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Posted: 27 September 2007 08:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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.

[ Edited: 19 October 2007 10:04 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 27 September 2007 10:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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truthaddict - 25 September 2007 10:12 AM
George - 25 September 2007 09:49 AM

some say it helped us to “win” against the Neanderthals.

I like that your put win in quotations…

its kind of like Studs Terkel’s book on World War Two, “the good war”

That’s just the idea I had when reading Zarcus’ post on humanists and Humanists.  You could call someone a ‘humanist’ which would be a step lower than the other two…

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Posted: 27 September 2007 11:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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zarcus - 27 September 2007 08:50 PM

...help people to overcome the evils of religion…

What people, what evils?

I am referring to people who are misguided by bad religious ideas.  Evils.  Do you not see any evil in religion?  Are you wanting specific examples?  Or do you just not like the possible theological implication of the term “evil?”

Undeniably, Dawkins and Hitchens have been demonized in the press.

Both have had positive reviews published in widely read press, such as the New York Times. The assertion you make I see stated as fact often. What press, which reviews?

Does it matter if the reviews are positive or negative?  They illustrate controversy.  The very idea that referring to god as a delusion even could be offensive to anyone is disturbing.  Of course people who don’t believe there is a god think that god is a delusion.  To find that offensive means believing that people who don’t believe oughtn’t have the right.  Is a non-religious person permitted, for even the slightest moment, to take offense by the fact that religious persons believe there to be such a deity?  We don’t and it has never even been considered a possibility.  Who is really assaulting who’s worldview here, and who is acting defensively?

I’ll concede that Hitchens is quite a bit more rude.  As I said before, I don’t agree with everything he says.  But he has some very good ideas.

Perhaps we can play, look at this positive one (I don’t think “positive” could account for “demonized”), then, look at this negative one.

Were there supposed to be links there?  You have obviously read this article from the New York Times-
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/22/books/review/Holt.t.html

I think you make a blanket statement, I think you may do this because you see others do it.

What do you think I am “blanketing?”  I will not deny that my ideas about the topic are not original.  I have seen them presented by others.  I think they are good ones.

Edit: Perhaps I should point out as well that a negative review does not necessarily mean “demonize”. I understand why people use this word so often though, it is an emotional reaction, it speaks to worst possible case, when in fact very little is “demonized”. I would argue that saying “overcome the evils of religion” is closer to “demonizing” then most negative reviews I have seen in the press concerning recent books by D & H (railroading).

It sounds to me as if I sparked an emotional reaction from you!  :grin: Is it really an act of demonizing to state that religion contains evil?  Or is it constructive criticism?  I never said that I had any hatred of religious persons or interest in oppressing anyone’s religion.  To be clear, I don’t.

[ Edited: 28 September 2007 12:15 AM by erasmusinfinity ]
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Posted: 04 October 2007 01:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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Quick thought -  They’re good for Humanists so far as they constitute a kind of authoritative affirmation.  They may also be good for some who are “on the fence” about religion, and looking to “jump ship” at the “touch of a feather” (I just love mixing metaphors).  The whole “preaching to the choir” thing makes me think their value in promoting humanism itself is trivial.  In fact, it’s negative if it causes humanists to be perceived as threats; which may or may not be a *bad* or invalid thing of itself, but it makes for a more hostile climate.

Far better, in my opinion, are the gentle persuasions suffusing the writings of Carl Sagan and Michael Shermer.  Shooting somebody’s sacred cow with a blunderbuss isn’t going to do much more than make them mad.  On the other hand, showing that said cow is, well, just a cow really, is much more liberating.

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Posted: 04 October 2007 07:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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tscott - 04 October 2007 01:25 AM

Quick thought -  They’re good for Humanists so far as they constitute a kind of authoritative affirmation.  They may also be good for some who are “on the fence” about religion, and looking to “jump ship” at the “touch of a feather” (I just love mixing metaphors).  The whole “preaching to the choir” thing makes me think their value in promoting humanism itself is trivial.  In fact, it’s negative if it causes humanists to be perceived as threats; which may or may not be a *bad* or invalid thing of itself, but it makes for a more hostile climate.

