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  #1  
Old 07-15-2009, 10:54 PM
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Default The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

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  #2  
Old 07-15-2009, 11:23 PM
David Edenden David Edenden is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

Evolution of God ... one more time.

What does a reasonable Muslim scholar think?
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  #3  
Old 07-15-2009, 11:47 PM
Raghav Raghav is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

But there is a Hebrew word for Jewish heresy: kefirah. The Karaites qualify.
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  #4  
Old 07-16-2009, 12:19 AM
Raghav Raghav is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

Also, Kleiman's taxonomy of Jewish hashkafot (roughly, worldviews) is mistaken. The opponents of hasidism are the mitnagdim (lit., opponents); both are subsets of Haredi Judaism (often called "Ultra-Orthodox Judaism").

The terms "litvish" and "yeshivish" are usually used to describe the mitnagdim, given Lithuania's status as a center of opposition to Hasidism (due largely to the influence of the Vilna Gaon) and the large network of yeshivot tracing their origins to Lithuanian Jews.

Though he's right that the two groups have managed to overcome their centuries-long enmity in favor of presenting a united front against Religious Zionism and secularism. Witness the alliance between the mitnaged Degel HaTorah and the hasidic Agudat Yisrael political parties in modern Israel. Further evidence, I guess, of Bob's thesis.
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  #5  
Old 07-16-2009, 05:15 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Fundie Jewish-Muslim alliance against secularism.

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Though he's right that the two groups have managed to overcome their centuries-long enmity in favor of presenting a united front against Religious Zionism and secularism. Witness the alliance between the mitnaged Degel HaTorah and the hasidic Agudat Yisrael political parties in modern Israel. Further evidence, I guess, of Bob's thesis.
I saw an interview on Israeli television a few months ago of an Haredi (ultra-O) rabbi who had met with Ahmed Yassin, the disabled Hamas cleric later assassinated by the IDF as a "terrorist mastermind."

The rabbi's point was that he had a wonderful rapport and understanding with Yassis, and if the evil secularists would just get out of the way, they could make lasting peace (non-zero sum?) peace in a couple of days.

Similar alliances are rampant in the US between ultra-nationalist Settler groups (not to be confused with ultra-Orthodox) and Armageddon-minded Evangelicals.

Strange bedfellows all over the place.
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  #6  
Old 07-16-2009, 12:33 AM
nikkibong nikkibong is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

Mark Kleiman refutes aquinas:

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/211...2:05&out=52:17
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  #7  
Old 07-16-2009, 01:05 AM
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

dear lord! if there's one more of the god vlogs i'm gonna become the first atheist suicide bomber!
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  #8  
Old 07-16-2009, 01:12 AM
pampl pampl is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

I don't think Wright's use of "non-zero sum" really quite matches with my understanding of that phrase. If the early Jews murdered some hunter-gatherer tribe and used their land for intensive agriculture that'd be non-zero sum, because the net benefit would exceed the net cost (though admittedly I have no idea how Wright calculates these sums). I think the phrase "mutually beneficial" would be a better fit, if I understand what he's trying to say anyway.

edit: actually, "non-zero sum" doesn't even imply a net benefit, does it? The Aztec religion was non-zero sum because it led to regular human sacrifices presumably without any compensating benefits

Last edited by pampl; 07-16-2009 at 01:25 AM..
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  #9  
Old 07-16-2009, 04:58 AM
Jyminee Jyminee is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

When Bob says "non-zero," think "win-win." Of course, reading his book "Nonzero" would also be a good way to get his view on the subject.
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  #10  
Old 07-16-2009, 01:15 AM
basilides basilides is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

Please, stop with the shameless hawking of your book. Please. You are tying up the blogginghead airways with your mediocre book.
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  #11  
Old 07-16-2009, 01:18 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

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Originally Posted by basilides View Post
Please, stop with the shameless hawking of your book. Please. You are tying up the blogginghead airways with your mediocre book.
His site. His book. Doncha think?
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  #12  
Old 07-16-2009, 02:58 AM
maximus444 maximus444 is offline
 
