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Do the “new atheists” misunderstand spirituality?

niftydrifty

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Lachean vs niftydrifty: Do the “new atheists” misunderstand spirituality?

Do the “new atheists” (NAs) misunderstand spirituality?

I’ve read here and there through the works of a few of the NAs. The most prominent NAs are Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins. I’ve skimmed the work of each of these authors, and am most familiar with Hitchens and Dawkins. I’ve not yet read anything by these authors that refutes what I have to say below.

From what I’ve read (and I could be wrong, but) it seems to me that the NAs misunderstand spirituality. Lachean, being more thoroughly acquainted with the works of these sheisters, has graciously accepted my challenge to explore the question in this private debate. I will attempt to argue that the NAs misunderstand spirituality. I believe that Lachean will argue here that the NAs do indeed understand spirituality, and that it is really niftydrifty whom is confused.

In addition to the main question, Lachean and I may even discuss all manner of things having to do with religion/science, etc. I hope so.

I will be approaching this question from the vantage point of someone whom has had a meager background in Liberal Protestantism but is more like a non-denom Christian Humanist.

I’ll make the OP brief. I could go on for days and attempt to be detailed, but I’ll admit I’m far from being a writer, or of having worked this out to the point of being worthy of publishing it, or something. So, I’ll just spell out what I essentially believe, and let Lachean tear it apart, as he usually does, so that we can get into it.

=====

Obviously, for a pure “rational” atheist whom believes in science, the idea that there is some kind of thing out there called “God,” that no one can't see, hear, touch, or feel, is absurd. To compound the matter, this alleged thing is supposedly omnipotent and eternal. The purely rational atheist takes a look at religion and confidently files it alongside superstitions and fairy tales.

I believe that when atheists do this, they are making a mistake. I don’t believe that religion’s language is the same as the language of the scientist. To do so is to misunderstand religion. The language of religion is the language of poetry, of metaphor and allegory. The language of science is that of literal explanation. Religion and science both get at different aspects of the real world, and they do it in two completely different ways. Religion can’t, and shouldn’t, provide explanations for how the world works. Similarly, science can’t provide explanations for artistic experiences or a process for our growth as people.

Lachean said:
“… its not that [Hitchens] believes religion is a problem to begin with, its that he thinks that mysticism rather than science, and using faith rather than reason is a mistake to begin with.”
Religion, or spirituality, when it is practiced as I believe it should be, and has been by millions of people, isn’t used in place of science or in place of reason. It’s used for something else, namely, self-improvement, and community.

Religion does not equal superstition, and I’ll explain why.

Our brains seem wired for allegory and parables. A “deeper,” non-literal meaning resides in these things. We get “turned on” by myths, metaphor, allusions, and symbols. This is the language of religion.

Often, throughout history, religion has been used to provide scientific answers or explanations. It’s my opinion that when this has been done, to do so was to go against the very purpose of religion. And, I’m not alone in this.

Religion has also been used (or abused) throughout history as a means to deceive, manipulate or utilize other people. This is incredibly unfortunate, and I also believe that it isn’t the essence of religion. Science is not blamed for those whom practice it poorly, and so should religion not be, either, regardless of whether or not it is commonplace.

All of the major religions in existence today, in essence, are trying to get at the same thing. The point is to lose learned behaviors that are counter to our pure nature as human beings. Religious texts describe transcendent things. Anyone that has never had a transcendent experience, or that especially doesn’t prefer to look for it in a religious text, will never get, or ever have a use for, religion.

What do I mean by “transcendent?” When we were young children, we hadn’t yet learned about prejudices and negative behaviors. Some negative behaviors are on a societal level and some are on a personal level. Human beings are intensely tribal creatures. Some tribal behavior is necessary and beneficial, but other behaviors are negative and lead to everything undesirable, including war. Negative, personal, learned behaviors will cause us to lie in order to protect our egos, deceive others in order to get ahead, or to greedily keep things for ourselves when we don’t need everything we have. Transcendence in a spiritual sense, is to move beyond these learned or assumed behaviors.

Unfortunately, religion often gets used to reinforce, not lose, negative tribal behavior. Religion itself can become a false idol, warned about in scripture.

I’m not alone in this belief, either. Here’s an excellent book on the subject.

Richard Dawkins has said, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” But Darwin didn’t provide any ammunition against religion or God. Not in my opinion. Darwin only did away with natural theology, and I say good riddance. Natural theology is pointless, counter productive, and IMO, has little to do with personal spiritual growth, letting go of our egos, our learned behaviors and prejudices, or enhancing our sense of community.

Dawkins is an incredibly gifted writer … about science. He’s a poor philosopher if he thinks (in this day and age) that William Paley is cutting edge. I haven’t seen many living theologists that overly preoccupied with digging up and refuting the work of an old fossil like David Hume lately, have you?

So, to get at the heart of the matter, what is God? I believe that God is something that essentially transcends words. But I think it’s basically the thing that holds everything together. The similar feelings we all have as people, regardless of nationality. The thing that makes you shiver when you hear good music. It’s all of these things. It’s something I can’t explain. Only metaphors and allegory can get at it.

I do believe that there is some overlap, because after all, we live in the world, and religion and science are two valid, but very different, ways of looking at the world. I think that God is actually the processes that are in natural selection. The reason that stuff in nature “spirals.” The way that veins, river systems, and lightning all kinda look alike. But don’t mistake what I’ve just said for natural theology. I won’t attempt to offer an explanation for these things using the language of religion. Religion is about allegory. Allegories that are also real. The language of science will offer explanations for those phenomena, which are meaningful and enlightening. It is a mistake to give explanations for these phenomena with the language of religion. At the same time, I think that science can get at our mental processes, but that it would be a mistake to use the language of science to describe “the feeling you get when you look to the west,” “déjà vu,” or the way an innocent question by a child makes you smile.

I have a friend, a generally non-religious person, whom has a habit of saying that whatever tickles his fancy “is god.” “Dude, Stevie Ray is god.” “This beer is god.” I know exactly what he means. It’s a silly example, but he’s saying that something about the stuff he enjoys is transcendent. The really good stuff is void of personal hang-ups, ego, flaws, or what-have-you. It is “god.” It is perfect. It is something that we strive for.

And this is what prayer is about. Prayer is not “wish making.” It’s a state that we place ourselves in, where we make ourselves humble to the thing that is common in all of us, and that was there before we were born and will linger after we are dead.

Here is an example from scripture, which I think illustrates the point of religion pretty well:
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.” – Matthew 16:21-27
Christ’s example can inform our daily lives. The Gospels are rich with symbolism. The stories are “true” in this sense. We all have “crosses” that we must bear. And we have things that we must put behind us, just as Jesus puts Peter’s words, i.e. “Satan,” behind him. In the passage, Peter doesn’t understand why Jesus must do what he needs to do. Peter wants Jesus to do the thing that is comfortable. But in order to grow as a person, to “come after” Jesus, we must “deny” ourselves, our assumed, learned personalities, and not forfeit our souls. We can’t always do the comfortable, easy thing.

What is meant by “raised to life” in the above passage? What is meant by “life?” If we take it literally, the passage can’t instruct us, or be an example for us here today. If the word is understood in a metaphorical sense, then the passage is filled with symbolism and meaning. The words are metaphorical, but they hint at things that are real. They instruct our lives and can be very thought-provoking and a springboard for ruminations or meditation.

It seems obvious to me that people whose favorite pastimes are deriding others and immersing themselves in the literalness of things, would find no use for religion or spirituality. Religion is about neither.
 
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Spartacus FPV

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So where are the arguments agains the 'New Atheists?"

Obviously, for a pure “rational” atheist whom believes in science, the idea that there is some kind of thing out there called “God,” that no one can't see, hear, touch, or feel, is absurd.

Its a failed hypothesis, but not all incarnations of it are absurd. Most deistic versions are plausible, many propositions regarding personal gods I regard as absurd. But I judge each claim on its own merits.

I believe that when atheists do this, they are making a mistake. I don’t believe that religion’s language is the same as the language of the scientist. To do so is to misunderstand religion. The language of religion is the language of poetry, of metaphor and allegory. The language of science is that of literal explanation. Religion and science both get at different aspects of the real world, and they do it in two completely different ways. Religion can’t, and shouldn’t, provide explanations for how the world works. Similarly, science can’t provide explanations for artistic experiences or a process for our growth as people.

