On Atheist Morality

Jeff Jacoby asks a particularly pertinent question in his latest op-ed, Created by God to be good,” on Atheist “humanism” (as embodied in the American Humanist Society) and its hostility to biblical (or quranic) morality.

It brings to mind the argument made by Kwame Appiah’s book, The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen: that moral revolutions do not so much occur as a result of people who do the “right thing” for the “right reason” (practitioners of Kant’s categorical imperative), as they do because there’s a fundamental shift in the peer-group’s view of what’s moral: slavery, dueling, foot binding all go out when the dominant attitude disapproved of such behavior. If you duel to the death and win (as did Aaron Burr), and it’s a career-ender because your peers take you as a hot-headed fool, dueling will not last long.

Jacoby challenges the the core message of the American Humanist Association: “that God and the Judeo-Christian tradition are not necessary for the preservation of moral values and that human reason is a better guide to goodness than Bible-based religion.”

Can people be decent and moral without believing in a God who commands us to be good? Sure. There have always been kind and ethical nonbelievers. But how many of them reason their way to kindness and ethics, and how many simply reflect the moral expectations of the society in which they were raised?

In our culture, even the most passionate atheist cannot help having been influenced by the Judeo-Christian worldview that shaped Western civilization. “We know that you can be good without God,” Speckhardt tells CNN. He can be confident of that only because he lives in a society so steeped in Judeo-Christian values that he takes those values for granted. But a society bereft of that religious heritage is a society not even Speckhardt would want to live in.

This is the key point. Humanists are, in fact, free riders. They come along after centuries of hard work in prime divider societies where the zero-sum dominating imperative ruled social and political relations. In those long and painful years, some people, driven to by a sense of divine authority, systematically, and at great personal cost (sometimes one’s very life) pursued the generous impulses of positive-sum interactions. Now that we’re raised in a civil society, where we’re trained from childhood to cooperate, to eschew violence, to seek the positive-sum interaction, such behavior comes much more easily.

The Society can put up billboards reading: “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.”

But in a world where it’s “rule or be ruled,” where the nice guy is a sucker who’ll predictably get the short end of the stick, where alpha males use violence with impunity to dominate others, “for goodness’ sake” doesn’t cut much ice. Indeed, it’s quite risible.

For in a world without God, there is no obvious difference between good and evil. There is no way to prove that even murder is wrong if there is no Creator who decrees “Thou shalt not murder.” It certainly cannot be proved wrong by reason alone.

Indeed, in a tribal honor-shame culture, you’re not a man until you’ve killed another man, and although the honorable thing to do is to kill him in a fair fight, there are some tribes where, short of killing another man from the neighboring (and therefore rival/enemy) tribe, killing one of their women is required. Spartans had a whole season where they killed helots (the serfs, former free Greeks of the Pelopponesian peninsula) wherever they met them.

One might reason instead — as Lenin and Stalin and Mao reasoned — that there is nothing wrong with murdering human beings by the millions if doing so advances the Marxist cause. Or one might reason from observing nature that the way of the world is for the strong to devour the weak — and that natural selection favors the survival of the fittest by any means necessary, including the killing of the less fit.

In other words, the logic of the zero-sum universe – I win because you lose – operates in a radically different way from that of the positive-sum, and the evidence of nature supports the former much more than the latter.

The allusion to Stalin here serves to remind us that the traditional atheist’s accusation – “more people have died in religious wars than any other cause” – overlooks the fact that two atheists, Stalin and Mao, killed over 120 million people in the 20th century, the first century to have “atheist” governments with armies to kill. That’s a rather big headstart in the competition for most murderous ideology.

To us today, believers and nonbelievers alike, it may seem obvious that human life is precious and that the weakest among us deserve special protection. But would we think so absent a moral tradition stretching back to Sinai?

Just to get an idea of what Greeks honored as admirable behavior around the time of the Sinai revelation (i.e., 13th century BCE), read Eli Sagan, The Lust to Annihilate.

It seemed obvious in classical antiquity that sickly babies should be killed. “We drown even children who at birth are weakly and abnormal,” wrote the Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger 2,000 years ago, stressing that “it is not anger but reason” that justifies the murder of handicapped babies.

John Boswell began his book on child abandonment in Western History, The Kindness of Strangers, by citing several early Christian theologians who inveigh against their parishoners going to houses of prostitution, not because they might cheat on their wives, but because they might commit incest. How? By sleeping with their own children – male and female – whom they had abandoned at birth and had been collected and raised to become sex slaves (p. 3). Mind you, this is not the Christian communities of the imperial period, when large numbers of people became Christian merely for the advantage of being on the Emperor’s side; this is 2nd and 3rd centuries, when the early fires of Christian zeal still, supposedly, burned bright.

The God who created us, created us to be good. No, reason alone is not enough to keep human beings humane.

We systematically confuse human with humane, just another example of the liberal cognitive egocentrism that gets us to take so much of the Western accomplishment for granted. The idea that it dehumanizes the Nazis or the Jihadis to describe their savage rapacity misses the point. Savage rapacity is human. It’s not humane. But being human does not give you the right to be considered humane – that takes effort.

Only if there is a God who forbids murder is murder definitively evil. Otherwise its wrongfulness is no more than a matter of opinion. Mao and Seneca approved of murder; we disapprove. Who are we to say they were wrong?

The God who created us, created us to be good. Atheists may believe — and spend a small fortune advertising — that we can all be “good without God.” Human history tells a very different story.

There’s more to this story. It’s one thing to argue that we should be good “for goodness” sake. It’s another thing to disparage everyone else, in this case, religion for arguing another path to goodness.

The humanists seem trapped by the same zero-sum thinking that had the Enlightenment and the French Revolution convinced that not only were they legislating for all mankind, but that their genius superseded that of any previous legislators. (And that hubris contributed to the Terror which found murder a suitable “tool” for political order.) In the end, the Enlightenment shared with Christianity and Islam the deplorable notion that they replaced, erased that which came before.

Ironically, when the Christians of the Roman Empire had to choose between Jews or Romans in creating a world dominated by good people with good intentions, they preferred the Romans, despite the fact that morally speaking, Jews and Christians shared far more than either of them with pagans. (The adoption of infanticide, which Jews never practiced, illustrates the impact of absorbing large numbers of converts from pagan culture, which never abandoned the practice.)

One would expect people who found “being good” so easy could rise above the petty kind of envy and moral Schadenfreude that thinks it makes itself look bigger by making others look smaller, and join hands with religious folks who argue that we should be good for “God’s sake.” But apparently, that’s not so obvious,  even to eminently “reasonable” folks.

I guess there’s a certain thrill to thinking that you represent the moral cutting edge of humanity, even if it’s just a dream (ready to turn into a nightmare).

111 Responses to On Atheist Morality

  1. Sérgio says:

    I didn´t quite see the point of this essay. I think it is clear that religion and secular totalitarian ideologies can and were murderous and that they also brought important progress in many respects. So monotheism proposed important universal ethical values, but as every universalism, it has its authoritarian fringe. The Enlightenment , which is heir to the western Judeo-Christian tradition, clearly was naive in the sense that, as John Kekes observed, it pressuposed that humans are basically good and society is to blame for all evils. It is a modification of the notion that there´s a God which is essentially good and towards which one should strive. But it did challenge the authoritarian power of the Church and, by valuing free inquiry and critical thinking, helped the advance of science and technology.

    It took a while, though, to recognize that human are neither essentially good nor evil, but essentially *ambivalent* and that it´s hopeless and dangerous to think that evil can be erradicated once and for all. In fact, a lot of evil was done in the name of erradicating evil. What a healthy society can aim is to minimize some possible causes and effects of evil, and in this sense there´s not much beyond education, openess, freedom, democracy, truth, knowledge, self-criticism and some core ethical universals, including punishment for transgressors. There´s no guarantees, but that´s the best one can do.

  2. Richard, you boiled it down to its perfect essence:
    “Humanists are, in fact, free riders. They come along after centuries of hard work in prime divider societies where the zero-sum dominating imperative ruled social and political relations. In those long and painful years, some people, driven to by a sense of divine authority, systematically, and at great personal cost (sometimes one’s very life) pursued the generous impulses of positive-sum interactions. Now that we’re raised in a civil society, where we’re trained from childhood to cooperate, to eschew violence, to seek the positive-sum interaction, such behavior comes much more easily.”

    Secular Humanists never come into the world and flourish under wild Pagan societies such as Rome and Greece. They always tag along by holding onto the fine self betterment broadcloth coat-tails of Judeo – Christian Monotheists cheering, ” Ah ha, now that we know the secrets, we need no God!” Without external moral codes by which to navagate, man is doomed to enjoyment and convenience , mob democracy at best, where a half dozen wolves and one sheep take a vote on, ‘what’s for dinner?’

    BTW this can be said simalarly of Communism / Socalism: Having observed how capitalism produces wealth, goods and services, the Maxists claim, ” Overthrow the rulers and let the people rule the means of production.” All is subsequently lost when the prime motivators of Capitalism, making a profit, free thinking, exploration, rule of law with equal access to justice, are lost. ‘Profit’ in the Socialist world is gained by obtaining political power, the only wealth available and it is available to very few through economic and physical oppression of the entire people. (And indeed, Marxists, Socialists and Communists consider themselves Secular Humanists of the First Order saving mankind through Atheism and Dictatorship. )

    • Richard Landes says:

      good point about capitalism and communism. indeed, as we are now seeing, when economies go south, the socialist impulse to help everyone has to be curbed. like so many other “moral” stances, the socialist impulse to protect citizens from “cradle to grave”, rather than acknowledge their debt to capitalist technology, present themselves as the superior and surpassing their originator.

  3. Michael Ejercito says:

    One point that I had made was this.

    People can prove that the base of the natural logarithm is transcendental and that Fermat’s Last Theorem is true, all without citing any sort of arbitrary mathematical authority. What is the proof that the Holocaust was wrong, WITHOUT appealing to an arbitrary moral authority?

