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On religion: the first preface

Posted By Sunny On 4th September, 2006 @ 4:28 am In Religion | Comments Disabled

(I have written this article to lay out my views on religion, as a introduction to a wider set of ideas that will follow.)

It is sometimes said that Panjabis did not deserve Sikhism being unleashed upon them because they squandered its teachings and values.

When the first Guru (teacher) of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, started preaching around 1499, Panjab was a very volatile area rocked by tension between Hindus and Muslims. It was also susceptible to constant incursions by marauding armies from the area now broadly Afghanistan and Pakistan.

When he had his first major epiphany at the age of thirty, after which he started preaching, Nanak Dev said: “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim,” meaning that such religious labels were unimportant. Only dedication to God and love towards fellow human being mattered.

Not too long after the tenth in line, Guru Gobind Singh, was laid to rest, the first and only Sikh kingdom by [1] Maharaja Ranjit Singh also faced problems from Mughal, Hindu, Afghani and British armies. And yet one of his most memorable quotes was: “God intended me to look all religions with one eye, that is why he took away the light from the other.”

One can say that Sikhism was an ideology borne out of a need to deal with sectarian tension and deal with upheavals. It wanted people to cut the crap and get to the point (the point being God of course).

To that extent the Sikh scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib, known as the 11th and eternal teacher, incorporated teachings by Hindu and Muslim thinkers.

My personal stance on religion is broadly similar. Born into a Sikh family, I have gradually distanced myself from the idea of calling myself a Sikh. Instead I see myself as belonging to all major faiths in the spirit of, as I see it, the whole point of Sikhism.

This is admittedly quite a contrarian view.

When [2] Guru Nanak Dev Ji died in 1539, both Hindus and Muslims tried to claim him as their own. This has since defined Sikhism in that its adherents are always at pains to claim they follow a distinct religion - mindful of attempts by some Hindus (and Muslims of that era) that they were merely a sect of their own faith.

My view is that the Gurus wanted their people not to fall into the trap of an organised and ritualised religion, but rather embrace all of humanity as their own family.

Wikipedia

Here is another analogy: I see religion rather like Wikipedia.

The core users (in real life the priests, academics and theologians) keep adding to it as new contexts arise; keep editing it according to their own interpretations; and they argue over those interpretations and do constant reverts (also known as going back to the basics).

The ordinary readers, who just want some security and understanding, are influenced by the latest interpretation on screen before another school of thought wins the revert battle and pulls a few adherents.

The truth becomes whatever most people believe it to be and is thus written at that time in the entry. As interpretation changes over time, so does many people’s version of the truth.

To put this in context of the current British infatuation with Islam, Muslims and terrorism on account of 9/11 and 7/7, I believe the problem isn’t Islam (how could I see it as that when the Gurus did not) but rather the interpretation used by certain groups to promote violence. This isn’t a revolutionary new viewpoint of course but needs re-stating nevertheless.

Context

Thus, the usage of specific quotes to justify violence or advocate peace is a constant struggle that goes back to the days those religions were born. It would be foolish to assume that violence in the name of religion has always been negligible. In fact it has always hovered in the background, ready to spark into a wider conflict when opportunities arise.

It is also my view that the conflict is here and it is happening now. And the time has come for those who want peace to stop dithering in the background and get off the fence.

Otherwise we not only do ourselves but the spirit of our religions a dis-service.


Comments Disabled To "On religion: the first preface"

#1 Comment By Bert Preast On 4th September, 2006 @ 9:50 am

“It is also my view that the conflict is here and it is happening now. And the time has come for those who want peace to stop dithering in the background and get off the fence.”

Interesting. Pretty much the same thing Al Qaeda said yesterday.

I trust we’re talking people who are against violence getting off their arses and demonstrating quite clearly that violence will change nothing for the better, and those supporting it in the name of religion are to be universally considered apostate?

Or is it if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em?

#2 Comment By Leon On 4th September, 2006 @ 10:28 am

The wikipedia analogy is a good one, fascinating and excellent piece Sunny. Personally I think taking religion that seriously (i.e. giving it power beyond peoples personal lives) is a problem. By accepting it’s legitimacy we’re giving up a rational accounting of it.

I don’t see any reason to tolerate any religion beyond the private lives of those that follow it; anytime it gets organised and attempts to gain power it should be challenged and restrained.

I can’t see how these conflicts are going to be settled through the lense of irrational belief…

Ultimately I like the old Anarchist maxim: No Gods! No Masters!

#3 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 4th September, 2006 @ 10:35 am

Quoting verses from a religious book to justify the existence and mission of god is like explaining the big bang theory be reciting twinkle, twinkle.

Believe what you want, have faith in all you believe but have the wisdom to realise religion is the tool of the fool that can’t think for himself

Make some room for doubt for god’s sake

#4 Comment By Jackie Brown On 4th September, 2006 @ 10:55 am

“The truth becomes whatever most people believe it to be and is thus written at that time in the entry. As interpretation changes over time, so does many people’s version of the truth”.

That has resonance with Christian “Dispensational Theology”- Only it is not the interpretation that changes over time, it is the *revelation* that changes. E.g. the Apostle Paul knew more about God’s divine plan that did Moses, whose knowledge superceded Adam’s. The fundamental difference is that Christian theology makes room for a secular/world and its government. Adherents are instructed to “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” I am not aware that there is any school of Islam that supports that view.

#5 Comment By Jagdeep On 4th September, 2006 @ 11:14 am

Spirituality is one thing. Religion is about borders, tribes, fences, and armies. I use the word ‘army’ in the tribal sense, about fighting for your tribe and going on the offensive and defensive.

However, something in me baulks at the militant atheist. At times, he or she seems as irrational as a militant religionist, for some reason.

Anyway nice article Sunny, Guru Nanak was a great radical of his time, people forget that he was an advocate of social reform as well as a divine man.

#6 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 4th September, 2006 @ 11:22 am

religion is sooooooo last century

#7 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 4th September, 2006 @ 11:23 am

last millennium even

#8 Comment By Tasneem On 4th September, 2006 @ 11:25 am

The fact that Nanak emerged into the scene troubled with religious tension and started preaching: “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim,” stamps how reforms in religious outlook are resulted from a social void.

Takes?

#9 Comment By Chairwoman On 4th September, 2006 @ 11:29 am

Isn’t organised atheism just religion without G-d?

#10 Comment By Leon On 4th September, 2006 @ 11:36 am

However, something in me baulks at the militant atheist. At times, he or she seems as irrational as a militant religionist, for some reason.

Heh, that’s the truth fucking with you.;)

#11 Comment By Leon On 4th September, 2006 @ 11:37 am

Isn’t organised atheism just religion without G-d?

What’s organised Atheism? Sounds to me like a straw man is about to be built…

#12 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 4th September, 2006 @ 11:46 am

You lot keep banging on about the straw man. What that?

#13 Comment By AsifB On 4th September, 2006 @ 11:47 am

Sunny - Thank you for another very interesting article. I like the wiki idea. You can use England football matches in a similar way - the actual number of people attending important matches regulary is dwarfed by the millions watching on tv - whilst those who attend every game can claim to be more ‘devout,’ if the millions watching at home did not care about the outcome, they would have nothing important to be devout about.

The mindset that causes violence to be used in the name of religion or any other ideology derives from the flawed idea of perfectability in this lifetime - once you let go of the idea of a utopia in this life, its hard to support any fundamentlist ideologue be it Pol Pot or bin-Laden.

Jackie Brown - I think the fact that many Muslims live in places that either have or have tried secular constitutions (Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh) suggests the render unto Caesar concept is not unknown or impossible for Muslims - a key flaw in current would be Khalifat/Jihadist mindsets is the idea that the idea that a Muslim state would be strongly centralised like modern nation-states - when history and the theoretical Sunni inclination to avoid established church hierachies - suggests a more Anarchic sort of state to be the preferred ‘goal’.

#14 Comment By Leon On 4th September, 2006 @ 11:50 am

Kismet, check this out: [3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

#15 Comment By David On 4th September, 2006 @ 12:11 pm

The truth becomes whatever most people believe it to be and is thus written at that time in the entry. As interpretation changes over time, so does many people’s version of the truth.

The wikipedia analogy is a good model for how religion develops through the ages. But there is an obvious and important difference: with the real Wikipedia over time the tendency is towards a closer approximation to the truth; with the religion-wiki, it’s all made up.

#16 Comment By Chairwoman On 4th September, 2006 @ 12:16 pm

Leon - The Humanist Society is organised Atheism. When the Chairman died, we had a Humanist funeral for him as he was an atheist, but we wanted some sort of service to commemorate his life, and frankly were too stunned to arrange one ourselves. The Humanist Society arranged it for us, and sent a ‘celebrant’ who conducted a very impressive non religious ceremony.

#17 Comment By Jagdeep On 4th September, 2006 @ 12:19 pm

Leon

Ultimately, the hysteria of some atheists is what makes them seem as irrational as people who have faith. The fact is, there are billions and billions of people around the world who pray to some higher being and engage in rituals associated with a community of believers. I don’t sneer at them, although I am cautious generally towards organised institutions or religion and their societal claims. I dont sneer at the poor Catholic woman in a slum of Sao Paolo, or the Hindu man going to the temple to celebrate the birth of his child, or my Sikh Uncle who organises through the gurdwara charitable donations for the local hospital and bows to the Guru Granth Sahib every day. I just dont sneer at that.

You see, you say that my response is the ‘truth’ f-ing with me. But that’s an interesting phrase to use - ‘truth’. Because religionists make absolute claims to truth as well, dont they?

#18 Comment By Leon On 4th September, 2006 @ 12:21 pm

The wikipedia analogy is a good model for how religion develops through the ages. But there is an obvious and important difference: with the real Wikipedia over time the tendency is towards a closer approximation to the truth; with the religion-wiki, it’s all made up.

Interesting point, the reason I think the wiki analogy is a good one is the accuracy vs corruption/abuse of it side of things. A good indication here about potential problems (if you take the analogy further):

[4] http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/uk.cfm?id=1300672006

#19 Comment By Leon On 4th September, 2006 @ 12:24 pm

You see, you say that my response is the ‘truth’ f-ing with me. But that’s an interesting phrase to use - ‘truth’. Because religionists make absolute claims to truth as well, dont they?

Relax, it was just a joke.

Regarding your other points, as I say I’ve no problem with people praying in their bedroom, or having temples etc but when it comes to things like the state? Well, creationism being taught in schools in the US or Sharia ‘law’ in certain ME countries is what I don’t like the look of.

I don’t want that here.

