Steve Pinker, my new favorite Jew. I first found out about him through anadder. How I found that blog, I can't remember. I had some ideas in my head that Steve Pinker has confirmed through scientific investigation. Like the decrease in violence, the lower ratio of deaths in WWII in comparison with other wars, and the most recent, a bare bones moral objectivity.
When I first decided to work on the "Morality Project" I didn't realize how little had been done on the scientific end. Religion had the copyright for thousands of years and the non-religious philosophy decided to take a pick at it over the past couple hundred years. It seems only in very recent years have biologists, anthropologists, and psychologists made any headway.
However, the work that I hoped to accomplish has already been done, far better then I ever could have hoped for, by Steve Pinker. He wrote an article that was featured in the NY Times this past January. You can read it here. I hope to digest and discuss that article over the next couple of weeks.
Doesn't everyone want world peace? I hate to sound like I'm auditioning for the Miss America beauty pagent, or a one-too-many-acid-trips hippy but don't we?
Ever since my faith in God was removed, I've been all the more concerned about morality and unity. Gora, the noted Indian Atheist said, “Because morality is a social necessity, the moment faith in god is banished, man’s gaze turns from god to man and he becomes socially conscious. Religious belief prevented the growth of a sense of realism. But atheism at once makes man realistic and alive to the needs of morality.”
Sam Harris has spoken out against using the labels, like "atheist." I am forced to agree with him. The more labels, the more division. Labels point out our differences when the similarities are so much greater. I just don't believe in God or the divinity of any books. I have no reason to believe in the supernatural but there are many things that we can all agree on. It's our similarities, our common goals and aspirations that can bind us together.
This polarity, with the believers clinging to religious dogma, and the non-believers clinging to science will get us nowhere in the end. Few will cross over and the wall will just keep getting harder to cross .
It is only the unfounded, unevidenced dogma of religion that I reject. However, as Sam Harris said, "A kernel of truth lurks at the heart of religion, because spiritual experience, ethical behavior, and strong communities are essential for human happiness... Clearly it must be possible to bring reason, spirituality, and ethics together in our thinking about the world."
We are all connected by the mere fact that we are all humans experiencing this world. Ethics and Morality naturally lead one to go beyond yourself through spiritual experience. Feelings of love and unity greatly enhance contemplative arts which in turn enhance those feelings. Spiritual experience is an empirical fact. It has nothing to do with proving religious dogma and everything to do with enhancing and better understanding human experience. These experiences can be meaningful without the irrational dogmas that so often accompany them.
Perhaps it is here in the realm of unique human experience and spirituality, the point between religious dogma and the cold facts of science that we can find a common ground to build on.
I still reserve the right to criticize religious dogma, don't misunderstand me. Ultimately, religious dogma and superstition must be erased from mankind. It can only continue to divide us and hold us back from personal, social, and scientific progress. Inter-faith relationships are certainly admirable but appear to be mere band-aids covering an immeasurable gap. The graphic above can only work long term when those symbols represent a culture or historical point of view, not a dogma.
However, I'm writing this now because I've been reading "Varieties of Religious Experience" by William James as well as some articles about rational mysticism and religious experience from a psychological and scientific viewpoint. Kudos to arama, EJ, and the gang at XGH's blog for showing me the light. Empirical facts are undeniable. Admit to the truth when you see it.
McCain the Straight Talker! McCain seems like an alright guy but I wouldn't want him as my president. What I want to know is how the hell did he get a reputation for being a Straight Talker?
One thing everyone agrees on is Obama's thrilling oratory skills. He is truly a poet. But it's not just his hypnotic effect behind the microphone that has secured my vote. Obama is right on when it comes to the issues. I'm very proud to have voted for Obama in the primaries and I can't wait to do it again in the General Election. Obama for president 2008!
I heard about the "Harm Principle" while reading some comments on some post on some blog from 2007 sometime. "The harm principle is articulated most clearly in John Stuart Mill's On Liberty." from Wikipedia. It is related to "The Ethic of Reciprocity." It piqued my interest and I started doing some research. The first thing I noticed is that it's something that has been around and advocated by the most influential religions from millienia ago. The Harm Principle takes up similar forms.
