Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Response to Austin Rogers: On Emotions

1) Emotion is part and parcel with experience. In my opinion, it is misguided to divide how we perceive a situation and how an experience makes us feel (or how we feel a situation). Instead of thinking that 'emotions affect how we experience life', think that emotions are part of that experience. 
2) I see the distinct emotions as different modes of thinking an experience. 
3) Though one can carry an emotion beyond the initial, there is something in the situation that is translated into emotion. It could be danger or romance possibilities.
4) Emotions can be put into language which other people of like minds understand similarly.
5) One does not have had a particular emotion before to understand the emotion express in language. For example, music easily carries in it organized sounds which convey emotions that I never had about longing, distress, pride, solidarity, etc...
6) It is hard to number how many modes of thinking an experience (i.e. emotions) there are. When you read a lot of books, there are so many complicated emotions that exist. I am a fan of existentialism, and that kind of literature might be the most complex to convey in the pseudo-rationalism we try to limit our writing to.
7) When I said in my earlier papers that motion becomes emotion, I mean that the emotion of which I am describing is very much based in movement. Our actions outward toward others and our projects convey emotions. The actions towards us by others and things convey emotions as well. I argued that there was a transference of emotion via motion between the individual an his or her environment and that is necessary for human life. If a child is sense-deprived, the child dies. Cover a persons eyes long enough, and they become blind because that part of the brain dies.

Austin Roger's response:
1. I agree that emotions are part of the experience. Wouldn't you agree that because emotions affect how we perceive a given situation that the emotions become part of that experience? Because that's all I'm trying to say in this regard.
2. Though, [unlike thought] every emotion has pre-programmed physical responses, and these responses are involuntary. How can emotion be a mode of conscious thinking if emotions are involuntary reactions? I'm not saying I disagree with you, I may just be misunderstanding.
3. Ok, I can agree with that.
4. I disagree, I do not think emotion is as one-dimensional as language. In my opinion, emotions are primarily characterized by the chemical reactions, hormone changes and the immediate thoughts that follow-- this would be very hard to covert into language.
5. I agree with that.
6. Interesting.
7. That makes sense. How can this be tested though?

My second response: 
1. I cannot say that emotions affect your experience because that would suggest that that emotions act separately from a persons experience. 
2. I do not believe in free will, but I understand what you are saying. There is a difference between thinking through a problem and having an emotional response to a problem. The nature of that difference is beyond my understanding.
4. I do not think language is one-dimensional and that is why include music as a kind of language. Because I see the brain as something like an organic computer, I believe organized sound can convey complex thoughts in emotional modes.
7. How it would be tested is a hard thing to say. I am rather emotionally sensitive so I have a strong aesthetic for the little things that I do and things that happen to me. This point is rathermy personal point of view, which I understand if others do not have such a rich emotional reaction to playing in the rain or writing a paper.

My Third Response:
A) I think it should be clear that emotions do not affect experience but are simply part of the collage we call experience. But you keep saying emotions are outside expierence (causing experience) while I am saying something causes emotions which are inside experience. 
B) For me, personality is an affinity for different emotions and ways of thinking and reacting. There is physiological basis for why people feel certain way in different situations. For instance the color blind cannot see certain colors, so those colors are absent from experience. Unlike colors, there is lots of diversity in the affinities for emotions (perhaps due to a lack of evolutionary conditioning).
C) One experiences his or her own thought, so this distinction between ones own thinking and sensory data is not a problem for my theory of emotions. Yes, there is a qualitative difference between self-stimulation and environment stimulation. As David Hume argues, the memory provides only faded or simplified versions of impressions received through sensory data. If I never experienced the color red I cannot have an idea of that color. Emotions have some similar qualities. I cannot have an accurate idea of how it feels to have an emotion I have not had. I can however experience emotions for the first time. From where do these emotions come?
-If they are placed into predestined categories, there is no big difference between the limitation of our species to categorize different colors and these categories of emotions.
-If emotions have infinite variations or numerous degrees, my intuition is that our brain changes to accommodate new emotions that could not be preprogrammed in our genetics.
D) The ego synthesizes and guides action, and by guiding action, I simply mean plays a crucial causal role in the interaction between an organic cognitive system and its environment. Emotion is something to be experienced or, in terms of the ego, synthesized. The maturity of human beings depends of the development of this ego.
                -Through emotional variance, the human becomes capable of a nuance understanding of the causal relation between environment and emotions. Some things make one sad, others make one angry.
                -Humans are natural dualists, so at a very young age, they have a theory of mind that applies to creatures like them. In rare cases, however, a child is born with a different set of natural assumptions. This is especially true of children with autism. When interacting with their environment, some children with autism have trouble associating the actions of humanoids with intentions. Some find it easier to attribute thoughts and intentions to nonliving objects like vacuum cleaners. This I learned from reading some of the diagnoses of Erik Erikson.
E) To say completely caused yet still free is a common assertion among philosophers, Austin. It is important to my theory that people cannot just choose to feel a certain emotion, just as one cannot stop thinking. If asked the origin of their thoughts, people will have a lot of difficulty. For instance, if I ask you to pick a number between one and ten, what makes you choose one number over another. By not knowing the origin of our thoughts, it indicates to me that there is something beyond our conscious experience that is important to this story of the will. Psychoanalyst have suggested a subconscious. I am not well-versed in psychology so I am just going to make the educated inference that it there is some link between the world of experience and the world of impersonal causation.
                -This is not to say that what I think is impersonal, since that would contradict what I mean by personal (i.e. in ones experience).
                -This is not to say that a person is passive in any way. I simply am saying that we need not reject our children (our thoughts and actions) in order to accept our parents (this impersonal causal story that leads to our personal thoughts).