Religion, or spirituality, when it is practiced as I believe it should be, and has been by millions of people, isn’t used in place of science or in place of reason. It’s used for something else, namely, self-improvement, and community.

Our brains seem wired for allegory and parables. A “deeper,” non-literal meaning resides in these things. We get “turned on” by myths, metaphor, allusions, and symbols. This is the language of religion.

You may take scripture as allegorical but many do not, many are fundamentalists regarding their scriptures and the "New Atheists" have arguments against their claims.

In having arguments against a fundamentalist interpretation, does not in any way mean that a person is himself interpreting the scripture literally. One must deal with each variation of dogma on a case by case basis.

The "New Atheists" have not misunderstood religion in this case; by your standard the literalist believers have.

Often, throughout history, religion has been used to provide scientific answers or explanations. It’s my opinion that when this has been done, to do so was to go against the very purpose of religion. And, I’m not alone in this.

Religion has also been used (or abused) throughout history as a means to deceive, manipulate or utilize other people. This is incredibly unfortunate, and I also believe that it isn’t the essence of religion. Science is not blamed for those whom practice it poorly, and so should religion not be, either, regardless of whether or not it is commonplace.

The problem here is you're trying to tell the whole body of theology, including the largest religion (Islam) that they don't understand religion and you do.

Religion is a useless term in this debate because it, like the term sport, is ambiguous and can be used to reference a the whole spectrum of personal dogmas and philosophies.

I thought this debate was about misunderstanding spirituality, and not religion? So far, it seems you're making the case that the "New Atheists" are wrong because they're attacking people who misuse religion, when you've ignored the arguments they've made against more moderate and nuanced allegorical interpretations of scripture.

All of the major religions in existence today, in essence, are trying to get at the same thing. The point is to lose learned behaviors that are counter to our pure nature as human beings. Religious texts describe transcendent things. Anyone that has never had a transcendent experience, or that especially doesn’t prefer to look for it in a religious text, will never get, or ever have a use for, religion.

It seems to me you've had little to no experience with the works of Sam Harris, he is regarded by Dawkins and Hitchens as the most spiritual among them.

In fact he is obsessed with his spiritual experiences, wants to understand them at the neurological level, and goes on silent meditation or isolation retreats for months at a time in order to induce them, and a sense of oneness with the universe.

The problem with your argument here is, when religionists have transcendental experiences they tend to explain them with their pre-concieved notions; those being the propositions of the dogma of their arbitrary births.

I have myself had several such experiences, that have humbled me, erased my sense that we are alone and insignificant in this universe and taught me just how precious life can be. I do not need spiritual allegory to express this, or explain it; Logic and reason suffice.

What do I mean by “transcendent?” When we were young children, we hadn’t yet learned about prejudices and negative behaviors. Some negative behaviors are on a societal level and some are on a personal level. Human beings are intensely tribal creatures. Some tribal behavior is necessary and beneficial, but other behaviors are negative and lead to everything undesirable, including war. Negative, personal, learned behaviors will cause us to lie in order to protect our egos, deceive others in order to get ahead, or to greedily keep things for ourselves when we don’t need everything we have. Transcendence in a spiritual sense, is to move beyond these learned or assumed behaviors.

That to me sounds like a moral sense, rather than a spiritual one, and one does not need spirituality in order to overcome our primitive inclinations. There is a morality of reason, that is logical and based on reality.

Unfortunately, religion often gets used to reinforce, not lose, negative tribal behavior. Religion itself can become a false idol, warned about in scripture.

I’m not alone in this belief, either. Here’s an excellent book on the subject.

It seems so far you're arguments for religion are the utility arguments (community, morality, etc...) which in no way are truth arguments, and do not reflect that majority of what religionists believe.

Richard Dawkins has said, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” But Darwin didn’t provide any ammunition against religion or God. Not in my opinion.

What he meant was his theory, so elegant and all encompassing, gave us an understanding of the cosmos that did not require a creator. You could now be an atheist, and have an explanation for life and the complexity around you.

Darwin only did away with natural theology, and I say good riddance. Natural theology is pointless, counter productive, and IMO, has little to do with personal spiritual growth, letting go of our egos, our learned behaviors and prejudices, or enhancing our sense of community.

Dawkins is an incredibly gifted writer … about science. He’s a poor philosopher if he thinks (in this day and age) that William Paley is cutting edge. I haven’t seen many living theologists that overly preoccupied with digging up and refuting the work of an old fossil like David Hume lately, have you?

Actually there are Universities (Liberty University for example), powerful groups like the Discovery Institute, and even movies (Expelled) dedicated to that purpose. They have millions of supporters and like-minded religionists.

It seems you're pretending that these people do not exist. As for Dawkins' alleged estimation of William Paley, I'm going to need a quote on that.

So, to get at the heart of the matter, what is God? I believe that God is something that essentially transcends words. But I think it’s basically the thing that holds everything together. The similar feelings we all have as people, regardless of nationality. The thing that makes you shiver when you hear good music. It’s all of these things. It’s something I can’t explain. Only metaphors and allegory can get at it.

I do believe that there is some overlap, because after all, we live in the world, and religion and science are two valid, but very different, ways of looking at the world. I think that God is actually the processes that are in natural selection. The reason that stuff in nature “spirals.” The way that veins, river systems, and lightning all kinda look alike. But don’t mistake what I’ve just said for natural theology. I won’t attempt to offer an explanation for these things using the language of religion. Religion is about allegory. Allegories that are also real. The language of science will offer explanations for those phenomena, which are meaningful and enlightening. It is a mistake to give explanations for these phenomena with the language of religion. At the same time, I think that science can get at our mental processes, but that it would be a mistake to use the language of science to describe “the feeling you get when you look to the west,” “déjà vu,” or the way an innocent question by a child makes you smile.

I have a friend, a generally non-religious person, whom has a habit of saying that whatever tickles his fancy “is god.” “Dude, Stevie Ray is god.” “This beer is god.” I know exactly what he means. It’s a silly example, but he’s saying that something about the stuff he enjoys is transcendent. The really good stuff is void of personal hang-ups, ego, flaws, or what-have-you. It is “god.” It is perfect. It is something that we strive for.

If you're going to define god as anything, "god is love" etc... then thats perfectly fine; as long as you don't expect me to also buy into any creationist or dogmatic propositions about his acts or will.

And this is what prayer is about. Prayer is not “wish making.” It’s a state that we place ourselves in, where we make ourselves humble to the thing that is common in all of us, and that was there before we were born and will linger after we are dead.

Here is an example from scripture, which I think illustrates the point of religion pretty well:

Christ’s example can inform our daily lives. The Gospels are rich with symbolism. The stories are “true” in this sense.

Useful /= true, pertaining to the human condition does not have anything to do with historical or metaphysical truths.

If the word is understood in a metaphorical sense, then the passage is filled with symbolism and meaning. The words are metaphorical, but they hint at things that are real. They instruct our lives and can be very thought-provoking and a springboard for ruminations or meditation.

It seems to me this thread should be called "Most religionists do not understand spirituality." I have not heard any valid criticism of the "New Atheists" here.

Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens have arguments against literalist religion AS WELL AS allegorical moderate religion. It seems you've skipped their chapters on those arguments, my worthy opponent.

If we are to address the topic as you explained it to me, I'm going to need you to quote an argument of theirs that either:
  • I cannot find an example of a religionist that it pertains to
  • Is demonstrably false
  • Shows a lack of understanding of religion, rather than being an attack on someone who misuses religion by your standards

If you feel or find that they have not made valid arguments against your particular brand of theology, then I shall provide them for you. In either quoted text or YouTube video; whichever you prefer.
 

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How Dawkin's would reply

Sidenote: In the paperback preface of the God Delusion, Dawkns addressed the criticism that: "You ignore the best of religion and instead . . . “you attack crude, rabble-rousing chancers like Ted Haggard, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, rather than facing up to sophisticated theologians like Bonhoeffer or the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

His reply was, "If subtle, nuanced religion predominated, the world would be a better place and I would have written a different book."

