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Munger's Avatar Joined over 7 years ago
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Go to: Response to the God Delusion

Munger's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by Munger

An interesting rebuttal. While I didn't agree with many of his counter-arguments, I thought they were well presented. Then he goes off the deep end and says that the church doesn't ask for "blind faith."

Of course, it all adds up to a rather meek counter-attack. All the good Reverend does is redefine terms to fit his particular point of view. Suddenly, evolution is fine and not contrary to the bible (though ask a fundamentalist who reads the bible literally if that's true) and faith can be as reasonable and well-thought out as scientific observation.

The Reverend is clearly another person who doesn't really know what it is to believe in his own religion.

Sun, 22 Jul 2007 15:09:00 UTC | #54776

Go to: Debate between Sam Harris and Chris Hedges

Munger's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by Munger

Another frustrating debate where the so-called "moderator" can't just sit back and shut up. Harris did an excellent job, especially considering that it was two against one. And one of those two was supposed to represent a neutral party.

Mon, 18 Jun 2007 13:39:00 UTC | #47512

Go to: We of little faith

Munger's Avatar Jump to comment 64 by Munger

I think the debate here is a matter of semantics. Personally, I enjoy many aspects of buddhist philosophy and find there's much wisdom to be found in it. Do I consider it divinely inspired? No. Do I think the teachings of the Buddha were perfect? No. Am I even sure that the original Buddha even existed? No.

This doesn't mean that I don't enjoy many aspects of the philosophy and feel that it has enriched my life. I don't pray or chant to invisible gods. I don't believe in reincarnation. I don't think I should give away all my possessions and move into a temple and think about my consciousness all day. But I do think that many of the ideas presented are valid ways of looking at dealing with life, of thinking about the nature of compassion and our own minds. It works for me, but it's not religion. Not even close.

If buddhism was my religion, then I would assume that it was somehow flawless, that it's every argument was correct, and that it was the one and only way to deal with life. I don't and many other buddhists (notice I didn't capitalize) don't either. Any more than students of other philosophy's assume that their studies are divinely inspired.

Sure, some nuts abuse buddhism, making it a religion. They believe in all sorts of crazy ideas. But saying I'm a fan of buddhist thought is not the same as saying I believe in it irrationally, without question.

Of course, the argument could be made that, taken in this context, all religion has something worthwhile to offer. And I think that's true. It isn't the ideas of religion that make it damaging. It's the blind faith in it, the magical assumptions of it. As Dawkins has said many times, there are interesting ideas in the bible, if you can sort out the rubbish.

I believe in buddhism the same way I believe in science. Through experimentation and logical observation. I don't believe in reincarnation. It's unprovable. I don't believe in magical karma. It's a childish notion. But I do believe in striving for peace of mind, in taking time to try to understand my own rational and irrational thoughts, and questioning whether my motives and feelings are not always coming from somewhere other than my obvious conscious mind.

It's a ridiculous bone of contention on this site. Harris gets attacked for saying there's still so much to the universe and our own minds that we just don't understand, that consciousness is a grand riddle, and that things such as mind over matter are, in the broadest sense of the word, possible. He is not irrational. He will never spend money to go to a fortune teller, never read his horoscope eagerly, never believe that someone can make a spoon bend without proper proof. He's merely open-minded.

Dawkins's great quote: It is so possible to be so open minded that your brains fall out.

Well, it's also possible to be so closed-minded that you stop listening before the discussion begins.

Also: Harris's views on torture are far more nuanced and interesting than most people understand. The irony is that his arguments are lost once again because people shut down as soon as they hear the word. Harris is not pro-torture anymore than he's pro-war. He merely states, if you're willing to drop bombs on people, torture is hardly more reprehensible in the end. The only difference is the distance of the violence.

Ask yourself what would be harder? Pushing a button that killed ten people you never met or shooting someone right in the face? If you had to do it, which would be easier, less likely to traumatize you? That, in a nutshell, is why people hate torture but can live with bombs.

Of course, it's a completely imaginary argument. But that sort of hypothetical introspection is just the kind of thing we should all do once in a while. It's the kind of thing that merciless rationalists get accused of not doing enough. And when I see the attacks on buddhist philosophy (not Buddhist religion) I think sometimes, stereotypes are true.

Wed, 13 Jun 2007 14:46:00 UTC | #46854

Go to: Hitchens and Prager Debate

Munger's Avatar Jump to comment 88 by Munger

It's funny, but whenever I hear a debate of this sort, I realize that atheists are ultimately optimists while religious folks are cynics in disguise. An atheist believes the universe is a product of chance and natural selection, that mankind is no more significant than any other bits of carbon in the universe, but that we can still lead rich fulfilling lives and that we don't need to be constantly monitored by a cosmic skyfather to keep us from turning on each other and eating each other's brains/children/SUVs/etc.

Religious folk on the other hand tend to think that everything is terrible, that without god, humanity would tear itself apart and indeed, without god, the universe itself wouldn't even tolerate us. Only through god's strongarm tactics, is it forced to allow us to live.

I used to consider it lack of imagination. But now, I think of it as pure cynicism, contempt, and fear. Cynicism that sometimes good things happen from randomness. Contempt that we are all horrible little creatures without a grand warden watching our every move, and fear that we are insignificant and unimportant.

As for the meat of the interview, prager pretty much cheats constantly by saying atheism scores no points for its many fine historical figures but religion does. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

I find it even stranger that Prager advocates religion as the solution to all our problems. We've had religion for well over two thousand years and it hasn't solved much of anything. Certainly hasn't improved the quality of life like say the polio vaccine, antibiotics, or heck, even something as trivial as video games.

Prager believes that without god, the world would crumble. That sort of absolute security blanket is pretty much impossible to remove. Still, bravo to Hitchens for going on and trying to spread the word.

Mon, 11 Jun 2007 02:55:00 UTC | #46284

Go to: Religion & Culture Panel

Munger's Avatar Jump to comment 27 by Munger

Once again, we see a pro-religious group that is, in themselves, not truly religious. They don't believe in the divinity and absolute truth of the bible. Instead, they just find it comforting (after they ignore the particularly unpleasant parts). Hitchens (and Dawkins and Harris) are dead on the money when they say that a huge percentage of "believers" don't believe at all. They just can't let go of their security blanket.

Harris makes the point, over and over again, that religious moderates who don't actually believe or follow the teachings of their chosen book don't understand what it means to truly surrender your mind to a magic book. Their defense of religion is laughable. Or it would be if it weren't so ill-informed and misdirected.

Tue, 01 May 2007 09:42:00 UTC | #33921

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