#20 Comment By Jagdeep On 4th September, 2006 @ 12:27 pm

Leon, seriously, the internet is such a restrictive media, you never can tell what other people are thinking, saying, looking like. I really am as relaxed as a polar bear in ice :-)

I agree with you about watching the creep of religiosity into public life and the shapes it takes.

#21 Comment By Leon On 4th September, 2006 @ 12:29 pm

Jag, yeah I know, we need more emoticons! (I’m going to have to use a the :P more often when mucking about on here…)

#22 Comment By Arif On 4th September, 2006 @ 12:34 pm

Another analogy.

Religion as a vehicle. Sikhism etc are different models of cars, designed to make it easier for people to get towards the summit of mount enlightenment. Sure you can walk there if you are persistent, and you won’t be able to drive all the way to the top, but some engineers designed cars and coaches for people who might want help getting there.

Unfortunately, they can never overcome the problem of pollution as clouds of judgment choke bystanders, though some modernising engineers try to create catalytic converters, or more radical religious reforms like solar energy. Some people would like to ban them and reclaim the streets. Some people build vehicles to go to places other than mount enlightenment, which many consider a myth which puts off the important work of getting lumber from the woods to build more cabins of contentment in the valley.

A few people get behind the wheel of a car and think it is great fun to use it to mow people down. And a lot of people enjoy just racing agains other drivers - completely forgetting any destination. Some of them are just happy as passengers to let others navigate and drive them wherever. A few people love the old vintage cars so much they spend their time studying and polishing them and look down at people trying new models souped up with their fancy innovations. Maybe a few try getting quietly to mount enlightenment, trying not to get involved in side-pursuits, trying to negotiate to get past roadblocks, picking up hitch-hikers and helping other drivers who break down, but we can safely ignore them.

To most people decisions on getting a bigger car, or a car-free life-style, or arresting dangerous drivers are the most pressing concerns, and the mount enlightenment - if it can be seen above the smog - is considered a distant dream to be put off until these other problems are sorted out.

Every vehicle manual comes with a parable of the careful driver, but no-one takes much notice. Any more than they do of half-baked analogies like this one. Carry on, nothing to see here. Have to keep the traffic moving.

#23 Comment By Leon On 4th September, 2006 @ 12:37 pm

If religion is a car; does that mean Atheism is a helicopter or plane (taking you to greater heights)?

#24 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 4th September, 2006 @ 12:38 pm

Arif, if religion is a car, it’s a big fuck off 4×4 that doesn’t give a toss who gets in the way. And the convertible version would be a skip

Also, would you rather be a driver, a passenger, a hitcher or ride shotgun?

And what of the petrol prices going up? You’d need to go to war to make sure there’s always oil in the tank

#25 Comment By Arif On 4th September, 2006 @ 12:41 pm

Depends on the kind of atheism. It might mean you just don’t believe in mount enlightenment, or that the path to it isn’t designed for cars or that you’ve built your own vehicle to drive people off the road.

#26 Comment By David On 4th September, 2006 @ 12:43 pm

That’s very good, Arif.

#27 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 4th September, 2006 @ 12:44 pm

There is no car

#28 Comment By Chairwoman On 4th September, 2006 @ 12:47 pm

Great analogy, Arif.

#29 Comment By Jackie Brown On 4th September, 2006 @ 12:53 pm

AsifB- thanks for your input- I stand corrected.
Kismet/Leon- thanks for the question and link on ‘straw man’— [I still think it “sounds” a bit pretentious though];)

Chairwoman:
[5] http://www.kenanmalik.com/tv/analysis_humanism.html

I heard this radio debate a while ago, on humanism I found the exchange between Tariq Ramadan and Kenan Malik on Sharia law as regards stoning women interesting.

Opening statement:
“In London, Muslim protestors demand that the government pay greater heed to Sharia law. In Oxford, animal rights activist’s campaign to stop the building of a medical lab. What links these two events? Nothing you might think. But each, in its own way, challenges a philosophy central to the Western intellectual tradition, and to much of secular politics - humanism.”

#30 Comment By Jackie Brown On 4th September, 2006 @ 12:54 pm

;) was meant to be a wink after pretentious

#31 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 4th September, 2006 @ 12:58 pm

pretentious and wank goes hand in hand…

#32 Comment By Chairwoman On 4th September, 2006 @ 1:02 pm

Jackie Brown - Very interesting. It is of course easy for Lord Hattersley, as it was for my husband to be Humanists and talk about the higher moral ground we can take without religion, when they had both been brought up as ’somethings’. It would be interesting to see how the human race would progress without religion.

I am not religious myself, but feel that the philosophy of eventually answering to a higher authority, something that many religions have in common, gives people a firm moral base, even if they reject it later.

#33 Comment By Saki On 4th September, 2006 @ 1:19 pm

Now, my mother never bothered about bringing me up. She just saw to it that I got whacked at decent intervals and was taught the difference between right and wrong; there is some difference, you know, but I’ve forgotten what it is.

#34 Comment By Sunny On 4th September, 2006 @ 1:40 pm

Haha! Nice analogy too Arif. I guess mine was more about how ideas are transmitted than how religion is used.

#35 Comment By Leon On 4th September, 2006 @ 1:42 pm

I still think it “sounds” a bit pretentious though]

Yeah I agree but I can’t help it if people would rather make up things than argue against the point made.;)

#36 Comment By Amit On 4th September, 2006 @ 1:45 pm

That’s a good article Sunny. You know that I take the standpoint that I am a student of all religions, faiths, belief systems and I take the best of all and apply them to my life accordingly.

Everything comes down to perception, as I say; “what you perceive, you believe and what you believe you perceive.

Any sort of violence or fighting in the name of God is wrong as how can any of us know truly what he wants of us?

#37 Comment By raz On 4th September, 2006 @ 1:49 pm

OFF TOPIC : But I think this deserves an article of its own:

[6] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/5311244.stm

1 in 10 young British Asians thinks honour killings can be justified?! WTF is it with these idiots?

#38 Comment By Bert Preast On 4th September, 2006 @ 1:53 pm

I prefer Aesop’s fables to religion. All the morality you could wish for, but people are unlikely to grow to adulthood taking talking animals too seriously.

#39 Comment By Leon On 4th September, 2006 @ 1:56 pm

Raz, yeah was just reading that, was going to post it along with my earlier caveat about the use of polls. They don’t mention the weighting in that article, how the poll was taken and 500 people isn’t that big a sample…

#40 Comment By raz On 4th September, 2006 @ 2:07 pm

Indeed Leon, I realised all those concerns. Still worrying though, especially considering this poll seems to have targetted British born Asians, not those born overseas.

#41 Comment By Leon On 4th September, 2006 @ 2:10 pm

Yep, but good for bringing it up (I don’t think it’s that far off topic tbh)…:)

#42 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 4th September, 2006 @ 2:53 pm

It isn’t off topic. These honour killings are justified with religion (she got pregnant with jew), which is fair enough seeing as cultural bigotry is just as bollocks as religious intolerance.

If young British Asians want to break away from the shackles imposed on them by their community, slamming that prayer book shut and burning it would be a very necessary first step

#43 Comment By mirax On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:04 pm

>>They don’t mention the weighting in that article, how the poll was taken and 500 people isn’t that big a sample…

Additional info was in the accompanying audio.

The specific question was summin along the lines of : can you (ever) see any justification for an honour killing?

It was a poll of 500, 16 - 34 year olds weighted for sex, religion etc according to national indicators. I am not expert enough to debunk the validity of the poll and when you get around to doing so, Leon, it might be useful to let readers know what your own expertise is based on.

Now is a good time as any to ask PP what progress it has made on its plans to mount an anti-honour/shame killing campaign : what’s happening?

* btw, the 10% number is really incredible, makes my end of the diaspora appear incredibly forward thinking by comparison.

#44 Comment By mirax On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:13 pm

>The Humanist Society is organised Atheism

Humanism does not equal atheism. Skeptic organisations are often full of atheists but again, these orgs exist for a very different purpose and include all kinds of individuals.

I think it is safe to assert that atheists are by and large, less organised than any other corresponding subgroup of society.

#45 Comment By Katy On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:15 pm

If young British Asians want to break away from the shackles imposed on them by their community, slamming that prayer book shut and burning it would be a very necessary first step

I don’t know. I think that intolerant people who are religious use religion to justify their lack of tolerance, but I also think that there are lots of atheists who are also intolerant but justify it in different non-religious ways. I don’t have a problem with people being religious. I get annoyed when they have a problem with me not being religious, but I know lots of religious people who are both observant and tolerant.

In summary: some people are horribly intolerant and some people are lovely. I am not sure if this qualifies as a major insight or not.

#46 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:24 pm

religion makes people dumb

if you take away the right to doubt and question and grow up following, you’re dumb

so yeah, katy, some people are intolerant and some are lovely, but the ones that are religioun-minded are dumb on top

#47 Comment By mirax On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:25 pm

>>>feel that the philosophy of eventually answering to a higher authority, something that many religions have in common, gives people a firm moral base, even if they reject it later.

Just looking at this statement as it is (not to ’sneer’ at anyone).

Huge Unexamined Assumption : morality derives from religious precepts of higher power to which one is accountable.

Think about it.

#48 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:25 pm

It all comes down to whether you’re comfortably dumb or out to pack dumbs in your rucksack

#49 Comment By Jai On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:30 pm

=>”if you take away the right to doubt and question and grow up following, you’re dumb”

*Weary sigh*

It depends on the specific religion. Some actively promote the concept of not following anything blindly and emphasise the necessity of critical analysis and finding things out for oneself, rather than doing something purely because “my religion/holy book/etc etc” says so.

#50 Comment By mirax On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:33 pm

Julain Baggini on teaching ‘atheism’ in schools to breathe life into religions.

After all, no one takes religion as seriously as atheists! ;-)

[7] http://www.tes.co.uk/section/story/?section=Archive&sub_section=News+%26+opinion&story_id=391826&Type=0

#51 Comment By Leon On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:34 pm

Leon, it might be useful to let readers know what your own expertise is based on.

How do you mean? Regarding polling? I have no professional experience (apologies if I imply that I do). I’ve done a lot research over the years into various issues (more recently crime data and demographic data)and read a bit. I’m also on an advisory board for Birmingham Uni so need to be able to think in these terms.

But yeah, no phd here! Just an ordinary bloke trying to see through the crap and present that view without any jargon.

#52 Comment By Leon On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:40 pm

Interesting link that Mirax, this bit really caught my attention:

Whether or not God exists should be a question of great concern. Morality matters. If religion is taught in the context of ethics and philosophy, its importance becomes far more apparent. If it is taught in a hermetically-sealed, atheist-free environment, then it just looks like some quaint relic. Religions become exhibits in an anthropological museum, not living belief systems which challenge how people live.