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Default The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition

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Originally Posted by basilides View Post
Please, stop with the shameless hawking of your book. Please. You are tying up the blogginghead airways with your mediocre book.
Wow, what an asshole.
Keep these up Bob, their an interesting change.
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  #13  
Old 07-16-2009, 01:56 AM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

I want to know if Bob's going to read Mark Kleiman's book!
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  #14  
Old 07-16-2009, 03:38 AM
emmanuel9 emmanuel9 is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

Short commentary on Robert Wright's interpretation of St. Paul's motivations

http://bahaicoherence.blogspot.com/2...and-other.html
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  #15  
Old 07-16-2009, 07:30 AM
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

I am puzzled why Bob insists that the conflicts between religions or within religions are mainly material in origin---disputes over territory, political jurisdictions etc. As Mark Kleiman points out, the doctrinal disputes within sixteenth-and-seventeenth century Christianity were ferocious at times, revolving around obscure theological points that were once able to rally believers of one sect to massacre the believers of another sect. I think he underestimates the extent to which belief, pure belief, is itself an incentive to hatred: if you think that your salvation hinges on correctness of belief, the "false" beliefs of others will be a direct threat to your peace of mind. Unless you convert them, after all, you may be wrong!
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  #16  
Old 07-16-2009, 12:01 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

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Originally Posted by Francoamerican View Post
I am puzzled why Bob insists that the conflicts between religions or within religions are mainly material in origin---disputes over territory, political jurisdictions etc. As Mark Kleiman points out, the doctrinal disputes within sixteenth-and-seventeenth century Christianity were ferocious at times, revolving around obscure theological points that were once able to rally believers of one sect to massacre the believers of another sect. I think he underestimates the extent to which belief, pure belief, is itself an incentive to hatred: if you think that your salvation hinges on correctness of belief, the "false" beliefs of others will be a direct threat to your peace of mind. Unless you convert them, after all, you may be wrong!
I tend to agree. Bob seems to admit that he hasn't really looked at a lot of these situations, particularly the Christian-Christian conflicts. My guess (having not read the book yet, but still planning to do so soon) is that he does see material causes in a lot of the more recent religious conflicts, and in some cases progress based on material-type approaches. It's easier if one believes that material causes are the answer, since the religious disagreement goes away only with some sort of theological change (which happens, though usually one can find a material cause) or the decline of religious fervor (zeal, as Gibbon would call it) in the area. It also contrasts with the view that I think Bob is most concerned with challenging, that some religions are inherently problems or belligerent or so on, so must be defeated/die or remain the enemy.

Also, as far as one can actually attribute the violence to material causes or the force of the doctrinal beliefs themselves, I think it's almost impossible to answer, since the ideas interplay on each other so much. Clearly, the people killing each other believe they are because it's just so wrong and dangerous for someone to believe [insert heresy in question]. Also, that uncertainty of belief makes it more necessary to attack opposing beliefs, because they feel more threatening. However, why certain ideas are adopted vs. being claimed as heresies itself tends to have at least some identifiable material causes* and you can find material causes for why one group tends to gravitate to one kind of belief and then forces within the group as well as the struggle itself often polarizes the argument more.

I suspect that this is more true for inter-religion struggles, whereas once you are talking religion vs. religion, it may be easier to sort it into material causes.

*Of course, I suppose this gets into the question of what is a material cause. One example I'm aware of is that the Catholic Church's approach to heresy tended to be to deny the identified heretics the sacraments. In response, even heretics who had not denied the efficacy/validity of the sacraments offered generally always did so, leading to a greater disagreement than originally existing and arguably leading to some of the doctrine that developed both within Catholicism and certain sorts of Protestantism on these issues. There, the ideas are morphing based on power issues, even though it is all couched in religious terms and related to a conflict over ideas.
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  #17  
Old 07-16-2009, 10:36 PM
cragger cragger is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

I think Bob Wright has a point regarding various of the wars in which religion was a component, especially in the Catholic vs. Protestant wars you mention. If you look at the 30-years war in Central Europe for example, one component of the struggle was certainly the Catholic (Holy Roman) Imperials vs. the Protestants in the north of what is now Germany together with their similarly Luthern Sweedish allies, but it was hardly the only reason they were fighting. The stages of this war were just part of the ongoing power struggle between factions looking for control over the many small states that made up the region at the time, with the inclusion of players who found the wars a considerable source of personal wealth, as well as involving dynastic control.
This struggle never really ended until the northerners won and united Germany under Prussian domination. The Catholic vs. Protestant theme was part of wars over power and dynastic control in Britian as well.

