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September 11, 2011 - Comments

illmatox's Avatar Comment 1 by illmatox

Great article as always from Sam.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 16:38:14 UTC | #868936

Jay G's Avatar Comment 2 by Jay G

Well said, except for:

"One must be religious to fail the young so abysmally—to derange them with fear, bigotry, and superstition even as their minds are forming—and one cannot be a serious Christian, Muslim, or Jew without doing so in some measure."

I know plenty of "serious" Jews who teach their childen love, understanding and compassion and do not "derange" them. I agree that we need a good dose of sanity and reason, but I don't agree that religious people are necessarily bringing up a generation of crazy people.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 16:41:34 UTC | #868937

JuJu's Avatar Comment 3 by JuJu

I just hyper linked this video on another thread, but it also seems appropriate here. "We've got to be that light" its a symphony of science video. We have to educate the next generation building upon the previous generations knowledge. Luckily for us the ability of science and reality to reach the children of even the most died in the wool faith heads is becoming unstoppable through modern technology. Hopefully, someday in the nearer rather than distant future the insanity will end.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 16:52:29 UTC | #868939

skeelo's Avatar Comment 4 by skeelo

Excellent. I liked this part especially:

What defenders of religion cannot say is that anyone has ever gone berserk, or that a society ever failed, because people became too reasonable, intellectually honest, or unwilling to be duped by the dogmatism of their neighbors.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 16:55:49 UTC | #868940

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 5 by Jos Gibbons

Jay G, to shift the quotation marks to an at least equally relevant place, are the serious "Jews" of whom you speak Jews in the sense of actually believing that stuff, or the cultural, even ethnic sense of having a particular ancestry? Our insistence on pretending Judaism must be defined so broadly even where we might otherwise tighten our meanings of other religions' names does a great disservice to our discourse on the topic of religion, since it causes every true statement about real religion - religion where you actually believe the stuff - to become false when the word "religion" is instead afforded a strangely inconsistent colloquial definition that can include atheists as long as they are - let's use a more accurate word here - Hebrew (or maybe even Israeli will do). And yet not a single one of these statements deserves to magically be wrong because we define religion as "religious belief or, possible, certain forms of ancestry, and definitely Jewish ancestry counts".

And when I talk about actually believing the stuff, I'm not talking about believing the entire book, or the most extreme take on it, or whatever makes an "extremist" or "fundamentalist" unlike a "moderate", so let's not hear that straw man. "Secular Jews" are not, repeat not, to the kind of Jews who populate Israel as sincere but pleasant-through-moderation Christians or Muslims are to the nutjobs with the same hymn sheet, because at least the Christians and Muslims in question really do believe in, for example, a god.

And yes, all religions get the "let's pretend all people of this background qualify" fallacy; but, apparently, only with Judaism do we make this fallacy utterly obligatory by pointless fiat in our language so that the obvious riposte to "But what about these guys?" of "It's painfully clear they don't count; you know what my words meant!" is ruled out of our thought processes.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 17:07:56 UTC | #868946

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 6 by rod-the-farmer

Is is true that Jewish men still start the morning with a prayer "Thank God I was not born a woman " ???? Or is that gone now, or only a tiny sect ?

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 17:22:40 UTC | #868949

Robert Howard's Avatar Comment 7 by Robert Howard

Whatever else may be wrong with our world, it remains a fact that some of the most terrifying instances of human conflict and stupidity would be unthinkable without religion.

Whenever someone makes the argument that all human evil is somehow the result of religion, I'm always reminded of the centuries-old war that exists between the Lilliputians and the inhabitants of Blefescu in the first book of Swift's Gulliver's Travels. This war, which has claimed thousands of lives on both sides, is the result of a disagreement over which side of a boiled egg one should crack in order to eat it: the Lilliputians are little-enders, the Blefescuans big-enders.

These two neighbouring countries don't have religion so they have to create some other pretence which will justify their blasting the shit out of each other for generation after generation.