I especially agree that RE should be re-configured as “religious, philosophical and moral education”. It’s what we used to turn every RE lesson into anyway when I was at secondary school.

Funny enough, if the priests and religious teachers had been a bit more open minded they wouldn’t have lost so many of us to sceptism or asthiesm etc…

#53 Comment By mirax On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

Another thoughful article from Baggini:

[8] http://www.theherald.co.uk/features/68503-print.shtml

He starts out by saying :
There are many intelligent, reflective religious believers in the world, as well as dim-witted, dogmatic atheists. That’s why I can’t agree with Marx when he wrote: “The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion.” What matters more than whether we believe in God or gods is how critically we have reflected on these beliefs.

#54 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:45 pm

Jai, whether it depends on the specific religion or whether that religion tells you not to follow blindly is irrelevant

It’s dumb to grow up thinking fairy tales is how all this happenned and downright depressing to learn from it that the answer to it all has already been written

Religious individuals may be supremely intelligent, but settling for religion as any sort of answer is dumb

#55 Comment By Leon On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:46 pm

See that bit I disagree, my view is we don’t need God (like Sunny I’m a big Fight Club fan and that bit about God and the Father works for me).

My primary concern is humans, not some unproven diety.

#56 Comment By Sunny On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:46 pm

I’m not anti-religion. As anyone who has spent a sufficient time reading religious philosophy or those scriptures can tell you, they do contain some of the most forward thinking passages - many of which were way ahead of their time.

But I do think it is about time that religious liberals (the Christian think-tank Ekklesia is a great example) get organised and start putting their point of view forward.

#57 Comment By mirax On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

>>Funny enough, if the priests and religious teachers had been a bit more open minded they wouldn’t have lost so many of us to sceptism or asthiesm etc…

What??? LOST to skepticism or atheism like we’ve strayed and fallen into an endless pit? Not at all! I find my atheism and skepticism immensely enriching and liberating, thank you very much.

#58 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:50 pm

“As anyone who has spent a sufficient time reading religious philosophy or those scriptures can tell you, they do contain some of the most forward thinking passages - many of which were way ahead of their time.”

Absolute twaddle. I’ve read the Bible and just finished the Koran for the third time (this time in English)

Badly written, woefully edited, stories poor enough to give jeffrey archer a superiority complex and as sel;f-help books go, pretty much every bit the gobbledegook you expect from a modern-day pop psycholgy clap trap

Let the books go. Write some new ones

#59 Comment By Leon On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:50 pm

Not at all! I find my atheism and skepticism immensely enriching and liberating, thank you very much.

LOL! As do I! I was reflecting their lament; before leaving school I told atleast one half decent teacher about it and he just said yeah your right, they didn’t get it etc…basically though, if they understood their religion and their students better they would have been more well rounded and so would have been their teaching.

#60 Comment By Bert Preast On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:52 pm

Leon wrote: “Funny enough, if the priests and religious teachers had been a bit more open minded they wouldn’t have lost so many of us to sceptism or asthiesm etc…”

I’d say the reverse is true. They’d lost us long before our generation, mostly through giving open-mindedness a try.

#61 Comment By Katy On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:54 pm

LOST to skepticism or atheism like we’ve strayed and fallen into an endless pit?

Yes. Yes indeed. Exactly like that. Oh Mirax I am sorry.

But it’s okay, because if you’re Jewish we don’t really have hell as such. And if you’re Catholic, apparently they have about four different waiting rooms before you get to hell or heaven, so you just have to hope that more enlightened people will bump you up a few levels by praying for you. Or something.

#62 Comment By Bert Preast On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:54 pm

Sunny wrote: “As anyone who has spent a sufficient time reading religious philosophy or those scriptures can tell you, they do contain some of the most forward thinking passages - many of which were way ahead of their time.”

Aesop’s fables predate the bible and quran.

#63 Comment By Jai On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:54 pm

Kismet,

=>”It’s dumb to grow up thinking fairy tales is how all this happenned and downright depressing to learn from it that the answer to it all has already been written”

Agreed, but with all due resepct, you’re generalising. Again, not all religions have such “fairy tales” and the primary goal is not to give the adherant “all the answers”, but the basic tools so that they can figure things out for themselves via their own efforts.

If a religion does indeed claim to give people all the answers on a silver platter, along with stories about supposed historical events which may be contradicted by archeological evidence and actual historical records from the time, then I agree with you wholeheartedly that such a mindset is not a good idea. It leads to self-deception and superstition.

#64 Comment By Katy On 4th September, 2006 @ 3:59 pm

I agree with Jai, but I don’t think it’s a case of which religion you follow, I think it’s a case of how you follow it. It depends on how you are taught your religion and how you interpret it. Most religions have the potential to be either forces for good or forces for dogmatic repression, depending on how they are taught and how they are interpreted by the people who live by them.

It feels a bit bizarre to be sticking up for religion when I’m not religious myself, but there you go.

#65 Comment By Jai On 4th September, 2006 @ 4:00 pm

Sunny,

It’s interesting how people’s perceptions and viewpoints are often heavily influenced by their own specific life-experience and localised environment. (If you’ve been observing the recent fireworks over on SM regarding Asian skin-colour and general physical appearance then you’ll know what I mean, for example).

Your own view on religious matters has been influenced by the Sikh concept and teachings on such things, even if you have an unorthodox interpretation in some ways. The same obviously applies to me. I think that people who are originally from “exclusivist” Abrahamic faiths are similarly influenced by their background, even if they ultimately reject it. This often colours their viewpoint on religion in general — the negative aspects of their own previous religious affiliation are extrapolated, and other faiths are presumed to have the same approach. Which isn’t necessarily the case.

This is just an observation and should not be interpreted as malicious criticism by anyone else here. We’re all just having a friendly chat.

#66 Comment By Sunny On 4th September, 2006 @ 4:07 pm

Again, not all religions have such “fairy tales” and the primary goal is not to give the adherant “all the answers”, but the basic tools so that they can figure things out for themselves via their own efforts.

Let’s take the example of the Ramayana and the Mahabharat. Two tales, told in the way of poems, that are generally seen as incredulous. And I think they are, but that is not the point. The Ramayana was meant to be a tale to give an indication as to how males and females should behave (morality and all that) while the Mahabharat tackles more complex societal issues with examples and commentary.

There are plenty of tales associated with the Sikh Gurus, Prophet Mohammed and Jesus too. Their point isn’t whether they are true or not, but to provide some indication as to how people should behave.

I mix a lot of my stuff with Buddhism - which I believe to be a more psychological ideology than a religion as such. Buddha’s answer to whether God existed or not was to say it is an irrelevant question - what is more relevant is to concentrate on your actions and your inner thoughts.

The idea of God as a being looking down on me and controlling my life doesn’t appeal to me. I think there is sufficient diversity on thought on what God actually represents to keep the whole issue very vague. I prefer it that way.

#67 Comment By Jagdeep On 4th September, 2006 @ 4:08 pm

Jai, I know plenty of Sikhs who have just as bigoted and ‘exclusivist’ attitudes as the most intolerant followers of an ‘Abrahamic’ religion. Some of these hardcore jathas are indistinguishable in their rules and attitudes as the most hardcore Christian, Muslim or Hassidic Jew.

#68 Comment By Jagdeep On 4th September, 2006 @ 4:13 pm

For example, go onto one of the various websites where Akhand Kirtani Jatha followers hang out (they are an ultra orthodox Sikh sect) and you will read their messages and scratch your head as to what they have to do with the religion that Guru Nanak founded, so enmeshed in trivia, ritual and rules of exclusion are they, asking questions like, is it OK for a baptised Sikh to eat food prepared by un-baptised Sikh? (Duuuhh….the whole point of langar was to get rid of those hierarchical distinctions!), or why food cannot be eaten off anything other than a steel tray (and how ‘pure’ the steel has to be) and other such nonsense.

Ultimately, at a certain level of practise, religion descends into intolerance, and this is the same for every religion, although for various reasons the level and frequency may vary.

#69 Comment By mirax On 4th September, 2006 @ 4:18 pm

>>But yeah, no phd here! Just an ordinary bloke trying to see through the crap and present that view without any jargon.

Polling- done properly, it is a statistical science. I wanted to know if you had the knowledge - you don’t necessarily need that knowledge validated by a phd- to look at the specifics of this poll and its potential for error (which is a given in any poll but can be minimised by methodology, weighting formula etc)

You said first off that the sample size was too small, how do you come by this judgement given that a sample size of 500 - 1000 is usually deemed adequate for a political poll?

#70 Comment By Leon On 4th September, 2006 @ 4:21 pm

Oh right, I see, from what I understand normally samples of 1000-1500 are used. Hence my point about the sample not being big enough. More to the point (and granted haven’t had the chance to listen the audio) how was the data collated?

#71 Comment By Chairwoman On 4th September, 2006 @ 4:25 pm

Mirax - I stand by what I say. ‘Morals’ were originally instilled by fear (the answering to the higher being bit), and I wonder if we (homo sapiens) are sufficiently sophisticated en masse to be ‘moral’ without the threat.

The world, alas, can’t be judged by Pickled Politics.

#72 Comment By Jai On 4th September, 2006 @ 4:36 pm

Chairwoman,

=>”I wonder if we (homo sapiens) are sufficiently sophisticated en masse to be ‘moral’ without the threat.”

Very good question. As a point of comparison, according to Sikhism people are supposed to “do the right thing” just for the sake of it, not out of fear of divine punishment or desire for divine reward (either in the present life or in the Afterlife).

The by-product is that such actions increase one’s spiritual awareness and thereby bring one “closer to God” — but such things must be done altruistically and selflessly, not in order to “get into Heaven”. The latter would actually negate the potential spiritual benefit of the action.

*****************

Jagdeep,

Yes I know about those Sikh groups you mentioned. Sunny and I actually had a discussion about them here on PP a while ago (before you joined us). And yes their actions are in violation of basic Sikh teachings.

#73 Comment By Refresh On 4th September, 2006 @ 4:38 pm

Chairwoman - agree with your 71 in principle but not the fear bit.

Each (all or most?) religion helped establish how we interact with each other - mode of behaviour and thus morality.

Religion is the foundation of modern civilisations.

The latter day rejection of religion comes about when people forget or imagine a parallel development where religion played no part.

Some might term that to be mankind getting above its station.

Blaming all negative things on religion is a mistake.