A Response to John W. Loftus's Question, "What do you think is the greatest inhibitor to moral progress?"

It's a rather complicated question. I would say the cycle of violence is the greatest inhibitor to moral progress.
For example, some of the French and Zionists who were tortured by the Nazis later used the same methods of tortured on Muslims (French used it on Muslim Algerians). After the Algerian Revolution (1954-62), the U.S. government hired French counter-terrorist experts for Vietnam and is still using these 'enhanced interrogation' methods.

A big problem in post-colonial world is oppression. The violent of their former colonial powers made the revolutionaries violent in many cases. The many post-revolution governments emerged from this violence and now use the corrupt, oppressive methods of governance on their own people.

In war, violence between two groups escalates, and as my favorite philosopher, Albert Camus, pointed out how choosing to escalate violence demoralizes a people. For instance, rationalizing murder, according to Camus, devalues everyones life. Mouloud Feraoun, Camus's friend from the Kabyle of Algeria during the Revolution, discovered first hand the logic of a nation demoralized by war. This logic sees the murderer the just one and the murdered one the villain. In other words, strength and violence replaced progresive morality.

Also, wars tend to destroy the moderate and dissenting voices. This polarization caused by war led to Mouloud Feraoun's death by a terrorist organisation of ultra-conservative European Algerians. This group hoped to continue the war by killing the voices calling for an end to the war because knowing these European Algerians were losing land of their birth, they acted out of desperation.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Two Kinds of Religion

I think it is important to distinguish between two kinds of religious thinking. Japes P. Carse argues in his book The Religious Case Against Belief that there is dogmatic and inspiring sides of religion. He calls the dogmatic 'finite' because it seeks an end to thought. Once you accept a creed, you have all the beliefs you need and thought is not something other than a tool to get food on the table. The inspiring Carse calls infinite because it seeks constant continuing. For instance, the volumes on ‘who Jesus was’ could fill a library. The infinite religion seeks to create new things and explore ones spirituality. The social progress one can make with the feeling that one is on the side of some infinite spiritual good is real. 

In Friedrich Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals, he criticizes how atheists often escape a world without god by creating new sources of meaning. In Carse-like language, they escape into infinite religion. Nietzsche argues that for an atheist to believe in a realm of independent truth or beauty was simply to return to the values of the religion you left. When Nietzsche said "God is dead," he was trying to tell atheists this. He wanted them to bury God by not having any of the god-based morals or values. Richard Dawkins would be one of those people who falls into the trap of objective meaning because Dawkins is a evolutionary biologist who sees nature as beautiful. In my opinion, the big difference between Dawkins and a typical god-believer in the question of meaning is that Dawkins creates a belief of meaning in something that is real (i.e. nature). 

Albert Camus, my favorite philosopher, made a fundamental shift in thinking about meaning in his essay "The Myth of Sisyphus." Instead of finding meaning in something like god or science, the only real meaning we have access, according to Camus, is to the meaning we ourselves create. He called any escape from the recognition that there is no meaning in the world, to which we have access, 'Philosophical Suicide." What Camus means by 'Philosophical Suicide' roughly is to escape an indifferent world because one does not have the courage to have a freedom, morality, and truth originating in his or her own self.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Is Religion the Enemy of Progress?

