Faith, Reason and Terrorism...

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by blackfox, Jan 24, 2006.

  1. blackfox macrumors 65816

    blackfox

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    #1
    OK, admittedly this is a rather ambitious thread topic, and one that may very well go down in flames - but I thought it so interesting that I would give it a shot. I apologize in advance...

    I have recently begun reading a book entitled "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris. It is concerned with an analysis of the clash between Reason and Religion in the world - and the inherent danger in Faith - belief untempered by reason, or that is to say, evidence. It is these beliefs that seem to, however, lead us inexorably to kill each other.

    Let me preface by saying that I am a spiritually moderate and tolerant individual - I have my spiritual beliefs and tend to respect those of others, even when I am in disagreement/disbelief. I also tend to find there to be some great wisdom in Religion and don't discount the fact that Religion has aided a great many people. I do not suscribe to a particular religious faith, however.

    That said, I am having a hard time discounting the premises implied or explicitly stated in reading this book. A sampling will be below, although I may (imperfectly) paraphrase some for sake of brevity.

    I hope that this will spark both interest and respectful debate. Here we go:


    - Your beliefs define your vision of the world; they dictate your behavior; they determine your emotional responses to other humans.

    - A large segment of the population believes that there is a Creator and that he/she has written a book.

    - There is actually no evidence of said Creator and/or the fact that they authored a book.

    - Because there is no evidence on the validity of a particular God or their authorship of a book, except the book itself - there can be no discourse on it's validity or any of the implied beliefs therein. Without discourse, there cannot be progress - without progress, we cannot come closer to the Truth. In this way, Religion seems antithetical to the pursuit of Truth.

    - To believe that God exists is to believe that I stand in some relation to his existence such that his existence is the reason for my belief. There must be some causal connection between the fact in question and my acceptance of it - so in this way, religious beliefs, to be beliefs about how the world is, must be as evidentiary in spirit as any other belief.

    - As long as a person believes his beliefs represent an actual state of the world, he must believe that his beliefs are a consequence of the of the way the world is. This leaves him vunerable to new evidence.

    - If there were no conceivable change in the world that could get a person to question his religious beliefs, this would prove that his beliefs were not predicated by thaking the state of the world into account. He could not claim, therefore, to be representing the world at all.

    - Although Religious faith has had great power and effect on the lives of many millions of people - this says nothing about it's validity (eg the paranoid-delusional may be greatly influenced by the terror of the CIA - but it does not follow that his phones are tapped)

    - How have we as a culture, elevated belief, without evidence, to the highest heiarchy of human virtues? Why are we convinced in this one area of our lives that our beliefs about the world can float entirely free of reason and evidence?

    - Why is Faith a taboo subject for criticism? Why must this important driving force in millions of people's lives be politely ignored or discounted?

    - There can be no such thing as a religious moderate, such as one who respects all faiths, or those of unbelievers - as this is explicitly denied in their particular texts. While there may be ecumenical passages within those texts, the central tenet of each religious creed is that all other creeds are wrong, or dangerously incomplete - and therefore intrinsically intolerant.

    - In order to be a religious moderate, to be tolerant, or to react to the modernization of humanity (like the fact that we no longer stone Adulterors to death) - requires a purposeful omission of canonized texts of said religion. Thus religious moderation has nothing underwriting it except the neglect of the letter of Divine Law. I would think most Religious people would find this troubling.

    That people of faith are also eminently reasonable people - albeit compartmentalized. Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt turns you invisible, and he is likely to ask for as much evidence as anyone else and be persuaded only to the extent that it is given.

    - Tell that same man that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for all eternity if he fails to accept it's every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.

    - That subsequently, religious fanatics, are actually quite sane people - working logically and reasonably from a set of beliefs - that happen to be essentially unproveable, and therefore irrefutable.

    - That beliefs can therefore be quite dangerous, though somewhat mind-boggling (eg. transubstantiation - The Catholic mass rite of changing bread into the body of Christ and wine into his Blood - this has the peculiar consequence of allowing Jesus Christ, son of the Creator, one who cheated death and rose bodily unto the heavens - to be eaten in cracker form.)

    - This same dogma - that the communion host is actually transformed into the living body of Jesus Christ - began to worry Christians that these living wafers might be subject to mistreatment - even torture - at the hands or heretics. Otherwise rational people murdered thousands of Jews and "heretics" to ensure that no-one would harm the Son-of-God, now readily available in the form of defenseless crackers.