Confucius say, "Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself?"
Analects XV.24, tr. David Hinton
Do not do unto others what angers you if done to you by others. -Isocrates 436-338 BCE
Hillel was challenged by a potential convert to Judaism to teach him the whole Torah while he stood on one leg. Hillel replied, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to others.”
Jesus said in Matthew 7:12, Luke 6.31 said, "In all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so unto them."
This is the sum of duty: do naught to others which if done to thee would cause thee pain. -The Mahabharata (Hindu)
Hurt not others with that which pains yourself. -Udana-Varga (Buddhist)
No one of you is a believer until he desires for his that which he desires for himself. -Hadith
He should not wish for others that which he doth not for himself, nor promise that which he doth not fulfil. -The Book of Certitude (Bahai)
"An it harm none, do what ye will." Wiccan Rede
Steve Pinker said,"...the inexorable logic of the golden rule: The more one knows and thinks about other living things, the harder it is to privilege one's own interests over theirs. The empathy escalator may also be powered by cosmopolitanism, in which journalism, memoir, and realistic fiction make the inner lives of other people, and the contingent nature of one's own station, more palpable—the feeling that "there but for fortune go I.""
Since I forecasted that I was going to write this post I've sort of regretted it. My problems with condoning subscribing to a religion are these
- Being a free thinking atheist I've experienced it's glory.
- I don't want to sound condescending, meaning I don't want to make it sound that everyone that is religious is just a sheep or otherwise giving in to social pressures.
- Secular Humanism. This has free inquiry in, so the possibility of getting dogmatic about human interests isn't all that great. Even if it does lead to being dogmatic about humanitarian concerns, there are far worse things.
- Buddhism. This is a really simple life philosophy and the Buddha was agnostic or ignostic. Though some have been accused of worshiping the Buddha as a deity, this isn't what Buddhism is about at all. An all around fulfilling, serenity bringing, peaceful religion.
- Reconstructionist and Humanitarian Judaism. Want modern, liberal, secular, Jewish Religion? These are for you.
- Any Orthoprax religion. If you get around on the Jblogs then you probably know something about Jewish Orthopraxy. The plus is it rejects dogma, the minus is it still ecnourages some kind of observance of halacha, which means no Italian hoagies and no watching the ball game on the Sabbath.
- New Age and Neo Paganism. These are definetly my least favorite. They have some pretty strange beliefs but they are pretty harmless. It promotes spirituality as part of overall wellbeing. Peaceful but wierd.
Fundamentalist religions are among the worst evils in my book. STAY AWAY IF YOU VALUE YOUR LIFE AND THE LIFE OF ANYONE OUTSIDE YOUR SUB GROUP.
Originally, the name of this post was going to be "Religions that ain' t that Bad" but one of the comments I had from Al Knight and after trying to understand the fascination that XGH and other's have with EvanstonJew I decided to write this preface.
When I say that I'm Fed Up with Religion, I am referring to a very specific definition of religion, the one with which I was born and raised. It includes, but is not limited to, the idea that there is some being above and beyond conception that created the universe. This same being is one and the only one yet he is highly jealous and will severely punish those that deny his existence or acknowledge the existence of other similar beings. He did not reveal himself to mankind and waited millennia for a man named Avram to figure out that he existed. Later, Avram's descendants were forced to
God lead them out of
49 days later, God decides to have us sign the contract that would bind us and our future generations till the end of time. This contract included 613 laws that included laws to commit genocide on the Amalekites, how to keep slaves, laws that did not allow husbands and wives to cohabitate or even touch each other during certain times, and asked us to slaughter animals to give him a sweet smell. This contract was delivered with some very awe-inspiring natural occurrences and Moshe told us the God gave us a sneak peek of 10 commandments of more that were to come. According to tradition, we accepted.