"Many Thinkers and Doers are Less Faithful when it comes to subject called GOD.The only reason i think is that...These people(like me and Eric Stockhausen) THINK and OBSERVE whn Religious people blindly follow any path as GODS's path." (Ashish Borakhadikar) 
The following will be Chistocentric because I am a cultural Christian and this is what I know about.

Where I disagree: It matters whether the religion or person is a minority. The religion of those in power serves to keep things the same while the religion of the minority serves to aggitate. So in that respect, the doers can be religious. Naturally, there is lots of disagreement in the Abrahamic religions, and dissidents often have to think up a ideological framework about what their cause is. Jesus, for example, from what we have on this figure was a heretic for his many counter-culture ideas. This led to religious movement that protested against the Roman empire. 

Now where I agree with Ashish Borakhadikar: Once the religion becomes in the service of the powerful, it is the enemy of freethought. While Jesus was a heretic of yesterday, now he is the dogma of today. 

In much of history, the heretic has become the voice of reason pointing out the evils of his or her day. The major thinkers have always had new ideas that challenged the mainstream, which the religious authority often controlled. It was hotly argued in the United States and Europe where languages came from. As Col. Robert Green Ingersoll, a 19th century American abolitionist and feminist, shows in his lecture On Ghosts, the holy texts or ecclesiastical authorities have led to ridiculous beliefs about our natural world (he is just so good I just had to indulge myself in over quoting him):

To show you how perfectly every department of knowledge, or ignorance rather, was saturated with superstition, I will for a moment refer to the science of language.
It was thought by our fathers, that Hebrew was the original language; that it was taught to Adam in the Garden of Eden by the Almighty, and that consequently all languages came from, and could be traced to, the Hebrew. Every fact inconsistent with that idea was discarded. According to the ghosts, the trouble at the tower of Babel accounted for the fact that all people did not speak Hebrew. The Babel business settled all questions in the science of language.
After a time, so many facts were found to be inconsistent with the Hebrew idea that it began to fall into disrepute, and other languages began to compete for the honor of being the original.
Andre Kempe, in 1569, published a work on the language of Paradise, in which he maintained that God spoke to Adam in Swedish; that Adam answered in Danish; and that the serpent — which appears to me quite probable — spoke to Eve in French. Erro, in a work published at Madrid, took the ground that Basque was the language spoken in the Garden of Eden; but in 1580 Goropius published his celebrated work at Antwerp, in which he put the whole matter at rest by showing, beyond all doubt, that the language spoken in Paradise was neither more nor less than plain Holland Dutch. 
Are the theologians welcomers of new truths? Are they noted for their candor? Do they treat an opponent with common fairness? Are they investigators? Do they pull forward, or do they hold back? 
Is science indebted to the church for a solitary fact?
What church is an asylum for a persecuted truth?
What great reform has been inaugurated by the church?
Did the church abolish slavery?
Has the church raised its voice against war?
I used to think that there was in religion no real restraining force. Upon this point my mind has changed. Religion will prevent man from committing artificial crimes and offenses. 
I do not pretend to tell what all the truth is. I do not pretend to have fathomed the abyss, nor to have floated on outstretched wings level with the dim heights of thought. I simply plead for freedom. I denounce the cruelties and horrors of slavery. I ask for light and air for the souls of men. I say, take off those chains — break those manacles — free those limbs — release that brain! I plead for the right to think — to reason — to investigate. I ask that the future may be enriched with the honest thoughts of men. I implore every human being to be a soldier in the army of progress. 
I will not invade the rights of others. You have no right to erect your toll-gate upon the highways of thought. You have no right to leap from the hedges of superstition and strike down the pioneers of the human race. You have no right to sacrifice the liberties of man upon the altars of ghosts. Believe what you may; preach what you desire; have all the forms and ceremonies you please; exercise your liberty in your own way but extend to all others the same right.
I will not attack your doctrines nor your creeds if they accord liberty to me. If they hold thought to be dangerous — if they aver that doubt is a crime, then I attack them one and all, because they enslave the minds of men. 
The heretics, scientists, and philosopher have proven every biblical argument false one after another. The contents of the bible is not based on science but the superstitions of ancient people. As my very religious friend put it, "for those who believe the Bible is infallible, the texts are holy Scripture because they represent God speaking to humanity through the authors of the texts." Once a creed is formed and people asked to just believe these things and nothing else will be asked of their brains, progress in the sciences find cultural obstacles to hurdle. The child is taught to believe not to think. The adult expected to defend the bible not reason. Every thinker must keep nothing holy if they are to freely question and only look at the facts when considering any philosophy.

