (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      yaque

                      a precisely 42 tonne transdimensional pink pachyderm called nuffles who wishes to release us from our mortal shells.

                      Would be rather odd position for me to hold with no supporting evidence though... what happens when a rival sect appears who insists he weighed 43 tonnes?

                •  Uh... (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  RandomActsOfReason, yaque, VTCC73

                  The two things are directly related...people get a cold because they come into contact with a cold virus. People are more likely to get cancer because of genetics or they smoke. To even suggest that the mechanism comes into play due to the will of a god is absurd.

                  Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

                  by J Ash Bowie on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:29:44 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

              •  Daniel Dennett has written some good stuff (3+ / 0-)

                on the perils of a "greedy reductionism"

                Assert that we are all descended from prior species (evolution and the mutability of species); assert that plate tectonics shapes a ~4 billion year old Earth; assert that our deep field telescopes can see rather close to the "Big Bang" and then assert

                that such findings contradict what is taught in Sunday School across Texas and I will find such assertions persuasive.

                Assert that such finding proves that all Buddhists and the Dali Lama (for two example) are ignoramuses and delusional and I find your conclusions run far beyond the evidence presented.

                Governing well shall be the best revenge

                by Bill White on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:53:32 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Arguments from authority now? (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  chase, yaque

                  Not only did you erect the straw man that asserting there is no god and/or asserting the efficacy of the scientific method is calling the Dalai Lama a delusional ignoramus, you gratuitously suggest deference to an assertion merely because a famous person asserts it.

                  The merit of an assertion is utterly independent of whether it is uttered by the Dalai Lama, Adolph Hitler, Mother Theresa, Barack Obama, Rush Limbaugh, Bill White or RandomActsOfReason.

                  Consistently, without fail, those who attack reason, science and/or atheism here are resorting to personal attacks and emotional straw men whenever they fail to substantiate a point using logic and respectful rebuttal.

                  One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                  by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 05:10:26 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I am not attacking atheism, which is a perfectly (0+ / 0-)

                    reasonable world view.

                    Nor am I defending the batshit crazy fundamentalists.

                    Rather, I am merely defending the notion that reasonable sensible people can accept that our species evolved into being and still profess themselves as theists.

                    The validity of evolution does not disprove the existence of God. Nothing more than that.

                    Governing well shall be the best revenge

                    by Bill White on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:51:45 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Who claimed that evolution alone disproved god? (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Brooke In Seattle, yaque

                      You keep claiming to be disputing this argument.

                      You even claimed that "many theists (?!) and atheists" conclude - solely from the validity of human evolution - that "belief in God" (presumably including the belief of the theists you mention) "is a delusion".

                      I ask again (and again and again) - who has made such a claim?

                      One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                      by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:24:53 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

              •  the Scientific Materialist religion (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ORDem, bara, Jagger

                this is a good summation of the dogma:

                the fact is that science has disproved all of religion's claims.

                Has science disproved the claim that if you refrain from stealing and murder you will have a better life? (Buddhism)

                That you should love you neighbor as yourself? (Christianity)

                That you shoudl refrain from doing that unto your neighbor which you would not have done to yourself? (Judaism)

                •  Careless wording does not sum up anything (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  yaque, majyqman

                  except demonstrate that you seize on an individual statement by an individual, and generalize that to justify your prejudice.

                  If more accurately stated, the statement is accurate, and not indicative of any kind of "Scientific Materalist religion" or "dogma":

                  The sum of scientific knowledge comprises natural explanations for phenomena that were formerly explained by supernatural causes.

                  There is not a single example of the opposite occurring.

                  There is no rational reason to assume that this trend will not continue.

                  The issue is not the conclusions reached by either religion or science. The issue is the methodology by which those conclusions are reached.

                  Scientific assertions are modified if they are contradicted by evidence, and are not considered valid until and unless they are consistent with all other scientific knowledge.

                  Religious assertions exist independent of the evidence, and are not subject to adjustment, correction or replacement if refuted by contrary evidence.

                  Nothing about the proper practice of the scientific method remotely resembled a "religion" or a "dogma".

                  Science is not a set of preconceived "truths" - it is a process by which truth is separated from fiction.

                  It's merit is its utility. It works. It helps us predict future behavior, and explains past phenomena. Religion does neither.

                  One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                  by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:17:38 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  but... (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Brooke In Seattle, Catesby, yaque, VTCC73

              the scientific validity of the theory of evolution
              disproves the "infallibility" of the dogma that had, for millenia, based their God stories on the notion that evolution had not happened.

              What kind of God is this that you are talking about?  How do you know anything about it?  I mean these to be serious questions.  Religious believers hold on to their beliefs about God because it has been presented to them as infallible dogma, wisdom passed down to them by their forefathers representing revelations from God himself.

              And just what does it mean when part of the doctrine has been shown to be scientifically invalid?  It would seem to me that the infallibility of the dogma has been called into question.  

              That's the problem!

              That's why so many religious people are hostile to evolution.  It calls their entire epistemology into question.  

              It matters not a whit that you can invent some new concept of God that diverges from their religious dogma which fixes the problem of incompatibility with evolution!  Your new concept of God has no historical relevance, and has the obvious form of a jury-rigged story, a kludge fix to gloss over the problem that the allegedly infallible doctrine is clearly not infallible.

              I know a lot of people think that there is some validity to picking and choosing what religious beliefs they will subscribe to, but from my viewpoint, this is really the most vain, the most contemptuous attitude towards truth.  It is the attitude of somebody who knows that he is lying - the story keeps shifting and the purpose is not so much pursuit of truth but to remain two steps ahead of serious inquiry.

              "I've been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help me out? No." - Craig T. Nelson

              by RickD on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:13:37 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Creationist dogma (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Jagger

                is a complete non-starter since Genesis contains 2 contradictory versions of creation.  It follows that the bible CANNOT be literally true and that anyone who is interested in the possibility of a spiritual dimension MUST do their own investigation.

                I know a lot of people think that there is some validity to picking and choosing what religious beliefs they will subscribe to, but from my viewpoint, this is really the most vain, the most contemptuous attitude towards truth.

                It is you who is being contemptuous.

            •  Evolution certainly diminishes (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              yaque

              the need to appeal to divine or supernatural beings to explain our world.  If your defense is "science cannot disprove x" you've ended up, I believe, in a pretty squalid corner for your belief.

              •  I'm all the way back to what caused the Big Bang (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Jagger

                Everything that happened afterward can be explained by physics -> chemistry -> biology.

                Why does anything exist?

                I dunno and neither do you.

                Governing well shall be the best revenge

                by Bill White on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:50:30 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  Uh, no. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Jagger

            "Religious people simply cannot answer the simple question 'How do you know what you believe to be the truth is true?'"

            Read some fucking epistemology.  Hell, read some post-structuralist literary theory.  

            "Belief" and "truth" are loaded, contested words, just like "existence."  And quit spouting dumb-ass crap like this.

            •  Yeah (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Jagger, wilderness voice

              Thank you.

              Because the point is IT'S ALL SUBJECTIVE, even science. There is no objectivity. Objectivity is only a category we (we humans) invented to assure ourselves we have a handle on the Truth.

              In fact, the very idea that we are capable of objectivity is to assert that there is something outside of us that is the absolute Truth. Some people call it God. Some people call it Science. Some people call it Jimi Hendrix.

              That's also the quantum physics point, except in quantum the point is much tinier than ever suspected. So tiny in fact, it may only be a mere vibration, and a figment vibration at that.

              Will the subject please step out of his/her subjectivity? Can't do it.

              The individual is an ideological construction.

              I used to look on that negatively. Now I see it as a positive. Once deconstructed (or condestructed), I'm free to reconstruct myself however I choose.

              "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

              by MillieNeon on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:30:49 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  oooh (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Dallasdoc, Jagger, yaque

                I like the Jimi Hendrix version of objectivity.

                More seriously, the practice of science rests upon intersubjective agreement among investigators. For those who are serious about the study of spirituality, such as the Tibetan Buddhists have been for over 1000 years, intersubjective agreement based on experience arising from practice is also possible.

              •  You just made a whole series of absolute statemen (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                yaque, majyqman

                presented as fact not opinion, of what you clearly consider to an objective truth.

                Assertions all made, by the way, without a single bit of substantiating evidence.

                Does the irony occur to you?

                One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 05:20:21 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Are you capable of engaging in rational debate (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              chase, Brooke In Seattle, yaque, majyqman

              without the name calling?

              Or is your faith so dogmatic and your intolerance so ingrained, that you cannot handle people who hold different opinions than your own  - particularly, or even uniquely, in the realm of religion and theism?

              "Read some fucking epistemology" is not a reasoned rebuttal.

              2 = 2 = 4 is a true statement.

              The Earth revolves around the Sun is a true statement.

              Gravity exists is a true statement.

              Most peptic ulcers are caused by  H. pylori bacteria is a true statement.

              You can't test whether a woman is a witch by seeing if she floats or sinks is a true statement.

              Skin color is the result of pigmentation, which in turn is influenced genetically by the relative exposure of many previous generations to the sun, which, in turn is affected by latitude, is a true statement.

              So, you see, there is such a thing as a true statement.

              You believe that too - otherwise, you would not make statements such as ""belief" and "truth" are loaded, contested words, just like "existence"". A statement you obviously think is true, and you obviously think making statements of that form is valid.

              So, if you are capable of handling the fact that some people think very differently than you do, and if you are capable of engaging those people in respectful debate, welcome.

              If, on the other hand, you feel compelled to present evidence of the belief, "faith-based thinkers tend to be assholes when pushed to think", then, by all means, continue to pursue your current course.

              One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

              by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 05:18:48 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Insulting assertions deserve insulting rebuttals (0+ / 0-)

                I was responding to the assertion,

                "Religious people simply cannot answer the simple question 'How do you know what you believe to be the truth is true?'"

                This reply to this discussion is the equivalent of sticking ones fingers in ones ears and going, "nyah, nyah, I can't hear you!"  To think that this is any sort of meaningful response to either Armstrong or the review posted is both insulting to the relevant authors and noise that those of us trying to discuss the thing have to read around.  Therefore it doesn't deserve a response with any level of thought.  Comments that fail to provide respect and good faith to the discussion at hand get none.

                As to your "true" statements.  For discussions of practical human endeavors, yes, all of those are true.  However, "2" is a mind-dependent concept.  It has no existence in objective reality.  It is the product of the human mind-action of generalization -- a brilliant adaptation that provides us with one of our most powerful tools for conceptually modeling reality, but is still mind-dependent.  It naturally has very close resonance with many, many, many mind-independent noumena, but that does not make the human construction of "2" any less mind-independent.

                2+2=4 is "true" enough for us to rely upon it in all manners of practice, and treat is as true in any form of human endeavor.  Except, of course, when it's not -- the question is always, as your algebra teacher insisted, "two of what?"  Two liters of hydrogen added to two liters of helium will not get you four liters of gas.

                As to the original commenter's inane assertion -- my religious "beliefs" that I assert to be "true" in the sense that they represent whatever amount of objective reality that we have access to, fall along these lines.  I don't believe that humans have the capacity to completely understand the universe.  I believe that religious practice can be a beneficial thing for the attendee and in the greater sense, although it certainly isn't always.   I believe that relying solely on rationality for epistemology is insufficient, limiting, and dangerous.  Like Armstrong, I have rational, evidence-based reasons for thinking these things, and they are open to rational discourse with those who disagree.  Therefore, by my existence, and by my ability to answer the things I believe to be true, I disprove the original commenter's assertion.  But this should have been blindly fucking obvious from the beginning, and this isn't the first, or third, or 200th time we've been through this on Daily Kos, and I'm getting fucking sick of it.

                •  What is "blindly fucking obvious" (0+ / 0-)

                  is that you spoiled what was otherwise a reasonable and respectful reply with the unnecessary spittle at the end.

                  I would like to hear your rational, evidence-based reasons for thinking that relying solely on rationality for epistemology is insufficient, limiting, and dangerous - and, I would like to hear your rational, evidence-based reasons for whatever you think needs to complement rationality.

                  Then, I would be happy to reply respectfully and directly - assuming you can refrain from any further "fucking this and fucking that" comments.

                  On the other hand, if you're just tired of the argument, then don't make assertions in the first place here. You can't reasonably expect to say, "X is so" here, and not have anyone challenge that assertion.

                  One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                  by RandomActsOfReason on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 11:23:44 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  First -- on tone. (0+ / 0-)

                    I defend my tone here, and my use of profanity in this instance, as the venting of frustration.  Yes, I have generalized atheists together, but I will assert that there is a particular contingent of ill-mannered atheists on this site -- by no means all, or even most of them (I have not taken a poll) -- who are consistently problematic and unconstructive in discussions of religion.  There could not be a better example than this entry by Devilstower.  Karen Armstrong is addressing a rational case for why religion has a positive role to play, absent any question of whether God exists or not.  Devilstower puts a careful, thoughtful, engaging review of the book here.  And the crowd of which I speak shows up, and their contribution is, "Religion is the refuge of the weak minded," "Religious people can't provide any justification of why their beliefs are true," and a whole lot of nonsense about Santa Claus and purple unicorns.  I defend my desire to shout, "shut the hell up and let the adults talk!" at these people as entirely defensible.

                    I realize that shouting thus doesn't particularly lead to engaging conversation, but if you check my comments history, I've tried the soft route to rational conversation in the past, and the result wasn't that much different.  I confess that I was in a particularly bad mood on Sunday, and my patience was thin.

                    Anyway, enough about that.  On to the good stuff...

                  •  Second -- on rationality and epistemology (0+ / 0-)

                    This is part of a larger argument that I'm trying to research in my spare time, regarding an attempt to reconcile Christian practice with modern scientific learning, drawing from the constructivist paradigm, Kant's first critique, cognitive theory, Aristotle's Rhetoric, and touches of post-structuralist literary theory.  I should rush to point out that I'm really not qualified to do this -- my degrees are in environmental biology and geography -- but I basically have to wrestle with this if I want to keep going to church and reading Science News.  (And I should also note that my spare time is also consumed with trying to start a cooperative grocery store and taking geography classes for re-entering a Ph.D. program.)

                    As to why rationality is insufficient -- much of this comes from my personal experience as an erstwhile scientist.  One Kossack (BoringDem, I believe) in this topic baldly asserted to me that morality and ethics were inherent.  For lack of a better starting place, let's work on that.  

                    The statement arose in response to me challenging another commenter to clarify from whence one can derive ethics.  Before I get to the problems with this statement, let's go through some history here.  The classic Enlightenment answer essentially arose from a robust ontology of the "self."  To the early rationalists, if one placed the self, or more to their terminology, the individual, in the center of the moral universe, then insisted that has the dignity of life, the right to liberty, the responsibility for its actions, and so on, one could derive a great deal of ethical output.  Individuals (the rationalists would have said "men") have the right to freedom, regardless of their social standing (classic Locke), could construct an economic system out of their rational actions (Smith), and that a system of governance which allowed individuals to do what they wanted and only intervened to prevent harm between them would provide maximal utility for society (liberalism a la Mill).  There's an enormous amount to like here -- it provided foundations for the founding documents of the union and guided moral principle in the West for centuries.

                    The problem is, as 19th and 20th century social science emerged, problems started to appear in all of this.  Max Weber came along and pointed out the ugly ties between American capitalism and Scottish Calvinism.  Erving Goffman's Asylums showed that the self wasn't nearly as immutable and stable as we thought it was, and was almost certainly heavily influenced by its immediate social environment.  Psychology started to find all kinds of stuff in the mind that wasn't part of the conscious, rational self.  This led to the "cultural turn" breaking out in social sciences and humanities, leading away from focusing on the individual and looking at the individual in context.  

                    All of this is a tremendous gloss over what happened, but there was another gig going on over in the epistemology department.  In a reconciliation of the empiricists and the rationalists, the school of positivism flourished in 19th century enlightenment camps (and continues to flourish in online arguments about the existence of God... :), demanding that no experiences that were not directly sensed be considered valid.  This works exceptionally well in theory, but falls apart the minute one walks out the door.  For instance, I have never directly observed a black hole, or the x-ray radiation from it, or even the measurements of that radiation.  My college roommate, who's now a professor of astronomy, probably has.  He, and other people I trust, like Carl Sagan, tell me that they exist.  So I believe they exist, even though I've never directly sensed them.  

