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The Problem with Religious Moderation From Sam Harris

#61 User is online   blackshoe 

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Posted 2013-October-06, 23:09

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satan
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#62 User is offline   mike777 

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Posted 2013-October-06, 23:39

View Post32519, on 2013-October-06, 22:52, said:

The Old Testament is not only a history of the Jews, it is also crammed with prophecies, 80+% which have already been fulfilled. The remaining whatever % all have to do with the consummation of the world as we currently know it. Because the Old Testament foretold much of what we read in the New Testament, it MUST also confirm what we read in the New Testament as well.

And therein lies the reason why I am appealing to my Jewish brethren whether or not this character, which the Western translators have dubbed “Satan,” occurs in the original Hebrew. They know their sacred writings better than anyone else. With the resources currently at my disposal, I cannot find it/him. To ascribe all the evil and wickedness in the world to a fictitious non-existent entity is not only wrong, it is also misleading.

Come on Billow/Art – let me hear from you or your local Rabbi. I am open for correction. If I am misreading this stuff, then put me on the right track.




I did know this:

Azrael

You might want to check out the ancient texts which refer.

I am not jewish but I am an old member of AEP(1971) :)

http://www.aepi.org/
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#63 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2013-October-07, 03:14

Why don't you ask your own local rabbi rather than posting the question on a bridge forum?
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#64 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2013-October-07, 03:31

View Post32519, on 2013-October-06, 22:52, said:

Because the Old Testament foretold much of what we read in the New Testament, it MUST also confirm what we read in the New Testament as well.


There is a fallacy here, but I don't know what it is called.

View Post32519, on 2013-October-06, 22:52, said:

To ascribe all the evil and wickedness in the world to a fictitious non-existent entity is not only wrong, it is also misleading.


Everyone knows that evil and wickedness and all other kinds of trouble and suffering entered the world when Pandora opened her box.
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#65 User is offline   billw55 

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Posted 2013-October-07, 07:05

View Post32519, on 2013-October-06, 01:01, said:

Can someone help? Billow55 or Art maybe?


View Post32519, on 2013-October-06, 22:52, said:

Come on Billow/Art – let me hear from you or your local Rabbi. I am open for correction. If I am misreading this stuff, then put me on the right track.

I have no knowledge whatsoever of Hebrew, and nothing on Judaism or the OT that cannot be read on Wikipedia. I am baffled as to why you have solicited an opinion from me in particular.

I have met members of Christian sects who use the word "adversary" rather than "satan". I have met other Christians who claim there is no such entity, and that evil comes entirely from people. I am not sure what you are driving at.
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#66 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2013-October-07, 07:16

View Post32519, on 2013-October-06, 22:52, said:

The Old Testament is not only a history of the Jews, it is also crammed with prophecies, 80+% which have already been fulfilled.


Given that so much of the history the "history" in the old testament conflicts with archeology, I'm kinda shocked that you'd but so much faith in the prophecies...

(And we're not talking "small stuff" here. Exodus is a myth)
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#67 User is offline   ArtK78 

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Posted 2013-October-07, 09:28

I do not profess to be an authority on Judaism or the Old Testament. But it is my understanding that the concepts of "hell" and "Satan" are not part of main stream Judaism.

Perhaps because we don't need a concept of "hell" or "Satan" to scare us into doing what is right. That's what Jewish mothers are for.
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#68 User is offline   32519 

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Posted 2013-October-07, 11:07

View PostArtK78, on 2013-October-07, 09:28, said:

I do not profess to be an authority on Judaism or the Old Testament. But it is my understanding that the concepts of "hell" and "Satan" are not part of main stream Judaism.

Perhaps because we don't need a concept of "hell" or "Satan" to scare us into doing what is right. That's what Jewish mothers are for.

