Research on Belief in God

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Jun 5, 2009
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Echoes said:
If you think that the parable of the talent should be read from a financial perspective, you are mighty wrong.
I don't. I also don't see anything in that says money is bad.
 
Jun 5, 2009
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rhubroma said:
Look it up. And, yes, as a historical work, the NT is entirely irrelevant.
So the basis for what you wrote is what exactly? Apart from the NT passages you quoted, which are now apparently irrelevant.
 
RetroActive said:
I guess you missed the whips, turning the tables over...calling them thieves. Oh well, selective reading and limited comprehension are synonymous with Christianity these days, particularly in the NA brands.

Exploit the people around you, exploit the natural world in the most destructive ways for your benefit...call it good and engage in 'charity'. Do you guys bother with the anonymous part anymore or do you want your name on it?
The whips and the turning of tables was appropriate for what was going on. They were turning the house of prayer into a place of merchandise. This does not in anyway condemn wealth. This condemns turning God's house into a place for worldly business. If your love for money is greater than God than YES it is a sin. The thing that Christ is most interested in is where our hearts are because wherever our hearts are there are treasures will be.

The bolded: with all due respect in this case you simply didn't read the passage in context.
 
Jan 27, 2013
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Jspear said:
The whips and the turning of tables was appropriate for what was going on. They were turning the house of prayer into a place of merchandise. This does not in anyway condemn wealth. This condemns turning God's house into a place for worldly business. If your love for money is greater than God than YES it is a sin. The thing that Christ is most interested in is where our hearts are because wherever our hearts are there are treasures will be.

The bolded: with all due respect in this case you simply didn't read the passage in context.
Temple = mind.
 
RetroActive said:
Temple = mind.
Temple = Body ("our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit - 1 Cor 6)
This being the case we are called to holiness. While on this earth we are given physical blessings all of which we must honor God with.

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 1Ti 6:17
Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 1Ti 6:18

The rich are not commanded to get rid of their riches, rather they are commanded to trust only in God who supplies us with all things to enjoy and to be rich in good works and to be generous.
 
Jan 27, 2013
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Jspear said:
Temple = Body ("our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit - 1 Cor 6)
This being the case we are called to holiness. While on this earth we are given physical blessings all of which we must honor God with.

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 1Ti 6:17
Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 1Ti 6:18

The rich are not commanded to get rid of their riches, rather they are commanded to trust only in God who supplies us with all things to enjoy and to be rich in good works and to be generous.
Read the whole of 1Tim. 6. You guys are such brutal hypocrites it's pointless. Pick and choose the verses, interpret them out of context...rationalize away.
 
Jun 5, 2009
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RetroActive said:
rationalize away.
That bit at I can agree with. Rational argument appears to be beyond you though. With you, its "You guys this, you guys that", and that's not going to get you anywhere.
 
Jan 27, 2013
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DL9999 said:
That bit at I can agree with. Rational argument appears to be beyond you though. With you, its "You guys this, you guys that", and that's not going to get you anywhere.
Well, there are currently two people torturing scripture while calling themselves Christians. See how far that gets you. I'll go back to reading the Bhagavad - Gita, or Taoism, or whatever.

I have to listen to my mother-in-law spout absurd nonsense of the fundie variety once a year. What a disaster, but then I get to listen to the obtuse crap on the Christian TV programs at her house too, so at least there's plenty of company I guess.
 
Jun 5, 2009
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RetroActive said:
Well, there are currently two people torturing scripture while calling themselves Christians. See how far that gets you. I'll go back to reading the Bhagavad - Gita, or Taoism, or whatever.

I have to listen to my mother-in-law spout absurd nonsense of the fundie variety once a year. What a disaster, but then I get to listen to the obtuse crap on the Christian TV programs at her house too, so at least there's plenty of company I guess.
I really don't know what your talking about.
 
RetroActive said:
Read the whole of 1Tim. 6. You guys are such brutal hypocrites it's pointless. Pick and choose the verses, interpret them out of context...rationalize away.
Please explain how I have taken this text out of context. I have already made myself clear that the LOVE of MONEY is the root of evil and those who SEEK riches should not. That is also in 1 Timothy 6. This doesn't mean that we switch to the other extreme and say that having material wealth is sinful. If that was the case God would never had blessed certain people in the bible with material blessings. Plus the text that I quoted from Timothy still stands...I used it in context. If you are a believer and you have material wealth, don't love it, don't trust in it, trust in God knowing every good and perfect gift comes from Him, and be generous loving others as much as yourself.
 