Agreed tscott.  Although, I do think that a great number religious persons will see humanists as threats regardless of what they say or do (if by “humanists” you are referring to the non-theistic variety).  Monotheistic religion, in particular, has a certain degree of intolerance built in to it.  And its assertions are dogmatuc by nature.

Far better, in my opinion, are the gentle persuasions suffusing the writings of Carl Sagan and Michael Shermer.  Shooting somebody’s sacred cow with a blunderbuss isn’t going to do much more than make them mad.  On the other hand, showing that said cow is, well, just a cow really, is much more liberating.

I also agree that it is more important to promote good humanist ideas than to simply attack religious belief.  Although, once again, I also think that a criticism of religious dogma would be an essential step in this process.  This certainly poses a challenge.

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Posted: 04 October 2007 09:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Perhaps, given Sam Harris’ views expressed at the Atheist Alliance Convention:

We should not call ourselves ‘atheists.’ We should not call ourselves ‘secularists.’ We should not call ourselves ‘humanists,’ or ‘secular humanists,’ or ‘naturalists,’ or ‘skeptics,’ or ‘anti-theists,’ or ‘rationalists,’ or ‘freethinkers,’ or ‘brights.’ We should not call ourselves anything. We should go under the radar—for the rest of our lives. And while there, we should be decent, responsible people who destroy bad ideas wherever we find them.”

...

We simply do not call people ‘non-astrologers.’” he said. “All we need are words like ‘reason’ and ‘evidence’ and ‘common sense’ and ‘bullshit’ to put astrologers in their place, and so it could be with religion.”

The question would have been better asked; Are Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, good for Humanism, this would make it more interesting I think, especially since Sam Harris is largely responsible for the enthusiastic buying of recent books by the Musketeer’s.

I saw an old friend in the bookstore the other day.. we were both standing in front of the Philosophy section at Barnes and Noble.. and I mentioned how well the three books, staring straight at us (by the mentioned authors) had been selling. He said; “people were thirsty for them”. This took me aback, especially since this bookstore did not shelve a single book by Paul Kurtz, and had no copies on hand of Atheism: The Case Against God. I thought to myself once again, do people not realize there has been a concerted campaign to get Atheist to buy these books? Why even on Richard’s site they were doing a count down for his book to be on the top NYT’s selling list, with many stating they were going to buy another copy. It’s the same people buying the books, largely. There are exceptions of course, as with almost all books. Somehow it all adds up to getting people to “speak out”. Which begs the question (I’ve kept repeating in many forms); speak out how?

What Humanistic values and principles are being forwarded by Christopher Hitchens? There are some of course, to me, probably less then Believers such as Dr. Francis Collins, whose actual science and research has vast Humanistic applications, which he supports (but lo’ and behold, it is louted to shun Francis and to question his science based on his beliefs - that fall outside of his science).

How far will people go to simply push aside values they hold for themselves? How will the integrity of what one holds as Humanistic be shadowed to further a “greater cause”? What Christopher says about religion, to me is not worthy of discussion with other more important issues he forwards to be dissected. But, this is nether here nor there, because I think Humanism is shifting, the big tent has no sides and the pegs are pulling from the ground.

[ Edited: 04 October 2007 09:15 AM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 04 October 2007 09:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Zarcus,

You make an excellent point about a lacking of genuine humanistic literature in the popular mainstream.  I don’t think that Christopher Hitchens really is a humanist, just a non-theist & antitheist.  And, neither Harris nor Dawkins seem to talk much about what I would consider to be humanism in their best seller books (Dawkins does refer people to a variety of humanistic organizations, in case they are interested, in the appendices to The God Delusion).  Perhaps it is this very reason that has made these books so popular.  I sometimes doubt whether or not these books are popular in the way that Harris & Dawkins intended, and I also wonder how their books might be used a pretext for future religious inquisition.

