This is a blog to discuss philosophy, chess, politics,
C. S. Lewis, or whatever it is that I'm in the mood to discuss.
People who write posts like that, and those who circulate them, really just demonstrate that their not capable of nor interested in nuanced thinking.Welcome to the intellectual low ground. It's amazing how little you can see from there.
Wow, was that ever funny. And so true! Anyone offended by this "just can't handle the truth."
"not capable of nor interested in nuanced thinking."What nuanced thinking should people engage in when dealing with someone who calls religious people faith-heads? Who compares religion to smallpox? Who thinks that religion is worse than rape? Who thinks it should be illegal to teach children about God?Posts like those do demonstrate a lack of capability/interest in nuanced thinking. They do demonstrate the intellectual low ground. It's just that they demonstrate it in the New Atheist leaders being quoted.
I'm having trouble spotting the nuances in the statements quoted. They have the nuanced character of a slegdehammer.
I already know Victor knows this, but since the only other atheists who have commented so far agree with the so-called 'new atheists,' I want to add my own comment. There are many atheists who disagree with the so-called 'new atheists' about such things and, frankly, consider such statements to be an embarrassment. But we aren't nearly as vocal as these other atheists. You're unlikely to find us at a Reason Rally. We don't get all offended if someone says "God bless you" after we sneeze. We don't really care that "God" appears on our money. And so forth. We try to be a bit more pragmatic about things. (Some of us even think there is some evidence for God, but it's counterbalanced or even outweighed by other evidence against God. But that's a story for another day.)
Congratulations, Jeff, on flunking the Gnu test.
Legion: ""Who compares religion to smallpox? Who thinks that religion is worse than rape?"Yeah, this is exactly what I mean. Here is what Harris said, in an interview: "I can be even more inflammatory than that. If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion. I think more people are dying as a result of our religious myths than as a result of any other ideology. I would not say that all human conflict is born of religion or religious differences, but for the human community to be fractured on the basis of religious doctrines that are fundamentally incompatible, in an age when nuclear weapons are proliferating, is a terrifying scenario. I think we do the world a disservice when we suggest that religions are generally benign and not fundamentally divisive."What requires nuance is:- Seeing that Harris is discussing ideas ("If I could wave a magic wand...") and not practical measures.- Seeing that Harris believes (arguable) that religion causes more death than any other ideology- Seeing that Harris believes (arguable) that the clash of religions is the most probable reason for nuclear annihilation- Understanding that Harris probably feels that murder is worse than rape.If the religious need a safe space to be free of such talk, then they share more with today's leftists than I had first imagined.
The problem is that Harris completely ignores the good things about "religion". (I use quotes because the term is so broad an umbrella as to be meaningless in any real sense.) In fact, he conveniently sweeps the good that religion does under the rug by declaring it to be "bad reasons" to do good, because there are "better reasons" to do good. In other words, it is literally impossible for a good thing to come from religion according to Sam Harris. Thus, we can conclude reasonably that he is extremely close-minded on the subject. I go farther and conclude reasonably that he is possibly the most well-spoken colossal idiot roaming the planet, but that's just me.People will always find reasons to kill each other in conflicts, so religion is hardly the evil step child of ideological categories there. (Leftist political views hold the record on body count, I believe.) And given that a ton of good is done in the world in the name of religion, and that religion has numerous positive benefits for believers, and that there is literally no positive side to rape...for him to even say that as a hypothetical shows exactly how (not) deep of a thinker Sam Harris truly is.
To be clear, I don't think any of us would participate in online discussion if we required "safe spaces" from criticism. I welcome criticism, because it will either point out flaws in my thinking or it will, as Sam Harris loves to inadvertently do, convince me further that I am correct.
I too would never ask for (or tolerate) any sort of "safe space" in discussion. The very idea is abhorrent.That said, I then have a perfect right to call out anyone for being an idiot or a jerk, when they behave like one. Sam Harris was being both with his asinine statement about rape and religion. And prefacing it with "If I could wave a magic wand..." dos not make it any less so.Cal, how would you respond to a statement like this? "If I could wave a magic wand, I would rid the world of Jews." Is that now OK, because the speaker is just "discussing ideas"?
And another thing. Note how radically different is the impact of these statements:1. "If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion."2. "If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or all Muslims, I would not hesitate to get rid of all Muslims."or3. "If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or the Jews, I would not hesitate to get rid of the Jews.or even4. "If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or all Buddhists, I would not hesitate to get rid of the Buddhists."You see? "Religion" is such an amorphous term that it arouses no emotional response. But substitute real human beings there, and you see just what Harris's bloodless suggestion really amounts to. But that is precisely what he is calling for.