#74 Comment By soru On 4th September, 2006 @ 4:43 pm

There are plenty of tales associated with the Sikh Gurus, Prophet Mohammed and Jesus too. Their point isn’t whether they are true or not, but to provide some indication as to how people should behave.

yeah, you have to remember, all this stuff was before Eastenders, Buffy and Star Wars was invented.

#75 Comment By Jai On 4th September, 2006 @ 4:44 pm

PS. Chairwoman, there’s no concept of Hell in the traditional sense or “divine retribution” in Sikhism, so fear being the motivator is a no-no in this case. One is supposed to do the right thing (as I mentioned before) just for the sake of it — it should come naturally — and due to love of God (and empathy towards one’s fellow human beings), not due to fear of Him.

This is mentioned purely as a point of clarification and not as some kind of “cheerleading for Sikhism”, in case anyone here misunderstands my motivations.

#76 Comment By mirax On 4th September, 2006 @ 4:46 pm

Katy said : Most religions have the potential to be either forces for good or forces for dogmatic repression, depending on how they are taught and how they are interpreted by the people who live by them.

Thus, since their effects are so variable, religions have the same potential as any human endeavour, no divine infallibility at all eh? Problem is that not too many religions acknowledge their own fallibity; in fact the reverse occurs and you have perfect books, perfect prophets, perfect gods, perfect rules- an uerring instinct to absolutism and dogma. The potential for good seems almost incidental to the whole god-project.

#77 Comment By Sunny On 4th September, 2006 @ 4:50 pm

Mirax - Religion is merely a tool used during conflict. It can be there, it doesn’t have to be there. I’m still to be convinced that religion causes more deaths than if it wasn’t there.

Jai / Jagdeep - Yeah don’t get me started on the AKJ idiots. My brother even went along with the whole “Khalsas cannot eat food prepared by a non-Khalsa” thing for a while.

To that extent, I completely ignore the Rehat Maryada despite its apparent significance. I think the SGGS is good enough.

#78 Comment By Chairwoman On 4th September, 2006 @ 4:51 pm

Jai - Actually we Jews don’t have it either, but pleasing the Almighty is a good thing. In our morning prayers we have a list of things we too should do altruistically,ie’…. visiting the sick, dowering the bride, attending the dead to the grave and making peace between man and his fellow.’ It continues by saying that if we do the right thing, we will be rewarded here, but the greater in the hereafter. I’ve just realised that it’s Karma under another name. No stick, all carrot. Interesting.

#79 Comment By mirax On 4th September, 2006 @ 4:53 pm

Jagdeep said: just as bigoted and ‘exclusivist’ attitudes as the most intolerant followers of an ‘Abrahamic’ religion. Some of these hardcore jathas are indistinguishable in their rules and attitudes as the most hardcore Christian, Muslim or Hassidic Jew.

that’s cause we have a need to divide the world into in-groups and out-groups and religions are the best way to do it - diet, dress, rituals etc that are divinely ordained and cannot be counteracted by any mere human agency.

#80 Comment By Chairwoman On 4th September, 2006 @ 5:04 pm

Perhaps there should just be a religion called ‘Hardcore’ which the ultra orthodox of every faith could join. They are all so bigoted, exclusive and intolerant, that after a couple of weeks no one would be able to tell them apart. Even the ’special clothes’ have some sort of similarity. Not to mention the beards.

#81 Comment By Jagdeep On 4th September, 2006 @ 5:31 pm

The only problem is, you would have a lot of perverts getting the wrong idea trying to join a religion called ‘Hardcore’ (or maybe they would feel at home, who knows?)

#82 Comment By Sunny On 4th September, 2006 @ 5:42 pm

I trust we’re talking people who are against violence getting off their arses and demonstrating quite clearly that violence will change nothing for the better, and those supporting it in the name of religion are to be universally considered apostate?

hi Bert - it is the former. Generally, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims know that violence in the name of religion is always in the periphery. But not many really want to get involved because its too risky. I say its time to form alliances with others and speak out because the pendelum needs to swing the other way.

#83 Comment By Arif On 4th September, 2006 @ 6:00 pm

Oh my goodness. I have to admit to agreeing with Sunny.

On this issue

Only.

So far.

For the moment.

#84 Comment By Jai On 4th September, 2006 @ 6:55 pm

Re: the whole business in some interpretations of certain religions regarding accepting the faith’s teachings blindly and not questioning anything:

I think that if the accepted interpretation of a certain faith is that any kind of “questioning” (of the teachings and, therefore, of God) will be punished in the Afterlife as some kind of grave sin, this is a major hurdle towards any kind of “re-interpretation” or (to use a cliche) “reformation”. I guess I’m stating the obvious here, but it’s a pertinent point in the context of this thread. People are unwilling to really objectively critique & analyse their religion’s teachings because they’re absolutely terrified of what God will do to them after they die. I remember some report recently discussing OBL (apologies, I can’t remember if it was on the News or in some newspaper — probably the former) which mentioned that one of the reasons OBL is involved in his current jihad is because he is frightened of being punished by God if he does not do this.

I also wonder if this is why members of certain faiths may be more prone to autocratic regimes and the associated culture — it’s a factor of unquestioning submission to authority and the very act of “raising one’s head” against this authority being regarded as a punishable offence, regardless of the context or motivation.

#85 Comment By Jai On 4th September, 2006 @ 7:00 pm

Chairwoman,

Quick question for you (and Katy if she’s reading this):

I recall reading a book review in one of the major national newspapers a few months ago discussing the origins of the concept of the Devil. It mentioned that, in orthodox Judaism, the word “Shaitan” does not actually refer to the Devil — it originally means “egotism”. Hence the Jewish teaching is that it is in fact egotism which is the foremost cause of evil, not some kind of Hell-related “Satan” figure. It was in some of the later Abrahamic religions that Shaitan/Satan came to mean the latter.

Is this correct ? If so, it’s identical to the Sikh teaching on the issue; Sikhism has the concept of “5 Thieves”, of which Ego(tism) is the worst “inner demon” we should be concerned with and the greatest cause of negative human behaviour (and spiritual detachment from God).

#86 Comment By Katy Newton On 4th September, 2006 @ 7:07 pm

Jai - I think that may be right, but I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t actually know. I don’t think that Judaism has the Devil in the same way as, say, Christianity. I should say, though, that I have never learned classical Hebrew, and only know a few essential tourist phrases (”Where is the local talent to be found, bartender?”) in modern Hebrew.

It is at times like this that I am embarrassed by how much I don’t know. The Chairwoman may know. And I suspect that bananabrain would know the answer, if he is about.

#87 Comment By Amir On 4th September, 2006 @ 7:19 pm

Sunny,

(I.) ‘Instead I see myself as belonging to all major faiths in the spirit of, as I see it, the whole point of Sikhism. This is admittedly quite a contrarian view.’

Contrarian? I think not. The proper term, I believe, is [9] Theosophy. And it is being embraced by an increasing number of champagne socialists (a la Madeleine Bunting), who are trying to reconcile their metaphysical agnosticism with a trendy cultural relativism: i.e. we shouldn’t pass judgement on other people’s faiths for fear of ‘offending’ them or (in conjunction with the former) looking ‘bigoted’ ourselves.

Theosophists propose that the totality and oneness and omnipotence of God is being distorted or denigrated for political-cultural-financial gain by such-and-such elite or institution. Thus, we can still claim to believe in God, just not in any man-made manifestation or state-sanctioned dogma. It’s such an airy-fairy position to take that you can avoid making any qualitative judgment whatsoever as to how a religion may or may not be good or bad on any number of issues.

(II) ‘The truth becomes whatever most people believe it to be and is thus written at that time in the entry. As interpretation changes over time, so does many people’s version of the truth.’

Hold. On. A. Sec. There are a number of logical arguments for the existence of God, including the [10] first cause argument, the [11] natural-law argument, the [12] argument from design, and moral arguments. After centuries of wars and persecution, scrutiny and cultural upheaval, these opinions have withstood the test of time and are adhered to by billions people.

(III) It is also my view that the conflict is here and it is happening now. And the time has come for those who want peace to stop dithering in the background and get off the fence.

Solutions? Say YES to immigration quotas. Say NO to multiculturalism. Say NO to Community leaders. Say NO to John Reid. Say NO to faith schooling. Say YES to border controls. Say YES to British culture. Say YES to community policing.

Amir

#88 Comment By Chairwoman On 4th September, 2006 @ 7:23 pm

Jai - We don’t actually have the Devil, hence no Hell. I think it was Christianity that picked the concept up from Greek and Roman religions. As you know they were gifted at utilising the bits they liked to get the crowd on their side.

Although people are always harping on about how vengeful the Almighty is, in fact he is so forgiving that apparently no matter how bad one has been, he won’t keep one out of Heaven for more thana year,

#89 Comment By Chairwoman On 4th September, 2006 @ 7:28 pm

Amir - I agree with a lot of what you say, but as one who went to a ‘faith’ school, as did my late husband, let me assure you that we were both left with a very healthy scepticism that we probably would not have got at Secular Grammar.

Having said that, we both decided against a ‘faith’ school for our daughter.

#90 Comment By Vikrant a.k.a Amey On 4th September, 2006 @ 7:32 pm

Slighlty offtopic ‘q’ Sunny… why do Punjabis insist on spell Panjab with an ‘a’?… BTW Guru Nanakji may have taught universal brotherhood, but dont you think Sikhism’s association with Punjabi language limits its appeal. I mean once a guy becomes Sikh his culture & language becomes Punjabi… Take my kinsmen Rajputs for example… Sikh Rajputs have thoroughly Punjabised(sic?)… i’ve even read about some Maratha converts to Sikhism in the aftermath of Panipat war when Afghans kicked Maratha and Sikh asses… But sadly oday except for Gurudwara in Paithan (or is it Nanded?) and Sant Namdev no trace exists of Marathi intercourse with Sikhism..

#91 Comment By Don On 4th September, 2006 @ 7:56 pm

Amir,

I would disagree that the arguments you cite have ’stood the test of time’ in any meaningful way, and I seriously doubt that ‘billions’ of people adhere to actual arguments; they adhere to faith. The faith came first, the arguments to justify the apparent illogicality of that faith came later.

‘After centuries of wars and persecution, scrutiny and cultural upheaval…’

Which centuries were these? For how many centuries have disbelievers persecuted the religious? For how many centuries has serious scrutiny of the central tenets of theism been a safe practice, let alone a widespread one?

#92 Comment By mirax On 4th September, 2006 @ 8:16 pm

Extreme religious belief: logical or what???

[13] http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/news/tm_objectid=17646670%26method=full%26siteid=66633-name_page.html

#93 Comment By Amir On 4th September, 2006 @ 8:54 pm

Don

(I) ‘The faith came first, the arguments to justify the apparent illogicality of that faith came later.’