Thanks Art.
The word translated as hell in the Westernised Bible is an actual place called Gehenna or Valley of Hinnom, a deep, narrow glen to the south of Jerusalem. It became the common refuse place of the city, into which the bodies of criminals, carcasses of animals, and all sorts of filth were cast, and a 24/7 fire burned to consume all the debris. A continuous plume of smoke ascended from its fire and depth and narrowness. As fire was the characteristic of the place, it was called Gehenna of fire.
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#69 User is offline   billw55 

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Posted 2013-October-07, 11:35

View Posthrothgar, on 2013-October-07, 07:16, said:

(And we're not talking "small stuff" here. Exodus is a myth)

I'd be interested in some references on that.
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#70 User is online   Winstonm 

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Posted 2013-October-07, 11:44

I would be interested in hearing views on this small section of the writing of Sam Harris. Harris is a noted atheist writer who holds a view that religious belief is harmful, including moderate beliefs. What do you think? Does religious moderation give rise to more fanatical interpretations? (emphasis added)

Quote

While moderation in religion may seem a reasonable position to stake out, in light of all that we have (and have not) learned about the universe, it offers no bulwark against religious extremism and religious violence. From the perspective of those seeking to live by the letter of the texts, the religious moderate is nothing more than a failed fundamentalist. He is, in all likelihood, going to wind up in hell with the rest of the unbelievers. The problem that religious moderation poses for all of us is that it does not permit anything very critical to be said about religious literalism. We cannot say that fundamentalists are crazy, because they are merely practicing their freedom of belief; we cannot even say that they are mistaken in religious terms, because their knowledge of scripture is generally unrivaled. All we can say, as religious moderates, is that we don’t like the personal and social costs that a full embrace of scripture imposes on us. This is not a new form of faith, or even a new species of scriptural exegesis; it is simply a capitulation to a variety of all-too-human interests that have nothing, in principle, to do with God. Religious moderation is the product of secular knowledge and scriptural ignorance—and it has no bona fides, in religious terms, to put it on a par with fundamentalism. The texts themselves are unequivocal: they are perfect in all their parts. By their light, religious moderation appears to be nothing more than an unwillingness to fully submit to God’s law. By failing to live by the letter of the texts, while tolerating the irrationality of those who do, religious moderates betray faith and reason equally. Unless the core dogmas of faith are called into question—i.e., that we know there is a God, and that we know what he wants from us—religious moderation will do nothing to lead us out of the wilderness. - See more at: http://www.samharris...h.YMRV56Kq.dpuf

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#71 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2013-October-07, 15:24

Given that most Christian discussion on fundamentalist vs historical context vs translation, never mind discussions about what is canon, and what is the role of extra-canonical texts, basically is "you are mistaken in religious terms, and here is why" - I think he's full of it (or at least letting his biases get in the way of sight).

One of my biggest issues with current Christian Fundamentalism is that they are willing to admit there are stories in the text that are in fact stories designed to teach a truth, and stuff that is literal truth; but they get to decide which is which, and they're frequently irrational about it. For instance, it's proven from text that Jesus liked to teach via parables (stories), and it's treated as common and expected. And, if you ask a rabbi, you'll find that yes, this method of education has been fundamental to Judaism since at least the Exodus, and still is. So, of course, nothing in the Jewish Scripture, as translated into the Greek, and then the Latin, and not thrown out as "non-canon" by several non-Jews in the first few centuries AD, is a story - it's all the literal truth. Except where it isn't.

Another issue is that the Laws of Moses, as part of the Covenant with the Jews, have been superseded by the New Covenant, which is why pork in cream sauce is served on Fundamentalist's tables on one set of dishes - except for the parts they think need to still be on the books.

I happen to think (and a troll through the archives will show this is not my only mention of it) that it's fanaticism that's the problem, not religious (or non-religious). And many of the popular/famous anti-religious (who, at least around here, happen to be anti-Christian/anti-Muslim; at least their arguments aim at those religious structures rather than others) are fanatic in their irrelgiousity (which is how to get famous, one would think). I have no idea if this applies to the gentleman in question.

Note - nothing above says anything about what is actually true (yes, I have my opinions, and the bias should be obvious). Just the arguments.
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#72 User is online   mikeh 

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Posted 2013-October-07, 17:57

Sam Harris is not my favourite atheist writer, but I think he has a valid point here.

I haven't read the source material, but my take on what he is saying is that the problem faced by the moderates is that they cannot challenge the core beliefs of the fundamentalists, because their true core beliefs are identical.

The fundie Xian professes to believe in the divinity of the Christ figure portrayed in the New Testament.