Here is his reading of the preface and explaining that argument:
YouTube - Richard Dawkins reads the new preface to The God Delusion

Also here is Sam Harris discussion spirituality, and how religious belief effects our world, in order for you to acquaint yourself with them:
YouTube - Sam Harris at Idea CIty '05
 
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niftydrifty

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part 1 of 4

part 1 of 4
Lachean said:
So where are the arguments against the 'New Atheists?"

Lachean said:
I have not heard any valid criticism of the "New Atheists" here.
In my OP I explained what I think religion is. Does it sound like anything Harris, Hitchens, or Dawkins have written or spoken about? I’ve spent the last couple of weeks re-reading stuff by these authors, and I’m sorry, but I’m still not finding anything that exactly debunks or refutes what I’ve written.

I purposely used the term “spirituality” in the title of the thread. To me, spirituality is religion. It might be true that religion isn’t always spirituality. But spirituality is a religious experience, and, as such, I present my explanation of spirituality as a rebuttal of the work of the New Atheists. I have seen no evidence that the NAs actually understand it, as practiced by “moderate” Christians or other religious people. As I explained earlier, anyone that seeks to empirically test spirituality, or claim that spirituality can be empirically tested, doesn’t understand spirituality.

Lachean said:
In having arguments against a fundamentalist interpretation, does not in any way mean that a person is himself interpreting the scripture literally. One must deal with each variation of dogma on a case by case basis.

The "New Atheists" have not misunderstood religion in this case; by your standard the literalist believers have.
I’ve noticed that whenever any of these authors makes a statement about religion in general, you can always reply (and I do mean to say that absolutely) by pointing out that it is true, some of the time, but not always. This is evidence of a misunderstanding of religion. Here are some examples:
“Religion is, and always has been, a means of control.” – Christopher Hitchens
Religion gets used, or rather, abused, that way, I agree with Hitchens. But, 100% of the time? Not true. False teachings often attempt to control others. And this may even be the predominant pattern. But was Jesus’s actual ministry about control? Hitchens’ book neglects to provide any evidence for that. I would go so far as to say that Hitchens has never considered the true implications of Jesus’ ministry. If he had, he would have included his thoughts on it in his book. Instead he seems to have missed the point, hence, his conclusions. He has only railed against the Natural Theology of his former school teacher and various misguided souls throughout history. Actual religious people have done the very same thing as Hitchens. His book is no more an argument against religion than this one: The Faith Healers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In his chapter on the New Testament in God is Not Great, Hitchens basically writes that the “evil” of the New Testament is that it can’t be literally true. Compare what I’ve written in the OP, with this statement:
”Either the gospels are in some sense literal truth, or the whole thing is essentially a fraud…” – Christopher Hitchens
Does that sound like an argument against “moderate” Christianity? He never makes one. He doesn’t think there can be one, or he never would have written that. Hitchens only briefly mentions “moderate” religion in his book, and spends nearly all of his time dealing with fundamentalism.

“Indeed, religion is as much a living spring of violence today as it was at any time in the past.” – Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 26
… only if we exclude the actual teachings of Jesus. The movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. Gandhi. The lives of Monks and renunciants everywhere for thousands of years. The Dalai Lama. As well as the actions of most people that are religious. Harris doesn’t differentiate (here) between an introspective spirituality and a fundamentalist radical version of “religion.” It’s an important distinction, and one that the NAs often forget to make.

Any one who claims that religion is a source, or the source of human violence does not know very much about human nature. The evidence for this, is that violence is often carried out for reasons other than religion. Human beings are intensely tribal creatures. It’s an innate part of our nature to protect members of the tribe like us, and to want to harm those not like us. Religion gets used to incite others to carry this out. There are various symbols of social authority. Religion is merely one of these. And then, there are always those whom lash out for not being part of a tribe themselves. (example: Seung-Hui Cho - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

The NAs neglect to say much about localized tribal worldviews, and their role in inspiring violence. Radical Islamism is part of a worldview that is both political and “religious.” It is more accurate to say that it is a bastardization or a hijacking of religion. Even Harris is confused about Islamism. Not all Muslims share the Islamist worldview. Likewise, some “Christians” would like nothing better than to blow Muslims away, “in the name of the Lord.” I call them “Christianists.” They possess a worldview not shared by all Christians. Some may even claim that “atheism” can lead to violence, and cite the example of the movement in Russia that sought to eradicate religion, early in the 20th century, as evidence. This too is mistaken. It wasn’t “atheism,” or “secularism” that did that. It was a localized tribal worldview which caught on at the time. These movements can be religious, or not. This essential concept seems lost on the NAs. Or, was it expressed somewhere, and did I miss it? Not meaning to sound facetious. I ask sincerely.

”And yet—the believers still claim to know! Not just to know, but to know everything.” – Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great, p. 10
Do all believers claim to know…”everything?” Hitchens seems to believe that all believers are adherents to natural theology, the same mistake Dawkins makes.

On p. 166 of The God Delusion, Dawkins writes:
Universal features of a species demand a Darwinian explanation.
But is there a universal definition of religion? Is religion universal? Is it the same, or even similar, everywhere you go? Dawkins wasn’t considering Buddhism, or the similarities between it, and how I explained my take on Christianity, when he wrote this.

Does Dawkins ever define “religion,” differentiating it from a “belief in God?” Does Dawkins ever define religion in a way that isn’t easily refuted or contradicted?

“ The doors leading out of scriptural literalism do not open from the inside. The moderation we see among nonfundamentalists is not some sign that faith itself has evolved; it is, rather, the product of the many hammer blows of modernity that have exposed certain tenets of faith to doubt.” – Sam Harris, The End of Faith, pp. 18-19
Harris appears to have never heard of St. Augustine, aka Augustine of Hippo:
It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation.

… With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about these matters [about the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation.
From The Literal Interpretation of Genesis [AD 408]
I believe it is fair of me to focus on the occasions when “religion” is spoken about as if it were a homogenous, monolithic, simple thing. In light of the above anecdotes, aren’t these, then, examples of a misunderstanding of spirituality and/or religion? There are many, many more quotes that only address a fundamentalist literal “Natural Theology” version of religion, and not the way that I and many prominent theologians understand it.

“Religion is a scientific theory.” - Richard Dawkins

“I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.” - Richard Dawkins

“One of the things that is wrong with religion is that it teaches us to be satisfied with answers which are not really answers at all.” - Richard Dawkins

”One of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.” – Richard Dawkins

“What has 'theology' ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has 'theology' ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious? What makes you think that 'theology' is a subject at all?” - Richard Dawkins
I could go on all day about them, because such misunderstandings thoroughly permeate these poorly written books, and even the talk given by Harris that you linked to.

Lachean said:
You may take scripture as allegorical but many do not, many are fundamentalists regarding their scriptures and the "New Atheists" have arguments against their claims.
If they do, I ask you to show these arguments to me. I’ve not found any valid ones. The New Atheists may have “arguments” against those claims, but so have nonfundamentalist religious people, for hundreds of years.
 
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Part 2 of 4

Part 2 of 4
I’ve had another look thru the early chapters in Hitchens’ book, like you suggested, and found this statement in God is Not Great:
”Religion spoke its last intelligible or noble or inspiring words a long time ago: either that or it mutated into an admirable but nebulous humanism…” – Christopher Hitchens
I challenge you to explain how Jesus’ ministry is incompatible with the “nebulous humanism” described by me in the OP. If religion has “mutated” into a nebulous humanism, it is only because some have led it astray onto false paths, and that Christ’s religion was meant to be a “nebulous humanism” to begin with, if all else can be demonstrated to be false. Hitchens is right to call it admirable. In my opinion Christianity began as a nebulous humanism. It never should have mutated. And if it ever did, the mistake was exposed, so that the true essence of it may carry on.

I dislike the label “moderate.” It relates beliefs like my own with those whom I believe are mistaken or even blatantly wrong. The beliefs of religious “moderates” aren’t a diluted version of the beliefs of Fundamentalists. It can often be a different set of beliefs, altogether.

