Monday, October 01, 2007

How much respect for religious texts?

Gus Van Horn has an interesting discussion on how politely one should treat religious texts in intellectual discussion, offering both fors and againsts for treating sacred texts with respect, and suggesting (if I may summarise) that we should treat them as seriously as the implications of these texts are for those who follow them.
Religious texts [he says] are an important vehicle by which certain philosophical ideas are handed down from one generation to the next, providing people with guidance for how they are to live their lives. In doing this, these works have real-world consequences through the actions they sanction as good and call on the religious to perform.
Those consequences should not be forgotten in a misbegotten sense of courtesy or respect for the undeservedly sacred.

You can probably already tell which view we generally take here at 'Not PC.' On this point I agree with Richard Dawkins that there's no reason for privileging religion over any other system of thought, that we should treat religious idiocy the same as every other brand of idiocy -- and in my case, I like to treat idiocy with as much derision as I can muster. Dawkins quotes Douglas Adams on this point in concluding:
"When you look at it rationally there is no reason why [religious] ideas shouldn't be as open to debate as any other, except that we have agreed somehow between us they shouldn't be."
... In the light of [the] unparalleled presumption of respect for religion ... I shall not go out of my way to offend, but nor shall I don kid gloves to handle religion any more gently than I handle anything else.
Seems like a good policy to me.

Labels:

20 Comments:

Anonymous JC said...

"Seems like a good policy to me."

Seems dopey to me in light of the results. The US, Australia and NZ are drifting into left wing country the more attacks are made on religion. "Enlightened" self interest mostly means sucking the state tit.

You can't expect the 90% Christian military of the US to fight for decades for smartarse atheists if their religion is always attacked by those that have no intention of practicing what they preach.

Time was that the irreligious and the religious made common cause against the threats to civilisation, not destroying that precious unity in the Cold War. Now, the atheist has made common cause with the Left and the Socialists in a feral desire to ridicule the defenders of freedom.

It might be fucking dumb to believe in God, but it's infinitely dumber to expect the Left and the would be destroyers of faith to protect our civilization.

JC

10/01/2007 08:34:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

If the only thing between civilisation and barbarism really were the imaginary friend of several hundred thousand people, then we really would already be screwed.

Fortunately, that's not the case.

However, given the damage done to reason by faith, the very opposite may be true.

Put the question this way. What's the biggest threat to civilisation: socialism from the left, or religionists from the right?

That's a tough call.

One poisons politics, the other poisons reason. Which of the two has the longest-term impact, do you think?

10/01/2007 11:26:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

And here's a timely posting of an observation made by former Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater:

"Religious factions will go on imposing their will on others unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy. They must learn to make their views known without trying to make their views the only alternatives."

10/01/2007 11:31:00 pm  
Anonymous JC said...

"If the only thing between civilisation and barbarism really were the imaginary friend of several hundred thousand people, then we really would already be screwed.

Fortunately, that's not the case."

Yet it remains true. There are how many US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan compared to the rest of the world? And, from memory, Sth Korea is the third most prolific in Iraq.. which also supplies the world with the world's second highest Christian missionary rate.

"However, given the damage done to reason by faith, the very opposite may be true.

Put the question this way. What's the biggest threat to civilisation: socialism from the left, or religionists from the right?

That's a tough call."

For an acknowledged champion of Socialist atheism.. not really.

JC

10/02/2007 01:01:00 am  
Anonymous JC said...

"Religious factions will go on imposing their will on others unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy. They must learn to make their views known without trying to make their views the only alternatives."

Hear hear. But then, as George Will said:

"Think of a senator winning the Democratic nomination in the year 2000 whose positions included halving the military budget, socializing the medical system, reregulating the communications and electrical industries, establishing a guaranteed minimum income for all Americans, and equalizing funding for all schools regardless of property valuations — and who promised to fire Alan Greenspan, counseled withdrawal from the World Trade Organization, and, for good measure, spoke warmly of adolescent sexual experimentation."

Athough he was an Episcopalian Goldwater obviously didn't like religious nutters.. and Rand type policies.

JC

JC

10/02/2007 01:49:00 am  
Anonymous angloamerican said...

You can't expect the 90% Christian military of the US to fight for decades for smartarse atheists if their religion is always attacked by those that have no intention of practicing what they preach.

The US military is a professional organisation. I'd be suprised if their effectiveness relied on religious notions. As for South Korean missionaries, I'd say NATO would rather not have them hanging about Afghanistan - a few got kidnapped and now all the Koreans are leaving. The forces in Afghanistan all come from countries with a Christian heritage, British, German, Dutch, Australian...but I doubt they let that influence their decisions. Most of us are not living in the 12th century anymore. Check out this video of Australian forces in action in Afghanistan.

10/02/2007 05:50:00 am  
Anonymous lgm said...