The moderate Xian professes the same belief.

They argue about which parts of the various 'books' that make up the bible should be taken literally or which ones were relegated to irrelevant by later commands from 'god' or some authorized delegate of 'god' but underlying all of these debates is the same reliance on fantasy and fiction and irrationality.

Underlying these debates within Islam, Christianity, and Judaism remains the central tenet, that there is a 'god', many of whose behavioural characteristics are recognizably human (given that they were invented by humans, this is hardly a surprise.....there is no reason to believe that god created us in his image, but compelling reason to believe that we invented god in ours).

To an atheist, this is insanity.

However, to a moderate believer, it is unthinkable to attack or criticize the fundamentalist as (pun intended) fundamentally insane, because, fundamentally speaking, the moderate shares the core beliefs of the zealot.

The moderate can express concern that the fundamentalist has misinterpreted details of doctrine.

However, the logical strength and persuasive power of this argument is weak for the reason that moderates can rarely agree. There is no single 'moderate' Christian doctrine. I don't know much anout Islam or Judaism but I understand the same holds true there. These religions, and I suspect this is common to all established religions, contain many sects, each possessed of the sure knowledge that 'their' reading of the holy texts is the right one.

How, then, does a young, troubled youth, brought up in a religious environment in which it is the norm to reject critical thinking about religious matters, distinguish the moral differences between the 'purity' of fundamentalism and the more 'nuanced' moderates?

The moderates are nuanced precisely because they, or their leaders, have recognized that a literal reading of the holy books would make it impossible for many to believe...and religion is about nothing if it isn't about controlling the maximal number of sheep.

The moderates cannot eliminate the problem of fundamentalism because they see the issues separating them from the fundies as arguments about details.

An analogy might be to there being an atheist, a fundie and a moderate on the Titanic. Both believers, seeing the iceberg approach, accept that god meant for the collision to occur. The fundie says we all must lie down and die. The moderate says we should get some people into the insufficient lifeboats.

The atheist turns the wheel and steers around the iceberg, because she sees no reason why the collision should be inevitable.

The moderate was incapable of doing anything more than to minimize the loss of life because he shared the core belief of the fundie, that god meant the Titanic to be sunk.
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#73 User is online   Winstonm 

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Posted 2013-October-07, 18:16

The extended argument Harris has made is that because the moderate believer fosters the basic belief of the fanatic he is also culpable for homicides committed by the fanatic in the name of that belief.
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#74 User is online   mikeh 

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Posted 2013-October-07, 18:32

View PostWinstonm, on 2013-October-07, 18:16, said:

The extended argument Harris has made is that because the moderate believer fosters the basic belief of the fanatic he is also culpable for homicides committed by the fanatic in the name of that belief.

Culpable is a very strong word, and I would part company with him there.

Moderates and fanatics, imo, share the same blind spot about their own thinking....moderates, in particular, seem unaware of the different attitudes they have to such matters as the theory of evolution or the age of the solar system (most appear to accept the currently held scientific ideas, in broad terms) on the one hand, and, on the other, the existence and nature (?) of their particular god. They are rational on many issues, and blind to their irrationality on the religious front. Interestingly, every moderate I have ever had this discussion with vehemently disagrees with me and this is an unwinnable argument precisely because it is a blind spot :P .

However, I don't see the blind spot as the 'cause' of fundamentalism as such. I do see it as pre-disposing the fundie to forming his or her beliefs. However, I gather that some geneticists have found, or claim to have found, a gene or combination of genes the presence of which is more common in psychopaths than in the normal population. Yet possession of this gene or combination doesn't make most bearers of it psychopaths. Imagine a parent with the mutation, who is a good, decent person, and his or her child, inheriting the gene, becomes a killer. Ignoring any issue about abuse etc, one can't morally blame the parent merely because they share the same predisposition.

I am not sure how valid the analogy is, because I didn't spend much time on it, but I am comfortable rejecting the notion of culpability.
'one of the great markers of the advance of human kindness is the howls you will hear from the Men of God' Johann Hari
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#75 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2013-October-07, 18:43

Moderation is usually good. A religious moderate is tolerant of other's beliefs. Although he does try to distinguish right from wrong. He deplores behaviour that he judges to be evil. Especially by those who claim to be religious. But he's less likely to kill you for your beliefs. He may even be persuadable that his belief is mistaken. Is there a lesson here for Atheists? :)
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#76 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2013-October-07, 19:19

View Postblackshoe, on 2013-October-06, 09:56, said:

So what you're really saying is that there is no point in faith.