                    Beyond that, though, with positivism came reductivism -- the thought that all biological processes could be understood by breaking them down to physical laws.  Humans could be understood by breaking down their interactions to easily understood parts.  I don't need to explain that this failed -- modern genetics certainly doesn't break physical laws, and molecular biology relies heavily on physical chemistry, but we found these higher order, emergent phenomena called "genes" that don't really have any ontological existence, but that if we study them, we can learn tons about inheritance and evolution.  I'm running way too far afield here, so I'll just mention that the emergence of chaos and complexity theory put the hard theoretical nail in the reductivist paradigm.

                    (I'm showing a bias here -- I'm drawing a hard link between epistemology and the foundation of ethics, but I think it's justifiable without defense at this point, at least for a DKos comment.)

                    There's a problem here, though.  In this collapse of the Enlightenment self and of positivism (at least writ large), and in the oft-misunderstood post-structuralist critiques of knowledge (often characterized as, "we can't know anything, let's make stuff up!"), we're left without the classical source of solid epistemology and a basis for ethics.  As Wittgenstein argued, for that of which we have no words, we must pass over in silence.  The problem is, humanity has a lot of things for which we don't have clear, concise words that would satisfy Wittgenstein, but which trouble us on a daily basis.

                    In its place, a kind of thing has risen up that I'm not sure what to call it.  Call it "scienceism" for lack of a better word.  I think it largely sprung up out of 19th century Victorian thinkers, but it blends a kind of naive romanticism with a faith that science can answer all our questions.  I confess that I subscribed to something like this before I got to college, but I wonder how anyone who's actually tried to do science could fall under its spell.

                    The hallmarks can be found in maxims like "natural systems take care of themselves."  It's fiction, as anyone who's tried to control invasive species can tell you, but it's a very pleasant one, and the fact that it sounds science-ish makes people comfortable that they're not believing something on faith or out of irrationality.  For similar, let's return to BoringDem and his "Morality is biological and ingrained statement."  (I did check, that's the quote, and it was him.)  

                    "Biological" and "ingrained" don't describe a source, but they certainly imply one.  If we take modern biology's conception (and I can only assume that's what BoringDem alludes to given his poly-comment rebuttal of religion in favor of science), if something is "biological" it must emerge either from genetics or from some environmental impact on development.  Since he's arguing in favor of a universal, and additionally includes "ingrained," let's go with genetics.

                    Well, where did the genetics that code for this morality come from?  Not everyone would agree, but all of us here can probably settle on the "Modern Synthesis" of evolutionary theory for most of the answers.  According to it, genetic change happens in one of four ways -- mutation, genetic drift, non-random mating, and natural selection.  The first three are random processes -- I don't think BoringDem would argue that morality just happened randomly with no selective pressure.  I think he's implying, whether he realizes it or not, that selective pressures formed our ingrained morality.

                    And now we sound the alarms.  Let us set aside the fact that morality being ingrained is an empirically silly observation, given the amount of hacking up of their fellows that humans have done over the years, because BoringDem seems to want to hang all of that around the neck of one religion or another.  Let's talk about what kind of morality we might discern if we looked at simple genetics.

                    Ironically enough, the go-to here is that bastion of religious thought himself, Richard Dawkins.  Dawkins' book, The Selfish Gene, is about as good a summation of genic selection in modern evolutionary theory as I've come across.  The problem before W. D. Hamilton came along was, given the modern synthesis, and the selfishness inherent in Darwin's "struggle for existence," how can we explain the displays of altruism we see in the world around us?  The answer was, our genes are being selfish, sacrificing us in the process at times.  Now, if you only pay attention to the heartwarming stories of altruism here, like the lionesses adopting orphaned cubs, or the prairie dogs barking out warnings at risk to themselves, and so on, I suppose you can find your way to convincing yourself of inherent morality.  But that's to ignore the harshness that lies on tne flip-side, including the slave-making ants and the mother bald eagle watching approvingly as one chick murders the other.  Genetic adaptation is a complex system, and certainly not always a benevolent one.  Basing a morality on it gives me nightmares.

                    For a final argument, though, let us turn to the 20th century, when wide swaths of mankind stood up and rejected religion, and embraced a rational pursuit of morals.  Embracing Mill's utilitarianism, scientists in the Tuskegee experiments deliberately infected black men with syphilis, while (oh, the hell with Godwin's Law) Nazi scientists placed prisoners in vacuum chambers and took careful notes as their subjects died horrific deaths.  When confronted, the perpetrators defended their actions in the name of the greater good of humanity, and the pursuit of rational knowledge.

                    For that matter, with what we know of genic selection, it perhaps gives some comfort to the old social Darwinists, who would protect their own offspring and let the rest of the world suffer.  There is a strong rational case for that, certainly.  Or let us turn to the philosophers of the early 20th Century.  We have one woman who decided to go for the gusto, and rejected all religious platitudes, and founded a philosophy based on positivism, objective thought, and logically derived morals.  Her name was Ayn Rand, and her Objectivism is perhaps the most noxious moral philosophy that anyone still takes seriously.  Even the less toxic examples should give pause -- Nietzsche was perhaps the most brilliant philosopher in a century, and his harsh realism is perhaps the best considered work on what materialism and empirical observation leads to.  There is enough there for a firm-stomached progressive to find solace in, but it is not a comforting story.

                    Now, the modern rationalist can look at this list and say, yes, but all of these rational observations you've made are simply erroneous logic.  Had these observers had better access to information, or better logic skills, they would not have made these errors.  And here is the need for epistemological humility -- they could not, nor can we, have access to sufficient information.  We lack the capacity to make sufficient rational judgments because of the extraordinarily limited capacity of the human mind to comprehend the universe.  We can lampoon the errors of previous rationalists, but what critical information are we lacking in our judgments and moral philosophy?

                    So that is why an epistemology based on rationality is insufficient, limiting, and dangerous.

                    What I would augment it with follows...

                  •  Third -- augmenting rationality (0+ / 0-)

                    This will be considerably shorter.  (What's the dig about Marx?  He spent three tomes critiquing capitalism and wrote a pamphlet on what to replace it with.)

                    I said way up at the top of the previous post that I'm interested in reconciling Christian thought with modern scientific, rational thought.  This means putting them into tension where they disagree and letting it sort itself out.  While most atheists would approve of me taking science into Christianity in full force, the door goes both ways.  If this is going to work, let's see if we can use Christian thought to improve upon modern epistemology.

                    Like many modern religious apologists (used in the classical sense, as in defenders), Karen Armstrong highlights the use of the Greek word logos in Christianity.  Atheists critics may not believe it, but this really is a central concept to Christianity.  John 1 reads, in a slightly different translation, "In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was divine."  Since he was writing in Greek, and presumably had some knowledge of the massive amount of Greek philosophy concerning logos, I feel comfortable reading one of John's major aims as tying this rather incredible story about the man named Jesus to the concept of rational laws, thought, light, and the universe.  This is not a Judaic conception of God by any means -- it is something new brought to the table.

                    But Christianity, rather clearly, is not solely about logos.  For starters, while the church has been home to serious scholarly, logical thought for over a millennium before the Enlightenment came along, that study clearly regards a certain set of texts as foundational for study.  Hence the scriptures, which the common translation of logos as "Word" is usually taken to refer to, are the object of much of the study.  (I take issue with that interpretation, FWIW -- more on that in a sec.)  But even aside from that, let's go to the Catholics for what the sources of understanding God are -- study and reading of the scriptures, the traditions of the church, and personal conscience.  (The last being heavily debated, and pooh-pooh'ed by the current Pope, so let's not give them too much credit.)

                    Armstrong sets logos into tension with mythos, which I rather like, but it isn't how I tend to formulate things.  I personally interpret the Christian teachings in my life to tell me that if one is to understand God, it is tantamount to trying to understand the universe, and that the converse is also true.  (On the charge of pantheism, I plead guilty.)  Hence, Christian teachings could be read as a form of epistemology -- how we know what we know about the universe is tantamount to how we know what we know about God.

                    And now we bring in the postmodern hammer combined with a kludge from Aristotle.  (NB: this section is very raw and unrefined, take it with a salt lick or six.)  By the postmodern critiques in literary theory, augmented by contemporary psychology and sociology, we only know what we know based on what we experience combined with the cognitive structure we've accumulated, based on past experiences, but in particular guided by the symbolic structures we assemble with massive help from interpersonal communication.  So just for fun, let's roll in Aristotle's Rhetoric.

                    I admit -- I got there looking for interpretations of the word logos, which is one part of the three (the Greeks love threes) artistic proofs that an orator or dictor must draw upon.  Logos is the reasoned part of the argument -- how you convince (or in my postmodern flip, how one comes to be convinced) an audience by logical persuasion.  Here, the two other parts in tension with logos are ethos and pathos.  Ethos, like logos is a rather thick concept.  It encompasses moral and ethical norms, as one would expect given the Greek root, as well as a concept of "character."  Importantly, though, it attends to proper character as a commonly shared ideal.  Ethics in this context spring not from logically derived formulae, but from existing conventions, traditions, and conventional practices.  If we're going to apply this to epistemology, let this be the aspect where we regard what we are provided with culturally, not just in social norms and conventions, but in stories, in literature, and in the written an orally transmitted body of work.  Religiously for me, this encompasses the traditions of the church but also scripture. (I read it as ethos and not logos, though the lines are never clear between them.)  Secularly, though, this isn't a novel concept either.  Edmund Burke appealed much to this in his founding of conservatism -- whatever we wish to go and change, we must first consider that the world didn't get to be as it is out of spite and malice, and that there is in the current social order and dominant political thought the legacy of generations before that we've built on.  Moreover, anything we wish to accomplish must emerge out of the world we live in with its extant culture, institutions, and so forth.  (I must protest quickly here that having written positively about something called "conservatism," I agree with Andrew Sullivan that today's GOP looks nothing like Burke's conception, and that I don't see this as necessarily dictating right wing policies.  Saul Alinsky's pragmatic radicalism is my light on walking that road, as he apparently is to Obama as well.  By Burke, disassembling an established, successful program like Social Security is a highly unconservative enterprise.)

                    So we put traditional knowledge into tension with rational thought.  What's missing?  This is the tricky one.

                    Aristotle's last artistic proof is pathos.  Whereas logos clearly gives the root for logic, and ethos clearly gives us ethics, there is no pathic. (or rather, no academic pathic.  ahem.)  Or rather, there is pathetic.  And pathological.  And pathology, of or relating to disease.  Pathos in rhetoric is the conveyance of argument via emotional appeal.  Needless to say, given the etymology, Western thought hasn't considered this very highly.  Our scholarly ideal is dispassionate argument, and emotions are considered toxic to rational conversation, at least classically. However, in the post-structuralist world, as we focus more and more on the text of our interactions along with the context in which they are written, it is impossible, say, to ignore the impacts of irrational actions on rational discourse.  (My home subject, geography, suffered an enormous setback in the US in the 50's with Harvard canceled its Geography program over an interpersonal spat, and other schools followed suit because they wanted to be like Harvard.)  Not only that, but any of those among us who are honest will relate how emotional testimony by our peers influenced our political or philosophical thinking.  Why not bring this into our epistemology?

                    Well, one problem is that our academic structures are not built in such a way as to promote it.  Another is that at a theoretical level, we are primitives in our "pathetic" analysis.  On this score, the church is no different, but at least provides for a home for pathos in the Holy Spirit.  

                    This has gone on long enough, and writing further would simply be trying to hide the fact that I do not have the arguments sorted well enough in my head to get to rhetorical closure with any finality.  In any case, you asked what I would augment rationality with.  This is my partially constructed answer.

          •  Ayn Rand was a famous atheist (8+ / 0-)

            who claimed all of her beliefs were based on science.

            Me? I believe Ayn Rand was a sociopath loon.

            Governing well shall be the best revenge

            by Bill White on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:55:35 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  so what? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              chase, Brooke In Seattle

              What does that have to do with the price of rice in China?

              This isn't a thread about Ayn Rand, is it?

              "I've been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help me out? No." - Craig T. Nelson

              by RickD on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:16:12 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  There are deranged theists and deranged atheists (4+ / 0-)

                and that tells us nothing about whether God exists or not.

                Governing well shall be the best revenge

                by Bill White on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:19:11 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Stalin used to spend (0+ / 0-)

                  hours a day in prayer, according to his guards. (I guess he needed it).

                •  so? (3+ / 0-)

                  I had a math professor who went crazy and killed his wife.

                  Does that mean mathematics should be ignored?

                  Are you offering something more here than an ad hominem?  

                  "I've been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help me out? No." - Craig T. Nelson

                  by RickD on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:32:48 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  ad hominem? Where? (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Jagger, ignatz uk, wilderness voice, yaque

                    All I am saying is that the scientific validity of evolution

                    (which I accept and I recommend Daniel Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" as a terrific one volume summary)

                    tells us nothing about the existence or non-existence of God.

                    That said, the Texas Baptists (for example) are very wrong about many things, including evolution.

                    Governing well shall be the best revenge

                    by Bill White on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:44:48 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Who stated that the scientific validity of evolut (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      yaque, majyqman

                      represents, in an of itself, definitive proof of the non-existence of a god?

                      Or, are you avidly arguing a straw man here?

                      It certainly does tell us more than "nothing" - it tells us that yet another phenomenon that had been attributed directly to the personal intervention of a god, has been demonstrated to not require a god at all.

                      Cumulatively, the sum of scientific discovery is comprised of sufficient natural explanations for what were previously divinely explained phenomena.

                      Meanwhile, there are exactly zero examples of the opposite occurring.

                      The long-term consistency of this phenomena makes the proposition that there is likely no god, a rational proposition - since the necessity of a god to explain the world continues to diminish.

                      Think of it this way - would you consider it rational to posit, at this point in time, tiny fairies who go around at night painting leaves green in order to please the aesthetic sensibilities of the Fairy Queen, as a reasonable alternative explanation to the role of chlorophyll in photosynthesis?
                      I doubt it, because there is a perfectly adequate explanation of how chlorophyll turns leaves green - and how changes in the composition of leaves as temperatures drop in the fall causes other pigments such as xanthophylls and carotenoids, to change the apparent color of leaves to autumn's glorious palette.

                      Similarly, the theory of biological evolution via natural selection makes it unnecessary to explain the wonderful diversity of life on Earth, as well as the abundant fossil evidence of past life that is different than current life, in terms of a wrathful or disappointed god flooding the Earth, or his servant Noah putting two of every creature into his magical ark.

                      At this point in human understanding, it is quite reasonable to fail to hold a belief in the existence of gods - more reasonable than the alternative, in fact.

                      One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                      by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 05:32:03 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Being atheist is not at all unreasonable (0+ / 0-)

                        I never said it was.

                        Conversely, while a great many theists are batshit carzy, even that does not prove that a reasonable person cannot be a theist, as well.

                        All that said, far too many theists and atheists seem to believe that validity of evolutionary science (and descent of homo sapiens from prior species) proves God is a delusion.

                        Governing well shall be the best revenge

                        by Bill White on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:40:55 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Straw man (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          yaque

                          who are these "all too many" theists and atheists who, based solely and exclusively on the validity of evolutionary science (and descent of homo sapiens from prior species) conclude that God is a delusion?

                          I'm particularly interested in the "theists" [sic] whom you claim assert that their belief in god is a delusion.

                          One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                          by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:22:17 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                •  we would have to first (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  yaque

                  agree upon a definition of "God".

          •  they can and do. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            niemann, Jagger, yaque

            Religious people simply cannot answer the simple question "How do you know what you believe to be the truth is true?"

            The Buddha said "Do not take my word out of respect for me.  Test my teachings by putting them into practice and adopt them only if they prove their worth by improving your life" [paraphrased]

            This is basic to the practice of Buddhism. Test and observe the results.

            •  So, those of us who have tested and observed (0+ / 0-)

              and found Buddha's words at least partially incorrect and unworthy - what do you say to them?