Now, the written Torah left some things unclear including how to keep some of these mitzvoth. So hundreds of years later, our spiritual leaders let us know that there was an Oral Torah that filled in the blanks and otherwise explained the written legacy that Moshe Rabeynu had left us. You thought you had 613 commandments? B b b Baby you just ain't seen nothing yet! Here's something you never should forget. But this Oral Torah was too complex to make it through yet another exile and the Oral Torah that was never to be written down was, by Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi and his students. Ladies and Gentleman I present to you the Mishna.
But the Mishna too, left a lot of unanswered questions and intentionally so. So a few hundred years later the Mishna was combined with an extremely complex commentary known as the Gemara, which formed the Talmud. Around this time, Jewish spiritual leadership was separated in
It seems that the Torah's assumed shorthand influenced our writings because we never could or perhaps never wanted to write a book that expressed exactly what God wants from us. Differing opinions multiplied in worldwide Judaism from its philosophy to its law. However, in the 1200s, there was a brilliant thinker by the name of Moshe ben Maimon that attempted to set the record straight. The Rambam's effect on what is now Orthodox Judaism cannot be underestimated. Though he was, and is, argued on by just about everyone, this shows his influence; if you want to say something in Jewish Thought or Law, you have to contend with the Rambam.
Since the Rambam, there has been a plethora of books from thousands of authors each attempting to explain and interpret that contract we made with God on
It is this view and others like it, of God and what he wants from us that I am not only fed up with but vehemently oppose. Religious belief has made unfulfilled promises, exaggerated historical claims and unverifiable, unfalsifiable assumptions. It has stifled opposition and is self sustaining by forbidding and cutting off heresy. I no longer care to be part of Orthodox Judaism or any other movement that lies to itself about its fundamentals and doesn't allow for critical thinking. Those that are deceived themselves have deceived me and this is where I’ve drawn the line.
From the standpoint of science and reason, it is quite clear that Orthodox Judaism and any other fundamentalist religion is not true. However, Judaism is so much more then a dogma with cruel, outdated laws. There is a national history, legacy, culture and so much more. These, I do not want any Jew, or any person interested, to miss out on.
Returning now to the start of my post, there is a yet another sphere of religion known as religious experience. It is something that is empirically proven and of which there is no doubt; there is something very real being experienced, which from a subjective viewpoint may seem more real then anything science and reason can tell us. These experiences though, do not require us to lock up our minds and accept religion’s dogma with blind faith. Oh no, it is something that is open to all and would be better off with a certain detachment from its superstitious origins. I am referring to the numinous and to meditation. Though these experiences can certainly be of good, a certain measure of caution should be practiced.
There is something that religions give that atheism and free thought cannot give you and that is a ready-made historically tested way to live a fulfilled, meaningful life. Personally, I am uninterested in buying a such a guide to living life and I would encourage everyone everywhere to use the tool of free thought wherever life may lead them. I am very greatful for a healthy, young mind and I wish to use it to develop a tailored understanding of life and the universe. I’ll draw on truth where it can be found and try to apply it to my daily life. But for those that have social and familial reasons or simply a personal inclination, with this preface I will bring a listing of religions that aren’t that bad.
Survival. It's a shame that we have to focus on such basic instincts. Mark Bittman talks about what we need to eat in order to keep the earth and future generations alive.
As the name of my blog implies, I'm no fan of religion. However I do believe in Freedom of Religion and a huge majority of the earth's population subscribes to some kind of religion. I need to get along with my fellow humans.
In the real world, I am a very personable guy and I respect other's beliefs. I do not try to engage people in casual conversation to question their beliefs because this can be a very intimidating, embarrassing and otherwise uncomfortable feeling for all parties involved. What I do promote, though is peace among believers and non-believers and believers and believers, in other words ecumenism and inter-faith pluralism.
When you point out the similarities and common truths that can be found amongst religions in a positive light, this can be a highly enlightening experience, especially those that are commonly closed off to people of other faith. "They believe that too?" and "Wow, we have a similar religious practices!" This type of knowledge can bring peace and remove unconscious prejudices that in-groups have for out-groups.