View PostWinstonm, on 2013-October-06, 19:35, said:

Right. No point other than a possible psychological appeasement of a basic fear of the unknown.
Winstonm's view is cynical. Science posits tentative models of reality that help explain bits of it. Some "moral" behaviour seems instinctive (e.g. mother-love). Skinner might explain conscience in terms of operant and avoidance conditioning. These may be reinforced by belief in heaven and hell.

Most people, however, live by moral/ethical beliefs (e.g. belief in human-rights) with no scientific basis. The step from "is" to "ought" is a leap of faith. IMO, if unprovable religious or ethical beliefs stop us all becoming psychopaths, then good for them! :)
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#77 User is online   mikeh 

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Posted 2013-October-07, 20:26

View Postnige1, on 2013-October-07, 18:43, said:

Moderation is usually good. A religious moderate is tolerant of other's beliefs. Although he does try to distinguish right from wrong. He deplores behaviour that he judges to be evil. Especially by those who claim to be religious. But he's less likely to kill you for your beliefs. He may even be persuadable that his belief is mistaken. Is there a lesson here for Atheists? :)

Your ignorance is showing, despite your attempt to mask it as humour with that emoticon.

Any religious believer, by definition, has chosen (or, more likely, had instilled in him or her while too young to understand what was happening) the concept of 'faith' which is precisely a rejection of reason.

That is why, to a large degree, it is impossible to 'persuade' a religious believer to stop believing. I have read many stories from atheists who had been believers, and not one of them was ever 'persuaded' to stop believing. They each finally came to recognize, for themselves, the myriad inconsistencies and implausiblities and, in many cases, the absurdities of what their religion proclaimed.

Yes, some of them gave credit to courses they took at university, or books they read once they began to doubt, but it seems clear that most, if not, all former believers who became atheists got there through being able to find within themselves some ability to think for themselves.

As for atheists, I infer that you are one of those ill-informed believers who assert that athesim is a religion of its own.

That's like saying that a perfect silence is a noise.

Atheists come in all shapes and sizes, intellectually speaking. We have no belief in common and no holy book or books.

For instance, I do not 'believe that there is no god', and while some atheists might hold that belief, it is to me indefensible for precisely the same reason as I have for being an atheist.

Atheists, if they share this view of the world, are the most 'persuadable' people in the world, because we evaluate and formulate our beliefs based on what we see as the evidence.

I do NOT claim that we are entirely rational, analytical and logical...we are not Vulcans. We are human and thus prone to error and to blind spots and so on. But within that context and, hopefully, with an awareness of the resulting limitations, we seek answers. Where we differ from the religious is that our answers must be consistent with our understanding of the physical reality that we (the collective we, based on scientific explorations) observe or infer.

We do not accept that there is an invisible sky fairy to whom we are special and who created us for some purpose. We reject the psychopathic old testament monster, who practiced genocide when unhappy, and the slightly more benevolent new testament god....as unproven and as in many ways inconsistent with the way the universe works.

We infer that as of yet there is no rational basis upon which to conclude that the gods of any human religion exist. Should evidence, and I mean real evidence tho I suspect that phrase has no meaning for you, come to our attention, we'll evaluate it critically and reach what seems to us to be rational conclusions, which might even be to the effect that a god exists.

The funny thing about moderates is that they are textbook examples of humanity's ability to rationalize anything in order to cling to core beliefs. Far from being 'persuadable', they will spend collective millenia contorting themselves into logical knots in order to avoid being persuaded.

Thus with every major scientific revolution.....discoveries that rendered the earlier understanding of the world untenable, more and more of scripture, formerly held to be literally true, became allegorical or metaphorical, and the wise men proclaimed that it had ever been thus.

Please: imagine someone came to you pitching an idea for a movie. it was about a god who had created a species of sentient beings and given them free will.