I certainly would prefer to see Paul Kurtz’s Affirmations top the best seller list.  And, unfortunately, I doubt that it could in our present state as a society.  It is unfortunate that societies often take large scale direction only by swinging in reactionary extremes.  And, I do think that we have very good reason to fear a backlash.  My intuition fears the worst.

But, I do think that an honest and direct criticism of religious ideas, however difficult to accomplish, is necessary and important to the advancement of humanism.  Also, if Harris & Dawkins books are used as a pretext for such future inquisitions, I don’t think that they can be blamed for it.  They are just speaking truth.

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Posted: 04 October 2007 11:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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eramusinfinity,

But, I do think that an honest and direct criticism of religious ideas, however difficult to accomplish, is necessary and important to the advancement of humanism.  Also, if Harris & Dawkins books are used as a pretext for such future inquisitions, I don’t think that they can be blamed for it.  They are just speaking truth.

Criticism of Religion is a necessity as far as I am concerned. In fact, all idea’s are fair game, especially scientific theories. I am not sure what you mean by “inquisitions”, but Religion’s have survived much more difficult times, where pure cleansing was sought, by other religionists, as well as Atheistic regimes.

As far as the “truth”. I think Dawkins is possibly wrong, maybe wronger then wrong, when he tries to answer the question; Is religion a “meme”. There are wider implications for this, to which I don’t have time to explain right now, and I would like to discuss that in my thread; The Trouble with Memetics.

Also, it is not truth when arguing for a purely emotional stand point. Take Harris’ view that scientist should unite against Religion. Without going over again how absurd this is, I’ll just say, there are a hell of a lot of scientist who are religious, and if not religious, many claim a belief in a personal God. Including many in the skeptical community.

It is also not “truth” to draw false analogies, such as comparisons of religion to that of belief in Leprechaun’s and Astrology. That is simply an attempt to offer simple explanation by framing the debate as one of stigmatizing belief systems. But, Atheist are not new to the game of stigmatizing Religious beliefs that lead to “inquisitions” (just the latest variety).

These are not “belief in belief”, which is another way of framing a debate, to offer no insight on what is meant, the phrase is just used. As I have stated before, this idea misses a great deal of what Daniel Dennett offered in his book, Breaking the Spell (i.e. - study and learn about Religion). The ones I notice who most often use the phrase are those that do not want to learn, just do what Sam Harris advices, which is to just say, “bullshit”.

I have stated many times, there is a great deal I agree with in all the newest books on Atheism. But, they are far from what I would call worthy of being beacons for rational discourse about forwarding science, reason, or even non-belief. If these books do lead to an “inquisition” of Religion as a whole, then the ones leading the charge are acting out as non-believers, with little to offer.

[ Edited: 04 October 2007 11:09 AM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 04 October 2007 11:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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I’m glad that we are in agreement that criticism of religion is a necessity.  Perhaps I was a bit presumptuous about your views about criticizing religion, having not read all of your prior posts in this forum.

I was using the term “inquisition” as a metaphor in the sense of relating the attacking of persons who assert a non-theistic view.  Of course, I don’t see a literal inquisition, in the sense of exactly what occurred in the middle ages, occurring anywhere in contemporary society.  Although, the office of the inquisition still exists in the Catholic church under a different name and still does pretty rotten things.

There still is a general assumption, however, amongst most theists that I know that persons who are not theistic are morally convoluted and I think that this has little to do with the way that non-theists (including Harris & Dawkins) present themselves.  Vocal atheism is primarily controversial because it is an oppressed stance that is struggling to surface from that oppression.

Of course, there are many differences between religious belief and belief in Leprechaun’s & Astrology from the standpoint of sociology.  Yet with regard to cosmology, religion isn’t particularly less absurd.  Belief in Leprechaun’s & Astrology share with belief in a God (whether anthropocentric, deistic or otherwise) the fact that they are false beliefs. 