A couple of points stand out, regarding the role of religion in these wars. The first is that the subject of religion was of course never settled. Neither the Catholics nor the Protestants won, in any sense of eliminating the others from the regions of conflict. The wars stopped not because religious questions were settled, but because at least for a time, the material issues of power, control of various provinces, and lines of dynastic succession were settled. At least until the next war. The second point that is that the addition of a religious component to warfare has always seemed to make the conflict more brutal and barbarous. Even when the combatants have been various flavors of Christians fighting each other, the religious aspect has brought out the absolute worst in humanity. The behavior of those who believe they are on the side of God during wars hasn't argued well for that side.
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  #18  
Old 07-16-2009, 09:13 AM
Bloggin' Noggin Bloggin' Noggin is offline
 
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Default Religious conflict not about religion?

I find Bob's statement that religious conflict is not about religion to be a huge overstatement. It's certainly true that religious conflict is sometimes more an expression of some other kind of conflict (class conflict or ethnic conflict). It's probably very often true that purely religious conflicts won't remain purely religious for long -- as each side tries to gain supporters, it will try to drag in allies from existing conflicts.
But, given the importance of belief in Christianity -- having the right beliefs about the savior is part of salvation -- it's not hard to see how different metaphysical intuitions about God and Jesus might lead directly and independently to violent conflict. The debate over Jesus's humanity (and divinity) in the third century seems to me to be a very good case in point. Some people had the Platonic/Aristotelian intuition that to make God like humans or to say that God could become human would be to make God a petty thing -- to say that God could become human (and even suffer) would be a huge insult to God. Others felt the whole point of Christianity was that Jesus was God and suffered for us -- that was the message of hope of the religion. Others stuck closer to the Jewish tradition (and seemingly early Christian tradition) that Jesus was a man -- and that a man could be messiah and "son of God" without being God. The Trinity is a somewhat emotionally satisfying compromise -- though an intellectually ridiculous one. There is lots to argue about here and given the importance of belief in Christianity, it's easy to see how such arguments could get very passionate -- without any additional animus from other sources.
There's a good book about the Arian controversy whose title I'll try to remember, which paints a portrait of the controversy as a genuinely popular conflict in Alexandria and as pretty genuinely philosophical at root. I think Bob should have a look at it (once I think of its name).
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  #19  
Old 07-17-2009, 04:35 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Re: Religious conflict not about religion?

Quote:
I find Bob's statement that religious conflict is not about religion to be a huge overstatement.
All Bob has been saying -- in about a dozen of these book chats -- is that religion doesn't NECESSARILY lead to conflict. No matter what the doctrinal disputes, you can spin the religion to have a peaceful/cooperative message. And no matter what the doctrine says, you can spin it for mass murder.

Nowhere could this be more ironically than in Christianity. Jesus was a pacifist who never hurt a human being in his life, if you discount a minor tussle with moneychangers at the temple. The religion is based on turning the other cheek, forgiveness and reconciliation.

On the other hand, Gandhi spun the Bhagavad Gita, a manual of killing and macho militarism, into a pacifist bible.

That's Bob's point: nothing in the texts precludes or promotes peace (or war).
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Old 07-17-2009, 05:45 PM
DenvilleSteve DenvilleSteve is offline
 
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Default Re: Religious conflict not about religion?