Jan 27, 2013
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Jspear said:
Please explain how I have taken this text out of context. I have already made myself clear that the LOVE of MONEY is the root of evil and those who SEEK riches should not. That is also in 1 Timothy 6. This doesn't mean that we switch to the other extreme and say that having material wealth is sinful. If that was the case God would never had blessed certain people in the bible with material blessings. Plus the text that I quoted from Timothy still stands...I used it in context. If you are a believer and you have material wealth, don't love it, don't trust in it, trust in God knowing every good and perfect gift comes from Him, and be generous loving others as much as yourself.
Even if we go with this watered down Pauline interpretation and unsought riches fall from the sky into your possession, they won't last long with this mentality.

I think the gospels were shooting for something less mealy-mouthed though.

Jesus never struck me as a half measures type of guy.
 
DL9999 said:
So the basis for what you wrote is what exactly? Apart from the NT passages you quoted, which are now apparently irrelevant.


What I'm saying is that the NT was not written with a historical intention, for which it is not historical. It was rather written with the intention to convert people to a Saviour cult. The message of the Christos about wealth could not be more cut and dry, as the examples I mentioned and others attest. It is only that you Christians today living in a system and in a society in which money has become the omnipotent God, find it impossible to reconcile your lives with the true radicalness of the Christ NT sermons in this regard. To me it is uncanny how a religion established 2000 years ago based on a message that clearly indicates a rejection of all worldly goods (this, too, Christ repeatedly emphasized) as the means to salvation, can be so easily forgotten to cleanse today's consceinces.

Beware of Pauline interpretations. In realizing that the Jewish Christians rejected his emphasis, Paul detached himself from them and founded the new religion among the gentiles. At this point the actual teachings of Christ, which Paul never emphasized, were elided so that now salvation simply comes with a sincere belief in the resurrection (sola fede).

My citations were consequently reminders of the non-Pauline emphasis of the actual teachings of the Christ as they are mentioned in the non-historical NT. Not for this, however, are they of any less spiritual value. As I've said before those teachings hold men to an impossible standard, but this doesn't change the standard, much as you would like.
 
Jun 5, 2009
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rhubroma said:
What I'm saying is that the NT was not written with a historical intention, for which it is not historical. It was rather written with the intention to convert people to a Saviour cult. The message of the Christos about wealth could not be more cut and dry, as the examples I mentioned and others attest. It is only that you Christians today living in a system and in a society in which money has become the omnipotent God, find it impossible to reconcile your lives with the true radicalness of the Christ NT sermons in this regard. To me it is uncanny how a religion established 2000 years ago based on a message that clearly indicates a rejection of all worldly goods (this, too, Christ repeatedly emphasized) as the means to salvation, can be so easily forgotten to cleanse today's consceinces.

Beware of Pauline interpretations. In realizing that the Jewish Christians rejected his emphasis, Paul detached himself from them and founded the new religion among the gentiles. At this point the actual teachings of Christ, which Paul never emphasized, were elided so that now salvation simply comes with a sincere belief in the resurrection (sola fede).

My citations were consequently reminders of the non-Pauline emphasis of the actual teachings of the Christ as they are mentioned in the non-historical NT. Not for this, however, are they of any less spiritual value. As I've said before those teachings hold men to an impossible standard, but this doesn't change the standard, much as you would like.
So there is no basis for your claims other than the NT and your own fantasy?

I listed several passages from the NT in which Christ unequivocally calls for charity. According to the NT, charity was part of Christ's teaching.

Of course you can say the NT is nonsense, Christ never existed and so on. If you adopt that standpoint, it makes no sense to use the NT as the basis for your assertion that charity was not part of the "message" and that material poverty is the one and only way to reach the kingdom of God.

Either we are talking about the NT (I was), or we aren't. Anything else is illogical.
 
DL9999 said:
So there is no basis for your claims other than the NT and your own fantasy?

I listed several passages from the NT in which Christ unequivocally calls for charity. According to the NT, charity was part of Christ's teaching.