I hate religion as much as anyone on this site, but in the end, it's only an idea; something created by us in part because we're the only animal on this planet which, although we're massively proficient at killing each other, have evolved this empathy thing which makes us feel bad about it.

The NRA have got one thing right when they say, Guns don't kill people, People kill people. Religion is just another weapon in our never-ending arsenal.

PS. I don't want to appear nihilistic, and this is probably a different argument, but the current population of earth is, what, almost seven billion and rising? What would it be if we had never invented religion?

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 17:40:27 UTC | #868950

Jay G's Avatar Comment 8 by Jay G

Comment 6 by rod-the-farmer :

Is is true that Jewish men still start the morning with a prayer "Thank God I was not born a woman " ???? Or is that gone now, or only a tiny sect ?

They don't start with that prayer, but they still say it.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 17:58:20 UTC | #868957

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 9 by Alan4discussion

Yesterday my daughter asked, “What is gravity?” She is two and a half years old. I could say many things on this subject—most of which she could not possibly understand—but the deep and honest answer is “I don’t know.

Let's keep it simple. For a two year old gravity is the force that pulls her ball towards the Earth when she lets go, and also makes rain drops fall out of the clouds.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 18:18:54 UTC | #868960

Stonyground's Avatar Comment 10 by Stonyground

@Robert Howard You seem to have taken a quote and read into it something that is not there. Nowhere in that quote does SH even imply that 'all human evil is somehow the result of religion'. What I would say is that, although there are many other sources of conflict, the vast majority at least have some religious element. The problem as I see it is that this religious element prevents the problem ever being resolved. This means that the conflict festers indefinately.

On the other hand there are conflicts that involve religion and only religion. these are a real tradgedy. Groups of people who have no reason at all to disagree apart from the fact that they believe in a different brand of utter tripe. In some cases they believe in pretty much the same tripe apart from some tiny details and still feel the need to slaughter each other.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 18:28:42 UTC | #868962

ericaincharlotte's Avatar Comment 11 by ericaincharlotte

This is my first post on this board. Here I go....:-) It's a nice article.I myself strive to tell the facts as I know them to my child and anyone else. I try to give a well rounded view of the world. I started by telling them the truth about Santa Claus and it has evolved since then. I think we really don't know that much about ourslelves or the Universe. It's a daily learning process. One thing I do know.... and I see this with the work environment I'm in which has a mix of "believers" and "non-believers". Labels and lack of reading of good fact based books is a big enemy to all concerned. From a first hand view when common sense does prevail, all to often it is NOT the free thinkers that support those who have broken through the ignorance and try to resolve the "emotional issue", etc...which seems to be the main stumbling block... particular from the population demographic I'm part of due to aguti signalling peptides, etc.., etc...

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 18:28:57 UTC | #868963

alaskansee's Avatar Comment 12 by alaskansee

Thanks Alan4discussion, I'm significantly disappointed with Harris though! For a man that's made my head spin at times that question should be as easy as falling off a wall!

Wonder if he needs our advice on the sex talk?

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 18:31:53 UTC | #868964

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 13 by Steven Mading

Comment 7 by Robert Howard :

Whatever else may be wrong with our world, it remains a fact that some of the most terrifying instances of human conflict and stupidity would be unthinkable without religion.

Whenever someone makes the argument that all human evil is somehow the result of religion,

Whenever someone makes the argument that a lot of human evil is the result of religion, someone always comes along and sancitmoniously makes a strawman of it by pretending what was said was that all human evil is the result of religion.

I shouldn't need to remind you that the words used were, and I quote, "some of the most terrifying instances of human conflict".

I'm always reminded of the centuries-old war that exists between the Lilliputians and the inhabitants of Blefescu in the first book of Swift's Gulliver's Travels. This war, which has claimed thousands of lives on both sides, is the result of a disagreement over which side of a boiled egg one should crack in order to eat it: the Lilliputians are little-enders, the Blefescuans big-enders.

