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The Problem with Religious Moderation From Sam Harris

#941 User is offline   Codo 

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Posted 2014-April-17, 17:09

View Postgwnn, on 2014-April-17, 03:12, said:

Warning: this post could become long. I know that I often express myself poorly and carelessly, this time I will do my best to avoid that.
No, that is not what I meant. Could we please stop talking past each other?

You said that they asked the wrong question. For the record, here it is:

And the answer I referred to was:

The study did NOT ask what you think it asked, namely "do you live according to the Bible."

Now, you seem to think that taking the Bible literally means following Old Testament law. Here are a just a few ways that I can think of right now how that could not be the case:

So no, taking the Bible literally is not equivalent to putting witches to death. My point was, however, a different one. My point was that your description of Christianity in Germany or in Europe is different to what the study would show us. Correct me if I'm wrong but you were talking about how in Europe/Germany, Christianity did not just rely on the Bible, they rely on new discoveries on science, history, maybe new revelations by God, etc. I still don't see how in this picture, 13% of answerers could possibly say that they think all of the Bible is literally true. Can you?

Now you say "I know that there are people who tell you and me that they live literally following the words of the Bible." Well, yes, but that's not what I said in the first place and it's not just "there are," it is actually about half the Bible-reading population in all the countries of the study who think it should be taken literally. Put simply, about half the Christians anywhere are not the enlightened, meek, moderate Christians that you like to talk about. I know how people like to blow the paedophilia cases in the Catholic church out of proportion, I'm not a fan of that. But in this case I'm afraid the proportion is about 50%. I don't think it is fair of you to just ignore that 50% of Bible readers and just say that they are the exception to the rule. No, they are a very sizable number and it's more like you are the one who are just ignoring them.


View Postgwnn, on 2014-April-17, 03:12, said:

Warning: this post could become long. I know that I often express myself poorly and carelessly, this time I will do my best to avoid that.
No, that is not what I meant. Could we please stop talking past each other?

You said that they asked the wrong question. For the record, here it is:

And the answer I referred to was:

The study did NOT ask what you think it asked, namely "do you live according to the Bible."

Now, you seem to think that taking the Bible literally means following Old Testament law. Here are a just a few ways that I can think of right now how that could not be the case:
  • They think that it is literally true that God told the Jews to kill witches but it was never meant to be a universal law (this is a repeating theme in the following two). Mainly they think that the stories are all 100% true (Methuselah really did live to be 900+) but the laws are contextual.
  • They think that the New Testament simply cancels out the Old.
  • They think that God still sends new laws through the ruling class (Romans 13). I have heard this one before. This need not mean that God is changing his mind. It might mean simply that he is always optimising the laws to current circumstances. Think how a cylinder can look like a circle, a line, a square, etc. The law would be the same but we just get to see a particular time-dependent projection from it. I know this sounds absurd, but so is the whole idea of biblical literalism. I will stop including this warning to my points from here on.
  • They just don't know that the Bible talks about witchcraft because nobody told them and they just read other passages. This is where it's nice to have some snarky atheist friends who cherry pick the bad parts of the Bible. I know they are annoying and I myself am trying to stop talking about these parts but I think it can be a useful counterweight to the pastors who cherry pick the good parts of the Bible.
  • They know that witches should be put to death but they do not believe that witches exist any more.
  • They know that witches should be put to death but they are waiting for the 13% to grow to 50% or 66%, then they can make proper laws reflecting that.
  • They know that witches should be put to death but they are just unwilling to do the job themselves. Maybe they think it is a sin not to put witches to death but after all, they do all sorts of sin.

So no, taking the Bible literally is not equivalent to putting witches to death. My point was, however, a different one. My point was that your description of Christianity in Germany or in Europe is different to what the study would show us. Correct me if I'm wrong but you were talking about how in Europe/Germany, Christianity did not just rely on the Bible, they rely on new discoveries on science, history, maybe new revelations by God, etc. I still don't see how in this picture, 13% of answerers could possibly say that they think all of the Bible is literally true. Can you?

Your first reaction to the study was that you thought that the study was somehow not clean, as if there was a hidden agenda trying to prove that there are more people who take the Bible literally than actually are. Why would this be? I don't know.

Now you say "I know that there are people who tell you and me that they live literally following the words of the Bible." Well, yes, but that's not what I said in the first place and it's not just "there are," it is actually about half the Bible-reading population in all the countries of the study who think it should be taken literally. Put simply, about half the Christians anywhere are not the enlightened, meek, moderate Christians that you like to talk about. I know how people like to blow the paedophilia cases in the Catholic church out of proportion, I'm not a fan of that. But in this case I'm afraid the proportion is about 50%. I don't think it is fair of you to just ignore that 50% of Bible readers and just say that they are the exception to the rule. No, they are a very sizable number and it's more like you are the one who are just ignoring them.