    • RedPencil says:

      People have “proven” that the Holocaust was right, or justified, because of an arbitrary moral authority, too. Even some supposedly orthodox Jews have somehow come to this conclusion. (For the sake of everyone’s digestion I won’t give you the links, but you have probably seen them.)

      I guess that’s the problem with arbitrary moral authority, the whole “arbitrary” part.

  4. michal says:

    this is a kind of moral herd immunity:

    He can be confident of that only because he lives in a society so steeped in Judeo-Christian values that he takes those values for granted.
    .

  5. Aristotle Huge says:

    Let’s pretend it’s true because it’s good — this article is a prime example of the kind of thinking that does not argue to the facts but encourages people to ignore them: It is a *fact* whether a god exists or does not exist.

    The article shows the truth of Dan Dennet’s claim that many religious people don’t really believe — they just think it would be nicer if everyone pretended to believe.

    • Richard Landes says:

      it is a *fact* whether a god exists or does not exist.

      i don’t understand. i would think that anything that can’t be proved (like the existence of god) cannot be deemed a “fact.” i presume you think it’s a fact that god doesn’t exist. i think agnosticism is a far more responsible (and exegetically modest) position than the pseudo-science of atheism.

      as for dennet’s remark about religious people, like so much of his, and hitchens’ and dawkin’s work, it’s fighting the ghosts of christians (anglicans?) past. christianity (and islam in most of its current visible manifestations) are hooked on getting everyone else to “join up.” some religions (and i’d include most forms of judaism here) are more interested in how people behave than in what specifically they believe.

      indeed, one of my points, which you indirectly illustrate here, is that atheists seem to need to put religious believers down, another manifestation of the zero-sum, “i’m right ’cause you’re wrong” attitude that also marks christian and muslim supersessionism.

      • Jerry says:

        The reason Judaism relies upon behavior and not belief is that anyone who says he can prove God exists or does not exist is already a heretic. If God is a being of infinite dimensions and we cannot see past four (or maybe five) dimensions, what is it that we expect to know of God. People should be confused by God, not set straight. The Fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) saw ethical contradictions, Moses saw the back of God’s head, the prophets visions, the Rabbis saw infinite discourse on the law. Only when we know about God’s nature can we become mass killers.

  6. RedPencil says:

    Beg to differ.

    As a second or third generation humanist who was in fact taught to reason my way to goodness, I have always been puzzled by the connection many religious persons see between religion and morality. I acknowledge born and bred atheism as a particular quirk of my family, I don’t proselytize, I fully realize that most of the planet has been and on some level is and always will be partisans of one religious belief or another, and isn’t going to be converted by a stupid atheist billboard. However it has always struck me as deeply illogical to assume that because most people are religious, and most people have some sense of morality, that there is some relationship between the two. No, religion and morality are both in some way imbedded in the human genome, is all. Basic concepts of fairness and morality can be, and experimentally have been, expressed by chimps. Or crows, or dogs.

    This thesis, that morality has no basis outside of religion and that atheists are riding free on the goodness of believers, is a more intellectual version of the funny questions that believers have asked me over the years: “But if you don’t believe in God why don’t you just kill someone?” or, even more oddly, “If I didn’t believe in Heaven or Hell, like you, I could not see any reason not to just commit suicide!”

    • Richard Landes says:

      interesting comment. i do remember in grad school when we got to why other xn theologians condemned Origen as a heretic – because he thought that everyone, even Satan, would eventually be redeemed – one preppy undergrad (this was Princeton mind you) explained that of course you needed the notion of eternal hell. how else can you maintain social order without being able to threaten the masses with it? but this is hardly what religion is about, and certainly not the demotic religiosity that i think led to modern democracies.

      as for, if you don’t believe in god why not kill, that’s a pretty simplistic take on what i’m arguing. most cultures begin with the principle that you’re not a man until you’ve killed another man. overcoming that takes enormous effort. (Schumpeter allegedly said that capitalism was the first system where you cd be a man without killing another [which is not the same as saying capitalists don't kill].) i think you misunderstand what i’m saying, and you take for granted things you’ve gotten from your culture’s religious past.

      as for the argument that

      Basic concepts of fairness and morality can be, and experimentally have been, expressed by chimps. Or crows, or dogs.

      those experiments are hooked up by people. in real life, while these instincts may exist, they are largely drowned out by the demands of self-preservation. if we were genetically programmed to be “moral” or empathic, or fair, then history would not be the long and depressing story of oppression and violence that it is.

      • RedPencil says:

        No, we certainly aren’t genetically programmed to be moral, or fair. We are however programmed to recognize the concept and be duly outraged when WE are not treated fairly or justly. I have seen a three year old count the gifts he and his sibling received and glare balefully at me when he realized I gave his baby sister one more gift than I gave him. I doubt any ethical training is required for this.

        Which is a reasonable starting point from which we can use our intellects to a) rationalize our own immorality or unfairness, occasionally using religion to do so; or b) rationalize our way to the Hillel principle, Do not do unto others what you don’t want done unto you; or, perhaps most commonly, c) some interesting combination of A & B.

        Religion and morality have an intersection, but it is certainly not a set/subset relationship.

        • Richard Landes says:

          as the Athenians said to the Melians, “you only whine about fairness when you are in the weak position, if you were where we are, you’d be doing what we’re doing, for it has been a law long before our time and will be long after, that the strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must.”

          a sense fairness can lead to hatred and revenge (as per your example), rather than mutually fair treatment. getting people to be fair when they’re strong takes a great deal of effort. the American Constitution was the first time in the history of Christianity that toleration was the winner’s creed.

          if you will, consider religion as a scaffolding that inspires people to pursue fairness even when it’s counter-indicated. now that we have built a civil society, we may not need it.

          religious people fail, but i don’t think you’d get the critical mass of moral people to launch a civil society without the completely irrational commitment of demotic religiosity.

    • Cynic says:

      If we take the 10 Commandments as a moral guide, which today makes more sense than anything else on display in a currentlly decaying society, why was it accepted as coming from G0d and not disseminated as if it were the key to being invited to dinner parties?
      Unless the writers, so astute as psychologists realised that they had to dress them up as having come from a deity, to be accepted by the great unwashed.
      Knowing the actions of humanity and its unbounding perfidy would the hoi palloi just swallow the words of possible snake oil salesmen?
      The Bible has addressed the countless sins of humanity and over the millennia has manage to impart a certain standard of moral behaviour for societies to live in peace and to progress.
      We have seen the results of those who threw those “religious” morals out of the window, and now we witness the hypocrisy of Leftwing Clerics displaying the godlessness of their behaviour.
      Had there not been the Commandments to start with I think we’d be about where the Muslims are in Africa and Asia.Nobody would have been able to sell a moral code without a being to instill fear and hope.

  7. Aristotle Huge says:

    In answer to:
    “i don’t understand. i would think that anything that can’t be proved (like the existence of god) cannot be deemed a “fact.” i presume you think it’s a fact that god doesn’t exist. i think agnosticism is a far more responsible (and exegetically modest) position than the pseudo-science of atheism.”

    Most atheists do not necessarily reject the very small possibility of a god. A rational person refuses to believe, however, something for which there is no positive evidence. I consider myself atheistic as to the existence of an abominable snowman who writes computer games who lives on a moon in the Andromeda galaxy, too, even though I can’t absolutely prove it not to be so. We could get involved in some long winded argument about the definitions of atheism versus agnosticism of course, but as an atheist I am very well aware that _my_ atheism is based on the complete _lack_ of positive evidence.

  8. Aristotle Huge says:

    In answer to:
    “so why do you talk about the (non)existence of god as a *fact*?”

    Whether god exists or does not is a fact.

    What I can know about which one is true is limited to a probability, but I *DO* accept the law of the excluded middle!

    • Richard Landes says:

      i actually think that when dealing with such phenomena, the rules of science no longer apply. it’s a kind of imperialism that also gives us the “physics-envy” of the social sciences. but that’s another matter.

    • Markus says:

      Aristotle Huge was talking that God either exists or he doesn’t exist. He cannot “slightly” exist, or only on weekends, or he cannot just become to exist by make-believe. He also cannot exist and not exist at the same time, so a claim “God is beyond existence” is just not good enough for him.

      Richard was talking that because theism needs evidence or an argument, then also atheism needs an argument or evidence. We shouldn’t simply regard atheism as fact, if we cannot prove theism. He proposes agnosticism to be the “fall-back position”, if we have limited or no knowledge of the existence of God.

  9. Semmelweis says:

    TWO atheists? – What about Adolf Hitler?

    • D506 says:

      The belt buckles of German soldiers in WWII read “Gott Mit Uns”, translated to “God Is With Us”. Read a few pages into Mein Kampf, and you’ll see Hitler constantly appeals to God and a Creator.

      “What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and the reproduction of our race…so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe…Peoples that bastardize themselves, or let themselves be bastardized, sin against the will of eternal Providence.” – Adolf Hitler

      As for Mao and Stalin, they may have been atheist dictators and murderers, but they never killed for atheism. That’s the fundamental difference. There have been large numbers of wars and murders motivated strictly by religion. If being atheist and doing wrong is enough to blame atheism for the wrong, then the converse is true and being religious and doing wrong is sufficient to blame religion for that wrong – and you really don’t want to go down that road.

  10. Sérgio says:

    Theists have the onus of proof of the existence of God. For all we know of science, there´s no shred of evidence to sustain the belief in such a supernatural entity (and also for the flying spaghetti monster, unicorns, goblins, angels, dragons, etc). So, the plausible *hypothesis*, compatible with the bulk of science, is there´s no such thing. Of course, this is no absolute proof. But again, the onus are on theists.

    But, for God´s sakes (pun intended), are we really back to this sophomoric debate? That´s why I still don´t get the point of the essay at all. Are there smug atheists? yes!
    Big deal. Are there a lot of arrogant theists? Wow, sure, and for millenia they held the power. Is this news??