JC

You speak of a US Military being 90% religious. It is doubtful that such a large proportion of those serving men is actually made up from practicing religious people.

---

Consider what the threats to civilisation actually are. Where do you suppose those soldiers are serving? And who are they fighting? Islamic religious nutters. Oh dear.

And who is it that the US is supposedly in a War against Terrorism against? Islamic religious nutters. Oh dear.

As for socialism, that's just another religion. Socialists replace God with State.

Best to treat all such theologies with contempt. Reject the lot of them.

LGM

10/02/2007 06:49:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

JC, you've confused me. Who exactly are you suggesting "an acknowledged champion of Socialist atheism"?

10/02/2007 11:36:00 am  
Blogger Eric Olthwaite said...

Hear ye, hear ye...

http://www.aucklandphilosophy.episto.org/?p=37

Auckland Philosophy Postgraduate Seminars
END OF YEAR DEBATE
TOPIC: Do We Owe Religion Respect?
Debater 1: Imran Aijaz
Debater 2: Robert Nola
Department of Philosophy, University of Auckland
October 17, 2007
4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

10/02/2007 11:38:00 am  
Anonymous JC said...

"The US military is a professional organisation. I'd be suprised if their effectiveness relied on religious notions."

I don't think effectiveness comes into it. Rather it's a feature of the US military that it's heavily Christian.. for instance the highest number of atheists I could find was 5000.. about 0.4% of the total military with only handfuls of Jewish, Hindu, Buddhists and Muslims. And evangelicals are up to about 40%.

The thing is, the recruiters are hitting their targets and the retention rates are way, way up, and the troops have a feeling of a "mission" to be successful in Iraq.

The Brits, by comparison, have heavily downsized, in part because they have no sense of mission there.

Reading the US military blogs I get a strong sense that the mission is not for God so much as a sense that it's the right thing to do.. and thats a feature of Christians.

As for the other countries in Afghanistan, well, some have made it clear they are there, but not for fighting.

JC

10/02/2007 02:54:00 pm  
Anonymous JC said...

"JC, you've confused me. Who exactly are you suggesting "an acknowledged champion of Socialist atheism"?"

Yeah, well, you confuse me too. On one hand you clearly see the danger of the Islamic cultists and you rail against those who don't or won't see, yet it's the God Botherers who see as clearly as you and you ridicule them for their religion.. that's contradictory in terms of support. Also, doesn't it give you pause that they can see what you see? Religious training may not make sense to you, but it's perfect for recognising the danger inherent in Islam and the necessity to oppose it.

By and large, you simply don't get that recognition from socialists and atheists.

JC

10/02/2007 03:10:00 pm  
Anonymous lgm said...

JC

A major threat to civilisation IS religion. That's where those rag-heads 'lamo-fascists are getting their motivation. They take their religion seriously, consistently so. Westerners do not. That's why Christians don't burn unbelievers and witches at the stake anymore. They have progressed beyond taking religion seriously.

---

You raise an interesting point when you state that the US soldiers are feeling a "mission to be successful in Iraq." That they may well be doing, but is their mission religious? Does it rely on a religious belief or active membership of a religious organisation? I doubt it.

What you are likely to find in the US Military is that the vast majority of serving men are agnostics or in religious matters, non-practising and/or lapsed. They identify themselves as religious as a matter of habit or community (morale and/or fitting in- belonging). In terms of thinking, decision making and action, they are secular and irreligious. If you don't believe this to be the case can I direct you to Jerry McNastie's Bar and Grill near Fort Carson Co, USA? In many conversations with military personnel at that location I came to the conclusion that the religious proclivities of the average American are overstated...

---

You write: "Now, the atheist has made common cause with the Left and the Socialists in a feral desire to ridicule the defenders of freedom."

That's BS dribble. It's false.

Being an atheist does not mean one has a common cause with the Left or the Right. It merely means one is an atheist.

For example, I am an atheist. So are most of my colleagues. None of us believe in a God. None of us have made common cause with the Left or the Right. Both Leftist and Rightists are anti-freedom and hence anti-civilisation. Both rely on ideologies demonstrated to result in violence, impoverishment, torture, rape, murder and destruction on vast scale. Both groups are evil doers.

You also write: "It might be fucking dumb to believe in God, but it's infinitely dumber to expect the Left and the would be destroyers of faith to protect our civilization."

Nonsense. What you are doing here is offering a false choice. The alternatives are not EITHER being a religious protector of civilisation OR being a leftist destroyer of civilisation. Both the religious and the leftist ideals are ultimately destroyers of civilisation.

The real choice is between being civilised or not. Being civilised does not require one to be a believer in religious mumbo-jumbo. It requires one to recognise certain individual attributes and hence Individual Rights* (and no they do not include right to free education, right to high standard of living, right to a job etc.).