These two neighbouring countries don't have religion so they have to create some other pretence which will justify their blasting the shit out of each other for generation after generation.

I would argue just the opposite, that the big-endian vs little-endian schism was put there by the author on purpose AS a parody of religion - one designed by the author to point out how silly religious war is.

I hate religion as much as anyone on this site, but in the end, it's only an idea; something created by us in part because we're the only animal on this planet which, although we're massively proficient at killing each other, have evolved this empathy thing which makes us feel bad about it.

The NRA have got one thing right when they say, Guns don't kill people, People kill people. Religion is just another weapon in our never-ending arsenal.

PS. I don't want to appear nihilistic, and this is probably a different argument, but the current population of earth is, what, almost seven billion and rising? What would it be if we had never invented religion?

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 18:36:51 UTC | #868966

KABOOM's Avatar Comment 14 by KABOOM

Okay, current jihads, witch trial, purges, the rants out Deuteronomy are all fair game if one wants to correlate religion as the source of a lot of evil in the history of the planet. No argument.

However, big argument went athiests (yes, all athiests aren't good people either) such as Stalin and Hitler get rationalized as "closely resembling religion". That entire paragraph is a piece of absolute self-serving drivel that if a similar flawed statement were made by a bible-humping preacher on the other side of the aisle the person would be rightfully tarred and feathered by this entire community.

Mankind are and have fundamentally been killers going back to when we are all proto-Chimps ~ 6 million years ago. There's less of that now than there has ever been in the past if you look at the long term "kill curve" (for lack of a better term) but it is still a big part of our DNA.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 19:14:57 UTC | #868974

Southpaw's Avatar Comment 15 by Southpaw

Great piece, and more succinct and understandable than Sam's usual somewhat sesquipedalian stuff.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 19:16:25 UTC | #868976

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 16 by Stevehill

@JayG

I know plenty of "serious" Jews who teach their childen love, understanding and compassion and do not "derange" them. I agree that we need a good dose of sanity and reason, but I don't agree that religious people are necessarily bringing up a generation of crazy people.

Jay - I have no doubt that your heart is in the right place, but really, believing - sincerely - in the god described in the Pentateuch is, well, insane.

The New Testament is at least (mostly) mild in comparison, and Christians by and large don't take much notice of the Old Testament, lest they go nuts.

How many "yes, buts" does a Jewish child need before realising that the bollocks about bacon sandwiches, shellfish, mixed fibres, gays, killing children who disobey parents, smiting Canaanite babies against the rocks etc is - well - bollocks?

Unless and until rational, educated human beings stand together and condemn this bullshit for what it is, there will be more 9/11s.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 19:18:41 UTC | #868977

Charliewhite's Avatar Comment 17 by Charliewhite

Language such as abuse of a child is provocative and adds nothing to the point being made.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 19:22:44 UTC | #868979

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 18 by Stevehill

@StephenMading

the big-endian vs little-endian schism was put there by the author on purpose AS a parody of religion - one designed by the author to point out how silly religious war is.

Absolutely: that is entirely what Swift was all about: parody.

His Modest Proposal, during an Irish famine (there were several), is one to relish.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 19:23:18 UTC | #868980

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 19 by Peter Grant

Sam really is rolling out a lot of excellent articles lately. I especially liked this one, though I didn't see it posted here:

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/how-rich-is-too-rich/

I'd love to have heard the howls of protest from the libertarians :D

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 19:36:18 UTC | #868983

achromat666's Avatar Comment 20 by achromat666

Comment 14 by KABOOM :

Okay, current jihads, witch trial, purges, the rants out Deuteronomy are all fair game if one wants to correlate religion as the source of a lot of evil in the history of the planet. No argument. However, big argument went athiests (yes, all athiests aren't good people either) such as Stalin and Hitler get rationalized as "closely resembling religion". That entire paragraph is a piece of absolute self-serving drivel that if a similar flawed statement were made by a bible-humping preacher on the other side of the aisle the person would be rightfully tarred and feathered by this entire community.