H Czaba,

thank you for sharing this, I really misuderstood your first posts completely, so my answers were surely not appropiate.

No I guess I got your point and can agree with more of your ideas. I still think that much too many people who takes the Bible literally did not have read it by their own- but if you want to challenge this claim, this will be fine, it is a believe, nothing I can proofe at all. I never believed that taking the Bible literally means that you just have to follow the laws of the ancient testamony. But these laws are the ones where anybody should see that these laws are not made for todays society.
.I agree that following the passages your own priest/minister/whoever will show you, will show a shortend picture of the complete book.


But we still disagree on the survey itself. I did not want to claim that they made the questions in a way that you are influenced by the way they asked or the answers you may choose. But: I doubt that asking if someone is taking the Bible literally is a good question to make a survey about this theme. This is a theme where I believe that many people would lie to themselves and to others.
And the question is not clear- at least not in my opinion.

I think you can take the storypart of the Bible in different ways:
First: You may take them as some kind of "campfire stories". Something like: There was a big flood at the Nile and one farmer called Noah survived with his animals because he had a big ferry. After some rounds around from one campfire to the next, the flood had been worldwide and Noah godsend. This happens in reallity and is quite common to stories which happen to be told from one generation to another. Maybe in their "world" the whole world had been floated, because they just know a small part of Egypt? Maybe they have heard from just one survivor?
Maybe the stories are literally true but there had been problems with the translation from hebrew to greek to persian to latin and back.... So maybe Methusalem was just a tribe which survived 900 years, not a person.
Maybe what they wrote came closest to what they thought is the truth.
Maybe they made up stories to make a point. When they write about Jesus, they very often write about his parables and miracles. Maybe they choose this old stories not so much because of their historical truth but for shwoing some point of interesst? If I take the as a lecture to learn, is this still literally?

Are the people aware that they do NOT take the Bible literally if they think that one of these points can be true?
Maybe they think that they take the Bible literally because they take it as a book of stories which are written to let you learn something? That the stories are literally send by God, but that they not need to be 100 % the historical truth?
Of course- as there are Intelligent Design belivers everywhere, there are people who try to take it literally.
But I really think that the question is still misleading and that the answer and the behaviour of the people is different.

DO i just take the Bible literally if I do believe in any single word? And if so, may you tell me, in which Bible I do believe? There are several different translations in German. There are some parts which are just in the catholic part and there are still ongoing discussion whether or not some translations from other translations from transcripts in the Middle Age of ancient and incomplete papyrus are this way or another.
So sorry, I still believe that the question- and the possible answers are not satisfactoring.

But even if we take the numbers of the survey as given: So 13 % still take the Bible literally, so 87 % do not. This is quite a huge number, isn't it? And in my personal experience the numbers of strong believers in the "literally" given Bible is much bigger in the RC church then in the Ev-lut- so maybe in "my enviroment it is way below 10 %. So where do we disagree anyway? And why do you claim 50 % and not 13 %, what do I miss?
Kind Regards

Roland


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#942 User is offline   gwnn 

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Posted 2014-April-18, 01:58

Just a quick reply: 28% answered that they read the Bible in the previous 12 months, and 13% is about half of that (I said 50% of the Bible-reading population, not population in general). I just assumed that anyone that thinks the Bible is 100% accurate will read it at least once a year, I think that should be a safe assumption. 87% is indeed a big number but 72% more or less never open their Bibles so I don't think they are devoted Christians. Maybe it's not fair to discount people who sometimes go to church but never read the Bible, you tell me. When the default religion is Christianity, which I believe is still the case in most of Europe (i. e., many non-believers will still baptise their kids, etc), we need some additional criteria to differentiate de jure Christians from de facto ones, and opening the Bible at least once a year seems like a practical choice.

I am still not sure what it means that the survey asks a wrong question. They asked a bunch of questions and I picked one that struck me as the most relevant whether Christians in your country are as enlightened as you claim. Realising that the Bible is not 100% factually correct is quite a low bar to clear (I certainly would not call everyone a moderate just because they think the Bible has some contradictions) yet about half of those who regularly read it fail.
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#943 User is offline   Trinidad 

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Posted 2014-April-18, 04:31

View Postmikeh, on 2014-April-17, 16:54, said:

A pedophile could advocate that pedophiles ought not to be jailed for their conduct when they abuse children....he just couldn't tell others that it is ok and a good thing to sexually abuse a child.

