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Compassion, Idols, and Ideals

(Photo by Robin Holland)

This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with religious scholar Karen Armstrong about her efforts to promote understanding between cultures. Armstrong suggested that human nature has an inherent tension between compassion and the desire that one’s views be the absolute truth:

“Compassion doesn’t mean feeling sorry for people. It doesn’t mean pity. It means putting yourself in the position of the other, learning about the other, learning what’s motivating the other, learning about their grievances... The three monotheisms – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – have a besetting tendency: that is idolatry, taking a human idea of God, a human doctrine, and making it absolute, putting it in the place of God. Now, there have been secular idolatries too. Nationalism was a great idolatry. The state can be... We are constantly creating these idols, erecting a purely human ideal or value to the supreme reality. Once you’ve made something essentially finite, once you’ve made it an absolute, it has to then destroy any rival claimants, because there can only be one absolute... And we get a lot of secular people doing this too... I think the so-called liberals can also be just as hard-lined in their own way.”

What do you think?

  • Do you agree with Armstrong that humanity elevates its ideals to idols representing “the supreme reality?” Why or why not?

  • Have well-intentioned values, like compassion and intercultural understanding, themselves become idols? Explain.

  • How do you balance compassion and empathy for others’ experience with working towards your core beliefs?


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    Comments

    I enjoyed very much Bill Moyer's searching questions and Karen Armstrong's equally searching responses. I applaud her suggestion that scholars should examine sacred texts in various religions to understand the cirmcumstances in which "troubling" passages were revealed. Fortunately, for the Qur'an, this is possible to some extent. For example, I've learned the passage "Do not trust Jews and Christians" (Quran 5:51) was revealed either immediately before or after the Battle of Badr, when prophet Muhammad had just fled from Mecca to Medina (622 CE), and was surrounded by enemies in Medina. In contrast, the passage permitting Muslims to eat and intermarry with the "People of the Book"(including Jews and Christians) (Qur'an 5:5) was part of the very last revelation Muhammad received shortly before his death (632 CE). By then, Islam had spread throughout Arabia and danger dissipated.

    Similarly "Fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them" (Qur'an 9:5) was revealed after the Tabuk expedition (631 CE), during which Muhammad and army were gone for several weeks/months to Arabia's northern border with Syria to defened against any invasion by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius (which did not materialize). But, during that absence from Medina, apparently some pagans created anarchy in the city. Through this verse, God advised Muhammad on how to deal with those pagans. But history also shows that Muhammad did not "slay" those pagans; instead he followed the "escape clause" in revelation 9:5 which permitted the prophet to forgive those who sought forgiveness.

    The question whether such "war inciting" passages are relevant today (as the Taliban would have us believe) is also answered by the Qur'an, via verse 2:106 which clarifies that "whenever God abrogates a verse, He replaces it with something similar or better." Thus, verse 5:5 quoted above abrogated all previous war- inciting verses. Similarly, through other verses, we find that misogyny was superseded by gender equality and punishment by forgiveness.

    Thus, I am delighted that Ms. Armstrong is suggesting the need for soul-searching, and am happy to report that many troubling passages in the Qur'an can be easily explained by the available literature.

    Perhaps Karen Armstrong and Bill Moyers can take leadership in organizing a conference in which we can discuss this issue objectively?

    Who knows, maybe the uncryptic will someday return here. Today I will wrap up my digressions at this place...from ethics.

    By the way, I am glad, Jack, you are able to pass on your usually meaningful thoughts (the opportunity you said you valued over in the media thread of last week). I can only hope and pray I will have a similar opportunity someday at a time in the not too distant future.

    I susppose I find myself sort of putting together a journal of recollections and thoughts with respect to my late mother (a Karen Armstrong endorser/enthusiast). Here are some pieces from yesterday's entry lifted out and spliced together...

    Excerpts: ....She took the living-in-the-NOW approach. She was not dedicated to theory and doctrine (and was more dedicated to her friends, her church, and the slightly junkified Wabi-sabi style environment that was our home...though something in her almost always prevailed over any acceptance of desolation...spiritually speaking). She only made room for theory and doctrines and intellectual pursuits outside of her dedication to her friends. The friends that came her way in life. She did admit into her life a lot of what passes for theory around here however. She listened to Bill Moyers' analyses of what was wrong and usually agreed. If I told her about something on BBC in the middle of the night (the next day), she weighed it. She didn't just say, a huh, a huh. She was doing this listening keenly at 85 yrs of age. I say "around here," because if you listened to a news service paid for by taxes around here...the information might actually be questioned!

    My mother carried an approach that was invaluable to what is happening today. Her mind inquired, yet the worst news she accepted completely as it happened...without wondering how the Great Spirit could be so uncaring. different paragraph: Was there really such a thing as mom's mission? I think it was to help her Headstart classes know the world. Over the long haul, of course, to know the world...for most individuals...takes the contributions of numbers of contexts and numbers of years. I go back to reading mom's Paul Tournier books, and, lo and behold, the one I'm going through now mentions Jacques Ellul more than once. I go back to the "Limitations of Freud" book she picked up by Eric Fromm. Oh man, Roszak quoted Marcuse and Norman O. Brown up one side and down the other debating thanatos (the death instinct)...and come to find out...that old, dated, once-mainstream Fromm has phrases on the death instinct at the end I cannot comprehend! Should have started with this stuff of his on Freud a long time ago. On the night in which she started downhill, earlier before the onset she had looked at me with a smile and said, "Look, I found this John Anderson book" ("Evil: the Shadow Side of Reality"). Literally I said, "That's nice" and sort of brushed it off. Now I have ONE acquaintence who will acknowledge I am speaking words about this book [eg, when I relate Anderson contends mention of the antichrist was not in the earliest Christian manuscripts]. One friend who even cares. And this friend (whom I love dearly) tells me, "We gotta get you to stop reading that one." One friend who even cares I'm reading this book mom was interested in [I didn't tell her about mom's interest in it]...by that I mean one friend who hears the words about it my mouth is forming. And at the library where I was today...that library's two copies of this book sit on the shelf. But, I shouldn't lament perhaps. It's a miracle someone was wise enough to keep both. new paragraph: But I digress. Let me talk about knowing the world. Knowing the world and knowing humans. Well, what's the consensus out there? Is there one that's come up with anything? People all claw their way "forward" to be the hippest (as Rene Girard and Lasch have said). Everyones' personalities go in a hundred directions (Elizabeth O'Connor was right, "Our Many Selves"). Other dimensions can be there for string theory, but not for a repository of memory or instinct, not for the collective unconscious, nor for morphological formation directives delivered to embryos. Yes, that is the logic of our times! Well, I have to admit...many things are more in flux for me at this age than I imagined would be. My mother could handle such flux, and perhaps I am getting to that place a little bit myself. I could do a fair amount of the fix-it stuff. Not an ace mechanic, but I understood drills and saws, etc. [Mom HAD learned riveting apparatus at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach] Sometimes my mother did not know which way North was [post aneurysm at any rate]. And yet, in politics she was not afraid to admit what made more sense in our triage world! She didn't have a whole ton of the "reason" corporations, for example, employed to attempt to instruct us on how to operate our VHS recorders; but she had something and wasn't afraid to keep going on with that something. End of Excerpts.

    "What we DO know"? What is it? Things are in flux, but when you rule out everything except "brain"...that seems indicative. I'm sorry, indicative of hubris. It's not that allowance for a Great Spirit causes me politically to side with the right to lifers. It's just that the nature of the trip strikes me as the hubris that is characteristic and endemic in everything else. The cognitive science buffs tell us the brain does it all. Amit Goswami says consciousness collapses "possibility waves" [and Neumann & Bohm said same prior?] I cannot believe in the "many worlds" theory (many macro-worlds anyway).

    Which was Siejo's true soul? From Mumon's answer: "...But if he cannot understand, when his time comes and his four elements separate..." Who Dies?
    What Survives?

    Your mention, Jack, of the 'Tolerance'... marquee was informative, but the "glories of torture" stuff was opaque. And some other things.

    Guess the ink didn't disappear.

    They're gunning down doctors in churches during Sunday service as a way to be holier than thou.

    What a moral and ethical freak show "religion" has become!

    And what after the child is born? Well, they'll be thinking of new ways to kill the new "soldier".

    Anna D.: All blogs are written in disappearable ink, I suppose. Who would think a harmless guy like Bill Moyers would need a "MEMORY HOLE", but apparently, he does. What purposes does it serve? It would seem to contradict a quest for the truth. What is more important, the quest or the truth? Like Cervantes' Don Quixote, Bill seems to have chosen the quest. Having seen the production repeatedly in summer stock with a variety of casts, I tend to project trouble involving windmills, ladders,generous-hearted courtesans and golden helmets of suspect origin.

    Anna, you have acquitted yourself well the last 100 days. Ambiguous language seemed to convey humor more than hate or prejudice. It is almost a if now any colloquial or historical reference elicits complaints from some quarter. (Take for instance "Armenian genocide" as a provocative taunt. (It did happen.)

    In my town the local evangelical pastor posted this on his marquee this week: "Tolerance" is forcing you to put up with perversion! In the same town there have been mysterious cult meetings at a variety of venues with old rusty burners and jacked up pick-ups parked chaotically. This is the town that sent Klan/Nazi/Identity troops to Greensboro for an assassination of community organizers in 1979. Something is in the air; not a bailout protest; not a teaparty: The Mother of all scapegoating. Like most predatory macoutes they attack the babies, the caretakers, the elders, the lame and halt, any weak stragglers behind the herd. Compassion is the adhesive of society; but they prefer a fence.

    Goodnight, my dear. Sleep a dream-filled sleep of better days wherever your head may lie. Don't read about the glories of torture all weekend like Bill Moyers, and come back elated on empire.

    Captcha: 11 pearl
    Read and erased***********

    Anna D and the universe: Maybe this blog is not intended to be conversational or even communicational. maybe it is a sampling or exhibitory device to be manipulated by merchandizers of public TV. Maybe there is a mole or gremlin in the Bill Moyers organization. What I'm referring to is the loss of continuity in my exchange with Anna when some of her posts are removed. It makes my replies look "out of the blue." Sometimes I observe posts disappear when I can detect nothing objectionable in their content. I'd like to know the mechanisms and rationale of this mystery. Moderation on this wonderful blog has become increasingly inconsistent. Are you short of competent staff? Is this a service to foster discourse or something else?

    Captcha: Boat dundalk

    People elected Barack Obama because he resembled their idea of a servant. Not the people's servant we discovered. Jeremiah Wright would have been a better choice.

    I brought up my mother's celebrity worship because that is another religion keeping us down. Egalitarianism (self-respect for all) would be the only remedy against it. We pay for the theater making the illusion credible. (The old politicians in Congress are nothing without their powerful invisible constituencies, and the structural violence wielded by them.)

    Organized religion today is a series of tax exempt private country clubs (dues) with a captive brainwashing audience for sale by preachers and elders. A firewall between them and government is difficult in a world where people receive their opinions from higher ups. (C. Ikehara is a librarian who has lamented the end of reading on these Moyers pages.)

    Recently I have replied to outdated simplicities on local Charlotte blogs with my best research and reading references, if only to search out correspondents. On the local public radio blog I wrote a long piece with statistics on income and wealth distribution and the reply from a professional musician came back with a Rush Limbaugh analogy-repeat about a fat man and a thin man. (I resisted injecting material about Edward Teller or Dashiell Hammett.) When I wrote an art piece about sexcapades at the Philadelphia Union League (using anatomical terms) they banned me from the site. (I was probably retarding highly commercial social networking.)So why these selfish complaints? I observe that most moderators are mice serving under macoute cats (even at WNET/Moyers.

    I would revoke tax exempt status for religion. If libertarians project schools under the trees then why not worship au naturale also, only to see God better, I'd think. Are they ashamed of their childish games and have to hide behind closed doors as if having sex. Maybe religion is only fantasies about sex with the gods. I know Mom fancies that cute little Chris Dodd.

    Capcha: Paak fuddled

    Anna D: For me it wasn't a church, just a Books A Million. I took my Mom, a pea-brained celebrity worshiper, to buy a book (not the Apartheid one)and have it autographed by Jimmy Carter. She was already pretty frail so needed my physical assistance. A kind store manager graciously deposited her in the express handicapped line.

    I stood alone in the front of the store waiting for her to cycle through the well guarded gauntlet. Most of the crowd seemed to be there betting on the appreciation of the former president's signature. A burly Secret Service man approached me and whispered, "Well, Jack Martin, what brings you here today?" He expected that the shock of instant identity check would surprise me, I suppose. "We all have mothers," I replied, "and mine wanted to see President Carter up close."

    Mama was never able to explain how she wound up lost in the back parking lot, wandering around in the 90 degree heat. Anyway, she chucked tha book I'd spent $26.44 on in the nearest trash recepticle, complaining," He signed the damn book but wouldn't shake my hand! I never got closer than 15 feet!"

    Mama found out how some people are closer to God than others, and I found out there is no redemption for the war protester or the critic of great power and wealth.

    We were lucky. We could have learned the same lessons in Guatemala, at the hands of School of the Americas graduates.

    The church of wealth is both religious and secular!

    0.480 samoyed

    I just think that until we know, all we can conclude from this line of questioning, is that we don't know.

    Best,
    SB

    Guess you've changed over to tweeting, Bullet :-) Short and sweet.

    I thought we were discussing how we've replaced what we DO know with what we don't know.

    Meaning "religion" became all about selling theory as fact. No wonder why politics lusted after ruling the conversation in "churches"!

    Last time I visited the church of my childhood was when I visited Grandma and she asked if I would help her walk the couple of city blocks to Sunday Mass. Of course, I was happy to have Grandma all to myself and I liked the church. It was built by the immigrant steel workers in the early 20th century from their "savings" and donation of time and talents that they BROUGHT with them to the USA from the old country. It was pretty and big and I never recall feeling anything but "safe" inside that nice smelling, pasteled, gorgeous original sculpture "church".

    Grandma was a survivor of WWII from, basically, a ground zero strategic location. She and her family had been land owners for millenia on the eastern border of Poland, right across the river was Mother Russia.

    So on this lovely Sunday morning, we entered a side door of the church from the main street, easier for Grandma not to have to walk to the front entrance.

    Within a few minutes, a murmur blew through the packed church as a dozen or more men dressed in black suits, white shirts, with mirrored sunglasses filled up the aisle from the main entrance and also manned all the side doors. The congregants became terrified, and I will NEVER forget the look on Grandma's face - in case I did not know how deep her war wounds went, there they were on her whitened face that day. Grandma was not the only one terrified, you see, it was a Polish Catholic Church. And Poland had that whole Solidarity episode as recent history...anyway...

    The head priest went up to the pulpit to announce that there was a special guest about ready to come up and speak to us, none other than Christine Whitman who was running for Governor of NJ.

    Grandma asked me if I could lead her out of the church, she was unable to recover her bearings. As we neared the side door, the 6 foot 6 "soul brother" stepped aside and opened the door for us and asked me if she was going to be okay. I thanked him and said "yes" and mentioned that Christy might need better ideas for campaigning among the working class.