              And what do you say to the overwhelming majority of theists who reject Buddha's empirical suggestion, who, in fact, follow religions that insist that their beliefs are immune to testing and observation, and that, in fact, the very application of testing and observation to their beliefs is heretical?

              After all, we don't live in a Buddhist country in the US. Buddhists comprise less than 0.5% percent of Americans.

              One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

              by RandomActsOfReason on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 11:26:39 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Good subject (5+ / 0-)

          for an expanded diary, except that it would probably invite more flames than discussion.

          I've noticed that people who sit squarely on either side of the fence defend their conclusions very quickly, with absolute certainty, and with very little left open for discussion.  It's the You're-a-Satanist/Other versus You're-an-Idiot/Other debate, over and over.

          I'm not pretending that I don't approach some issues this way, myself, btw.  I have my areas of 'defense first', too.

          •  where is the "middle ground here"? (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Dallasdoc, Brooke In Seattle, yaque

            I see three possibilities

            1. Evolution is in tension with long-lived claims of Christianity and Judaism.  Therefore these religions, as historically understood, do not represent the literal truth that they claim to.
            1. Evolution is in tension with the long-lived claims of Christianity and Judaism.  Therefore evolution must be a flawed theory.
            1. There is no tension between the long-lived claims of Christianity and Judaism and the theory of evolution.  

            Of the three possibilities, I know that a lot of people who fancy themselves to be clever and "above the fray" prefer the third, but from my perspective, it is clearly the weakest of the three stances.  The third stance requires a person to bury his head in the sand and ignore what religion has meant for millenia.  It dismisses the importance of religious beliefs by saying they can be casually tossed aside with little care.

            "I've been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help me out? No." - Craig T. Nelson

            by RickD on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:21:06 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  If we were to accept that (1) were true (0+ / 0-)

              this would not disprove the existence of a spiritual dimension.

              •  Nor would it in any way (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                chase, yaque

                support the existence of a "spiritual dimension", any more than it would support the existence of spiritual pants.

                Asserting something without evidence, and then demanding that everyone else disprove it beyond a doubt is both absurd, and a characteristic of dogmatic faith-based minds.

                There is an infinite number of things one can assert without evidence.

                One need not disprove every one in order not to believe in them.

                One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 05:40:22 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  knocking down your straw man (0+ / 0-)

                  I never asserted anything of the kind. I merely asserted that refuting fundie beliefs is not to be conflated with refuting the existence of a spiritual realm.

                  •  Given your comment about (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    yaque

                    "SCientific Materialist religion" and "dogma", it's pretty clear that you were not making a neutral objective statement, but rather asserting that science does not weaken the case for supernaturalism.

                    One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                    by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:18:39 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  random acts of unreason (0+ / 0-)

                      would be a more accurate moniker for you based on your glaring illogic.  The fact that I am not neutral in this matter does not change what I said. Since you apparently need that spelled out for you, what I asserted was only that the failure of Chrisitaniy to be literally true does not disprove the existence of the spiritual dimension.

                      asserting that science does not weaken the case for supernaturalism.

                      We have not had that discussion.

                      •  I commented on your argument, (0+ / 0-)

                        you insulted me.

                        And yet, you claim that "Scientific Materialists" are the ones who "go ballistic" when challenged.

                        Hmmm...

                        One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                        by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 11:28:13 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

            •  There are more possibilities. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              yaque

              For one thing, there are more religions and religious philosophies beside Christianity and Judaism.  I don't think they all have theological conflicts with evolution.  But in our world, other religions don't count as real religions.

              And... I don't consider myself clever, but I am above the fray to some extent, heh-heh.  I'm not good at arguing about religion. But I'm pretty good at reading and appreciating the good points others have to make.  Carry on!

              •  In our world, particularly in the U.S., (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ignatz uk, yaque, majyqman

                which is the political focus of this website, those other philosophies, whatever they maybe, are frankly irrelevant.

                According to ARIS 2008, on the U.S., Christians comprise 76% of the population.
                Jews comprise 1.2% of the population.
                All other religions combined comprise 2.7% of the population.
                (the remainder of the population, 15% are "Nones" - they affiliate with no religion at all).

                In our Legislative, Judicial and Executive branches, other religions and "Nones" comprise even a smaller percentage, while Jews enjoy disproportionate representation relative to their portion of the population, but are still overwhelmingly outnumbered by Christians.

                So, for all intents and purposes, our society is dominated by Christians, and our political system is dominated by Christians and Jews.

                Of those Christians, 9 out of 10 in the U. S. believe in a literal, personal God. 82% of ALL American theists believe in a literal, personal God.

                So, frankly, it's nice that there are theoretical or tiny fringe religions that are wonderful and don't share any of the negative characteristics of the overwhelmingly dominant Christian religion in the US. But that doesn't help reality one bit.

                One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 05:47:54 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Do you think it's either (0+ / 0-)

                  desirable or possible to criticize the right-wing cultural politics of the Christian Right without criticizing their personal faith?

                  •  Neither. The former stems from the latter. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    yaque

                    Although I want to be clear that your question seems to be a little bit of a trap.

                    When you say, "criticizing their personal faith", if you mean personally criticizing individuals because they follow a particular faith then, no, I do not support that.

                    If, however, by "criticizing their personal faith", you mean criticizing the religion that they happen to personally have faith in, then, yes, I most certainly do support that and think it is essential.

                    The Right wing cultural politics of the Christian Right are theocratic in nature. You can't combat that without referring to the theological basis of their theocratic politics.

                    One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                    by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:11:39 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

            •  3 equally ignores the entire history of science (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              chase, yaque

              everything that is today understood to be the result of natural causes was once attributed to the action of a god.

              Zero instances exist of the opposite occuring.

              "Goddidit" is an increasingly unnecessary assertion. Which is why god was created in the first place, since there is no actual evidence of gods existing.

              All previously asserted "evidence" has been proven false, or the result of natural causes.

              What we are left with now are things we don't yet understand, a constantly shrinking though large set - but even those things, like the nature of dark matter or the nature of consciousness, do not seem inherently beyond the realm of scientific explanation.

              Rather, based on two hundred years of history, we know that many things that seems miraculous or ineffably mysterious are amenable to scientific inquiry. There is no reason to suppose that process will not continue indefinitely.

              At this point, it is those who continue to assert "there IS a god", who are increasingly irrational and ever-more precariously balancing on the tiny tip of an eroding rock.

              One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

              by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 05:37:37 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  I just think that religion (5+ / 0-)

          is incompatible with reality. It has resulted from the co-opting of certain types of models the brain runs, which likely helped our survival in some way during our evolution. For example, it is far better for survival to mistake a shadowy bush for a wolf than to not do so if it really is a wolf. We are somewhat predisposed to pareidolia and to modeling something mentally from what isn't really there.

          Life isn't a battle between good and evil, it's a battle between signal and noise.

          by ChemBob on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:18:01 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  But nothing stops us from doing the same (3+ / 0-)

            in "science" when there is no way to test our notions under laboratory-type conditions. That's the big problem with science--it's all about testing, and if something is not testable, it's not falsifiable, and therefore beyond the reach of science to decide if it's real or not.

            "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

            by Alice in Florida on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:13:40 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  There are lots of types of tests (4+ / 0-)

              of hypotheses that don't require a laboratory, per se. For example testing relativity via gravitational lensing. Certainly not tested in a laboratory, even if the results are analyzed there.

              You can make up any sort of mythology or belief. Just because it can be imagined doesn't make it real. The starting point when you are trying to convince me that your belief is real and manifests in the physical universe that we occupy is to show me some evidence that we can both see, can both comprehend, that appears the same to both of us and, preferably, can be measured by instruments and couched in mathematical terms.

              If you are a Christian, seriously, why do you believe in Jesus? Isn't it because you were raised in a country that is dominated by that particular religious meme? If you were born into Islam, don't you suppose you would believe predominantly in Islam and the Prophet? How about being born in ancient Greece? Wouldn't you have believed in the pantheon of Gods?

              But there isn't any reality to any of this is there? There is no more evidence for one than there is for the other (i.e., zero) and they've all thought/think they were correct, with an absolute fanatical certainty of belief. Belief should not be enough. The experience of spiritual feelings or ecstatic moments should not be enough. These experiences are just your brain doing its thing, no supernatural required.

              Life isn't a battle between good and evil, it's a battle between signal and noise.

              by ChemBob on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 09:47:29 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Testing may be a part of science but observation (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              chase, ChemBob, RandomActsOfReason, yaque

              is also a huge part of science. We can observe the universe, gather data and form theories that can then be compared with other observations for confirmation. If new information or evidence becomes available, the theory can evolve or be discarded. Religion is set in stone for the most part, even in the face of observable or testable evidence, thus the need for "faith". Take raising from the dead or the immaculate conception, for instance, the bedrocks of catholicism, neither of which can be duplicated, tested or observed and for which there is zero evidence.

        •  "compatibility"? (4+ / 0-)

          Is that what religion is to you?  A way of thinking that tells you...what?  And mixes in new ideas when they achieve a sufficient level of popularity?

          Saying religion is "compatible" with evolution flies in the face of millenia of tradition - at least the Judeo-Christian tradition.  You cannot have a religion that says, literally for millenia, that all of "God's creatures" were created in their current form in the first week of creation, and then pretend that this explanation is "compatible" with the theory of evolution.

          What is this concept of religion you are talking about?  Does it consist of nothing more than making sh*t up on the fly?  Because it has little in relation with the long-established religions that I'm aware of.  

          You do a lot of thinking people a disservice when you so glibly dismiss a serious conflict between traditional religions and science.  Most religious people cannot blithely toss away a religious belief that has thousands of years of history to it and still claim that their "religion" is just as powerful to them as it had been.

          Your concept of religion seems to be as shallow as a trip to the mall.

          "I've been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help me out? No." - Craig T. Nelson

          by RickD on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:03:27 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Do you dismiss all Hindus and Buddhists (0+ / 0-)

            with equal disdain?

            Governing well shall be the best revenge

            by Bill White on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:21:54 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  that depends (4+ / 0-)

              for starters, Buddhism, as I understand it, is compatible with atheism.  It is more of a philosophical system than a dogmatic religion as most religions are.

              As for "Hinduism"...which one?  Hinduism is not one religion.  It is a collection of separate belief systems.  And yes, many of them I would dismiss with equal disdain.  Shivu is not going to destroy the world.  

              Are you Hindu?  Do you accept Hinduism (or some variant thereof) as a valid explanation for the universe?  If not, what is the point of bringing this up?  

              Does "tolerance" consist of pretending?  When you act like ideas are reasonable while you secretly think they are ludicrous?

              Let's throw this back at you...what about Shinto?  Do you think it's reasonable to treat the Emperor of Japan as a divine being?  I mean, if we're supposed to be tolerant of the gods that we don't encounter, why not extend this tolerance to people who are claimed to be of divine nature?  

              "I've been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help me out? No." - Craig T. Nelson

              by RickD on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:42:28 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  well (0+ / 0-)
                "Shivu is not going to destroy the world."

                Are you sure Shiva didn't send in the meteor that ended the dinosaur era :)

                There was this curiously interesting recent scientific study news report:


                'Mega meteor that crashed off Indian coast' may have wiped out dinosaurs

                By Daily Mail Reporter
                Last updated at 1:40 AM on 21st October 2009

                The dinosaurs may have been wiped out by a meteor four times bigger than the one previously thought to have caused their extinction.

                Scientists believe a 25-mile wide meteor crashed into the ocean off the west coast of  India, creating the 310-mile wide Shiva basin.

                Sankar Chatterjee of Texas Tech University and his team are now analysing the submerged basin, in the hope it will prove their theory.

                There is this wiki page on the Shiva crater/basin. Fun!

                The Hindu-trinity of birth (Brahma), life (Vishnu) and death (Shiva) could also be interpreted (if one wants to; I don't count myself as one of those that do, at the moment.) in terms of emergence, evolution and death of various human civilizations.

                BTW, that trinity concept is commonly accepted by any variety of faith forms within the umbrella of Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma.)

                Did you know that Indians invented the # 0 and the decimal/binary systems: a primer on Indian mathematics.

                by iceweasel on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 05:29:25 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  when did she come out against evolution? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jagger, marykk, Journalist Julia

        never

        I have written an incredible book and YOU should buy it!

        by environmentalist on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:25:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  That WSJ doesn't reveal Armstrong's dishonesty (4+ / 0-)

        It reveals that Dawkins, while being a phenomenal science writer with an excellent grasp on evolutionary theory, is a simpleton when it comes to understanding religion.  I love his books, but his blind spots when it comes to ontology and epistemology are painful.

        And sorry, I'm not going to sit through an hour of a third-rate philosopher like Daniel Dennett, or a noxious gasbag like Myers.  I'll watch Jerry Coyne if I get a chance, but right now I have to go to church.  :)

      •  and your point is...? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wilderness voice, yaque

        Sorry, but posting links to three videos that together constitute nearly three hours of viewing time does not make a point.  What do you think that these people are saying?  Summarize, please.  Give us clues to the times of the various videos that support your points.

        I suspect I would agree with you, but you haven't made a point yet.

        "I've been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help me out? No." - Craig T. Nelson

        by RickD on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:54:15 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  lots of media exposure (over there) (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ORDem, Dallasdoc, wilderness voice

      When I was in England about six years ago, Armstrong waa on television talk shows almost every night. They love her over there.

      Imagine having a pro-social, rational, well informed positive person as a regular media person instead of ignorant screaming extremists yelling past each other every night as we tend to here. (I exaggerate, but not by that much).

  •  after the week I've had (22+ / 0-)

    in a few comment threads here, this book sounds most welcome.

    For me, a questioner, a person who readily admits that I don't know, but am open to possibilities, I also see fundamentalism for and against god/God as two sides of the same coin.  

    I envy those who are absolutely sure... on both sides.  It must be nice to live with that kind of faith.

    I'm definitely getting and reading this book.

    Join us in the Grieving Room on Monday evenings to discuss mourning and loss.

    by Dem in the heart of Texas on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:04:04 AM PST

    •  Questioner? (16+ / 0-)

      I think you may be seeing a fundamentalism on the "no God side" that is not really there.

      I consider myself on the "no God" side simply because that is the default position. Without proof there is no reason to be "yes God". ALL the current religions followed by their billion are quite clearly "not credible" from anyone looking at the situation from an objective position.

      That leaves me open to anything that comes along. I have no "certainty" that there is no god, just a desire for a little evidence before considering the alternative. So for now I am in the default position, but for example interested in Zen as a "way of life", not as a "religion" - and of course without any god aspect.

      I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

      by taonow on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:22:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I would call myself (5+ / 0-)

        open to possibilities.

        I know that there will never be proof of God.  But I also know that there are things we don't know, and perhaps things we're not capable of knowing, and I consider it the height of human arrogance to assume that we CAN know it all.

        I am willing to accept that there might be a God.  Maybe that's as far as my "faith" will go, but it's enough.  

        To be told that there is definitely NO GOD because it can't be proven seems to me every bit as fundamentalist and narrow as the idea that there must be one because the Good Book says so.  Both assertions seem silly to me.  IF there is a God, you can bet we've got it all wrong.

        Join us in the Grieving Room on Monday evenings to discuss mourning and loss.

        by Dem in the heart of Texas on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:35:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  straw man (7+ / 0-)

          no atheist said there is definitely no god.  What we say is that his existence is highly improbable, so there probably is no god.  If there is proof, please please please show me.

          I would love to know as a matter of fact that when I die, I will go to heaven.  That would be great.  I assume while there I could read, watch movies listen to music and study math for all eternity.

          Unfortunately there is not a shred of evidence for all the after life fantasies.

          Apparently the 2nd amendment mean that psychotics can get AK-47s to kill cops. And we have a supreme court that supports this.

          by kennyc on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:55:52 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  you're kidding, right? (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            pHunbalanced, Jagger, catleigh
            Right here in this very comment thread, people are confidently stating that there is no God. As much as you might wish that my statement was a strawman argument, it doesn't make it so.

            When I'm on a computer, rather than my phone, I'll be happy to provide links.

            LOL - who is the empirical one in this discussion?