I certainly agree that it is unacceptable for non-religious persons to stigmatize religious persons as necessarily bad.  Criticism of religious belief should never extend the the level of persecuting believers, and if a non-religious person does this it can not be said to be because of their non-theism.  And, I will be the first to confess that many of the most brilliant individuals that I have met are religious.  That, however, doesn’t make them correct about their religious belief.

I also think there is a tremendous difference between so-called “atheistic regimes” such as that of Stalin & Pol Pot and theologically motivated regimes such as that of Hitler.  I think that it would be extremely difficult to demonstrate that any so-called “atheist regimes” behaved badly because of their atheism.  I think that these regimes are regarded as atheist regimes, more so, as the result of theistic slander and I think that it is far easier to make a case for a direct causal relationship between religion and religiously motivated atrocity.

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Posted: 05 October 2007 10:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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I also think there is a tremendous difference between so-called “atheistic regimes” such as that of Stalin & Pol Pot and theologically motivated regimes such as that of Hitler.  I think that it would be extremely difficult to demonstrate that any so-called “atheist regimes” behaved badly because of their atheism.  I think that these regimes are regarded as atheist regimes, more so, as the result of theistic slander and I think that it is far easier to make a case for a direct causal relationship between religion and religiously motivated atrocity.

This theme seems to be coming up again in another thread as well.

The Soviet regime of Lenin and Stalin were Atheistic. It was self recognized, and also the definition was clearly understood as non-theist. They had anti-religious views and wished for the end of debilitating religion. In fact, they wanted to be part of the dismantling of religion, which with world domination in mind, one could guess the implications.

The word Atheist, as used in Dawkins et. al. argument that being Atheist did not lead to the anti-religious repression is based primarily on the idea of “belief”. Atheist is only being without belief in a god[s]. So, the argument goes that this non-belief (or without belief) is not a casual influence on the repressive behavior. As Dawkins and Hitchens like to say, it has about as much to do with Atheism as it does with their mustaches.

But, it was then anti-religious views that lead to the behavior of repression of the religious. Of course, when I say repression, I am talking about the atrocities caused by the programs put in place in the Soviet Union against religion.

Atheism was their world views (non-religious), and anti-religious attitudes were put in place through repressive dictates.

I think to try and separate the Atheistic ideal with the anti-religious repression is like trying to separate the Taliban (Sunni Muslim Pashtun)  from the repression in Afghanistan. Except, the Soviet repression was actually more brutal.

[ Edited: 05 October 2007 10:52 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 05 October 2007 11:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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You point out, quite accurately, that there were many programs put in place in the Soviet Union that were oppressive and nasty toward religious people.  I will be the first to contend that religious persons are by no means the world’s only oppressors.  There is no place in my heart for the “oppression” of anyone’s religious belief or for the abuse of religious persons, by any means.  Certainly not the sorts of means by which the Soviets abused religious persons, as they did several other large populations of people who were not markedly religious.

Don’t you think it’s a bit of a stretch, though, to suggest that the sort of religious oppression that we are talking about in the Soviet Union occurred because of anti-religious attitudes?  The Soviet Union worked to oppress human endeavour in countless other areas as well… ethnicity, language, art, music.  It seems to me that they worked to oppress any and all political organization, religious or non-religious, that could threaten the absolute power of the state.

A similar situation is currently occurring in Tibet.  Do you think that China is beating up Buddhists simply because they don’t like their religion?  If so, why do they allow non-Tibetan Buddhists, as well as Muslims and other religious sects, to persist in their ways throughout mainland China relatively unmolested?  The Chinese government has been horribly abusive to the Falun Gong cult, with it’s millions of members, but doesn’t seem to care much about people’s beliefs in Qigong or related bunk alternative medicine?  In fact, they often promote Qigong and traditional Chinese medicine as emblems of their cultural heritage.

I think that there is a far more direct relationship between the Taliban and oppression in Afghanistan.  Maybe we need to be more specific on both sides, Soviet and Taliban.  Which specific oppressive acts?