Another consideration would be that freethought and individualism necessarily mean that those who ascribe to them cannot use the will of the majority tyrannically on minorities. Freethought and individualism makes everyone a minority. The freethinker learns that in order to have liberty him- or herself, he or she must be willing to extend liberty to another. When someone in society is refused liberty, that threatens all individuals because it creates a condition where liberty can be taken away from minorities, and in an individualistic society, that would be everyone ironically enough. In other words, being an individual rather than an adherent to any ideology or faith puts you on an equal playing field with everyone else in society. Leaving dogmatic forms of religion  is the first step in overcoming the barriers between people. By dogmatic religions, I simply mean those religions where one cannot enter or leave freely because of threat of ostracism, violence, or a hell.

I do suggest that people read Ingersoll's lecture On Ghosts for it covers way more than just the origin of languages and the emergence of modern linguistics. 

Epiphany of Richard Bach

Begin this journey, and you will not be able to return.

The child is credulous, for hen covers her children.
The tennager is tentative, for the young fox is not ready to cross the raging river.
The adult is aware, for the seagull can fly over the flock.

From the mountain top you can see the valley, but the hardship is to be above those of your village.

The thought tricks you, for moth wings seem like the eyes of an omnious predator.
The passion penatrates you, for the chimpansee returns the smile with aggression.
The hand harms you, for the scorpion knows only to sting.

You can become stronger now because you rely on your own judgement.

-A tribute to Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Also a tribute to the journey of the youtubist going by Evid3nc3:

On the Possibility of God's existence and reflections on Christian Narratives

Rather than making up numbers and having a debate over Pascal's wager, I just say that something should not even be put on the table as possible if there is no evidence of its possibility.

This is a arguable but important methodical principle, in my honest opinion.Being wrong is not inconsistent with induction to the best explanation. The nice thing about science is that even if the theories and methods are improved, the main principle is that it is based of the conditions of possible experience. I do not see history of science as ever deviating from some verification principle. While theories may be constructed a priori, their ultimate test is in experiment and the consistency with earlier experiences. This is different than speculating what it would be like we lived in a world where the biographies written of some ancient Jewish rabbi were true. The problem is that we do not live in that world.

I find it rather scary the lengths well-practiced believers will go in re-imagining their world according to biblical narratives. It is like seeing a person obsessed with horoscopes, who imagines secret powers between the stars and their lives. The same thing is with people who look up random bible passages for a sign. It often does not matter what they take as the personal interpretation of the passage they look up, for many will construct a predestination narrative after the fact, dedicating it all to their version of superman.

I admit there is weaknesses in the critique in regards to its reversibility. I mean that believers could construct a critique of their understanding of science which shows it to be just as groundless. There are some good arguments in Hume which show how induction lacks deductive grounds and that one should not use induction to prove induction.

This is not to say that I think the Christian perspective and the non-Christian perspective on the resurrection narratives are equal. I just think it is hard to show a well-conditioned believer to look outside their faith perspective and judge it with an empirical methodology. I do not expect them to do so, for it is hard for me to even begin to think like a believer.

The following is just a brief rant about my perspective on religion in my life:
I might have been raised by various protestant denominations but my mind never really understand something like a deity. It just lacked concreteness. God just seems to contradict what it means to exist. For me, to be is to have presence, and presence is spatio-temporal. TO be complex to to be made of simple parts. All complex things, as I understand them (and this of course is that flimsy a piori reasoning), are construct through time by addition of simple parts. God just was a bag of contradictions to my way of understanding the world. He was just a brainless thinker with ectoplasmic man-parts.

I also was very keen on hetrodoxy during my religious days and still in my post-religious days. I always thought that one should keep adding to the bible and that the trinity is too limiting. In my reasoning, the buring bush, the wrestler (Israel), and the black cloud all were manifestations of Yahweh so should be included as additions to the traditional trinity. Why have only three forms if you are an infinite being.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

If I were an Early Christian I would argue this

When the Nicene Council debated on the substance of God, I pondered the nature of divine substance. This in turn led me to think about the differences between God in flesh and in spirit. In order to make progress in my philosophical investigations of this subject, I employed the new and necessary reasoning called logic which Aristotle has taught us. I find it paramount to use logic because I have found Scripture to lack an explicit enough exposition of intangibles. While many have applied Plato’s philosophy to their Christian metaphysics, I find their conclusions to sometimes have significant contradictions, which I wish to refute.