    The church-politics dance was just the begining that day, and that's what Grandma said on the way home, feebled a lot from terror, the spring gone from her step that she had on the way to church. She said to me, "The war is just beginning"...

    Since then, the church was robbed of all its money by the imported Polish pastor, and the CIA had secret prisons during the Iraq War set up in Poland.

    This is what I DO know. What I don't know is why the focus on Poland? Another existential threat to - whom? - because of Solidarity and the now dead Vatican Pope?

    Is there or is there not a "god"?

    Seems like we're going to keep coming up with one "god" after another and it's never going to be what IS.

    Glad to hear you do not have a problem with anyone asking a question. Having played a bit of a 9th grade snarky kid so far, here's my reply - let's hope you don't have a problem with the answers, either.

    Kind regards. Pleasure chatting with you, Silver Bullet.

    Anna D,

    I have no problem with asking the question of how we get from atoms to compassion.

    I just think that until we know, all we can conclude from this line of questioning, is that we don't know.

    Best,
    SB

    I was referring to how you get from atoms to compassion, and the like.

    SB

    Bullet,

    I dunno :-) Probably the same way YOU got from atoms to compassion, and the like?

    Seems to me there IS that distinct possiblity that someone, somewhere in the mind-boggling, almost mathematically INFINITE expanse of outer space, was smart enough to figure out how to create and assemble atoms into "compassion" and "the like".

    Hard to imagine that somone that smart would also be such a sociopath as the "god" of human invention. Obviously, that being's "smarts" were put to other purposes than to sit around chatting on the internet about how great his/her/their mind is.

    After all, aren't YOU trying to do the same? Assemble atoms into "the like"....? Why wouldn't there be someone else doing it?

    THAT's "religion" in the modern world. Asking the VERY INNOCENT question. How did we EVOLVE from atoms to "compassion" :-))

    I have to tell you, I'm already intellectually bored, and starting to bump into feeling insulted, at this game of presenting looking down your nose pity as "compassion". NORMAL people do NOT want PITY when they are in a battle for justice. I usually call the "mood" of the hoi poloi better than the social engineers do, so please reconsider the retarded use of repetitive buzzwordology as a weapon of mass distraction. I love the English language. It has the largest vocabulary available for downright surgical precision in explaining what IS. Let's go to the school library, get the synonym dictionary out and start using OTHER WORDS for a more precise analysis. I am constantly trying to avoid getting to the place where I am "launched", hence the pre-emptive attempts at RATIONAL behaviour. Buzzwordology is NOT rational - it's creepy, brain dead cult zombie chanting, no?

    "PITY PITY PITY..." Pity from smirking thieves, liars and murderers FOR their victims?! That's NOT what we are talking about here, is it, Bullet?

    As embarrassing as it may be, the reality is we are still operating under the laws of the jungle.

    And the time always comes when a challenge is mounted from the herd for the alpha dog spot. Usually that happens when the herd realizes that the old alpha dog was too blind to see he was leading the herd over a cliff at full gallop. Who CARES what the reason was? We are dealing with what someone DID, not WHY they did it. Law of the jungle - EVERYONE has the right to defend themselves.

    Time to be "compassionate" to all the people who have been patient under the "rule" of those who are, obviously, incompetant. You can only suffer the fools gladly for so long before jungle law duty calls upon the herd to protect the herd and not just the "face" of the alpha dog. THAT's evolution. Change or die.

    Anna D,

    I was referring to how you get from atoms to compassion, and the like.

    SB

    Personally, I would not draw conclusions from things we don’t understand. I would just say that they remain, for the moment at least, not understood.

    Best,
    SB

    Hi Bullet,

    I'm not clear about what you don't understand - do you not understand "compassion"...?

    or do you not understand that because we, logically, could have billions of years in front of us for additional evolution even after billions of evolutionary years already logged in, we probably do not have the proper capacity (chemical derivatives?!) of mind, yet, to understand the "something" that sparked the nebula...?

    In laymen's terms - we're probably not smart enough yet to figure out ALL "mystery". We could be millions of years away from it, as a matter of fact. And since we don't know what the chemical brew in the mind will be one day to make us smart enough to figure out ALL mystery, should we not at least use the smarts we seem to already have to figure out that we should stop monkey-ing around with certain "ideas"? Or are we not smart enough, yet, to realize that we are too stupid to know what we are doing when it comes to certain "social experiments"?

    And who can say, with "absolute" certainty, that "compassion" is not a necessary, "non-material" or maybe a material chemical derivative product of billions of years of "random" atomic assembly?

    Philosophically, I can prophet-size that the "people" in the human species that have not developed "compassion" will either be eliminated through cultural and social force (AKA "war) or if applying the Star Trek Prime Directive to compassion-less "culture", it doesn't take much imagination or applied lessons from past collective human experiences, to conclude that compassion-less creatures self destruct. Yes, a few "humanoid" specimens will be left standing because they managed to kill everyone else, but what life-maintenance and life-nurturing skills (AKA "evolution") do psychotic and sociopathic out-lie-er beings have to contribute to an enduring civilization (AKA evolutionary achievement)?

    Some things are a mystery, and some are not. As a matter of fact, a "culture" that keeps recreating slavery and poverty and mass-media retrogression used to be called "nuts", right? How's that phrase go? Somthing about repeating the same mistakes being a sign of insanity?

    It is also no mystery why so many people gladly join in to the head games of power that "religion" promotes (ie. atonement, self-worship as a "god", laws designed by hypocrites to turn good into bad, perception is reality "faith", etc.), is it?

    My fellow friends in the this living "American Experience", you can contemplate the mystery of why pre-internet "knowledge" was adequate enough for adventure-seeking and frontier-civilizing people to free-will choose the patching together of the best from their european civilizations that they did here on the shores of the vast expanse of the americas to writ into their new-age "laws" the SEPARATION of church and state all you want BEFORE you start selling the "square" as superior to the "wheel" - again.

    After all, in the redefined version of "religion", that's very much a protected "religious" activity :-)) It's also "protected" that we don't have to "buy" your "square".

    Anna D,

    We are in substantial agreement as long as you are talking about the contemplation of meaning and origins and NOT dogmatic conclusions. Everything has to remain on the table in this open contemplation and conversation. Mystery and awe are wonderful and reason in my opinion only enhances them. I suspect that you and I are in full agreement with Sam Harris in this paraphrasing of his work: our challenge as we move forward is to find ways to address these mysteries, the profound events in our lives, and our powerful emotions and contemplative experiences without having to believe anything on insufficient evidence and without drawing preposterous conclusions from these experiences.

    You wrote: “No one BELIEVES that another human being knows more about THE god because they proclaim themselves to be a son of god (yikes) and YOU are the sinner who needs saving.”

    Unfortunately Anna D, not all people are as open minded as you. I’m afraid that there are many millions of people who do firmly believe the preposterous. It can be hard for reasonable people like you to believe that vast numbers of people believe what is entirely unreasonable to believe.

    You also wrote the following: “So there goes the argument for a no-god right out the window....SOMETHING sparked the nebula to become a sun to produce the atoms and then to put those two atoms together to make water to make us, mostly made of water . . . Atoms don't experience "compassion". People certainly can. Which means that the explanation for compassion is NOT merely atomic nor is it irrationally personal.”


    Personally, I would not draw conclusions from things we don’t understand. I would just say that they remain, for the moment at least, not understood.

    Best,
    SB

    "...once some 'no girls allowed' cult comes up with a word like 'epiphenominalism' because they have the time to make up new words since they are not involved in 'low value' labor, in my personal opinion, rational discourse is not what is being sought here..."

    My degree qualifies me to say that epiphenominalism is an old, old term. New cults never use it as far as I know. My work is challenging and valuable while the pay is in fact low, quite low. I work with people others wish to forget and do forget. If they are remembered...they are often thought of as reasonable victims from which to remove support in order to pay down deficits (in the vernacular of Rene Girard they therefore qualify as "sacrifices").

    I mentioned Rupert Sheldrake on: 3/28, 4/15, and 4/19 (on the 19th I posted a link). Sheldrake's very reasonable IMO. And so, BTW, is Gary Zukav IMO to a point. I also mentioned Norman Macbeth on 3/28 and 4/15, and provided a link to his books on 3/28 IIRC. Macbeth was a Harvard trained lawyer. If you don't think he wrote rationally, read what Arthur Koestler and Karl Popper said about "Darwin Retried." [I'll type it here some night when I don't need as much sleep for the next wking day...if you can't find it, if you're interested...and if this PC hasn't crashed] If you really want to see some "new words," check out the "Quantum Mind" entry at Wikipedia (humans will invent many things in order to avoid the word soul).

    If I hadn't responded I'm guessing you would have assumed that I, in sexist manner, would have just continued on and on without responding to what you say because...I didn't believe "girls" were worth responding to?

    You once said I was in the "ether." Now you say you want to protect religion. I am just a working stiff windmill, but in your mind I'm the typical symbol-analyst antichrist. Good gracious from home.

    Oh, and "the leap." One that impressed me was Black Elk's on top of Harney Peak.

    RELIGION, in the final analysis, is what begins inside a person when the person asks the INNOCENT question - what IS life all about, really?

    I'd like to think that people deserve to be UNMOLESTED by all teams "believers" when they think about the MEANING of their life.....THAT is religious freedom.

    Especially if you agree that you can't prove that there is a god or that there is no god. Then you are both in the don't know group, anyway.

    If we redefine "religion" to be that HUMAN act of an innocent mind contemplating mystery, then we'll have evolved away from "religion" being the attracting historical "institution" for, truly, the most inhumane behavior.

    No one BELIEVES that another human being knows more about THE god because they proclaim themselves to be a son of god (yikes) and YOU are the sinner who needs saving

    and the metal grind of lifeless materialism will do enough damage over a lifetime to most people so being told that there is no god is really not needed, is it?

    Leave people alone to figure it out for themselves. If God is a person, then anyone can get to know another person.

    If god is an atom - then there's a whole lot of mystery because if I examine the hydrogen atom, by itself, and then the oxygen atom, by itself, nothing about either atom reveals to me that the combo of those two atoms would be water in all it's simple beauty.

    So there goes the argument for a no-god right out the window....SOMETHING sparked the nebula to become a sun to produce the atoms and then to put those two atoms together to make water to make us, mostly made of water.

    So even "random" becomes a "god".

    Atoms don't experience "compassion". People certainly can. Which means that the explanation for compassion is NOT merely atomic nor is it irrationally personal.

    It just IS.

    Scheesh :-)

    (Warning reader: My apologies for a long post, only the first half of which may be relevant to the discussion that's been going on here)

    Dear JAB,

    You have made many statements about empiricism, and I feel obliged to let you in on a key principle, so that you will not keep repeating the same mistake over and over again, as you have here.

    So that we are all on the same page, by empiricism, I mean: “the practice of relying on observation and experiment especially in the natural sciences” as per M-W dictionary.

    Here’s what you wrote:

    JAB: “differentiating between faith and empirical proof is reasonable. You and many atheists don't do that. You associate your faith in no God with reason, though you have no reasonable proof or ironclad logic that inarguably supports your position.” (April 16, 5:11 AM) AND “neither you nor me nor Joe Sixpack can be certain of our beliefs or premises if they're not supported by empirical proof.” (April 19, 4:38 AM)

    You have repeatedly requested that I provide empirical proof that god doesn’t exist in order to call myself an atheist.

    You wrote:

    1) "you are insisting as an atheist that you are not holding your belief in no God via faith but via reasonable justification. You don't have . . . the proof required for that justification. You have the right to believe, but not the reasonable substantiation . . . You . . . are assembling your unsubstantiated beliefs under the banner of Reason. They don't belong there. You don't have adequate support for them.” (April 17, 4:31AM)

    2) “Like religious believers, you're working with faith -- faith in the belief, but not the indisputable proof, that God, meaning a transendent power responsible for creating the universe, does not exist.”(April 16, 5:11 AM)

    3) “there is no rational or reasonable argument for or against the existence of God since there are no facts to indisputably prove either position.” (April 17, 3:55 AM)

    4) “The simple truth is, you're one fact away from supporting your case: proof that God doesn't exist. And you don't have it. And that's why your position isn't the most reasonable.” (April 16, 5:11 AM)

    Here’s the rub: empirically, it is impossible to prove that God does not exist. Science is not in the business of proving that things don’t exist because it can’t. You might have to think about this for a while before it sinks in (for instance, ask yourself what experiments or observations would provide “ironclad proof” that god does not exist), but it is, nevertheless, true. If you want to explore more on your own, there are many others, but this link is a start:

    http://skepticwiki.org/index.php/%22You_Can't_Prove_a_Negative%22

    If you're still having trouble with that notion, maybe looking at your own words will help you (that's gotta be my best advice to you JAB: think carefully about what you write and proofread it to see that its accurate and both internally consistent and consistent with what others have written):

    JAB: “Let's say for the sake of argument every word written about God and every religious text is irrational and false. They may be; I've got no proof to the contrary. That still wouldn't mean there isn't a God” (April 17, 3:55 AM)

    I couldn’t agree with your last sentence more, but what you must realize is that even if, “for the sake of argument”, every scientific observation and experiment pointed only to natural explanations for every phenomena studied (which is so far true), that still wouldn’t mean that there isn’t a god either. A current example of this is how many moderate Christians betray both their faith and reason by believing that god must have mysteriously guided the process of human evolution.

    So here’s another one you can’t have both ways JAB: You can’t make claims willy nilly about empirical evidence and reason, and also make the ridiculous and impossible demands that I or anybody provide empirical proof that god doesn’t exist. And that’s exactly why RUSSELL’S TEAPOT SHOULD BE SO VERY RELEVANT TO YOU.

    The rest of this post can’t be of any interest to anybody else, so reader, if you are not JAB, feel free to skip it. I am doing this JAB because someone has to point out, hopefully for your own good, how full of misdirection your posts have been.

    You also wrote: “Who said anything anywhere at any time about . . . people being highly irrational? Not me.” (April 19, 4:38 AM)

    You are right: you didn’t say that people are highly irrational. But I didn’t accuse you of saying that they are either, so I don’t know why you’re even bringing this up. Here’s exactly how I summarized what you wrote: “humans have a powerful irrational half with neuroanatomic and physiologic underpinnings”, and you did indeed convey exactly this. Just look at what you wrote:

    1) “Now if you could figure out a way of removing the amygdala, insula, and limbic system -- the primal components of the brain stimulating emotional extremes -- then you might have a case for human Rationality.” (April 16, 5:11 AM).

    2) “humans possess split-brains and a divided consciousness that swings between feelings and thoughts, between emotions and analysis, between ambiguities and misperceptions. These natural foibles and traits irritate Rationalists like you because they serve as obstacles for constructing a Reasonable world.” (April 17, 3:55 AM)

    3) “humans as constituted will never be purely rational, logical, analytical beings. They're emotional, intuitive, instinctual, and despite all the great neurological research, still a mystery” (April 17, 3:55 AM).