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Originally Posted by Wonderment View Post
Nowhere could this be more ironically than in Christianity. Jesus was a pacifist who never hurt a human being in his life, if you discount a minor tussle with moneychangers at the temple. The religion is based on turning the other cheek, forgiveness and reconciliation.
render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar's is an implicit acceptance of the authority of the state. Since taxes then and now are used to finance a professional military, by Jesus saying you should pay your taxes, he is saying you should fund your government's military. I read the turn the other cheek admonition to apply to actions that dont injure you. It is the teaching that the rich man cant get into heaven, that is something Christians and the Church conviently forget about.
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  #21  
Old 07-17-2009, 05:47 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Re: Religious conflict not about religion?

Quote:
...by Jesus saying you should pay your taxes, he is saying you should fund your government's military.
I rest my case.
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  #22  
Old 07-17-2009, 09:13 PM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
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Default Re: Religious conflict not about religion?

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Originally Posted by DenvilleSteve View Post
render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar's is an implicit acceptance of the authority of the state. Since taxes then and now are used to finance a professional military, by Jesus saying you should pay your taxes, he is saying you should fund your government's military. I read the turn the other cheek admonition to apply to actions that dont injure you. It is the teaching that the rich man cant get into heaven, that is something Christians and the Church conviently forget about.
I was taught that Jesus isn't accepting the authority of the state over a Christian. And he isn't saying you should pay your taxes. He is just saying that state and taxes are irrelevant. A rich man can go to heaven after death because at that point he is penniless by definition.
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  #23  
Old 07-16-2009, 09:28 AM
ogieogie ogieogie is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

God. God-god-god-god-goddy-goddy-god.
Repeat ad nauseam.
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  #24  
Old 07-16-2009, 10:03 AM
Eastwest Eastwest is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

1) Bob: Ignore the carping from folks hostile to your book and its ideas who grouse that it's just endless and shameless hawking of wares. I find this a welcome change of pace from the unrelieved politics ad nauseum which, hashed and rehashed, choke off these more meaningful diavlog topics.

2) Seems that Bob's positing of a relatively straight-line positive evolution of humanity's conception of God is built on largely conjectural suppositions about the nature of belief as it supposedly existed many centuries ago, back before we have any historical evidence (that it was somehow necessarily polytheistic, that it necessarily had no moral component, etc.). This is just theorization with no assuredly solid factual basis. It's really just as likely that this is not evolution at all, but rather a repeatedly waxing and waning cycle that will alternate endlessly between terror and mellowness on into future eras.

3) Kind of ironic and funny that Bob's personal path seems lately to align more with the consciousness-transforming experience of elementary initial semi-Buddhist meditation states. (I heard him holding forth on it again on the Dianne Rehm Show yesterday.) One wonders if all this Abrahamic god stuff hasn't driven him away from theistic traditions altogether. (Buddhism is neither theistic nor atheistic, but rather non-theistic.)

Eastwest

PS for Bob: For a more representative description of the terrains of traditional Indian Buddhist meditation (IMS Barre is kind of a non-representative weak tea by comparison), take a look at "Essentials of Buddhist Meditation" and then "Six Gates to the Sublime" at KalavinkaPress.org. (Extensive excerpts on the "Dharma Jewels" page.)
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  #25  
Old 07-16-2009, 11:39 AM
dieter dieter is offline
 
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Default Catholicism doesn't encourage fertility

Americans seem to be convinced that Catholicism teaches or encourages fertility. That is probably the result of italian and mexican immigration. The fertility of these migrants were/are actually higher than in their homelands. Same thing can be observed with some muslim ethnicities in Europe.

Catholicism traditionally encouraged and celebrated celibacy. The exceptionally pious even chose to live a celibate marriage, known as "Joseph's marriage", "angels marriage" or "white marriage".
The Nazis blamed Catholicism for low birthrates in 1920s Germany.

I personally don't remember one sermon from my childhood or a lesson in religous instruction in school in which we were told that we were supposed to have children.

Recently, the church has started to preach fertility und to blame secularism on infertility. But that doesn't seem to be based on traditional doctrine, rather than just the churches ongoing commentary on contemporary issues.