            I am all too aware of the ability of many of Christians who are opposed to my conclusions to provide an abundance of scripture that either complicates or contradicts my conclusions. While I welcome criticism and the kind revealing the error of my way, I feel quite vexed by the ability of my fellow Christians to arrive at multiple contradicting conclusions from Scripture, especially the newer ones. For instance, I am particularly vexed by Paul’s epistles. On one hand, Paul argues in one case that we ought to “use argument, appeal, and reproof” in order to defend the faith (2 Tim. 4:2). On the other, He claims that “God confounds the wise by choosing the fool” (I Cor. 1:17). We know from Proverbs that “fools cannot be corrected by words” (Prov. 29:19) Psalms tells us that “the fool will not stand in the presence of God” (Psalms 5:5). Paul mentions that he “is a fool for Jesus sake” (I Cor. 4:10).

            This leads to two problems from simply quoting Paul, who is highly regarded by Christians for his Apostleship. Through the application of logic, we know that Christian cannot both use argumentation and incapable of persuasion. A fool will not see a good argument when presented with one. If the fool was to choose between the good argument and the bad one, he would choose the bad one. If a Christian is a fool, he believes for the wrong reasons and will probably spread these false reasons to others. If a Christian can use logic in order to defend the faith, he is no longer a fool, but Paul says that God chooses the fool, so does that mean those who defend the faith are no longer saved. God cannot both choose and spurn the fool from his heavenly kingdom. Further, God cannot both confound the wise and not be the “author of confusion” as Paul also writes (I Cor. 14:33). My goal again is to resolve some conflicts not by an extensive review of Scripture. It is rather through the application of logic on the most foundational elements of our faith like Creation to arrive at new knowledge about the nature of God.

Of Creation: Many Christians, including Augustine, believe that God can create substance from nothing (Augustine 503). This is the most evidently false of their beliefs. First, all things have always existed or have parts from preexisting substance. Just as no one can build a house without bricks, God cannot build a new substance from the lack of substance. Since Scripture reveals that only God existed in the beginning, God must have built Heaven and Earth from the only existing substance, Himself.
            Second, omnipotence does not mean that God can do anything but only that which is possible. A common flaw in my fellow Christian’s thinking is to enumerate the powers of God while depriving God of the means toward achieving the aim of that power. The aim of the power of creation is to make new substance but the means of creation is older substance.

God’s flesh body in the Garden: As Scripture reveals, God walked while in the Garden, which implies the finitude of God’s flesh body. In order to walk, this flesh body must have limited stature or the body could not move without overstepping its destination. Even a single degree difference of the angle between the legs would amount to an infinite distance. One can logically conclude then that the body of the God depicted in the Garden is not omnipresent. This flesh body must rather be the puppet of the spirit of God which is omnipresent and infinite.

In God’s Image: What can one learn about God’s image? First, an image implies materiality. God’s image must refer to his flesh body and its perceived properties. Second, Adam shares this image as an honor bestowed upon him by God. Third, one also knows that neither Adam nor God came from a womb; therefore, they lack a navel. Fourth, God plucked a rib from Adam to form Eve. Rib means here either a part or a side. On one hand, understood as a part, God uses a similar process in which part of God made the world in order to form Eve’s flesh body from Adam. On the other hand, understood as a side, Adam originally had a male half and a female half. This translates into God also having both sexes contained in his flesh body. Aristophanes gave a similar account in Plato’s Symposium, so the idea that Adam originally had both male and female components and was without a belly button is not unoriginal either (Symposium 190a-192a). 
            While the second interpretation would strike as blasphemy to many of my fellows, the possibility of this interpretation exists, and one ought to account for it when taking steps in knowing more about God. As I have mentioned earlier, the Scripture can simultaneously express multiple messages which one can apply reason to discern the true message often. In this case, I have found neither interpretation more persuasive so have suspended judgment. I suggest the suspension of judgment in cases like this when the evidence does not lead to a single conclusion. This would greatly reduce the degree of unnecessary conflict which occurred between those who debated in the Nicene Council.
Of Physical Phenomena: God created four elements: earth, water, air, and fire.  First, God created water (Genesis 1:2). Next, God created the firmament or earth (Genesis 1:6). Then, He drew a line in the water called the horizon; thus, God made the Heavens (Genesis 1:7) Finally, God created the Sun and with it fire (Gen. 1:16). With these elements, God made all things of flesh, including His own flesh body.
            All flesh bodies give off and take in the four elements. Without any of them, the body ceases to function. Without taking in fire, the body starts to freeze to death. The other deprivations are thirst, hunger, and asphyxiation. I disagree with the Gnostics who point to the decay of the body as an imperfection of material bodies. Decay is the natural process where God’s material creation slow breaks down into simpler substance. This process eventually leads to the substance returning to the original substance of God. Decay, in other words, is the decrease in the degree of separation between God and his material creation.
            Material substance has one main characteristic that distinguish it from spiritual substance. This is firmness or the tendency of a body to resist penetration or motion. Earth has the highest resistance of the elements, while fire has the least, for even air can crush fire. Things of equal firmness do not penetrate each other but rather move around one another. The motion around equal firmness manifests itself as wind and current.

