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Long LA Times article on Religion in society.


joined:12/31/69

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I would have just posted a link to this, but it is a registration site, so I just copied it.

Holy Terror
Religion isn't the solution -- it's the problem
By Sam Harris
Sam Harris is the author of "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason," published this month. He can be reached at www.samharris.org

August 15, 2004

President Bush and the Republicans in the Senate have failed — for the moment — to bring the Constitution into conformity with Judeo-Christian teachings. But even if they had passed a bill calling for a constitutional ban on gay marriage, that would have been only a beginning. Leviticus 20:13 and the New Testament book of Romans reveal that the God of the Bible doesn't merely disapprove of homosexuality; he specifically says homosexuals should be killed: "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death."

God also instructs us to murder people who work on the Sabbath, along with adulterers and children who curse their parents. While they're at it, members of Congress might want to reconsider the 13th Amendment, because it turns out that God approves of slavery — unless a master beats his slave so severely that he loses an eye or teeth, in which case Exodus 21 tells us he must be freed.

What should we conclude from all this? That whatever their import to people of faith, ancient religious texts shouldn't form the basis of social policy in the 21st century. The Bible was written at a time when people thought the Earth was flat, when the wheelbarrow was high tech. Are its teachings applicable to the challenges we now face as a global civilization?

Consider the subject of stem-cell research. Many religious people, drawing from what they've heard from the pulpit, believe that 3-day-old embryos — which are microscopic collections of 150 cells the size of a pinhead — are fully endowed with human souls and, therefore, must be protected as people. But if we know anything at all about the neurology of sensory perception, we know that there is no reason to believe that embryos at this stage of development have the capacity to sense pain, to suffer or to experience death in any way at all. (There are, for comparison's sake, 100,000 cells in the brain of a fly.)

These facts notwithstanding, our president and our leaders in Congress, many of them citing religious teachings, have decided to put the rights of undifferentiated cells before those of men and women suffering from spinal cord injuries, full-body burns, diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

Of course, the Bible is not the only ancient text that casts a shadow over the present. A social policy based on the Koran poses even greater dangers. Koran 9:123 tells us it is the duty of every Muslim man to "make war on the infidels who dwell around you." Osama bin Laden may be despicable, but it is hard to argue that he isn't acting in accord with at least some of the teachings of the Koran. It is true that most Muslims seem inclined to ignore the Koran's solicitations to martyrdom and jihad, but we cannot overlook the fact that some are not so inclined and that some of them murder innocent people for religious reasons.

The phrase "the war on terrorism" is a dangerous euphemism that obscures the true cause of our troubles, because we are currently at war with precisely a vision of life presented to Muslims in the Koran. Anyone who reads this text will find non-Muslims vilified on nearly every page. How can we possibly expect devout Muslims to happily share power with "the friends of Satan"? Why did 19 well-educated, middle-class men trade their lives for the privilege of killing thousands of our neighbors? Because they believed, on the authority of the Koran, that they would go straight to paradise for doing so. It is rare to find the behavior of human beings so easily explained. And yet, many of us are reluctant to accept this explanation.

Religious faith is always, and everywhere, exonerated. It is now taboo in every corner of our culture to criticize a person's religious beliefs. Consequently, we are unable to even name, much less oppose, one of the most pervasive causes of human conflict. And the fact that there are very real and consequential differences between the major religious traditions is simply never discussed.

Anyone who thinks that terrestrial concerns are the principal source of Muslim violence must explain why there are no Palestinian Christian suicide bombers. They too suffer the daily indignity of the Israeli occupation. Where, for that matter, are the Tibetan Buddhist suicide bombers? The Tibetans have suffered an occupation far more brutal. Where are the throngs of Tibetans ready to perpetrate suicidal atrocities against the Chinese? They do not exist. What is the difference that makes the difference? The difference lies in the specific tenets of Islam versus those of Buddhism and Christianity.

There are now more people in our country who believe that the universe was created in six solar days than there were in Europe in the 14th century. In the eyes of most of the civilized world, the United States is now a rogue power — imperialist, inarticulate and retrograde in its religiosity. Our erstwhile allies are right not to trust our judgment. We elect leaders who squander time and money on issues like gay marriage, Janet Jackson's anatomy, Howard Stern's obscenities, marijuana use and a dozen other trifles lying at the heart of the Christian social agenda, while potentially catastrophic problems like nuclear proliferation and climate change go unresolved.