    • Richard Landes says:

      i think the point of the essay has to do with matters of morality. you think you can reason your way to moral behavior. i think that, except within a civil society where there’s lots of support for moral behavior (peer approval, responsive “others” who respect it), reason argues against morality. read my essay on the emotional dimensions of game theory and tell me what you think. in a society where envy is the norm, you have to be crazy to try and transcend it.

  11. “Buddhism and the God-idea”, by Nyanaponika Thera
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/godidea.html

    —-

    Acintita Sutta: Unconjecturable

    “There are these four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them. Which four?

    “The Buddha-range of the Buddhas[1] is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

    “The jhana-range of a person in jhana… [2]

    “The [precise working out of the] results of kamma[3]..

    “Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

    “These are the four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them.”

    Notes:

    [1] I.e., the range of powers (abilities) a Buddha develops as a result of becoming a Buddha.
    [2] I.e., the range of powers (abilities) that one may obtain while absorbed in jhana (jhana: ‘absorbtion’ (meditation)).
    [3] kamma (karma, in Sanskrit): (wholesome or unwholesome) intentional action

    —-

    The following is the basic teaching of the Buddha.

    The Four Noble Truths

    The truth of suffering (stress, unsatisfactoriness, suffering) – “Now this, monks, is the noble truth of stress: Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates[1] are stressful.” (from Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: Setting the Wheel of Dhamma[2] in Motion)

    The truth of the cause of suffering – The cause of suffering is craving – craving for sense-pleasure, craving for becoming (craving for existence; craving for being); craving for non-becoming (craving for non-existence; craving for non-being).

    The truth of the cessation of suffering – The cessation of suffering is caused by the cessation of craving.

    The truth of the path of practice that leads to the cessation of suffering – The path of practice that leads to the cessation of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

    Notes:

    1. The five clinging aggregates:

    Khandha Sutta: Aggregates

    At Savatthi. There the Blessed One said, “Monks, I will teach you the five aggregates & the five clinging-aggregates. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak.”

    “As you say, lord,” the monks responded.

    The Blessed One said, “Now what, monks, are the five aggregates?

    “Whatever form is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: That is called the form aggregate.

    “Whatever feeling is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: That is called the feeling aggregate.

    “Whatever perception is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: That is called the perception aggregate.

    “Whatever (mental) fabrications are past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: Those are called the fabrications aggregate.

    “Whatever consciousness is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: That is called the consciousness aggregate.

    “These are called the five aggregates.

    “And what are the five clinging-aggregates?

    “Whatever form — past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near — is clingable, offers sustenance, and is accompanied with mental fermentation: That is called the form clinging-aggregate.

    “Whatever feeling — past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near — is clingable, offers sustenance, and is accompanied with mental fermentation: That is called the feeling clinging-aggregate.

    “Whatever perception — past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near — is clingable, offers sustenance, and is accompanied with mental fermentation: That is called the perception clinging-aggregate.

    “Whatever (mental) fabrications — past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near — are clingable, offer sustenance, and are accompanied with mental fermentation: Those are called the fabrications clinging-aggregate.

    “Whatever consciousness — past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near — is clingable, offers sustenance, and is accompanied with mental fermentation: That is called the consciousness clinging-aggregate.

    “These are called the five clinging-aggregates.”

    2. dhamma (dharma, in Sanskrit): lit. ‘bearer’, constitution (or nature of a thing), norm, law, doctrine; justice, righteousness; quality; thing, object of mind ‘phenomenon’

    —-

    The non-doing of any evil,
    the performance of what’s skillful,
    the cleansing of one’s own mind:
    this is the teaching
    of the Awakened[1].

    – The Buddha

    Notes:

    1. Awakened Ones

    —-

    Repository of information about Theravada Buddhism and repository of english translations of many parts of the Tipitaka (“The Three Baskets”; the earliest surviving written recordings of the teachings of the Buddha)
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org

  12. Sérgio says:

    Now, this has become a Bhuddist site?? Good grief.

  13. What I wrote is about the conjecturing about the origin of the world (universe), and is about the nature of experience (the nature of existence; the nature of being), and is about morality (what are beneficial right actions).

  14. Sérgio says:

    Sorry, but it sounds like Bhuddist proselytism and I really can´t see how it contributes to the debate at all. What´s next. a msg from the pope?

  15. If some people were having a discussion about rocks and someone explained that rocks are composed of minerals, would that person be engaging in Mineralist proselytism?

  16. Sérgio says:

    I see, good straw man. So, let´s post the doctrines of all religions now, at least to be fair. :) Don´t forget to include Wiccan and Vegan.

    That´s what happens when there´s no clear focus of discussion, which was the first thing I questioned in this tread.

  17. Don’t be put off by what may seem to you to be the ‘religious’ (superstitious) tone of the Buddhist teachings (Theravada Buddhist teachings).

  18. What I wrote stands on its own.

    Its tone may cause you to viewed it with a certain context associated with it in your mind that is a context that, unfortunately, causes you to feel aversion to it and which, unfortunately, causes you to not want to look into it.

  19. It would be good to look into it.

  20. Sérgio says:

    Yes, I am sorry but I am not interested in Bhuddist or other indoctrination. I thought this site was for critical discussion, not for hare-krishna´s propaganda.

    Now, let me try again to bring some discussion in this confused tread. For instance, regarding communism, it was certainly a murderous secular ideology with clear religious overtones, of a messianic type. They intended to bring the new man in the inevitable proletarian paradise as “scientifically” predicted in Marx´s scriptures. Note also that, as do religions, they abhorr critical discussion of the sacred texts, even when the predictions turn out completely wrong and when their social engineering was causing massive suffering and death. It doesn´t seem that their main drive was atheism per se, but a secular milenarian cause to save the masses from their “opression” under the capitalist system, etc. I think it is curious that this clear connection with religion is missed by those criticizing atheism by means of communism horrors.

    • RedPencil says:

      Yep, ditto.

      Communism’s many strong analogies with various messianic movements (the White Lotus rebellion, for a well documented and relatively recent example) suggests that it uses many of the same neural & social paths as religion.

    • Richard Landes says:

      I have two chapters in my upcoming book on communism as a millennial movement, and i think that case more than any other (even Nazism about which i also have a chapter), expresses the difficulty of doing away with religion. it ends up coming in the back door.

      one of the things i point out is that communism’s morality is drawn from the prophets (another confirmation of the Jacoby thesis).

      but i don’t think you can dissociate communism from atheism. it’s like Muslims saying, “oh I don’t have anything to do with 9-11.” communists were committed atheists and derived their ideas from the “scientific” rejection of the “opiate of the masses.”

      • Sérgio says:

        Richard,

        What do you think of Micheal Burling´s book on Politics and Religion? (I read his history of the third reich, which is very good).

  21. Suit yourself.

    What I wrote are Buddhist teachings. They are not the teachings of the Hare Krishna religion nor of any other religion.

    It may be of interest to you that Sam Harris, who is a prominent advocate of atheism, is interested in Buddhist teachings.

  22. Sérgio says:

    Well, I don´t give a damn about Sam Harris´ beliefs, only about what he writes in a critical way, which is not that great either. Now, if you didn´t want to preach or impress, you could have just put a link to your Bhuddist site for those who might be interest, instead of posting a chunck of Bhuddist credo which brought nothing of substance whatsoever to the discussion.

    Trying again… What about nazi-fascism? Though a bit ambiguous and in fact, in its core basically anti-Christian and pagan-like, it nonetheless attracted a big chunk of catholic and protestant support, and the Church managed their interests with a concordat and basically shut up and conived. It´s known that the Church´s bells rang on Hitler´s birthdays and also, as far as I know, there was no excomunicated nazi. Surely the pope feared communist millenarism the most.

    • RedPencil says:

      I think Nazism is/was less of a religion, at least for most of its practitioners, than Communism. Just an observation. Probably biased by the former Nazis I have met, who seem to have viewed it as more of a political/social choice than a matter belief. Also by the fact that I have never seen Nazis standing in the rain to press their pamphlets upon me. Maoists, I have seen do precisely that, right alongside the Moonies.

      A willingness to stand in the rain for one’s beliefs… a dubious sort of litmus test?

    • Richard Landes says:

      I agree with your analysis, Sérgio. Indeed, Chamberlain saved Hitler’s ass because he feared communist millennialism more than the fascist variety.
      As for Red Pencil’s speculations based on current condition, i think you’d have to go back to the 30s to see Nazis behaving like missionary zealots. i think, if anything, they were even more explicitly religious, with lots of occult stuff taken from the Ariosophists (racist Theosophy).

      • RedPencil says:

        The occult stuff was esoterica, for the Nazi Inner Circle, not part of a mass movement. Yeah, it’s there. But, for most participants, it existed (awfully comfortably) alongside traditional branches of Christianity and did not seek to supplant them, fulfulling an ultranationalist, social goal, not so much a religion per se.

        As a reference: Louis Hagen’s The Mark of the Swastika is an interesting collage of interviews with Germans who had various roles in the Third Reich. There are several who were active or nominal Nazis, but only one true believer, who ostentatiously still wears his Iron Cross and describes a very religious “conversion” to National Socialism. The interview makes clear that the True Believer was often at odds with the more common “social nazis”. Hagen seems to have a sneaking affection for him, viewing him as an anomalous innocent who was seduced by ideology.

  23. My intention was not to impress. My intention was to help.

    I am not well, and my mind is not clean, and because of that, I do not have the ability to help others, so I’ll follow the Buddha’s advice and help myself.

    • I’ll strive to follow the Buddha’s teachings and I’ll try to help myself and I’ll try to help others if I can and I’ll strive to not cause harm to others and I’ll strive to not cause harm to myself.