Of Spiritual Phenomena: Like the physical elements, there are four kinds of spirits: motion, Holy Spirit, souls, and demons. The infinite substance of God controls over motion and Holy Spirit. Scripture tells us the God stopped the Sun and then brought it back into motion (Isaiah 38:8). Motion is the kind of spirit which affects material objects. It transfers from one object to another, often dividing itself between the two. Motion disperses itself through the solid in which it finds itself and the greater dispersion the weaker the motion.
God used the Holy Spirit in order to control the Pharaoh and King Saul and facilitate their demise (Exo. 4:21 and I Sam. 22:5-23:14). The Holy Spirit affects souls and demons. Unlike motion, Holy Spirit does not weaken when it enters a large material body, for its effect is not in the matter but in spirit. Holy Spirit is how God communicates to the souls of His followers and cleanses them of sin. Jesus used the Holy Spirit cast out demons. God has chosen few in our history to have power over the Holy Spirit, most notably being the Apostles. This power allows them to perform miracles. 
God created the first human soul in Adam. In every subsequent human being, a new soul forms as a product of the holy union between man and women. Demons are produced from homosexuality and various other deviations from this holy union. All souls have power over motion which allows the soul act in the physical medium. Human souls also have a finite intelligence which allows them to act intelligently. Demons have twisted powers, and their presence in the body leads to disease and madness.
What distinguishes souls from one another is an independent will. This is important in that this leads me to believe that Jesus and God are different from each other in this essential way. In the garden of Gethsemane, both Matthew and Luke tell us that Jesus prayed to that God’s, not Jesus’, will be done (Matt. 26:39 and Luke 22:43).  Since there are two wills, there are two souls. Also, because in the beginning there was only God, Jesus must have come into existence later. In this, I agree with Arius.

On Gnostics: Though I have yet to cover much of particularities of substances and God, I feel it necessary to take metaphysics a stride at a time. After every exploration into new territory, it is important to reflect upon criticism of one’s work. The Gnostics criticism of my reasoning on God is most serious of all, and it has become relevant that I address some of it.
            The Bishop of Memphis when at the Nicene Council had argued that those who think they understand anything about God commit a kind of hubris. He believes that finite minds cannot understand something infinite like God. While at first glance, I believed that he contradicted himself by claiming that he knows that God has only unknowable qualities. If unknowable is a quality, he is claiming that he does indeed know a quality of God. I will concede however that this is not a contradiction. Lacking the capacity to appreciate God is rather a quality of humans and not God.
            One of my contentions is that if one can say nothing with certainty about God, why has God revealed himself to his creation if not to make them know him? The absurdity of this reveals itself the difficulty one must have if one cannot have any idea of God. For instance, how is a Christian a Christian if he does not know anything about his religion? Can one expect him to even understand prayer if he does not know to whom he prays?
            Another contention I have is that the claim that one commits hubris in “knowing” God leads to the strange conclusion that much of Scripture becomes hubris. King David writes a great deal of praise of God’s attributes. Is the bishop claiming that David made a mistake by writing Psalms?
            My final contention is against the bishop’s claim that a human mind cannot have an idea of the infinite. There is a difference between the ability to comprehend an idea and the ability to imagine it. For instance, while I can have an idea of a thousand-sided polygon, I cannot imagine it and count its sides. I comprehend the polygon so far as I know the geometrical properties thereof. Similarly, I know God so far as I know his qualities and plan. This is why I chosen to focus on the qualities of God’s substance, and just like in Euclid’s geometry, I use those basic properties to learn more about God and his creation.

Works Cited:
Coogan, Michael D., et al., eds. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. 4th rev. ed. New York: Oxford, 2010.
Plato. Symposium. The Collected Dialogues of Plato. Trans. Michael Joyce and Ed. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1961.