            Join us in the Grieving Room on Monday evenings to discuss mourning and loss.

            by Dem in the heart of Texas on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:02:33 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  they are not right (0+ / 0-)

              I am.  You didn't answer the question.  Is there a heaven and how do you know this?

              Apparently the 2nd amendment mean that psychotics can get AK-47s to kill cops. And we have a supreme court that supports this.

              by kennyc on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:14:35 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  my answer to your question (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Jagger
                Is a confident one: I have no idea whether there is or is not a heaven.

                My question to you: are you going to challenge with the same enthusiasm the statements elsewhere on this comment thread that insist there is no God?

                And will you retract your assertion that I employed a strawman, since it is evident that I did not?

                Join us in the Grieving Room on Monday evenings to discuss mourning and loss.

                by Dem in the heart of Texas on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:12:17 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  This is silly (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Jagger

                How do you know there is a heaven?

                and

                How do you know there is not a heaven?

                are both unanswerable questions. You can only BELIEVE there is not a heaven, just as another can only BELIEVE there is a heaven.

                You need a new tactic.

                "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

                by MillieNeon on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:37:53 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Answer me this (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Jagger

                What is the force that through the singularity drove the Big Bang?

                Betcha can't answer that one.

                "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

                by MillieNeon on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:39:56 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  No God (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              yaque

              We have to be careful because people have different definitions of God.

              If you mean an intervening god (or a man in god's image god) as most religions imply, yeah there is no god.

              If you mean a nebulous "creator" ... ish god, hey who knows.

              I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

              by taonow on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:42:44 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  "definitions of God" (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ignatz uk, Fixed Point Theorem, yaque

                And here is the crux of the problem.  Historically speaking, "God" is not something that is defined, as an abstract philosophical concept.  It's a real entity, and the people who tell us he exists also have told us all sorts of other stories about how he created the universe and all the creatures on it.

                But we've found that many of these legendary stories are simply, to put it bluntly, wrong.  

                At what point are we allowed to question the credibility of this system of thought?  

                "I've been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help me out? No." - Craig T. Nelson

                by RickD on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:29:22 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  What is the force (2+ / 0-)

                  that through the singularity drove the Big Bang?

                  I asked that before.

                  It is silly to perceive that force as an intelligent consciousness.

                  It is also silly to perceive that force as a non-intelligent accident.

                  Can't wait till we humans crawl out of Plato's cave.

                  "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

                  by MillieNeon on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:46:34 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I don't know (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    vets74, Fixed Point Theorem, yaque

                    And neither do you.  That doesn't mean it's reasonable to make something up.  The frustrating thing about arguing with religious people is that when you try to pin down what they actually believe, they dodge and retreat until you find that you are left arguing with yourself.  Religion used to explain everything, but has now fallen back to the ramparts of the Big Bang and Dark Matter, because those are things we currently can't explain. If god is some amorphous thing that never impacts the world in a discernible way, what is the point in debating?  I find it interesting that all of the major religions didn't used to require faith.  Back in the day, god was perfectly happy to provide ample evidence for his existence via miracles and the like.  Why so stingy nowadays?

                    •  I do know (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Dem in the heart of Texas

                      That I did not say a word about god. In fact, I do not believe in god.

                      I am merely pointing out that people who believe in God and people who believe in the Big Bang ride the same construct.

                      If someone is an atheist and believes in the Big Bang, they know that scientists (theoretical physicians really) cannot explain the force that through the singularity drove the Big Bang.

                      They cannot see that force, nor touch it, nor locate it, nor test it. But they BELIEVE some force/event had to start the chain reaction still going on today.

                      Since they have no knowledge of this force, they cannot say if it is or isn't an intelligence or some kind of consciousness (and I'm not talking about intelligent design here).

                      But they see the evolution of the Universe as proof of that initial inspiration to Bang Big. Just as people who believe in God see the material world as proof of some point or origin that is an intelligent consciousness.

                      This puts them in the same boat with people who believe in God. The stories may differ in the details, but in the big picture, it's the same construct.

                      I find that amusing.

                      God is not being stingy at all. In our own times he has given us Miracle Whip, Miracle Drugs, Miracle Sealants, Miracle-Gro Plant Food. Oh ye of little faith.

                      "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

                      by MillieNeon on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:12:24 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I don't know a lot of people who (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        yaque

                        "believe" in the Big Bang.  There is support for the theory that at some time in the past the expanding, observable universe came from a single point.  Most people are ready to go with a different theory should another one explain the evidence better.  And your argument doesn't hold much water when you leave out Nature's Miracle, especially when conversing with someone who has four cats.

                        •  Four cats? That's ridiculous. (0+ / 0-)

                          My roommate and I live with 4 creatures who resemble cats in their anatomy, but they are actually alien beings come to earth to enslave us. We also live with 2 characters who claim to be dogs. They don't fool me.

                          There is support for the theory that at some time in the past the expanding, observable universe came from a single point.

                          Yes there is. And there is support for the idea that whatever inspired that singularity to Bang Big, as I said before, could be a consciousness. There are physicists who think this is possible.

                          Some of them are working on locating the physical aspects of consciousness. I never said the consciousness has to be metaphysical. I don't believe in metaphysical. It's all physical.

                          But the point is, those who believe in metaphysical consciousness can play it from human back to the big bang too (not the fundies, of course) and come up with a metaphysical presence. The theory just can't say it couldn't be the case.

                          So when yr dealing with the principles of logic, it's the same construct.

                          "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

                          by MillieNeon on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 12:38:05 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

          •  Not you (2+ / 0-)

            Yr not going to heaven.

            The problem is, there is a "spiritual" conversation to be had outside the binary opposition of god/no god, but people like Dawkins are not aware of that territory.

            "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

            by MillieNeon on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:36:08 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  wrong again (0+ / 0-)

            Unfortunately there is not a shred of evidence for all the after life fantasies.

            There is plenty of evidence in the form of near death experiences.  No doubt you would dispute such evidence, but in any case you are clearly wrong to say there is "not a shred".

    •  This is my biggest Gripe of her critique. (10+ / 0-)

      From her book

      Dawkins has a simplistic view of the moral teaching of the Bible, taking it for granted that its chief purpose is to issue clear rules of conduct and provide us with "role models," which, not surprisingly, he finds lamentably inadequate.

      Because They Are.

      The bible teaches TONS of horrible stuff, and you know why we, as a modern society, ignore the "horrible stuff?"  It's not because religion has come along with a new better book, many religions think that there is no such thing as modern revelation.  

      NO, it's because we have our own internal compass for morality, mostly relating to herd survival and individual survival, which can be explained better by evolution than it can be by the bible.

      Atheists are NOT dogmatic, and are not fundamentalists.  They are, however, Angry that "God Says So" usually ends up being the justification for passing laws, and leading to religions being tax exempt (when they often advocate for politicians and bills).

      For "GODS" sake, we can't even logically deal with Polygamist sects correctly here in Utah.  Many people here decry the raids on the Sects because of the history of polygamy in this state, but all atheists point to the child abuse in Polygamy and say "STOP THAT".  The policy of non-enforcement is due to fear of being seen as religious persecution, when there is certainly abuse going on.

      Many countries have Blasphemy laws, when all other speech is unrestricted.  Israel/Palestine conflict is illogical and confusing to anyone who is non-religious.

      Atheists are only "fundamentalists" when other fundamentalists start infringing on our rights using that big bully in the sky.

      •  Because it's supposed to be that way (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dallasdoc, antiapollon, Gracian

        We're not supposed to look at the Bible and say "ah ha, King David was a lecherous brute, let's be just like him."

        If the editors who put together the scripture had wanted to smooth it out and turn every character into a story book hero, they could have. They didn't.

        They left in (and in some cases, added) warts and conflicts, contradictions and redefinitions, sacrifice and selfishness.

        Those reading it thinking that it tells one coherent story, from one consistent position, about one persistent concept are forcing their own prejudices on the text.

      •  Israel / Palestine not confusing - tribal n/t (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        yaque
    •  bully for you (5+ / 0-)

      "I also see fundamentalism for and against god/God as two sides of the same coin."

      I don't see the equivalence of the statements.  But more to the point, historically extant religions do not simply say "there exists a God".  They tell us all sort of stories about this God, and many of these stories appear to be untenable.

      Just what, then, is this "God" you are talking about?  It is fairly easy to defend the concept of a God when you divorce it entirely from what its religion tells us about the entity.  But who really cares about that?

      It's as if, after having been told that fire-breathing is impossible, that no creatures have impenetrable armor, and that consideration of weight ratios shows that it's impossible for dragons to exist as they have historically been described, a person simply asserts "yeah, but there could be dragons anyway".  But they do so by inventing a completely new idea of what a possible dragon could be.  Who really gives a damn about that?  We just saw you invent that concept.  We know that it doesn't represent any kind of received wisdom.  

      "I've been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help me out? No." - Craig T. Nelson

      by RickD on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:26:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Atheism is not a faith (9+ / 0-)

      Dem, this is a common response to atheism, that it is a matter of faith as much as believing in a god. But it is actually a different position. The atheistic position, at it's most basic, states, "I will consider things to be true to the degree for which there is evidence for their existence. The better the evidence, the greater the confidence. In the complete absence of evidence, I have no reason to assume something might be true, even while acknowledging that the odds are never zero. This category includes invisible unicorns, leprechauns, flying teapots, and gods. But as soon as adequate evidence comes to light, I will alter my consideration accordingly."

      But we can add more to this "negative" position (i.e. lack of evidence). There are also logical reasons to conclude that gods are fully man-made, including their anthropomorphic nature, human exceptionalism, the mountain of disprovable religious theories about nature, et cetera.

      And so, there are rational and evidential reasons to conclude that gods do not exist, while a belief in a god requires pure faith, a conviction in something for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

      Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

      by J Ash Bowie on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:52:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  you didn't read my words accurately, or (0+ / 0-)
        You made assumptions about them that I didn't intend.

        I was not speaking about "atheists" as a group at all; rather, I was speaking of people (and some are present right here in these comments) who state authoratatively that there is no God. Take a look - they're here.

        It's one thing to profess a lack of faith in a deity due to lack of empirical evidence. It's a another thing altogether to state unequivocably that there is no God. That is different than "there is no evidence of a god" (something which, by the way, many people of faith are well aware).

        Join us in the Grieving Room on Monday evenings to discuss mourning and loss.

        by Dem in the heart of Texas on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 10:15:35 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  There is no god. (4+ / 0-)

          Agnostics are atheists who are too wimpy to state the obvious. In the personal and the political domains we must ACT either on the assumption that there is a god, or on the assumption that there isn't one. There is no in between for the practical sphere of action. So agnostics are deluded wimps.

          You, the author of "The Case For God" and most people in general are also victims of another fallacy. This fallacy is evident in this statement of yours:

          It's one thing to profess a lack of faith in a deity due to lack of empirical evidence. It's a another thing altogether to state unequivocally that there is no God.

          You intend to say that it is reasonable to lack a positive faith that that there is a god, but not reasonable to have the positive conviction that there isn't a god. This is a false conclusion because it relies on the following fallacy. Your statement presumes that the atheist could always refute the existence of a specific concept of god - like the Greek gods sitting on top of Mount Olympus, or the old man in a white robe sitting on top of the clouds, but that there will always remain "something" which one day we might come across that we might be inclined to say "That is what I was referring to as god." That is where the fallacy lies. This concept of god, which is not really a concept at all, is designed very deliberately to be so vague as to be irrefutable: how can we refute something that is given no definition at all? But that is what the argument relies on: since we can't refute it it is presumably unreasonable to reject it... I call this the "Houdini fallacy", because on this view just when we are getting ready to refute his existence and kill the meme of god once and for all, god escapes the trap of that definition into another form. Now we have to design another trap to catch him, and the agnostic feels validated even if he has not yet conceived what this new definition might be.

          Before you can claim atheists have "faith" that there is no god you must state in detail what you mean by god, what its attributes are, etc. The atheist then will be able to prove that this particular definition of god does not exist. But again, your argument relies on the intuitive subterfuge of thinking that you could always come up with a different definition of god that is not vulnerable to the last refutation, so you conclude therefore the atheist must have "faith" that a god of some kind does not exist. This is pure sophistry.

          If you want to argue that we must remain uncertain whether or not there is a god you must state precisely what kind of being this god is - which god must we remain agnostic about. I guarantee you that we can definitively refute it once you state the particulars.

          Some contemporary theologians have concocted another subterfuge: they now say that god is not that old man with a white robe sitting on the clouds, god is a "process". Nice trick. Is this process identical with or distinct form natural phenomena? If it is distinct, how do they know about it - or did they just pull it out of their asses? If it is identical with nature, why invoke the superfluous notion of god? In either case, does this notion of god involve a teleology - does it show purpose toward an ultimate objective? That would be quite a claim to make - that all of nature leads to an ultimate purpose. Hegel tried that one, as did Marx, who was a "left" Hegelian. Answer those questions...

        •  There is no god (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Brooke In Seattle, wildweasels, yaque

          I unequivocally claim that there is no God. I do not do so "authoritatively" (whatever that means), but even while I acknowledge that the odds are never zero, there is no part of me that doubts the non-existence of any god. Exactly like there is no part of me that doubts the non-existence of pink unicorns...both have the same amount of evidence (none) and likelihood (virtually nil).

          There is no evidence for a god, therefore there is no reason to believe one exists. That is why believing in one is called "faith"...it is belief without reasonable justification.  People have a right to do so, of course, but others have a right to point out the logical flaws and practical failings inherent in doing so. This is what the New Atheists are trying to do (some with less tact than others).

          It is strange that in our culture it is perfectly acceptable for people to profess a belief in a god along with attempts to persuade others of the same, but somehow claiming the opposite is improper, arrogant, and irrational.

          Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

          by J Ash Bowie on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 01:48:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  re your last sentence (0+ / 0-)

            specifically:

            but somehow claiming the opposite is improper, arrogant, and irrational.

            I don't have an iota of a problem with you claiming that.  I don't consider it improper, arrogant, OR irrational.  I have no issue with that message at all.  What I DO have a message with is people who cannot make a similar claim without adding a demeaning tone or statement regarding those who make a different claim.

            BTW, a "claim" is not anything more than a statement of belief.  I appreciate that you used that term.

            While I understand that for you, the likelihood of the existence of God is equivalent to the likelihood of the existence of pink unicorns, I'm hoping that you can understand why others might think there is more of a reason to believe the former rather than the latter.  Maybe not, but I can see a difference.

            Join us in the Grieving Room on Monday evenings to discuss mourning and loss.

            by Dem in the heart of Texas on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 04:36:03 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Reason (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Brooke In Seattle, yaque

              What I DO have a message with is people who cannot make a similar claim without adding a demeaning tone or statement regarding those who make a different claim.

              well that has nothing to do with the argument at hand, but your response to what you interpret as a rude and demeaning tone. In my experience, believers tend to be far more arrogant and judgmental in their interactions with non-believers.

              Regarding your other point, I myself can imagine all kinds of reasons for believing in a god. The problem is that those reasons tend to spill over into thinking about all kinds of other things. Many atheists, including myself, believe that that kind of thinking lies at the heart of many social problems, ranging from homophobia to efforts to teach creationism to the lack of understanding about evolution and all the way to suicide bombings. It has been said that the battle is not between atheism and theism but between reason and superstition.  

              Lakoff: progressivism = empathy, responsibility, and improvement

              by J Ash Bowie on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:19:54 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Also recommended: her book "Islam." (24+ / 0-)

    The first chapter alone is enough to spin the heads of most anyone who does not know the early history of the faith. It's a real myth-buster, well researched and well written.

    It bogs down as it goes through the laborious history of the factional fighting after the death of Mohammed, but it's still clear and compelling, and important.

    "If you don't stick to your values when they're tested, they're not values. They're... hobbies." -- Jon Stewart, Jan. 22, 2009

    by pat208 on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:07:01 AM PST

    •  great way to open a dialog (17+ / 0-)

      with most of the rest of the world.

      You're not representing well.