Mankind are and have fundamentally been killers going back to when we are all proto-Chimps ~ 6 million years ago. There's less of that now than there has ever been in the past if you look at the long term "kill curve" (for lack of a better term) but it is still a big part of our DNA.

The best phrase for this is more to the point that having no religion is no guarantee that any society or government will be free of tyranny, oppression, or genocide. That I am completely fine with agreeing with, as we're discussing people.

However, Hitler wasn't atheist. He and the RCC had numerous correspondence and they of course were pleased as can be that he wanted to engage in large scale anti semitism. His personal views in Mein Kampf reflected a higher power though at times in direct opposition to the christian ideal.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 19:44:58 UTC | #868984

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 21 by aquilacane

Forget religion, I've watched parents tell me what their kid will and won't eat. Of course, this is bullshit and more a reflection of the parents tastes than that of the child's. I know this because I've fed to children food their parents were sure they didn't like. I made it fun and I did it without the parents their. Of course, I told the parents after and expressed concern they may be fucking up their child's opportunity to experience based on their own hard-set ways.

Never show you dislike something in front of a child who hasn't had a chance to make up their own mind yet. Set up for fail, if you do.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 20:00:49 UTC | #868989

Atheist Mike's Avatar Comment 22 by Atheist Mike

Good article Sam.

Talking about 9/11..

Did anyone watch Hard Talk? The political correctness of the interviewer was mind boggling. He essentially criticized the ex-mayor of New York because the police is keeping an eye on muslim community centers (mosques). The BBC can be so silly sometimes.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 20:01:44 UTC | #868990

Naturalist1's Avatar Comment 23 by Naturalist1

I have said it here before on this site. Sam reiterates in his own way...."We will be rid of this nonsense one generation after people stop bringing their children to these filthy priests."

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 20:08:36 UTC | #868994

fuzzylogic's Avatar Comment 24 by fuzzylogic

removed

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 20:31:10 UTC | #868998

Robert Howard's Avatar Comment 25 by Robert Howard

Comment 10 by Stonyground :

@Robert Howard You seem to have taken a quote and read into it something that is not there. Nowhere in that quote does SH even imply that 'all human evil is somehow the result of religion'. What I would say is that, although there are many other sources of conflict, the vast majority at least have some religious element. The problem as I see it is that this religious element prevents the problem ever being resolved. This means that the conflict festers indefinately.

On the other hand there are conflicts that involve religion and only religion. these are a real tradgedy. Groups of people who have no reason at all to disagree apart from the fact that they believe in a different brand of utter tripe. In some cases they believe in pretty much the same tripe apart from some tiny details and still feel the need to slaughter each other.

I was prepared to admit at first that I cherry-picked one quote from Sam Harris's article and perhaps read into it something that the author didn't intend (I've been doing that a lot recently on this site). Then I went back and re-read what he said next, viz: "And the other ideologies that inspire people to behave like monsters.....are dangerous precisely because they so resemble religions." It seems like he was doing the standard volte face that many people perform when they realise that religion isn't necessary for humans to do evil and their argument can easily be countered by invoking the names of Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Genghis Khan etc.

In which case, he seems to be wanting to have his cake and eat it: religion is necessary to further monstrous political ideologies.....erm, except when it isn't....but non-religious totalitarian governments sort of act in a religious way, so they're the same. Quad erat what now?

Re your second point that there are conflicts that involve religion and only religion, I have to disagree. I still maintain that while religion may be a catalyst for these conflicts, and provides an effective opiate for the masses of foot soldiers who actually have to take up arms, if it were not a factor then these people would invent another reason to justify killing the fuck out of each other. It's just what we do and always have done. We love it and we're very good at it. The desire to wage war is part of our genetic make-up, just as it's part of the make-up of our closest relative the chimpanzee and our more distant relative the termite. Unlike those guys, however, we're the only ones who feel the need to rationalize our actions.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 20:31:52 UTC | #868999

KenChimp's Avatar Comment 26 by KenChimp

Comment 10 by Stonyground :

@Robert Howard You seem to have taken a quote and read into it something that is not there. Nowhere in that quote does SH even imply that 'all human evil is somehow the result of religion'. What I would say is that, although there are many other sources of conflict, the vast majority at least have some religious element. The problem as I see it is that this religious element prevents the problem ever being resolved. This means that the conflict festers indefinately.

