Solomon Schimmel
Posted: 04 February 2007 10:59 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I’ve been a happy listener to the show for several months now, thanks to the podcasts. I’ve been drawn into posting by the most current interview with Mr. Schimmel, and it was by and large interesting. I agree with a lot of the criticisms of Islam, it’s got some very odd beliefs and should be held up to critical scrutiny.

But I do have a problem or two, and I’d like replies, as I may be miles off, or too touchy, or whatever. I think, given the current political climate in the Middle East, there are better people to debate Islam than a Jewish scholar, practising or not. There must be a worry that any Muslim who might listen will immediately dismiss the criticism as it’s coming from someone who supports the state of Israel. Does it make the arguments any less valid? Not necessarily, but he is quite savage about anti-Semitic, anti-American, with the occasional coda (well, it’s not all Muslims who are like that, sounds bolted on).

DJ gave Judaism an extremely easy ride as well. Mr. Schimmel was explicitly comparing certain sorts of Muslim belief with terrorist activity, while no-one mentioned the sorts of Jewish belief that led to Zionism and the not-exactly-glowing record they’ve got in the Middle East (how many UN security council resolutions has Israel breached?)

It’s difficult to argue one side without sounding like a Muslim apologist, which I most certainly am not, but I just think asking a Jewish scholar to talk about problems in the Muslim faith while completely ignoring his own is an odd choice. Feel free to shoot me down, I’m just putting my thoughts on this show across. I’m going to keep listening as usually the guests and presentation are excellent and I always learn something new.

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Posted: 04 February 2007 02:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Re: Solomon Schimmel

[quote author=“Mark L”][Islam] has got some very odd beliefs and should be held up to critical scrutiny.

I think the problem is faith, not Islam. We used to kill the heretics in the name of god and now the Muslims kill the kuffar in the name of Allah.

Why, Pale Blue Dot, art thou mad? :(

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Posted: 04 February 2007 03:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Schimmel in the beginning adressed just this point, and a few other times in the interview (DJ even asked his pecifically about being a Jewish scholar critical of Islam, and then Schimmel agreed that he is an equal-opportunity critic). And I think he said that in his forthcoming book, he addresses Jewish, Christian and Islamic fundamentalism, not just Islam.

He was asked to be on the show I think because it was the topic of his presentation at the conference, which was well-received by the seculars and also the apostate muslims in attendance, but of course you might say they are all biased.

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Posted: 05 February 2007 05:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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So, when are we going to hear the same style of presentation against Judaism?
Is there a real difference?

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Posted: 05 February 2007 08:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Probably need another few generations before the holocaust exemption expires. And in attempt to reduce any outcry, I’ll say that I mean only that if religion gets a special pass in scoiety, the Jewish religion gets extra allowance because the rest of the world (the west anyway) is still very emotionally petrified from the atrocities. Start making loud noise against Judaism and you might likely be labeled antisemitic.

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Posted: 05 February 2007 10:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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[quote author=“OhioDoc”]So, when are we going to hear the same style of presentation against Judaism?
Is there a real difference?

I think there is definitely an obvious difference. Why does Sam Harris focus so much on Islam? Because many Muslims are pitched in a battle against Western Civilization! Explicitly. According to their own words. You’d be hard pressed to find the same vehemence and political violence against Western Democracies within Judaism as in Islam.

We’ll have to check out Schimmel’s book to see how he treats Judaism and Christianity. As he said, he is an equal-opportunity critic.

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Posted: 06 February 2007 12:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Unfortunately it boils down to the existence State of Israel in its specific parcel of land. I don’t believe there was much anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world prior to this.

I would like to hear Mr. Schimmel’s apologetics justifying the existence of Israel in its geographic location, why they were not satisfied with occupying Germany and establishing a Jewish State in Europe?

This was not meant to be a political discussion, I was disappointed in the choice of subject, it stinks more like “Arab/Muslim bashing”.

It is as cheap a shot as ridiculing Catholics for their beliefs in Saints, or the Trinity.

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Posted: 06 February 2007 03:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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If you have listened to past episodes, you know we have critically examined belief in saints, ghosts, talking to the dead, all kinds of paranormal and supernatural belief systems, belief in holy books, and on and on.

Osama Bin Laden and militant Muslims talk lfar ess about Israel, and lots about the West, Hollywood, etc. and how their holy book justifies their violence. So it is an interesting question worth examining. They wage war against the West in general as being evil. Along the same lines as Dinesh Disouza in his new book, blaming liberals, Democrats and Hollywood for Muslim hatred against America.

Again, we’re an equal opportunity critic, as is Schimmel, so he says. We’ll have to see his chapters on Judaism and Christianity and their kinds of fundamentalist belief in his forthcoming book.

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Posted: 06 February 2007 05:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I wanted to hear this episode before weighing in with my own opinion. Re. the original question (and some of the follow-ups), as Thomas said, Prof. Schimmel dealt with these issues at the beginning of the interview. He made it entirely clear that his book is equally critical of fundamentalist Christians and Jews as it is of fundamentalist Moslems. It was the decision of the conference organizers and DJ to more-or-less limit the discussion to Islam. (Although not entirely!) One may quibble with this decision, but frankly it makes just as much sense as any other decision given the time constraints. Each of them deserve investigation and criticism.