A few days after you made your posts, last Saturday, Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on my door. I didn’t turn them away. I spoke to them. When they told me with intense concern about how “they want to teach evolution in schools,” and about how that apparent fact harmed the prospect of so much good, including world peace, I asked them whom the “they” were, and how anything that they had just said, could possibly be true. They had no good answers, and fumbled around as if they had never been asked these questions before. I pointed out how I believed their scripture quotes were taken out of context. They acted confused, and somewhat shocked, especially, to hear that I was a Christian! We spoke for a while, and they left me with some reading materials. They asked if they could come back. I replied that it would likely be pointless for them to do so, as we appeared to have completely different opinions about what religion actually is, and nothing I could ever say would make them change their opinions about it. They agreed, and left.

So, it seems, I am actually in complete agreement with you, Dawkins, and Harris on the subject of fundamentalism and creationism. And even evolution. And yet it doesn’t contradict my faith. How can this be?

Many, perhaps even most, Christians don’t “get” Christianity. I’m not the only person to have noticed. That’s what the book that I linked to in the OP is all about. I suppose you might find it funny to hear about how religious people claim that their own version of spirituality is the only true version. But aren’t we all doing that?

Lachean said:
The problem here is you're trying to tell the whole body of theology, including the largest religion (Islam) that they don't understand religion and you do.
It isn’t “just me” against everyone else. Countless religious people agree with me. And, there are also “moderate” Muslims.

Earlier, and in a different thread, you made a similar statement, and remarked that my ideas about spirituality and religion appear to be only mine. This isn’t true. Here are some more examples of people that are religious, but that are also evolutionists. Some of these people are even my friends.

Statement from a Christian Evolutionist
Quintessence of Dust
Book Announcement
Ken Miller's Evolution Page
POLKINGHORNE.ORG
Darwin's Forgotten Christian Defenders
http://www.berea.edu/specialproject/scienceandfaith/default.asp
Writings of Allan H. Harvey
Ockham's Razor - 15/11/1998: Evolution, Theology and Creation Science
Faith & Reason Ministries
http://groups.msn.com/ChristiansForEvolution
CIN - Magisterium Is Concerned with Question of Evolution For It Involves Conception of Man - Pope John Paul II Message to Pontifical Academy of Sciences October 22, 1996
www.meta-library.net
Theistic Evolution - One Christian's Perspective
DMD Publishing Co.
Institute for Biblical and Scientific Studies
Lachean said:
Religion is a useless term in this debate because it, like the term sport, is ambiguous and can be used to reference a the whole spectrum of personal dogmas and philosophies.
I disagree. It’s not a useless term in this debate, because we’re debating the New Atheists’ claims. They use the term “religion.” I address their claims about religion. Do they (or do they not) overgeneralize and mischaracterize many people in the religious community? Are there religious beliefs for which the New Atheists have not yet formulated valid arguments against? Do the NAs misunderstand spirituality? My answer to all of these questions is “yes.”

Lachean said:
I thought this debate was about misunderstanding spirituality, and not religion?
From my perspective, spirituality is religion.
Lachean said:
So far, it seems you're making the case that the "New Atheists" are wrong because they're attacking people who misuse religion, when you've ignored the arguments they've made against more moderate and nuanced allegorical interpretations of scripture.
Where are those arguments? I have yet to find one that isn’t a swift generalization made, before going on to spend dozen, or rather, hundreds of pages on fundamentalism. When I read these books I find glaring generalizations and misrepresentations. If my understanding of spirituality were the same as that of the NAs, I’d be a nonbeliever, as well.
Lachean said:
It seems to me you've had little to no experience with the works of Sam Harris, he is regarded by Dawkins and Hitchens as the most spiritual among them.
I haven’t had no experience with Sam Harris, but you’re right that it has been little. I’ve been interested in the “new wave” of atheist literature. So I read all of The God Delusion. And since then, I have progressively read less and less of the other authors, as I’ve worked thru them. So much of what they have to say rehashes the same old points and is of very little use to me. I do like Sam Harris the best, but ran out of much steam before I got to him. Still, even in the talk in the video link that you posted, so much of what Sam has to say, is very distasteful and too overly generalized. His arguments are great, against fundamentalism. And how is anything about what he says about “spirituality” any different that of any other naturalist? I’ve heard it all before.

Naturalism (philosophy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Lachean said:
In fact he is obsessed with his spiritual experiences, wants to understand them at the neurological level, and goes on silent meditation or isolation retreats for months at a time in order to induce them, and a sense of oneness with the universe.
I think that’s excellent. It obviously has much to do with his more developed temperament. I did not know this. But I believe he’s wrong to say that there should be an “end of faith.” I believe Harris is wrong that Christianity can’t legitimately lead anyone to similar experiences. However, if by “end of faith,” he means faith resembling Natural Theology, then I agree. But not all faith. Many might even call the thing Harris wants a sense of oneness with, “God.”

Lachean said:
The problem with your argument here is, when religionists have transcendental experiences they tend to explain them with their pre-concieved notions; those being the propositions of the dogma of their arbitrary births.
I agree, that they “tend” to. Most do, but not all. Does religion have to be what most people think it is?

Lachean said:
I have myself had several such experiences, that have humbled me, erased my sense that we are alone and insignificant in this universe and taught me just how precious life can be. I do not need spiritual allegory to express this, or explain it; Logic and reason suffice.
I also think this is excellent, Lachean.

Here’s a link that may interest you if you haven’t discovered it already: Spirituality without Faith
My whole argument is that religion can also get at this thing you’ve had, that has humbled you, and me, and even Sam. I believe many get it wrong. I believe that Harris, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens et al, are correct to criticize much of what is wrong with “religion.” I actually reject many of the same versions of religion that they do, and I’m vocal about it, also (as I shared in relating my visit with the Jehovah’s Witnesses). Much religion has had it coming, and much of the work the NAs are doing is helpful in this regard. But I also believe the mistake is to regard all religion this way, and to not make note of the distinction between a spirituality like I described in my OP, which exists for thousands, if not millions of people, and the religion of crackpots, creationists, religionists, and cultists. They may smell the same, but they really are worlds apart. And, if a distinction is to be made, to try to be accurate about it. I don’t believe that the few times the NAs actually have made the distinction, that they’ve ever gotten it right. Fair enough?
Lachean said:
That to me sounds like a moral sense, rather than a spiritual one, and one does not need spirituality in order to overcome our primitive inclinations. There is a morality of reason, that is logical and based on reality.
It seems to me that we’re somewhat talking about the same thing. A spiritual sense like I spoke about is an advanced moral sense, that is “logical,” to the point where it rejects our innate learned prejudices. All human beings have cognitive biases and comfort zones, etc. It might be true that one “does not need spirituality” in order to get to such a point, and the end result would be the same. But this is where our similarities end. Part of “faith,” imo, is admitting that we can’t do it alone. We “give up,” and take the “leap of faith,” putting our trust in the belief system that it may lead us to the more transcendent state, iow, “the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Lachean said:
It seems so far you're arguments for religion are the utility arguments (community, morality, etc...) which in no way are truth arguments, and do not reflect that majority of what religionists believe.
I regard “religionist” as a negative term: one that zealously clings to belief as if nothing else matters, or nothing else will ever do. If those kinds of people are the religionists, then I would expect that the things I am saying about spirituality would not resemble anything that any religionists might believe. I don’t really understand how what most of any people believe has to do with anything. Truth isn’t decided by a democratic process. I used the word “truth” just now, because I have been trying to get at what I believe is true about spirituality and religion. Consider what I said about religion / science in the OP. Can metaphor and allegory be subjected to literal truth arguments?
 
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Part 3 of 4

Part 3 of 4
Lachean said:
What [Dawkins] meant was [Darwin’s] theory, so elegant and all encompassing, gave us an understanding of the cosmos that did not require a creator. You could now be an atheist, and have an explanation for life and the complexity around you.
Natural Theology requires a literal creator. Spirituality, as I have been explaining it, does not.

Why does Dawkins spend so much time lumping ALL of religion together, when he has actually met people, such as Francis Collins and Alastair McGrath, that are religious and that often agree with him about literalist theologies? Is it cognitive bias?

Why is it necessary to speak as if he has never heard these arguments, and to constantly state that most religious people appear to believe in things that can’t be true? In the interest of being accurate, more distinction needs to be made. This is really the crux of my argument when I say that the NAs don’t seem to understand spirituality.