Of course you can say the NT is nonsense, Christ never existed and so on. If you adopt that standpoint, it makes no sense to use the NT as the basis for your assertion that charity was not part of the "message" and that material poverty is the one and only way to reach the kingdom of God.

Either we are talking about the NT (I was), or we aren't. Anything else is illogical.
It is a text that must be taken at face value from the spiritual perspective, whatever this may mean (thus the miriad exegesis); however, it must also be analyzed from a rational point of view. That Christ existed, or not, is thus entirely irrelevant about what we were debating; which is only the Text. And in that text I find no contradictions to what I proposed.
 
Jul 16, 2011
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rhubroma said:
To me it is uncanny how a religion established 2000 years ago based on a message that clearly indicates a rejection of all worldly goods (this, too, Christ repeatedly emphasized) as the means to salvation, can be so easily forgotten to cleanse today's consciences.
Certainly, Christ's answer to the rich man to the question of "How can I attain salvation?" indicates the rejection of worldly goods (you could argue that this is just a particular case and Jesus "sees the heart" of the questioner). On the other hand, e.g. the scene of Jesus' feet were anointed with perfume seem to show more of an acceptance of worldly goods (see John 12). Why if he rejected all worldly goods, did he have a treasurer? I would say that the message is to not be attached to or seek worldly goods.

rhubroma said:
My citations were consequently reminders of the non-Pauline emphasis of the actual teachings of the Christ as they are mentioned in the non-historical NT. Not for this, however, are they of any less spiritual value. As I've said before those teachings hold men to an impossible standard, but this doesn't change the standard, much as you would like.
Certainly they are of an impossible standard. I think it is unfair though for us to assume that Christians (generally speaking) want to change the standard, since it is open to interpretation. Although I would say that called prosperity theology goes against the principal of detachment. I see the crux (in non-doctrinal terms) of Christianity as lying in the "two commandments" - love God and love thy neighbour as yourself", but that is a faith/philosophy which is worked out in daily practice, rather than a set of rules one of which is "reject worldly goods". As an atheist, by definition I cannot keep the first commandent (on the other hand, I am not at war with god or theism). I cannot always keep the second commandent because I am human (or result of a imperfect optimisation scheme, if you want to see it that way).

I also feel discomfort at "complaints" that Christians do not take everything at "face value", when we argue that they should not believe in those things anyway. Maybe that's an effect of the "Christian culture" I grew up in.

I wish you all a rewarding celebration of the incarnation or winter solstice (or simply a refreshing break from work).

I've got a few philosophical books lined up from widely differening viewpoints.

Michał Heller - Natural Philosophy (a priest/physicist on natual philosophy from Plato to Popper).

Leszek Kołakowski - Jesus ridicule. Un essai apologetique et sceptique (I'm not reading it in French), which will cover the issues considered here (at a much higher level than I can).

Sam Harris - The moral landscape.
 
Jul 16, 2011
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Echoes said:
Isn't Harris the guy who considered the Iraq War as a humanitarian action or something like that?
I guess you're thinking about Christopher Hitchens. He was certainly a supporter of the Iraq War.

Echoes said:
When I see that I guess I wouldn't like to be an atheist. :eek:
I could also use an analogous argument regarding the views of George W. Bush or Tony Blair. Apart from arguments immediately surronding the existence or non-existence of God, I'm sure I could always find both an atheist and theist with very similar views to my own, just as I could find both an atheist and theist with opposing views to mine. I don't find that a problem.
 
Oct 23, 2011
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Echoes said:
Isn't Harris the guy who considered the Iraq War as a humanitarian action or something like that?

When I see that I guess I wouldn't like to be an atheist. :eek:
I'm not sure; but his book on ethics was quite poorly received (especially by his fellow philosophers). I haven't read the book myself, but I've heard a public debate with Harris concerning ethics, so I think I have at least a basic idea of what he proposes. If I understand it correctly it's really just some form of utilitarianism, which made watching the debate a waste of my time. Despite nice rhetoric trying to sound as if he's coming with some interesting new idea, everybody who had an introduction to philosophy or to ethics type of course in college/university/whatever won't learn anything new from him.

Very typical of the 'new atheists'. Despite all their talk about modern science, their (philosophical) arguments would be more at home in the 19th century than the 21st. They really just repeat age old discussions bringing absolutely nothing new to the table. Why they get so much attention despite saying the same old stuff atheists have been saying for centuries boggles the mind.
 