      When will we ever learn that PROFIT cannot be a part of the equation when endangering people's lives adds to a company's bottom line?--Earicicle

      by billlaurelMD on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:10:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  ha ha ha ha ha. (5+ / 0-)

        extremists are extremists.  And it seems taht extremist didnt even read the txt.  I dont think we could expect less...or more...

        I have written an incredible book and YOU should buy it!

        by environmentalist on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:14:45 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Most of the world is delusional. (9+ / 0-)

        And if there IS a God, I have bone to pick with him . . .

        "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

        by bobdevo on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:15:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Herein is the problem with this site on this topi (23+ / 0-)

        There should be a named rule for this phenomenon, akin to Godwin's Law or other "rules" on Internet memes.

        It would be: Whenever someone has a diary attempting to make a reasoned, intellectual discussion about religion or God (or even a book review about a book that does same), it will take only 10 or so comments before someone comments: "Why bother? There is no God. Stop wasting time" or some other arrogant, pedantic and patronising swipe at the beliefs of a large portion of this site.

        •  I know. It's not like college. We don't have to (5+ / 0-)

          be here. This isn't a lecture hall. If you don't like the topic, then leave in silence. Could you imagine someone interrupting the professor on the first day of class? "Uh, dude, I'm taking a look at this syllabus, and well...uh..I'm not liking this stuff in here about god (and it's a Theology 101 class for a Liberal Arts requirement.) Tell me how quick it would take the almighty tweed jacketed prof with graying whiskers and thick glasses to bounce a bozo's arse straight out of the lecture hall with a comment like that.

          •  really? (10+ / 0-)

            So we atheists should just STFU?  Is that what you are saying?  Really?  

            Apparently the 2nd amendment mean that psychotics can get AK-47s to kill cops. And we have a supreme court that supports this.

            by kennyc on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:01:30 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I think that's what (11+ / 0-)

              some are saying.

              Would you expect differently?  We are a tiny minority.   We are a threat disproportionate to our numbers, we are a threat because we exist.

              I am not a fundamentalist, I have no desire to prosyletize for my beliefs, I am perfectly happy to have others believe in their god, I certainly don't want society to adopt rules that force people to be atheists.

              I just resent being deprived of rights by several varieties of religions.  Is there any doubt that the Stupak amendment was a religiously motivated deprivation of equal rights?  That the teabaggers would do much worse if they get more power, and they mean to have more power?

              I think religious belief is a terrible blind spot in the liberal thinking of some. People who would never use a racist term, a sexist term, but how many stop to think before saying they will pray for you.  Do they find out first if you want to be prayed for?  Do they realize it makes my skin crawl?  Or if you say you are atheist, they immediately ask how or why?   I never ask them why they believe, why push me to justify my belief?  It just is.

              How many times have I been given a book about conversion or finding faith?  How many times have I been told someday I will need the strength of belief in god to get me through?   I wonder about those people but I don't tell them they are weak.  I'm sure its made worse by living in the bible belt.  But occasionally I see it even here.

               

            •  Naw kennyc, I wouldn't tell you to STFU because (0+ / 0-)

              I refrain from violent language like that. And I encourage you to join the discussion. But, if in joining a discussion as presented here, we must be sensitive to people who have come to faith through hardship. Specifically personal tragedy (abuse,addiction, depression) and loss of loved ones over the years.

        •  Correllary to your rule: (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Brooke In Seattle, yaque

          Whenever anyone criticized religion or questions the existence of god, it takes no comments at all before that person is labeled a "militant fundamentalist atheist embarking upon a jihad" (I'm using milder language than appears in reality, so as not to offend delicate ears).

          Thus, the self-defense tropes of religions have trained followers to combat even the possibility of rational critique of blind belief.

          One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

          by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 04:40:31 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Atheist here..... (20+ / 0-)

        My two cents.

        If an individual chooses to believe in a deity that is revealed or strengthened in them through prayer, meditation, or other introspective techniques AND the belief in that deity helps them in some measure to cope with daily life and generally makes them a better, kinder member of the human community, then that is great.

        But when individuals like this ban together and tell me that I must also believe and receive their vision of this deity, and further that deity has told them that not all humans are equal and that many must be shunned and the deity has also justified the murder of others.

        Well, that is too far.

        Sounds like the former is the God that Armstrong speaks of.  Unfortunately, its the latter that is widely practiced.

        •  And they expect us (5+ / 0-)

          to honor or respect their delusion as somehow a valid topic of discussion, they are FoS.

          This machine kills fascists!

          by Zotz on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:13:52 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  There is something that is integral to human (3+ / 0-)

          nature that brings about your second kind of behavior, and we see it demonstrated in almost every walk of life and across cultures.  What is it with this 'I'm right, you're wrong, and either you change or I'm going to punish you' mentality?  It is the core of religious and atheistic fundamentalism.  The biggest difference I see between the two groups is in their numbers.  I'd like to believe that if atheists were the majority, they'd be oh-so rational and not work to actively deny the rights of others--then I come upon one of these threads, see some of the comments, and I'm not so sure.  Many atheists seem to agree with you, but there's an awfully vocal group who sound to me a lot like the religious fundies.

          "Going to church does not make us Christians any more than stepping into our garage makes us a car." --Rev R. Neville

          by catleigh on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:38:52 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  What atheist "fundamentalist" (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Brooke In Seattle, yaque

            has advocated the kinds of political oppression that religious fundamentalists have?

            What atheist "fundamentalist" has sought to pass laws to impose their beliefs on all others, and deny others equality under the law based on their atheist "dogma"?

            What atheist "fundamentalist" has resorted to violence, even murder, to prevent doctors from practicing medicine, women from obtaining legally available procedures, people from marrying because their individual identity offends the fundamentalists?

            If atheists were seeking to ban religious marriages, you'd have something there.

            If atheists showed up at religious funerals of veterans screaming, "Darwin hates theists!", you'd have something there.

            If atheist snipers killed priest, rabbis, imams, etc as they attempted to minister to their congregation, you'd have something there.

            If atheists blew themselves up in churches, you'd have something there.

            If atheists flew planes into the Vatican, you'd have something there.

            If atheists accosted you on the streets to proselytize, knocked on your door at dinner time to testify, disrupted barbecues by attacking other people's "lack of faith", you'd have something there.

            If atheist officers in the military forced subordinates to attend atheist meetings, and prohibited them from attending prayer meetings, you'd have something there.

            But, you don't have something there. You don't have anything there, except unthinkingly accepting what you don't realize is a deeply prejudiced and dishonestly presented bit of propaganda.

            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

            by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 04:47:54 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  ummm .... well, what about the atheistic (0+ / 0-)

              communist nations when they existed, like the Soviet Union?  Didn't they oppress all religious, regardless of sect?

              When will we ever learn that PROFIT cannot be a part of the equation when endangering people's lives adds to a company's bottom line?--Earicicle

              by billlaurelMD on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 11:38:09 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  If you want to keep looking backward (0+ / 0-)

                what about the Inquisition?

                The defense is always, "well, we don't do that stuff any more".

                What atheists are "throwing bombs" and are "militants", as so many people have said just in the past 24 hours here?

                I'm not going to get into a debate about how communist nations don't do bad things in the name of atheism, but in the name of an ideology they have raised to the level of a religion, complete with inerrant texts, sacred prophets, holy garb and rituals - whereas theocracies do bad things in the express name of their religion.

                And, they still do it today.

                But that is besides the point.

                What atheist in America today justifies the term "fundamentalist", much less "militant"?

                Please respond to all my questions above  - what atheist shoots doctors in the name of atheism? what atheist harasses women at family clinics in the name of atheism? Etc.

                Please reconsider your language, and think about the consequences of associating "atheist" with "militant", "fundamentalist", "bomb-thrower", or the other epithets that have been thrown around here in the past few days.

                Go to Google News and type in "militant" and see what comes up.

                Dawkins wrote one book about religion out of many books about biology. He wrote a fucking book!

                You are comparing that to Fred "God hates fags" Phelps? Or to Pat Robertson, whose "Regent University" has the express purpose of training theocrats to infiltrate the federal government to promote theocracy and undermine the Constitution? Or to the fundamentalists of Saudi Arabia or the Taliban?

                One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                by RandomActsOfReason on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 12:16:56 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

    •  Talk about dogma! n/t (8+ / 0-)

      "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." ML King

      by TheWesternSun on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:14:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Wow, fourth comment - that was quick (10+ / 0-)

      Usually it takes someone a bit longer to chime in with some variation of this arrogant and pedantic comment. Well done for  your speed.

      Now, can the adults in the room have an intelligent discussion about this post? You can go play outside or something.

    •  I'm guessing you (8+ / 0-)

      didn't comprehend this diary or the points Armstrong is making.  

    •  By the same logic (0+ / 0-)

      There is no such thing as a self.

      Have a nice life.

      •  There is a sense of self (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        yaque

        but what is a "self" independently of anything else?

        There is no evidence of either a "god" or a "self", by which people usually mean a "soul", whatsoever.

        You may choose to believe in both, one or the other, but that is a purely blind belief unsupported by evidence.

        Given that there is no evidence of the existence of a god, the two absolute statements:

        1. there IS a god
        1. there is NO god

        While neither is completely supported by the evidence, the two are not remotely equally dogmatic or equally irrational.

        The former is not based on anything. The latter is a logical, if not entirely supported extrapolation of the evidence.

        Most importantly, the statement, "there is no god" is not a personal attack on anyone. It is a statement of opinion about an intellectual idea, not a person.

        And yet the reaction by theists who are expressing a belief that they are morally superior to the original commenter, is all framed in terms of personal attacks on the commenter, and prejudicial attacks on "atheists".

        One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

        by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 04:56:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Late reply -- just now saw this (0+ / 0-)

          When speaking of the existence of a deity or other, it merits considering what it means to exist.  There is a subfield of philosophy entirely devoted to this.  "God exists" is less a statement of logical metaphysical deduction than an ontological consideration of what it means for something to exist or not exist.  (Leaving aside, of course, the immense question of what God might be if one settled on what it meant to exist.)

          We can come to moderately solid conclusions about the existence of, say, subatomic particles.  These particles have a definitive character, consist of the same matter throughout their spans of existence, and have a clear beginning and end time.  Tacking these criteria onto higher order phenomena, including, say, a human being, gets much stickier.  The actual mass that consists what we describe as a human being changes subtly from moment to moment, and over the course of years is almost entirely replaced.  This argument can be carried out for any higher order phenomena we wish to apply it to.  Existence can mean an instantaneous state of being, but if such state is instantaneous, how can an object have continuity through time?  But if a specific form is what is required for existence, what of phenomena that are always changing?

          God, by the Judeo-Christian definition, is certainly an even higher order phenomena.  If one is to regard God as a phenomena collectively described by the theology of believers, one might even say that by definition, humanity lacks the capacity to describe what God's existence means.  This means that neither of your statements are logical, as if God exists, we have no logos capable of describing such fully.  

          This, of course, means that the question, "does God exist?" is a fundamentally irrational question, unavailable to logic.  An epistemology which relies entirely on logical deduction CANNOT answer this question.

          What Armstrong, John Haught, and, well, I myself (in other diaries) keep pointing out is that while the strict question of the existence of deity or deities must irritatingly be set beyond the bounds of rational consideration, that is not in fact the relevant question to address here, nor is it what Dawkins or Hitchins or any of the new atheists are fundamentally concerned with.  The critical question is the relative merits of the decision by a human being to PRACTICE religion.  Again, because this keeps getting lost, it is about the PRACTICE of religion.  By Armstrong's lights, the one who doesn't "believe" in God (scare quotes because "belief" is yet another linguistic quagmire) yet attends religious services and behaves as if God exists is actually more of a religious actor than one who professes some form of belief in God's existence but fails to practice the religion.

          There is a massive, critically interesting discussion to have on this topic -- whether or not religious practice is a good thing -- and it is fully accessible to our rational capacities.  Atheists, however, keep going back to the illogical, unanswerable ontological question, and that's really frustrating.  

          As such, I do not assert my moral superiority based on my decision to attend religious services.  Rather, I assert my intellectual superiority to the atheists here, because those like "realcountrymusic" fail, over and over and over again, to read with basic comprehension skills and discern the question at hand.  This assertion has nothing whatsoever to do with my status as theist or atheist or agnostic or transcendentalist.  (Depending on how one defines terms, I can quite honestly accept all of the above labels.)  It has to do with patent idiocy on display above.

          •  You have an annoying tendency (0+ / 0-)

            to make rational, reasonable arguments in a comment, only to spoil it with a gratuitous sneer at the end.

            In the case of this comments, you asserted your intellectual superiority "to the atheists here", thus treating the atheists on Daily Kos as a monolithic group sharing identical opinions.

            That is an expression of prejudice, and makes the rest of your argument, which I found very interesting and would like to engage, moot.

            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

            by RandomActsOfReason on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 11:56:39 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Have you read (20+ / 0-)

    A History of God?  That's the only book of her's I've read, and it was wonderful.  

    That book also talks about Islam and how it was the most progressive of the monotheistic religions "back in the day" ... the day being about 700 A.D.

    When will we ever learn that PROFIT cannot be a part of the equation when endangering people's lives adds to a company's bottom line?--Earicicle

    by billlaurelMD on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:09:42 AM PST

  •  Blind exceptance is more than at fault in (9+ / 0-)

    just religon. That can also be the problem with the voter and checking out what their politicians are voting for and why.  Proof in the low voting numbers no matter the election.

    Blind exceptance in religion is a problem for those who will not study the Bible themselves and just except the man in the podium whether in a church or a college class room.

    Everything in life requires us to take time to study for ourselves to be imformed. It is the number one responsibility for all of us.

  •  Thank you for this (16+ / 0-)

    a little something to go on my Christmas wish list, perhaps.  Sounds like it's well worth reading.  

    Reminds me in some ways of a discussion I had with a friend who keeps Kosher.  He made the point that while the practice may have started as religiously motivated, the family felt in the long run that it had improved their quality of life.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:11:29 AM PST

  •  Ummm (19+ / 0-)

    Her concern is that the Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins camp concern themselves only with tackling a theology that is itself "decidedly unorthodox" and limited -- they want to knock down a sickly child and then proclaim they've won the heavyweight title.

    Actually I have no interest in proclaiming myself a winner.

    I have a very serious interest in keeping Catholic Bishops from banning gay marriage in Maine and abortion in our national healthcare.

    Ms. Armstrong is a brilliant, and nice, woman and always makes interesting conversation tidbits.

    But I cannot say that she is at all helpful to those of us who are fighting the losing fight of opposing humanity's penchant for superstition and to view that fight as a college debate is insulting.

    I will start when I take office. America is ready to get rid of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. All that is required is leadership." - Obama

    by tiponeill on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:11:56 AM PST

  •  If you posit God is a non-localized uninvolved (6+ / 0-)

    force who does not interfere in the time-space continuum by working miracles which defy the laws of physics . . . why maybe there is a God.

    But that's not the point.

    There is empirical science.  Everything else is pure speculation . . .

    "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

    by bobdevo on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:13:00 AM PST

  •  Excellent write up. Thank you. (6+ / 0-)

    I have written an incredible book and YOU should buy it!

    by environmentalist on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:13:27 AM PST

  •  Fantastic read - thanks (13+ / 0-)

    Great review, well done. Sounds like a very interesting book, and I'm glad Armstrong has gone in the direction you described rather than in some of the alternative ways.

    Her point about the "new atheists" is also a valid one, one that no one seems to be making, and one that people like Dawkins and Hitchens can't seem to be bothered with.

    •  oh, they've already belittled her and (7+ / 0-)

      written her off, in that infuriating, patronizing way that they have.   Look upthread - there are videos.

      Join us in the Grieving Room on Monday evenings to discuss mourning and loss.

      by Dem in the heart of Texas on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:27:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Neo-atheists (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      catleigh, EeDan, wilderness voice

      Her point about the "new atheists" is also a valid one, one that no one seems to be making, and one that people like Dawkins and Hitchens can't seem to be bothered with.

      I know a few that have been pointing out the similiarities of the neo-atheist with the fundementalists.  IMO, she was spot on with the two sides of the same coin observation.  Actually, I am also reminded of teabaggers-intensely angry, belligerant and raging without the knowledge to really understanding why or what they are raging against.  