    3) “learn to live in a world populated by emotionally driven individuals who find it comforting to look to the heavens for their guidance” (April 16, 5:11 AM)

    So was I really that far off when I wrote "powerful irrational half" as a summary of your words?

    You also wrote: ““Who said anything anywhere at any time about . . . empirical evidence for God? Not me.”

    Really? Here’s you: “Since there isn't empirical evidence for supporting a belief in God or religious beliefs (with few exceptions) it's reasonable to hold them as faith and not as Reason.” (April 17, 4:31 AM).

    You CLEARLY wrote that there are a few pieces of empirical evidence of God (ie. the “few exceptions” to your statement that there isn’t any). As if this wasn't enough, you go on to make this textbook ad hominem attack on me: “How could you get it so wrong? And in getting it so wrong, Who would expect you to get much that's relevant right?” (April 19, 4:38 AM)

    Clearly, YOU are the one who got it so wrong. It’s obvious that you’re literate and reasonably intelligent, so these can’t be genuine errors. Why then, are you lying about my posts? (Oh, I forgot. That's apparently MY fault too because I have caused you to lose your compassion.)

    Here’s another nice one. You wrote: “No doubt, you've stood among the non-believers, laughing at all the idiots who believe in God and follow religious doctrines, with a Ha Ha and a Ho Ho Ho. Mocking the concept of God and religion in general is personification of anti-compassion. It's just what Armstrong insists we need to overcome, whether it comes from religious zealots or atheistic zealots.” (April 19, 4:38 AM).

    Look at what you’ve done here: you’ve fabricated a scenario where I mock religious believers, and then gone and criticized me FOR SOMETHING YOU’VE MADE UP!

    I could go on and on but I’m too busy so I hope that I’ve done enough to point out what you have to work on to improve your ability to participate in reasonable discourse.

    If you have integrity, or compassion, you’ll apologize, but I suspect I’ll never hear from you again.

    Good luck,
    SB

    Okay, simple spelling error (neuroanatomic) and not an attempt to make things up, thanks for the clarification, Bullet. Hey, no one is perfect :-))

    The conversation HAS looped off into venal activity, so let's get back to the basics.

    How do we all NOT look like street theatre shamans speaking in our own made-up tongue? (once some "no girls allowed" cult comes up with a word like "epiphenominalism" because they have the time to make up new words since they are not involved in "low value" labor, in my personal opinion, rational discourse is not what is being sought here).

    So how about some "principles"?

    Church and state, religion and politics, are SEPARATE in what used to be the "government" of the United States of America.

    Back in 9th grade in the Catholic school, the explanation I got from the nun, which seemed wise and made sense, was that RELIGION needs to be protected. After all, what intellectual pursuit is MORE innocent than the question that normal minded people end up asking at some point in their life - what the heck is all this about, REALLY?

    Billions of years in the making, wired with "chemicals" released as needed to deal with storms, earthquakes, plagues, and all dangers - THIS is who we are from a scientific perspective.

    "Religion" has not been perfected. Oddly enough, "science" is what keeps redefining "religion" in the "west".

    We are watching ourselves evolve back up through the billions of years that it took to be "us". An odd state of affairs, I'll admit, but in the final analysis, that is what we are doing through "science".

    So where does "religion" stand today as a "place" where innocense approaches mystery?

    It's become a horror show thanks to the pollution of raw, rank, ruthless, tyrannical, brutal, self-serving, blood-soaked, lying, conniving, murdering, thieving, raping, whoring POLITICIANS. And what have they been doing? They have been doing the MORAL equivalent of blowing up my house just to take the photo of my contorted, irrationally chemical reaction at the split second where my consciousness grasps the horror of what they are doing.

    I don't really care whether atheists or agnostics or theocrats or shamans chat over me with words like "epiphenominalism" as a way to swim in their river of DaNile - you all ARE blowing up my house to get that picture to make your "points" about who I am. I'm not having it, anymore. The law - religious freedom - is on the books. And as with all the other laws of the jungle, it's back on the individual to enforce it themselves. That how laws stick around, btw. People keep fighting for them because they BELIEVE in them.

    So be very careful about what "chemicals" are released once a RATIONAL being like myself (rational is THE stasis state - don't tell me THAT's not being transmitted as scientific fact anymore!!! Yikes! Where have I been?) is not under the influence of the fight or flight chemical daze, realizes that psychopaths and sociopaths have entered the, dare I say "sacred" ground where innocense approaches mystery. I can assure you it's the same chemical brew that gets released in the split second I have to slay the rabid raccoon before it touches my ankle.

    I do not think any less of Karen Armstrong, as an intellect or as a being with consciousness, because she is pleading for compassion for the innocent from criminals.

    We all seem to have our own agendas when it comes to "religion". Mine remains keeping religion SAFE from politics.

    And somehow, I get the impression that the conversation between JAB, SB, and David H has been ACTED out before, many many times.

    To Karen I'd like to remind her to be wise as a serpent, gentle as a dove.

    We are NOT dealing with normal chemical derivatives - on either side of the aisle. However, we can direct the conversation back to where some ACTION can be agreed to among those of us who care, deeply, about keeping sacred the space where innocense contemplates mystery.

    Politics blows up the space called "religion" and then snaps your picture to prove their point about your irrationality. Sick juju.

    Dear JAB,

    I’m sorry that my attempt to summarize your posts (April 17, 5:50 PM) upset you so much. I assure you that I didn’t mean anything sinister, and that I was just trying to be compassionate. I mean that, because I didn’t think we were getting very far in our discourse. While I appreciate your excellent grasp of English words, I am having a difficult time with your style of argument.

    Here’s what you wrote to me: “You were asked to name a period in history when Rationality or Reason per se was an overarching value . . .Instead you misinterpreted the request. Out of the blue, you mention popularity. . .Rationality and Reason, strictly speaking, have never been popular pursuits. That doesn't necessarily disqualify their merits, but rather undermines their prospective viability as ruling concepts – my point exactly.”

    If I somehow raised the issue of the unpopularity of Rationalism inappropriately and “out of the blue”, how could it be EXACTLY related to your point? THAT is one poor ad hominem JAB (and this was while you were presumably still being compassionate).

    Furthermore, if the unpopularity of, or uncommon and/or failed application of reason in our past “undermines its prospective viability as a ruling concept”, then surely the failure of humankind to “get religion right” in our past also undermines the potential that a “suitable form of religion could wisely guide human affairs” in our future. You can’t stand by the former and not the latter, yet that’s exactly what you’ve written.

    While your self-described emphasis is on diminishing the worship of reason and enhancing the profile of the spiritual, you cite a paucity of high quality rational discourse (it came on the scene too recently is how you put it) as the “first and foremost” explanation for the failure of religion to wisely guide human affairs. So which is it JAB: that we need less reason, or more? You can’t have it both ways.

    I suspect that you secretly agree that we need more, since in your next sentence, you cite the irrational aspects of human nature as the second explanation for the horrors that religion is responsible for. To summarize: mankind goes awry when reason is not sufficiently available or applied and because mankind is too irrational in its very nature; the solution is to embrace and champion irrational religious routes to compassion? I don’t think so – the solution lies in finding ways to meet our emotional needs without embracing the preposterous (including moderate versions of the preposterous), and without lying to ourselves about the nature of reality. That starts with rigorous intellectual honesty.

    Which brings me once again to your point that atheists are intellectually dishonest because we can’t prove that god doesn’t exist. Have you ever met an atheist who claimed that s/he could? I haven’t. All we claim is that (i) we don’t believe in any god and that (ii) there is no good reason to do so (and I assure you that I am in good company here, including Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and my personal favorite, Harris). I’m sure that you and I are both atheists with respect to Zeus, Baal, Thor and the like, yet you seem to insist that unless I am agnostic with respect to some equally unsupportable moderate interpretation of god (one I might have to be “tenuously” attached to because of “mutually exclusive definitions”), I must be a zealot. You can’t have that both ways either.

    The point of Russell’s teacup and my Santa analogy is not to make an ad hominem attack on religion, but to point out that the only reasonable position regarding a claim that cannot be proven false is to stand in disbelief until some reasonable positive evidence (the burden of which is on the claimant) of that claim becomes available. In the absence of evidence, it is NOT reasonable to make a claim ‘on faith’, no matter how many people have been brainwashed into doing that through the ages. There simply is no reasonable evidence of the existence of any god (you agreed with this statement in an earlier post: April 17, 4:31 AM), so yes, any and all gods are, in that sense, just like Santa Claus. The parlor tricks start when people try to invoke “faith” as their “reason”. As Sam Harris has pointed out, faith is nothing more than the license that religious people give themselves to believe what reason fails to support.

    You should read my posts again because I have NEVER refuted the concept of compassion (how could anybody consciously and conscientiously do that?), but just pointed out how Armstrong gets there: through a learned but cherry-picked, personal interpretation of scriptures that tries to dilute the portions of the original dogmas that she doesn’t approve of with the portions that she does. (If I’m wrong about that, please show me, once and for all.) As Sam Harris has said, religious moderation betrays both faith and reason. I don’t think we need preposterous or intellectually dishonest reasons to support compassion, because good and sensible reasons actually exist. Still, I wish her luck in her endeavor. Maybe, just maybe, tens (or hundreds?) of millions of fundamentalists will decide that she is the one moderate who finally got it right. For the sake of my daughter's future, I truly hope so.

    In trying to summarize your posts on April 17, 5:50 PM, I was trying to be compassionate (“trying to understand the other”, as Armstrong put it), and look at what that got me: a terrific example of the irrational and emotional responses you have been referring to (your post from April 19, 4:38AM). It seems that YOU are the only one refuting compassion around here. How, in just trying to rephrase or summarize your messages, did I manage to eject from your psyche enough compassion to permit you to recognize that I made a typo when I wrote the word “nauroanatomic” instead of “neuroanatomic”? I hope that you do not champion the emotional, spiritual, and irrational because you have difficulties controlling your temper and/or employing reason in all aspects of your life. I think that this, the very ability to manage our emotions and employ reason more than any other species, is what defines us as human.

    Best,
    SB

    This entire post is off topic. It would be better to talk about what a joke our media's coverage is of Cuba. Oh yes, bring on the hotels. Then that 400 miles of totally natural coast will turn into something they can really be proud of. And it's so compassionate of us to give them this sound advice! Free the five? Who are the five? Why were they here in the first place?

    Empirical evidence...hmm. My lazy position here so far has been to comment on the insufficiency of epiphenominalism. I don't mean to hide behind a fortress, but I don't have time really to advise one on how to take the leap. Actually, it's a little scary IMO to assess the true insufficiency, because when it comes into focus...then it would seem one would be obligated to give advice on the leap. But it is also true that in my case I really don't have the time.

    JAB, I fear when I paste your posts in TextPad I'll end up treating them like wine in the cellar, and won't even finish them (it's a busy world out there). But Saturday I did manage to borrow a cognitive science tome entitled "Wet Mind." That's all they had. ["Quantum Mind" also looks interesting at Wikipedia as well as the book "Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics"...a very good summary I'd missed over the years]

    There is I think a standpoint, however, from which SB cannot tick one off. But I doubt it takes much stock in neurophilosophy and cognitive science [much stock in their conclusions in re to consciousness]. Layman and scientists both must assess things with probability. And to me the question is: Re "the observer"...truly observing or epiphenominal? I (a layman) look at my memories and look at the number of neurons in the brain, and I begin to assess the probability that there is enough space on that hard drive for memories alone [just memories, not all the other features, yes excluding for the moment the contents of the "collective unconscious"]. Yes, all those 3D memories. My judgement says there is not enough space (not enough neurons). The observer is observing, and the memories are on the observer's side (though the field they are in may permeate all the synapses in the brain). No, it's not dualism because for a thousand yrs in India they posited the individual's subtle bodies are intertwined with seven chakras. But, like I say, the obviousness of it to me is scary. Did SB ever ask SB where Kuhn and Roszak might have us end up? Possibly the question never entered SB's mind. Possibly it never entered the minds of millions and millions of students. For them possibly there never was a problem with the prevailing paradigm. And where did those doubts lead us? They led us to the question: What the bleep do we know? that's where they led us. Which is quite a question really. But I am perhaps no better off than SB because, like him, I do not cite Karen Armstrong's material. This matter we're into at the moment is skirting how would x or y policy demonstrate compassion...or how would ceasing policy A or policy B demonstrate compassion. But I think JAB has done a great job with the issues recently at hand (in this thread). There were many, many very good posts earlier on to which none of us any longer refer and to which the folks now here never responded. Anyway, for me...if people won't at least try to critique Sheldrake (as long as we're off on this tangent) I might lose a little interest. Then too, my PC's running very slow, so at any given time I may fail to reappear (no reflection on whatever's up IOW...it's just that I may not have been able to read it).

    I haven't touched on any ethics, and it's a great failing. It's easy for me to say I'm not rattl'd when JAB has trounced all the presumption. But I gotta say...from my POV anyone who sez any case for design should always be precluded...is actually more a person to be pitied...in terms of their grasp of probability. All this is off topic, and for this I apologize.

    Sheldrake (for everyone like me with a busted Acrobat)
    http://www.dialogonleadership.org/interviews/Sheldrake-1999.shtml

    PS Bill & David B, how bout a show on how Hula's turn'n the net into quicksand?

    Just Another Blowhard wrote, in part, "Who said anything anywhere at any time about "nauroanatomic" impulses, people being highly irrational, or empirical evidence for God? Not me. How could you get it so wrong? And in getting it so wrong, Who would expect you to get much that's relevant right?"

    It's not even a word in the other-than-SB-dimension - this "nauroanatomic".

    If "neuroanatomic" is somehow inadequate to encompass conclusions presented by idea-logs with cherry-picked data than at least get creative with a prefix that is clarifying, not obfuscating.

    "Nauru" (formally called Pleasant Island) - is an island, eight square miles in area, in the Pacific Ocean west of Gilbert Islands. So what is "nauroanatomic"?

    Silver Bullet: With a little respite and the assistance of a seer, it finally dawned on me just what your strategy has been: to dishonestly misquote, mangle, thwart, and discombobulate not only the material you use to support your own feeble position but to rattle your critics to the point where they're no longer able to abide by compassion -- the main premise of Armstrong's interview. Which you long ago lost focus of with irrelevancies, inaccuracies, and hubris. Thus, alas, you prove how wrong Armstrong is. Very clever; I must hand it to you. Since you haven't presented a remotely cogent or logical argument against Armstrong, God, religion, or compassion, you've managed to tick off otherwise reasonable people and they lose their sense of compassion. Accordingly, you win. I've lost the sense of compassion required for civil discourse. Congratulations, you're one clever projectile.

    First, you seem to abide by the routine of reiterating your beliefs in order to believe in them more strongly. Say 'em often enough and they seem true, such as Armstrong presnts "a watered down moderate interpretation." You know this how, since you haven't read her work? Rubbing your hand across the TV set during Moyers's brief interview? A little birdie told you? Or is it hot off the Atheist Newswire?