Jul 16, 2011
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Maaaaaaaarten said:
I'm not sure; but his book on ethics was quite poorly received (especially by his fellow philosophers). I haven't read the book myself, but I've heard a public debate with Harris concerning ethics, so I think I have at least a basic idea of what he proposes. If I understand it correctly it's really just some form of utilitarianism, which made watching the debate a waste of my time. Despite nice rhetoric trying to sound as if he's coming with some interesting new idea, everybody who had an introduction to philosophy or to ethics type of course in college/university/whatever won't learn anything new from him.
I saw the first part of his debate with Craig on the motion "There cannot be an absolute morality without God" (or words to that effect). Obviously, Harris was arguing against the motion. I was discussing the debate with my office mate (another cycling free thinker), and stated that the motion itself was very constraining (I see it almost as a tautology) and to be fair I would be interested in what he says when given free rein to talk about morality. He thus bought me the book for my birthday, which fell on the winter solstice. Utilitarianism is not a philosophy that speaks to me (I guess I'm closer to Kantian thought). Anyway, I'll see what I think. It's good to read the arguments of people who you feel that you will disagree with as you can appreciate where they are coming from and sometimes see that some of your own assumptions are not founded on solid ground.

As for Harris's views on Iraq and the threat of Muslim Extremists, here are a couple of links.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harris/bombing-our-illusions_b_8615.html

http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/the-end-of-liberalism/

In neither article does he express support for American politics in Iraq (rather the opposite). I'm sure Echoes will find a lot to disagree with here. Harris's views certainly seem more anti-Islam than mine. I spent my teenage years in an area with about 15% muslims and had a couple of good Muslim friends. My parents later had Muslim neighbours and they were always coming round with food.

However, extremism does exist in the "Islamic world". Suicide bombers and pilots die with the name of Allah on their lips. This results from a combination of cultural and political memes, one of which is radical religion.

Harris's comment that "Indeed, it is telling that the people who speak with the greatest moral clarity about the current wars in the Middle East are members of the Christian right, whose infatuation with biblical prophecy is nearly as troubling as the ideology of our enemies" is ironic, but shows that those in the centre and left in American European politics, also have no idea how to deal with extremism and do not even seriously address the situation.

Due to oil, the west is supportive of Saudia Arabia, whose culture and is heavily influenced by radical Wahhabism. Also, the West is seen to be historically and presently interventionist. Unfortunately, politics is about narrowly interpreted interests and "wars against terrorism", while money flows to radical groups and the powerful.
 
I wrote a review of Harris’ book on morality a few years ago. It is a utilitarian view, but updated, so to speak, in the light of modern scientific advances. He actually refers to his philosophy as “consequentialism”, meaning our acts must be judged by their consequences (as opposed to their intent, e.g.), and in particular, morality aims always to increase well-being. This is where he brings in science, because he believes science can tell us fairly specifically whether and to what degree various choices increase our well-being.

Here is a key statement where he lays this out:

Questions about values—about meaning, morality, and life’s larger purpose—are really questions about the well-being of conscious creatures. Values, therefore, translate into facts that can be scientifically understood: regarding positive and negative social emotions, retributive impulses, the effects of specific laws and social institutions on human relationships, the neurophysiology of happiness and suffering, etc. The most important of these facts are bound to transcend culture—just as facts about physical and mental health do.

Medicine serves as an important model for him. He believes that just as medicine can distinguish health from disease, and offer treatments to eliminate or minimize disease and maximize health, so science can, eventually at least, distinguish and even quantify positive and negative consequences of various forms of behavior, allowing us to identify the proper way to maximize well-being in any situation. And just as we don’t regard doctors as overly authoritarian when they prescribe certain treatments to us, Harris sees no reason why we should object if science does the same thing when it tells us the way we should behave in certain situations.

I have several major criticisms of Harris’s view, which I can’t go into here in any detail, but I’ll just mention one. This view seems to lead to a program of maximizing pleasure and minimizing suffering. Science tells us the specific positive and negative consequences of various acts, and we adjust our behavior accordingly. In a very general sense, most people would have no problem with this, but at the same time, most people believe there is more to life than this. Maximizing pleasure might be achieved, for example, with certain drugs, brain implants, or other advanced technology, but with the result that we would have no motivation to change.