LGM

*Read Hoppe or Peikoff on the subject of Individual Rights to gain an insight into what these actually are and what they are not.

10/02/2007 07:06:00 pm  
Anonymous JC said...

"A major threat to civilisation IS religion. That's where those rag-heads 'lamo-fascists are getting their motivation. They take their religion seriously, consistently so. Westerners do not. That's why Christians don't burn unbelievers and witches at the stake anymore. They have progressed beyond taking religion seriously."

A better description is that Christians have a mature religion in which it's easy to separate Church and State. It's also pretty clear from Iraq reports that there are plenty of Muslims in a similar position.

---

"You raise an interesting point when you state that the US soldiers are feeling a "mission to be successful in Iraq." That they may well be doing, but is their mission religious? Does it rely on a religious belief or active membership of a religious organisation? I doubt it.

What you are likely to find in the US Military is that the vast majority of serving men are agnostics or in religious matters, non-practising and/or lapsed. They identify themselves as religious as a matter of habit or community (morale and/or fitting in- belonging). In terms of thinking, decision making and action, they are secular and irreligious. If you don't believe this to be the case can I direct you to Jerry McNastie's Bar and Grill near Fort Carson Co, USA? In many conversations with military personnel at that location I came to the conclusion that the religious proclivities of the average American are overstated..."

Agreed.. until they are provoked. Christians operate in a largely secular world where it's virtually impossible to tell a difference between sects or atheists because it's private and neither interesting or relevant in conversation. Look at the number of declared atheists in the US military. The Pentagon's figures are there are 5000.. but I'm quite sure there are many thousands more.. but it's private and neither interesting or relevant to discuss it.

---

"You write: "Now, the atheist has made common cause with the Left and the Socialists in a feral desire to ridicule the defenders of freedom."

That's BS dribble. It's false."

Tell that to the overwhelming number of atheists in East Germany or other former Communist country. Atheism is the defining feature of the Left.

"Being an atheist does not mean one has a common cause with the Left or the Right. It merely means one is an atheist.

For example, I am an atheist. So are most of my colleagues. None of us believe in a God. None of us have made common cause with the Left or the Right."

OK.

"Both Leftist and Rightists are anti-freedom and hence anti-civilisation. Both rely on ideologies demonstrated to result in violence, impoverishment, torture, rape, murder and destruction on vast scale. Both groups are evil doers."

Now who's dribbling.

"You also write: "It might be fucking dumb to believe in God, but it's infinitely dumber to expect the Left and the would be destroyers of faith to protect our civilization."

Nonsense. What you are doing here is offering a false choice. The alternatives are not EITHER being a religious protector of civilisation OR being a leftist destroyer of civilisation. Both the religious and the leftist ideals are ultimately destroyers of civilisation.

The real choice is between being civilised or not. Being civilised does not require one to be a believer in religious mumbo-jumbo."

Nor does it exclude it. Take Jefferson and the Founding Fathers, or Goldwater or Reagan.. good deists or Christians all, yet they are guiding spirits of liberty down the ages. Add in John Paul, Thatcher, Blair and Howard.. Christians with a burning desire for freedom at times when it would have been popular and profitable to walk away from it.

Atheists have played a part in the march to freedom and civilization, but they are dwarfed by the Christians who achieved it.

JC

10/02/2007 09:42:00 pm  
Blogger AngloAmerican said...

I understand where JC is coming from when he writes, By and large, you simply don't get that recognition from socialists and atheists. There does seem to be a remarkable tolerance for Islamofascist madness amongst the socialists who are largely atheist. However I suspect that LGM and myself fall into the militant atheist camp which is an entirely different kettle of fish.

I reckon you guys should use some html tags in your comments to italicise or bold quotes to make them much easier to read. The above comments can be a bit confusing and repetitive with so many quotes. If the style is different then one can skip over them or speed read them and concentrate more on your opinions.

10/03/2007 07:36:00 am  
Anonymous lgm said...

JC

Your position is false. No amount of wriggling is going to fix it.

Religion did not "mature" in the West, as you'd like to pretend. It remains as flawed as ever. What has occurred is that people stopped taking it as seriously as they once did. They no longer apply it consistenly and exclusively.

You could say that those who profess to be Christians live in a secular culture. It is secular because even those who identify themselves as Christians generally think and act according to secular norms. A characteristic of a civilised society is the gradual decline of religious practice and arbitary beliefs.

As for the Left and Right committing evil and acting to destroy civilisation, I suggest you take a careful look at what occurs when the ideologies of the Left and the Right are actually applied. There are plenty of examples. Perhaps you might care to read up on some of what occurred in the last century... When such ideologies are applied by individuals or small groups the consequences are bad enough, but when applied by governments the results are lethal. That's not dribble, it's fact.