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Posted: 06 October 2007 09:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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Some days I think the conversation on this forum is so good that I should cancel out my day and just post.

erasmusinfinity,

Don’t you think it’s a bit of a stretch, though, to suggest that the sort of religious oppression that we are talking about in the Soviet Union occurred because of anti-religious attitudes?  The Soviet Union worked to oppress human endeavour in countless other areas as well… ethnicity, language, art, music.  It seems to me that they worked to oppress any and all political organization, religious or non-religious, that could threaten the absolute power of the state.

Yes, I do think the oppression of the religious, and religious institutions in the Soviet Union were because of anti-religious attitudes. Absolutely, without a doubt.

There are other factors, the one I see popping up has to do with the political system and the power structure involved. That’s true, but the threat from religion on the power structure is just another reason for oppression, not the reason.

Taken together, the anti-religious attitudes and the structure to foster a repressive environment are one in the same in many areas. The foundational belief in the debilitating nature of religion was not lost while the regime changed, from Lenin to Stalin . It was strongly believed that social order, here is where I see the confusion with the political system comes in, would be greater without religion, based on anti-religious ideas.

I just don’t know how to be more clear on this. I would like to see counter arguments based on some evidence though. Because I am more then willing to change my mind. It seems strange to me that people would argue that the anti-religious attitudes by the Atheist in control would some how be mitigated by this idea of totalitarian political structure. The absolute power Stalin had came with his already foundational belief system.

I really don’t think this needs to be an either/or proposition. In fact, the only reasons I see so far with regards to this discussion that take out the beliefs of the ones who held dictatorial power are those who argue that it all has nothing to do with their anti-religious attitudes.

Plus, just because there was oppression of other peoples and institutions does not mean the reason they oppressed the religious was not do to anti-religious attitudes. With all due respect, that appears to me to be excuse making.

[ Edited: 06 October 2007 09:45 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 06 October 2007 10:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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Since Dawkins and Hitchens usually bring up Stalin and Hitler in the same tone, I want to briefly comment on Hitler.

I think, at this time, that many Theist as well as Atheist are confusing Hitler’s motives. One wants to place his beliefs front and center, and usually get them wrong by saying he was Atheist, the other would like to say there is nothing about his belief system that caused his hatred of the Jews.

All I will say to this is, just read Mein Kampf—http://www.hitler.org/writings/Mein_Kampf/

It’s actually quite an interesting read, a real page turner. I highly suggest people read the book.

How Hitler felt about the Jews is laid out in black and white. He was about as anti-religious when it came to the Jews as anyone could imagine. Yes, there are political considerations, but when is there not. He likens Jews to being sub-human. The reason for oppressors to cast their enemy as sub-human is based on belief as well as the idea that it becomes easier to oppress and kill them, in other words, get everyone on board.

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Posted: 06 October 2007 10:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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One more thought for tonight, after all I have been trying to make a concerted effort to try and add some positivity to my critiques. cheese

When it comes to beautiful prose there are few in my book that can outdo Dawkins and Hitchens. But, just as wonderfully written a book such as The Selfesh Gene was , which I am sure added to the receptivity of the theory,  in the end it was the data that counted. Here I would agree with Marc D. Hauser in his response piece to Haidt found on Edge.org when he states:

The main reason many biologists, Dawkins included, have classically rejected group selection thinking in favor of individual or gene level selection is because of both the explanatory power of the latter, as well as the predictions that follow from thinking about the world from a gene’s eye view. In particular, as soon as Hamilton, Williams and Trivers turned our attention to the level of the gene, the empirical torrent that followed was overwhelming.

But, there are no “group selectionist” that I know who would deny this. It does not find its explanatory power at the exclusion of group selection (There is a logical fallacy in there, but I am to lazy to think of it, and after all, pointing them out has become cliche). Haidt, Gould, Wilson, Shermer, Boyer, Pigliuuci, and others are not saying the “selfish gene” theory is unworkable, only that it is limited. It’s problematic to ignore the evidence for one theory based on the dislike of the theory by the originator of a new theory. One theory has not displaced the other.