Harris himself recognizes this problem, when he suggests that an individual, upon the death of someone very close, might take a pill so that he feels no sorrow or pain.

Given a choice—and this choice, in some form, is surely coming—I think that most of us will want our mental states to be coupled, however loosely, to the reality of our lives.


But his answer seems to be that there will be a limit to the extent that is possible. That if people completely divorce their mental states from reality, they won’t survive. One only has to think about the kind of world explored in the movie The Matrix to realize that this isn’t necessarily so. There wouldn’t have to be any evil overlords involved. Humankind might design computers that run the world efficiently, while allowing individual humans to trip out. In fact, some of us are not all that far-removed from that scenario now.

What I think Harris is missing here is that suffering is often beneficial. As a scientist, he understands that negative emotions evolved because they helped us survive. But more than that, suffering is often a path to individual growth, e.g., people who have had cancer often say that there are better for it. This does not make one wish for cancer, or regard people diagnosed with the disease as fortunate, but at the same time we have to recognize that we often do improve our lives through suffering (on a somewhat less serious scale, any elite athlete understands this).

Recognizing this raises a thorny question, that I will just mention but not pursue here: how do we know when to reduce suffering, and by how much? Harris’ view presupposes we know all the consequences, immediate and long-term, of any act, but it seems highly unlikely that this would actually be possible or practical.

Where I do agree with Harris is that the morality that evolved in our species needs to be improved upon. There are many standard examples of moral dilemmas, e.g., one is asked if one would intentionally kill one person to save several or more other lives. In fact, support for torture is often framed in this manner. These dilemmas arise because what we have evolved to believe is the right thing to do had survival value in small, close-knit families or tribes, and is not necessarily as adaptive in large modern societies. There are many other examples of our adaptations becoming counter-productive, such as eating high calorie foods, particularly sugar, and having sex indiscriminately. The question is whether we can replace the morality that we were apparently born with with something designed for our modern conditions. Social engineering is potentially very powerful, but—as the case of torture shows--also potentially disastrous.
 
Quoting Harris about Iraq in 2011 is not quite relevant because by that time, the disastrous consequences of the war were plain to see and so was the WMD lie. He was just admitting the obvious. Yet I note that even then he carefully avoid charging his own government and used the situation in order to reinforce his obsessive islamophobia.

In 2004 he said this: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/dec/1/20041201-090801-2582r/
Perhaps it is time we thought the unthinkable about Iraq. Perhaps it is time we considered the possibility that we will break everything we touch in that country — or everything we touch will break itself. However mixed or misguided our intentions were in launching this war, we are attempting, at considerable cost to ourselves, to improve life for the Iraqi people.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/dec/1/20041201-090801-2582r/#ixzz3Mj0rap32
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

Despite the numbers of Iraqi dead and the travesty of Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi insurgents know that we did not come to their country to rape their women or to kill innocent civilians. Every thinking person in the Muslim world understands that if our goal had been to kill Iraqis and steal their oil, millions of Iraqis would now be dead and their oil would be flowing. The terrible truth about our predicament in Iraq is that even if we had invaded with no other purpose than to remove Saddam Hussein from power and make Iraq a paradise on Earth, we should still expect tomorrow’s paper to reveal that another jihadi has blown himself to bits for the sake of killing scores of innocent men, women and children.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/dec/1/20041201-090801-2582r/#ixzz3Mj1IDPQu
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

Perhaps W is a believer. Or that's at least what he claims to be but I certainly would never list him as an intellectual reference because in my opinion if you approve of this dirty war, you clearly have a problem. None of my intellectual references would approve of this, I think.:eek:

Besides, the neocons' rationale has never been religious. Bush in his speeches constantly referred to human rights and bringing the democracy, which is hardly the rhetoric of a religious crusader. Paul Gottfried debunked that myth very clearly. Also many Iraq War apologists come from left-wing Trotskyism, Hitchens being just one example of it. That is hardly conservative Christianity.

Also as I showed in previous posts, recently, the people we call "terrorists" (or "Jihadists" whatever the name) are not muslims, they are Wahhabits. They are considered heretics by traditional Islam and have put themselves outside of Islam. The Saudi Wahhabits have destroyed numerous sacred monuments around Mecca and their dream would be to destroy the Prophet's (Peace be upon him :p) tomb.