It seems to me that if anything, catholicism served as a form of population control before the existance of contraceptives.

The Evolution of God
I have only seen this and maybe two halfs of the recent barrage of videos about Roberts's book. His views seem ptolemaic to me. He is epicircling around the obvious.
Catholics and protestants hated each other, didn't talk to each other and didn't intermarry until 30 years ago in many parts of Germany and Austria. And they all look the same and there are no obvious materialistic patterns there either.
It is arguable that the specific doctrinal issues don't matter to large numbers of these groups. But they matter to the elites and a certain politicised subset of laymen. That is enough to establish and sustain different groups and therefore classic in-group/out-group dynamics.
This schism fell apart not because of some kind of new mutual understanding. It fell apart because people simply stopped going to church, which undermined the whole raison d'ętre of sectarian strife.
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  #26  
Old 07-16-2009, 12:10 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Catholicism doesn't encourage fertility

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Originally Posted by dieter View Post
Americans seem to be convinced that Catholicism teaches or encourages fertility. That is probably the result of italian and mexican immigration.
Maybe, but I think it's simpler -- basically that the particular focus is on the 20th century. Fertility in the US has tended to be traditionally quite high across all groups, but the jokes about Catholics and fertility are contrasting people in much more recent times. (It's also outdated, of course -- the current jokes would be particular sorts of religious people vs. more secular or secular-influenced people, religious or not.)

Quote:
But that doesn't seem to be based on traditional doctrine, rather than just the churches ongoing commentary on contemporary issues.
I tend to agree with this, if you look back far enough certainly.
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  #27  
Old 07-16-2009, 12:13 PM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
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Default Uncontained Protestantism and Self-consistent Catholicism

This was an interesting part of the diavlog: Bob's question about why intellectual converts are often drawn to Catholicism, and Mark's related comment that Protestantism "can't hold itself".

Perhaps part of the answer to Bob's question is that the intellectual doesn't see his conversion as "buying into a ... belief system", but rather joining a highly developed intellectual edifice. It's sort of like opening a book on higher mathematics and seeing page after page of established, interlocking theorems. There is a feeling of safety, stability and the wisdom of the multitude.

Mark's puzzlement about how the Protestant justifies his faith may be an under-appreciation of the personal connection with God. The individual receives inspiration directly from the source to explicate the scripture. If you are moved by the Spirit, surely this has more validity than centuries of circuitous and flawed human argument. In this light, selection of a denomination has less to do with doctrine and nothing at all to do with finding the one true church. It's mostly fellowship and comfort.

Protestants wonder why the Catholic devotes himself to the cult without direct understanding. Catholics wonder why the Protestant doesn't see his human limitations: the possibility that he may simply be a deluded hillbilly hearing voices in the night.

This may explain why converts with intellectual leanings are drawn to the Catholic church, while those with feelings of spirituality are at home with Protestantism.

Last edited by Simon Willard; 07-16-2009 at 02:21 PM..
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  #28  
Old 07-16-2009, 12:39 PM
TheReader TheReader is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

I dont think all these informercials about the book will boost sales, because its too transparent that these bloggingheads sessions are meant for selling the book.

Unless Robert has financial problems, and need money NOW, he shouldnt damage his credibility by turning the bloggingheads into a sales machine.


Its a reason why most TV-hosts doesnt appear in commercials. It damages their credibility.

If he want to sell his book, he should be less direct about it. Mention and reference to it here and there, but dont pimp it all the time in every dialog.
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  #29  
Old 07-16-2009, 12:49 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

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Originally Posted by TheReader View Post
I dont think all these informercials about the book will boost sales, because its too transparent that these bloggingheads sessions are meant for selling the book.
I don't agree. Both participants said that this one was Mark's idea (though as far as I'm concerned Bob can do what he wants). I really enjoyed the discussion, and don't think it relied on the existence of the book for the interest -- the two simply could have been discussing topics of mutual interest (as I guess they were). I found the topics interesting (especially the whole thing about Mark's study group), and generally enjoy Mark and Bob as diavlog participants, so really enjoyed this one. (I wish Mark were on more; he's interesting whatever he talks about.)