    - Is there really just sanity in numbers? Millions believe it is normal to believe that the Creator of the Universe can hear your thoughts, while it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he communicates with you by tapping morse-code with raindrops on your bedroom window.

    - If a terrorist is acting rationally on the basis of his religious beliefs, he can both be considered sane and unstoppable - as religious beliefs, absent of evidence for validity, are impervious to evidence to the opposite. This should prove troubling (more on this later).


    That is enough for now, but I will post later on some curious and dangerous results of this lapse of logic - especially as related to terrorism. For now, though, let us discuss the validity of the above.
     
  2. Dont Hurt Me macrumors 603

    Dont Hurt Me

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    #2
    Still waiting for God to come down and tell us which of the thousands of religions is the correct one. Perhaps they are all man made, in fact i can assure you all religions are man made.
     
  3. freeny macrumors 68020

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    #3
    Religion is a vice bestowed upon you just like crack or heroin by the religious dealers to keep you feeling "complete" and "at peace" with yourself while all the while only helping the themselves in their own greed. Some leaders will take this to great heights as has Osama Bin Laden by telling his followers to kill others as their duty to their religion or they will have failed to be "good muslims". Some are more subtle like our fine president Mr Bush who will use it to further his own cause for more $$, power and persuasion.

    Free yourself from the addiction. You will be just as at peace without it.
     
  4. XNine macrumors 68040

    XNine

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    #4
    Agreed. I believe there is some kind of higher being, what? I don't know. However, I also believe that this higher force is not here to bend us to their will, but perhaps seeing if humans can really achieve something great by themselves.
    IT's hard for me to believe that something such laws of physics could be created by a large cloud of gas. IT baffles me, but anything is possible. IT's just like how the human mind cannot truely comprehend nothingness.

    I believe religion is a horrible reason to do anything. I've seen bumper stickers that say things like "This is my car on earth, my treasure is in heaven" and stupid **** like that, that makes me believe religion is another tool to keep the rich man rich and the poor man poor. Give 10% to a church when that 10% could possibly feed your family for another few days until more money comes in, things like that.

    This book sounds interesting, and all seems logical/rational questions and statements that you ahve posted. Perhaps I'll give it a try.
     
  5. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

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    #5
    Because everybody feels their life has a meaning; their life is important to them somehow, and although that meaning may be felt, it may not be consciously perceived and known.
     
  6. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #6
    I would venture au contraire that everybody wishes their life had a meaning. When you're deep in the doodoo for seventy-odd years, it's a natural reaction to hope there's more to it. There probably isn't.

    You don't have to be in my dream if I don't have to be in yours.

    Good thread, btw bf....
     
  7. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

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    #7
    Intuitively, your life has meaning to you. You feel that your existence has some value to you and to those around you and you would resist that taken away from you by another. It has value and a significance that resists logical analysis and a reductionist approach to its understanding.

    Your loves, creativity, passions and dreams provide some evidence of a private purpose.

    Though that's not anywhere close to saying there's a big bearded guy in the sky. ;)
     
  8. 3rdpath macrumors 68000

    3rdpath

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    #8
    faith, spirituality, whatever you want to call it, is fine.

    it's the desire to discredit and disqualify the beliefs of others that creates a world of problems...
     
  9. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #9
    Do they? A private process is not evidence of a private purpose.
     
  10. Ugg macrumors 68000

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    #10
    But as bf pointed out, it isn't fine because religion is inherently antagonistic towards all other religions.
     
  11. Thanatoast macrumors 6502a

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    #11
    I think the problem with the book is that it is pitting logic against faith. It's an unfair fight (from both sides, ironically).

    Those supporting logic will become frustrated because those supporting faith don't care about evidence or logical thinking. They believe what they believe and to hell with everyone else. (pun intended)

    Everytime I've had this conversation (my parents are pastors) it boils down to a mutual agreement for everyone to follow their path and not bother anyone else. My parents sometimes take offense when I rail against religion because they do not consider themselves part of the problem, and in as far as their fundy-factor is concerned, they're right. None of the Methodists I've ever known have been wild-eyed bible-thumpers.

    I believe it to be an unsolvable problem. Each side believes the other will eventually come around. (Except the fundies, who believe our laws should reflect the arbitrary morals of our dominant religion)
     
  12. blackfox thread starter macrumors 65816

    blackfox

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    #12
    You know, I have usually adhered somewhat to this general consensus.

    I must admit, however reluctantly, that this may be an incorrect and dangerous way to deal with the problem of those who use Faith as the primary guide to their lives.