Merckx index said:
This view seems to lead to a program of maximizing pleasure and minimizing suffering. Science tells us the specific positive and negative consequences of various acts, and we adjust our behavior accordingly. In a very general sense, most people would have no problem with this, but at the same time, most people believe there is more to life than this.
Exactly. I believe we are not here for comfort. I go with Georges Bernanos on this.
 
Aug 4, 2011
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So many of those who believe in a god adjust what ever book they are reading to make it fit into their life/belief goal aims. If that goal includes killing then they feel they are "just" in their killing. You cannot say because they read text in a more basic violent way that they are less religious than those who only take peace out of the text. The violence is right there written down in holy books. That's is the way they see the text, That is their calling.
 
Jul 16, 2011
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Merckx index said:
Recognizing this raises a thorny question, that I will just mention but not pursue here: how do we know when to reduce suffering, and by how much? Harris’ view presupposes we know all the consequences, immediate and long-term, of any act, but it seems highly unlikely that this would actually be possible or practical.
Thanks for the helpful review. This would one of my main criticisms of the utilitarian paradigm. For me, the Kantian idea of "would this make a good general principal?" is much more practical in the field of personal morality (but has its limitations as no two situations are exactly the same).

Utilitarianism has its place in deciding on the expenditure of a constrained public budget. However, the implicit definition of costs of a project on the health of people or the mortality rate in no way can be seen to form the basis for an objective morality. I haven't read any book by Harris, but judging from what I've seen, Sandel probably gives a much better overview of philosophy and its application to today's world.

Echoes said:
Isn't Harris the guy who considered the Iraq War as a humanitarian action or something like that?
Echoes said:
In 2004 he said this: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/dec/1/20041201-090801-2582r/
Perhaps it is time we thought the unthinkable about Iraq. Perhaps it is time we considered the possibility that we will break everything we touch in that country — or everything we touch will break itself. However mixed or misguided our intentions were in launching this war, we are attempting, at considerable cost to ourselves, to improve life for the Iraqi people.
Somebody buys me a book. I mention it and I get into this.

That quote does not indicate support for intervention, as it implies that the intentions were at best mixed, at worst misguided. He is basically saying, "we've made our bed, now we've got to lie in it" and hoping that intervention will help (although this hope was misguided).

Apart from this comment, I'm not going to defend Harris. His attacks on Islam rather than extremism show that he also doesn't have any answer to terrorism, but just stirs up divisions.

Echoes said:
Perhaps W is a believer. Or that's at least what he claims to be but I certainly would never list him as an intellectual reference because in my opinion if you approve of this dirty war, you clearly have a problem. None of my intellectual references would approve of this, I think.:eek:

Besides, the neocons' rationale has never been religious. Bush in his speeches constantly referred to human rights and bringing the democracy, which is hardly the rhetoric of a religious crusader. Paul Gottfried debunked that myth very clearly. Also many Iraq War apologists come from left-wing Trotskyism, Hitchens being just one example of it. That is hardly conservative Christianity.
I know that W is no reference for you, just as Hitchens (or Harris) is not necessarily a intellectual reference for atheists . He produced some good ripostes and was a colourful character, but he in no way is a moral reference point for me. Dietrich Bonhoeffer would be though Hence, I cannot agree with any line of argument of the form
"Harris (Blair) supported the Iraq war and is an atheist (a theist), therefore I'm glad I'm not an atheist (a theist). That is my point.


W Bush once used the phrase "crusade against terrorism". The spin doctors (rightly) said that was a bad road to go down. Human rights and freedom are the natural rhetoric of a politician.

There were a range of factors leading to American intervention in Iraq. I don't think pressure from left-wing Trotskyists was one of them (although if the "incarnation" of Hitchens at that time did not count as a left-wing Trotskyist, there might have been such individuals advocating intervention).

In terms of influencing my scientific thought, David Attenborough and Brian Cox would be more of an influence, due to their enthusiasm, sense of wonder and lack of sectarianism. So why am I on this thread? a) Interest in the subject and b) those that are still here can definitely deal with my occasional mini-rant and maybe find something mildly interesting from time to time (of course there are other reasons, but no time)

Christmas greetings to all here, in particular Maarten and JSpear for their patience in the face of disagreement.
 

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