  24. Sérgio says:

    Well, both the nazis and the commies would die for their beliefs, I mean, mainly through their followers, as usual; but preferably they would kill those that didn´t share their cause. Another similarity with religions: intolerance regarding the “infidel”.
    It was secularization that helpe ending the religious wars in Europe; trouble is that ideologies quickly worked as substitutes. Again, I don´t think that people have been killed in droves because they were *not* atheists. Even in the communist countries the main enemies were class enemies and dissenters of every kind.

    Overall it seems atheism per se is much less harmful than religions and the secular ideologies.

    • RedPencil says:

      Atheism, per se, being simply the absence of theism, I don’t see as being per se the cause of much of anything. We genuine atheists are too few to have much of an impact.

      Religion can be a cause of good (as when the Pope decreed against enslavement and maltreatment of Indians in the new world, so that the Indians would welcome the True Catholic Faith) or a justification of evil (as when the Spaniards suppressed this pronouncement and continued their maltreatment of the Indians for the sake of the advancement of that same True Catholic Faith).

      In John Lennon’s imaginary world where there is no religion I think people who justify their crimes with religion would probably justify them some other way. So I’m not going to get too bent out of shape attributing all of mankind’s failings to religion, either.

  25. Sérgio says:

    Agreed, but still, I also think that Dawkins is right when he says religions still get much underserved respect and moral authority and get all stirred when this is pointed out, talking a bit hysterically about the eminent atheistic takeover or something, or how society is goin´down the drain because of atheism, materialism, etc, which is a recycled old canard.

  26. Sérgio says:

    By the way, Lennon was very naive politically speaking; and his vision of a world without countries and religions is as utopic as ever.

  27. Stuart Green says:

    “…where alpha males use violence with impunity to dominate others…”

    Something shown to me on a recent trip to the M.E. Observe and enjoy:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pK0iBqu2nCU

    • E.G. says:

      Ciao Stu,

      How’s the book?

    • Cynic says:

      Do you consider an “alpha male” a person using his position as a force to dominate or one who actually has personal force?
      I have seen a real “weed” behaving like a psychopathic despot with the help of the thugs craving the religion’s privileges.

  28. Sérgio says:

    Yeah, Lennon was naive…:) Now, Ringo, on the other hand…

    Richard,

    I don´t see why science cannot help understanding moral issues. I think this is an artificial attempt to isolate the realm of morality from scrutiny, as if it were the privilege of philosophers, or worse, of religious people. Without incurring
    in the “naturalistic fallacy”, I don´t see why there can´t be a science-informed morality. Moreover, the ethic of science, as pioneered by Merton´s studies, has much to contribute to a modern discussion of ethics. In fact, moderne science is an activity which prizes criticism, honesty, openess, discussion, scrutability, anti-dogmatic and anti-authoritarian, basically everything all fundamentalists abhorr.

    • Richard Landes says:

      there’s no question that science is the product of several moral stances: Steven Shapin, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England (University of Chicago Press, 1994). Indeed the ability to “take criticism” publicly is necessary and very emotionally taxing. See Menahem Fisch, Rational Rabbis, for some interesting parallels between the “intellectual project” of the Talmud and that of early modern Science.

      but whether or not moral values contribute to science, it’s not clear that the obverse is true, i.e., that scientific investigation can contribute to morality. i have a u-tube video of Sam Harris on this i haven’t yet listened to. I’m open to an argument, but skeptical. Most of what I’ve read so far seems like “free riding” on the social norms established by demotic religiosity.

      • Sérgio says:

        Richard,

        There are many ways science can contribute to morality, not only in a normative sense, by the practice of the ethics of science (as mentioned before, the ethos of free and disinterested search for truth, universalism, organized scepticism, critical thinking, logic, clarity, self-correction, openess to scrutinity, empirical test, etc), but also in trying to understand its workings. Of course, theoretical physics won´t be of much value, but exact philosophy, biology, scientific psychology and anthropology, neuroscience, primatology,mathematics, histo etc, can give valuable insights.

        For instance:

        Primatology: Studies of social behavior of our primate cousins could shed so light about the evolution of moral and political behavior, dominance, alliances, etc, check the work of Franz de Waal.

        Scientific psychology: for instance, the classic experiment of Stanley Milgram, or the theory of cognitive dissonance; the influence of emotions on decision making, and the developement of empathy and morality from childhood onwards] (check the book by Martin Hoffman), and myriad other researches, including of psychopathologies, social psychology, cognition, learning, etc

        Neuroscience: tons of stuff, obviously connected to psychology; e.g., the role of emotions and brain wiring (check LeDoux´s and Damasio´s works), brain structural alteration and biochemistry, how notions of justice, fairness, etc are link to different brain areas and the mutual influences of planing, imagination of consequences of actions, social clues, etc;

        • Sérgio says:

          Evolution & biology: surely linked to the previous ones; how morality evolved, what are the possible darwinian scenarios in hominid evolution; the possible malajustment from small nomadic groups to huge and complex civilizations; the link with language, affection and hormones; sex roles and division of labor, etc, etc

          Philosophy: rational and comparative studies of ethics amd morality in diferent societies and periods; the role of religions and the state; the search for universal moral values and particular solutions; the ethics of war and conflict in general, etc,etc,etc,etc… Decision making under uncertainty, the role of education.]

          It is almost endless contributions. Of course, each and every approach has limitations and should be tested for coherence and, when possible, empirical test and the possibility of mathematical modelling (even if highy idealized).

  29. Sérgio says:

    Surely atheism is part of the communist outlook, but my point was that its main role there was to maintain an anti-clerical stance (as religions were always part of the status-quo) and serve as a “scientific credentials” for their supposedly objective theories. I still don´t think it was the main deadly component of the movement per se, whose dogmatism (and insecurity) was so severe that it could only deal with dissent by exterminating the dissenters. Again, this is very similar to the militant phases of religions.

    • Richard Landes says:

      religion wasn’t always part of the status quo, which is why there was an inquisition. demotic religiosity is subversive of authoritarian rule. if hierarchical religion is the opiate of the masses (pie in the sky by and by), then apocalyptic millennialism (perfection on earth now) is the psychedelic amphetimine.

      and science played more than an anti-clerical role. it promised truth to the (lame) predictions of marx and his epigones. I’ll post the passage from my book on this.

      • Sérgio says:

        Sure, but in the context we are discussing, the Enlightenment, etc, Christianity was a major power broker, authoritarian and obscurantist, almost always on the side of the status quo. So, the attacks on it by the philosophes was but natural, but, as usual, it went overboard, as in the hysterical example of Voltaire.

  30. Rich Rostrom says:

    If morality is impossible without revealed religion, then how is it that there was any morality among the classical Greeks and Romans?

    Their gods did not hand down moral laws – indeed the gods were well known to behave immorally.

    Why is there any morality in Japan? Only a handful of Japanese are Christians; the Shinto religion is a folk ritual; and Buddhism is seriously followed by only a minority.

    Why is there any morality in China (both now and historically)? The moral principles laid down by Confucius and other philosophers were not connected to any divine commandments.

    Indeed, one reason Christianity had difficulty in winning converts in Imperial China was the continual Christian insistence that moral principles are what God says they are. To the Chinese, this was absurd. God cannot make something right or wrong, by his will, any more than God can make a number odd or even by his will. Right and wrong are intrinsic qualities, determined by reason and instinct.

    • RedPencil says:

      Good questions. Why, indeed.

      The answers I have heard from the more enlightened religious, are basically that even heathens know Right from Wrong because there is an intrinsic Right and Wrong that God has stamped upon their minds, or they wouldn’t know what they were. They view this as an additional (Platonist?) proof of God, rather than evidence that an Abrahamic God is not strictly necessary.

      You see what you want to see, I guess.

    • Richard Landes says:

      I think the answers here have more to do with the workings of “honor-shame” culture than with “morality.” We are genetically programmed to a) imitate the behavior of others; and b) seek approval from others (esp those more powerful than we are). So what you call morality is the result of people following a set of social conventions. Morality (at least as I understand it in this context), as opposed to conformity, is the issue of how you behave when people don’t know what you’re up to, or don’t have the power to object (ie you can get away with it).

      the Athenians, whose moral principles you cite above made it clear to the Melians that “those who can do what they will and those who cannot suffer what they must.” Is that morality?

      not all moralities say the same thing. some consider consensus and harmony so high a value that dissent and criticism are stifled; others risk change and even anarchy in pursuit of dissent and criticism. which culture is more moral, that of dispute or of consensus?

      as the extreme levels of morality that we find in many mystical traditions (self-sacrifice for the sake of others’ well-being, ahimsa (non-violence), loving your enemy as your self), are these “reasoned”? are they applicable to all mankind? The only way i see science (in this case evolutionary anthropology) being useful here is in offering some sense of the limitations of our capacities so that the more demanding moralities don’t become the cause of crushing sense of inadequacy (eg see Bruckner, The Tyranny of Guilt).

      • RedPencil says:

        That’s what the Athenians said according to Thucydides anyway. In passages where it sure sounds like Thucydides was pointing out the immorality, as well as the disastrous practical consequences, of that position. Which would indicate that Thucydides for one shared your concept of morality, no? :)

      • RedPencil says:

        PS, the Bible plainly states that King David violated most of the Ten Commandments, sometimes two at a time in a most egregious manner, as in the case where he has Bathsheba’s husband killed.

        Yet this is not offered as proof that the ancient Israelites (or the Bible) were immoral. Nor should it be. These historic events (GOTTA be historical, NO one would’ve made that stuff up!) are presented as proof that the ancient Israelites, their prophets and even their kings were in fact moral actors, with consciences and so forth, that bad actions have bad consequences, and other forms of moral edification.

        I suggest the same standards be applied to the ancient Athenians & their chronicler, particularly in the case of Thucydides.

        • E.G. says:

          Sorry, either I didn’t get your account or you didn’t get the Biblical one. King David was both reprimanded (by the prophet Nathan) and punished (divinely) for his immoral acts.
          He repented too.

          • RedPencil says:

            Yes, that was kind of my point.