There is, to be sure, a scintilla of truth in what you say. When adults decide what to believe, they make a choice which in my view is based on their moral (and to a lesser extent aesthetic) preference. The atheist prefers a chaotic, purposeless universe with all its implications. He thinks beauty is accidental, and likewise ugliness. He thinks conscience is a nervous reflex or an evolutionary peculiarity, or a symptom of some problems in the digestive tract. The agnostic has the decency to admit that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, admits there is a choice but then doesn’t make it. I choose to believe, an act which (like unbelief) requires faith in the unknowable.

(II) ‘I would disagree that the arguments you cite have ’stood the test of time’ in any meaningful way.’

Why do you say this?

(III) ‘For how many centuries have disbelievers persecuted the religious? For how many centuries has serious scrutiny of the central tenets of theism been a safe practice, let alone a widespread one?’

Okay, let us pause for a brief re-capitulation: Sunny says, quite explicitly, that religious belief is in a constant state of ‘flux’ or turmoil. I, on the other hand, believe that there are universal tenets as well as particular interpretations and nagging ambiguities, which, as we all know, ebb and surge with the passing of time. In other words, some bits are malleable, whereas other bits are impenetrable… even when confronted by war, persecution, cultural upheaval, etc. That’s the point I was trying to make.

Amir

#94 Comment By Don On 4th September, 2006 @ 9:11 pm

A scintilla?

I’m on cook duty; later, man.

#95 Comment By mirax On 4th September, 2006 @ 9:16 pm

One of my favourite jesus and mo toons. Those quick to take offence- it’s not really about hindu goddesses, you know. It’s er, a lot more subtle, and I hope most PP readers get it.

[14] http://www.jesusandmo.net/2006/05/30/true/

#96 Comment By raz On 4th September, 2006 @ 9:23 pm

That last panel is fucking funny :)

#97 Comment By Sunny On 4th September, 2006 @ 10:43 pm

Amir

1) Before Theosophy came, religious philosophers in the East had already pointed out that there is more than one path to God.

I don’t know what Madeleine Bunting believes in exactly but I think she’s a fairly devout Catholic. Anyway, my point is my ideas are more influenced by Sikhism and Buddhism than however you like to define it. To call it airy-fairy is neither here nor there. All religions could be described as such.

2) Here, I don’t mean the existence of God, but I refer to interpretations of religious ideas. The different sub-sects and the tension between them.

3) Those are very specific policies that I don’t want to get into. I meant that religious liberals need to make their voice heard to argue against religious fanatics who advocate violence.

#98 Comment By Jagdeep On 4th September, 2006 @ 11:23 pm

Amir

I enjoy reading your posts, but I think that regarding theosophy and Sunny’s points you are being unfairly cynical. These are just statements of personal belief, linking them to the intellectual paradigms of Madeline Bunting or someone of her ilk is reading too much into things. They are familiar strands and statements in Indian religions of certain creeds.

#99 Comment By Amir On 4th September, 2006 @ 11:34 pm

Jagdeep,

I’m in the habit of calling a spade a spade. Let me re-quote Sunny for you:

‘Instead I see myself as belonging to all major faiths in the spirit of, as I see it, the whole point of Sikhism.’

That, my friend, is Theosophism.

Or as it’s put in the Oxford English Dictionary…”any of various philosophies professing to achieve a knowledge of God by spiritual ecstasy, direct intuition, or special individual relations, esp. a modern movement following Hindu and Buddhist teachings and seeking universal brotherhood.”

#100 Comment By Amir On 4th September, 2006 @ 11:41 pm

I do, nevertheless, apologise for the reference to Madeline Bunting. That’s just below the belt. :-)

#101 Comment By Sunny On 4th September, 2006 @ 11:55 pm

That, my friend, is Theosophism.

Sure, they call it that now. But it was invented over 500 years ago by Guru Nanak.

#102 Comment By Jagdeep On 5th September, 2006 @ 12:15 am

Amir, that was pretty much the founding premise of the Sikh religion. It’s not nessecarily how Sikhism is practised today, but that is what Guru Nanak preached in his first sermons. If theosophy has similarities with that, so it is, but it doesnt diminish in any way personal beliefs inspired by Nanak. It’s interesting to point to similarities, as it is always fascinating to observe these things across time and cultures, but it isnt in itself a criticism of the belief.

#103 Comment By Don On 5th September, 2006 @ 12:38 am

Amir,

Rather more than a scintilla, I think; surely it’s self-evident that theology is inspired by belief rather than the other way around.

‘When adults decide what to believe…’ or to cease believing, as, except for a tiny minority, we start from a position of unquestioning belief. I’m just going to have to ask you to take my word for it that I didn’t make a moral or aesthetic choice based on a fondness for chaos or a prediliction for the purposeless (whatever my old school reports might say).

I was brought up with the god of Abraham and one day just realised he was too grotesque to be true. Atheism came a couple of years later and and when I realised the implications, frankly it scared the crap out of me.

‘He thinks beauty is accidental, and likewise ugliness.’

And yet I love beauty and avoid the ugly no less than you. As if beauty needed a reason… ;)

‘He thinks conscience is a nervous reflex or an evolutionary peculiarity, or a symptom of some problems in the digestive tract.’

‘You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.’ An evolutionary peculiarity? That’s a fairly new field, but even so I find it more plausible and more evidence supported than, say, the natural-law argument.

‘ an act which (like unbelief) requires faith in the unknowable.’ Utter piffle. Unbelief requires no such thing.

‘Why do you say this?’

Because you stated that the arguments you cited had withstood centuries of ‘wars and persecution, (and) scrutiny ‘ when in fact they haven’t.

As you describe it, your argument with Sunny seems to be more one of emphasis than fundamentals.

But of course, the problem is that I don’t know precisely what you believe in, and you don’t know precisely what I don’t believe in.

#104 Comment By Sid On 5th September, 2006 @ 1:28 am

Sikhism has always struck me as a fully-formed syncretic esotericism that underwent a progressive exoterisation because of the political and sectarian dynamics in India of the time.

Theosophism is not a neologism. It was a spiritualist movement that began and faded in the late 19C. The movement was swallowed up by the followers of Gurdjieff and Alistair Crowley and other charlatans. But it was dismantled and exposed as a pseudo-mysticism by the unswerving brilliance of René Guénon and later Frithjof Schuon who really did bring introduced Eastern metaphysics to the West.

#105 Comment By Sid On 5th September, 2006 @ 1:47 am

I was brought up with the god of Abraham and one day just realised he was too grotesque to be true. Atheism came a couple of years later and and when I realised the implications, frankly it scared the crap out of me.

Yes, me too. I still chant and dance the Sufi way though. And I still believe in a God but in His female manifestation: The Laylah of Ibn Arabi’s visions. This of course makes me a complete heretic by orthodox Muslim defintions. But given the constrictions of that worldview, what isn’t?

#106 Comment By Sid On 5th September, 2006 @ 1:51 am

And speaking of dancing and chanting, has anyone noticed that London is going through a ghastly skunk drought at the moment? What is a faqir to do?

#107 Comment By Amir On 5th September, 2006 @ 3:13 am

Don,

(I) ‘An evolutionary peculiarity? That’s a fairly new field, but even so I find it more plausible and more evidence supported than, say, the natural-law argument.’

I do hope you understand Darwinian theory better than most reasonably well-educated people, who wrongly believe that it is a proven fact rather than an unproven theory. The ‘immense fossil record’ is in fact full of gaps, and is a bit of an embarrassment to the Darwinists because it also tends to show quite a lot of sudden appearances and disappearances of a kind that evolution would not allow. The theory is undoubtedly persuasive, especially to those who wish to be persuaded. But it remains a matter of unproven, and unproveable conjecture.

(II) ‘Utter piffle. Unbelief requires no such thing.’

The reason for the unending discussion about the existence of God is that our scientific knowledge cannot explain the beginnings of the universe in which we live, and that the missing parts of the equation might conceivably be divine.

My conclusions are no more, and no less, rational than those of an atheist’s. We both admit we cannot prove our beliefs. We differ in that he is more inclined to be dogmatic about it, and he has an apparent contempt for those who disagree with him which seems to me to be undesirable in a man who pursues knowledge.

(III) ‘But of course, the problem is that I don’t know precisely what you believe in, and you don’t know precisely what I don’t believe in.’

Do not assume that religious believers are stupid. Treat your opponent’s arguments with respect and answer his case. That way, at least, you may be a more competent atheist at the end of this discussion than you are now.

Amir :-)

#108 Comment By Amir On 5th September, 2006 @ 3:22 am

Sid

Sikhism has always struck me as a fully-formed syncretic esotericism that underwent a progressive exoterisation

Jeez Louise…!? Someone’s been ODing on the Jacques Lacan! Take a trip to the [15] Postmodernism Generator, why don’t you! Ha ha. :-)

#109 Comment By Sid On 5th September, 2006 @ 8:30 am

Amir

Jacques Lacan’s psychobabble was more in tune with postmodernism than Ibn Arabi, surely.

Don’t worry, I’m writing a online tool with AJAX all for you: The Bakwaas Generator

hee hee :-)

#110 Comment By shariq On 5th September, 2006 @ 9:13 am

Amir - I’m disappointed by your simplistic criticism of ‘evolution’ as unproven fact based on a faulty fossil record.

Having said that your criticism of Don on the essential stupidity of religious believers thesis is spot on.

#111 Comment By Galloise Blonde On 5th September, 2006 @ 9:53 am

Amir, if you look at evolutionary theory (not Darwinism, calling evolutionary theory Darwinism is like calling modern physics Newtonism)then you will find that the ‘gaps’ in the fossil record just challenge the assumption that diversity occurs through a constant level of mutatation that aggregates over time, not the Darwin’s concept of ‘natural selection.’ They are not nearly as embarrasing you think, because science is itself evolutionary, developing by painstaking scholarship, not by revelations. If you’re interested, read [16] Confessions of a Darwinist by Niles Eldredge on the theory of puctuated equilibrium. And bear in mind the scientific definition of ‘theory’ is different to the term as it is commonly used.

#112 Comment By Jai On 5th September, 2006 @ 10:13 am

Katy & Chairwoman, thank you both very much for responding to my earlier question about the concept of the Devil in Judaism. The similarities to Sikhism in that regard are quite interesting — it was only very recently that I found out there’s no “Hell” in Judaism.

Katy, don’t worry about not necessarily being able to provide me all the answers — I don’t expect you to be a world authority on your religion ;) I do appreciate your honesty though — it’s a much better approach than people bluffing and blustering their way through these kinds of conversations rather than simply saying “I don’t know”.