When there is common ground, the wicked notion of heretic, apikorus, and kafir seems somehow unimportant or at the very least can open people to the idea of different strokes for different folks.
Posts in the near future.
- Why Can't We All Just Get Along.
- Religions that ain't that Bad.
- The Harm Principle.
When making moral judgments, the circumstances in which they were made have a significant effect. For example, if one lied to keep the peace, that lie may be acceptable but if one were to lie about having a contagious disease and this person was in constant contact with others, then this would certainly be unacceptable.
Another circumstance in which we are usually very forgiving is that of duress. If someone's life is being threatened or a person is threatened with torture, almost anything is permitted.
Those that believe in life after death, have the threat of hellfire over their head whenever this thought comes to his conscious. If a believer doesn't do his god's will then this person is under threat of hell. Should we excuse a believer's actions because of such a threat?
When thought of in this light, some have suggested that the belief in God and it's usual accompaniment of punishment or reward in the after life, is a psychological disorder, virus or disease. These are very strong words and seem terribly nasty towards a great majority of our planet's human population.
However, now, many years after the Age of Enlightenment, many of us have come to acknowledge that immoral and irresponsible behavior is inexcusable even when they have religious motivations. The terrorists of 9/11, the suicide bombings that happen too frequently in Israel , and terrorist activity around the world are condemned by the entire free world. Most if not all of these attacks were motivated by religious belief. We do not excuse the mother that let her child die because she refused to take her child to a doctor, preferring to pray to God.
Irrationality sometimes comes at a high price. Acceptance of intolerant ideas has cost us many lives.
To categorically condemn religious, dogmatic belief seems naive and intolerant. Hasn't religious irrationality motivated many people to do tremendous good?
There is a concept in Jewish Law known as "to sit and not do anything is better (shev v'al ta'aseh)." It comes in to play when one is faced with a dilema in Jewish Law to act or not to act. You may get tremendous benefits from doing the act but then again the loss could be just as great. The answer that is given at times is, "Just don't do anything!" Perhaps it would be best to apply this methodology to religious belief.
I haven't made that much time for my morality project of late but here is a short post with the thoughts I've gathered thus far.
If we didn't care about ourselves then we'd die very young. Fortunately, we have very selfish genes and all they want to do (as far as we now know though there is something brewing on the horizon) is to live and to live on through their offspring.
When you think of selfish you think of the kid in kindergarten that stole all the toys at recess for himself. Now that he's grown up he's realized that that kind of attitude isn't going to get him very far in life (though unfortunately some never mature from that previous stage). If all we are is selfish genes then why do we share so nicely?
You can be more selfish when you work together with people. I can ensure my survival by working together with you and you and you etc. Evolution has ingrained groupishness into us and that group has expanded over the years. Family, clan, tribe, state, country, and hopefully in the near future global. We've come to realize that people are worth more to us alive then dead. Remember that parable about the goose and the golden eggs.
Just from a purely selfish standpoint it's better to get along with others.
There was such a good comment by AgnosticWriter that I had to give it the post that it deserved. I'm no therapist but I have great respect for the field. I've heard and seen people have real psychological struggles in regards to leaving religion. So here's the post.
I agree with FedUp that existential angst should be taken seriously.
A few further thoughts:
1. Finding the right therapist is very important. Although we might hope that all therapists are open-minded and professionally objective, that's by no means always the case. They're humans, too, and subject to the same vulnerabilities and biases as the rest of humanity--and sometimes these leak through in their dealings with patients/clients. Also, due to differences in temperament, background, and other factors, a good therapist for one person is not necessarily a good therapist for another.
Bottom line? Find the right therapist for you. And if at first you don't, don't give up on therapy, overall. There are good therapists out there who can be of help.
2. In my experience (as a therapist and an ex-frum person) sometimes a good friend or two, with whom one can discuss the issues and feel less alone, or at least vent one's frustrations and get some sympathy, can be as helpful (and far less expensive) than a therapist.