      •  What "neo-atheists" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        yaque

        are screaming in town halls, picketing Congress with caricatures of President Obama and pictures of the Holocaust, making threatening phone calls to elected officials, using violent-laced rhetoric about shooting off people's heads, burning them, "spaying and neutering" them, taking out hunting permits on them, etc?

        What "neo-atheists" kill doctors to prevent them from performing legal procedures? What "neo-atheists" harass pregnant women en route to a family planning clinic?

        What "neo-atheists" shout obscenities at grieving family members at military funerals because they think the soldier might have been gay?

        What "neo-atheists" are trying to pass laws to restrict the rights of same-sex couples to marry, to ban abortion, to ban same-sex couples from adoption children?

        Yea, you're absolutely right. The similarities are so blinding, it's so hard to tell the difference between a "neo-atheist" who writes a book, and a fundamentalist who shoots an abortion doctor, or between a "neo-atheist" who writes a comment in a diary, and a screaming militant teabaggers buying weapons and shouting about the blood of tyrants, than the TSA stops us atheists all the time in the airport, thinking we are armed terrorists.

        Yup, no difference at all.

        One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

        by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:20:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  "Faith is how you bet your life" ... (19+ / 0-)

    is the formulation of one clergyman whom I very much respect. And I appreciate your treatment of the concept here.

    The term used in most New Testament texts (the Greek word pistis) meant something closer to loyalty or commitment, than unreasoning belief.

    I agree with that. I would also add that there's an element of daring and willingness to take risks. And I often praise people for their faith who are not particularly religious. Faith is one of the distinctive components of Jesus' teaching and it's frustrating to see how such a subtle and powerful concept has been turned into unreasoning belief in absurd propositions.

    Nice story.

    "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

    by Demi Moaned on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:14:56 AM PST

    •  Americans have always argued over religion (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wilderness voice

      Proof you are saved, and are thus in the "elect," versus a path towards salvation.

      Proof of salvation is required for church membership versus church as a place to seek guidance.

      God's messages are received versus God's messages can be interpreted.

      One must experience conversion/rebirth versus religious life as a religious journey.

      Those who are saved have a duty to conform to standards and support religious leadership versus those who are saved have a duty to continue questioning.

      Dad-who-is-always-mad versus nurturing Mother.

      Adult baptism versus infant baptism.

      So on and so on.

      Protestant religion in America has a long history of argument.  The first arguments began not long after the Puritans arrived in 1630.  An historian cannot study the first hundred years of English settlement in America without including the religious arguments that often forced people to relocate and, at its height during the Great Awakening, drew people into New Light versus Old Light camps, creating a fervor in both places that was easily adapted into revolutionary fervor.

      You don't have to actually defeat your opponent if your opponent is convinced he has already lost or simply cannot win.

      by algebrateacher on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 09:05:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hmmm (8+ / 0-)

    Her concern is that the Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins camp concern themselves only with tackling a theology that is itself "decidedly unorthodox" and limited -- they want to knock down a sickly child and then proclaim they've won the heavyweight title.

    I'd argue that Dawkins et. al. are trying to "knock down" a dangerous idea (religion as it now exists). They are not, as far as I can tell, against Armstrong's view of "religion". Therefore Dawkins et. al. are doing the world a favor, and Armstrong, at least from what I can read from your summary may be missing that.

    As for the "other kind of religion" I have felt a sharp difference between Western religion and some Eastern religions. The Western religions always seem to look for a solution from outside (prayer, divine intervention etc). But if you look at say Zen, the whole focus is on "practice". The whole solution comes from within, there is no appeal to an outside force.

    That kind of religion I have no problem with, because it is philosophical, without the "blind faith" that Dawkins and friends are rightly trying to "knock down".

    I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

    by taonow on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:15:12 AM PST

    •  I wish you were correct, but (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jagger, catleigh, marykk, wilderness voice

      videos posted upthread show that Dawkins et al are indeed against what Armstrong is positing.

      Join us in the Grieving Room on Monday evenings to discuss mourning and loss.

      by Dem in the heart of Texas on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:29:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Judaism and Islam are also more concerned (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      catleigh, yaque

      with practice than beliefs. Christianity is unique in possessing an elaborate theology of redemption, or more properly several of them.

      For me, the thing that distinguishes Abrahamic and Far Eastern faith is that Abrahamic faith has historically presumed there is one correct faith and all else is delusion. Eastern religions are not so exclusive. You can choose from Column A and Column B both, like on an old Chinese restaurant menu.

      i can't watch [Obama] speak on tv for more than 5 minutes or else what he's saying starts to make sense to me. It's very scary.

      by Kimball Cross on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:51:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  early Christians were that way (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wilderness voice

      They lived their faith, solutions coming from within.

      The desert fathers and mothers preserved this active faith. Read John Cassian's Conferences.

      Christian meditation,and I promise to only say this once, is truly an amazing way to live not only from your heart but to actually sit in the quiet of God's presence. Some people say it is like floating in the stream that runs between Christ and God. And that stream is the Holy Spirit.

      Meditation is the point where religions can have dialogue because it is a space where there is agreement. Your faith is what makes meditation different for you.

      Read some John Main, or Laurence Freeman or Richard Rohr. You can accuse the Catholic Church of a lot of things, I know, but we along with the Eastern Church have managed to hold on to the mystery of faith. And I have seen just how transformative that can be.

      wccm.org. World Community for Christian Meditation.

      Until we get to a tipping point in compassion for one another and our world, things can not change. That is what the fundamentalist Christians have so wrong. The rapture will happen in our hearts.

      Meditation builds compassion.

      Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. MLK

      by createpeace on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:21:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  no need for god (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dallasdoc, yaque

        My wife the zenish practitioner meditates a lot, but in her practice there is no need for a god. Meditation is great, but why bring god into it?

        I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

        by taonow on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 09:26:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Curious coincidences in life (9+ / 0-)

    The daughter of a friend had her bat mitzvah yesterday and I decided to pick up R. Crumb's illustrated Book of Genesis as a gift.  While browsing around at Borders looking for it, I bumped into the Armstrong book.  I've read her History of God and Islam: A Short History, so it looked like an interesting title.  I'm not certain I'm going to get it, though.

    The book I really want to read is this one:  Terry Eagleton, Reason, Faith and Revolution.

    *Starred Review* Takes one to know one, they say, and Eagleton knows one of the new atheism’s dynamic duo, Christopher Hitchens, rather well, for in Hitchens’ socialist days, Eagleton was a comrade. Still a Marxist and, hence, an atheist, Eagleton scores Hitchens along with his biologist sidekick, Richard Dawkins (sometimes as the composite new atheist "Ditchkins"), for unconscionably misrepresenting theology generally and Christianity, in particular, and for adhering to the shallow liberal belief in progress. He does so from a perspective he says is Marxist but that resembles the classical Greek tragic view that human actions inevitably have both good and bad effects. Thus the Enlightenment, seedbed of modern atheism, the liberal state, and economic individualism—virtually all that is progressive—"has always been its own worst enemy." Far better the communitarian, sometimes communal ethic, which Eagleton sees as the orthodox kernel of Christianity and says Ditchkins ignores, than the surveillance state, wars for corporate profit, degenerate entertainment, and managed news that "progress" has brought us. Eagleton is that rarity, a non-ideological Marxist with a keen understanding of and sympathy for the human condition, not to mention an informed as well as sharp sense of humor. Serious Christians may be his most appreciative readers. --Ray Olson

    Maybe Armstrong would be a good complement...

    Richard "The Dick" Cheney: screwing America since 1969

    by litho on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:16:49 AM PST

    •  Terry Eagleton's book is excellent! (0+ / 0-)

      though i would take issue with the statement that his marxism necessarily implies atheism. Eagleton is a far more sophisticated thinker than the reflexiveness of that statement would permit. also, try Eagleton's review of Dawkins' "The God Delusion" in the London Review of Books, "Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching." it begins with this classic sentence:

      Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.

      enjoy!

      also, eagleton has a masterpiece just recently out called The Trouble With Strangers: A Study of Ethics, which asserts that all ethical theories can be characterized by the three Lacanian psychoanalytic categories of the Imaginary, the Symbolic and the Real, or some combination of the three. truly an extraordinary accomplishment and well worth the read, as is much of Eagleton's oeuvre.

      "A union is a way of getting things done together that you can't get done alone." Utah Phillips

      by poemworld on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 03:41:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sorry (19+ / 0-)

    I'm a nontheist, and as far as I'm concerned, God exists only in the minds of a certain percentage of humans, and nowhere else. Still, my firm belief is that everyone has the right to believe as they wish, and those who 'see' god somewhere, fine, enjoy the moment.  Where believers lose me is when they turn their belief in god into a dogma, a religion, and become zealots, and attempt to impose their beliefs on me and on everyone else.  A believer told me once that I would burn in hell.  I asked him where he was going after death, he said "heaven, of course."  I told him that I'd see him there, then, because spending eternity in his presence would be the worst hell I could imagine.  

    Belief is fine, but why the need to shove it down everyone else's throat?  We saw exactly that yesterday when the Stupak amendment was passed and attached to the House health care bill.

    Ah, for a nontheistic world!  I should pray for one, maybe?

    •  Believers in anything (12+ / 0-)

      who are extreme proselytizers are offensive.  I also find it offensive here when some nontheists, atheists or agnostics use ridicule rather than reasoned debate in engaging those who are people of some faith.  There is no difference for me between the arrogance of faith and the arrogance of non-faith.  Thankfully, there are enough people I know who are outside both camps.

      •  Evangelical atheists waging an agnostic jihad (5+ / 0-)

        The ironies are deafening.

        Governing well shall be the best revenge

        by Bill White on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:36:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Did you ever read (6+ / 0-)

          the Emperor has no clothes? Imagine sitting next to a friend while he has a conversation with some imaginary third-party. Fine no problem right? Then not content to talk to himself, your buddy turns to you and asks you to allow his imaginary friend to start making decisions for the both of you.

          That is how an atheist feels everyday in America. Perhaps the folly of debating reality with someone who is demanding you take their delusion seriously creates a constant sense of aggravation for those of us that didn't get a telephone to God.

          Please forgive us for believing our lying eyes.

          Fail levels: fail, epic, epochal, eternal, Bush

          by abetterperson on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:32:28 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  When an "evangelical atheist" blows up your house (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          chase, Brooke In Seattle, yaque

          then you can talk about "agnostic jihad".

          Until then, this whole argument (and by "this", I mean Armstrong, this diary, and all those falling all over themselves about how Armstrong is the savior of faith against the onslaught of religious and atheist fundamentalists) is bullshit.

          One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

          by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 04:21:41 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Hmmm (11+ / 0-)

        There is no difference for me between the arrogance of faith and the arrogance of non-faith.

        So if there are a few folks that think the world is flat - the flat earth society - we must show deference to their opinion?

        Very simply there is as much evidence for organized religion as there is for the flat earth society (just as the earth appears to be flat to an uninformed layman, though it clearly isn't when viewed from another perspective), so therefore the default position should be that there is no god, until there is evidence to the contrary. This is not arrogance, it is reality.

        I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong- Feynman

        by taonow on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:39:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  thanks for perfectly (5+ / 0-)

          proving my point.  Read something into what I wrote and demonstrate how ridiculous I am.  Your superior position must give you great comfort.

          •  Claiming certainty of an intellectual idea (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            chase, wildweasels, yaque

            in a discussion forum is not the same as religious fundamentalism.

            I doubt anyone would be concerned about religious fundamentalists if all they did was engage in intellectual arrogance.

            Do you never express absolute certainty in any position?

            Do you, or others here, never express disdain or even openly mock conservative beliefs, while expressing certainty that progressivism is a superior worldview?

            It is hypocritical to apply one standard to all ideas except religion, and a different standard to religion.

            No atheist today - not even the "New Atheists" - are, in the name of atheism, blowing shit up, repressing others' freedoms, introducing laws to deny others rights, fighting against equality under the law for all beliefs, or any of the other things religious fundamentalists do in the name of their religious beliefs.

            It is really dishonest to maintain this false equivalency.

            One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

            by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 04:00:36 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  One difference (4+ / 0-)

        the non-faithful "arrogant" are not:

        1. blowing themselves up in your midst;
        1. crashing planes into buildings killing thousands;
        1. murdering abortion doctors;
        1. harassing and intimidating women at family clinics;
        1. refusing to provide condoms, abortion counseling or even basic family planning to those in need in poor, struggling societies without a health care infrastructure;
        1. stoning to death women for the sin of being a rape victim;
        1. seeking to pass legislation outlawing a woman's right to choose;
        1. seeking to pass legislation preventing citizens from appealing to the Supreme Court for redress when the Executive Branch violates the 1st Amendment;
        1. seeking to prevent same-sex couples from marrying - or even enjoying equal legal rights without the word "marriage";
        1. violating the Constitution and military code by proselytizing and using rank to pressure subordinates to pray and attend evangelizing sessions;
        1. preventing women from participating in leadership positions in our organizations;
        1. refusing to vote for thos who don't share our beliefs.

        (oh, wait, that's 12 differences right there, and I could clearly go on for a couple hundred more)

        Other than that, you're exactly right - it's hard to see any daylight between religious fundamentalists and atheist "fundamentalists."

        One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

        by RandomActsOfReason on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 03:57:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Muddled Middle Claptrap (16+ / 1-)

    As with almost all of Armstrong's work, there's next to no actual substance here.  Skip it.

  •  lost art (10+ / 0-)

    We lost the art of interpreting the old tales of gods walking the earth, dead men striding out of tombs, or seas parting miraculously.

    What a loss! We could spend our time just as productively musing about unicorns.

    Dream, that's the thing to do (Johnny Mercer)

    by plankbob on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:21:39 AM PST

  •  Ridiculous gobbledygook. (16+ / 0-)

    And the commenters that take her to task over her criticisms of Dawkins, et. al. are completely correct.
    There are vanishingly few people who believe the rarefied, empty nonsense about God.
    People in this country believe in a personal God who intervenes in daily affairs; many of them believe in angels and demons; most believe in a literal heaven and hell.
    The sad contingent which she represents consists of intelligent educated people who can't believe a word the bible says, but still want to believe something.

    •  The most amazing (17+ / 0-)

      overstatement and simplistic analysis I've read so far.  I'm guessing you've never read any of Armstrongs books -- and in particular, this one.  

      •  I don't need to read more than 3 words about (8+ / 0-)

        the tooth fairy---or god.
        "There is none".
        I know that man tends to spin theories in inverse proportion to the amount of available evidence.
        There is simply no evidence at all for a god of any kind; correspondingly, the verbiage on the subject approaches the infinite.

        Leaving aside our basic disagreement, will you agree with me that she is talking about a kind of intellectualized faith which really hardly exists?
        I don't see the point. Most Christians believe in a personal God. One cannot be Catholic without professing to believe in a god who intervenes materially in the world. Really, what is the point of her book?

        •  Do you exert (6+ / 0-)

          this much effort with Santa Claus or the easter bunny?

          I doubt it... which begs the question of why a deity you are certain does not exist evokes such a need to work so hard at declaring it's nonexistence...

          •  When you start claiming that Santa Claus (7+ / 0-)

            is real, I'll tell you the truth about that also.

          •  When belief in Santa Clause motivates the murder (9+ / 0-)

            millions I, personally, would rail against it just as much.

            What a puerile, oft-destroyed argument you present.

            •  Stalin was religious? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Jagger
            •  speaking of (3+ / 0-)

              oft destroyed, puerile arguments... have you counted the number killed by totalitarian regimes that eschewed God and religion? The number of people killed where belief in God was not a motivating factor?

              The million in Rwanda in 3 months? The 2.2 million in Cambodia? The Soviet Union under Stalin?

              By your logic, your chosen belief system is equally suspect... and yes, believing there is no god is a belief system.

              •  You mean by the twisted, incorrect, fallacious (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                randorider, yaque

                logic you and gchaucer2 present. It's not my logic, but your own intellectually flaccid strawman version of it.

                Educate yourself; you look foolish.