    A debate, which you seem to believe you're participating in, requires point versus counterpoint. The better substantiated each point is, the higher the burden is on refuting it. So far, you've provided insubstantial support at best for every one of your major points, such as belief in God is equivalent to belief in Santa, as well as your feelings about Armstrong. When you present some supportive examples of how and when Armstrong is what you claim she is, rather than relying on knee-jerk responses, then perhaps someone with a lot of free time on her hands will respond accordingly. As is your rather ambiguous accusation (moderate?) isn't worth dignifying. What sort of "interpretation" would you approve of, radical, gothic, oh, I forgot, atheistic -- it is, if I remember correctly, the most reasonable of all forms of faith; you said so. If it ain't atheistic, well then, it just couldn't have any merit, right? That much you've made clear by your whimsical but logically meaningless comparison of God to Santa.

    The fact is, you haven't shown a rudimentary mastery of accurately reading and precisely quoting what I've written, much less what Russell, Armstrong or other posters have written. Is it a cognitive handicap or a sociopathic streak? If it's the former, I'll be forced to act with compassion. Careful, then you wouldn't win this debate.

    Who said anything anywhere at any time about "nauroanatomic" impulses, people being highly irrational, or empirical evidence for God? Not me. How could you get it so wrong? And in getting it so wrong, Who would expect you to get much that's relevant right? Funny, you prescribed googling Russell's teapot analogy, as if you had a handle on it (it does not refer to Santa, as you insist by the way). You should take your own medicine and try googling nauroanatomic, which, I guess, sounds pretty highfalutin to you. No, my posts never mentioned that word; instead they refer to neurology, neurophilosophy, etc. Areas you might be interested in since it seems you're suffering from a problem with working memory, as well as a lack of respect for the heartfelt view of others -- that would be part of the prefrontal cortex if you're mapping it at home.

    You did get one point correct, though it's unclear why you would cite it. Yes, neither you nor me nor Joe Sixpack can be certain of our beliefs or premises if they're not supported by empirical proof. You can feel certain about the sun rising in the morning, enjoy a hunch about Two Bits in the Kentucky Derby, but be absolutely, unequivocally certain about these issues? No. Not my rule, but a standard that's been in effect, at least in the West, since Aristotle. It applies to peer reviewed research, the law of physics, the law, Empiricism, Skepticism, Occam's Razor, and a few areas as well. So, contrary to you isolating it as if it's my position, it's a fact we all have to live with, like it or not, similar to gravity and breathing. It seems you don't sympathize with such a strigent rule since you like running facts and other people's opinions through a wringer of gross misinterpretation.

    Oh yeah, about that Santa comparison. It's more cocktail banter used by atheists to bolster their faith than it is relevant analogy that could enlighten. No doubt, you've stood among the non-believers, laughing at all the idiots who believe in God and follow religious doctrines, with a Ha Ha and a Ho Ho Ho. Mocking the concept of God and religion in general is personification of anti-compassion. It's just what Armstrong insists we need to overcome, whether it comes from religious zealots or atheistic zealots. As far as Reason goes, it serves no purpose.

    You claim to be a Rationalist, but, ironically, attempt to delegitiize the concept of compassion. How rational is that? That's just the kind of 'rationality' this world doesn't need. It's ideological, small minded, impractical, immoral, unethical, and last but not least, asinine. Every revolutionary, prompted by 'Rational' plans, expects to snap his fingers and -- poof -- in an instant, the New and Improved Society, the 'sensible' plan, the thoroughly 'Rational' scheme that everyone conforms to all the time. In such an Idealistic world, an arena brimming with Reason and Rationality, there will never be lapses, never be 'fools' entertaining the notion of a God or a celestial body - Never. And there will be checkpoints here and there and everywhere when all the citizens of the New and Improved Rational state will have to show their papers, proving their Rational Quota, and pledge to a Rational judiciary that they don't subscribe to any metaphysical ideas having to do with God, religion, or spirit. Hey, no thanks. You can keep your brand of 'rationality.' It perfectly matches your warped sense of logic.

    Atheists of the world unite -- your antitheology is going down the tubes with apostles like Silver Bullet representing your cause. If you're out there, and a have a few moments, no make that a few months, you might want to steer this lost soul, whoops, make that, lost disciple, in the direction of Harris, Hitchens, Dennett, Dawkins, et al. who at least present their case with reason. Until then SB, I'm going to be contemplating my navel -- a far more insightful exercise than communicating with the likes of you.

    SB pontificated (while "summarizing someone else's interpretation of interpretations - wow - you'd get busted in my 9th grade philosophy class for that stunt), in part, "(1) Throughout human history, reason has never really been widely applied as an overarching value. Humans have a powerfully irrational half that has nauroanatomic and physiologic underpinnings and which motivates most people to find comfort in religion."

    One of my pet peeves (since the REAL devastation of this "peeve" is beyond the intellectual "vision" of 9th graders, I'll be breezily serious) is the cherry-picking of data.

    SB KNOWS for a fact that there is no such "scientific" evidence for "neuroanatomic and physiological underpinnings" to irrationality.

    SB is like a sci fi episode where there is an alternate and opposite "universe".

    The ACT comes first, the "chemistry" follows.

    Adreneline is released as needed for "survival". SB is saying, basically, that chemicals like adreneline come first.

    Then comes the other sweeping bit of all-knowing, all-seeing "vision" of the history of everything - "reason has never been widely applied"....

    Really? U R kiddin' me, right? I'm actually starting to feel compassion for the insanity going on in the alternate universe SB's imaginary mind inhabits.

    Since this IS a, well? - morality play? - being put on by 9th grade snarky smart kids pretending to know everything about nothing - I'll send it a KISS.

    How about this "visual", cultural touchstone?

    "I'll take COMMON SENSE, Alex, for 500...."

    Considering all the "complicated" financial instruments human beings created, it's even MORE obvious that humans are incapable of creating humans (note - creating is not same as breeding - we certainly can breed).

    So even if there IS no "god" other than a madman in a cosmic DNA factory (didja punch the clock?) - it still wasn't you, SB, or santa claus that invented the chemical derivative that is YOU. CLASSIC philosophy allows for that FACT. The starting point whether you believe in a god or in santa clause WAS and still IS - humans did NOT derive, create, eventuate, themselves.

    We'd all have hairless bodies if we DID create ourselves :-))

    As is, all we do is "manipulate" and, eventually, common sense derived from survival experience tells us its time to stop playing.

    Dear JAB,

    Regarding your post from April 16, 5:11 AM, I thought that your request to name a time in history where reason was an overarching value was rhetorical. (Note: my aging request that you provide a substantive rebuttal to the notion that Ms. Armstrong’s is yet another watered-down, moderate interpretation of numerous religions is not.) I’m not a historian, so I will decline and accept that if you cannot name one, it must be so.

    It seems to me that in your 3 lengthy posts, you have made the following main points:

    (1) Throughout human history, reason has never really been widely applied as an overarching value. Humans have a powerfully irrational half that has nauroanatomic and physiologic underpinnings and which motivates most people to find comfort in religion. The few historical secular regimes whose “dear leaders” espoused atheism were morally repugnant.

    (2) Atheism and agnosticism are fundamentally different: atheism is a faith position held by zealots, while agnosticism is the truly reasonable position for non-believers.

    (3) There is some “empirical evidence for supporting a belief in God or religious beliefs” (the “few exceptions” you referred to on April 17, 4:31 AM).

    (4) One can be certain of something without good reason(s) (“faithfully certain”), and this is acceptable (or “reasonable”) if one simply acknowledges that this certainty is held without good reason(s). Religious belief is an example.

    Have I got this much right?

    SB

    PS. I remain keen to hear your position on the existence of Santa Claus.

    “I was going to say, thank "god" for the value of experience since 9th grade...”
    I just love your response.

    SB “Since it has so far been impossible to prove that Santa Claus exists... “
    It all depends where you look! The “trillions of dollars created out of Air”
    did make many of the status quo happy and believers, as millions others face
    hunger, eviction, debt and still goes on!

    I have been transported back in time to my 9th grade "religion" class at the Catholic High School in NJ. Wasn't Karen once a nun?

    Thanks, JAB and SB, for reminding me of a personal philosophic "baseline".

    I was going to say, thank "god" for the value of experience since 9th grade - but it seems like the basic premise - humans did NOT invent and create ourselves - is something everyone has agreed to IGNORE as an observable fact on which to build theoretical philosophical/religious/mathematical equations.

    Dear JAB,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    First of all, did you notice the incredible editing of our posts yesterday, only to have them revert back to original form at about & 7PM Eastern time?

    I don't have a lot of time right now, so I'll just ask you something that I hope will move us along:

    Since it has so far been impossible to prove that Santa Claus exists (despite plenty of sightings), and impossible to prove that he does not exist (despite many claiming that he is 'man-made'), what is your practical day-to-day position on Santa Claus' existence? Do you believe that he exists (are you a Santaist?) while acknowledging that you do so 'on faith'? Are you agnostic? Or are you an A-Santaist? (If you prefer, you can replace Santa with Sasquatch, or Poseidon)

    I have to admit that I haven't had enough time to carefully read all of your last 2 posts, so forgive me if you've already addressed this matter.

    I will respond more directly to your posts later.

    Best,
    SB

    SB - I failed to repond to your last point in my haste to conclude and appeciate the opportunity to clarify it.

    You wrote: "This is patently absurd. Belief not based on reason is the very definition of unreasonableness. What you are saying is that religious believers are just acknowledging their unreasonableness, so that makes it ok."

    There are two distinct notions here, which you have combined, making them seem absurd. Belief in God is not reasonable per se, at least not according to the rigors of logic that require empirical proof. I never claimed otherwise. You're misreading the sentence. It's not the content of what believers believe in that's reasonable but how they believe, i.e., through faith.

    What is reasonable about believers who hold their beliefs based on faith is the fact that they're held via faith and not as reasonable concepts. That's reasonable since it conforms to holding beliefs outside of the rigid strictures of rationality. Since there isn't empirical evidence for supporting a belief in God or religious beliefs (with few exceptions) it's reasonable to hold them as faith and not as Reason. That's what's reasonable.

    On the contrary, you are insisting as an atheist that you are not holding your belief in no God via faith but via reasonable justification. You don't have, and neither do religious believers, the proof required for that justification. You have the right to believe, but not the reasonable substantiation. You, like religious believers, have faith in your belief, not proof. A person of faith, who acknowledges that those beliefs are not substantiated through reason, is reasonable by not attempting to use reason as justification. You on the other hand are assembling your unsubstantiated beliefs under the banner of Reason. They don't belong there. You don't have adequate support for them.

    In Russell's "Autobiography" he offers ten commandments. you'd greatly benefit by following the first one: "Do not feel certain of anything." Believers who hold their beliefs as faith may be faithfully certain, but they're smart enough to admit they're not rationally certain. And neither are atheists.

    Yo Silver Bullet: The popularity of a belief, be it atheistic or religious, has little (not nothing as you state) to do with its reasonableness. Your assertions would better stand the test of rationality if they weren't so absolutist. There are, contrary to your insistence, exceptions, such as the appeal of democracy, which by definition is a form of government based on forms of popular appeal and contribution and couldn't have been established if it hadn't achieved some degree of popularity. Moreover, your point indicates a misreading of my text, which does not once equate popularity with reasonableness.

    You were asked to name a period in history when Rationality or Reason per se was an overarching value. Anywhere, at any time, whether on a cultural, tribal, or national basis. Instead you misinterpreted the request. Out of the blue, you mention popularity. Are you implying that Rationality or Reason could only be established as overarching values via popularity? Well if you believe such a thing, then no doubt you have little hope for your Rationalist agenda to ever hold sway because Rationality and Reason, strictly speaking, have never been popular pursuits. That doesn't necessarily disqualify their merits, but rather undermines their prospective viability as ruling concepts -- my point exactly. If you have read Russell as deeply as you imply you did, you're familiar with, " We are not yet, and I suppose men and women never will be, completely rational....the rational habit of mind is a very rare one." (from "Why I Am a Rationalist")

    Mentioning slavery in quotes, as if you lifted the segment from my posts, is at least tangential and perhaps intellectually dishonest. What does slavery have to do with this discourse; I never once brought it up. Why would you? It makes little sense. Indeed, the discourse, which you seem so eager to avoid, mainly concerns Armstrong's appeal for compassion and, secondarily, Armstrong's work. Perhaps you're conflating the hoopla about Lincoln's birthday with an unrelated subject. Odd, for someone waving the flag of Rationalism so vigorously.

    Your exuberance for Russell's teapot analogy illustrates a rather insubstantial grasp of both Russell and the argument about whether atheism is unreasonable. Russell frequently acknowledged that there is no proof of whether or not God exists. But he wasn't as certain about his own position, which wavered back and forth over the years. If one held a gun to his head, he would have claimed to be an agnostic, for he realized unlike you that there is no rational or reasonable argument for or against the existence of God since there are no facts to indisputably prove either position. Being a fervent advocate of Occam's Razor, he realized his limitations. You'd be wise to follow in his steps, especially since you so gleefully cite him as a source.

    In "Am I an Atheist or an Agnostic he noted, "I never know whether I should say 'Agnostic' or whether I should say 'Atheist'. It is a very difficult question and I daresay that some of you have been troubled by it. As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods."

    Delve into Russell, as I did a few years back, and you'll see a proclivity for mercurial expression, particularly his teapot analogy -- a clever parlor trick but hardly the kind of profound refutation you seem to think it is. Russell never pretended to know how the universe came to be; in fact, he made the ludicrous argument that it could've all been created five minutes ago. Of course, that was before the technology demonstrating that there was an origin, and it wasn't five minutes ago. Or does your brand of Rationality prohibit the latest scientific developments?

    You state: the fact that you can't prove God doesn't exist is not a reason to believe that she does exist; nowhere have I stated such a thing or implied it. You're confusing apples with oranges. You also reiterate, almost like a mantra, no, make that, almost like a prayer, functional atheism is the only reasonable position. (By the way, What would non-functional atheism consist of?) If you say that a hundred times, or a thousand times, Does it finally become true for you? Maybe, but it doesn't make it true in the world where the laws of physics rule.

    Let's resort to the dictionary since you seem to be employing a unique definition of what reason is. The Oxford Essential Dictionary claims that reason is justification. Using the standards of Empiricism and Skepticism -- Russell's favorite philosophies -- justification requires proof, not clever cocktail banter like the teapot analogy, but solid, supported, peer reviewed evidence. Quite simply, you don't have the evidence required to substantiate your position, and thus it is not as remotely reasonable as you apparently believe it is.