Now, if Bob wants to get into it with Dinesh D'Souza, that could be fun in a very different sort of way.
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  #30  
Old 07-16-2009, 01:40 PM
Native Vermonter Native Vermonter is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

I enjoy these discussions occasioned by the publication of Bob's book very much. They are not dominating the site.
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  #31  
Old 07-16-2009, 04:41 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Traditional atheism among Jews

Mark makes a good point about the emergence of Maimonides as a thinker who wanted to re-make Judaism as a Credo religion in the manner of Christianity and Islam.

This really never took, in my opinion, because atheism was already deeply embedded and tolerated within pre-Medieval Jewish society. People began to pay lip service to Maimonides' Ani Maamin (the Jewish credo), but belief (in the Christian sense) never penetrated ordinary life.

This is a subtle point. Of course, Bob is right to insist that Jews believed in God. But they believed in Jewish identity and culture first and foremost. God was (is) a kind of accessory. Christians, on the other hand, are organized at the core as a community of faith. Culture is the accessory.

Atheist Jews, known since ancient times as Apikoursim (Epicureans) were surely condemned but never rejected as non-Jews. Non-Jews since Biblical times are known as "goyim" (people of other nations), a completely different category.

Conversion into Judaism (as in the story of Ruth) was viewed as joining a people (God is irrelevant in the story), while converting out was always viewed as opportunistic treason rather than a philosophical change. (Paul of Tarsus is the prime example.)

There is no rabbi in the world who would say that atheist Jews like Mark and me are not Jewish. We might be apikoursim, but we're still Jews.

A very devout rabbi, and one very plugged in to many generations of Old School Jewish scholarship once tried to talk me out of my atheism by saying, "It doesn't matter what you believe. Just do the mitzvots (commandments) that you can. That's enough." I dismissed this at the time as crude hypocrisy, but he was simply de-emphasizing theology and affriming the core of Judaism as our tribal customs.
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  #32  
Old 07-17-2009, 06:11 AM
Francoamerican
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Default Re: Traditional atheism among Jews

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Originally Posted by Wonderment View Post
Mark makes a good point about the emergence of Maimonides as a thinker who wanted to re-make Judaism as a Credo religion in the manner of Christianity and Islam.

This really never took, in my opinion, because atheism was already deeply embedded and tolerated within pre-Medieval Jewish society. People began to pay lip service to Maimonides' Ani Maamin (the Jewish credo), but belief (in the Christian sense) never penetrated ordinary life.

This is a subtle point. Of course, Bob is right to insist that Jews believed in God. But they believed in Jewish identity and culture first and foremost. God was (is) a kind of accessory. Christians, on the other hand, are organized at the core as a community of faith. Culture is the accessory.

Atheist Jews, known since ancient times as Apikoursim (Epicureans) were surely condemned but never rejected as non-Jews. Non-Jews since Biblical times are known as "goyim" (people of other nations), a completely different category.

Conversion into Judaism (as in the story of Ruth) was viewed as joining a people (God is irrelevant in the story), while converting out was always viewed as opportunistic treason rather than a philosophical change. (Paul of Tarsus is the prime example.)

There is no rabbi in the world who would say that atheist Jews like Mark and me are not Jewish. We might be apikoursim, but we're still Jews.

A very devout rabbi, and one very plugged in to many generations of Old School Jewish scholarship once tried to talk me out of my atheism by saying, "It doesn't matter what you believe. Just do the mitzvots (commandments) that you can. That's enough." I dismissed this at the time as crude hypocrisy, but he was simply de-emphasizing theology and affriming the core of Judaism as our tribal customs.
Very interesting post. I was unaware that atheist Jews were always welcome in their community. But aren't you forgetting about Spinoza.... who was excommunicated and still seems to arouse a certain hostility in orthodox Jewish circles?