Leave aside the killing of 99.999999999% of all living creatures that this god (who is all powerful, all knowing and merciful) perpetrated when he got pissed off at how some of those people exercised that free will.

Just imagine that he decided that eventually their sins were too great but that they deserved a chance. So he made a woman pregant and had her give birth in a small town in a province of the roman empire rife with messianic cults. Why he did this rather than, for example, write a warning in the sky in big flaming letters in every known language, or something more readily accessible is a mystery. But on with the story.

he did this so that the child, who was his son, would be brutually murdered and by being brutually murdered, this somehow expiated the guilt of all then living, even the almost 100% of the world's population who had never heard of him, and offered all who came after a chance to spend eternity in a state of rapturous sycophantic worship of the god who caused it all in the first place.

Bear in mind that he made sure that only a handful of humans then living could take advantage of this, since the messiah was a very parochial messiah and he was born in an age when it was impossible for ore than a tiny, tiny fraction of 1% of the population would even know he existed.

Religion, as a social construct, is so successful that this sort of silly story is simply accepted by otherwise intelligent people. It was excusable 2000 years ago because, while the god idea never really explained anything, it didn't contradict much either. Miracles could be reported, and nobody understood the physics that these miracles violated.

Nowadays, one would expect that at least once in a while a real miracle would happen that was recorded and testable. Atheists say the lack of such testable miracles is reason to infer that they probably don't happen. Moderate believers come up with arguments such as that god doesn't need to prove himself, so he won't do a miracle that could be tested.

it's like the famous double blind study on the effect of prayer on health. The study was widely endorsed by factions of the christian churches until the results came out negative...were any of those who claimed that the study would prove the power of prayer persuaded to abandon their beliefs? No, they all...all....came up with arguments about why the study would never work! These arguments had apparently not occurred to any of them before the experiment.

Oh...and that ever so tolerant religious moderate? Most are still convinced that they are going to heaven and that the rest of us are going to live in perpetual agony...for ever and ever, amen. Nice, kind, tolerant thoughts. I appreciate the sentiment. What a nice god you have. Since there have been so many gods, the odds are that the vast majority of people are going to have a very unhappy eternity. Actually, all actual evidence suggests that our death will be akin to the turning out, permamently, of a lightbulb. The bulb shines when the power is on, but doesn't experience being 'off'.

So, nige, take your ill-informed, smug ignorance of the difference between holding a faith-based belief, and an evidence-based opinion, and stuff it. I won't trouble you with a fake emoticon.
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#78 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2013-October-07, 20:57

View Postmikeh, on 2013-October-07, 20:26, said:

Your ignorance is showing, despite your attempt to mask it as humour with that emoticon.
Any religious believer, by definition, has chosen (or, more likely, had instilled in him or her while too young to understand what was happening) the concept of 'faith' which is precisely a rejection of reason.
That is why, to a large degree, it is impossible to 'persuade' a religious believer to stop believing. I have read many stories from atheists who had been believers, and not one of them was ever 'persuaded' to stop believing. They each finally came to recognize, for themselves, the myriad inconsistencies and implausiblities and, in many cases, the absurdities of what their religion proclaimed.
Yes, some of them gave credit to courses they took at university, or books they read once they began to doubt, but it seems clear that most, if not, all former believers who became atheists got there through being able to find within themselves some ability to think for themselves.
As for atheists, I infer that you are one of those ill-informed believers who assert that athesim is a religion of its own.
That's like saying that a perfect silence is a noise.
Atheists come in all shapes and sizes, intellectually speaking. We have no belief in common and no holy book or books.
For instance, I do not 'believe that there is no god', and while some atheists might hold that belief, it is to me indefensible for precisely the same reason as I have for being an atheist.
Atheists, if they share this view of the world, are the most 'persuadable' people in the world, because we evaluate and formulate our beliefs based on what we see as the evidence.
I do NOT claim that we are entirely rational, analytical and logical...we are not Vulcans. We are human and thus prone to error and to blind spots and so on. But within that context and, hopefully, with an awareness of the resulting limitations, we seek answers. Where we differ from the religious is that our answers must be consistent with our understanding of the physical reality that we (the collective we, based on scientific explorations) observe or infer.
We do not accept that there is an invisible sky fairy to whom we are special and who created us for some purpose. We reject the psychopathic old testament monster, who practiced genocide when unhappy, and the slightly more benevolent new testament god....as unproven and as in many ways inconsistent with the way the universe works.
We infer that as of yet there is no rational basis upon which to conclude that the gods of any human religion exist. Should evidence, and I mean real evidence tho I suspect that phrase has no meaning for you, come to our attention, we'll evaluate it critically and reach what seems to us to be rational conclusions, which might even be to the effect that a god exists.
The funny thing about moderates is that they are textbook examples of humanity's ability to rationalize anything in order to cling to core beliefs. Far from being 'persuadable', they will spend collective millenia contorting themselves into logical knots in order to avoid being persuaded.
Thus with every major scientific revolution.....discoveries that rendered the earlier understanding of the world untenable, more and more of scripture, formerly held to be literally true, became allegorical or metaphorical, and the wise men proclaimed that it had ever been thus.
Please: imagine someone came to you pitching an idea for a movie. it was about a god who had created a species of sentient beings and given them free will.
Leave aside the killing of 99.999999999% of all living creatures that this god (who is all powerful, all knowing and merciful) perpetrated when he got pissed off at how some of those people exercised that free will.
Just imagine that he decided that eventually their sins were too great but that they deserved a chance. So he made a woman pregant and had her give birth in a small town in a province of the roman empire rife with messianic cults. Why he did this rather than, for example, write a warning in the sky in big flaming letters in every known language, or something more readily accessible is a mystery. But on with the story.
he did this so that the child, who was his son, would be brutually murdered and by being brutually murdered, this somehow expiated the guilt of all then living, even the almost 100% of the world's population who had never heard of him, and offered all who came after a chance to spend eternity in a state of rapturous sycophantic worship of the god who caused it all in the first place.
Bear in mind that he made sure that only a handful of humans then living could take advantage of this, since the messiah was a very parochial messiah and he was born in an age when it was impossible for ore than a tiny, tiny fraction of 1% of the population would even know he existed.
Religion, as a social construct, is so successful that this sort of silly story is simply accepted by otherwise intelligent people. It was excusable 2000 years ago because, while the god idea never really explained anything, it didn't contradict much either. Miracles could be reported, and nobody understood the physics that these miracles violated.
Nowadays, one would expect that at least once in a while a real miracle would happen that was recorded and testable. Atheists say the lack of such testable miracles is reason to infer that they probably don't happen. Moderate believers come up with arguments such as that god doesn't need to prove himself, so he won't do a miracle that could be tested.
it's like the famous double blind study on the effect of prayer on health. The study was widely endorsed by factions of the christian churches until the results came out negative...were any of those who claimed that the study would prove the power of prayer persuaded to abandon their beliefs? No, they all...all....came up with arguments about why the study would never work! These arguments had apparently not occurred to any of them before the experiment.
Oh...and that ever so tolerant religious moderate? Most are still convinced that they are going to heaven and that the rest of us are going to live in perpetual agony...for ever and ever, amen. Nice, kind, tolerant thoughts. I appreciate the sentiment. What a nice god you have. Since there have been so many gods, the odds are that the vast majority of people are going to have a very unhappy eternity. Actually, all actual evidence suggests that our death will be akin to the turning out, permamently, of a lightbulb. The bulb shines when the power is on, but doesn't experience being 'off'.
So, nige, take your ill-informed, smug ignorance of the difference between holding a faith-based belief, and an evidence-based opinion, and stuff it. I won't trouble you with a fake emoticon.
:)
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#79 User is offline   gwnn 

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Posted 2013-October-08, 01:22

View Postbillw55, on 2013-October-07, 11:35, said:

I'd be interested in some references on that.

Rabbi Wolpe talks about this here:
http://www.beliefnet...Happen.aspx?p=1
There is always Wikipedia where they give books mostly as sources so you will need a library pass I imagine.
http://en.m.wikipedi...wiki/The_Exodus
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#80 User is offline   RSClyde 

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Posted 2013-October-08, 03:37

You left out one of my favorite Sam Harris quotes, "I've read the books and I've got news for you: God is not a moderate."
I make videos about bridge. Check it out!

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