In actual fact, Darwin’s theory hasn’t made it possible to to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. Darwin’s theory only refutes Paley, not all religion. Darwin makes it possible to easily disbelieve in Natural Theology.

Anyone that believes that Natural Theology can be true, or is religion, in light of all the evidence we now have, is delusional. I can agree with that. But likewise, anyone that believes that Natural Theology is religion, is also delusional.

Lachean said:
Actually there are Universities (Liberty University for example), powerful groups like the Discovery Institute, and even movies (Expelled) dedicated to that purpose. They have millions of supporters and like-minded religionists.
I was wondering about theologians (pardon my typo). You haven’t named any.

Lachean said:
It seems you're pretending that these people do not exist.
I don’t pretend they do not exist. Instead, I make a distinction between kinds of religious people. I don’t (irresponsibly) lump all of religion together and then disregard all of it.
Lachean said:
As for Dawkins' alleged estimation of William Paley, I'm going to need a quote on that.
from the introduction to Richard Dawkins' book, The Blind Watchmaker:
”The watchmaker of my title is borrowed from a famous treatise by the eighteenth-century theologian William Paley. His Natural Theology--or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature, published in 1802, is the best-known exposition of the 'Argument from Design', …
Paley's argument is made with passionate sincerity and is informed by the best biological scholarship of his day, but it is wrong, gloriously and utterly wrong.”
What Dawkins’ doesn’t tell you, perhaps because he doesn’t know, is that Paley’s “Natural Theology” has already been dismissed by theologians living during, and since, Paley’s time.

Here’s an example of a famous critic of Paley: John Henry Newman - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Henry Newman wrote these words in the 19th century:
What, on the contrary, are those special Attributes, which are the immediate correlatives of religious sentiment? Sanctity, omniscience, justice, mercy, faithfulness. What does Physical Theology, what does the Argument from Design, what do fine disquisitions about final causes, teach us, except very indirectly, faintly, enigmatically, of these transcendently important, these essential portions of the idea of Religion? ... What does Physical Theology tell us of duty and conscience? Of a particular providence? ... what does it teach us even of the four last things, death, judgment, heaven, and hell, the mere elements of Christianity? ... I say Physical Theology cannot, from the nature of the case, tell us one word about Christianity proper; it cannot be Christian, in any true sense, at all ... How can that be a real substantive Theology, though it takes the name, which is but an abstraction, a particular aspect of the whole truth, and is dumb almost as regards the moral attributes of the Creator, and utterly so as regards the evangelical?
More: Studies in the History of Science and Christianity
An Anglican priest, about a hundred and fifty years ago, was explaining to us that Natural Theology isn’t really Christianity. Why haven’t Dawkins, or even the IDer’s, noticed? Human beings tend to believe whatever they wish to, eh?

Newman’s work is part of the body of theology. And it isn’t new. What he wrote appears to jibe almost completely with what I wrote in my OP. Will you agree now that I haven’t tried to tell “the whole body of theology, that they don't understand religion and I do?”
Lachean said:
If you're going to define god as anything, "god is love" etc... then thats perfectly fine; as long as you don't expect me to also buy into any creationist or dogmatic propositions about his acts or will.
I don’t. Those aren’t my beliefs, anyway.
Lachean said:
Useful /= true, pertaining to the human condition does not have anything to do with historical or metaphysical truths.
Do we disagree about what is metaphysical? In my quote I said “true” in a sense, and you seem to want to get at what is literally true. I would agree with you about the historical part, but not the metaphysical part. For me, the ultimate nature of reality has to do with the “sense of oneness” even Harris acknowledges. And I believe Christ can lead us to that.
Lachean said:
It seems to me this thread should be called "Most religionists do not understand spirituality."
As long atheists take “religionists” at their word, and appear not to notice that theologians and “moderate” religious people have been making the very same criticisms of religionists and creationists now being made by the New Atheists, then it is fair, IMO, to state that the NAs do not understand spirituality.

Lachean said:
Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens have arguments against literalist religion AS WELL AS allegorical moderate religion. It seems you've skipped their chapters on those arguments, my worthy opponent.
No, actually I don’t believe I have skipped anything, not worth skipping.

beliefnet: The Problem with Religious Moderates by Sam Harris
(Please note in the article in the above link, that Harris quotes no one. Curious.)

I’ve read the arguments against “moderates,” and they too reveal a misunderstanding of spirituality.

“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. 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 produce of secular knowledge and scriptural ignorance—it has no bona fides, in religious terms, to put it on a par with fundamentalism.” – Sam Harris, The End of Faith, pp. 20-21
Harris seems to think that “moderates” must be tolerant of every one. I’ve provided several examples of “moderates” critiquing fundamentalism and religious literalism, now. I myself do it all the time. And I’ve also provided examples of “religious moderation” which is not a product of secular knowledge or advancements. Harris seems to think religious moderation is unsupportable by scripture. But only a religious literalist could make such a statement. In my OP I explained the difference between the language of religion and the language of science.

“… 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.” – Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p. 21
”Living by the letter”… according to Harris, (and Dawkins, and Hitchens), only a spiritual literalist is truly religious. Scientific minds seek literal explanations, and in so doing, misunderstand spirituality. I said as much in the OP.

Nevermind that the “moderates” tend to be the ones that actually take Christ’s advice, while the fundamentalists actually don’t!

Lachean said:
If we are to address the topic as you explained it to me, I'm going to need you to quote an argument of theirs that either:
• I cannot find an example of a religionist that it pertains to
• Is demonstrably false
• Shows a lack of understanding of religion, rather than being an attack on someone who misuses religion by your standards.
If you feel or find that they have not made valid arguments against your particular brand of theology, then I shall provide them for you. In either quoted text or YouTube video; whichever you prefer.
I hope I’ve done this satisfactorily. Let me know if, and how, I haven’t measured up.
Lachean said:
Sidenote: In the paperback preface of the God Delusion, Dawkns addressed the criticism that: "You ignore the best of religion and instead . . . “you attack crude, rabble-rousing chancers like Ted Haggard, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, rather than facing up to sophisticated theologians like Bonhoeffer or the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

His reply was, "If subtle, nuanced religion predominated, the world would be a better place and I would have written a different book."
It’s telling that Dawkins didn’t actually respond to the charge.
 
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Part 4 of 4

Part 4 of 4

Lachean said:
Also here is Sam Harris discussion spirituality, and how religious belief effects our world, in order for you to acquaint yourself with them:
YouTube - Sam Harris at Idea CIty '05
when Sam Harris discusses “how religious belief effects our world,” I (a religious believer) share all the concerns that Harris does. In my first post I explained how spirituality is about rejecting negative tribal behavior. I believe that when “religionists” use (or abuse) religion to promote negative tribal behaviors, it arguably isn’t spiritual and it isn’t a religion that is defendable by any theologians that I have read much of. I fail to see how this talk by Harris refutes anything that I’ve had to say, or how I haven’t presented valid criticism.

Harris’s talk would have been accurate if he had spoken about how scriptural literalism can’t possibly be true, and how localized tribal worldviews hijack religions. I actually share all of his concerns. But Harris mistakes it all, for religion itself.

Harris says that “faith is a conversation stopper.” Have I not posted examples of religious people critiquing beliefs they thought were false? Do you not chuckle all the time about interdenominational squabbles?

Harris says that “religious moderation” is a “dead end,” because it gives “cover to fundamentalism,” and that fundamentalists and literalists cannot be criticized. This is crazy. Have I not posted examples?

Harris says that “religious moderation” is “intellectually bankrupt” because they must always respect others’ beliefs. Harris doesn’t seem to realize that many scientists are also religious moderates. Harris doesn’t seem to understand the difference between the language of religion and the language of science, as I explained it in the OP.

Harris says that “religious moderation” is also “theologically bankrupt.” He says that fundamentalists have actually read the books, and implies that moderates haven’t! Harris believes that Leviticus has implications for Christians. But Christians aren’t Levites.

Harris misinterprets Luke 19:27. The verse is part of a parable, Jesus was quoting a wicked king. From Luke 19:11:
While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once...