I note your characterisation of East Europeans. It's erroneous. I can assure you that you've got it wrong. But then, I have the advantage of having lived there for some years (I first lived there immediately prior to and after the fall of the wall).

Final point, you argue by offering false choices. I've pointed this error out to you and dismissed it as an invalid approach. Remember, it was you who offered the choice between false alternatives.

You can't get around the fact that one does not require religious mumbo-jumbo to attain a state of civilisation, as you keep attempting to infer (actually it's better to exclude the mumbo-jumbo altogether and deal direct with reality). Progress toward civilisation has been made as the direct result of the application of reason in logical fashion. Doing that is certainly not what religious belief is about.

Anyway, now we are straying well off the original topic. The point is that your original contentions have been demolished and shown to be faulty. You should revise them.

LGM

10/04/2007 06:44:00 am  
Blogger AngloAmerican said...

I was thinking about the original topic, “How much respect for religious texts?” and wondered if people merely pay lip service to respecting the religions of others. After all if you don’t believe their claims then you are not really respecting their claims. You’re certainly not respecting religious texts if you believe that they are a load of old rope. Mohammedans despise unbelievers because they show disrespect by not believing and they have got a point. The only way an unbeliever can show some respect is by becoming a dhimmi. People should face the reality that not all religious texts are sacred and deserving of respect – indeed it is most likely that none of them deserve respect. Actually, they should stand on their own merits like all other philosophical works.

10/04/2007 07:48:00 am  
Anonymous lgm said...

Angloamerican

You're right.

Religious texts should be analysed and judged on their merits. When you do this they soon reveal they fall well short of rationality. How could a sane man take that stuff seriously?

Moving on. Recently I heard a guy on the radio mention that Communism is a religion. The significant difference between conventional religions and the communist one was that, in communism, the state replaces God. All else follows. It was an interesting observation. Of course it is a heresy to Christians and Marxists alike, but there you are!

BTW did you know that Stalin was a Christian? He trained at a seminary, moving out when he realised where the best opportunities for his skills would be in the future.

LGM

10/04/2007 10:42:00 am  
Anonymous JC said...

OK, moving back towards the subject..

Civilization can be broadly defined as an increasingly complex society as it moves beyond subsistance towards towns and cities with higher structures.

Inherent in all successful civilisations are sustainability, art, organised religion, governance, science and philosophy; these are the building blocks of civilisation.

These and other aspects of complexity are variously in harmony or discord or dominance with each other, and they are all present in the building and early success stages.

We don't know precisely the order of what causes all civilisations to fall, but certainly a collapse in morality or organised religion is part of it, if only because religion is basic part of the culture and reason for the civilisation.
The tension between science, religion and philosophy is particularly important.. the Islamic civilisation was particularly vibrant up to about the 13th century until religion became dominant and ossified.. so Islam stagnated. The Christian civilisation went the other way as science and philosophy became increasingly important from about the same period.

Yet today, throughout the Western world, the civilisation is showing marked signs of decay and has lost, or is losing it's cultural identity and is diverting it's genius to the service of cultural minorities in it's own countries and pandering to Muslims in *their* countries.
Like rats gnawing it's own entrails, the West is denigrating it's own history and trying to excise the bits that don't conform to PC, multiculturalism and the imperatives of Islam. Of course, Western history is also the history of it's religions, so out they go.. somehow, Western history is now something that started in Classical Greece and moved immediately to the Enlightenment with anything in between being the Dark Ages and the time of the Barbarians. In the decades to come, we will also remove the period between the Enlightenment and about 1970.. so that we can describe the Colonial period as the period of Western barbarity brought on by religious fanatics.

It won't do any good and it won't stop Western decay because we cannot excise thousands of years of history and religion without losing our cultural identity and purpose for living. Hollow Men indeed.

JC

10/04/2007 01:33:00 pm  
Blogger AngloAmerican said...

I'm not convinced that things are that bad JC. From my own perspective our civilization seems better now than ever before and I thoroughly enjoy every day I live within it.

LGM, it's interesting that Stalin was a Christian although somehow it doesn't suprise me, true atheists could never be so cruel.

10/04/2007 10:56:00 pm  
Anonymous lgm said...

Angloamerican

Real cruelty requires an other worldly (that is, non-real) justification. I guess that an atheist (and by this term I include non-belief in state as supreme entity) realises that this life is all that he has. No point in wasting life on the pursuit of suffering and destruction.

Anyway, that's my guess.

LGM

10/05/2007 07:30:00 am  

Post a Comment

Respond with a polite and intelligent comment. (Both will be applauded.)

Say what you mean, and mean what you say. (Do others the courtesy of being honest.)

Please put a name to your comments. (If you're prepared to give voice, then back it up with a name.)

And don't troll. Please. (Contemplate doing something more productive with your time, and ours.)

<< Home