We elected a president who believes the jury is still out on evolution and who rejects sound, scientific judgments on the environment, on medical research, on family planning and on HIV/AIDS prevention in the developing world. The consequence, as we saw in recent elections in Spain, is that people who feel misled and entrapped by our dogmatic and peremptory approach to foreign policy will be unable to recognize a common enemy, even when that enemy massacres hundreds of people in their nation's capital.

It is time we recognize that religious beliefs have consequences. As a man believes, so he will act. Believe that you are a member of a chosen people, awash in the salacious exports of an evil culture that is turning your children away from God, believe that you will be rewarded with an eternity of unimaginable delights by dealing death to these infidels — and flying a plane into a building is only a matter of being asked to do it. Believe that "life starts at the moment of conception" and you will happily stand in the way of medical research that could alleviate the suffering of millions of your fellow human beings. Believe that there is a God who sees and knows all things, and yet remains so provincial a creature as to be scandalized by certain sexual acts between consenting adults, and you will think it ethical to punish people for engaging in private behavior that harms no one.

Now that our elected leaders have grown entranced by pseudo-problems like gay marriage, even while the genuine enemies of civilization hurl themselves at our gates, perhaps it is time we subjected our religious beliefs to the same standards of evidence we require in every other sphere of our lives. Perhaps it is time for us to realize, at the dawn of this perilous century, that we are paying too high a price to maintain the iconography of our ignorance.
Gothampc
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The first two paragraphs of this man's article show how misinformed he is. He needs to read the whole Book before trying to patch together small segments and make them represent entire ideologies.
If anyone ever tells you that you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
Updated On: 8/15/04 at 11:40 AM
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Good to know Sam Harris has a job though.
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About Sam Harris, Author of 'The End Of Faith'Sam Harris:

Sam Harris is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford University. He studied both Eastern and Western religious traditions, along with a variety of spiritual disciplines, for twenty years. He is now completing a doctorate in neuroscience, studying the neural basis of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). He lives in New York City.

This hardly sounds like someone who's "misinformed." He wasn't using those quotes to represent an entire ideology, only illustrating cogent points relative to his piece.
Gothampc
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Sam Harris is probably collecting many dollar bills for his work. He should flip the bill over and read where it says "In God We Trust". Sort of hypocritical isn't it?
If anyone ever tells you that you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
LadyGuenevere
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Don't agree with him, "End of Faith, Religion, and Terror?"

What happened to an individual's right to think whatever they want? If they do not want to be dictated by science's 'reason', why should they be criticized for having faith in a religion?

I agree that extremism isn't very good for anyone who deeply believes in a religion and is working in the government, but extremism, eliminating RELIGION, on the other side, is just as bad. And maybe even worse.
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Guenevere - while I absolutely accept any person's right to choose religion as a way to approach the mysteries of existence, I also ABSOLUTELY reject the use of religion to determine social policy. The practice of religion is a CHOICE, and one that doesn't in any way justify the denial of individual rights of others that don't infringe on your own freedom. Religion can be a useful tool to help shape individual choice, but has historically been disastrous when used as a foundation for social order. The Crusades, Salem witch trials and the current state of the Middle East come to mind.
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The paragraph below might be the best statement I've read in a year.

************
There are now more people in our country who believe that the universe was created in six solar days than there were in Europe in the 14th century. In the eyes of most of the civilized world, the United States is now a rogue power — imperialist, inarticulate and retrograde in its religiosity. Our erstwhile allies are right not to trust our judgment. We elect leaders who squander time and money on issues like gay marriage, Janet Jackson's anatomy, Howard Stern's obscenities, marijuana use and a dozen other trifles lying at the heart of the Christian social agenda, while potentially catastrophic problems like nuclear proliferation and climate change go unresolved.
Updated On: 8/15/04 at 01:02 PM
Gothampc
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We elect leaders who squander time and money on issues like gay marriage, Janet Jackson's anatomy, Howard Stern's obscenities, marijuana use and a dozen other trifles lying at the heart of the Christian social agenda, while potentially catastrophic problems like nuclear proliferation and climate change go unresolved.

I guess it depends on what you consider catastrophic.