Harris says that “moderates” are “blinded by their own moderation.” He says that a religious “moderate” watching a suicide bomber blowing themself up on TV, would deny that it’s about religion. Harris seems to have never heard about this study:

Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Harris’ arguments are actually poor, and it’s quite telling that he quotes no one at all. He names no names, except the most extreme examples he can think of: OBL and Falwell. He uses statements like “seems like,” and “tends to.”

I actually lost a lot of respect for Harris while watching this corny, poorly reasoned talk.

=====

IMO, there can only be these logical rebuttals against spirituality/religion as I’ve defined it.
#1: The spiritual or transcendental state does not exist and is not worth seeking. But -- you, I and Harris all seem to agree that it is.
#2: My explanation of “spirituality” isn’t actually religion at all.
Lachean, please explain to me how the work of the NAs isn’t haughty, ill-informed, reductionism.
 

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Addendum

In "part 3 of 4," I misspoke, in my 3rd paragraph of that post. I re-read everything too long after I posted it, and missed the opportunity to edit it.

Here is what I meant to say. Correction in bold:

Why is it necessary to speak as if [Dawkins] has never heard [Francis Collins' and Alastair McGrath's] arguments, and to constantly state that all religious people appear to believe in things that can’t be true?
 

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Wow, that is a lengthy response.

In many cases you've taken a quote of theirs that addresses one issue out of context and condemned it for not addressing your version of religion, aka spirituality; when what they have said is not false given the kind of religion they were addressing.

In my last post I set a certain standard I hoped you would meet in your counter argument that was to point out an argument that:
1. Is demonstrably false, and I could not find an example of a religion that it pertains to.
2. That reflected a misunderstanding of religion, rather than an attack on a religionist who by your "spirituality = religion" standard, misunderstands or misuses religion.

I came up with these because I wanted to avoid length rebuttals for straw men, and only deal with the arguments that pertain to your more nuanced beliefs regarding what religion is, given that yours runs contrary to the majority of religionists.

So what I will do, given your massive reply, is to first reply to everything that either passed my standard, or that also warranted a reply. If you feel that I have ignored or glossed over a major point then bring it to my attention (preferably via PM) and I shall.

Since you seem to be claiming that they have made no arguments against your version of religion, which is "spirituality = religion," I have to first know exactly what you believe. In an attempt to do so, I will summarize what seems to be your arguments for your spirituality, and then ask you questions regarding what I don't understand yet
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Many, perhaps even most, Christians don’t “get” Christianity. I actually reject many of the same versions of religion that they do.

This strikes me as arrogant religious bigotry, like when some claim that others aren't true Christians. So when you ask me, "Will you agree now that I haven’t tried to tell “the whole body of theology, that they don't understand religion and I do?” my answer is NO, resoundingly.



2. Harris' spirituality can be equated to naturalism. Anyone who wishes to test spirituality through natural sciences doesn't understand spirituality.

If it is true about reality it can be tested, if it effects our minds/consciosness then it can be studied at the neurological level; And this is true about the so called "religious experiences" people have. They can be triggered or induced, are testable, and yeild neurological data.

Which is why Harris is trying to understand said experiences at the neurological level.



3. They lump different groups of religionists together in their arguments. Their definitions of religion can be easily refuted or contradicted, and they overgeneralize and mischaracterize many people in the religious community.

This is an example of your failing my standard. When they make generalizations about what "seems to be true" about "most" religionists, are their claims not true?

They have not mischaracterized anyone when they take a theist's claims at his word, and address it directly. You say that their definitions can be easily refuted, but only by those of a DIFFERENT religious or spiritual belief.

In this instance again I challenge you to give me a definition or claim regarding a religion that is demonstrably false, and I cannot find an example of a religionist that it pertains to.

If one of the NA's arguments addresses a brand of religion that is not your own, then its irrelevant and you need not bring them up.



4. Christianity began as "nebulous humanism" and those who changed it were "led astray." (In response to: ”Religion spoke its last intelligible or noble or inspiring words a long time ago: either that or it mutated into an admirable but nebulous humanism…” – Christopher Hitchens)

What Hitchens meant was that there have not been any intelligible new moral or philosophical truths from religion in centuries, and throughout the history of Christianity, its initial and bronze age immoral passages and commandments have been done away with through clashes with modernization.



5. I don’t believe that the few times the NA's actually have made the distinction (between the different kinds of religionists), that they’ve ever gotten it right. I don’t pretend they do not exist. Instead, I make a distinction between kinds of religious people. I don’t (irresponsibly) lump all of religion together and then disregard all of it.

Every single distinction between kinds of beliefs they have been made, were SPOT ON and I can point out a group of believers that it addresses. They make the distinction by taking each religious claim at is own value.

What I want to know from you is how you draw your distinctions? How do you distinguish literal from allegorical truths in scripture? How do you draw the line between good and bad religion? What makes you say that most Christians "don't get Christianity?"



6. For me, the ultimate nature of reality has to do with the “sense of oneness” even Harris acknowledges. And I believe Christ can lead us to that.

For me the ultimate nature of reality is what exists as best as science can reveal it; A "sense of oneness" can be induced chemically.



7. As long atheists take “religionists” at their word, and appear not to notice that theologians and “moderate” religious people have been making the very same criticisms of religionists and creationists now being made by the New Atheists, then it is fair, IMO, to state that the NAs do not understand spirituality. Why is it necessary to speak as if [Dawkins] has never heard [Francis Collins' and Alastair McGrath's] arguments, and to constantly state that all religious people appear to believe in things that can’t be true?

What are you talking about? Just because one uses the same argument against a religion that another kind of religionist has also used, does not in any way mean that they have not noticed the infighting.

Also Dawkins has thouroughly debunked McGrath's arguments, and has ripped him apart in debates many times. In fact, I urge you to watch how Hitchens destroys McGrath's wishy washy arguments in their last debate.

Believe me, the NA's engage the so called "prominent theologians" from all faiths frequently, and I watch all of their debates. Its always a clear victory for skepticism and science.



And finally, 8. Regarding Harris' talk:
Harris says that “religious moderation” is a “dead end,” because it gives “cover to fundamentalism,” and that fundamentalists and literalists cannot be criticized. This is crazy. Have I not posted examples?
He did not say that moderation gives cover for fundamentalists, he said that moderates do. This is not false, for they exist and are very vocal in the political spheres, on news broadcasts, and in the pop culture.

In most every group I find myself a part of, be it the work environment or the classroom or social events; most people regard it as taboo to criticize religion and regard faith as a virtue beyond reproach.
Harris says that “religious moderation” is “intellectually bankrupt” because they must always respect others’ beliefs. Harris doesn’t seem to realize that many scientists are also religious moderates. Harris doesn’t seem to understand the difference between the language of religion and the language of science, as I explained it in the OP.
Do you not hear the voices that demand we give (unwarranted) respect for people's beliefs? I don't think you've understood who Sam was talking about, when he says that they give cover for fundamentalism by suggesting that we respect people's beliefs.
Harris says that “religious moderation” is also “theologically bankrupt.” He says that fundamentalists have actually read the books, and implies that moderates haven’t! Harris believes that Leviticus has implications for Christians. But Christians aren’t Levites.
1. Most Christians in my experience are moderates, and most of them that I know have never read the Bible, or know very little of it. That is what Sam was talking about.
2. I don't really want to split hairs over immoral OT passages, so my overall point is that no just god would ever issue any such barbaric propositions as are claimed in the OT, and I am thankful that we have no evidence at all to support the existence of such a horrible celestial tyranny.
Harris’ arguments are actually poor, and it’s quite telling that he quotes no one at all. He names no names, except the most extreme examples he can think of: OBL and Falwell.
That is absurd, if you had any of Sam's books you'd see that over 50% of the pages are references, and he addresses the arguments of most EVERY prominent modern theologian (Reza Aslan, McGrath, The Archbishop of Cantebury, the Pope etc...) and the alleged "great lights" of the past (Augustine, Aquinas, Iraneus, Lewis etc...)
He uses statements like “seems like,” and “tends to.”
Because he does not wish to overgeneralize, or lump in those who his statements do not pertain to; First you falsely criticize him of lumping, then you criticize how careful he is with his language to not do so? :confused:
I actually lost a lot of respect for Harris while watching this corny, poorly reasoned talk.
I challenge you to name one argument he made that either contains a logical fallacy, or one for which there are no examples of religionists that it pertains to.