Friday, May 6, 2011

In-Group Mentality in Abrahamic Religions

Some strains of the Abrahamic religions through their respective holy texts present a narrative of the Other that fosters an us-them mentality. While passages about tolerance exist, there are also many passages on social prohibitions placed on the outside group. This includes marriage and friendship restrictions, divisiveness between family members, and warfare. Since these passages encourage an anti-pluralistic environment, they have profound importance when examining the manifestation holy war and apartied both in the past and present.
Prohibitions on marriage exist in the three Abrahamic religions that reflect an us-them mentality. In the Hebrew Bible, a law prohibits Jews from marrying with Ammonites and Moabites (Deuteronomy 23:3, NRSV). The Deuteronomy passage with this prohibition continues with an explanation outlining the crimes of impiety and wickedness (Deuteronomy 23:4-5, NRSV). While the Hebrew bible gives ethnic prohibitions, in the New Testament, Paul prohibits marriage with nonbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14, NRSV). His justification is that opposites should not mix, or in his words: “For what do righteousness and lawlessness have in common? What fellowship has light with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14, NRSV). The Quran likewise dictates that the faithful should not wed a pagan woman “until they believe,” claiming that even a believing slave is better than an idolatress (Haleem II:221). The Prohibition also applies to marrying off ones daughters to idolaters (Haleem II:221). The explanation for the prohibition is that these idol worshipers will lead you to other faiths (Haleem II:221). This prohibition helps to foster in the people of the Abrahamic deity a sense of identity while detailing the qualities of the “Other.”
            The Quran in particular has a plethora of prohibitions against friendship with nonbelievers. III:28 of the Quran states that believers should not make nonbelievers their allies because to do so would “isolate [them] completely from God” (Haleem). III:118 urges believers not to make intimate friendships with “such outsiders [for they] spare no effort to ruin [believers] and want to see [believers] suffer: their hatred is evident from their mouths, but what their hearts conceal is far worse” (Haleem).  This is similar to a passage in Hebrew Bible which states that atheists are fools, “they are corrupt, their deeds are vile” and none of them can do good (Psalms 14:1, NRSV). The Hebrew Bible also warns that the backs of fools will receive beatings (Proverbs 19:29, NRSV). This separation between believers and nonbeliever exists in the New Testament as well. Paul provides a quotation attributed to the god of Abraham in his second letter to the Corinthians urging believers to separate themselves from the unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:17, NRSV).
            The Abrahmaic holy books also encourage divisiveness in families. In the Hebrew Bible, the faithful should kill family members who attempt to lead them to other gods (Deuteronomy 13:6, NRSV). In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus reportedly said that believers ought not to think that he came to bring peace “but to bring a sword” (Matt 10:34, NRSV). The passage continues with an explanation of the animosity believers should have towards their family as proof that their love is for their god (Matt 35-39, NRSV). The Gospel of Luke contains a similar message, claiming Jesus said:
“‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’” (Luke 12:49-53, NRSV)
 The Quran has many verses on the subject as well. IX:23 of the Quran claims that those who ally with their disbelieving fathers and brothers are wrong-doers (Haleem). The Quran claims that disbelievers respect neither treaty nor ties of kinship because “their hearts are against [the believers] and most are lawbreakers” (Haleem IX:8). Disbelievers, according to the Quran, have “sold God message for a trifling gain, and barred others from [their god’s] path” (perhaps a reference to Judas) (Haleem IX:9).
            The Abrahamic holy texts have prohibitions against the certain people entering holy places. The Hebrew Bible claims that the arrogant will not stand in the presence of the Abrahamic god (Psalms 5:5, NRSV). A believer could understand that this means that the arrogant cannot enter the temple because that is god’s house (2 Samuel 7:13, NRSV). The unclean from entering holy places and this includes women during menstruation and men who have had wet dreams (Leviticus 15:1-19, NRSV). The Quran prohibits anyone but those who maintain the five pillars of Islam from “tending [god’s] places of worship” (Haleem IX:8-9). In the Quran, those who believe in the trinity are unclean, and the Quran urges believers to “not let [these believers in the trinity] … near the Sacred Mosque” (Haleem IX:28). These verses stress purity as well as separation.
            Some parts of the Abrahamic holy texts call their adherents to war against the other. The Hebrew bible claims that their god blesses those who dash the enemies’ children against the rocks (Psalms 137:9, NRSV). The Hebrew bible reports that Yahweh commanded the Israelites to kill all the males, even children and infants, and the women who have had sex because this particular tribe had wronged Yahweh and his people (Numbers 31:16-18, NRSV). Joshua makes an example of god’s treatment of the Hebrew’s enemies by having them step and crush the necks of five kings (Joshua 10:24, NRSV). Joshua tells them to neither fear nor let their circumstances dismay them but be strong and courageous because this is how the god of Abraham will treat anyone they fight (Joshua 10:25, NRSV).
According to the Quran, “believers fight for [their god’s] cause, while those who reject fight for an unjust cause” (Haleem IV:76). The verse continues commanding believers to “fight the allies of Satan” (Haleem IV:76).  Except during the four holy months, the Quran urges believers to kill, seize, besiege, and wait for idolaters at every outpost (Haleem IX:5). The Quran commands that they fight whether armed or unarmed, wealthy or poor, strong or weak (Haleem IX:41), and one likes it or not (Haleem II:216). If one does not fight, the Quran says that god will punish severely those who do not fight and replace them (Haleem IX:39). One should not even flee the battle field to save one’s own life (Haleem III:155-158). The god of Abraham, according to the Quran, commands for them to make war and deal harshly with the unbelievers and hypocrites (Haleem IX:73). The Quran even claims that the Abrahamic god requires prophets to first slaughter their enemy on the battlefield before taking any captives (Haleem VIII: 67). The Abrahamic god also rewards believers for their valor (Haleem IV:95, 100, 169).
During the crusades, the language influential Christians and Muslims utilized demonized their respective Other. One witness reported that Pope Urban referred to the Muslims as a vile race (The Crusades 40). Like in the quranic passages previously cited, Pope Urban the second calls for all, presumably male, Christians to aid in the destruction of their enemy regardless rank or wealth (The Crusades 40). Pop Urban II reportedly followed this up with a remission of sins for all acts committed before and during the crusade, making all forms of violence against the enemy and their women permissible (The Crusades 40). Another witness claims that Pope Urban referred to Christian’s enemy as an “accursed and foreign race” and as “enemies of God” (The Crusades 40). In Baha Ad-din’s Life of Saladin, Ad-din justifies fighting for the Abrahamic god’s cause by quoting the Quran and claiming that there are many verses “exhorting [Muslims] to fight for the faith” (The Crusades 150). According to Baha Ad-din, the veritable passion to wage war in his god’s name filled Saladin’s whole heart (The Crusades 150). The desire to fight even led, according to Ad-din, to Saladin leaving “his family, his children, his native land, the place of his abode, and all else in his land” (The Crusades 151).
While there are passages which encourage pluralism, it is naïve to ignore the existence of more intolerance, divisive, and violent passages. The Abrahamic religions are not all love and prosperity but also death to ones enemies. There is an underlying narrative about the people believers should fear and hate. This is the Other who through the biblical and quranic narratives becomes the quintessential evil. Believers who take these passages seriously may utilize them in order to justify violence and warfare. This is a legitimate danger that some strains of the Abrahamic religions raise.