But, of course, in cases of serious depression, or despair, it's usually wise to seek professional help.
3. Books can be enormously helpful--both intellectually and emotionally. In my journey, I found, for the intellectual side of things, among many others, books by Walter Kaufmann very helpful ("Faith of A Heretic" and "Critique of Religon and Philosophy") and for the emotional side of things, I found helpful, among others, books by David Burns ("The Feeling Good Handbook" and others on managing emotions by cognitive therapy techniques) and Nathaniel Branden ("Six Pillars of Self-Esteem").
In short, the right therapist (one with whom you "click" and feel safe and understood, and who is able to help you cope and heal) can offer some benefits unavailable from books. Still, books offer some benefits not necessarily available from therapy sessions--such as hours and hours of low-cost, in-depth, always available information and encouragement, free of the possible emotional static or possible shame involved in dealing with a live person.
E'lu Va'Elu Divrei...
AgnosticWriter | 05.14.08 - 12:33 am | #
Everyone wants Einstein for their own. Now we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he was an ATHEIST!
Anything that is not something else is unique. Being unique isn’t very unique.
For some reason though, there are those that claim that their religion is the most unique and therefore is the one true religion. Please see here for some details about a particular respected-by-bloggers Rabbi’s opinion on the matter of why he thinks that Judaism is divine.
For those that can’t shake the belief that Judaism is really, really unique, I’ve compiled this very short list of not-so-unique tidbits about Judaism and it’s Torah.
- Akhenaton instituted a one-god religion debated by scholars to be either a monolatry, henotheism, or perhaps even monotheism. Moses instituted a one-god religion debated by scholars to be a monolatry, henotheism, or perhaps even monotheism.
- The Ancient Canaanites served a god that was called “El” that was in constant battle with the god Ba’al. The Ancient Israelites served a god called "El" that was in constant battle with the god Ba’al.
- The Creation myth of the Ancient Mesopotamians known as the Enuma Elish is uncannily similar to the Creation myth of Bereshit. In both:
- They describe the earth as between two waters and surrounded by a solid sky dome
- The earth is created through divine speech
- The order of creation was light, firmament, dry land, luminaries, and man
- The world was tohum or tiamat (formless chaos) before creation as well as other similarities.
- The ancient Mesopotamians had a global flood myth known as the Epic of Gilgamesh. The Ancient Israelites had a global flood myth known as Noah’s
- The Aztecs had a divine mass revelation. The Ancient Israelites had a divine mass revelation.
- The covenant between God and the Israelites is similar in many ways to a suzerain pact.
- There are many similarities between the code of Hamurabi and the laws of the Bible.
- The Ancient Hindus were invaded by an Aryan race that took over their land and instated their sacrificial, priest run religion. The Ancient Canaanites were supposedly (according to the book of Joshua) invaded by the Ancient Israelites that took over their land and instated their sacrificial, priest run religion.
- The Ancient Hindu’s religious texts (vedic tradition) were originally oral and were later written down and canonized between 1400 BCE and 400 BCE. The Ancient Israelite’s religious texts were originally oral and were later written down and canonized between c.1200 BCE and 200 BCE.
- Confucianism has a lengthy and complex work of laws and ethics known as the six classics (ching). Judaism has a lengthy and complex work of laws and ethics known as the Six Orders of Mishna that developed into the Talmud.
- Confucius sought the demythologization of ancient Chinese religion choosing to focus on ethics and civil law. The Pharisees sought the demythologization of ancient Israelite religion choosing to focus on ethics and civil law.
- Confucianism gives the utmost honor to scholars and wisdom. Judaism gives the utmost honor to scholars and wisdom.
- Christianity has apologetics. Judaism has apologetics.
There are many, many more similarities between other religions and Judaism, from the beginning to the present. If you are interested, you can google most of the stuff I brought here to confirm quickly. I’d like to end this post with a quote from the Buddha,
“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with reason and common sense.”
Now those are words to live by.