Cal:"What requires nuance is:"That Harris has a personal hatred for religion. ------------------Planks:"If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or the Jews, I would not hesitate to get rid of the Jews."Exactly!
I'd like to add to the above comment this quote from Lewis's That Hideous Strength:"[Mark] recommended that certain classes of people should be gradually eliminated: but he had never been there when a small shopkeeper went to the workhouse or a starved old woman of the governess type came to the very last day and hour and minute in the cold attic. He knew nothing about the last half-cup of cocoa drunk slowly ten days before."Haven't we had enough of these "magic wands" in the last century?Jezu ufam tobie!
Legion: "The problem is that Harris completely ignores the good things about "religion".... In fact, he conveniently sweeps the good that religion does under the rug by declaring it to be "bad reasons" to do good, because there are "better reasons" to do good. In other words, it is literally impossible for a good thing to come from religion according to Sam Harris."Harris: "I would argue that most people sincerely believe religious doctrines, not because they’re attached to all of the good stuff they are getting out of their church or mosque, but because they are convinced that they are true."Like I said, if you're not willing to apprehend any nuance behind an argument then you're not really doing yourself a favor when you try and argue against it. And I am sure that you are smarter than the position you're staking out. Case in point (from Stevek's last comment):Cal:"What requires nuance is:"SteveK: That Harris has a personal hatred for religion. It's as if SteveK thinks by demonstrating my point he somehow refutes it? I don't think anyone could know where to begin.
"Like I said, if you're not willing to apprehend any nuance behind an argument then you're not really doing yourself a favor when you try and argue against it."Given that I have read Harris for years, I know exactly where he stands. If something bad happens based on a religious belief, it is because religion is evil. If something good happens because of religion, it should have happened for a non religious reason because that reason would be "better". "It's not that people don't do good and heroic things on the basis of their dogma, it's just those things aren't best done on the basis of religious dogma."So, criticize religion if the result is bad. Criticize religion for not being a sufficient reason if the result is good. Either way, criticize religion. I don't believe Harris is capable of nuance. He's either an idiot or so close minded by his hatred of belief in God that rationality never enters the picture. That's why he has such a lack of compelling arguments despite having a career based on presenting arguments.
Legion: "Given that I have read Harris for years, I know exactly where he stands. If something bad happens based on a religious belief, it is because religion is evil."I find it hard to believe you have read a lot of Harris. I haven't read any of his books, but I've read some of his long articles, watched some interviews, that sort of thing. And the above doesn't seem like the point he regularly makes. His point is mainly that many times people do bad things based solely on their religious beliefs -- such as fly planes into buildings, persecute others, etc. He is against this, and points out that if these religious motivations were to go away for killing, persecution, etc, hating and discriminating, etc, we'd be better off. I find it hard to disagree with that assessment.Legion: "If something good happens because of religion, it should have happened for a non religious reason because that reason would be "better". "Again, not really his point. He argues out that religions isn't NECESSARY for any morally "good" act. And that people can develop moral systems without religion and still do the same kind of good. I think you have a better dispute with someone like Harris if you were to point out that he's possibly being naive, and (like many idealists) isn't taking into account the primal motivations that something like religion serves to control. And that something as revolutionary as what he proposes (the organized dismantling of religion) has a pretty sorry history; dramatic changes to societies seldom go well, at least not smoothly.Legion: "I don't believe Harris is capable of nuance. He's either an idiot or so close minded by his hatred of belief in God that rationality never enters the picture. That's why he has such a lack of compelling arguments despite having a career based on presenting arguments."This is funny, because it looks to me like the commenters here are so blinded by their hatred of Harris (or so upset over criticism of religion) that they can't apprehend what he argues. It's also funny because Harris is one of the most lucid writers in the world today, and that kind of facility with language has never come from the mind of an idiot.
" Harris is one of the most lucid writers in the world today"I literally coughed up my tea when I read those words.Harris is one of the least impressive figures out there today, consistently producing a growing body of truly sophomoric work .His work on moral philosophy is particularly awful. I had to actually put his "End of Faith" book down because the " arguments" were really that bad. As far as hatred of Harris goes, it's simply not the case (for me at least). There are, of course, some very good contemporary atheist writers on the scene putting out excellent work, but Harris is certainly NOT one of them.
Hmm.. The most lucid [English language] writer in the world today? I'd have to give that honor to Anthony Esolen.Jezu ufam tobie!