            In the lines to the Melians RL quotes, Thucydides was (among many other things) describing the political and moral transgressions of the Athenians that resulted in their comeuppance. As the Bible does for King David. Different transgressions, different comeuppance, but both are stories with “morals”.

            Saying that speeches quoted (probably embellished, possibly invented) by Thucydides prove the Athenians did not have morality, is tantamount to saying that the Bible proves the Israelites in general and King David in particular had no morality. The reverse is true, in both cases. Neither story would be told if there weren’t a moral or two being drawn.

    • Cynic says:

      Depends on how one defines morality.
      Who says that morality in China (both now and historically) is identical to Western morality both now and historically?
      If there is to be found a certain similarity here and there it could very well be from interaction of some of the two peoples.

      • E.G. says:

        Aye.

        And hi too :-)

      • Richard Landes says:

        i think there a basic elements that come out everywhere. a people are stuck between their personal and group needs and desires and a sense of fairness. so every culture has to deal with the problem of power: those who can do what they will, those who cannot suffer what they must (libido dominandi. when weak, we want fairness, when strong we want to do what we want. the degree of hierarchy/harmony vs. egalitarianism/dispute that different cultures favor represents the degree to which they resolve this dilemma by trying to tame the libido dominandi by legitimating it, or by opposing it. western extremism in the attack on libido dominandi is, i think, at its heart biblical (demotic millennial) and unusual. (Christopher Hill points out how in 17th century England (Civil War), the Antichrist was identified with any effort to create hierarchy.

    • Markus says:

      “If morality is impossible without revealed religion, then how is it that there was any morality among the classical Greeks and Romans?”

      The argument was not that human beings cannot be moral or cannot know good from evil without revealed religion. It’s that a revealed religion usually presupposes a personal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being who is the ultimate standard of goodness, and who has brought his knowledge and will to human beings. This brings objective morality to human beings outside of humanity, so “morality” is not simply a human convention or social construct. This is now meta-ethics.

      It’s true that different cultures have had different approaches to morality, you brought up Greek gods, Japan and Confucius. But by saying that different cultures have “morality”, you already assume that there exists objective moral values. It’s a different thing to say that objective morality exists (ontology) than human beings can know right from wrong (epistemology). To get knowledge from a certain object, it must first exist. Revealed religion, like Judaism or Christianity, gives you the existence of moral values.

      How human beings get knowledge from right and wrong? This is a good question. A Christian answer is, that God has implanted human beings with conscience, or ethical intuition of what is right or wrong. However, this moral compass can go wrong because of original sin, so God who gives revealed knowledge of good and evil is essential. Without it, human beings have different desires, but without a direction from outside of humanity conscience alone is not reliable.

      “Right and wrong are intrinsic qualities” I previously thought that objective morality exists abstractly, and human beings can grasp it (trying to understand how conscience works). But without God, I see no reason for them to exist. If your toolbox contains only chance, matter, energy and the laws of nature (basically just chance), there’s just too big a gap to get from “is” to “ought”. David Hume wrote that you can’t get an “ought” from “is”.

      However, if we still believe that one can have objective morality without God, and they are found by reason, it boils down to some person inventing an ethical theory / social contract by which human beings should live. But if a person does not accept this theory, he is not bound by it. What then? Does this justify that the rest can force their version of morality to the unwilling person?

      • Sérgio says:

        The fact that religion posits an externally given ethical code, it doesn´t mean that code is the one to live by. Maybe one could select some ideas and discard others. In the end the moral codes of a given society (and there are many, official and unofficial, written and unwriten, etc) is reach after this society´s history, initial conditions and choices. Surely there is a minimum set of rules that allows for people´s day-to-day biological survival (food, clothing, some security) but the rest is a “consensus”. The West finally reached a code which supports democracy, a basic egalitarian justice and a huge range of individual freedom of choice and conscience which gives some opportunities for people to develop their talents and to strive for their legitimate goals though merit. It´s never perfect and never will be, because humans are not perfect, and it is pretty recent in human history. I think one can argue that this arrangement is better than tyranies, totalitarian dictatorships and stifling or murderous dogmatisms.

        • Markus says:

          “The fact that religion posits an externally given ethical code, it doesn´t mean that code is the one to live by.”

          You’re right about this in the sense, that merely the existence of a religion with revealed knowledge of right and wrong does not justify believing in it. However, if one certain religion is true, then it becomes important to live by it. But justification for believing in, say, Judaism / Christianity, can be argued also on other grounds (other than the existence of objective moral values).

          “Maybe one could select some ideas and discard others.”

          Seems reasonable at first glance. But this easily leads to “buffet” approach to world religions: I like this belief, so I believe it.

          “Surely there is a minimum set of rules that allows for people´s day-to-day biological survival ”

          One can for example argue that killing other human beings creates problems in the herd, so its should be avoided. This approach leads to “morality” = “what society finds acceptable conduct”. But this is not equal to what is objectively right. I could say, that one shouldn’t wear white socks with a tuxedo, but it’s not wrong or evil to have white socks with a tuxedo, it’s merely going against the current social contract. Moreover, I cannot see a moral reason for biological survival, everyone is still bound to die some day.

          One note on the use of words: “murder” already presupposes that killing a human being is a wicked act. How can this be justified? Well, Judeo-Christian doctrine that human beings have equal moral values because they are made in the image of God. Another supernatural belief, and ethical justification outside of humanity. As an added bonus, because the sanctity of life is not just a social contract made by humans but rather is given outside of humanity, no man can take it away.

          Note that above is not an argument for the existence of God, rather that this is one corollary of believing in God of the Bible.

          • Sérgio says:

            I don´t understand what you mean by “if a religion is true”. Truth can be factual (adequation to facts) or formal (consistency) and religions statements of facts are in complete conflict with science (existence of supernatural beings, miracles, cures, reincarnation, etc, etc). One can of course take some ethical norms from certain religions and claim that they are reasonable or desirable to be followed, say, by arguing it helps to live a bearable existence, or that helps current society to stand, or that they promote some fairness, etc, and to that extent to say that those precepts are “true”.

            As for non-religious motivation for ethical beliefs, once can argue that humans have a capacity for empathy, a biologically base motivation to form emotional and social bonds with other people (generally close ones) and that this is the basis of social rules, including ethical ones, and their increasing sophistication as societies get more complex. Of course, humans also have the opposite capacity, and that´s the in nature of the beast. That is, humans are neither essentially good nor essentially evil, but ambivalent, and a myriad factors (internal and external) will determine the balance in each individual.

  31. gail says:

    Your analysis reminds me of Nietzsche’s “Christianity without Christ,” which he considered unsustainable beyond a generation or two.

  32. incognito says:

    A source just a bit more serious:

    AA: Anthony, you’re nodding in agreement. But is there an argument that the good perhaps even in atheist people today is something that is the result of religion’s influence?

    AC Grayling: “No. If you think about the dominance of Christianity in Europe, which really took hold right about the fourth century AD, that was nearly 1,000 years after Socrates and Plato and Aristotle had begun to think about the nature of the good and the good society. Have a look at the New Testament documents or those that were selected by the church as canonical. They say: give away all your money, turn your back on your family if they don’t agree with you. If people do bad things, help them to do them more, turn your other cheek. Take no thought for tomorrow, make no plans.

    “This was a morality, an unliveable morality premised on the idea that the world was very shortly to end, it was going to end next week or next month.

    “And when after several centuries had passed by and the parousia hadn’t happened, they began to import wholesale the wonderful heritage of ethics that had been discussed by the Stoics and the Epicurians and the Aristotelians for centuries before their time.

    “What we think of as distinctive of western morality has its roots in the non-religious secular tradition of ethics that comes from classical antiquity.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/nov/21/is-god-good-debate

  33. Markus says:

    “John Boswell began his book on child abandonment in Western History, The Kindness of Strangers, by citing several early Christian theologians who inveigh against their parishoners going to houses of prostitution, not because they might cheat on their wives, but because they might commit incest.”

    I’d want you to be more clear on this issue. Did Boswell’s book claim, that early Christian theologians argued against going into brothels, or did they claim that adultery was OK?

    There’s a subtle difference, which can be grasped like this: suppose I had a quarrel with my brother, got very angry and began to harbor thoughts about violence and even murder. Now, if a person argues that I shouldn’t kill my brother, because this is an atrocious act, is he claiming that some regular violence (beatings or so) is OK?

    Another example: a father with a teenage daughter gets to know that her daughter plans to abort her child. The father pleads that she wouldn’t do that. Is he now claiming that free sexual relations among teenagers (not married) is OK?

    Without further knowledge, I interpret that these early theologians already knew that adultery was a sin (it’s in the 10 commandments, so pretty hard to miss for a theologian) and were simply arguing against committing an even greater sin. If Richard can clear this passage, please post back.

    • RedPencil says:

      On adultery:

      Going into brothels is not, according to persons who strictly construe Latin or Hebrew, “adultery”. This is because in a classical ceremony only the married WOMAN is consecrated and therefore susceptible of being “adulterated”. Adultery by this definition (the definition common through much of history) meant sex with a married woman. While the man who did this was guilty, his own marital status was most often irrelevant; having sex with a prostitute, or, indeed, any unmarried woman, would be mere “fornication”.

      Lest you think this is some bit of medieval trivia, to my horror I have actually heard male Americans (Jewish and Catholic) use this line of “religious” logic to defend their infidelities within the past decade, and why they feel they told their wives the simple truth when they said they had not committed “adultery”.

      • Cynic says:

        to my horror I have actually heard male Americans (Jewish and Catholic) use this line of “religious” logic to defend their infidelities within the past decade,

        You should have been pleased that they exposed themselves for what they are, insincere and with no integrity. Certainly don’t buy anything from them.
        There are all types of psyches on the march and some are too cowardly to own up to the fact that they succumbed and broke a trust. Too cowardly to face the consequences of their acts so they look for any excuse that supposedly gets them off the hook.
        By the way the definition of fornication according to Merriam-Webster is consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other so those husbands would be lying to themselves by distorting the meaning of the word.
        I suppose destroying the true meaning of words nowadays has become a cliché!
        Slightly OT but a student at Cambridge Univ in England using the original meaning of the word Rogue trounced Tony Blair’s sister-in-law in a debate on Israel. Scroll down to Gabriel Latner’s Why Israel is a Rogue State actual speech.
        It shines a light on how the clichés used daily have little bearing on the meanings for honest discussion.