              •  Actually, you haven't understood the point (5+ / 0-)

                Whether or not atheism was behind Stalin's murderousness, it's fair to say that what Stalin believed had horrific consequences. So it's legitimate to discuss whether atheism was part of his motivation (I'll leave it to others to refute the point). Likewise, there is no question at all that religious beliefs have motivated political leader's massacre's. The point is that Santa Claus didn't motivate anyone to do anything except lie to his or her parents.

                By the way, as a historical aside, the bloodiest civil war  of the 19th century, with a death toll of 10-20 million, was started by a Christian zealot over his beliefs.
                Did you know about this war?

                •  The (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  yaque

                  taiping rebellion was started by a "christian zealot" Hong Xiuquan... who was, at best, delusional; he believed himself divine and deemed his 'kingdom ' heaven. Whether he started the war "over his beliefs" is arguable...

                  Despite that, Mao... despite his distate of Christianity, viewed Hong as a hero...

                •  This is something that comes up often (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Brooke In Seattle, yaque

                  and is raised by both sides in this debate.  It never makes sense to me, at least in the context of a discussion of the existence of god(s) or the rationality of belief.

                  Here's my problem with it: suppose theism is "better" than atheism.  Suppose it leads to fewer tyrants, to more charity, to a better world.  I don't personally believe that to be the case, but I can certainly accept the possibility that theism is sociologically preferable.

                  Does that have any bearing whatsoever on whether or not it's true?

                  Is your argument that good things are necessarily true?  Or, in the opposite direction, is your argument that we should embrace things that are good, even if there's no rational basis for believing them?

                  I'm not trying to tell you you're wrong -- I'd love to see a case made for either of those alternatives -- but so often people seem to believe that the equivalence of truth and goodness is self-evident, and I don't think that's the case.

                  •  I would argue that false beliefs are inherently (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    yaque

                    dangerous, because adherence to them makes people less rational. The more consequential the false belief, the more of a problem there is.

                  •  No bearing whatsoever; but that wasn't my point. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    yaque

                    The question was specifically "why not rail against belief in Santa as much as against belief in God?"

                    My answer was specifically in response to that narrow question.

                    Your broader question presents various interesting points of discussion that you yourself note are orthogonal to the point I addressed (with your semi-rhetorical question regarding whether the "betterness" of atheism vs. theism is relevant to the truth value of either). It's something I didn't address, however, and I'd further comment that in discussions of this sort in my experience it is far more likely that defenders of theism raise the points you question first and more frequently. Atheists tend to focus more narrowly on the question of whether "god exists" has any meaningful truth value and are generally "forced" to defend against non sequitirs such as "why do spend so much time talking about something you don't think exists?" when theists resort to such fallacious garbage.

                    •  Hmm, I may have responded to the wrong comment. (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      yaque

                      But thanks for answering.  I think you're right about way theists and atheists tend to frame the discussion.  The question of why non-theists spend so much time and energy "attacking" magical thinking (when in reality they are, of course, simply defending themselves from it) always strikes me as profoundly silly.

              •  belief system (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                BoringDem, Brooke In Seattle

                "believing there is no god is a belief system."

                Not necessarily.  The atheist does not believe in god.  The non-theist simply realizes there is no god to not believe in.  There's a difference.  As Edward Abbey once wrote, "Beyond atheism, non-theism."  I find no argument there.

              •  Total Bullshit (3+ / 0-)

                I seek to understand and know that I may not have the lnowledge or tools to understand.

                I don't default to mystery, i.e., superstition and warm feelings.

                I don't believe.  I KNOW this.

                This machine kills fascists!

                by Zotz on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:42:39 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  I thought about adding... (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              randallt, Jagger, catleigh

              a note about the deleterious effects of religion -- something that Armstrong acknowledges and discusses -- if only to get it out of the way.

              Short form version: yes, religion has certainly been associated with many tragedies throughout history. So has patriotism, and commercialism, and nearly everything other principle or idea you can name. Very few events happen for a single reason (neither the Crusades nor the Inquisition were purely, or even chiefly about religion for those who started them). And tragedy certainly occurs for reasons that have very little to do with religion.

              If you want to start toting up the numbers killed in wars where now cataloged as religious conflicts vs those not viewed as religious conflicts, I don't think the results are going to fall as a conviction of religion as the primary force of evil in the world.

              •  Who said anything about primary force of evil? (3+ / 0-)

                I was comparing belief in god--which has unarguably been the basis for murdering millions of people--to belief in Santa Claus, and the reasons for arguing against one as opposed to the other.

                What gchaucer, awesumtenor, and apparently now you have done is pretend I was making a claim that I did not in fact make. It's a common (tired) and debunked (frequently) response to my argument (which has also been made countless times--most often to counter the "why don't you rail against Santa Clause" family of arguments).

          •  You Comparison Is Odd (4+ / 0-)

            Few people, if any, are willing to become so incredibly angry at the notion that other folks don't believe in Santa or Mr. Bunny nor are they willing to go to extremes for their faith in the existence of such. I've seen my atheism turn people's expressions suddenly negative as if I am an affront to their ideas of how "real" people should act and think. No matter how many times I state that it's not my goal or intention to abolish religion, these few religious folks in my circle imagine my lack of belief as a personal assault on them.

            I don't believe in a god or many gods for one important reason -- I have yet to see proof of any supernatural occurrences that cannot be explained away. If some evidence of the existence of a supernatural being can be shown, anything at all, then I will acknowledge that such exists.

            The Road to 2010: More Democrats. Better Democrats.

            by Splicer on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:56:11 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  and how does this reaction differ (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Jagger, catleigh, Splicer

              from what we see in this thread and others when theism is mentioned... or perhaps the anger at the notion that other folks believe in God has been lost on you... the same reactions you have seen to your atheism, I have seen to my theism... and no matter how many times I state it's not my goal to force my theism on anyone people who eschew theism imagine my belief as a personal assault on them...

              Why you choose to disbelieve in God is none of my business and I am not trying to convert, convince or convict you of anything... so given that why would you take offense at my choosing to believe when my believing is not and never has been about you?

              •  Religion is personal (3+ / 0-)

                My atheism is mine and mine alone. I don't preach it nor do I give a damn who is or is not on "my side". When I was a practicing Christian (Orthodox), my belief was mine. I read the Bible for me. I went to church for me. I believed for me. It was not my intention to make a show or production out of my faith and now have no desire to make a show out of my lack thereof. It is a personal choice for me. I am disgusted by religious folks, whether evangelicals, militants or The Pope, who desire to use their faith as a bludgeon against behaviors they personally don't like and as a way to control people for their own agendas. I don't agree with mocking people for being religious but those that put on a religious sideshow so publicly cannot then claim that everyone else should look away and not comment.

                The Road to 2010: More Democrats. Better Democrats.

                by Splicer on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:17:48 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I agree with all you have said here (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Jagger

                  but the behavior you decry here is manifest by theists and atheists; the comments in this diary and many others makes that abundantly clear. The choice made by those who choose to believe is their business as much as your choice to not believe is yours... and they should not have to be called ignorant, gullible, stupid, delusional etc by those who choose to differ with their perspective.

                  They also should not have to fight off attacks on their belief based on the biases of those who eschew said belief.

                  If I were to attack someone's atheism, that one would have every right to swing back at me... but he doesn't have the right to enact a philosophical Bush Doctrine where a preemptive attack is made once it is determined that I am a theist and then said preemptive attack rationalized by voicing the presumption that it was only a matter of time before I would have attacked him.

                  I know atheists who are assholes; I also know atheists for whom I have great respect and who I count as dear friends. I know theists that fall into both categories also. There is no grouping, nationality, ethnicity or religious ideology that is all good or all bad corporately. Each person has to be viewed based on his out merit or detriment rather than arbitrarily determining who or what they are based on how one chooses to categorize them.

                  That is the essence of Dr King's dream that one be judged not by the color of his skin... or the country of his origin.. or the nature of his belief or gender or sexuality... but by the content of his character... but if one is going to make presumptions based on any of the aforementioned categories he will never be in a position to know the content of one's character and in lieu of what is right, he will choose to do what is easy.

            •  NDE (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              randallt, wilderness voice

              I don't believe in a god or many gods for one important reason -- I have yet to see proof of any supernatural occurrences that cannot be explained away.

              I see you haven't looked at near death experiences yet.  NDE's are certainly an open question without any current scientific explanation-and certainly not explained away.

              •  With the balance of chems in the brain (3+ / 0-)

                I suspect that the human body dying does funny things in those moments before death occurs. Who knows exactly what chemicals are being released in the brain that might cause hallucinations?

                The Road to 2010: More Democrats. Better Democrats.

                by Splicer on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:20:58 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  The tactic is to (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Jagger, yaque

                dismiss subjective experience if it contradicts one's personal faith, and credit subjective experience if it confirms one's personal faith. Your experiences are "hallucination," theirs are "Absolute Truth."

              •  Ridiculous (3+ / 0-)

                I've had one. I remember the hallucinations to which you refer (I was very young), the tunnel of light, and then absolute nothingness occurred. That is, until the doctor, thanks be to science, was able to inject me with adrenalin and restart my heart. The near death experience is totally a function of brain chemistry as the body begins to fail to support it.

                Life isn't a battle between good and evil, it's a battle between signal and noise.

                by ChemBob on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 09:56:12 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Wrong (0+ / 0-)

                  The near death experience is totally a function of brain chemistry as the body begins to fail to support it.

                  You are completely wrong.  There are many theories, none confirmed and absolutely no consensus.  

                  Show us any theory tested and proved to explain the NDE?  Show the consensus for this theory??????

                  •  There have been recent experiments (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    BoringDem, yaque

                    where they have electrically (wait, I think it was magnetically) stimulated subjects' brains. Every one of them visualized themselves standing behind their own bodies and seeing themselves. I don't recall the details, but you could probably google it.

                    Are you truly so frightened by there being no afterlife? It will be no different than it was before you were born, except that people who remain will remember you.

                    Life isn't a battle between good and evil, it's a battle between signal and noise.

                    by ChemBob on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 10:20:59 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Ummmm.... (0+ / 0-)

                      where they have electrically (wait, I think it was magnetically) stimulated subjects' brains. Every one of them visualized themselves standing behind their own bodies and seeing themselves.

                      What does that have to do with a coherent theory explaining NDEs?

                      Are you truly so frightened by there being no afterlife? It will be no different than it was before you were born, except that people who remain will remember you.

                      What makes you think I am afraid of death?  

                      •  Because out of body experiences (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        yaque

                        are one of the common recurring themes in NDEs. I'm just pointing out that one of those types of experiences can be brought on via external stimulation of live subjects' brains. I just assumed you were afraid of death due to your insistence on NDEs being separate brain chemistry. It seemed like wishful thinking.

                        Life isn't a battle between good and evil, it's a battle between signal and noise.

                        by ChemBob on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 11:23:07 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Triggers (0+ / 0-)

                          Because out of body experiences are one of the common recurring themes in NDEs. I'm just pointing out that one of those types of experiences can be brought on via external stimulation of live subjects' brains.

                          It is fairly obvious that physical triggers are necessary to experience an NDE.  Finding those triggers are good.  

                          However the real question is whether the NDE experience of entering a new existence is reality or not.  I have no idea how to prove or disprove that very subjective experience.  I don't think anyone knows how to approach the problem.  It may not be solveable.

                        •  Assumption (0+ / 0-)

                          I just assumed you were afraid of death due to your insistence on NDEs being separate brain chemistry. It seemed like wishful thinking.

                          That is a strange assumption.

                  •  Is there a scientific theory that the NDE (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Fixed Point Theorem, yaque

                    represents the experience of a gateway to another world? If not, then how significant are the differences in explanations.
                    Also, I'm aware that there are some interesting claims about OBE's involving seemingly impossible explanations; however, I think the number of those cases is quite small. Human error in reporting observations or outright fraud are the likely explanations of those cases.

                    •  None that I know of.. (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      yaque

                      represents the experience of a gateway to another world? If not, then how significant are the differences in explanations.

                      As far as I know, there are no theories dealing with validation of any transcendental experiences associated with the NDE.  Those experiences are impossible to confirm or deny.  

                      •  So what are you looking for in a "coherent" (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        yaque

                        theory of NDE's? Honestly, I have no idea what you mean by the phrase. NDE's could be a meaningless side effect of some neurochemistry. Would that be a coherent enough explanation for you?

                        •  Sorry, no (0+ / 0-)

                          Would that be a coherent enough explanation for you

                          No.

                          Coherent theory should cover all the commonalities of an NDE.  It needs to be watertight.  None come even close to covering all the bases.  And testing is very problematic on the subjective elements of the experience.

                          Besides until we have a ironclad understanding of the origin of consciousness, I think we are wasting our time anyway.  Unfortunately, we are not remotely close to pinning down the origins of consciousness.

                          We don't have the foundation in place to approach the problem of solving the NDE.

                          So something superficial such as assuming neurochemistry is not going to satisfy anyone interested in a serious explanation of the NDE.

              •  NDE (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                yaque

                It makes far more sense to associate NDE's with aberrant neuronal activity resulting from physiological changes implicit in the death process than it does to associate them with (or use them to imply the existence of) a non-existent god.

                Science v. mythology.

        •  The point: to provide a patina of intellectual (2+ / 0-)

          respectability to, e.g., commenters in this diary such as gchaucer2, without actually providing any intellectual substance to whatever debate they pretend to be engaged in.

        •  I need make no comment ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wilderness voice

          other than to refer to my sig line.  

          "To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the need for thought." -H Poincare

          by Glinda on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:19:48 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Most people have no idea... (13+ / 0-)

      how most technology works, but are willing to allow it into their lives, to advocate for how it should be regulated, and to "evangelize" others to use it as they do.  

      Should we be equally dismissive of technical journals because far more people are concerned with which version of Scrabble they can play on Facebook?

      •  Extremely good point! n/t (0+ / 0-)
      •  Ridiculous point. Technical journals (5+ / 0-)

        make a material difference in people's lives, and are concerned with measurable or calculatable phenomena. No matter what someone like Armstrong writes, God retains the same degree of non-existence.

        •  Hmm. So to extrapolate, (5+ / 0-)

          a moral code of ethics based on certain religious tenets when walked and not just talked makes no material difference in people's lives.

          Giant disconnect in your thinking here.

          "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." ML King

          by TheWesternSun on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:06:52 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Living a life where actions have consequences, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Jagger, antiapollon

            where it is better to extend kindness and respect towards other people than not, where physical reality is interrelated on a massive, incomprehensible level- therefore, again, actions have consequences, where human beings should assess their roles and behaviors...

            Well, that just seems logical to me and a good place to start considering what is moral and what is ethical.

            One extremist position would say these concepts are wiped away with a single belief.  Another extremist position would say the opposite.

            You don't have to actually defeat your opponent if your opponent is convinced he has already lost or simply cannot win.

            by algebrateacher on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 09:23:31 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Interesting logic (0+ / 0-)

              Upon what axioms have you derived those morals?  And what end purpose do they serve?  What is humankind's end in life, and upon what truths should we build it?

              It may seem reasonable to you because it is part of the culture that you are surrounded by, not because you came to those conclusions independently.  This doesn't invalidate it, but it's hardly a "logical" conclusion.

              •  Morality is biological and ingrained. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                yaque

                Explanations are really beside the point.
                I am NOT saying that there is  no morality, btw---I thought you would need that disclaimer.

                •  Oh, do provide the evidence (0+ / 0-)

                  Because that is a very radical statement you just said, sir.  To my knowledge, it is quite outside of contemporary scientific thought.

                  Do any of you ardent atheists who love science so much ever bother to, you know, read science?  Criminy.

                  •  Um, no it's not. In fact, in fact, saying that (0+ / 0-)

                    morality does not have a biological basis or component is as ridiculous as saying the same about language.

                    •  That's very different than saying it's ingrained. (0+ / 0-)

                      I could very easily argue that humans are adapted to adopt religion and pursue morality through it.  It's certainly possible, but ungermaine to the question at hand, which is what logical basis morality springs from.

                      For what it's worth, I used this statement as a punching bag in a reply elsewhere in this topic.  Reading this, I may have misinterpreted you.  If so, my bad.