So far you've presented no "spiritual" argument that even I couldn't address given their arguments. So you're going to have to go into more detail regarding what you believe to be true of your religion/spirituality; In order for me to find their counter-arguments.

Also you did not address Dawkins' preface: "If subtle, nuanced religion (LIKE YOUR OWN) predominated, the world would be a better place and I would have written a different book."
 
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niftydrifty

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Re: Wow, that is a lengthy response.

thanks again for responding. it's true my response is long. it was long because I responded to everything you said. I tried to be thorough. I can appreciate your idea to set up a standard, and for the standard to be met, in the interest of brevity and concision. however, your standard isn't the only way in which the topic may be argued.

If you'd like to debate this topic with me, you're going to need to address everything I say (except, of course, for some things like the Jehovah's Witness story). explain, in every case, why my arguments are or are not valid.

in God is Not Great, Hitchens talks about the New Testament. IMO, he says a few things about the NT which reveal a misunderstanding about it. I mentioned those. I took the time to explain them. in the Harris video you posted the link to, Harris reveals a misunderstanding of the Christian religion when he quotes Leviticus and misinterprets Luke 19:27. I quoted Dawkins several times making generalizations about all religious believers. you neglected to address anything I said about any of these things. I took the time to write these things. you dismiss them, because you feel that it didn't meet your standard. In each of these cases, it doesn't quite matter what my particular beliefs are, does it?

If you believe I have taken any remarks out of context, you are going to need to explain precisely how.

you can bunch things together if you like, in order to make it easier. but it doesn't make sense for you to not address the arguments I make which don't seem to get at this thing the way you expect them to.

It is probably true that I need to explain a little bit more about what I believe. thanks for asking. I will work on that.

Also you did not address Dawkins' preface: "If subtle, nuanced religion (LIKE YOUR OWN) predominated, the world would be a better place and I would have written a different book."
I did address it when I pointed out that it was a nonanswer. it's a fair point. but Dawkins discredits all belief. I don't.

Was Hitchens wrong to state that religion has ALWAYS been about control? Must the gospels be taken literally or not at all? Do the NA's confuse religions with worldviews? is there a universal definition of "religion?" do doors leading out of scriptural literalism NEVER open from the inside? does religion ALWAYS teach us to not be satisfied with learning about the world? are there any moderate Muslims? have there been any theologians whom gibe with what I've been saying? is religion a useless term in this debate? can Christianity induce a sense of oneness with the universe? Does religion have to be what most people think it is? Can metaphor and allegory be subjected to literal truth arguments? Does Darwin's theory refute only Paley? Why does Dawkins spend so much time refuting something that theologians themselves have already dismissed over a hundred years ago? (you are aware that "God of the Gaps" is a phrase invented by a minister in the 1800's, and was meant derogatorily, right? did Dawkins know that?) is anyone that believes Natural Theology is religion, delusional? Why did Hitchens only mention John Henry Newman in his preface to his book, and not discuss anything he actually said, while spending a few pages on Paley? Is Harris wrong when he says that the Bible must be interpreted literally in order to be the correct reading? why is it that Harris doesn't seem to notice that the “moderates” tend to be the ones that are actually taking Christ’s advice, while the fundamentalists aren't?

I've given you plenty to debate here. please do.
 
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Spartacus FPV

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What was the point of all those questions?

thanks again for responding. it's true my response is long. it was long because I responded to everything you said. I tried to be thorough. I can appreciate your idea to set up a standard, and for the standard to be met, in the interest of brevity and concision. however, your standard isn't the only way in which the topic may be argued.

"My standard" is merely to try and identify and list all of the arguments I believe you are presenting, and if I miss any that you feel are relevant to the discussion I invite you to point them out. I believe I too had been thorough in my last post.

If you'd like to debate this topic with me, you're going to need to address everything I say (except, of course, for some things like the Jehovah's Witness story). explain, in every case, why my arguments are or are not valid.

"Everything you say... except of course" isn't much of a standard to follow. A point by point rebuttal will get redunant, especially when you're repeating arguments and making a 4 post rebuttal to my every one.

I do not wish to, nor have the time for 16 page responses when I can easily reply in a single page, unless of course you find that I missed an important argument.

in God is Not Great, Hitchens talks about the New Testament. IMO, he says a few things about the NT which reveal a misunderstanding about it. I mentioned those. I took the time to explain them. in the Harris video you posted the link to, Harris reveals a misunderstanding of the Christian religion when he quotes Leviticus and misinterprets Luke 19:27. I quoted Dawkins several times making generalizations about all religious believers. you neglected to address anything I said about any of these things. I took the time to write these things. you dismiss them, because you feel that it didn't meet your standard. In each of these cases, it doesn't quite matter what my particular beliefs are, does it?

I did not "dismiss" them, and if you feel that these represent examples of a NA misunderstanding religion; I shall address them:

On Luke 19:27:
You stated that he misinterpreted it, that he did not know that it was part of a parable of a wicked king. In both of his books he explains that he does understand that it is a parable clearly, and that it is his interpretation, as well as most of the Biblical scholars that he debates and engages with that Jesus is the king in that parable.

If your interpretation is different, I would love to hear it, but then again this is another case of your arrogantly telling most Christians that they do not understand Christianity; Hence why I felt that I already addressed this point.

On Dawkin's alleged generalizations:
1. Any truth claim about reality is a scientific hypothesis.
2. You made up the absolute that he ever claimed that it ALWAYS teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding, he only stated that it does, which is true. Would you like examples?
3. He claims that theology is no study at all, because any moral, ethical, economic, philosophical truth that is of any utility in theology has been plaigarized from other previous religions, are all bronze age in value, and have been stated more concisely in various secular literature (for example Galt's Speech in Atlas Shrugged.)

None of these quotes were as absolute as you made them out to be, and all of them are true.

If you believe I have taken any remarks out of context, you are going to need to explain precisely how.

Very well, In post #4:
- You quoted Hitchens saying that religion is a means of control as if he said it as an absolute, in the context of the chapter he goes on to explain the nature that people use organized religion (as opposed to your nuanced "spirituality") in various civilizations as a means of control, which was true. Your interpreation of this as an absolute for all forms of religion, and all uses of the definition including your own is part of the reason that I said the use of the word is problematic. You'll take one of the NA's talking about a kind of religion, and mistakenly apply it to your own or another and then claim that they don't understand religion.

- You quoted an argument Hitchens made about Fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, and was upset that it did not address moderate Christianity; Which it was never intended to do.

- You quote Sam claiming that religion is a source of violence, and claim that anyone who things that it is one doesn't understand human nature. This argument of yours is proven false if a SINGLE act of violence perpetrated for religious reasons ever occurs; which I can cite countless examples of.

you can bunch things together if you like, in order to make it easier. but it doesn't make sense for you to not address the arguments I make which don't seem to get at this thing the way you expect them to.

I do not believe I have left any arguments unaddressed, now will you respond to my counter-post? (As well as this one)

It is probably true that I need to explain a little bit more about what I believe. thanks for asking. I will work on that.

Please do.

I did address it when I pointed out that it was a nonanswer. it's a fair point. but Dawkins discredits all belief. I don't.

1. When did you say it was a non-answer, since I must have missed it.
2. How is that a "nonanswer" and also a fair point?
3. What do you mean he discredits all belief? He discredits all faith based belief, beliefs without evidence, or illogical/irrational ones.

Must the gospels be taken literally or not at all?

No, and he goes on to answer religious moderate claims in Chapter 4 "A note on Health, to which religions can be hazardous." Again, I did not answer this because you were demonstrating a lack of knowledge on their arguments.

Do the NA's confuse religions with worldviews?

No, they address all forms of religion, its you who denies the majority of religionist worldviews for your own.

is there a universal definition of "religion?"

No, and EACH of the NA's explain how the word is problematic due to its various ambiguous meanings.

do doors leading out of scriptural literalism NEVER open from the inside?

What?

does religion ALWAYS teach us to not be satisfied with learning about the world?