You are complicating the matter by adding negative qualifications.

A pedophile doesn't want to abuse children. He wants to make love to them. We happen to find that harmful to the child, which is why we call it abuse. The pedophile doesn't see it as harmful to the child, so he will never think of it as abuse.

So, if we now rephrase your text and change "abuse" to "make love" (or the neutral "have sex"), then my opinion is roughly:
1) They can advocate that making love to children should be legalized.
2) They can say that it is good and valuable to make love to children. (Here you and I seem to differ: You say they can't say it's good to sexually abuse a child.)
3) They cannot go and make love to children ... because the law says it is a crime.
4) It is forbidden to persuade people to commit a crime, so they cannot tell people to go out and give it a try.

This is in perfect agreement with my previous post, since persuading people to commit crimes (telling them to have sex with children or to blow themselves up in a crowd) is not voicing an opinion.

I know that there are people who are looking for the boundaries on these topics. They urge people to commit crimes, but use formulations that will give them deniability, so they can later say that it was all a big misunderstanding and they were merely voicing an opinion. I don't find that particularly interesting. For me it is not about the legal loopholes, but all about the principles:

Voicing opinions is OK. This is not a function of the kind of opinion that is voiced.
Committing crimes or urging people to commit crimes is not OK.

I think that we have come pretty close. On the detailed formulations where we have different ideas, I propose we can agree to disagree.

I wish you a Happy Easter. Don't eat too many chocolate eggs and be nice to the Jehova's witnesses. (The latest copy of the Watchtower is lying on my kitchen table. I promised Evelyn, who came to my door, that I will read it. So that is what I am going to do now.)

Rik
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#944 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2014-April-18, 05:54

About this 13%. Probably Europeans are not that much different from Americans, and my experience here would suggest that you have to look at ow people think.

I was baptized a little avter my 13th birthday and confirmed a week or so later. (The baptism was a pre-requisite for the confirmation). By my fifteenth birthday I had completely walked away from religion. For what ever the reason, it was important to me to confrony this matter. For some, it isn't. I am pretty confident that if you asked my father whether he thought the Bible was literally true he would have simply ignored the question. If you insisted, he wouold have said yes or whatever he thought he had to say to get you to buzz off. HIs early life was very difficult and he never showed much interest in various theoretical aspects of life. I had more time on my hands to reflect on such matters.

I have mentioned before that Becky and I both did some tutoring of adults who couldn't read. One of the strong goals, and he reached it, of Becky's student was to be able to read passages aloud at his church services. He simply would not have regarded a question about whether the Bible is literally true as one he wanted to consider.

"The unexamined life is not worth living". Well, not everyone reads Socrates, or Plato since I am not sure Socrates actually wrote much down, but also we all have our areas that we just don't get around to examining.

My point is that not everyone regards it as important whether Jesus did or did not feed the multitudes with however many loaves of bread the Bible claims. They simply say yes, they believe it, and hope you will go away and not ask more stupid questions.
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#945 User is offline   Codo 

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Posted 2014-April-18, 08:49

View Postgwnn, on 2014-April-18, 01:58, said:

Just a quick reply: 28% answered that they read the Bible in the previous 12 months, and 13% is about half of that (I said 50% of the Bible-reading population, not population in general). I just assumed that anyone that thinks the Bible is 100% accurate will read it at least once a year, I think that should be a safe assumption. 87% is indeed a big number but 72% more or less never open their Bibles so I don't think they are devoted Christians. Maybe it's not fair to discount people who sometimes go to church but never read the Bible, you tell me. When the default religion is Christianity, which I believe is still the case in most of Europe (i. e., many non-believers will still baptise their kids, etc), we need some additional criteria to differentiate de jure Christians from de facto ones, and opening the Bible at least once a year seems like a practical choice.

I am still not sure what it means that the survey asks a wrong question. They asked a bunch of questions and I picked one that struck me as the most relevant whether Christians in your country are as enlightened as you claim. Realising that the Bible is not 100% factually correct is quite a low bar to clear (I certainly would not call everyone a moderate just because they think the Bible has some contradictions) yet about half of those who regularly read it fail.



Okay thank you, now I got it.

This is another very interessting arae: What makes a christ a christ?
Reading the Bible, taking the Holy Book literally? visiting the curch on sunday- or just to christmas? Paying your church tax? Do not declare your withdrawal? Following the ten commandments? Again, I honestly do not now.

Reading the Bible may be one way to count them, but maybe not. Actually I do not rate this to be sufficent, but I have no better idea.