Work Cited:
Abdel, Haleem M. A., trans. The Qurʼan. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Print.
Coogan, Michael D., et al., eds. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. 3rd rev. ed. New York: Oxford, 2007.
The Crusades: A Reader.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fox News article claims that Bush-Era 'interrogations' provided key information for Osama's captured

See Article Here

I would not trust the assertion. It seems too good to be true that these 'enhanced interrogations' provided this specific information. In my opinion, they are asserting this in order to make the public think their 'interrogations' were all actually justified. It also seems a bit over the top to think information from years ago gave specific information on where Osama bin Laden was because a trail tends to go cold within two days in these networks. I am saying this having studied the use of torture in order to breakup militant nationalist organizations in Algeria during their Revolution. These networks tend to want their members to hold out two days so all their information can be made useless. Even if these 'interrogations' brought about this information, that just shows that we tortured many people for years and only just found the right person to torture. I explained in "The Rise of Islamophobia" the details of these 'interrogations' by referencing a historian's analysis of Pentagon papers. The following is an excerpt from that essay:
The prime example of the actualization is the use of torture. In official Pentagon reports “suggest that kidnappings, unlawful interrogations, and sometimes summary executions of prisoners are becoming routine practices by our security forces, in and out of uniform” (Ray vii). Beyond just harsh living conditions like being “chained to the floor for days on end,” these Muslim prisoners “are manipulated, humiliated, sexually taunted and shamed, and their religion defiled” (Ray viii). A Pentagon investigation calls what the security forces subjected their prisoners to as “‘sadistic, blatant, and wanton’ abuses, including attacks by dogs , rape, sodomy, and, sometimes, death” (Ray viii).  

I am going to wait until more information is made available and we get some expert opinions by historians of the contemporary conflicts in the Middle-East before accepting what the news claims about 'what this proves'.

Work cited:
Ray, Ellen. “Introduction.” Alleg, Henri. The Question. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2006. Print.