    I seriously entertain the notion that the other side does not care a whit about whether we will come around, and in some cases considers us to be the defacto enemy. This is predicated on the ascension of articles of Faith over any rational sense of ethics we might share.

    This is bore out daily, now and historically, when people chose to kill each other (Ireland/UK, Serbia/Bosnia etc) or harm each other or society (such as preventing practical birth-control measures, proper science curriculum, practical AIDS prevention techniques etc) because adherence to belief and the comfort of fellow believers trumps basic common-sense humanity.

    This is to say nothing of terrorism, where irrational belief can allow for both the impetus (concept and demand of Jihad against unbelievers) and the avenues (such as the "reward" for suicide bombers) for a concerted effort at our destruction.

    There are certain things that are undeniable truths in the world - and unfortunately - many people armed with Religion are in a unique, even proactive position to ensure all of our destruction, even if it makes no sense to us that they ever would - which is exactly the point.

    BTW, it could be argued (as I alluded to above) that many drug laws, laws against sodomy or other "victimless" crimes on our books here in the US are thinly-veiled legislated Christian morality.
     
  13. Thanatoast macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    Yeah, I must admit that just agreeing to ignore the problem and hope it goes away does feel kinda like a federal government style solution.

    And it would be a lot easier to be able to talk about religion and its relative benefits and drawbacks without peole getting offended/frustrated or saying it's unsolvable (ahem).

    But while national dialogue on the merits of religion would be welcomed and reported on, a dialogue on the drawbacks and and possible resolutions would be attacked and denounced.

    Small forums like Macrumors are the only places we'll be able to have such conversations because we are a self-selected group who can handle the topic without much animosity. (or at least we try)

    On the national level, accusations of bias and persecution would fly thick and fast, without the tempering use of smilies.

    I still can't help but think the differences are intractable. As mentioned in the OP, when questioning faith with logic, neither will win.
     
  14. solvs macrumors 603

    solvs

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    #14
    You might want to also check out No God But God by Reza Aslan.

    I think the problem stems not from a belief in a higher power, but of a desire for a higher power. People want to believe and know the truth so much that they are willing to throw logic out the window to support the ideal system told to them by someone else, usually someone in power like a parent or religious leader that they look toward for guidence and answers in an uncertain and scary world. The questions are then ignored, and anything that goes against their beliefs becomes a foreign idea and something to be hated and fought against. Even if logic dictates it being true, though even the truth can be subjective. Add in those who stand behind religion to justify their hatred and/or ignorance, or to mask a more deep seated problem they can't deal with (as we saw with our recently banned friend), and you have a bunch of extremists that make the rest of us look bad.

    I am of course speaking mostly of the extremists, of which I don't count myself, but even those who walk the line can fall into dangerous territory. Witness a false prophet like Bush who can fool people by talking about God and wearing his Bible on his sleeve, even when doing the exact opposite of what a Christian should. Were Christians more like Christ (or Muslims like Mohammed), and actually followed what he did rather than just talking about him, this would not be an issue. But they'd rather be hypocrites because it's too much of an effort apparently to actually be a good person and far easier to judge and condemn others.

    As well, if we accept that not all of the Bible makes sense, but we can still believe in the basic principles and that there might be a God, just like we can believe in evolution even though some parts of it don't make sense. ;)
     
  15. 3rdpath macrumors 68000

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    #15
    i disagree.

    first, i don't define faith and religion as the same.

    second, i see no reason why a religion must be inherently antagonistic towards other religions. this antognism says far more about people than religion.
     
  16. atszyman macrumors 68020

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    #16
    I was listening to an interview on Air America this morning with the director of State of Fear a movie about terrorism in Peru in the 80s and 90s. There was an interesting point made about the goals of terrorism.

    They raise the idea that the purpose of the large scale attacks are to prompt a military response the angers more of the world. Which seems almost like we played directly into their hands by invading Iraq, since the US had the whole world behind us on September 12 and now it seems most of the rest of the world hates us.
     
  17. Thanatoast macrumors 6502a

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    #17
    so are the troublemakers defined by their faith or their religion? what if they have faith in their religion? people may have faith in god, but they still get their behavioral rules and norms from the religious community that sold them on god.

    some religions *are* inherently antagonistic. christianity's first commandment is devoted to this, "thou shalt have no other gods before me". the first five are about giving god his due, and non-worshipers will be punished until their 4th generation of children. that sounds pretty antagonistic towards dissenters. if someone else worships a different god, wouldn't that be inherently antagonistic?

    i mean, that's like wearing a raiders jersey to a broncos game - after john elway said that anyone who roots for other teams will go to hell and their great great grandchildren will burn for all eternity.
     