The fact that Schimmel is culturally Jewish is simply ad hominem. The real question is if the arguments he presents are somehow biased or fallacious in their own right. And I didn’t find that at all. By his own admission, he was dealing with a radical fringe group, not the whole of Islam, and that he said similar things about Judaism and Christianity as well.

Frankly, I wished he had been available for the earlier Beyond Belief 2006 conference, because his approach appeared to be somewhere in between the strict rationalist argumentation of Dawkins and some others on the one hand, and on the other hand people who believed that religious belief was basically a non-rational phenomenon, like Scott Atran. Schimmel clearly said it was some of both: partly rational, partly non-rational, and that we have to investigate both sides in order to understand it fully. Clearly he is right. So I will be interested to see what comes of his psychological investigations.

And of course, I do hope that PoI can have him back on in the future to discuss Jewish and Christian fundamentalisms. He said his book would be coming out in another year and a half or so (too long!); if when it comes out, it is clear that he leaves one or another religion “off the hook”, that will be a problem. But given his level-headed interview, I am quite inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt on that one for now.

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Posted: 06 February 2007 06:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I hope that being an atheist Jew is not equal to a license to avoid criticism of Judaism.

I personally would respect more somebody that believes they are entitled to a parcel of land because of faith, than somebody that believes that they are socially entitled because of geopolitical accidents.

Aren’t we all citizens of the Earth, with common DNA?

How can you justify displacing the Palestinians to provide a home for Soviet Jewry (and others)?

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Posted: 06 February 2007 06:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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[quote author=“OhioDoc”]I hope that being an atheist Jew is not equal to a license to avoid criticism of Judaism.

This is a non sequitur. He does criticize Judaism.

[quote author=“OhioDoc”]I personally would respect more somebody that believes they are entitled to a parcel of land because of faith, than somebody that believes that they are socially entitled because of geopolitical accidents.

Are you then intending to leave the US, which was taken from the native americans by force? And where will you go? Which country is not now inhabited by people who took that territory by force?

This is entirely off-topic, of course, since none of this has anything to do with his interview.

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Posted: 06 February 2007 12:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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It would be useful to have transcripts of the podcast, having the written word in our flicering screens should prevent misunderstandings and prevent biased interpretations of the spoken words.

I hope I am not deep down antisemitic, one of the podcasts I truly enjoyed was Amy-Jill Levine’s. I look forward each week to the podcast, and was perplexed as to why this last one was late. As the popular phrase goes: don’t look at a gift horse’s mouth (or something like that).

Time will show whether Mr. Schimmel can be equally critical of his own culture and religious upbringing. Since the “Beyond Belief” videos were mentioned, I hope this does not fall into the “I believe in the Jewish people, the Jewish people believe in God (or vice versa)” argument trap.

When I become delirious and despondent, I think the “solution” is to nuke Palestine and Mecca and eliminate any Abrahamic geographical foundations.

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Posted: 07 February 2007 01:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I share your frustration with the politics of the Middle East, OhioDoc. However I do hope your allusions to nuclear war are a poor attempt at black humor.

In general, Jews, Moslems and Christians are good people, and should not be condemned en masse. We must strive to avoid bigotry of any sort.

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Posted: 07 February 2007 04:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Violence is never a solution, and can only be defended as the last defense move option. I hope that current events do not lead into a nuclear disaster (US-Israel-Iran), some religious fanatics disagree with this stance.

Returning to Professor Schimmel, is he wearing a yarmukle(kippa) in his photograph in the POI web page? If he is, does it diminsh his position as a presumably neutral religious scholar?

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Posted: 16 February 2007 04:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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OhioDoc,

It is apparent from some of your comments that you know very little about the Israeli Arab conflict, the reasons for Israel being where it is and the roots of Zionism. Apart from the fact that it is irrelevant to the discussion, I think that raising profound questions (let alone solutions) when you are unable to even contemplate their meaning. Note that I’m not criticising the lack of knowledge, just the insistence on ignoring that lack of knowledge.

As to your last comment - it would suggest that given the Muslim war on the West, any Western scholar should now be suspicious when the study islam. Do you suggest that’s the case? If not, why should Schimmel’s skull-cap matter?

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Posted: 22 February 2007 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I am still waiting to read or listen to Dr. Schimmel criticize the Jews.

I find it amusing that I received a PM from an Israeli Zionist!

For what it is worth, I listen to Jewish chants, if I absolutely had to choose sides, I would probably side with the Jews.

I don’t know much about Judaism, except that if I wanted to “convert”, even after completing the Orthodox reqirements, I would still be a second class human because my mother is not jewish.

My personal conclusion is that Humans would be better off following Dr. Kurtz ideas of Secular Humanism at the global level. My vision of a true secular society would ban ANY religious garment, holiday, etc…

I plan to read more about Joseph Campbell’s mythology work, instead of learning more about any specific faith, if there is something more accurate than the “Ask Moses” website let me know, and please justify why I should spend more time learning about Judaism instead of studying and promoting Secular Humanism.

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