After all, I feal like a christian and maybe BBF readers would name me as one of them. But I would not count if you take the first three measurements I named. But at least I pay my taxes...
So, from my example of one- well no, there are many others I know- I refuse to follow your numbers.
But maybe people like me are no real christians. Maybe you have to visit the worship every sunday, maybe you have to read the Bible to be a real one. I do not know, but I feal like a christian besides not following these rules....
So: Who tells us, what a real christian has to do?
Kind Regards

Roland


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#946 User is offline   gwnn 

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Posted 2014-April-18, 09:28

Nobody tells us. We can all use our working definition chosen to suit our purposes :) I'm afraid there is always going to be a huge gray area.

Ken: I'm afraid we are going around in circles now. I have been around (and myself have been) many types of Christians. One thing that seems to come up often is the distinction of The World vs Us, and they often quote the passage on how the wisdom of God is not the wisdom of the world and that sows seeds of mistrust in modern science or anything secular. In this framework it makes perfect sense to proudly believe everything from the Bible. Now, of course most of these people will still trust air planes to fly and antibiotics over faith healing. That is another firm of cognitive dissonance but they will still happily proclaim biblical literalism, not just to make a pollster shut up. You seem to think most of the yes answerers were based on shutting them up but I could also speculate that many others said no but in fact wanted to say 'it is almost completely literally true' or other similarly absurd positions. It will all be a bunch of speculation which will serve not a lot.
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#947 User is offline   mike777 

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Posted 2014-April-20, 02:17

Not sure what the question is.


Do most of us suffer from "cognitive dissonance"?

Do all of us?
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#948 User is offline   mike777 

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Posted 2014-April-20, 02:23

View PostCodo, on 2014-April-18, 08:49, said:

Okay thank you, now I got it.

This is another very interessting arae: What makes a christ a christ?
Reading the Bible, taking the Holy Book literally? visiting the curch on sunday- or just to christmas? Paying your church tax? Do not declare your withdrawal? Following the ten commandments? Again, I honestly do not now.

Reading the Bible may be one way to count them, but maybe not. Actually I do not rate this to be sufficent, but I have no better idea.

After all, I feal like a christian and maybe BBF readers would name me as one of them. But I would not count if you take the first three measurements I named. But at least I pay my taxes...
So, from my example of one- well no, there are many others I know- I refuse to follow your numbers.
But maybe people like me are no real christians. Maybe you have to visit the worship every sunday, maybe you have to read the Bible to be a real one. I do not know, but I feal like a christian besides not following these rules....
So: Who tells us, what a real christian has to do?

t.


On this day the holist of holy days.


Yes today is the holist of all Christian days....funny but many don't know that

This Sunday is the big day for Christians.

What makes Christ?


At the very least he is risen...today.
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#949 User is offline   ArtK78 

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Posted 2014-April-21, 09:36

View Postmike777, on 2014-April-20, 02:23, said:

On this day the holist of holy days.


Yes today is the holist of all Christian days....funny but many don't know that

This Sunday is the big day for Christians.

What makes Christ?


At the very least he is risen...today.

Pardon me, a non-Christian, from commenting on this post, but I always thought that Good Friday was the holiest of all Christian days.

If that is not true, then, if I were a Christian, I would be positively apoplectic to see my holiest of all days commercialized and trivialized by pink bunnies and Easter Egg hunts (derivitive of the pagan Spring rituals which the Easter holiday is piggy-backed on top of). You certainly don't see anything similar on Yom Kippur.

I suspect that the Pope did not spend his Easter Sunday participating in an Easter Egg hunt.
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#950 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2014-April-21, 09:50

View PostArtK78, on 2014-April-21, 09:36, said:

Pardon me, a non-Christian, from commenting on this post, but I always thought that Good Friday was the holiest of all Christian days.


Resurrection trumps crucifixion.

With this said and done, the holiest of days seems to change a lot depending on whether its winter or spring.
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#951 User is offline   ArtK78 

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Posted 2014-April-21, 10:41

View Posthrothgar, on 2014-April-21, 09:50, said:

Resurrection trumps crucifixion.

With this said and done, the holiest of days seems to change a lot depending on whether its winter or spring.

Perhaps I am confusing holiest with most solemn.
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#952 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2014-April-21, 12:23

View PostArtK78, on 2014-April-21, 10:41, said:

Perhaps I am confusing holiest with most solemn.