One of the greatest Christian thinkers, Pascal, would have understood the reasoning of the devout rabbi in your last paragraph. In one of his attempts to convert a skeptic or free-thinker, he offered this piece of advice: Go to mass, take holy water and "abętissez-vous" (i.e. make yourself stupid), and faith will come.
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  #33  
Old 07-17-2009, 04:47 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Re: Traditional atheism among Jews

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Very interesting post. I was unaware that atheist Jews were always welcome in their community. But aren't you forgetting about Spinoza.... who was excommunicated and still seems to arouse a certain hostility in orthodox Jewish circles?
True. You do have the institution of excommunication (learned from European Christians), and it is not surprising that the rabbis had to play that card against Spinoza (and others). Spinoza was their first whiff of the Enlightenment and scared them; they thought he would bring heat on Jews from the "tolerant" Dutch Christians. He was a celebrated thinker and they concluded that they had to draw a line in the sand.

With the Enlightenment, of course, the long march to secularization began in earnest, and the overwhelming majority of Jews have steadily abandoned Orthodoxy ever since. (Zionism -- founded by socialist atheists -- does have a revivalist component, but that's a separate story)

The Pascal anecdote is great! Better than the famous wager.
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  #34  
Old 07-17-2009, 10:08 AM
DenvilleSteve DenvilleSteve is offline
 
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Default Re: Traditional atheism among Jews

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This is a subtle point. Of course, Bob is right to insist that Jews believed in God. But they believed in Jewish identity and culture first and foremost. God was (is) a kind of accessory. Christians, on the other hand, are organized at the core as a community of faith. Culture is the accessory.
How would this apply to the allegiance Jews have for the country they live in? If the focus of Jews starts with their culture and identity, then a suspicious and even hostile response to Jews by the larger society is understandable, no?

Israel Shahak wrote a fascinating book on the subject of the frictions inherent in the teachings of the Talmud in regard to Gentiles.
http://www.amazon.com/Jewish-History...7835721&sr=8-1
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Old 07-16-2009, 05:23 PM
BornAgainDemocrat BornAgainDemocrat is offline
 
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Default On man created in the image of God

My reading of the statement in Genesis that human beings are created 'in the image of God' -- and this is based on a close reading of the Torah itself not my personal ideas -- is that only those others we encounter who believe in the God of Abraham -- ie, in a God who is "just" and who is "the judge of the earth" -- are considered to be fully human (and hence worthy to be treated as "a neighbor" to use the antidote about Akiba Mark Kleinman refers to).

This reading is fully consistent with Abraham's actual behavior as described in Genesis. Thus he makes treaties and agreements with the tribes he encounters, who are in each case described as "God fearers," as for example at the well at Beersheba: treaties that are based on the principle of equity as opposed to physical force. It also explains Abraham's refusal to accept war booty by saying: "I have lifted up my hand to Almight God that I will not take so much as a shoelace that is not mine, less any should say 'I have made Abram rich'."

BTW, the two words for "justice" in Genesis correspond to our modern idea of "justice as fairness," not the Greek concept of "everyone performing his function" which we find in Plato. How can we know this? Because the two Hebrew words for justice, tamim and tzedec, are the terms used to describle a balance beam that is true (balance beams being used in ancient commerce between tribes). The beam must be straight (tzedec) and the weights must be whole (tamim). An ethic of honest fair dealing certainly makes sense for a small trading and pastoral people living among much more powerful neighbors since a reputation for honesty would be one's best guarantee of being well-received, above all when one moves into new territory.

This reading sheds light on the sacrifice of Isaac: How could a God who is just demand the sacrifice of Abraham's only son by his wife Sarah, especially when he has been promised that Isaac and his descendants would survive and multiply in the new land of Canaan? The answer is that God does not require this sacrifice, only a willingness on Abraham's part to make it if that is what justice should require (in so many words). In other words the Jewish people must love justice more than even life itself if they want to survive. This is the existential paradox of their historical situation and always has been, even today. Jacob struggles with it, as does Moses and his decendants: the story of that struggle is what the Hebrew Bible is all about.