My point here is that in when it comes to certain important ideas, such as we have been discussing, it comes down to function over form, substance is what matters.

This reminds me of the Beyond Belief conference, actually just the exchange between R. Dawkins and Joan Roughgarden. There were many things there that troubled me, but what I have in mind was Joan’s claim that there was an “old boys club” in certain areas within the domain of evolutionary biology. Hauser almost admits this, but without the gender equation.

Richard, rightly, pointed out that science works by evidence, offer up what you have and see if it flys. But, there is more to the story. Joan is a young evolutionist/theoretical ecologist, working out of Standford University, her academic credentials are awesome - find them HERE.

Joan is also a Transexual, and rightly comfortable with her life. The choice of words at the conference were not a mistake, nor were they exactly what Richard would have believed. She offers an insight that I think was worth listening to, as in, why would she believe what she stated. She did not condemn science, nor any domain of science, she offered a recognized perspective. Unfortunately because Richard became impatient and cowardly, we didn’t get the chance to hear her express her views.

I believe the reaction to Joan was based primarily on the fact she openly criticized the “selfish gene” theory, note she did not condemn it. She also is a Christian, who wrote a non-scientific book that is meant to convey the power of Evolutionary theory to the community she shares, and who are by and large the ones most commonly found to be creationist. Nowhere I have seen, after a year of going over this, where she has biased her research with her personal belief in God. I must stress again, the book she offered that I am referring is a non-scientific book, it is shelved in the religion section of the book store. For her efforts, which she publicly announced to a crowd she was fully aware was mainly non-religious, she was scolded. When her efforts should be lauded.

[ Edited: 06 October 2007 10:52 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 06 October 2007 11:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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To refer to Hitler as “anti-religious when it came to the Jews” is an incorrect use of the term “anti-religious.”  Hitler was “anti-Jewish.”  To use the term “anti-religious” one would assume we are referring to all religion.  Not just one.  If a person is “anti-religious” they can’t be religious.  Hitler was a very religious man.  It would even be correct to refer to Hitler as “pro-religious.”  Further, Hitler’s anti-semitism was a direct result of his Christian beliefs.  While I could literally fill pages with Hitler quotes about the influence of Christianity on his thoughts and actions,  consider the following quotes taken directly from Mein Kampf:

“I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord..”

“The greatness of every mighty organization embodying an idea in this world lies in the religious fanaticism and intolerance with which, fanatically convinced of its own right, it intolerantly imposes its will against all others.”

“Christianity could not content itself with building up its own altar; it was absolutely forced to undertake the destruction of the heathen altars. Only from this fanatical intolerance could its apodictic faith take form; this intolerance is, in fact, its absolute presupposition.”

Consider this quote from a speech that he made on April 12, 1922:

“My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.”

These quotes do not reflect an opposition to religion.  They reflect a desire for one religion to dominate!  I think that this is an essential feature to all religions.  Such views were widespread throughout Christendom spanning several centuries prior.  One need look no further back than Martin Luther 1543 treatise On the Jews and Their Lies.  I suggest this is an important read, if one is interested in genuinely understanding Christian anti-semitism.  Such Christian anti-semitism leading from Luther to Hitler is quite well documented in the western literary and theological canons, and one need only look to the Christian bible to find more foundational roots.

I see no evidence that such a feature exists in “non-religion.”  For that matter, I see no evidence that anything necessarily stems from “non-religion.”  “Non-religion” isn’t really anything.  It is only “not something.”  You seemed to brush past that point a few threads ago as if it was needed more justification.  I don’t think that it does.  This point is so rationally concise that it substantiates itself…  a bit like saying that black cats are black… a tautology… redundantly obvious.

Islamic suicide bombers, on the other hand clearly act out of beliefs.  Not a lack of them.  Need I elaborate?

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