"If the Torah had not been given, we would have learned modesty from the cat, the avoidance of theft from the ant, marital fidelity from the dove, and good manners in marital relations from the rooster, who appeases his mate before having relations with her." Babylonian Talmud Eruvin 100b
Even the Gemara says that the Torah is not THE source of morality. These observations may not be the most accurate, however the point still remains. We can learn morality from nature, no divine book is necessary.
Religion claims to have the copyright on morality. "You have no basis for morality. Without God, there is no reason to be moral. The Bible is THE source of morality."
I've heard this so many times, it's making me nauseous . Anyone who thinks this obviously hasn't read the Bible recently. The Bible condones genocide, infanticide, and the death penalty for picking up sticks on Shabbat. Need I say more?
Fortunately, believers don't really believe the Bible is a good source of ethics, or at least most of them don't actually do what it says. They tend to cherry pick through it and find verses like Micah 6:8 that promotes justice and mercy, completely ignoring the fact that their God killed the firstborn of Egypt, which included innocent babies, to prove that he was the greatest God around. Though they may not like to acknowledge the fact, overall, their morality has developed with the Moral Zeitgeist of the rest of the world. Nonetheless, they cling to an ancient book and ancient ideas about morality. This is a reason for alarm.
Morality is a worthy subject of investigation. So I've started a research project on it. I'll give updates here on my blog as I go along and post some of the insights I've gathered. I lean toward biology and evolution to give the most solid and evidenced arguments for morality. Any recommendations will be highly appreciated.
I'm an atheist blogger now! Check out the new atheist blogroll on the sidebar.
It feels good to have some company. As of now there are 692 atheist blogs.
Existential Angst is real. If you are feeling this for any reason, especially if from reading all these skeptical blogs... please see a real psychotherapist.
If you think a book is all you need then please read "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl.
The Torah is an incredible book no matter which way you look at it. It has been on the hearts and minds of billions of people throughout thousands of years. This book has given people hope and encouragement and has been used by others to do some of the greatest atrocities of history. It was believed by nearly all of humankind for millennia to be divinely authored but that has been the subject of much debate in more recent years.
Many of the influential Biblical scholars that developed Biblical Criticism and the Documentary Hypothesis were not interested in disproving it's Divine authorship. They were out to discover the real bible, what it was before the ancient anonymous editors had defiled it. Their research led them to some personally disturbing findings but they persevered and let their reason and research take them where it would.
Over the past hundred years or so, the Documentary Hypothesis has come to dominate Biblical Scholarship. It is an elegant theory that answers age old questions as well as more recent ones raised from archeology, history etc.
In light of the Documentary Hypothesis and other recent Biblical scholarship it has become impossible to posit Divine authorship without a giant leap of faith and a conscious decision to ignore the evidence. The Documentary Hypothesis is not perfect and subject to much debate. We may perhaps never know for certain that the Bible is a composite document from authors JEPD etc. But the important thing is, we now have a very strong theory as to the authorship of the Bible and it will take some very hard work and boatloads of evidence to completely upset it.
Those that are still clinging to the belief that the Torah was in fact Divinely authored may claim to have evidence for their claim but it has not been forthcoming.
The problems for those that make the claim of Torah MiSinai are heaped up for all to see. Besides the inconsistencies and blatant contradictions, there are serious historical and moral issues with the Bible. Bereshit 1-11 have been clearly shown to be false by science and natural history. There has been no forthcoming evidence for major events like the Ten Plagues and the mass exodus of millions of slaves leaving Egypt through the desert into the land of Canaan. The list goes on. Chauvinism, genocide, brutality and plain old cruelty fill its pages. It is difficult for any 21st Century morally sensitive person to read it without flinching. Most believers today have faith in an all knowing, merciful and just God. Yet many insist on their God having written such a book. If I were a modern day believer I would be greatly comforted to know that it's highly unlikely that such falsehoods and cruelty were written by God.
There has been some dispute about me calling myself both a pantheist and an atheist. So please allow me to explain myself. I am not orthodox anything.