    Russell's teapot analogy -- a china teapot is revolving around Earth but is undetectable by telescopes -- equates believing in such an impossibility with believing in God and holding religious beliefs. It's an ad hominem attack, and though it certainly isn't as vicious as the Catholic Church's treatment of heretics, it doesn't establish one grain of truth. It makes an interesting point but without the support of Occam's Razor. Let's say for the sake of argument every word written about God and every religious text is irrational and false. They may be; I've got no proof to the contrary. That still wouldn't mean there isn't a God and a suitable form of religion or spirituality that could wisely guide human affairs. That's where Russell failed to be reasonable himself. His logic: if humans haven't yet gotten it right, then there couldn't possibly be a God. It sounds almost like a child who wants his cookie now and throws a tantrum when he doesn't get it.

    In fact, the horrors of religious activities, and the illogicalities of theological beliefs may only mean that humankind hasn't yet gotten it right. Why? Not first and foremost because humans are too irrational or because they weren't guided by the values steering your life, but because the species only recently acquired written language. Because rationality -- the use of cognitive skills and complex analysis -- are of recent vintage when compared to the long period of limited thinking. And, because humans as constituted will never be purely rational, logical, analytical beings. They're emotional, intuitive, instinctual, and despite all the great neurological research, still a mystery.

    Russell claimed to have renounced Idealism, but, ironically, he was perhaps a bigger Idealist than Rousseau or Hegel -- two philosophers he highly disrespected. His Ideal was Rational Man, Rational Society, Rational Living, Rational Ethics, Rational Rationality, but, as already mentioned yet neglected by you, humans possess split-brains and a divided consciousness that swings between feelings and thoughts, between emotions and analysis, between ambiguities and misperceptions. These natural foibles and traits irritate Rationalists like you because they serve as obstacles for constructing a Reasonable world. If only humans weren't so damn, well, human, this would be a fabulous planet, huh?

    Your logic: If only humans were the good half rather than the unthinking half, we'd all have heaven right here on Earth. And since that's what you obviously believe, then your time would be better spent in a genetics lab reorienting the species rather than tirelessly refuting the concept of compassion and authors whose work you have not completed digested.

    "Oh no! I'm mmeltinggg! I'm mmeltingg!

    Something wonderful is happening here.

    I wish there was some way to see my original post (I don't keep copies!) and the new and improved version side by side so that I could learn from the comparison. Is that possible?

    Can the editor of these posts give us a hint of his/her identity?

    Dear JA Blowhard,

    Thanks for another nicely written post.

    The unpopularity of atheism has nothing to do with how reasonable it is. You need only look to slavery to see the fallacy in this line of reasoning. In fact, slavery is a good example because it strikes me that much of your argument could be applied in its support were it being made at various points in history:

    “You’ve got a big problem SB: you see, slavery is virtually everywhere around you. To my knowledge, no group has yet abolished slavery. You may be right, that slavery is an abomination, but mankind is just not ready to abolish it. It might even have to do with how our brains work: there is some research that suggests that there are centers in the brain that respond to being a slaveholder and that people choose to hold slaves even before they are conscious of making that choice. We might just have to accept that we are made for holding slaves. This physiology will represent an important obstacle to your efforts. You must not keep harping on the reasons you have for rejecting slavery, and instead study why slavery is so well liked (by the slaveholders, of course). Please stop beating your head against this wall. Use your intellect productively, and study how different cultures organize their slaveholding institutions.”

    You have referred to Bertrand Russell, but if you were more familiar with his work, you would not be advancing the fallacious argument that my position is unreasonable because I cannot prove that god does not exist. Google his teapot argument if you are interested. Here is a version of it: neither of us can prove that Santa Claus doesn't exist. Notice that neither of us are agnostic about Santa Claus, and that we are both "a-Santaists". Think carefully about this analogy.

    The fact that I can't prove that god doesn’t exist is not a good reason to believe that she does exist. The only reason to believe that god exists is good evidence of her actual existence. In the absence of this, the only reasonable position is functional atheism, which is really the same position as agnosticism. What I am saying is that atheists and agnostics are essentially one and the same: The distinction between them is really a false one: They both live their lives as if god does not exist - not wasting any time on the matter until reasonable evidence, which both remain completely open to, becomes available. To be perfectly clear: it is wrong to believe (a) that atheists know that god does not exist and (b) that agnostics believe it is a 50/50 proposition.

    You wrote:"Religious believers who profess their belief rests upon faith are actually being more reasonable since they are acknowledging their belief is not based on reason."

    This is patently absurd. Belief not based on reason is the very definition of unreasonableness. What you are saying is that religious believers are just acknowledging their unreasonableness, so that makes it ok.

    I have more to rebut in your post, but I’ll stop there for now to let you digest this.

    Best,
    SB

    Thanks David H. and SB for the kind words and for the thoughtful discourse. As far as Husserl goes, his influence is undeniable, though, it seems, with time his core ideas, such as intentionality and time consciousness, are being eclipsed by neurophilosophy, nueroscience, and neurology. Check out Patricia Churchland, for instance for an overall primer. Research by Benjamin Libet, for example, demonstrated a delay between conscious recognition and action that indicated subjects began to act before being consciously aware of what they were doing. Implication? Free will is largely a process of either allowing the non-conscious act to be executed or deciding to veto an action before it's performed. There are problems with the research (much of it performed during surgery) but it's revolutionary.

    Phenomenology -- related in part to Hegel's extension of Kant -- can be tangential, at least to everyday activity, and pendantic, e.g., put the noetic on top of the apodictic along with a pinch of semiotics and whaddya got? complexity too inaccessible to be practically meaningful for most people. As far as the matters on this thread, Nietzsche's primal simplicity seems far more relevant.

    SB - My post was not intended to respond to any one individual, including you. Had you not posted, my sentiments would've been the same. My emphasis on Rationalism is in part a reaction to the post- Enlightenment worship of Reason, often at the expense of metaphysical, spiritual, and emotional issues.

    Yeah, I'd be a fool to denounce reason, which has been in short supply ever since the origins of the species 130,000 years ago, at least according to the Smithsonian Institute. During that time span, how long has humankind operated under the auspices of reason? Some would say 2,000 years. Some might say 200. There's also a good argument, especially in lieu of the vast horrors pursued by secularists and atheists during the 20th century, that humans haven't yet been ruled by reason -- not as a general core principle. The Jacobins, fueled by the righteousness of Reason, acted worse than the clergy and aristocracy they butchered while delaying democratic rule by 50 years in France. Mussolini outlined Fascism specifically as an antireligious ideology. That didn't worked out so well. Marx's notion of antireligion empowered totalitarianism, which led to the murder of millions of innocent people. For what? Rationalism? Reason? They thought so. And you think you have a corner on reason in your own reasonable way, right?

    Atheism is the most reasonable position? First, When in the course of human affairs while reason was the overarching value was it the most reasonable position? Greece? Sorry, even Socrates believed in God and an afterlife. Imperial England? Originally Catholic, it became Protestant and the public still today, contrary to popular belief, holds religious views. America? Despite cycles of secularism, it's deeply religious.

    You see SB, you've got a tremendous problem: on the one hand you're a self-professed rationalist, which means your position requires empirical substantiation; on the other hand, you don't have the empirical substantiation to make a reasonabe case. But, like many atheists I've communicated with, you are clever and bright, so with a wiggle here and there, you seem to skate beyond the thorns. But you don't. The simple truth is, you're one fact away from supporting your case: proof that God doesn't exist. And you don't have it. And that's why your position isn't the most reasonable.

    Like religious believers, you're working with faith -- faith in the belief, but not the indisputable proof, that God, meaning a transendent power responsible for creating the universe, does not exist.

    Religious believers who profess their belief rests upon faith are actually being more reasonable since they are acknowledging their belief is not based on reason. Their belief may not be reasonable since there may not be a God, but differentiating between faith and empirical proof is reasonable. You and many atheists don't do that. You associate your faith in no God with reason, though you have no reasonable proof or ironclad logic that inarguably supports your position.

    If you want to rigorously adhere to being reasonable, do yourself a favor -- make a case for agnosticism, which means you have a faith in the idea there may not be a God. Insisting you know more than that is folly. Of course, you're entitled to believe it, but you lack the support it requires in order for it to be reasonable, namely, the facts.

    You're right, It shouldn't be obligatory for posters here to have read all, or even one, of Armstrong's books. It would be helpful, however, if respondees knew more about her and the subject matter than a 15-minute TV interview. The point is this: When individuals holding views that are bivalent to, in contradiction of, or in polarized opposition to, they act like true believers and exhibit knee-jerk reactions. This thread is full of them. Atheists hear someone speaking respectfully about God, and wham! the hammer comes down. As if all religion is aborrhent and all believers part of an ugly stain on the human condition. That's righteousness tantamount to zealotry. And it's foolish.

    Prehistory and recorded history are filled with spiritual yearnings and religious activism. Why? Because people didn't embrace Reason? Because not enough atheists were around to pound sense into their heads? No. Because humans are not completely rational, even the smartest ones. Humans are intuitive creatures with a propensity for fear, vulnerability, and a hunger for security.

    Now if you could figure out a way of removing the amygdala, insula, and limbic system -- the primal components of the brain stimulating emotional extremes -- then you might have a case for human Rationality. If you could invent a pill, or create some fantastic algorithm that would genetically erase instinctual and emotional perceptions, then, my high priest of Reason, you would have that creature, that overkin thinker, that marvelous, crackerjack brilliance, which immediately seizes upon reasonableness all the time, every time. If you could take the brain, no make that just the prefrontal cortex, of the most brilliant reasonable person ever, say the opposite of Joe Sixpack, and mint that sucker in a factory, get a corporate sponsor for mass distribution, then, you'd have the creature who would be the non-believing, reasonable, standup person that would revolutionize the ages. Until then, learn to live in a world populated by emotionally driven individuals who find it comforting to look to the heavens for their guidance as opposed to lumbering along without direction.

    Dear JA Blowhard,

    Thank-you for a well written post. It was a pleasure to read and digest.

    I kindly requested a substantive rebuttal to the notion that Ms. Armstrong’s is another watered-down, moderate interpretation of numerous religions. Rather than provide this, you have supported my position with no less than a quote from Ms. Armstrong. My main issue is with the apparent intellectual dishonesty inherent in all such positions (if it is not real, then it must be better explained), exemplified by an attachment to mutually exclusive concepts or definitions of god. If what you wrote is a true characterization, then there is a good reason her attachment is “tenuous”.

    On another note, surely you don’t mean that before posting on this blog, one must read all of Ms. Armstrong’s works? The whole point was to create dialogue based on the interview. If one must read all of Ms. Armstrong’s works before being able to comment, then you are correct: there will remain a “sizable throng more interested in spreading their own word.” As someone who seems to have read the source material, perhaps you could better communicate the weaknesses of my characterization of Ms. Armstrong’s position.

    You, like Ms. Armstrong, are advancing the idea that the only reasonable position, atheism, is rigid and fanatical. (So that I am not misinterpreted: atheism is not the only reasonable position because I say it is. It is the only reasonable position in the same sense that a-astrology is the only reasonable position on that subject. Notice that a-astrologers are not considered “zealots”). This is in part based on your incorrect interpretation of my position as “demanding” that the world conform to my views immediately (see below). My previous post explores the deeper reasons why readers must not be swayed by this common fallacious attack.

    If you look at my last post without exasperated eyes, you will clearly see that while it would be my personal wish to "systematically unite the world right here and right now around rationalism", I am not so naive as to make it my personal demand. I clearly identified this one as an evolving conversation. Furthermore, I indicated my appreciation for Karen’s efforts because the ends she seeks are important, and she is uniquely skilled at the means.

    Best wishes,
    SB

    Good Lord, that's a great post, JAB. I looked at this thread last night and thought it was done for. Not familar with Antonio Damasio's Somatic Marker hypothesis, and it might be a little while before I can read about it (though I can paste what Wiki says about it tonight). What do you think about the phenomenological approach? Specifically, what it led Husserl to believe or conjecture?

    Confession, I'm not secular. Confession, "creationism" is not a word I like the sound of. Had written what follows without knowing your message, JAB, was up. Gonna go ahead and respond to Bullet even though my style pales next to what's below.........

    I feel bad about writing on topics other than ethical issues here. But, Bullet, you have left open the invitation to do so.

    On Mar 28th I attempted to demonstrate that this writer, at least, is aware of the worst applications of retrograde religion imaginable (here in the states that is, link re Presidential Election of 2000). If people believe all religion leads to such things, IMO it's good they have the right to speak out against what they see as a regressive phenomenon. And it's good they do so if they believe this. For me, however, that entails too broad a brush.

    "It is clear (to me at least) that Ms. Armstrong's view is just another moderate, extremely watered down, elastic interpretation of religions that is no more supportable than any of the original religions or dogmas themselves (if I'm wrong, then pls provide the substantive arguments)."

    I can only guess what Jung or Joseph Campbell would say to this. The flaw I think they might draw attention to is that if you say "watered down" or stretched you are possibly intimating not that Armstrong's view in your mind is really equally unsupportable, but that it is less supportable. Thus, you possibly have let it slip that in the back of your mind there is a hunch that there might be something to ancient religions. On this Jung would agree.

    My thinking is some are tenable in the context of the time in which they appear. As time passes we gain understanding, so that Armstrong's view can actually end up better...rather than watered down.

    You write as though we're in Camus' clear lucid air as long as we reject religions. We have Reaganomics. We have The Street. We have NAFTA (and the gargantuan book of NAFTA regulations). Seems like a heck of a lot of hokus pokus to me. You know about Greider's book..."Secrets of the Temple." That is the question. What alternative are you offering? These? It's interesting to read Ken Wilber on extreme postmodernism in his book "One Taste." IMO, as I wrote 3/28, we are now in the domain of Dover Beach II (where all the dead ends have opened up).

    "She has tried to suggest that secularism/atheism is another form of fundamentalist dogma."

    If you'd checked out my Norman Macbeth link of 3/28 (or any of Rupert Sheldrake's books which are more readily available), you might have at least come away allowing more leeway that natural selection as the mechanism could be unsupportable dogma. Suppose these guys convinced you that slow-and-gradual-mutations as the mechanism is as untenable as a 6000 yr old earth? Try'em.

    It never fails when it comes to Armstrong. Critics see her in an interview, or read isolated passages of her work, and they're definitively convinced she's a zealot, or antisecular, or whatever delusion version they concoct. This thread illustrates bountiful examples of this, surprisingly submitted by what would otherwise appear to be intelligent people.

    In the Intro to "A History of God" Armstrong explains her tenuous attachment to the concept of God: "the word (God) contains a whole spectrum of meanings, some of which are contradictory or even mutually exclusive." If secular posters spent more time reading her than reading tea leaves and posting lengthy diatribes, they'd see, in all likelihood, she's more secular than they are. But since she speaks about religion and God with respect -- not a self-contradictory, bivalent position -- she's bashed.

    What we have here, in spades, is ample evidence that there's a sizable throng more interested in spreading their word than truly understanding the texts that are supposed to be the main source of discourse. More precisely: this thread is full of closeted writers who haven't yet done the requisite research to render informed and wise opinions. Instead, what we have here is a failure to communicate, at least well.