No, but it does, who spoke in such an absolute? Surely not the Dawkins quote I know. I believe you're making absolutes up again in order to fabricate some kind of alleged misunderstanding of religion by exception.

I do not believe Dawkins EVER used the word "always." Please quote him!

are there any moderate Muslims?

Of course, your questions are getting sillier and sillier.

have there been any theologians whom gibe with what I've been saying?

Possibly, but I doubt 100%.

is religion a useless term in this debate?

Unless we can agree on a definition, or we focus on your particular belief system.

can Christianity induce a sense of oneness with the universe?

Yes, so can drugs, brain damage via stroke, and high G testing.

Does religion have to be what most people think it is?

No.

Can metaphor and allegory be subjected to literal truth arguments?

Yes, and they can fail the standards of logic, and what is actually true about reality.

Does Darwin's theory refute only Paley?

Darwin's theory refutes a great many theological tripe, but no one focus's on Darwin's theory anymore. We have learned a great deal more about evolution since Darwin, namely in the genetic record.

Why does Dawkins spend so much time refuting something that theologians themselves have already dismissed over a hundred years ago?

Does he? I was unaware of this. Do you mean that he spends time addressing people who use arguments that have been debunked centuries ago?

(you are aware that "God of the Gaps" is a phrase invented by a minister in the 1800's, and was meant derogatorily, right? did Dawkins know that?)

Possibly, however who invented it is irrelevant. The god of the gaps argument remains a fallacious one.

is anyone that believes Natural Theology is religion, delusional?

One cannot be delusional about a definition for an ambiguous term. Is there a purpose to this manner of irrelevant questions?

Why did Hitchens only mention John Henry Newman in his preface to his book, and not discuss anything he actually said, while spending a few pages on Paley?

I don't understand the purpose to this question, and my copy of the book has no preface. It starts at "putting it mildly."

What did he say about John Henry, please quote it, and explain why this is relevant. Was he wrong about John Henry?

Is Harris wrong when he says that the Bible must be interpreted literally in order to be the correct reading?

I believe you're making this one up as well, please quote him saying this because I don't believe he believes that there is any "correct" reading of the Bible.

why is it that Harris doesn't seem to notice that the “moderates” tend to be the ones that are actually taking Christ’s advice, while the fundamentalists aren't?

How doesn't he? I believe he quite clearly makes many arguments about how unchristly most fundamentalists are.

I've given you plenty to debate here. please do.

Seriously, you gave me a list of purposeless questions, and blatant false straw men. Are you going to address my last post?
 
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Spartacus FPV

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Checkmate?

Sidenote: If you do indeed agree with most of their arguments on religion, given that most religionists don't get spirituality or that most Christians don't get Christianity, would you not then have to concede the debate?

If they are "mostly" right then shouldn't the debate be whether the New Atheists have some misunderstandings on religion, or have made some absolute statements about religion that do not apply to your spirituality, or have no arguments against your particular brand of "religion"?
 

niftydrifty

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Re: Checkmate?

Sidenote: If you do indeed agree with most of their arguments on religion, given that most religionists don't get spirituality or that most Christians don't get Christianity, would you not then have to concede the debate?

If they are "mostly" right then shouldn't the debate be whether the New Atheists have some misunderstandings on religion, or have made some absolute statements about religion that do not apply to your spirituality, or have no arguments against your particular brand of "religion"?
"Mostly" is your word. I've never used it. I understand you've used this word to sum up my position, but it's inaccurate. I actually don't agree with their arguments on religion. They believe it's all false. I don't. I believe Christianity can lead to a valid spiritual experience. They don't. They seem to believe that all Christians embrace Natural Theology. We don't. Dawkins thinks religion is a scientific theory. I don't. I could literally go on and on. These are big differences.

My response, to everything you've typed here, will come in a few weeks. It will be another long one.
 

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I think this thread should be titled: Does nifty get the NA's arguments?

"Mostly" is your word. I've never used it. I understand you've used this word to sum up my position, but it's inaccurate.

I believe you said "I am actually in complete agreement with you, Dawkins, and Harris on the subject of fundamentalism and creationism" and that "Many, perhaps even most, Christians don’t “get” Christianity" in post #5.

Does most or many not count as mostly?

I actually don't agree with their arguments on religion.

You mean you do not agree with all of them, given that you agree with them when it comes to fundamentalists, creationists and think that "most" Christians don't "get" it.

What percentage of religionists do you think that covers?

They believe it's all false. I don't.

Wrong, not believing in any religion and believing that there is no evidence or reason to is not the same as believing that a certain belief is false.

There is a HUGE distinction between "I do not believe in a god" and "I believe that there is no god." They believe that they cannot all be true, given that they make incompatible claims, and that they have never been presented with valid evidence for any such propositions.

I believe Christianity can lead to a valid spiritual experience. They don't.

Wrong again, Sam Harris (and Dawkins, but namely Sam) recognizes it, among various other avenues (like meditation, isolation, etc...) for inducing "spiritual experiences."

They seem to believe that all Christians embrace Natural Theology. We don't.

Not true, they believe that believers believe whatever they say that they believe. They take believer's claims and arguments at their word, and then debunk them.

Would you mind explaining exactly what you mean by "natural theology?"

Dawkins thinks religion is a scientific theory. I don't.

Wrong, that would be absurd. Evolution and the fact that we revolve around the sun are scientific theories; There is no way he would regard any religion as that credible.

He believes that whether or not there is a god is a scientific hypothesis, and a failed one (a whole chapter on this.)

I could literally go on and on. These are big differences.

And I could literally go on and on about how you misunderstand and misrepresent the arguments that you say you disagree with. Given that each of your criticism is invalid, I really don't think you understand their arguments and have too quickly glanced over their books dismissively.

My response, to everything you've typed here, will come in a few weeks. It will be another long one.

Please try and be as concise as possible.
 
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Does niftydrifty misunderstand the "New Atheist's" arguments?

While responding to my previous posts, To get back on topic please address the focus of my disagreement with the challenge of this debate:
1. Why are the "New Atheist's" arguments against the millions (probably billions) of people practice religion in the naïve, anthropomorphic, and superstitious forms relevant to this debate?

Obviously these arguments are not misunderstandings of spirituality, but identifications of those who misunderstand it by your Christian moderate allegorical standards.

By saying that spirituality is really something other than the irrational belief in magic books, virgin births, the power of prayer, etc., Do you not ignore how pervasive the problem of religious irrationality is? That is one of the sins of religious “moderation” that Harris mentions in “The End of Faith.”

Will you not concede that these arguments reflect correct understandings of "religion" as those who hold it profess?

niftydrifty said:
I believe that Harris, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens et al, are correct to criticize much of what is wrong with “religion.” I actually reject many of the same versions of religion that they do.
2. It seems to me the question of why most Christians/religionists are wrong and you are right about spirituality is most important. What reason do you have for believing this, by what standard do you make the distinction?

How do you determine which passages in your scripture are to be taken allegorically or metaphorically, and why are the clergy, that Jehovah's Witness, and most other "Christians" wrong for theirs? This is the age old question, given the millions of religions and versions of Christianity on offer "why is your religion/spirituality true?"

Lachean said:
I thought this debate was about misunderstanding spirituality, and not religion?
niftydrifty said:
From my perspective, spirituality is religion.

I purposely used the term “spirituality” in the title of the thread. To me, spirituality is religion. It might be true that religion isn’t always spirituality. But spirituality is a religious experience, and, as such, I present my explanation of spirituality as a rebuttal of the work of the New Atheists.

Are there religious beliefs for which the New Atheists have not yet formulated valid arguments against? Yes.

As long atheists take “religionists” at their word, and appear not to notice that theologians and “moderate” religious people have been making the very same criticisms of religionists and creationists now being made by the New Atheists, then it is fair, IMO, to state that the NAs do not understand spirituality.

I await your presentation, because so far what you have quoted as alleged "misunderstandings" are in fact true about the kind of religion that you claim misunderstands spirituality, which does not reflect a misunderstanding of any kind; if there is an argument that follows from true premises with valid logic for your "spirituality" that you claim they have not addressed, I am ALL EARS.

Don't just link to them, make the argument... this is a debate isn't it? ;)
 
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