  34. “Humanists are, in fact, free riders”

    Well by that logic then Christians were ‘free riders’ on Judaism and all manner of schools of ancient Greek thought. Fair enough but ‘free rider’ is clearly a pejorative way to describe what might be better described as ‘evolutionary change’ or even ‘progress’.

    Sure, western social evolution is steeped in its Christian past… and that means the good *and* bad bits… the spread of Christianity occurred at spear point in much of the world. You think Wotan went quietly into the night? And I’ll see your Aquinas and raise you an Albigensian Crusade if you want to play that game… but it is an arid pointless game to play.

    A better understanding is surely that social attitudes and moral theories evolve (the two are related but by no means the same thing), and although I am a shoulder shrugging atheist myself (as opposed to the evangelical Dawkins kind), I have no problem at all seeing the merit in a great deal of Christian moral reasoning or in accepting the Christian historical basis for my ideas… indeed I think some areas of Christian moral theorising are so sound it actually works just fine without involving deities at all.

    Humanist moral theories owe much to Christian moral theories, but things move on. The whole ‘God’ bit is an answer to a question I never asked and can be zero’ed out of many Christian ideas that stand on their own merits just fine.

    • Richard Landes says:

      i use the term to designate the tendency of the humanists to disdain their origins (poor, superstitious cousins), rather than acknowledge their debt and the – gasp – possibility that they still have something to learn. let’s take for example the repeated command in the hebrew bible that a judge should favor neither the powerful (the obvious temptation) nor the poor. in other words justice should not be subordinated to desires to redistribute income. today, the secular humanists have a distinct tendency to follow what Bertrand Russell called the “fallacy of the moral superiority of the oppressed.”

      • Sérgio says:

        de Havilland: ditto! I don´t know who are those secular humanists which won´t recognize their debt to the past, taking the achievements and rejecting, yes, superstition and supernatural nonsense. Nobody rejects, for instance, the Greek legacy in philosophy and mathematics, but no one takes seriously that pantheon of bitching gods. The same goes with the monotheistic religions: I don´t need to believe in the flying spaghettin monster to recognize some valuable ethical and moral thinking of Judaism and Christianity; nor am I supposed to accept their many superstitious nonsense.

        Same with secular philosophies, which should be constantly criticized and scrutinized for their validity, their self-consistenty, their match with reality and their consistency with what is known of the sciences (physical, biological, human, social, etc). So, the Enlightenment was naive in the belief that humans are naturally good and that society/education/environment are to blame for human evil. That education and social improvement are key to human progress, no one doubts, but it was naive to think they will solve everything and bring eternal peace and happiness. The human condition is much more complex that the philosophes thought, and I agree with John Kekes that the fundamental trait of humanity is its ambivalence: humans are neither essentially good nor essentially evil, but ambivalent, and subject to a host of influences, internal (emotional, neurological, biological, psychological) and external (social values, upbringing, educational, moral, etc), which interact in complicated ways in each person´s life.

        • “…humans are neither essentially good nor essentially evil, but ambivalent, and subject to a host of influences, internal (emotional, neurological, biological, psychological) and external (social values, upbringing, educational, moral, etc), which interact in complicated ways in each person´s life…”

          Exactly so.

          Humans, though, have the ability to discern what actions will cause suffering – one’s own suffering, and other’s suffering (which to a highly developed person – a person with a high moral character – a person with a good heart – a person with a kind heart – will be felt as one’s own suffering through empathy) and what actions will cause the avoidance of suffering.

          Human beings have the opportunity to develop their minds – their understanding and their behavior – their temperament – their character – so that they can avoid causing suffering to themselves and others.

          One who is a human being has the opportunity to develop one’s own mind – one’s own understanding and one’s own behavior – one’s own temperament – one’s own character – so that one can avoid causing suffering to oneself and to others.

    • Markus says:

      “I have no problem at all seeing the merit in a great deal of Christian moral reasoning or in accepting the Christian historical basis for my ideas… indeed I think some areas of Christian moral theorising are so sound it actually works just fine without involving deities at all.”

      Remember that Christian moral reasoning begins from the premise that God exists and all theorising rests on that basis. If you remove an “outer reality” from humanity (read: God), you take away the first step in the chain of moral reasoning. In the end, you may end up in a logically satisfactory model for ethics, but no basis for supposing it’s true.

      I’ll give a little bit provocative example: suppose a physicist (say an atheist) converts to Buddhism. Before this incident, he studied the motion of matter and different effects on it. However, Buddhism teaches that the underlying reality is wholly spiritual, and the very idea of matter is simply an illusion! The physicist can still fiddle with his equations, but the basic premise for his work (that there indeed is matter which exists and interacts with other matter) is now blown away.

      • Daniel Bielak says:

        The original teachings of the Buddha do not teach that everything is an illusion.

        The original teachings of the Buddha teach that that which is the case is that which is the case.

        The goal of the teachings of the Buddha is to enable one to not cause suffering to oneself and to others and is to enable one to end one’s own suffering.

        —-

        If you believe that there is a being who created/creates the universe, then: who or what created that being? If you believe that no being created that being, then: that which you believe as being the case is the same as the universe not having been created by any being.

        If you believe that a being created/creates the universe, then why does suffering exist? If you believe that the being that you believe created/creates the universe is all-powerful then: that being is sadistic, because suffering exists.

        The Buddha said that he did not discern a creator being that created the universe. The Buddha said that all beings, whether they at any particular time, are born as beings whose actions have little effect on other beings, or whether they, at any particular time, are born as beings whose actions have great effect on other beings, are subject to the results of their own actions.

        It is my understanding that physicists have discovered that matter (all particles – including particles of atoms), per se, does not exist in terms that are conventionally thought of as matter existing. It is my understanding that physicists have discovered that all matter is – vibrations – which my understanding is: movement: movements in relationship to each other. Movement of what? Just movement. Only movement. Motion. Action.

        The following is what the Buddha taught.

        The truth of suffering

        The truth of the cause of suffering (craving)

        The truth of the cessation of suffering (the cessation of craving)

        The truth of the path of practice that leads to the cessation of suffering

        • Markus says:

          “The original teachings of the Buddha do not teach that everything is an illusion.”

          That is not what I said. I claimed that Buddhism teaches that the (material) world around us is an illusion, which hinders us to understand and reach a greater stage of being: that of becoming one with the world, liberation from the self, and thus ending all pain, suffering, misery and such things in the world.

          “If you believe that there is a being who created/creates the universe, then: who or what created that being? If you believe that no being created that being, then: that which you believe as being the case is the same as the universe not having been created by any being.”

          No philosopher currently defends the idea that the universe exists necessarily. This would mean, that every particle exists necessarily in it’s current configuration (your coffee mug is white because there’s no other possibility). No way. So the universe is contingent. One way to explain the universe is to say that it has no cause for its existence, which is almost as wild an idea as one can get: imagine a ball popping into existence on the top of your bed, and imagine it had no cause. Now make the ball bigger and bigger, until you get the universe. Believing in a cosmic creator becomes easy.

          For a theistic God to exist, he must transcend space and time, and be uncaused. Endless regression of gods or other causes for the universe would be an actual infinite, and I don’t believe one exists. Infinite is just a useful mathematical concept. This kind of God is necessarily existing, enormously powerful, independent being.

          “If you believe that a being created/creates the universe, then why does suffering exist? If you believe that the being that you believe created/creates the universe is all-powerful then: that being is sadistic, because suffering exists.”

          I know this is an important question, I have pondered it too, and so have many, many secular and theistic philosophers. I can give you a blunt (and unsatisfactory) statement that there is no logical contradiction between statements “God exists” “Evil exists”. Alvin Plantinga, a Christian philosopher, has a defence of this:

          1. Having a universe with human beings posessing free will is morally superior to other universes.
          2. If human beings were forced to do good, that would undermine the existence of free will.
          3. God must bring to being the best possible world.
          4. It follows that God must create a world with human beings posessing free will.
          5. This means that God is not responsible if human beings choose to do evil: He cannot compel human beings to always do good.

          “The argument from morality” and “the problem of evil” are in my view two side of the same coin. Theists argue: If objective morality exists, then God exists ( if God doesn’t exist, then objective morals don’t exist). Atheists argue: If evil exists, then God doesn’t exist. But to assume evil exists, one must first assume that good exists.

          My original point was this:

          Before: materialist physicist, believes the material world is the ultimate ground of being, studies it with physics.

          After: buddhist physicist, believes the spiritual world is the ultimate ground of being, material world causes sufferering and hinders people on their way to Nirvana. Physics becomes a logically satisfactory model for the world, but it no longer has a grounding, because the material world doesn’t really exist.

          • Sérgio says:

            Sorry, but “buddhist physicist” can be a buddhist in his private life, and has the unalienable right to do so. But as a working physicist, his buddhism, christianity, judaism, etc is totally irrelevant, unless he wants to sell new age books and spread pseudo-science. And in fact, those beliefs are in flagrant contradiction with the bulk of science, inasmuch as they suppose the existence of a supernatural entity and allows violations of natural laws (aka miracles) for which there are no evidence whatsoever. In fact, as far as we know, a materialist ontology (aka metaphysics), a realist epistemology and a fallibilist & meliorist methodology are the philosophical pressupositions most compatible with science.

          • Daniel Bielak says:

            What is morality?

            Morality is the avoidance of causing oneself and others to experience suffering.

            Morality is dependant on the nature of the universe that living beings experience being born in, and experience living in, and experience dying in.