    No, there may not be a God. Religion has undeniably caused problems, many of them bloody in fact. But life is not as rational as you self-proclaimed rationalists would have us believe. It just isn't. For billions of people and for millions of children the toothfairy, God, the devil, and other fanciful notions are guideposts. Why do rationalists demand to oppressively, systematically unite the world right here and right now around rationalism, no, Rationalism, when it isn't ready for it? Why? Because many of them, like the religious nuts they criticize are zealots. Zealots for Reason. Zealots for Science. Zealots for Atheism. Call it what you will, it's still the species of zealotry.

    If you have a corner on rationalism, if Reason dominates your every move, and there are no ghosts in the closet, or the machine, then congrats. You're simply fabulous, my darlings. Hold your heads up, you're a superior breed. But quit trying to enforce your standards on the rest oif the world. It's not ready, and may never be collectively ready to be the fabulous You You believe yourself to be.

    You'd all be wise to take a page out of one of your patron saints, Bertrand Russell, who in "A History of Western Philosophy" wrote: "...when an intelligent man expresses a view which seems to us obviously absurd, we should not attempt to prove that it is somehow true, but we should try to understand how it ever came to (i)seem true."

    For the many of you who don't seem to get it, that's exactly what Armstrong is attempting to do. Put the rocks and bricks down and open your minds. Underneath all that fancy Rationality you may discover an immature consciousness that hasn't yet figured out all that much about existence and living peacefully on Earth. You might realize behavior is ruled as much by Antonio Damasio's Somatic Marker hypothesis, i.e., emotional impulses, as it is by logic.

    And by the way, Rabbi Hillel formally codified the Golden Rule: "Do not do unto others as you would not have done unto you. This is the whole story of the Torah: go and learn it." It's there in Armstrong's work if you have the courage to read what you've blindly been critiquing.

    Silver Bullet,

    I can see why you are hoping for someone to come along and make your "argument" seem more intelligent.

    Won't be me. Officially, you have had the "last word" within the structure of your own structured "reality". And "religion" is NOT part of your structure.

    Congratulations!

    Hopefully, I might get the last word on this thread, and if not, then I hope for an intelligent and clear rebuttal.

    I've just finished reading an interview with Karen Armstrong further outlining her point of view at the following URL:

    http://mobile.salon.com/books/int/2006/05/30/armstrong/

    It is clear (to me at least) that Ms. Armstrong's view is just another moderate, extremely watered down, elastic interpretation of religions that is no more supportable than any of the original religions or dogmas themselves (if I'm wrong, then pls provide the substantive arguments). She has no religious leg to stand on when she tries to argue that the bad parts of sacred texts ought to be taken with a grain of salt while the good parts she likes are to be upheld as "supreme realities".

    She has tried to suggest that secularism/atheism is another form of fundamentalist dogma but this is a false argument that, in the end, reveals her own hypocrisy. In advancing this common attack against atheism/secularism, she is after all, elevating her own position to a "supreme reality" while trying to cloak it in humility.

    Atheism/secularism is the exact opposite of fundamentalist dogma where one remains free, open minded, and open to evidence. The current dogmas are rejected because the atheist is simply unimpressed with them and/or the evidence supporting them. There is NOTHING dogmatic or fundamentalist about that. The atheist is left to TRULY consider moral projects that increase the happiness and well being and diminish the suffering of fellow humans without having to believe anything on insufficient evidence or pay tribute to any iron age philosophies or world views.

    She seems to be a good ambassador for her harmless opinions, and if she can help to popularize a moderate Christianity and, more importantly, a moderate Islam, then I will be very pleased. Replacing dangerous, divisive, oppressive and silly dogmas with ones that are less offensive but no more intellectually honest is, after all, a good thing in the short term, and perhaps, the first step to their outright disappearance among an evolving human conversation, even if I'm still left crying out "give me a break!" for now.

    Apologies of the Week Dept

    I never meant to imply that when we discover our "healthy competition" presided over by sociometrics, macroeconomics, and the "science" of economics...that when we discover it's just a set of relative, trendy rationalizations that'll fuel as much fire as anything else Heraclitus named as temporary...I never meant to imply it's an easy matter to just blithely chuck everything we've grown up with.

    Duane el Ateo - I have finally arrived at the conclusion that I don't know what you are talking about, either. Devils, angels, sons of god, porcupines, pineapples, rabid raccoons - to much hiddne meaning and metaphors and parables and "perception is reality"...

    Whatever happened to using the arts instead of "politics" or "religion" to channel your personal brain waves out on "send, but no receive"...?

    Even "devil's" can have "compassion", Anna D.

    Which "compassion" is non-devilish?

    I've written all I have to write.

    SB out.

    "I doubt an actual bullet could have wounded me more deeply as a citizen than what has happened in the MIC "business" - such a noble and needed power whoring itself out to the shamans of hate for their paper money."

    Hmmm - is it possible that I have been mistaken about "compassion"?

    "Compassion" makes everyone feel all kumbaya about everything, even turning USA military might into a mercenary army for profiteers?

    Seriously, poppy fields? Guess when drug lords make it to the Forbes list of richest men in the world, you gotta get in on the business of "natural" methods for sheeple control.

    My dear porcupine,

    They kill rabid raccoons don't they?

    Posted by: Duane el Ateo


    Not any more. They pray over them and "forgive" them.

    At the same time, they set up a biotech company to find a "cure". They know that there is no "cure". But this business trick keeps money under their control.

    No doubt about it, the atonement doctrine is a gift that keeps on giving. Kill the messenger so that YOUR "sins" are forgiven.

    I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn...

    Only slave labor can be dependent on "charity".

    But back to Bullet, I have no idea what you are talking about, either. Your "science" is so wrong, it's actually scary. Don't know how old you are, but even if you are 20 and live to be 120, there isn't enough time to re-educate you about "science".

    But you do continue to be loyal to your "protocols"

    "1. In applying our principles let attention be paid to the character of the people in whose country you live and act; a general, identical application of them, until such time as the people shall have been re-educated to our pattern, cannot have success. But by approaching their application cautiously you will see that not a decade will pass before the most stubborn character will change and we shall add a new people to the ranks of those already subdued by us."

    David H., you remind me of an interesting question regarding the charity of the faithful. If this charity is out of love, exactly what is the need for the book and father above in the end? The belief in earning a place besides the father provides a simulacrum of security. But it also leads to hoarding virtue and spiritual materialism. Godliness is set as the shield of civic virtue (which would explain why the disbelievers are held in such contempt), but becomes a mockery (any wonder why police are feared and despised)?

    The "god" project smacks of the cynical social engineering of the powerful. Poor, dumb, humans must be guided by the powerful so they're given illusions which appear to be motivating (and can be exploited to maintain the power). But those illusions turn out to lead away from the real source of peace and security.

    Why can't these good people be without "god"?

    Regarding a big problem with godliness, I refer you to a presentation by Andrew Gelman @ Google where it appears that rich believers are the precipitating force behind thuglicans. Godliness becomes a hedge or a shield against inhumanity. This is the real problem behind belief - it's an escape from the Truth (and a manipulated one at that).

    Surely there must be a better way to get good people together.

    Well, SB, there is a stereotypical notion of charity. That notion sometimes gets on the news. It's trackable statistically via the budget statements of orgs. I'll mention two problems in assessing charity with that notion, one: alms given in India. [Another thing to consider is how much immigrants of faith put up with here to feed their destitute families back home, in beef processing plants for instance. Is it above and beyond the call...or what?] The second problem goes beyond alms and all piecemeal charity efforts (including the visits to my old neighborhood with whatever assistance). While we focused on this do-good stuff (I'm sorry to have to suggest the Oprah production as sort of an example) we snoozed away with respect to gov...the stuff Chris Hedges points out at Flo's link...the Democrats and Republicans dismantled regulation of banks and brokerage houses hand in hand (which sort of negated most of our charity). All the stuff that had taken so much effort to pass during and after the Great Depression. It wasn't just the right wing Christians. Everyone thought Clinton was gonna make some progress in the 90s. But I remember reading Palley in The Atlantic Monthly plus Robert Parry and Greider back then in The Nation, and trying to mention their POVs to others. People would look at you like you were from the moon. So, I'm not even sure you can say America was more Christian than Scandinavia (of course we shouldn't forget that all our liberals who were asleep, say, in regard to Clinton's trade policy, were not exactly gung ho Christians). Perhaps the Christian population, as you say, was decisive. But perhaps they were deceived; they might have meant to give more aid, but actually thought they were doing so when they made contributions to CBN. [What was Pat Robertson supposed to have been doing with that dough going to diamond mines?]

    We had a bunch of hype for good works. You see, I am making your point! Plus, according to Galbraith [most recent book], Denmark really has it together even with few raw materials to export...somehow. The only problem with the argument is that it excludes Americans of faith even if they provided close to the best analysis of, congress by congress, how the poor were getting ripped off. Or the best investigatory reporting on state money (which could have gone for assistance to those who needed assistance) going around the Boland Amendment down to Costa Rica and Nicauragua. It was Christians and interfaith people who wrote about it. Now, if you tell me Oliver North's problem was his Christianity...I'm gonna say no. It's a beltway defense thing, a Pentagon thing. We are seeing this clearly right now in regard to CIA records.
    "Sojourners Magazine," for instance for a number of years provided critiques of homefront ripoffs of the poor and blowback generating covert wars abroad (in language people could understand). It was indispensable, and IMO it's an error to overlook that contribution while only stressing how uninformed Christians got duped. "The Otherside" magazine too.

    I'm going to hazard a guess on the last yr when what Richard J. Barnet cited back I think in the early 80s, if not 1980...was true: All the worlds people can be fed on wheat alone (which relegated contraception down on the global triage list). I'll guess 1995. I'm not saying it wasn't presumptuous to try to prevent the world from using contraception. I'm just saying there were a lot of folks in South America who refrained from it by choice. There was no point in ridiculing their faith then when there were other things happening far more in need of addressing. Nukes for one thing. And now the nukes in Pakistan (IOW "the war on terrorism" as it is being prosecuted), though IMO providing contraception has now moved up somewhat on the list.

    My dear porcupine,

    They kill rabid raccoons don't they?

    Anna D.:

    I never suggested that the consciousness of a human is the same as that of a dog.

    I am sure that you and I would agree that we have a moral obligation to make dogs happy and diminish their suffering. I am also sure that we would agree that we have no such obligation to a pineapple. Our moral obligation extends to the extent that an animal is, to the best of our knowledge, conscious of happiness and well being and suffering. Hence, we have a greater moral obligation to a human than to a dog, but we can't just torture dogs and consider ourselves acting well.

    Here's what happens when we follow dogma and ignore the well being and suffering of conscious animals (by the way, animals includes us apes): Let's take the Christian dogma on stem cell research. Stem cell research is considered the most promising line of medical research the past decade has seen, with potential to cure or alleviate diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinsons, diabetes, paralysis and many more. Think of all of the human beings who could benefit from this research. On the other hand, we have the destruction of a small conceptus that consists of fewer than 150 cells. The brain of a fly (just its brain) is thousands of times more populated by neurons than the conceptus mentioned above is populated by cells. I'm sure that 99% of Christians have no problem swatting a bothersome fly to death, but to them, the conceptus is more important than the humans suffering from horrible diseases. They feel that they are doing the right thing by following their dogma, which is preventing them from a reasonable consideration of the well being and suffering of conscious humans versus that of an non-conscious 150 cell morula.

    Another fantastic example of how religious dogma can lead one astray and contribute to the suffering of humans is the genocidally stupid Catholic position on contraception, which bathes the Pope's hands in blood. I've alluded to this in a previous post.

    Sam Harris does a better job than I do of explaining this position. "Letter to a Christian Nation" is, in my opinion, a terrific read that I can wholeheartedly recommend.

    My posts were censored - here's the tracking number for the onw I just posted that mentioned the forbidden word - "protocol".

    TrackBack URL for this entry:
    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/mt3/mt-tb.cgi/1780

    If everyone in the world is following the same protocols as they are, then the goal has been achieved, right?

    el Ateo: "Once more, how do you restrain cold technocratic rationality with compassion? The MIC (among other conspirators) has clearly defeated compassion in this empire."

    Amazing what "conscious animals" are capable of, isn't it? "Cold, technocratic rationality."

    My dogs have good visual survival skills (eyesight). And yet, when I am outside at night looking through the scope at the stars, they are looking at me, not up at the stars. I have taught the dogs many things to do for food rewards (I should send in a couple of videos to comedy pet trick segments) ie. they can go retrieve 5 different tools from the tool box correctly, they can unload and carry in the groceries, they can shut off and turn on the irrigation system, etc. I tried to get them to look up at the stars (and look through big binocs) but they only look up at the sky when some bird catches their eye. "Consciousness" on Planet Anna is way different than on Planet Bullet.

    I doubt an actual bullet could have wounded me more deeply as a citizen than what has happened in the MIC "business" - such a noble and needed power whoring itself out to the shamans of hate for their paper money. They might need to start following their own "counter-insurgency" PROTOCOLS to become free people once more.

    It's not showing compassion to allow yourself to be bitten by a rabid raccoon and then proceed to hyper-rationalize such a stupid act as a new "religious" expression of a better "secular" moral code.

    David H.:

    Its anyone's guess whether religious believers or non-believers do more good (per capita) in the world. Even if religious believers do more good, there is a serious price to pay for that religious belief, and I've given examples.

    I can't quote you the source for the data directly, but my understanding is that Scandinavians (among the lowest belief in a personal god in the world) are more charitable per capita than Americans (among the highest belief in a personal god in the world). Furthermore, this trend continues within America itself when states with the highest prevalence of belief in a personal god are compared with those with the least.

    There are plenty of secular humanists sticking their necks out for others (they can be found at Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, the military, etc).

    Any such tally must also consider the bad things that are done in the name of religion. The good cannot be separated from the bad because they are forever etched in static texts and dogmas.

    For sure, there are good things done in the name of religion, and you have a point. I'm just not sure that its as clear as you may be suggesting, or that that good is worth all the bad.

    Well, I guess I may have time for short responses, as long as my interaction with the net on whatever day isn't for some reason slowed to a crawl and as long as this PC hasn't crashed.

    "...when good reasons exist (such as upholding compassion makes for happier, more secure people in a more stable society)."

    If you look at only the reactionary side of faiths you're going to assume that motives from faiths' camps are bad and motives apart good. But that indicates a lack of interest in what faiths manage to actually do in the world. I once lived in a hood were bullets were fly'n on the weekend. The doctrines of Catholics, pentecostals, and Mormans are not doctrines I can subscribe to myself, but guess who the only whites [save dope customers] were who paid our neck of the woods a visit once in a while? It impressed me, and I'll never forget it. All sectors of the world we live in are just not gonna bite on the extreme postmodernism line. That's all there is to it. To me studying the precepts of other religions is just like studying geography.