God's promises to Abraham in other words are not promises strictly speaking but part of a contract whose stipulation is clear: "Walk before me and be thou just (tamim) and I will do that which I have promised you [I am quoting from memory]." Or again: "for I know Abraham, that he will be just (tzedec) that I may keep my promises to him" [again quoting from memory].

Of course the language of the Bible is metaphorical as is the language of all great literature: not only because metaphors are vivid and therefore memorable but even more because there is no other way to get abstract ideas across in a pre-literate world. The Bible should be read as literature because only then can its meaning and therefore its true historical significance be appreciated.

If anyone had read this far thanks for your patience. The trouble with religion is that there are so damn many interpretations: may the best one win out!

Last edited by BornAgainDemocrat; 07-16-2009 at 05:51 PM..
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  #36  
Old 07-16-2009, 06:17 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

Wow sounds like a great book party. Kaus, Drum, Kleiman...but no Uncle Ebeneezer :-(

Just sayin', Bob, my schedule is pretty wide open for the next one. I could even provide musical entertainment.
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  #37  
Old 07-16-2009, 06:19 PM
JonIrenicus JonIrenicus is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

@ Bobs notion that conflicts are not so much about religion so much as other factors.. not sure about that.


A good test would be to look at different religious populations within a certain society, control for income and ethnicity, and see what the differences were in terms of crime and tolerance and general strife.


I have a very hard time believing a Buddhist community in India would be equally likely to produce violent members bent on murdering people compared to a population of muslims given similar treatment.


The source material is not interchangeable. It is harder to use the doctrines of certain belief systems to compel violence compared to others.


I think even Bob agrees with this in other areas, mentioning in another log how a certain view of religions (my view that they are a factor in the problems of a society) can lead to a more NEOCON (que psycho theme) bent.

But even there, he acknowledges a certain world view is a force in the outcomes of behavior and action towards others. So why would this not be the case with different religious notions?

Last edited by JonIrenicus; 07-16-2009 at 06:23 PM..
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  #38  
Old 07-17-2009, 05:55 AM
kezboard kezboard is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

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I have a very hard time believing a Buddhist community in India would be equally likely to produce violent members bent on murdering people compared to a population of muslims given similar treatment.
I don't know. I mean, Buddhist suicide bombers seem a little absurd, but I'm sure they could find some justification somewhere. I think there were some Buddhist rebellions in early modern China. The Sri Lanka conflict has been pretty brutal, too, and you have Buddhists on one side and Hindus on the other.
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Old 07-17-2009, 09:08 AM
Eastwest Eastwest is offline
 
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Default Re: The Evolution of God: Jewish Edition (Robert Wright & Mark Kleiman)

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I don't know. I mean, Buddhist suicide bombers seem a little absurd, but I'm sure they could find some justification somewhere. I think there were some Buddhist rebellions in early modern China. The Sri Lanka conflict has been pretty brutal, too, and you have Buddhists on one side and Hindus on the other.
With all due respect: You don't know what you're talking about. Neither of these conflicts have any Buddhist doctrine upon which they can stand. These examples you cite were / are purely political civil conflicts. White Lotus was in no way a genuinely Buddhist tradition. It was another one of many wacky Chinese syncretistic religious sects.

To call the Sri Lankan conflict a matter of "Buddhist" against "Hindu" is like calling our own Civil War an essentially "Christian" conflict. Absurd.

If you had ever undertaken any even moderately serious reading on Buddhist tenets, you'd know that your assertion is wildly off-base. Theistic religions tend, when feeling threatened or hostile, to glorify slaughter of infidels.

As I noted earlier (post #17 in this thread), Buddhism is neither theistic nor atheistic. In spite of Bob's occasional errors on this account (In these "God" diavlogs, he's sometimes ventured such judgments himself or approved diavlog counterparts' assertions to this effect), Buddhism is and always has been non-theistic. War, especially "holy war," is just not a Buddhist thing.

Eastwest
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  #40  
Old 07-16-2009, 06:36 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: Leave Michael Jackson Out Of This!!

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/211...2:55&out=23:01
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