I am primarily a secular humanist. Secular humanism is a life stance focusing on the way human beings can lead good and happy lives. The happiness of human beings is my primary ideal.
Secondly, I am a scientific pantheist. This means I feel awe and reverence when meditating on the universe that this is a worthwhile practice. It also means that I am somewhat of an environmentalist.
Last but certainly not least, I am an atheist. Honestly, I do not particularly like this term because there are 4 billion+ people in this world that think atheists are all immoral devils. However, I am nearly certain that there is no God or gods. Some people will then say that really I am agnostic. Technically, they would be right. Essentially, I am an atheist. Also, I am especially happy to know that there is no evidence for all the gods envisioned by Christianity, Islam, Judaism and the rest of the worlds religions because they have a very mean, immoral God that wants to throw all non believers to hell.
Now dogmatic people will find me to be a bunch of contradictions. I am not dogmatic in the slightest. I believe in science, reason, evidence, and free inquiry. You may think I’m twisting through loops but it is really quite simple. I love humans, the universe is awesome, and there is no God.
Stands up for what's right. It gives me a lot of hope and encouragement to see people actually get out of the oppression of Orthodoxy. It's really hard but heck, if a former Rabbi can get out so can you. Read more about Rabbi David S. Gruber here.
I love watching debates so for those of you that do too and don't feel like looking everywhere for them, I've compiled a short list.
- Dawkins and McGrath
- Hitchens and Boteach
- D'souza and Dennet Part 1 You should be able to find the rest of it in the side bar "Related Videos"
- D'souza and Hitchens I think Hitchens was drunk... but maybe he always is...
- Hitchens and Sharpton
- Harris and Wolpe You should be able to find the rest of it in the side bar "Related Videos"
- Rational Responders and Kirk Cameron same as above.
If you are thinking critically about religion or even just have some doubts as to it's trueness, then I have made this handy step by step guide of resources for those interested. This guide is particularly applicable to Orthodox Jews and partially to Fundamentalist Christians but the last few books are a great read for anyone.
1.) "How to read the Bible" by James Kugel. This is a great way to start because the author is an Orthodox Jew himself and his book is presented in a highly non-offensive way. He brings both sides and lets the reader make the choice to accept Biblical Scholarship or not.
2.)"A letter to my Rabbi" by Naftali Zeligman. A kind but questioning essay written as letter from a Orthodox student to his Rabbi.
3.)"Who wrote the Bible" by Richard Elliot Freedman. If you are interested in more about the Documentary Hypothesis then this is a good place to start. After reading this book you will have a basic understanding of the Bible from a scholarly outlook.
4.)"The End of Faith, Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason" by Sam Harris. The author is an outspoken atheist and has held many discussions about religion in general and especially dangerous religion like radical Islam. I've found this book to be the least abrasive.
5.) "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. A well known biologist and atheist. His credentials are sky high though he has been accused of taking the theory of evolution where no man has gone before. When I read this book, I flinched. I'm still churning over some of his ideas, especially regarding the education of children.
6.)"God is not Great, How Religion poisons everything." by Christopher Hitchens. If you thought the previous 2 books were rough then hold on to your seats because Hitchens' book is a no holds barred attack on religion. He is the only person I know of that can find the dirt on the holiest of people including Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama. I may not be as flaming of an "anti-theist" as he is but it's a great read nonetheless.
Check the resources label for more information.
RJM and I are having a terrific discussion on this statement from RJM, "When you show me solid proof of any ANE nation or culture that had a transcendent, universal concept of a purely just and merciful God, a belief in a rationally order harmonious universe, a repudiation of icons, magic, superstition and ancestor/king worship, a self-critical and didactic religious history that challenged its beliefs and conduct rather than simply validating it, and a track record of enormous success in producing highly educated, intellectual and sincerely charitable human beings who were light years ahead of their time in almost every sense of the term "civilization", then I will drop my claim that the Torah cannot be reduced to a freak accident of ANE cultural evolution." Click here to follow the discussion. You'll have to scroll down a bit to get to the part where I join in.