    I meant to get to "happier" quicker. Take those practicing Karma Yoga (who have rendered a heck of a lot of service to their fellow humans). If you're practicing Karma Yoga you're not supposed to be shooting for happiness. You're supposed to be embracing no-reward. It may be a huge misconception to think "service" purges ones minds of the blues. It's not all show up with 100 other Habitat folks and hit two nails, sit around and drink coffee. Now, one may think such selfless service as the aforementioned is nuts, but the objective fact of the matter is...it quite often comes via folks for whom the notion of Brahman or Purusha has meaning. Whaddya gonna do, say: come back and help after you get deprogrammed?

    Ok, Mr(s) Bullet. I haven't been as clear as I can possibly be.

    Understanding is not life's ultimate goal, though it is highly useful and desirable.

    David H.:
    "For instance, if secular ethics over and over bows to terror-generating Realpolitik in foreign policy, why can't we go back to Faiths to look for something different than what the hawks say is there?"

    Your joking, right? No, we need a domestic realpolitik but not of the bankrupt Kissinger-Brzezinski kind.

    Mr(s) Bullet, the battle between "good and evil" "is not the larger war"?

    DeA: Honestly, I don't really understand the rest of your post, and I don't think you're understanding my posts either. I can't be any more clear than I have been.

    "If rationality were such an effective tool, then why haven't all the irrational ones been weeded out?"

    I don't understand the question, What does "ones" refer to? Am I to read the question as follows: "If rationality were such an effective tool, then why haven't all the irrational tools been weeded out?"

    If so, what irrational tools are you referring to?

    Listen - reason and rationality are not perfect. I'm not talking about any sort of utopia. Its simply the best thing we've got to help us to understand the world we inhabit.

    Do you realize you didn't answer my question about the evolutionary superiority of rationality, Mr(s) Bullet?

    As to your response about dangerous reason, just what is that "moral code that promotes the well being ..."? Is a "code" really sufficient? I didn't see any mention of compassion in that "utopian" program either. Interesting. Compassion needs stories. Morality needs stories. Sounds like an interesting engineering project, though.

    Once more, how do you restrain cold technocratic rationality with compassion? The MIC (among other conspirators) has clearly defeated compassion in this empire.

    Reason worship is counter-theology.

    "I think you are missing the bigger picture, Mr(s) Bullet. If rationality were such an effective tool, then why haven't all the irrational ones been weeded out? If rationality can be used to horrendous ends, rivaling that of superstition, then why are you beating your breast about rationality rather than the common evil in both (superstition and rationality)? Is that rational?"

    Let's look at these one by one: Religion hasn't been weeded out by reason because people stop using reason when they consider religion. The human brain is incredible for its capacity to partition itself, like a hard drive, and say, 'I will employ reason, open mindedness tempered by skepticism, the scientific method whenever I can here in drive A, but in drive B, I will respect authority, tradition, and revelation as the best tools and sources of understanding'. Double standards and hypocrisy are to blame.

    As for reason being used to horrendous ends, give me an example of a regime that advocated for the dismantlement of dogma, for open mindedness tempered by skepticism, for open conversations with no taboo topics based on reason and evidence, and that employed a moral code that promotes the well being and diminishes the suffering of conscious animals, that also lead to horrendous ends.

    "Armstrong's point is that we should gather moral outlooks together from all sources possible that are in unison re...upholding compassion."

    And my point is that we don't have to believe anything on insufficient evidence to uphold compassion. Furthermore, we don't need bad reasons to do so (like the imaginary friend I call Yawheh, Allah, or Jesus wants me to uphold compassion, or will reward me for doing so or punish me for not doing so) when good reasons exist (such as upholding compassion makes for happier, more secure people in a more stable society).

    Do we really need Karen Armstrong to mold religion into the tool she likes, or all of your mumbo jumbo you call metaphysics to agree that compassion is better than cruelty?


    PS Are you sure it's censoring, Anna? I've got tons of looks like ISP problems, browser problems, OS problems, and firewall problems.

    Posted by: David H

    I am POSITIVE. Been on the WHC file since the early 1980s when I walked off the job in disgust at one of those spider-web type Swiss corps.

    Credit dried up because the corps have nothing in the pipeline that they need to rule the 21st century world. That new knowledge is among the "small business" owners. They're trying to starve us into giving them all the new stuff. Gotta hang tight long enough to starve them. T

    hat's why as counter-intuitive as it may seem to be, everyone needs to go on strike (use the physics of our mass as REAL people).

    That'll resuffle the deck.
    They lost the hand but they ain't leaving the table.

    "This is not a battle between good and evil, but rather a conversation about how and why we believe what we believe and what constitutes good reasons for our beliefs." SB

    So, that's yall's discussion, SB?

    Armstrong's point is that we should gather moral outlooks together from all sources possible that are in unison re...upholding compassion.

    And of course one is free to name some sources as "superstitious" if one likes, but the fact is we are in the midst of a wave of superstition...or an anti-scientism wave...across the planet. This Jacques Ellul found himself worrying over a lot. But then he came back and questioned his own worry (all in the same book; "Living Faith").

    It is absolutely a fruitless endeavor for me to argue my particular metaphysics in this thread. I'm tempted to say we could take the phenomenologists as a point of departure (if we insist on arguing atheism vs theism). But then someone could rightly ask: are you recommending theistic or integral phenomenology...or phenomenology from the cognitive viewpoint? [I'll just say in my case that I'm only familar with Husserl, and still go back to him from time to time.]

    More respect for animism and "superstitions" scares rationalists. But it doesn't matter if it scares them--we're already there. The double slit experiment, quantum mechanics, and string theory can suggest all kinds of things. IMO we're actually in the midst of Dover Beach Part II where everything is switched ["Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold]. But think about it for a moment. All of us already know this! So, what we are probably looking for here is someone to go beyond what we know.

    Yes, from the standpoint of many things argued here the fact is we are in an age where beliefs are in flux.

    We know the problems with right wing religionists, as, for example,
    re influencing the yr 2000 presidential election. But we also know [as our stuffy newspapers refuse to recognize or write about] that guys like Rupert Sheldrake and
    Norman Macbeth have hammered at the problems with natural selection as the big bad mechanism. [Anna, in the early book of Macbeth's I read he offered no explanation.]

    We the people are way, way beyond the newspapers. [though Greider may have a point re better coverage of financial shennagins in the NYT] And, by the old markers, we seem to be in a sort of limbo. Even the wholistic insights of the counter culture seem at times not to have delivered. But what we are looking for are people who can voice the articulations beyond what we've articulated (the latter surely being beyond what the papers have articulated). What's different would be a new and succinct statement on where viewpoints and worldviews together support compassion over victimization...on specific issues.

    For instance, if secular ethics over and over bows to terror-generating Realpolitik in foreign policy, why can't we go back to Faiths to look for something different than what the hawks say is there?

    PS Are you sure it's censoring, Anna? I've got tons of looks like ISP problems, browser problems, OS problems, and firewall problems.

    Since my posts are now being "censored" - here's how I'll gracefully exit to Planet Anna.

    The biggest question remains - why Karen Armstrong found no spiritual power, so to speak, to assist her in her search for "compassion" within the Catholic Church itself?

    DeA:

    You are referring to a battle between good and evil. This battle is independent of the battle between reason and superstition, or atheism and religious belief. It is not the larger war in a connected series, but a separate one.

    Sure, people can try to rationalize evil acts and views. Just scroll down and see how Charles Michael Couch has tried to rationalize his bigotry for an example of that. Because there will always be evil, there will always be people who try to rationalize it.

    Look at what I have been advocating in my posts: reason versus superstition and dogma, requiring good evidence to support beliefs rather than tradition, revelation, and authority. These address how to decide what you believe and what you don't believe. This is the war I am referring to. As for the other war that you are referring to, I have advocated for a moral code that promotes the well-being and reduces the suffering of conscious animals.

    I think you are missing the bigger picture, Mr(s) Bullet. If rationality were such an effective tool, then why haven't all the irrational ones been weeded out? If rationality can be used to horrendous ends, rivaling that of superstition, then why are you beating your breast about rationality rather than the common evil in both (superstition and rationality)? Is that rational?

    Daniel Dennett has interesting things to say on the exploitation of language and minds. Is taking on superstition really the best way to undercut that?

    Me, I'd rather oppose a fundie than a cold-blooded rationalist; there are lot's of rationalist sociopaths. Thumpers are not opposed to all rationality, only the threatening kind.

    Do you not believe that Bushit played the Fundies? Now you're out hammering at the fools while the conmen are laughing all the way to the bank. Sure, fundies are a problem, but maybe if you showed them how they were conned or how their attempt to impose their faith via politics is stupid (and a violation of human rights), more would come of it than a polemic on spaghetti monsters.

    So, no, the battlefield between superstition and reason does not represent the larger war.

    DeA:

    I think you are mixing things up and making them much more complicated than they need to be.

    You are simply describing a battle between justice and injustice, or good versus bad.

    My comments were about the battle between religious belief and atheism. This is not a battle between good and evil, but rather a conversation about how and why we believe what we believe and what constitutes good reasons for our beliefs. The bigger picture here is the contrast between reason and superstition (eg. astronomy vs astrology, naturalism vs supernaturalism , etc.). This really isn't that complicated.

    Rationality is either "calculation" of an effective action or thought which meets a sort of "best practices" test for some group. One can be reasonable about genocide, e.g. one can plan an effective means of killing huge numbers of people by massive invasion under false pretenses. One can be reasonable about massive financial exploitation, e.g. by constructing veils of mathematical chicanery to increase the probability of massive failure and subsequent imposition of a rent for living upon the taxpayer.

    Reason is the thought process to discover the effective means to some ends. But the most important question is the ends. B******* Bible belief claims to have the right ends by faith (they'd like to claim that's faith in an uncomprehended "Reason" but I'm much more convinced the reason is uncomprehended because it's often obfuscated.) Philosophy's goal was to find the right ends.

    I've given you two examples of unjust reason. I'm sure you could find plenty more in this society. These tragedies of human abuse of power are not due to superstition. They're not due to "incompetence" (the Technocrat's sin). They're not due to mistakes. They are due to misanthropy and malfeasance.

    Just reason is one which considers just ends, ones that strive to satisfy the wishes of all enveloped by the project. Perhaps this cannot be done by one person, but it is the goal of Democracy. Through respectful consideration of fellow citizens, jointly reason forges comprehensive ends. The joke we call democracy is constantly subverted and spoofed by the powerful to give us and them moral failings to blame our diasasters on.

    Modest (or Eastwood) reason is one which knows its limits. There are things we want that we don't know the means to acheive but that's no reason to abandon those desires.

    The theist terrorists (and I'm not talking just about the Muslim kind) have been thrust in our faces for a purpose. They are a special breed of people "blind" to hypocrisy. We are reacting to them when there are bigger fish to fry.

    Reason: the power of comprehending, inferring, or thinking especially in orderly rational ways. - Merriam-Webster On-Line Dictionary.

    Care to briefly and clearly explain what you mean by modest reason, just reason, and unjust reason DeA

    "The battle between atheism and religious belief is but one in a larger war between superstition and reason."

    No, the larger war is between unjust reason and just & modest reason.

    David E wrote (and SB edited for effect):

    "My prospective of Zeus is somewhat different than yours.
    My relationship with Zeus is personal and up front. While I respect Zeus' authority as the creator of this phenomenon that I experience; as a sentient being, I think for myself and understand the complexity and limitations of this physical and mental reality. I think this reality is amazingly functional considering the complexity. Purely from a pragmatic view point; Zeus has His limitations within the confines of his own system of function and design. I think this reality is a work in process and that it is in a continual state of revision. I think we have the same method of discernment as Zeus and that Zeus has to deal with problems the same way we deal with problems. We are the most likely design for a physical sentient being and that Zeus would take on this same form. He may also take the form you suggest when not in a physical form as may be true of people in a non-physical form. I think there is a source of universal intelligence that Greeks call the Holy Baklava which is a source of knowledge and power which we ignore to our own detriment."

    What are the good reasons explaining why the paragraph above is ridiculous?

    What are the good reasons explaining why the paragraph above is not ridiculous when you replace "Zeus" by "god", "Greeks" by "we" and "Baklava" by "spirit"?

    "The atheist-theist wars are a sideshow, which "elites" are adept at ginning up. No need for protracted arguments."

    The battle between atheism and religious belief is but one in a larger war between superstition and reason. The weapons employed are common to everyone: conversation, skepticism, reason, evidence.

    Jon,

    I can't really understand Anna D either.

    It seems that David Eddy and David E. (same guy?) might be thinking over their position though . . . radio silence.

    -SB

    Silver Bullet,

    Thanks, Can you interpret what Anna D. is saying? I am having a hard time making sense out of it.

    -Jon

    You nailed it, David H., well almost. The atheist-theist wars are a sideshow, which "elites" are adept at ginning up. No need for protracted arguments. I was watching http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JYiJwDob1w which points to the rich godidiots as the ones disrupting the peace. There's a revealing perspective for you.

    That uproar over bonuses is just smoke-screen sacrifice. And thuglican's, poli's, and econo's need re-education.

    75 trillion is just a little social security package for all those wimpy crapitalists who can't face the pumpkin carriage.

    AD: I don't know what else to write. I have tried to be as clear as I can be.

    SB

    Hi Bullet,

    SB - I did not say that I could prove that there is no god, just that there is insufficient evidence to warrant belief in one. Big difference.

    AD - I don't get this logic for the simple reason that you and I happen to be here and we have no idea how it all "happened" - the earth, life - etc. I don't consider that "insufficient evidence" of reality? I consider it inescapable evidence for questioning and learning and I don't believe ANYONE who will act like they have all the answers to all the questions.

    SB - The onus is on believers to provide the evidence that god exists

    AD - No it isn't. Especially to the people who took charge of reality based on the belief in "perception is reality".

    SB - I'm not sure what data you have presented to support the non-sentence that follows.

    AD - I did not present data because I was hoping you'd arrive at your own conclusion about what data is needed to determine whether or not "sexual preference" is germaine to reigning in weapons of mass elimination.

    SB - I brought up sexual preference to indicate that millions of people discriminate against homosexuals largely if not entirely based upon the notion, rooted in scripture, that homosexuality is an abomination (sin).

    AD - C'mon, SB. Think. First thing that people all over the world DO when they concoct rules of engagement with the higher powers that they wish to lay claim to is make up a list of "do and dont" for the very group of people they wish to enslave. Traditionally, that was called "religion". When it comes to "sexual preference", what holds true for homosexuals is also true for non-homosexuals - deep seated rejection of certain people as a choice for PERSONAL fun and games that involve "sex". Seriously, why keep waving what grosses each other out in each other's face. TMI - too much information. When I'm considering the WHYS of the Russian Revolution, for instance, I can see it was all about the money. Something else all "sexual preferences" have in common - what we do to others before they do to us :-)

    SB - It is not homosexuality that is immoral, but rather, the discrimination that occurs against homosexuals that is immoral, and this is largely a religious influence.

    AD - Discrimination may very well be immoral, but mostly it is a tool for mind games in the lead up to power plays. Anything "sexual" becomes a brain lock to thinking. It IS a distraction and, imo, dirty, below the belt (pun intended) political, power play. If people bust you on that ploy, it's NOT discrimination. It's justice and fair play. You want to talk about weapons of mass elimination, stick to the freekin' topic.