  18. blackfox thread starter macrumors 65816

    blackfox

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    #18
    oh, a quick aside about the ten commandments.

    There is continued debate about their inclusion further into our society. I happen to think that they have questionable validity/applicability to that end.

    To those who agree with the Ten commandments, however, do you agree with their punishments?

    They are all punishable by Death.

    It's all in the Bible folks. If you choose to ignore that part, well then, you might as well ignore it all.
     
  19. Dont Hurt Me macrumors 603

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    #19
    Who said they are punishable by Death? it wasnt god, it was that pathetic creature who craves tradition called man.
     
  20. 3rdpath macrumors 68000

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    #20
    the troublemakers are defined by their desire to make trouble. religion/faith is simply a convenient justification for a person's actions. people will find their norms by seeking out what seems normal ; sadly, some people see hate and violence as normal. i can think of no other reason why so many people can read the bible (or Mein Kampf) and not feel the urge to persecute others.

    and i think your football jersey story is a good example of why faith/religion has nothing to do with peoples' actions. football is neither faith nor religion yet it incites some people to violence and other abhorent behavior.

    if you're looking-justification is pretty easy to find.
     
  21. blackfox thread starter macrumors 65816

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    #21
    Be that as it may, that is a tangental point to the one I was trying to make.

    I am not so much trying to argue the logical consistency of the content of the bible - but that of the belief of those that follow it as the word of God.

    There are numerous sections in the Bible, such as the recommendation of stoning people to death, or punishing those who break the Ten Commandments by death, that many "modern" Christians chose to ignore, for obviously practical reasons.

    Once you do this, however, you could just as easily ignore those parts which regard homosexuality as a sin, or so on and so forth. There is no way around this fact, in my mind.

    As this pertains to the larger issue of the Bible being the word of God, it seems that ignoring any of it, regardless of how abhorrent it seems to modern sensibilities is among the greatest sin a practicing Christian can do.

    There is also the question of how an infallible God could be so base in his proclamations, and so uneven in his tone and content. There is great wisdom in the Bible to be sure, but so is there in Shakespeare, and it seems odd that the latter would be such a superior writer.

    To those who say we mere mortals cannot conceptualize the wisdom of God (an often used retort) as he is above human understanding of said issues - I ask why he is displays all to human traits throughout the Bible - Anger, Jealousy, indeed a whole gamut of very human emotions.

    One might be tempted to say we made God in our image...
     
  22. Dont Hurt Me macrumors 603

    Dont Hurt Me

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    #22
    I have to inject this one thought, King James and his zealots are the ones who made the Bible. They are the ones who decided what went in, what didnt and presto the Bible. The funny thing is billions think that this Bible was handed down and inspired by God. It wasnt, it was made by man and most of the books in it were written hundreds of years after the events they portray as history. I find that those books they threw out to be just as interesting as the ones they kept. Like i said man craves tradition just look at the Catholics and Protestants, same book but 2 diffrent traditions and spin if you will. How did they go from worshipping god and jesus to worshippiong his mother??? Man is a screwed up mess but you can be assured man will teach his kids the same screwed up mess. Religions are for the weak minded and those who need someone to tell them what to think. Please send your donation to.............................and bring in little johny so we can brainwash him before he grows up.
     
  23. Agathon macrumors 6502a

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    #23
    Uh... yeah.. I realized that at about 9:05 on 9/11.
     
  24. Agathon macrumors 6502a

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    #24
    If you think that religion will ever disappear, I invite you to consider how many people believe in Astrology, a "science" which had it's cosmological basis ripped out from under it about half a millenium ago.

    A lot of people have no intellectual conscience. How frightening is it that they are allowed to vote...?
     
  25. atszyman macrumors 68020

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    #25
    Immediately after 9/11 we had a massive swelling of support and sympathy across the globe. Had we not squandered this by our ill advised foray into Iraq we might have achieved the opposite and forged a stronger global alliance rather than alienating ourselves from most of the rest of the planet.

    I never really thought about what the ultimate goals were beyond getting the US out of the middle east, and how slick the plan seems to be working with us in Iraq, the world mostly against us, and a plentiful supply of new terrorist recruits.

    Had we sat and thought about it awhile we could probably have Al Queda almost completely destroyed had we utilized the offers of support and listened to our allies more closely following 9/11. Had we worked with our allies more and not been the arrogant bullies we were things could be very different today.
     

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