I see the Janet Jackson issue not as an issue of anatomy, but as one of harrassment. A man rips a woman's top off. That's ok? It happened here in NYC in Central Park a few years ago and it's not ok. It's not a trifle.
If anyone ever tells you that you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
Updated On: 8/15/04 at 01:21 PM
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Gotham, you don't think it's a trifle? It was a completely staged (no matter what they say, how could it not be?!?!? She was wearing a freaking nipple clamp! the piece of clothing was made to rip off!) event, agreed upon by both parties, designed to engender reaction. It probably got more reaction than they wanted, but come on now.
If you want to talk about the denegration of women, don't start with women in music. They know what they're doing when they tart themselves up. It ain't no issue.
Gothampc
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bwaysinger, the point is not that it was staged or that women in music know what they are doing. The point is what do children watching take away from the episode? That behavior is ok and unpunishable?
If anyone ever tells you that you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
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Well, if their parents have any influence over them, they'll talk to their children about how such behavior is not acceptable.
As for the issue at hand: I have long since believed that what this world needs is less religion and more spirituality. All organized religion does is create barriers between people.
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Thank you, D, for that. Harris states beautifully how many feel about this issue. There must be a separation of church and state. People can not hide behind their religion to deny others equal rights.
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Gotham, one need only look at popular entertainment of any kind to realize that our children are being taught that, with enough money and celebrity, one can indeed get away with anything.
Look at the athletes in trouble for raping/killing/drugs...but watching those Republican pundits descend upon La Jackson's escapade was like seeing vultures descend upon roadkill.
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I consider myself to be a religious person. I follow my chosen religion and the beliefs that come along with that.

However, in a country that claims to believe in "Separation of Church and State" you very rarely ever see that done. It would be impossible to say that someone's religion won't influence his or her beliefs. However, if separation of church and state is ever going to be completely instituted (which is virtually impossible without banning religion in general) you have to throw out any argument which involves the use of religion as a grounds. Yet, how is that possible? You can't ban religion, it's a natural right which is protected by an amendment to the Constitution.

As for the Constitution, if you want to talk about rights, the rights are not granted by the Constitution, they're protected by them. Meaning, that you are born with rights and the Constitution states them in order to prevent the government from infringing on them. However, the Constitution does not call for separation of church and state. At the time that it was written they were very much in a world where God was an integral part of society.

Separation of Church and State, while good in theory, will probably never completely occur. To say that religion will not influence the people's arguments is to say that it will not influence the people.

As for what Rose_McShane said about organized religions causing barriers between people, I don't agree with that. A good religion teaches people to come together, to understand one another and to work with each other to find a common ground. The people who use religion to put up a defense or barrier are individuals, not entire groups.

*edit for typos
And hang on, when did you win the discus?
Updated On: 8/15/04 at 02:21 PM
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will it never end?

There is a few rules in a couple books that outline life for the early jews because they were childish and nieve as how to make their own choices. They were gotten rid of. The bible clearly differenciates between those rules and rules that are still upstanding.

But, no one will agree, or even aknowledge this comment, because no one likes to be wrong.
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FindingNamo
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"There is a few rules in a couple books that outline life for the early jews because they were childish and nieve as how to make their own choices."

WTF?

Let's count the number of levels this is offensive on. I count about five. Anybody else?
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are you kidding me? how is that offensive? they had been slaves for hundreds of years.
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That you would even suggest that we are wrong is offensive. Your religion is your business. No one has to agree with you.
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i never said anybody's view was wrong, but the attacks on the bible are wrong. There is plenty of things to attack the bible on. Throwing in the laws meant for the early jew and saying, "these laws were dumb so the laws about being gay are dumb too" is getting awfully irritating.

I dont expect anybody to adhear to my belief structure, but these uneducated attacks on the bible are getting irritating.
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Seriously, I laugh at you when you say

"Throwing in the laws meant for the early jew and saying, "these laws were dumb so the laws about being gay are dumb too" is getting awfully irritating."

Not everyone interprets the Bible the same way. Not everyone believes that homosexuality is a sin.
Updated On: 8/15/04 at 04:29 PM
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I have been meaning to say this for a while .....I think DGrant is brilliant and I really enjoy his posts....especially when it comes to religion....Thank You!!!!!!
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yes, JRB, i laugh at that setiment too. I dont interpret the bible that way
Its Aberqurque NM for me. Speaking Spanish. Be Back September 06.