RE: Dawkins was right all along

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Fri Sep 21 2001 - 19:55:26 BST

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    From: "Scott Chase" <>
    Subject: RE: Dawkins was right all along
    Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 14:55:26 -0400
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    >From: Philip Jonkers <>
    >Subject: RE: Dawkins was right all along
    >Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 18:44:17 +0200 (CEST)
    > > <Koresh and his cult supposedly lived by the bible,
    > > > it then certainly helps to understand their actions by using
    > > > the bible as an explanatory means. I should add
    > > > that the bible can be interpreted in a multiple number of
    > > > ways as it's nothing more than a large collection of metaphores
    > > > on ethics and fairy-tale storytelling.
    > > > It is therefore tantamount also to extract what kind of
    > > > (twisted) interpretation Koresh maintained that inspired and
    > > > spurred the actions taken by him and his cult.
    > > >
    > > > I guess the same argument applies perfectly well to Bin Laden
    > > > as well, and any other terrorist with religious motives
    > > > for that matter. Also remember the racist outbursts of
    > > > White Supremacy movements or adherents, thus killing innocent
    > > > people in the name of christ... >
    > > I think you're right here. I've always been struck by the double
    > > standard employed in arguments about the effects of books/sacred
    > > texts.
    > > Many novels have been witch-hunted by some for their presumed effects
    > > on
    > > people's crimes (not just novels of course, films, plays, TV shows,
    > > comic
    > > books, etc. etc.), but the notion that texts like the Bible or Koran
    > > may
    > > induce people to commit crimes is never accepted by these same people.
    > > (e.g.
    > > white supremacists in the US are often linked the influence of 'The
    > > Turner
    > > Diaries' rather than the Bible).
    > >
    > > And yet perhaps the reverse is much more likely, especially in
    > > cultures or communities where the contents of sacred texts are taken
    > > as
    > > absolute truths, and the possibility of different interpretations of
    > > those
    > > texts are swept under the carpet somewhat. Islam in particular has had
    > > this
    > > problem since immediately after Mohammad's death, hence the extreme
    > > variations of muslim countries that we see. Nonetheless, each branch
    > > sees
    > > its interpretation as the absolute truth. Despise them as much as we
    > > may,
    > > the Taleban are simply following what they believe to be the truth of
    > > God as
    > > told to Mohammad.
    > >
    > > Looking at the main texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, even
    > > superficially one can find much material that gives scope for the
    > > violently
    > > minded. Don't most Christian based cults concentrate on the book of
    > > revelations for example?
    > >
    > > I think there are parallels between Koresh and Bin Laden
    > > in the way they perhaps have utilised religion and religious
    > > texts for their goals.
    > > Perhaps, they both genuinely believe their interpretations
    > > also. The other possible parallel is of course the one we
    > > hope doesn't happen, and that is the way the FBI/ATF "dealt"
    > > with Koresh, with its immediate and longer term
    > > consequences. Let's hope that the alliance's response to
    > > this tragedy doesn't have similar immediate and longer
    > > term consequences.
    >Hi Vincent,
    >It seems to me almost self-evident that Koresh, Bin Laden and
    >the like are convinced of their the righteousness of their
    >action and religious way of life. Having doubts about one's
    >religious tenets might challenge group coherence and
    >will foster disintegration of the religious community at hand.
    >It seems to me only natural that evolutionary pressures favor
    >the more coherent religious groups; this would automatically
    >require adherence and unconditional belief in one's own
    >religious postulates.
    >Different interpretations are possible to be entertained
    >exclusively by outsiders of the religion under scrutiny.
    >We atheists have a privileged position in that we are
    >universal outsiders of all religions.
    So are you implying that being an atheist makes you superior to someone who
    is religious? Are you free from the possible biases inherent in a mindset
    and its polarizing anti-religious extremes?
    >This permits us to
    >study religions with an unbiased attitude; >
    Could you understand what you study without a little participant observation
    or walking a mile in someone's shoes?
    >we are
    >not hampered regarding our opinion by distorting sentiments
    >of one's own religion.
    What about the distortion stemming from militant atheist extremism and
    treating religion as a mind virus which requires preventative innoculations
    and quarantine measures. I see a bunch of focus on the horrid extremes of
    religions. I agree that these extremes are wrong, but I think a crucial
    distinction needs to be made that not all followers of a religion (or
    mindset to be more broad) are extremists. Criticism of religion is
    important, but distinctions need to be made. That's my main point all along.

    We all have our blinders or tinted lenses, whether religious or not and are
    susceptible to "infection" by extremist variants of our biases.

    Being a follower of memetics may even predispose you to placing human
    behavior into the wrong tidied cubbyholes, just as being an atheist may lead
    to going overboard on an anti-religious tirade. I thought objectivity
    entailed not taking a normative stance on what you study or at least
    approaching what you study in a more balanced manner. I've seen some
    anti-religious sentiment focusing on the negatives.

    BTW, I'm trying to figure out what distorting sentiments of religion are
    creeping in to bias my *agnostic* views.

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