        •  Only ridiculous (4+ / 0-)

          if you don't believe that religious practices make no difference in people's lives.

          •  Or, another point of view: (4+ / 0-)

            How did the faith of Jesus come to be known as pro-rich, pro-war, and pro-American?   ~Jim Wallis, author, unofficial spokesperson for the evangelical left in America and head of the social justice organisation Sojourners/Call to Renewal; 2006

          •  Religious practice has improved when the (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            yaque

            belief systems improved---for example, when people stopped believing that black people are children of Satan. That is, religious practice becomes more humane when religious leaders don't teach falsehoods about the world. The tenets of theology itself don't matter, unless religious people decide to start a war over them.
            So if Armstrong has influence that draws fundamentalists to a more rational worldview, that would be great; however, that result really is unrelated to her ideas of religious practice. There are PLENTY of people with completely crazy religious ideas who practice religion very earnestly and humbly.

      •  I also don't see why this diary was frontpaged. (0+ / 0-)

        I see  no connection between this diary and the mission of DK.

      •  Devilstower, I'm really (6+ / 0-)

        surprised to see you, of all people, making such a specious point and comparison between technical journals and religious belief.  Boringdem's point, expressed a little indelicately, is that Armstrong's picture of God is just not representative of what most people in the United States believe.  Most people believe that religion is about something far more than "meaning".  They really do believe in apocalyptic policies, demons, angels, a wrathful god, creationism, etc., etc., etc..  The problem with arguments like Armstrong is not that they are nice, pretty little pictures, but that they present religion as being something that it is not and muddy the debate, making it far more difficult to combat these incredibly harmful superstitions.

        •  why and how is Armstrong obligated to (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          catleigh, wilderness voice

          represent "God" as a "sunday school idol"-simply because some others believe so?
          By that logic,all music should be nursery rhymes, because some think it so.

          Necessity is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.-- Wm.Pitt the Younger

          by JeffSCinNY on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:31:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Armstrong is making (4+ / 0-)

            substantial claims about what religion is, ignoring the real facts about reigning religious beliefs and religious history.  That's why.  Clearly she's writing this book to persuade others.  Clearly she's making an intervention in reigning debates.  Oh, and incidentally, the issue here isn't one of what people "believe" but what they do based on these beliefs.  That's what makes her line of argument so obnoxious.  She's making claims like "religion is just about meaning", while meanwhile all sorts of legislation is being driven through that severely impacts people's lives, while sons and daughters are getting kicked out of homes because they're gay, while people are sitting around wondering whether Obama is the anti-christ and they should take action, etc.  I welcome Armstrong trying to change religion, but I will not for a moment accept the thesis that somehow mainstream religion has been mischaracterized or that it has been the sunshine and flowers that she portrays it as.

            •  Actually... (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JeffSCinNY, wilderness voice, BlueOak

              "religion is just about meaning" would be the exact opposite of her argument.  Her position is that religion is all about what you do, and that doctrinal beliefs are valuable only to the extent that they shape action.

              •  Her point is that those (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                yaque

                practices are ways in which we produce meaning.  The point still stands, however, that this is an idiosyncratic and non-representative concept of what religion actually is and how it functions in our world.

            •  Hrm. (0+ / 0-)

              I read Armstrong as identifying a set of positive traits of religious practice, widely writ.  She does not restrict religion to only those aspects, but she does imply (and I would agree) that most of what we in the anglo-american world think of as "religion" shares these traits.  There's an implicit normative argument that religion should focus on those aspects, and an explicit rejection of fundamentalist thought concerning them.

              For this conversation, though, I would consider it a roaring success if Armstrong managed to get the argument here and at the international level out of silly discussions about the existence of a deity and into conversations about the relative merits or lack thereof of religious practice.  To me, that's not just an interesting conversation, it's THE conversation to have between atheists and practitioners of religion.  

              However, around here, it's the atheists who keep going back to existence and unicorns and Santa Claus.  Which is really frustrating.

    •  Help! I'm vanishing! (0+ / 0-)

      Your mother's ugly too.

      Thank you for your contribution to this discussion.

  •  Critique reasonable, solution silly (6+ / 0-)

    One thing I like about this place is that all sort of oddities show up when you least expect it. Like trenchant, thoughtful reviews of books. Thanks so much for such a good read!

    But I don’t understand the title. If Armstrong calls her book a “case for God” how can she say “no, I’m not talking about practical discipline, not belief?” I mean, I like the emphasis on practice, because I think that that dimension of religion is often forgotten in the post-Protestant emphasis on confessing belief and on scripture. But surely there are practices such as fighting Crusades or evangelizing non-believers that argue against “God” practices over other ones. By saying “God” it seems to short-circuit her case.

    If she is arguing that in the distinction between facts and values, saying we’ve stopped being able to talk about values because we mistakenly think we can derive them from facts, then I’m with her to some extent. But why go back to the “God” values that are historically so closely tied to a view that we don’t need to develop our own thinking about values, but instead should accept the ones the clergy tell us come from “God”? Even if you want to implicate scientists as modern clergymen in that sense, surely there are other non-scientific sources of value than religion?

    "Stare at the monster: remark/ How difficult it is to define just what/ Amounts to monstrosity in that/ Very ordinary appearance." - Ted Hughes

    by MarkC on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:26:23 AM PST

    •  non-scientific sources of value (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      yaque

      Good construction there.  The question remains, what are those source?  And are they any different than those that are tried in the totality of the world's religions?

      Science does not produce values, or ethics, or morals, or whatever -- I discovered this the hard way.  So in the question of how we should live our life, how do we make that decisions?  And how do we propagate and encourage those values that we find trenchant and meaningful?  And how, then, does that differ from how "religion" (a generalized construct verging on meaninglessness, but let's go with it) attempts to answer those questions?

  •  Thin line between religion and crack (16+ / 0-)

    One of the chief issues that Dawkins and Hitchens bring up is that religion is a poor psychological substitute for an inability to explain something.  It is the crack, or high-fructose corn syrup, of our philosophical existence.  In other words, sugar can be a wonderful complement to our diet, if taken lightly.  If it becomes the center of our daily lives, we lose the ability to exercise, we are constantly crashing, and we ultimately die early from preventable disease.  So is religion.  Most people cannot be counted on to separate "wonderful complement" from "dying early", and we have lost so much in our short history from focusing on the ethereal.  

    Remember that what was sacred was what was separated - the mythos.  These were the things that could not be explained.  Yes, logos has reclaimed much of what was mythos back to reality.  Up until very recently, there was very little that was truly logos and a whole lot that was mythos.  That ratio has been flipped now - a tremendous amount that used to be considered downright holy is mundane and explained now.  Or, we know it is explainable if we haven't found the complete path to do that yet - this is the concept of a mechanistic universe, as contrasted with a Cartersian dualist plane where there is a separation between the real and what a separate mind has domain over.  It is imperative that anyone who posits a role for spiritualism in our lives does not commit Cartesian dualism, because it is in that dualism that we find excuses.  Where we find excuses, we find a reason not to engage, in our daily lives, and in the big problems of our world and our cultures.  Not engaging is the ultimate "sin", because it holds us back from our potential.  

    This is the legitimate problem that Dawkins, et al., have with religion in our society - we have held ourselves back because we refuse to embrace our potential.  And we do this because we think some God wants it that way.  In the financial world, we call that capital waste, and it is an economic sin to commit such waste (the "free" market system is set up to institutionally prevent such waste).  Why is it not a sociocultural sin to commit such philosophical waste?  Dawkins has very logically concluded that it basically too dangerous to waste time in religion, because it ruins us.  It is the methamphetamine of society.  One needs to confront the cultural waste that religion causes before wasting time in it, and so far, there is no redeemable path to do that.

  •  There is no spirituality (18+ / 0-)

    without personal experience, and no personal experience (at least for most of us) without practice.  The spirituality of experience -- finding out what happens when you meditate, learn a skill in a truly intense way, contemplate a koan, undergo a ritual, perform a pilgrimage, engage in a conversation with someone further along the way, etc. etc. etc. -- is the only spirituality that isn't, in its essence, a lie.  Following rules out of books is just following rules out of books.  It's not spirituality.

    'Tao' means 'way,' i.e. a series of actions.  Someone who tells you what God is or wants is not a spiritual teacher.  The only true spiritual teacher is one who teaches you the techniques of finding out what God is for yourself.  The former controls, and promotes fear; the latter empowers, and promotes love.

    Understanding that only the spirituality of experience counts settled all my own spiritual questions in one shot.  I was raised Dawkins-style, by fundamentalist atheists, and I was left emotionally damaged by my parents' denial and vilification of my own nascent spirituality.  At the same time, the Christianity I heard touted around me seemed doctrinaire to the point of stupidity.  I have to thank my parents for one thing: they were members of the Unitarian Church, which basically taught me the sacrosanctness of total religious freedom.

    This book sounds absolutely awesome.  And your review of it is excellent, Devilstower.  I frankly thought your eyes were completely closed to anything spiritual at all -- so many intelligent people throw the baby out with the bathwater, for which Christianity itself is partly at fault -- and it's reassuring to find out you think the way you reveal here.

  •  Think I will stick with The God Delusion (16+ / 0-)

    With regards to logos/mythos it is clear which side is winning the argument logos is not only concerned with building aqueducts now it encompasses fantastic sciences which have proven where we came from, the nature of the world, even isolated the part of the brain that creates the concept of "God".

    Mythos was useful in ancient times in creating stories to explain and explore the concepts of the unexplainable but as logos gradually answers these questions the usefulness of mythos will become irrelevant.

    Non Violence is fine... so long as it works. - Malcolm X

    by Dr Marcos on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:28:29 AM PST

    •  Sorry Marcos. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jagger, catleigh, Dr Marcos

      If I understand what Armstrong means when she speaks of mythos, it includes not only ancient myths but also all creative arts, poetry, music, singing, sculpture, painting, graphic design, the writing of novels or plays -- all of that.

      i can't watch [Obama] speak on tv for more than 5 minutes or else what he's saying starts to make sense to me. It's very scary.

      by Kimball Cross on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:57:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, yes . . . BUT (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brooke In Seattle, yaque, Dr Marcos

        all creative arts, poetry, music, singing, sculpture, painting, graphic design, the writing of novels or plays -- all of that.

        All of that is also explainable by science.  All human emotions and thoughts are explainable by the electro-chemical processes within our bodies.  It doesn't lessen the awe, it merely removes the tissue=paper wrapping.

        "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

        by bobdevo on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 07:38:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  The error here (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Devilstower, Jagger, catleigh

      ...is seeing mythos and logos as being in opposition, or mutually exclusive.  They aren't.

      •  Good point Karen (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Alumbrados, Karen Wehrstein

        I'll concede that at the end of the day both forms of thought seek to bring understanding to our existence. One through logic and science and one through belief systems/philosophical thought and morality.

        You are right I can also see the importance of both but when it comes to defining my belief structure I would lean heavily towards the side which is backed up by concrete facts, while appreciating that it has not yet provided answers to all the deep questions that mythos raises.

        Non Violence is fine... so long as it works. - Malcolm X

        by Dr Marcos on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 08:29:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Karen Armstrong on TED video (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Devilstower, bara, marykk, createpeace

    She talks about some of the same stuff as in the reviewed book!

    http://www.ted.com/...

  •  Why Don't we just make Daily Kos (6+ / 1-)

    Bible study class on Sundays and get it the fuck over with?

    At least then those of us who come here to read the same 500 words in this diary dedicated to something worthwhile like looking ahead to the Senate vote on healthcare can accept that it's no longer the website we signed on to and just go somewhere else on that day.

    "Settle down there, Kossacks. If you're not careful you could break AHIP"

    by Detroit Mark on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:32:44 AM PST

  •  I think (6+ / 0-)

    I intend to start reading Karen Armstrong.

    Hope is a good thing--maybe the best of things--and no good thing ever dies.

    by Gemina13 on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:33:14 AM PST

  •  Anyone want to (0+ / 0-)

    walk up to the liberal Democratic mayor of my city & knock him for being a Roman Catholic?

    "Only poets know how many poems end up as pies."

    by DJ Rix on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:41:48 AM PST

  •  I love Karen Armstrong's works. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffSCinNY, catleigh, J Edward

    One of the earlier ones, The Battle for God, is also very good. I highly recommend it.

    i can't watch [Obama] speak on tv for more than 5 minutes or else what he's saying starts to make sense to me. It's very scary.

    by Kimball Cross on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:41:49 AM PST

  •  Wow, perhaps that explains (6+ / 0-)

    my own case--I'm an atheist who practices Wicca, because I need mythos.  Great diary, Devilstower, and thank you for your thoughtful analysis.  Really enjoyed this!

    Equal "rites" for ALL Americans!

    by Diana in NoVa on Sun Nov 08, 2009 at 06:45:46 AM PST

  •  Good Post Devilstower, Lets Hope This Approach To (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffSCinNY

    the past can apply with equal effect to the future, because as you know "time keeps on slipping slipping slipping into the future".

  •  Like Armstrong. (6+ / 0-)

    I like her general line of thought. However, there are other quite satisfactory approaches to the mythos that do not resort to God. Let's say that most simply human processes, from the inner self to law to sociology are simply not amenable to empirical methods. That is, a scientific approach can kind of nibble around the edges, but not really get at anything central. (sorry, behavioral sciences).  What then? Faith and theology provide some answers, but so does Humanism.  In a formal way, i mean things like the Stoicism of Seneca and Cicero.  More broadly, I mean the general scope of the humanities: History, Literature and Philosophy. The purpose of the Humanities is to make sense of the human condition.  I find classical Humanism enormously rewarding, both rationally and spiritually.  Consequently, like La Place I have no need of a God hypothesis .  

    •  I think Armstrong... (4+ / 0-)

      would agree with you completely. A good deal of this book is spent on the study of Greek rationalism and stoicism.

      The "Socratic dialog" where you are forced to defend your own beliefs (in a friendly, non-combative manner) gets as much ink as any concept in the book.  She talks about it with such fondness, I think she'd like to make it the national sport.

    •  I completely disagree with that view. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      yaque

      And I suspect, with Armstrong, if she really would agree with that.

      I think you need to be careful about how much you limit the scope of science. It's true that right now, we can't explain a lot of these things scientifically, but that's really just because science hasn't gotten there yet. I don't believe there is any fundamental reason why science won't eventually produce good explanations for most of the phenomena involved with the inner self, law, and sociology. They might not be totally amenable to PRESENT empirical methods, but that just means that no one has yet been clever enough to figure out a way to apply more rigor. It doesn't mean that there is something fundamentally inaccessible to science there.

      Many barriers that people thought would never be explained have fallen before the onslaught of science. I wouldn't bet against the scientific method in those areas, either.

  •  Saving Jesus from the Church (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    randallt, catleigh

    Book with a similar theme about practice as the key to religion. Reading this in a bible study and leads to many interesting conversations.

  •  To me, it seems that this is my def of atheism (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lockewasright, yaque

    So, let me understand, there is no literal God.  We find our spiritual or 'religious' attainment through repetetive practices that ultimately allow one a unconscious enlightenment.  hmmm.  Sounds anti-21st century religion to me.  Buddism?  Consciousness streaming partnered with strict adherence to real life morals and ethics.  Sounds like fascinating reading.  Thanks for the diary Blutodog!

  •  Armstrong is so silly (10+ / 0-)

    Atheists don't think they are in total possession of the truth.  There could be a god, but there is just as much a chance of their being a god as a magical invisible giant spaghetti monsters.  And you can't present more facts to say that god is more likely to exist than the spaghetti monsters.

    Difference between free thinking atheists and religious people is religious people believe in things that can't be proven with facts, whereas atheists choose to believe in things they can prove factually.  Now tell me who is more rational.

    Hitchens wants to destroy religion because of all the harm it has done to our society.  That is the prime reason why he is antitheist.  And he is right.

    Atheists and antitheists like Hitchens have this crazy notion that you should be able to factually prove your arguments.  Crazy I know.  Religious people can't prove their arguments so they say that facts and science doesn't apply to them.  One huge cop out.

    Armstrong is in denial just like the rest of them.