"This is funny, because it looks to me like the commenters here are so blinded by their hatred of Harris (or so upset over criticism of religion) that they can't apprehend what he argues. It's also funny because Harris is one of the most lucid writers in the world today, and that kind of facility with language has never come from the mind of an idiot"The rest of your post is really about how much slack each of us is willing to cut Harris, but the portion I quoted has two flaws. One, it is neither hatred of Harris nor being offended that motivates me here. Harris is incapable of offending me, given his horrible arguments. The last time I was offended was when I was handed a child support order for 1/3 of my income despite having my kids six days a week - words have no power to offend when compared to that. No, it isn't hatred, but instead contempt that a man who is a self described champion of reason is so terrible at employing it.The second flaw deals with eloquence vs sense. I know a woman (dated her for a while actually) who is possibly the most eloquent writer I know. Problem being that her profound writing style and extensive vocabulary do nothing to mask the fact that she usually has absolutely no clue what she is talking about. The ability to communicate while sounding intelligent on the surface does not prevent one from being a tragic idiot in other areas.
Legion: "The second flaw deals with eloquence vs sense. I know a woman (dated her for a while actually) who is possibly the most eloquent writer I know. Problem being that her profound writing style and extensive vocabulary do nothing to mask the fact that she usually has absolutely no clue what she is talking about."Well, I suppose I disagree; I don't think that one can write well without thinking well. Compare Deepak Chopra, for instance, to Sam Harris. One could say they both have interesting and engaging writing styles, but only one of them actually writes (thinks) well.But I suppose that if you don't agree with someone's thought processes, their writing style is not for you. On a side note, I have never understood the following of CS Lewis. Not only do I think his apologetics are pretty terrible, but I literally couldn't finish the first Narnia book I thought it was that bad. On the other hand, I think Tolkien's fantasy writing is outstanding. Go figure.
I've actually never read CS Lewis, apologetics or Narnia. My understanding is that Tolkien thought Narnia sort of sucked, but I suppose personal taste has no rules.
Lewis's Narnia books are children's literature, and some adults simply cannot read that sort of stuff (unless they're reading it to their child or grandchild). I personally think his Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength) are far superior. Have you tried reading them?
While we're on the subject of religious-themed fiction, I was thinking about that very subject the other day, and put together a (very provisional) list of what I personally think are the best-ever works of fiction with a major Christian element to them:1. The Divine Comedy - Dante2. The Quest for the Holy Grail - attributed to Walter Map, but more probably anonymous3. The Power and the Glory - Graham Greene4. A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M. Miller, Jr.5. The Space Trilogy - C.S. Lewis7. Diary of a Country Priest - Georges Bernanos8. The Brothers Karamazov - Dostoevsky9. A Pilgrim's Progress - Bunyan10. Taliesin through Logres/The Region of the Summer Stars - Charles WilliamsYes, I know, I know.. It's hopelessly biased towards works in the English Language and written in the 19th and 20th Centuries. But hey, I did say "personally".Jezu ufam tobie!
As a self-declared Tolkien (specifically, LOTR) fanatic, I feel compelled to come to Lewis's defense. Whatever Tolkien may have thought of Lewis and of Narnia, I really, really enjoyed reading the Chronicles of Narnia as a child. I haven't read the Chronicles of Narnia as an adult, but I assume that I would actually get more out of it as an adult because some of the symbolism / metaphors probably went over my head when I read the books as a child.With that said, I am a much bigger fan of Tolkien than I am of Lewis. Although I don't believe in an afterlife, it would be cool if there was one and an opportunity for Tolkien to perfect his legendarium and for the rest of us to be able to read it (with the caveat that he finally reveal what/who Tom Bombadil is).
I never read any of the Narnia books as a child, so I don't have any first hand experience of what that's like. My younger daughter, however, read them all as soon as she was able to read on her own, and now at almost 29 years old they're still among her favorite books. I finally got around to reading them all in one fell swoop at 60 years old, and like Cal, they did not impress me terribly. I much prefer Lewis's Space Trilogy novels, which I must have read more than a dozen times over the years. (I think the first time was sometime about 1967, plus or minus a year. The most recent time was last summer.) Now those are well worth a read!I discovered the "Third Inkling" (Charles Williams) in the summer of 1970, and he has ever after been my absolute favorite of the three. I realize he's an acquired taste, but if you haven't encountered his novels, or better yet - his unbelievably great poetry (I rank him alongside T.S. Eliot) - might I suggest either War in Heaven or Descent into Hell? You will either love him or hate him. There is no middle ground.By the way, Tom Bombadil was the name of one of Tolkien's children's toy dolls. The original was accidentally flushed down a toilet, and J.R.R. wrote a series of stories about him to help comfort their loss. Bombadil eventually found his way into The Lord of the Rings.
The identity of Bombadil will forever haunt me, but not as much as when Robert Jordan died before completing The Wheel of Time, or how G.R.R. Martin has allowed Game of Thrones TV series to go ahead of the books and spoil everything for me.Dang fantasy authors.
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