Perhaps you are confusing all of this with The Life of Brian. B-)
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#953 User is offline   ArtK78 

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Posted 2014-April-21, 13:29

View PostWinstonm, on 2014-April-21, 12:23, said:

Perhaps you are confusing all of this with The Life of Brian. B-)

I don't think so, but it is certainly true that you should Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
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#954 User is offline   gwnn 

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Posted 2014-October-24, 01:04

Pretty sweet Sam Harris discussion/debate here:

http://youtu.be/WVl3BJoEoAU
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#955 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2014-October-24, 12:31

View Postgwnn, on 2014-October-24, 01:04, said:

Pretty sweet Sam Harris discussion/debate here:

http://youtu.be/WVl3BJoEoAU



I intend to try this but I watched the first 7+ minutes and he was still griping about how abused he is. I'll get to it, I think.
Ken
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#956 User is offline   gwnn 

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Posted 2014-October-24, 15:41

well yes not a great first 10 minutes, admittedly, especially if you aren't following this kind of stuff very closely. It does get much better soon.
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#957 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2014-October-24, 18:11

View Postgwnn, on 2014-October-24, 01:04, said:

Pretty sweet Sam Harris discussion/debate here: http://youtu.be/WVl3BJoEoAU
A persuasive argument for Islam religious moderation! Although both debaters judge that the West bears some responsibility for the current hell. We financed, armed, and trained rebels in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and so on. So, perhaps we should also pray that the arms-industry moderates its worship of Mammon :)
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#958 User is offline   gwnn 

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Posted 2014-October-25, 00:56

Absolutely there is a need for a specific kind of moderates, namely the kind that attacks the fundamentalists and not the outside critics (or at least not predominantly the outside critics). I am not sure how many of each kind there are, but often what I hear is "yes, ISIS is bad. But you are (... half an hour of apologism)" It sends a strange message, as if they are in the middle but based on the energy they spend criticising the two sides, more on the side of ISIS? Now clearly they are not on the side of ISIS but they exhibit the kind of behaviour that was described in the SH quote in the opening post.
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#959 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2014-October-25, 05:45

View Postgwnn, on 2014-October-25, 00:56, said:

Absolutely there is a need for a specific kind of moderates, namely the kind that attacks the fundamentalists and not the outside critics (or at least not predominantly the outside critics). I am not sure how many of each kind there are, but often what I hear is "yes, ISIS is bad. But you are (... half an hour of apologism)" It sends a strange message, as if they are in the middle but based on the energy they spend criticising the two sides, more on the side of ISIS? Now clearly they are not on the side of ISIS but they exhibit the kind of behaviour that was described in the SH quote in the opening post.
The issue is too complex for me to understand. I'm told, however, that ISIS is an offshoot of the Syrian rebel group, which we fund, arm, and train.
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#960 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2014-October-25, 07:32

I tried again and I made it to 20 minutes. Sam Harris was explaining that the host, whoever he is, would be hearing from mathematicians who would explain the SH was correct. Well, I agree with the host. But far more important, I agree with the host that it doesn't matter. SH was making the argument that Mormonism is even more improbable than standard Christianity because Mormons believe that Jesus not only will return to Earth he will also return to Missouri. his argument was based on conditional probability: The probability that Jesus will return to Missourri is the product of the probabilities that first Jesus will return to Earth and second that given that he does return to Earth then this event will occur in Missouri. SH argued that this product was smaller than either of the individual numbers since they were both less than 1. The host argued that since the first number was 0, the product is 0, which is not smaller than 0.

I stopped watching. I vote with the host if I must choose, but I would hope that the option "Who gives a FF?" would be included.

There of course are important items in the discussion of religion. In another thread I mentioned that I recently read the John Updike novel Terrorist. There is a young person in the novel, a potential future terrorist, who describes, in his view, one of the strengths of Islam. He asserts that Islam has no quarrel with scientific inquiry, that they are in fact happy to use all the science that they can lay their hands on in pursuit of their aims. I am absolutely no authority at all on Islam so I am not prepared to vouch for this view, but I thought it was interesting.


We have some friends, although currently the relationship is a bit strained, who were raised Catholic but no longer are believers. Actually the husband is very dogmatically logical, the wife's views are more nuanced. Apparently the husband felt the need to explain to the very Catholic wife of one of their other friends that belief in the virgin birth is really illogical. For some reason, they no longer see so much of these friends, and they cannot understand why this is. This true story seems to me to also be a pretty good metaphor. Some beliefs have to be challenged. Others do not. We should judge people, if we must judge them, by how they act. Their beliefs are their business, unless there is some mutual interest in respectful discussion. I have found that often there is such a mutual interest, as long as neither feels the missionary zeal to convert the other.
Ken
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