            The view that morality is abstractly “good”, and, thereby, abstractly “superior”,
            and the view that there exists a creator being who “is” moral,
            which is a view that that creator being is “good”, and, thereby, “superior”,
            and the view that that creator being created onself (created the one who is holding that view),
            which is the view that oneself is like that creator being,
            and which is, in fact, the view that that creator being is like oneself,
            and which is, in fact, the view that oneself is “good”, and thereby, “superior”,
            is the holding of one of the nine types of the wrong view self-conceit.

            It is the type of wrong view self-conceit in which one thinks: “I am superior.”

            The wrong view self conceit is the wrong view in which one thinks: “‘I’ am.”

            The following are the nine types of self-conceit.

            Thinking “I am superior” when oneself is inferior
            Thinking “I am equal” when oneself is inferior
            Thinking “I am inferior” when oneself is inferior

            Thinking “I am superior” when oneself is equal
            Thinking “I am equal” when oneself is equal
            Thinking “I am inferior” when oneself is equal

            Thinking “I am superior” when oneself is superior
            Thinking “I am equal” when oneself is superior
            Thinking “I am inferior” when oneself is superior

            The Buddha taught that what is, in fact, the case is that “self” – that which ordinary human beings view as being one’s own”self” – is a group of aggregates – the five aggregates.

            The five aggregates are: form, feeling, perception, mental fabrications, consciousness.

            What is “free will”?

            “Free will” is the desire to do an action – any particular action.

            What causes one to desire to do an action – any particular action?

            Desire to do an action – any particular action – is caused by desire to experience that which is pleasant, and is caused by desire to avoid experiencing that which is unpleasant.

            The nature of the desire to do an action – any particular action – is dependant on the nature of the universe in which living beings experience being born in and experience living in and experience dying in.

            The following is what the Buddha said about suffering (stress).

            “Now this, monks, is the noble truth of stress: Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.”

            The five clinging aggregates are the five aggregates in the case when, in each case, each aggregate “is clingable [by ["the"] mind], offers [mental] sustenance, and is accompanied with mental fermentation”.

            Suffering (stress) is caused by craving (clinging) – craving for sense-pleasure, and craving for being, and craving for non-being.

            The goal whose reaching is that which the Buddha taught is the cessation of suffering.

          • Daniel Bielak says:

            I didn’t express well what I meant to express, and I think that some of the things that I expressed may be wrong.

            What I mean is:

            I think that “free will” is constituted by perception and consciousness.

            I think that “free will” is directed by desire for pleasure and by aversion to pain.

            I think that “free will” is not immoral and that “free will” is not moral.

            Morality is the thinking of thought, and the speaking of speech, and the doing of action, that will not cause harm to oneself and that will not cause harm to others, and that, therein, will not cause oneself to experience suffering, and will not cause others to experience suffering.

            Morality is the thinking of right thought, and the speaking of right speech, and the doing of right action.

            It is not beneficial to conjecture about the origin of the universe.

            It is beneficial to not cause any harm to oneself or to others.

            If oneself is experiencing suffering, then it is beneficial to do actions that will cause the cessation of one’s own suffering.

            It is beneficial to not think wrong thought, and to not speak wrong speech, and to not do wrong action.

            It is beneficial to think right thought, and to speak right speech, and to do right action.

            —-

            The following is true, but I know that the following writing may not be beneficial, but I am writing it because am only human, and because I am under much stress.

            Christianity is a religious ideology that was invented by a Jewish man (Paul (Saul (Sol)) of Tarsus) approximately two thousand years ago, and Christianity is religious ideology of which the structure of its central mythological narrative, which is it’s central tenet, is similar to the structure of the mythological narrative of, and a tenet of, religions (Greek and Egyptian) that were prominent in the Mediteranean around the time that that Jewish man lived, which was a mythological narrative and tenet which was the worhip of a human born sun-god who rescues the world from evil (darkness) and who is killed by the forces of evil (darkness), and Christianity is a religious ideology whose earliest main adherents and developers were a people (the Romans (Italians)) who, approximately one thousand and nine hundred years ago, committed genocide against the Jewish people, and Christianity is a religious ideology whose main central tenet is the worship, as a deity, of a Jewish man (Jesus (Yeshua)) who was killed by the people (the Romans) who, approximately one thousand and nine hundred years ago, commited genocide against the Jewish, and Christianity is a religious ideology which, as a tenet, explicitely cosmically vilifies the Jewish people as being inherently evil, and Christianity is a religious ideology which, as a tenet, explicitely accuses the Jewish people, as a group, of having killed the Jewish man (Jesus (Yeshua)) who was killed by the people (the Romans) who, approximately one thousand and nine hundred years ago, commited genocide against the Jewish people, and who is a Jewish man (Jesus (Yeshua)) who is worshiped as a deity by Christianity, as a tenet, and Christianity is a religious ideology which utterly usurped the traditional religion of the Jewish people, and, as a part of that, utterly usurped the cultural historical narrative of the Jewish people.

            For approximately two thousand years, Christian European people have wrongly perceived the Jewish people, hated the Jewish people, falsely accused the Jewish people of horrific, and even cosmic, crimes, and repeatedly mass-murdered Jewish people, and made oppressive persecutorial unjust laws against Jewish people, and treated Jewish people with sanctimonious intransigent contempt, which is sanctimonious intransigent contempt which cultural Christian European people, for over one thousand years, expressed as “I know you are guilty, you lying Jew.”, and which is sanctimonious intransigent contempt which culturally Christian European people, currently, approximately seventy years after the European people, as a whole – in most cases Christian European people and, in some cases, culturaly Christian European post-Christian people – in some cases directly, in cold hatred, and, in other cases, indirectly, in cold apathy, murdered almost all of the Jewish people in Europe, express mainly as “I know you are guilty, you lying ‘Zionist’”.

            Jewish people are currently under an intendedly genocidal siege by the now huge global Islamic Supremacist political movement and by the governments and societies of Western countries – in collusion with the Islamic Supremacist movement – out of normal, culturally engrained, culturally Christian-European – Christian and post-Christian – anti-Jewish bigotry.

            Yet, despite this, or, rather, as a part of this, people who adhere to the religion Christianity, including people who adhere to the religion Christianity who support and defend Israel, the country of the Jewish people, refer to Christianity as being moral.

            Ignorance is the root cause of suffering.

            Ignorance is the cause of delusion and greed and hatred.

          • Daniel Bielak says:

            Corrections:

            Correction One:

            I wrote:

            «The view that morality is abstractly “good”, and, thereby, abstractly “superior”,
            and the view that there exists a creator being who “is” moral,
            which is a view that that creator being is “good”, and, thereby, “superior”,
            and the view that that creator being created onself (created the one who is holding that view),
            which is the view that oneself is like that creator being,
            and which is, in fact, the view that that creator being is like oneself,
            and which is, in fact, the view that oneself is “good”, and thereby, “superior”,
            is the holding of one of the nine types of the wrong view self-conceit.»

            In which «morality» should be «”free will”», and in which “free will” and morality and the relationship between “free will” and morality should be expounded upon.

            Correction Two:

            I wrote:

            «”Free will” is the desire to do an action – any particular action.
            .
            .
            .
            »

            Which should be:

            «”Free will” is the desire to do an action – any particular action.
            .
            .
            .
            I think that “free will” is constituted by perception and consciousness and desire to experience that which is pleasant and desire to not experience that which is unpleasant.»

      • Sérgio says:

        I´ll bite your provocation: the said born-again buddhist physicist (probably in a middle-age career crisis) surely can fiddle with his equations. However, if he wants his results to have any meaning whatsoever, he has to suppose they are about something out there, be they particles, fields, molecules, stars, etc. Otherwise no one else will give a damn about his theories nor will any experimentalist try to check any of his predictions (if he proposes any; if not, his work is indeed irrelevant) . At most he´ll become a solip-physicist; of course he could then publish a new age book, talking all kind of Chopra-style nonsense, sprinkled with fancy words (and even equations) , and even make a fortune. Surely he won´t be physicist no more, but another intelectual fraudster.

        • Sérgio says:

          Again, this chunk of buddhist credo. Total waste of space with no arguments. The Buddha is surely satisfied with you, yes, you are a good proselyt, but please, could you spare us this unfathomable wisdom? Maybe I should transcribe some of Deprak-Chopra´s books.

          • Daniel Bielak says:

            Sergio,

            You wrote:

            «Again, this chunk of buddhist credo. Total waste of space with no arguments. The Buddha is surely satisfied with you, yes, you are a good proselyt, but please, could you spare us this unfathomable wisdom?»

            I realize that I do not have the ability to explain well those views that I expressed. If those things that I have written about Buddhism (those views that I have expressed) cause you to feel angry, then, if you like, you can just ignore those things about Buddhism that I have written or other things about Buddhism that I may write.

            You wrote:

            «Maybe I should transcribe some of Deprak-Chopra´s books.»

            That was funny.

            I don’t take offense to your comment. I understand your views and how you feel. I don’t mean to bother you.

          • Daniel Bielak says:

            Correction:

            I wrote:

            «I don’t take offense to your comment.»

            I did, in fact, initially, take a little bit of offense to you comment (I did, in fact, feel a little bit hurt and angry by reading your comment) (because I’m only human), but I tried to not hold on to those feelings, and I, for the most part, didn’t hold on to those feelings, and I don’t begrudge you your views and your feelings about what I wrote.

            I understand your views and how you feel.

            I don’t mean to bother you.

          • Daniel Bielak says:

            Typo Correction:

            «…you comment…»

            Should be:

            «…your comment…»

  35. Ellen says:

    Well it’s Hanukah and aren’t we shortchanging the contribution of Hellenism?
    Just bringing a little Rabbi Soloveitchik in here… The renowned Talumdist opposed the term “Judeo-Christian” when it came to discussing matters of faith, religious doctrine, prayer and ritual, as “people confuse two concepts when they speak of a common tradition uniting two faith communities such as the Christian and the Judaic.”