#113 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 5th September, 2006 @ 10:23 am

A Sikh, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist and a Jewish chap are arguing when the atheist appears and hands round a joint

They all have a giggle

#114 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 5th September, 2006 @ 10:24 am

Until the muslim gets paranoid, sees the devil in the jew and stabs the buddhist

#115 Comment By Jai On 5th September, 2006 @ 10:34 am

Vikrant/Amey,

I hope you are settling in nicely to your new life in India. I’m assuming you did well in your GCSEs too, so congratulations for that.

=>”why do Punjabis insist on spell Panjab with an ‘a’?”

Some people regard this as the more accurate spelling, since the English letter “u” is usually pronounced in a different way in north Indian languages, eg. “Put” rather than “gut”.

=>”BTW Guru Nanakji may have taught universal brotherhood, but dont you think Sikhism’s association with Punjabi language limits its appeal.”

Yes, partially. However, a few points:

1. All the Sikh Gurus taught universal brotherhood, not just Guru Nanak. They all propagated the same message.

2. They all preached in whatever the local language was wherever they went, not just Punjabi.

3. The Sikh scriptures do have a bias towards Punjabi but they are also written in multiple other languages of that time, eg. Hindi, Persian, some local dialects (”Braj”) etc. The point was that there is no “divine” language — the message and the divine truth behind the words is the most important, not the language in which they are spoken. The term for the language of the scriptures is “Gurmukhi”, not Punjabi.

4. Some modern-day Sikh preachers such as Bhai Dya Singh (famous religious singer, from Australia) do therefore speak in English during their kirtan “concerts”, in order to translate the lyrics and, moreover, to convey the message of the faith to a wider audience as per the original method of the Gurus and in the true spirit of the religion.

=>”I mean once a guy becomes Sikh his culture & language becomes Punjabi…”

Not entirely. There are a lot of white converts in the US (along with a smaller number of black people) who are Sikhs but definitely not Punjabi in their “culture”.

It’s also worth remembering that although most modern-day Sikhs from Asia are indeed Punjabi, some are not. There are Sikhs from Afghanistan, along with Kashmir (probably numerically less these days, due to events there during the past 20 years) etc. But yes, you are right about the Punjabi overtones often prevalent; it may have something to do with historical events, as originally Sikhs were from all over the Indian subcontinent but they became localised around Punjab during the time of Guru Gobind Singh as a result of the adversarial political and social conditions of the era. Maharajah Ranjit Singh’s expansion of his empire also played a part in spreading Sikhs further afield in the northern & northwestern regions.

Some Maharashtrian Sikhs are a legacy of Guru Gobind Singh passing away at Nanded.

In summary, though, yes there is an excessive Punjabi slant on modern-day Sikhism. In reality, Sikhism is supposed to be a universal faith and not necessarily tied to either Punjabi people or Punjabi culture; in my view, the latter is, in some ways, a hindrance to the spread of its basic humanitarian values, as I often argued on the Sikhnet discussion forum when I used to participate there. Sikhism needs to be “de-coupled” from Punjabis, otherwise the rest of the world will just view it as a “Punjabi religion”.

#116 Comment By justforfun On 5th September, 2006 @ 12:30 pm

Jai - did not have a chance to respond to your query about the origins of the Devil.

My Religious Education now come flooding back :-)

You ought to look into the orgins of the Devil from a Zoroastrian point of view - as Hell, Satan and the Devil only start to appear in Judaism after the freeing of Babylonian slaves by Cyrus the Great. As I am sure you are aware he free all slaves in Babylon and sent them back to their homelands. The Jews were one of many that were liberated and in due course adopted many of the ideas that were present in Zorastrianism, including the idea of the Massiah and the idea of a single God, and the idea of Satan. The Judaic god became omnipresent and all powerful, while the Zoroastrian God at the time was more the God of Wisdom and much more like a “brother in arms” in the battle against Evil. The Judaism before the Babylonian exile was a completely different religion to the one that now exists.

As for Christianity , it really ought to be seen as a a hybid of Judaism and Zoroastrianism. Look at the timelines of the three religions from 200Bc to about 600AD and then imagine the melting pot of ideas that existed in the Middle East, as first the Greeks,then Romans (and then the Byzantines) and the Persians, Parthians and then Persians fought over the present day Turkey,Syria,Iraq, Lebenon, Jordan and Isreal.

Perhaps Emperor Constantine in the 4th Century AD made the U turn on Christianity after seeing the example of the Sassanids Emperors using Zoroastrianism to legitimize their central control of the Iranian tribes under Persian dominance, after usurping the their fellow Iranian Parthians, who in contrast to the Sassanids, had ruled their empire very much along the Achaemenind lines - religious tolerance and diversity.

Once Chritianity became the Roman state religion, the central catholic system developed and other sects wiped out, along similar lines to the way Zoroastrianism was developed by the Sassanids to use religion to exert control over their empire, and other forms of Zoroastrianism wiped out.

600 years before all this , Ashoka had created another model for the mix of religion and Kingship, and this is the model followed by many of the remaining Buddhists kindoms in SE Asia. But thats another story.

Justforfun

#117 Comment By Don On 5th September, 2006 @ 12:39 pm

Shariq,

‘essential stupidity of religious believers ‘

I can’t seem to find the post where I said that. Could you provide a reference?

Amir,

Alas, still pushed for time, but I will respond later. In detail.

#118 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 5th September, 2006 @ 12:40 pm

Don what ARE you cooking?!

#119 Comment By Amir On 5th September, 2006 @ 1:50 pm

Galloise Blonde,

‘And bear in mind the scientific definition of ‘theory’ is different to the term as it is commonly used.’

How so? I did not merely say that something needed to be observable to be ‘scientific’, but that it needed to be testable through prediction and potential falsification. The theory of evolution does not qualify in either case. It cannot be observed, nor can it be used to predict

It is not just me that thinks this. [17] Professor Richard Dawkins, who must be counted among the most cogent defenders of the Darwinist theory, admits he cannot prove it to be true. On January 7 2005, in the Guardian newspaper of London he responded to an invitation to state what he believed, but could not prove:

I believe that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all “design” anywhere in the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection. It follows that design comes late in the universe, after a period of Darwinian evolution. Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe.

This is clearly a credo, not a statement of known fact, and Professor Dawkins, a man of undeniable intellectual force and learning, is to be praised for his honesty.

Amir

#120 Comment By Amir On 5th September, 2006 @ 1:55 pm

Shariq :-)

‘I’m disappointed by your simplistic criticism of ‘evolution’ as unproven fact based on a faulty fossil record.’

The idea that we have a clue how the world was made is absurd. Yet millions of people, imagining this question to have been settled by Richard Dawkins or by some Young Earth Creationist, base their religious (and secular) opinions on false ideas.

Neither Christianity nor Darwinism can prove their claims, but in this secular age Darwinism has been treated with more generosity than Christianity, and is accorded, by many people, the status of proven fact – despite the fact that its own proponents admit that it remains unproven.

The truth or falsehood of a scientific theory cannot be established by a consensus, or the subjective judgment of its ‘likelihood’, or by a majority, but by its subjection to the usual tests – observation, prediction and falsifiability. Evolution has never been observed and cannot be observed in the present. It cannot be used as a predictor. Therefore it cannot be tested in this way and should not be confused with other descriptive scientific theories, as it often is by those who have been taught evolution as a received religion.

Amir

#121 Comment By shariq On 5th September, 2006 @ 2:21 pm

Don - I was going by Amir’s comment which implied that you said something similar to that. If you didn’t then I apologise.

Amir - Clearly we don’t have proof how the world was made. What we do have though is an abundance of evidence from different sources which support darwinian evolution through natural selection. Not only that, but that evidence is being constantly used as a building block of modern biology just as Newton’s laws of motions (even with Einsteinian improvements) are used by physicists to build bridges and aeroplanes.

I referenced you saying fossil record because most of the evidence is now based on genetics and not fossils. For instance we can trace where certain species branched off the tree of life based on their genetic coding. Chimpanzees and humans share almost all of their dna whereas rats and humans share less dna and bacteria and humans even less than that.

Finally evolution is not a static religion so to speak as ideas about it are constantly being changed. For instance, the differing importance of genetic drift versus sexual selection. Going further back, Darwin’s initial theory was losing popularity before Mendel’s work on the hereditability of genes was discovered.

I’m not a huge fan of Dawkins. I think his pronouncements on public policy are often misguided and he is actually driving people away from evolution by associating it with atheism. Having said that, on this issue I fully agree with him.

I’d suggest reading the relevant parts of the judgement in Kitzmuller v Dover in the American Courts. The judge presents the clearest synthesis I’ve seen of the merits and limitations of evolution by natural selection and why it should be taught in biology classes.

#122 Comment By David On 5th September, 2006 @ 2:56 pm

Evolution has never been observed and cannot be observed in the present. It cannot be used as a predictor.

Hooray! No need to worry about bird flu then.

#123 Comment By Don On 5th September, 2006 @ 3:17 pm

Shariq,

No problem. When Amir starts implying, even I get to thinking I’ve said something irrational.

#124 Comment By Don On 5th September, 2006 @ 4:30 pm

Kismet,

‘Don what ARE you cooking?! ‘

I got me a Gideon.

#125 Comment By Andrew On 5th September, 2006 @ 6:43 pm

An interesting discussion for sure.

My view is fairly simple:

Organised religion, it seems to me, is based on legend and untruth and is ultimately self serving.

Atheism is based on a belief that an invalid argument that cannot be proven must mean that the object of the argument; i.e. God, is equally non-existent.

My reasoning is that every argument put forward by either side proves only that we have no valid reason to believe either view over another. There may be a creator, but if that is so we have no reason to believe the version of the creator put forward by any group, or historical document. Waiting 1000 years does not make the tooth fairy real no matter how much literature we have to the contrary. Similarly no scientist can claim there is no a creator any more than they can claim, at the moment, that there is not such thing as a d-brane. It simply cannot be proven.

All this stuff about fossils is just smoke and mirrors and proves nothing either way. The existence of evolution suggests nothing about the existence of a creator given that we can’t even agree when such a creation would have occured.

It’s best if everyone admits ignorance and lives the way they want to live.

#126 Comment By Bert Preast On 5th September, 2006 @ 6:57 pm

Science might not have proved it completely quite yet, but it does offer proofs. Infinitely preferable to faith in my book, because faith can just keep moving the goalposts.