On the other hand there are conflicts that involve religion and only religion. these are a real tradgedy. Groups of people who have no reason at all to disagree apart from the fact that they believe in a different brand of utter tripe. In some cases they believe in pretty much the same tripe apart from some tiny details and still feel the need to slaughter each other.

I might add that regardless of religion not being the single cause of human evil and suffering, it is without a doubt the greatest single cause of it.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 21:04:00 UTC | #869008

wald0h's Avatar Comment 27 by wald0h

Yuck, it never fails. Every time Sam (or any atheist) mentions the evil secular people of the past (hitler stalin blah blah blah) and how their behavior mimics cults or religion, people stop reading right there,take their torches and run to the forums.

OH HOOO, nope. Sorry sir, you are not authorized to compare Stalin or Hitler or Pol Pot to religion, they are atheists! Evil doesn't just happen in the name of religion, it also happens in the name of atheism! Who do you think you are? A bible-thumping preist?! You're just as bad as them et cetera et cetera.

A vast majority of the time these strawmen building false moral highgrounders just need to read another sentence or two to get back on track.

Here let me just quote the important part,

"Stalinism, fascism, etc.—are dangerous precisely because they so resemble religions. Sacrifice for the Dear Leader, however secular, is an act of cultic conformity and worship. Whenever human obsession is channeled in these ways, we can see the ancient framework upon which every religion was built. In our ignorance, fear, and craving for order, we created the gods. And ignorance, fear, and craving keep them with us.

What defenders of religion cannot say is that anyone has ever gone berserk, or that a society ever failed, because people became too reasonable, intellectually honest, or unwilling to be duped by the dogmatism of their neighbors. This skeptical attitude, born of equal parts care and curiosity, is all that “atheists” recommend—and it is typical of nearly every intellectual pursuit apart from theology. Only on the subject of God can smart people still imagine that they reap the fruits of human intelligence even as they plow them under."

Nowhere does he mention that their non-belief in gods did not influence their bad decisions. He doesn't say that religion is the only source of evil. Sam makes a very clear comparison to bad ideas (and bad people) and irrational beliefs. And that rationality (in everything, not just beliefs about the supernatural) never failed a society. That's it.

He even puts atheists in quotes just to nail down the fact that he's not talking about everyone who doesn't believe in a god. He's talking about the "atheists" that believe in skepticism and intellectual honesty.

So lets hand over the torches, put the wine glasses and monocles down for a second and get back to the article itself, the entire thing this time.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 21:35:24 UTC | #869014

G*O*D's Avatar Comment 28 by G*O*D

Comment 26 by KenChimp

I might add that regardless of religion not being the single cause of human evil and suffering, it is without a doubt the greatest single cause of it.

Given the Stalin/Mao/Hitler argument, I just wonder if it's not the other way around. Maybe there is a constant amount of human evil that is out there anyway, that one fanatism or another has to consume. Since religion is the main fanatism, it consumes a big slice. When communism or fascism compete, they also get a decent slice. Maybe without religion, various political ideologies would be more evil, football hooligans more deadly and so on.

I don't claim this is so, I am not defending religion, I am just asking.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 21:42:56 UTC | #869015

Agrajag's Avatar Comment 29 by Agrajag

Comment 7 by Robert Howard

Guns don't kill people, People kill people...


...with guns!

(My favorite bumper sticker)
Steve

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 22:34:06 UTC | #869020

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 30 by Peter Grant

The point is not whether atheists make better or worse leaders, the point is that atheists won't follow any leaders blindly.

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 22:46:29 UTC | #869021