    BUT when it came to describing the history and culture of Western civilization he readily acknowledged “a Judeo-Hellenistic-Christian tradition”:
    “As a matter of fact, our Western heritage was shaped by a combination
    of three factors, the classical, Judaic, and Christian, and we could
    readily speak of a Judeo-Hellenistic-Christian tradition within the
    framework of our Western civilization.”

    Maybe the addition of Hellenism will add an element of truth and complete a “trinity”
    for both the atheist and those who are religious and uncomfortable with the J-C term.

  36. Markus says:

    “Sorry, but “buddhist physicist” can be a buddhist in his private life, and has the unalienable right to do so. But as a working physicist, his buddhism, christianity, judaism, etc is totally irrelevant”

    This far I agree. I agree with you that as a working scientist, he should only appeal to natural phenomena if he explains things trough science.

    “And in fact, those beliefs are in flagrant contradiction with the bulk of science, inasmuch as they suppose the existence of a supernatural entity and allows violations of natural laws (aka miracles) for which there are no evidence whatsoever.”

    Science presupposes methodological naturalism, so everything we “pour” into this box must go trough the filter of naturalism. Out comes only things that can be explained by a combination of matter, energy, laws of nature and chance.

    However, I disagree with the last sentence. Using historical sciences, one can study claims about Jesus of Nazareth. One can make a two-part argument: first, collecting data about his crucifixion, burial, empty tomb and post-mortem appearances to the disciples. Second, claiming that the best explanation for these is that he was raised from the dead.

    I’m not a theologian or a historian and I haven’t read about it, so I cannot really defend this thesis. If you’re really interested, you can find out scholarship about this subject and see if that’s good enough evidence for you.

    “In fact, as far as we know, a materialist ontology (aka metaphysics), a realist epistemology and a fallibilist & meliorist methodology are the philosophical pressupositions most compatible with science.”

    One can be a Christian, Buddhist or a Naturalist and pursue science trough methodological naturalism. Now, one can also commit to ontological naturalism, no problem there. But to claim now that all supernatural beliefs are false because they are disproved by science is simply circular reasoning.

    • Sérgio says:

      Frankly, no amount of scholarshio can convince anybody through reason and evidence that the “best explanation” for the christian mythology is that Jesus was ressurected. Now, THIS is circular, because the only way is to suppose that JC was indeed a supernatural being, and this is what we have no evidence whatsoever and, moreover, it contradicts everything we know from science. The only way out here is to admit this is a belief based on faith, not in reason or science. In fact, this belief contradicts the knowledge accumulated by science. Now, surely, one can be a great, a good or a mediocre scientist *and* believe in God, miracles, etc. People are capable of sustaining contradictory ideas, and kept them separated in their minds. So, when in a scientist self, one´s belief is totally irrelevant in so far as one´s scientific achievements are to be judged (so, one is not going to write “so, according to scriptures, this biochemical reaction will insert arsenic in place of phosphorous in that bacterial DNA”). Later, in a believer self, the very same person can go to his cult of choice. How people manage that, it´s an interesting psychological issue, and just shows that scientists are human, hence full of contradictions.

  37. [...] has been a wonderful and long discussion going on over at Augean Stables “On Atheist Morality,” proprietor Richard Landes’s post building upon a column by Jeff Jacoby of The Boston Globe [...]

  38. Jay Adler says:

    Speaking of circular argument, Jacoby’s very casual argument – the impetus for this discussion – is the fundamental one in this age’s old debate. Then, there is still the matter of where Humanism fits into all of this. My take on it here: Humanism and Morality

  39. [...] Posted on December 17, 2010 by logogroup I want to start by sharing with you a great post titled Atheist Morality. In the spirit of atheists taking a ride on the back of a moral-based society (the point taken in [...]

  40. Daniel Bielak says:

    Off-Topic (But on-topic about the current main crucial topic about the world):

    An Excellent, Crucial, Talk

    The following talk is necessary to watch, and to act in accordance with, in order to prevent the world from commiting genocide against Israel, and in order to prevent the world from being taken over by the modern Islamic Supremacist political movement (whose adherents and leaders include: the Islamic Supremacist regimes of Muslim Arab states; the Islamic Supremacist ideologically apocalyptic regime in Iran and its proxy organizations in Western countries; the Muslim Brotherhood and its proxy organizations in Western countries; the OIC (the Orgranization of the Islamic Conference – which is a coallition of 57 Muslim governments – and which is the largest, and controlling, voting bloc, in the United Nations, and is controlling the body of the United Nations); Islamic Supremacist terrorist militias, and Islamic Supremacist terrorist militias that have become terrorist militia political organizations (such as Fatah-PLO-PalestinianAuthority and Hamas, in the The Gaza Strip and The West Bank)).

    The following is an excellent talk, that was given by Yaakov Kirschen, on November 20, 2010, about how anti-Jewish mass hysteria infects, and mezmerizes, and deranges, and paralyzes, and is promoted by a majority of the most influential members (such as those about whom are presented about, by Yaakov Kischen, in this talk, political cartoonists) of populations being targeted with antipathetically anti-Jewish, subconscious and conscious, subliminal and overt, delusional and deceitful, ideas by supremacist totalitarian world-domination-seeking genocidally anti-Jewish mass movements. The current populations that are being so targeted, and that most of whose most influential members are so promoting such, are the societies comprising Western civilization (which are the main populations that, for approximately two thousand years, continuously, have been so targeted, and that most of whose most influential members have so promoted such). The current supremacist totalitarian world-domination-seeking genocidally anti-Jewish political mass movement is the modern Islamic-Supremacist political movement.

    In the talk, Yaakov Kirschen refers to this spreading of these antipathetically anti-Jewish, subconscious and conscious, subliminal and overt, delusional and deceitful, ideas as the following (which, as it is presented in the following, is text from a slide from a slideshow presentation that Yaakov Kirschen used in his talk).

    «Secret Codes

    Hidden Attack»

    In the talk, Yaakov Kirschen describes this as the following (which, as it is presented in the following, is text from a slide from a slideshow presentation that Yaakov Kirschen used in his talk).

    «Use of these antisemitic codes are symptom of a viral attack against Western civilization

    “The Hidden Attack”»

    The following is a paraphrasing, by me, of an exchange between a member of the audience of the talk (a Jewish woman) and Yaakov Kirschen during a Question and Answer period of the talk.

    Audience Member:

    [Something about wanting Yaakov Kirschen to work with the ADL]

    Yaakov Krischen (in my paraphrasing):

    I’m not interested in the ADL…The ADL is a Jewish group…I’m not interested in the ADL…I’m interested in Church groups, women’s groups, Gay and lesbian groups…journalists…etc.

    The following is a paraphrasing, by me, of things that Yaakov Kirschen said in his talk which constitute a summary of what Yaakov Kirschen said in his talk.

    Jewish people have to inform society [the societies of free countries] that society is being targeted [by the modern Islamic-Supremcist political movement] with these antipathetically anti-Jewish wrong ideas, and that society is being infected with these wrong ideas, and that society is being targeted for destruction [by the modern Islamic-Supremacist political movement], and that society is in severe danger. Society has to protect itself.

    “Memetics and the Viral Spread of Antisemitism Through ‘Coded Images’ in Political Cartoons”, (Video) talk by Yaakov Kirschen, author of the political cartoon Dry Bones; The talk was given at The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA), Yale University, New Haven, CT, on October 21, 2010
    http://vimeo.com/17883790

    • Daniel Bielak says:

      Corrections:

      Correction One:

      In the beginning part of my comment, I wrote that Yaakov Kirschen gave the talk on November 20, 2010.

      That which I wrote is incorrect. I have seen that it is written on the video page of the talk that Yaakov Kirschen gave the talk on October 21, 2010.

      Correction Two:

      I, by mistake, accidentally incorrectly typed “blockquote” html code in the last part of my comment, and, as a result, some text which constitutes part of the last part of my message, and which is text that should not be in “blockquote” format, is in “blockquote” format.

      The text that is in blockquote format that should not be in blockquote format is the following.

      O The paragraph that begins with the following text.

      «The following is a paraphrasing, by me, of things that Yaakov Kirschen said in his talk…»

      O The paragraph that begins with the following text.

      «“Memetics and the Viral Spread of Antisemitism Through ‘Coded Images’ in Political Cartoons”, (Video) talk by Yaakov Kirschen…»

  41. Daniel Bielak says:

    Again (this time in proper, and clear, text formating), the link to the talk:

    “Memetics and the Viral Spread of Antisemitism Through ‘Coded Images’ in Political Cartoons”, (Video) talk by Yaakov Kirschen, author of the political cartoon Dry Bones; The talk was given at The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA), Yale University, New Haven, CT, on October 21, 2010
    http://vimeo.com/17883790

  42. Kim William says:

    Correction: I wrote: «I don’t take offense to your comment.» I did, in fact, initially, take a little bit of offense to you comment (I did, in fact, feel a little bit hurt and angry by reading your comment) (because I’m only human), but I tried to not hold on to those feelings, and I, for the most part, didn’t hold on to those feelings, and I don’t begrudge you your views and your feelings about what I wrote. I understand your views and how you feel. I don’t mean to bother you.

  43. Great post, and a real eye-opener. I’ve seen people approach this subject before, but nowhere near as insightful in expression and explanation. We arose from savage stock, to be sure. I’m not sure how we evolved to the point where we became more compassionate and humane, whether it was due to the influence of Judaeo-Christian values, or whether our innate need for a more civilized, merciful and promising world fed the growth of the Christian movement. I suspect it is probably a little bit of both.

  44. [...] Augean Stables – On Atheist Morality submitted by The [...]

  45. Daniel Bielak says:

    The post by “Kim William” is a carbon copy of one of my posts. The address that the author listing “Kim Williams” links to is a site that, on the site, is listed as being non-existent – and is a site that is possibly a spam site.

    The post by “Kim Williams” is an automated spam post.

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