#127 Comment By Don On 5th September, 2006 @ 7:40 pm

Amir,

Shall we start from #107, where you hope I understand Darwinian theory? I acknowledge that you specify Darwinism rather than evolution itself, I assume that you acknowlege that evolution is an observable fact, like gravity, and that the Theory of Evolution is a theory (as Gaulloise Blonde tried to point out) in the sense that it is a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena, rather than in the coloquial sense of ‘This is what I think, but I have no proof’. The two meanings are very distinct. The phenomena of evolution are clear, testable and falsifiable. I would be happy to provide you with as many examples as you want.

I suspect you know this, and were conflating the two meanings as a ‘bait and switch’ technique, which you are apt to do.

You then claim, falsely, that gaps in the fossil record are an embarrassment to Darwinians. On the contrary, Darwin expected this;

“But I must here remark that I do not suppose that the process ever goes on so regularly as is represented in the diagram, though in itself made somewhat irregular, nor that it goes on continuously; it is far more probable that each form remains for long periods unaltered, and then again undergoes modification (Darwin 1872, 152).

It is a more important consideration . . . that the period during which each species underwent modification, though long as measured by years, was probably short in comparison with that during which it remained without undergoing any change (Darwin 1872, 428, chap. 10).

Phyletic gradualism, the idea that change should show itself slowly through the fossil record is based on false premises. A new species will often arise when a small part of the original population moves into a new geographic/environmental niche. The population genetics of a small population allow for a relatively rapid transition, but in a limited area and therefore less likely to show up in the fossil record. Once adapted to the area, evolutionary pressure would tend to hold them stable until a change in climate or environment aloowed them to expand or doomed them to extiction. An expanded population may well then show up in a ’sudden’ appearance in the fossil record, although equally, due to erosion and poor fossil preservation, not.

So, no, gaps in the fossil record are not an embarrassment to evolution. they are, however, an embarrassment to creationists as - from their stance - such gaps imply thousands of ‘creation events’.

Having said that, my comment which drew your reply was on the idea that ethics could have an evolutionary basis. You expressed disdain for this idea as evidence of your straw-atheist’s lack of sensitivity. This specific area is relatively new, but well evidenced. I would suggest Dennet’s ‘Freedom Evolves’ or Robert Wright’s ‘The Moral Animal’ as worth reading.

You declare evolution as ‘unproveable conjecture’, but unless we take the extreme position that nothing is 100% provable then evolution has accumulated as much proof as any other scientific theory to which we happily trust our lives. To take but a few examples; atavisms, which are always consistent with the creatures evolutionary development, sightless eyes and flightless wings, observed speciation, morphological, biochemical, or genetic traits all leading to the same conclusion, and (as shariq pointed out) genetic coding which confirms the branching out of the tree of life.

‘We both admit we cannot prove our beliefs.’ Please try to accept that most atheists (apart from the rather dogmatic and insensitive one to whom you constantly refer) have a lack of belief, we are simply unconviced by the arguments put forward. You posit the entity, you present the argument.

‘Do not assume that religious believers are stupid.’

Either you misread my perfectly clear statement that neither of us had defined our terms and thus the debate was likely to run into difficulties, or you understood it and deliberately chose to represent it as accusing all believers of stupidity. I suspect the latter, which is an egregiously snakey piece of rhetoric.

‘Evolution has never been observed…’ Factually wrong, as David pointed out. Speciation (micro-evolution) has been observed and documented - usually in mosquitos and fruit flies. Even ID’ers don’t try to deny that. Macro-evolution, almost by definition, is unobservable in process, but demonstrable once it has taken place.

So, observation, yes. Prediction? Yes. Darwin predicted that human life arose in Africa, a prediction now supported by fossil and genetic evidence. JH Marden correctly predicted the survival of primitive traits in insects whose wings evolved from gills (http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/flap_those_gills_and_fly/P25/#c46024).

Falsifiable? Certainly. Indeed, creatonists argue that evolution has indeed been falsified. As indeed it would be were the fossil record stagnant, where true chimera’s to be found or if creation were observed in action.

‘evolution as a received religion.’

Please be serious. Evolution describes a part of nature, it does not seek to explain ultimate reality, or even the origins of life. It does not concern itself with the role of humans within ultimate reality, does not propose a supernatural being, does not build social structures, does not make moral pronouncements, involves no rituals and - most importantly - will abandon any of its tenets if new evidence which disproves it comes to light. That is what makes it science.

#128 Comment By Don On 5th September, 2006 @ 7:44 pm

Damn, three ‘indeed’s in one para. Must remember to proof read.

#129 Comment By Refresh On 5th September, 2006 @ 11:30 pm

Fascinating discussion - now what if evolution could be accounted for within the religous texts?

What if the texts command you to explore, investigate and accept only what you can prove to yourself?

Does that get us round the difficulties?

#130 Comment By Don On 6th September, 2006 @ 12:40 am

‘texts command’

‘accept only what you can prove to yourself?’

But then they stop being texts. They no longer can command anything. That’s a beautiful paradox, Refresh.

#131 Comment By Refresh On 6th September, 2006 @ 12:50 am

Don - I like the idea of ‘beautiful paradox’, but not quite what I meant. Or have I misunderstood you?

However ‘command’ is to explore and investigate - satisfy yourself intellectually. ie do not simply accept what is written, test it.

#132 Comment By Amir On 6th September, 2006 @ 1:14 am

Don,

(I) ‘The phenomena of evolution are clear, testable and falsifiable.’

Tisk tisk. For the millionth time, you are putting up the same straw man and knocking it down. Evolution has never been observed and cannot be observed in the present. It cannot be used as a predictor. Can we please get this straight and return to the actual argument? Evolutionists long for their opponents to erect a rival dogma because they can then shift the argument away from their own theory’s conjectural nature.

(II) ‘You then claim, falsely, that gaps in the fossil record are an embarrassment to Darwinians. On the contrary, Darwin expected this’

Darwin expected many things. Such as, for instance, the moral and intellectual superiority of his own race and gender. Do you agree with him?

(III) ‘The population genetics of a small population allow for a relatively rapid transition, but in a limited area and therefore less likely to show up in the fossil record.’

Conjecture. Pure conjecture. That’s an auxiliary hypothesis. And it is designed, as always, to protect weaknesses embedded within the main hypothesis or ‘hard core’. [Please consult [18] The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes by Imre Lakatos’.] The famous [19] ‘Cambrian Explosion’ is acknowledged as a problem by all serious students of the subject. Why not just accept that this is inconclusive? And then accept the logical consequence of this, that you (like me) are free to choose what you believe and that science is no more able to be prescriptive about this than is the Christian church?

(IV) ‘… evolution has accumulated as much proof as any other scientific theory to which we happily trust our lives.’

Oh dear. The theory must be true because nearly everybody thinks it is. Thus, Phlogiston existed, blood didn’t circulate, the sun went round the earth, Thalidomide was safe, cot death was prevented by lying babies on their fronts, pre-frontal lobotomy cured mental illness, etc etc, because, at the time, these beliefs were as fashionable as the belief in evolution now is? Because ‘no-one really questioned them’ they were correct? And then they ceased to be true because they lost their majority? Thus, truth or its absence should be decided by referendum? A moment’s thought disposes of this pitiful logic, which can be summed up in the words ‘My gang’s bigger than your gang, so you must be wrong’.

(V) ‘Please try to accept that most atheists… have a lack of belief, we are simply unconviced by the arguments put forward’

That, I believe, is the mental and philosophical attitude of an agnostic. An atheist, by stark comparison, is utterly convinced that there is no such thing as a God / Gods / superior being / divine entity / etc.

(VI) ‘Please be serious’

Serious? I am serious. Why wouldn’t I be? This is the whole problem with the evolution cult. Its proponents ask for it to be treated as the literal truth. They argue that it is a scientific theory, on a par with the theory of flight or the theory of gravity, or the laws of motion of the planets. But it is not akin to these, because it has not been, and cannot be observed.

(VII) ‘Falsifiable? Certainly. Indeed, creatonists argue that evolution has indeed been falsified.’

I do NOT embrace Bible literalism or Young Earth Creationism. I have repeatedly stated, and now repeat once more, that I have no idea how life began or how the realm of nature took its present shape. Nor have you. Please don’t misrepresent my scepticism as a rival certainty.

(VIII) ‘Speciation (micro-evolution) has been observed and documented - usually in mosquitos and fruit flies.’

There is, as you say, empirical proof for the existence of microevolution (which, as you say, explains small-scale changes within a species over a few generations). HOWEVER, the same courtesy does not extend to macroevolution, organic evolution, chemical evolution, stellar & planetary evolution and cosmic evolution. Such arguments as Dawkins advances are not open to proof or disproof, any more than are those of the fervent Bible literalist. They exist only within the circularity of Darwinist dogma, which he candidly admits he cannot prove.

(IX) ‘Macro-evolution, almost by definition, is unobservable in process, but demonstrable once it has taken place.’

‘Demonstrable once it has taken place’? That, my friend, is what we call a pseudo-science: a theory should be considered scientific if and only if it is falsifiable (via testing). For example, the proposition ‘all swans are white’ would be falsified by observing a black swan, which would in turn depend on there being a black swan somewhere in existence. A falsifiable proposition or theory must define in some way how it can be proven wrong. The theory of evolution cannot be; it is a mass of circular speculation and conjecture tottering on a tiny inverted pyramid of carefully-arranged, ever changing and selective ‘evidence’ (inverted commas mandatory).

Amir. :-)

#133 Comment By Refresh On 6th September, 2006 @ 1:33 am

Amir, good post. Except that when it comes to evolution - it is a hypothesis which needs to be tested practically to the end of time.

The question is whether evolution (lets say in your ‘frame of reference’ its proven) knock away all religious texts?

#134 Comment By Amir On 6th September, 2006 @ 1:41 am

Refresh,

If I am wrong (and Dawkins is right), then it seems to me that all of life becomes a hopeless, meaningless, purposeless grind in which the ends justify the means, a pointless hell, nasty, brutish and almost certainly short, followed by darkness and silence.

…to put it bluntly. :-)

#135 Comment By Refresh On 6th September, 2006 @ 1:53 am

Amir, I would agree with that. The darkness and silence I could live with - but its the meaning of life bit that is my concern. Before long you too will be but a number with status commensurate with your economic viability.

Now if there was a meaning to life then I am sure we would all be a little happier.

#136 Comment By Sunny On 6th September, 2006 @ 2:08 am

The meaning to life is whatever you want it to be. I have a meaning to my life. I quite like it. It gets me out of bed every day and drives me. All you need to do is invent a meaning and then believe in it.

As Buddha said, nothing is permanent, specially not life. So I believe there’s no point getting too stressed about having deep attachments… but it’s useful to engage with others in order to have a meaningful life (while it lasts). After that… well who knows! We’ll have to wait and see! Though if I get enlightened before I die, it may take away the suspense.

#137 Comment By David On 6th September, 2006 @ 9:02 am

If I am wrong (and Dawkins is right), then it seems to me that all of life becomes a hopeless, meaningless, purposeless grind in which the ends justify the means…

Well, this non sequitur does explain your extreme reluctance to face reality.

I’ll let Don deal with your fallacy-ridden post (if he can be bothered), but let me just point out the micro/macro evolution split is a false one. Evolution is the change in a population’s gene pool over time. What you are basically saying is:
“Yeah, sure. A small change in the gene pool over a short period of time has been observed. But multiple changes over a long period of time? Ha ha! Don’t be stupid. What do you take me for?”

#138 Comment By realitist On 6th September, 2006 @ 9:57 am

haha, you are all intelleckual gangstas. i bow in your scientifik wisdom :D

#139 Comment By realitist On 6th September, 2006 @ 10:15 am

i will muster a serious post though. Amir while obviously not a scientist, at least shows signs of some serious research when it comes to Darwinism. Unfortunately he speaks in terms of the philosophers of science, men like Lakatos, Feyerbender and Popper, who while were impressive philosophers (although any such merit is questionable on utility) were never scientists. Being philosophers their work is adhoc and riddled with fundamental errors. I do not wish to get into those here, but at least the man Amir has tried hard to understand science - even if its from a philosopher and not a scientist.

Now the intelleckual heavyweights David and Don stun us all with their penetrating scientifik wisdom, citing the works of Dawkins(!!) of all men. Hah! Dawkins is no scientist. Infact the field of sociobiology cannot be considered scientific in any sense. Still, at least some of Amir’s objections are immediately relavant when he says Dawkins hypotheses cannot be tested - and thus are therefore pseudoscientific.

Amir as far as I know, sociobiologists are in error when it comes to describing and explaining homo-sapians because the necessary preconditions on which Darwinism rests do not exist for our kind. It is then usual for them to say ‘well they might have existed back in the day - when we lived in caves’, but this again is an untestable claim.

#140 Comment By Chairwoman On 6th September, 2006 @ 10:35 am

Refresh - At different times, people of different religions have all told me the same thing. Follow the rules of the religion (any one will do apparently) and faith will follow. With faith will come the meaning of life.

Please note I am only passing on information given to me. I am not commenting one way or the other on its veracity.

#141 Comment By David On 6th September, 2006 @ 10:38 am

realitist, Amir is the only one here who as mentioned Dawkins. And you are the only one who has mentioned “sociobiology”.

#142 Comment By realitist On 6th September, 2006 @ 10:39 am

doesnt matter. Dawkins is _the_ sociobiologist of our time. The last honest scientist of evolution for me was R Fisher

#143 Comment By realitist On 6th September, 2006 @ 10:49 am

sociobiology is immediately relevant to the thread because we are talking about homosapians and darwin’s theory both. The only people seriously considering us to be undergoing natural selection and being under the control of ‘The Selfish Gene’ as Dawkins’ calls it, are the sociobioligists. Thus Amir is perfectly in his place bringing his name and claims to attention.

Good day.

#144 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 6th September, 2006 @ 11:07 am

I’m not a prophet or a stoneage man, just a mortal with potential of a superman

#145 Comment By bananabrain On 6th September, 2006 @ 11:07 am

before we start, i do want to point out that there’s absolutely no reason why religious views of creation and scientific views on evolution need to be thought of as opposed - unless of course you are one of those literalist nincompoops (religious or scientific) that insists that “six days means six days” based on the genesis account which is one of the most mystical, symbol-rich and deeply meaning-laden - to say nothing of difficult - parts of the Torah. if you think that you can read your “good news” or “king james” and know all about the ma’aseh bereishit, as we call it, you are deeply, deeply mistaken, not to say ignorant. there’s no religious problem with evolution in judaism until the darwinists, led by our brilliant and bigoted friend prof dawkins, go head to head with our own “salafiyyah”.

now - i understand someone wanted to know about satan in judaism?

point a) is that ha-satan, “the accuser”, is an angel. there is nothing in the Tanakh that refers to him being a “fallen angel” - the reference to a “falling prince” in psalm 82 refers to adam.

point b) is that in judaism angels have no free-will (or knees, thumbs or wedding tackle) and, consequently, cannot sin. they just do what they’re told.

point c) is that angels tend to be given specific roles, like “metatron”, who is basically G!D’s press secretary. you know, like c.j. in “the west wing”. the big name angels are the “senior staffers”, ha-satan, in this case, being like the attorney-general or special prosecutor. basically someone whose job is to bring people to account for what they have done wrong and occasionally to mount “sting” operations (like both job and the pharaoh of the exodus). or maybe he’s the IRS, i haven’t quite worked that out. in UK terms, he’s the “department of public prosecutions”. you cannot be accused of anything you haven’t actually done and you cannot be tricked - all that ha-satan can do is report upon the revelation of your inner nature through your behaviour.

point d) identification with the serpent in the garden of ‘eden came later; there is a certain conflation that happens in talmudic times (2nd-5th century) between the angelic figure of ha-satan and the ‘yetzer ha-ra’ or ‘evil inclination’, who is a figure rather like that little guy that appears hovering by your shoulder in cartoons. anyway, according to us, the YH-R is responsible not only for selfishness, but also for competititiveness, our desire to reproduce and build houses - in other words, all the stuff that wouldn’t happen if we were all perfect, saintly angelic creatures with no free-will - hence it is said “the evil inclination is ‘very good’” - because without it we would not be humans, capable of making the right choices. it is only at the point that H-S and YH-R get rolled in together - as well as with the other angelic figure of Sama’El - that we start finding stuff in there about the serpent.

point e) evil also comes from G!D, because everything, by definition, comes from G!D, because it is axiomatic that G!D Is One and there is no equal, wife/consort, son, etc etc. certainly G!D has no need of an “adversary”, being responsible for the provision of both good and evil (cf isaiah) there is nothing outside of the Divine Will and angels are agents of the action of this will. it is said in the midrash that when anything happens in the world it is because an angel makes it so - it is said that beside every blade of grass stands an angel whispering “grow, grow” (midrash bereishit rabbah 10:6) and the reason why the angel says “grow…” is that G!D Willed an angel and willed that it should say grow. even with ha-satan.

for those interested:
[20] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angels#Jewish_views

b’shalom

bananabrain

#146 Comment By Leon On 6th September, 2006 @ 11:39 am

I’m not a prophet or a stoneage man, just a mortal with potential of a superman

You know, jokes aside, you sometimes write things I think…

#147 Comment By realitist On 6th September, 2006 @ 12:19 pm

bananabrain, why should the facts get in the way of a perfectly good religen-bashing? Nevermind that many great scientists upon whos faith and work rests science were believers in that very God.

Reasonable posts are not to be found anywhere where leftys gather. More likely you’ll see them making and beating their favorite strawmen.

#148 Comment By Refresh On 6th September, 2006 @ 12:54 pm

Realitist:

I am a ‘lefty’ - religion is not divided left/right!

The Right in general seek to harness religion for their own ends. Nothing to do with faith.

Tony Benn is a christian, as is Arthur Scargill.

Marx developed his theories in a vacuum, his exposure was almost entirely to the developing industrial revolution in an imperial Europe. I’ve not seen evidence of his interest or awareness of societies in the East.

The concept of religion being the opium of the masses - should be read to mean subjugation of ordinary people for the purposes of delivering profit. Often at any price right down to cannon fodder.

#149 Comment By Jai On 6th September, 2006 @ 5:24 pm

Bananabrain,

Thank you very much for your detailed response regarding my queries about the Devil in Judaism — very interesting read. I’d just been curious because, as I mentioned earlier, I’d heard that the word “Shaitan” actually means “egotism” in orthodox Jewish terminology, rather than referring to some kind of demonic/fallen angel figure. If this is true, the concept has some interesting parallels with Sikh teachings, as also previously mentioned.

Justforfun,

Thank you for your thoughtful response too. I’d been waiting to see if any Jewish people here confirm or contradict your comments, which is the reason for the delay in my getting back to you. But a belated thanks for kindly taking the time out to write your post — greatly appreciated.

#150 Comment By Drinker On 7th September, 2006 @ 11:44 am

Bollocks to this. Anyone for a pint?

#151 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 7th September, 2006 @ 11:52 am

Fuck yeah

#152 Comment By bananabrain On 7th September, 2006 @ 2:20 pm

The Right in general seek to harness religion for their own ends. Nothing to do with faith.
and so do the left. again, nothing to do with faith and everything to do with serving their own agenda.

and suppose we say “utopianism is the opium of the intelligentsia”?

b’shalom

bananabrain


Article printed from Pickled Politics: http://www.pickledpolitics.com

URL to article: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/757

URLs in this post:
[1] Maharaja Ranjit Singh: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranjit_Singh
[2] Guru Nanak Dev Ji: http://www.sikhs.org/guru1.htm
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man
[4] http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/uk.cfm?id=1300672006: http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/uk.cfm?id=1300672006
[5] http://www.kenanmalik.com/tv/analysis_humanism.html: http://www.kenanmalik.com/tv/analysis_humanism.html
[6] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/5311244.stm: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/5311244.stm
[7] http://www.tes.co.uk/section/story/?section=Archive&sub_section=News+%26+opinion&story_id=391826&Type=0: http://www.tes.co.uk/section/story/?section=Archive&sub_section=News+%26+opinion&story_id=39
1826&Type=0

[8] http://www.theherald.co.uk/features/68503-print.shtml: http://www.theherald.co.uk/features/68503-print.shtml
[9] Theosophy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theosophism
[10] first cause argument: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_cause_argument
[11] natural-law argument: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural-law_argument
[12] argument from design: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_design
[13] http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/news/tm_objectid=17646670%26method=full%26siteid=66633-name_page.html: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/news/tm_objectid=17646670%26method=full%26siteid=66633-name_page.h
tml

[14] http://www.jesusandmo.net/2006/05/30/true/: http://www.jesusandmo.net/2006/05/30/true/
[15] Postmodernism Generator: http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo
[16] Confessions of a Darwinist: http://www.vqronline.org/articles/2006/spring/eldredge-confessions-darwinist/
[17] Professor Richard Dawkins: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Dawkins
[18] The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Methodology-Scientific-Research-Programmes-Philosophical/dp/0521280311/sr=1-
4/qid=1157490951/ref=sr_1_4/026-3431417-2895619?ie=UTF8&s=books

[19] ‘Cambrian Explosion’: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambrian_explosion
[20] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angels#Jewish_views: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angels#Jewish_views