    SB - I brought up conscious animals because I believe that we have a moral obligation to them, whereas I believe that we do not have a moral obligation to a rock or a tree.

    AD - Now wait a minute, you can't place what is living in with what is not alive. Self-serving reality ultimately means that some degree of "obligation", if you will, needs to be extended to everything that lives. My trees provide food. All three - trees, humans, and "animals" (what about fish?) - need water. Catch the drift? When it comes to animals, they are pretty simple to figure out. They relate to us as "other" than them and then they follow us around in hopes that we'll lead them to food, become our grudging friends if we give them some of our food, and if neither of those two happen, then they consider us as food itself :-). Just like humans mostly evaluate what the existence of another human means to them in the way of "food", like "sexual preferences", people will judge what the animal is good for...el Ateo thinks I'm growing vegetables on HIS land and he's happy to go help himself to the veggies. I acknowledge his perception of "reality" by booby trapping "land" so that he can learn it is MY land only because I'm the one who did the work of growing the vegetables AND inventiing the booby trap :-)

    SB - I brought up weapons of mass destruction because of the threat posed by them landing in the hands of religious believers who feel justified using them on religious grounds.

    AD - Uh, a little secular history here. The wiz kids who devote themselves, as "scientists" to weapon invention and manufacturing are motivated by the passion to OWN themselves as free-willed, sentient beings. "Religionists" want to steal what they believe is the source of that enviable passion for invention - the weapon itself. "Holy" men never got it and, I'm pretty sure, never will get it - the whole free-will/responsibility/justice philosophical trinity for living that defines real freedom, individually and collectively.

    SB - I brought up all of these items to make the point that religious belief influences so many important levels of our conduct, from interactions between household neighbors to interactions between nations.

    AD - No it doesn't. Shamanism never lasts. I'll concede that a certain kind of psychological profile will keep trying shamanism as a road to unearned wealth, but look at what happens when perception did presume to become "reality"! Insanity and the endagernment of ALL hard-earned civilization.

    SB - I addressed the accusation made by someone else here that I worship the "god" of science a few posts ago. I think I have addressed the notion that I believe that we need modern unifying conversations rather than divisive iron age conversations so that we might avoid any fingers hovering over "mass destruct buttons". I don' know why you would suggest that I worship money.

    AD - I apologize for misunderstanding you - conversation is not easy among real people (we are inventing our own scripts here - and nothing is perfect). Let me clarify. Karen Armstrong brought up "absolute" entities/beliefs that are man-made. In the entire "today" world, across all major civilizations, everyone acknowledges money as a functioning absolute power. We used to say to each other, "hey, it's only money, don't worry 'bout it"....money is not the root of all evil, but the LOVE of money IS.

    Kind regards.

    el Ateo,

    A smile in the morning, how nice of a gift - but not nice enough for free food.

    el Ateo - "But why would I get excited about throwing my neighbor in prison for growing vegetables on my property? "Thank you very much, neighbor," I'd say every time I helped myself."

    C'mon, the place is booby trapped - sign says so. Head on a stick is universal sign language, no?

    vaya con Dios,
    Your dear porcupine

    Having experienced triage drills, I've since found triage a useful concept when it comes to sorting out ideological, political, moral, and "stewardship" concerns. After I read Flo's Hedges' link I felt even worse about devoting space here to theology.

    '...As a result amorality also grows; as does extreme aggressivity when they are questioned by outsiders; as does a confusion between the nature of good versus having a ready answer to all questions...' Hedges quoting John Ralston Saul

    That's something I'm really tired of in media. That style. Bing bing. Nervous laughter. Tom Tomorrow gets that right too. We should keep posting here no matter how un-ready our answers are.

    "These manipulative characters, people like Lawrence Summers, Henry Paulson, Robert Rubin, Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, AIG’s Edward Liddy and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, along with most of our ruling class, have used corporate money and power to determine the narrow parameters of the debate in our classrooms, on the airwaves and in the halls of Congress while they looted the country."
    http://www.truthdig.com/report/page2/20090323_america_is_in_need_of_a_moral_bailout/

    As it happens I was reading William Greider's intro to Katrina Vanden Heuvel's "Meltdown" last night, and it seems as though Hedges is indeed right in what he says above. Some of these guys are Obama's stars, so of course it's daunting. Obama I take to be, though, the genius that Greider describes. We don't know if Obama himself wanted more liberal guys but could only negotiate "liberal" this far. Thus, the critical impetus might be provided by little people like us in solidarity. All we have to agree on is that the entire trickle down package is exemplary of mindless immoral theory and failed immoral practice. I can see that if we're arguing theology all the time we are not doing what Hedges is doing...describing the failed philosophy (morality) that threatens everything decent in this country right now. There's a lot of talk about God is this or God is unknowable, but the best talk seems somehow, in different ways, germane to ethics (the best has not been mine). Hedges must be right re what revamped notions of education are yielding. So, lemmie just point out one thing...if I calculate correctly...

    $75 trillion worth of credit default swaps = 107 seven-hundred-billion-dollar-size-bailouts

    Is that where we're gonna go folks?

    All the "anger" over the bonuses IMO just seems like some kind of ginned up, hopeful gloss.

    Republicans and economists are most in need of better education. Democrats need some too. Personally, I don't believe I can know if Obama needs more.

    Perhaps it's best for us unprofessional writers to go straight to the top of the triage list. That's Armstrong's strength too even though she's published. She's goin for the last place left to get some solidarity. If she wanted to beg the corporations for something she'd talk and write a lot differently. It's not like the last place is inappropriate. It's appropriate cause the debt casino is obviously the most immoral zeitgeist to come down the American pike.

    Already there's quite a breadth of different traditions here. It's different than the reigning one dimensional doctrine.

    Jon:

    I completely agree with your elegant post.

    Karen Armstrong is picking and choosing what religious beliefs she likes, and attacking atheism as though it is a bad religion.

    As Sam Harris has pointed out, there are only 3 ways to try to attack atheism:

    1. To try to argue that it is not true (ie. there is a god and these are his/her/its qualities)

    2. To try to argue that belief in god is useful (which in no way supports argument #1)

    3. To try to argue that atheism is itself a form of fundamentalism.

    She is employing #3. They are all fallacious.

    Ok Anna D, I'll bite. Here's what you wrote about me:

    "Bullets took over the conversation by setting up his non-god as a provable Absolute in contrast to an Absolute god that is non-provable."

    I did not say that I could prove that there is no god, just that there is insufficient evidence to warrant belief in one. Big difference.

    The onus is on believers to provide the evidence that god exists, not on me to prove that any one or all of the thousands of gods man has conjured up do not exist. After all, it can't be proven that Santa Claus doesn't exist, and that doesn't justify believing in him. The only thing that would justify belief in Santa Claus is evidence that he does exist.

    Anna D also wrote: "Would you accept my data that indicates that knowing a person's "sexual preference" or whassup with "conscious animals" aren't DETAILS that impact what to do about weapons of mass distraction, er, I mean mass DESTRUCTION?"

    I'm not sure what data you have presented to support the non-sentence that follows.

    I brought up sexual preference to indicate that millions of people discriminate against homosexuals largely if not entirely based upon the notion, rooted in scripture, that homosexuality is an abomination (sin). It is not homosexuality that is immoral, but rather, the discrimination that occurs against homosexuals that is immoral, and this is largely a religious influence.

    I brought up conscious animals because I believe that we have a moral obligation to them, whereas I believe that we do not have a moral obligation to a rock or a tree. In general, most religions seem so preoccupied with our own species and its course through this life and the "afterlife" that the suffering and well being of conscious animals other than humans are either ignored or glossed over, and I think that's immoral.

    I brought up weapons of mass destruction because of the threat posed by them landing in the hands of religious believers who feel justified using them on religious grounds. It seems very likely to me that some or all of the 19 middle or upper-class well-educated hijackers who were responsible for 911 would have jumped at the opportunity to employ a nuclear strike instead. As Sam Harris has pointed out, we live in a scary time when an individual can be intelligent enough to build a nuclear weapon, yet still believe that its use will land him in paradise with 72 virgins.

    I brought up all of these items to make the point that religious belief influences so many important levels of our conduct, from interactions between household neighbors to interactions between nations.

    Anna D also wrote: "Sounds like you might have your own pet "gods" you demand worship for from others and if they don't, your finger also starts twitching for the "mass destruct" button..." . . . "Bullets doesn't realize that he, too, worships at the altar of an "absolute" - a man-concocted, OT-era psycho god - money."

    I addressed the accusation made by someone else here that I worship the "god" of science a few posts ago. I think I have addressed the notion that I believe that we need modern unifying conversations rather than divisive iron age conversations so that we might avoid any fingers hovering over "mass destruct buttons". I don' know why you would suggest that I worship money.

    Karen Armstrong appears to blame those who strive for a rational scientific understanding for all the ills perpetrated by those with faith. She credited the Scoops trial with turning fundamentalist Christians from left wing social reformers into right wing corporate stooges. She blames Richard Dawkins for Muslims becoming hostile to evolutionary biology. What malevolent social phenomena does she attribute Galileo's heliocentric view of the solar system?

    If faith is such a sacred thing, why limit it to those who are monotheistic? It seems a polytheistic faith could meet more psychological, cultural and social needs with fewer logical contortions. Not that logic has much to do with it. Why limit respect for faith to the major religions? Why not the Hale Bopp faith? Perhaps if there had been sufficient empathy with the believers in Hale Bopp, they would not have committed suicide in an effort to join their savior hiding behind the comet? Or should we have shown our empathy by joining them? What would Karen recommend for those aspiring to be empathetic?

    As Dawkins has pointed out, religions make faith a virtue. This makes those with faith less susceptible to rational argument. Because by definition, faith does not require evidence, a faith based belief can be anything: flat earth, fairies, what ever. If you can imagine it and get others to have faith in it, you can start your own religion. Well most likely you will start a cult, but if you accumulate enough believers and last long enough, you can become one of the 'recognized' religions. It is no accident that all the religious leaders view rationality and scientific analysis as the chief threat to their dominion. It wasn't until the last part of the 20th century that the Roman Catholic Church recognized Galileo was correct. I.E. a better model was one in which the earth along with the other planets circled the Sun in elliptical orbits. Of course today because of relativistic physics, we have an even better model: the earth and other planets move in straight lines in a space distorted by the gravity of the Sun. The old model is still quite functional in that it allows you to shoot rockets from earth and intercept other objects circling the Sun. But relativistic physical models predict the ability of seeing behind stars because of the way their mass distorts space and thus the path of light.

    Perhaps the ills people inflict on each other can be better understood by studying biology and understanding the basic fact of life that there is more demand for resources than there are resources available and all life forms compete mercilessly to get their own genetic material into the next generation because those that don't are not there in the next generation. Plants, molds and bacteria engage in silent chemical warfare for space, other resources and protection from enemies that make World War I chemical warfare look primitive in comparison. Perhaps in humans, racism, religion, tribalism, ethnic groupings and nation states are just ways to pick sides in the fight for resources and social position. Perhaps this model would provide a better guide than the 'shortage of empathy' model to policies that would reduce strife between humans.

    Hola, tart enigma. Those are no "gods", just despots. Anyway, atheists do have to be careful about being sent on witch hunts by their masters.

    But why would I get excited about throwing my neighbor in prison for growing vegetables on my property? "Thank you very much, neighbor," I'd say every time I helped myself.

    Get your story straight, my dear porcupine.

    Bullet,

    I asked you a question a while back on this forum - still waiting for an answer.

    Which gets to another point, in this age of twits making constant one-liner noise, there is no common body of knowledge (REALITY) that people agree upon.

    Perception is reality?

    Happy to have a conversation about the problems of the 21st century with you and anyone else.

    Would you accept my data that indicates that knowing a person's "sexual preference" or whassup with "conscious animals" aren't DETAILS that impact what to do about weapons of mass distraction, er, I mean mass DESTRUCTION?

    Sounds like you might have your own pet "gods" you demand worship for from others and if they don't, your finger also starts twitching for the "mass destruct" button...

    It took hundreds of thousands of years for the "conscious animal" to figure out electricity.

    I predict it might take equally as long for that "conscious animal" to consider the possibility that "not sure how it happened" is the correct answer.

    Mr. Eddy wrote: "Silver Bullet, Even obvious is insufficient evidence according to your limited reality."

    Thanks for the compliment. "Obvious" is insufficient evidence, as in the arguments that it is obvious that blacks are an inferior race and ought to be slaves, or that it is obvious that the world is flat, or that it is obvious that drought and bad weather stem from an unhappy god who needs another sacrifice, or that all life on earth was designed by a higher intelligence.

    Your assertion that I live in a "limited reality" is yet another example of the arrogance of religious believers, abundantly on display here.

    We brothers live in the same reality, you and I. You use the same tools that I use to understand that reality, except when it comes to your religious beliefs. You and billions of other humans do this. These beliefs, which are no more founded than a belief in Zeus, balkanize our species, and in the age of weapons of mass destruction, represent a threat (among others, of course) to our continued survival. These beliefs influence humans to mistreat innocent people, on the basis of their sexual preference for instance, or their gender. In the case of the Catholic Church, they are responsible for the genocidal stupidity of preaching against the condom use in sub-Saharan Africa. In the case of Jehovah's Witnesses, they are responsible for the pedicidal stupidity of preaching against life-saving blood transfusions. I could go on and on. I am not talking about the transgressions of history, but egregious immoral behavior occurring right now, right here based entirely on these types of beliefs.

    There is more to this than just the good feeling you get from believing that you are loved by your "obvious" god.

    Given our ability to produce weapons of mass destruction, it is high time that we move beyond these iron age belief systems and begin to consider the full 21st century state of human understanding. It is time that we stopped accepting anything on insufficient evidence. It is time that we recognize that we are each others best hope for happiness and survival. It is time that we REALLY start considering moral codes that promote the well being and reduce the suffering of people and conscious animals. It is time we jettisoned the bad reasons that we have to do these things, because there are good reasons for us to do these things that don't require us to believe anything on insufficient evidence.

    People go on and on about all the new "science", and I use the term loosely, that has come forward about RNA/DNA. And then you realize that the kids aren't being taught what is TRUTH in all the information that came before someone took that first photograph of the RNA/DNA chain.

    RNA becomes a human body (DNA) through everything that is classified as "living" on this planet. Monsanto snuck into a bill - HR875SB425 - a clause that could be used to throw your neighbor into prison (in the future - don't get excited yet, el Ateo) for having a fruit/veggie garden on your property.

    Why would anyone do something that nuts, you may be asking? Well, because "scientists" don't want plants to produce natural FREE seeds - they're manufacturing sterile plants that YOU then have to buy the seed from the corp if you want to grow it again.

    So home garden farmers are a threat to the absoluteness of a SEED CORPORATION. Which version of "god" sees the human being as a threat to profit?

    But here's the point - gardens, human immune systems, weather, oceans, etc. are systems that have genius designed into them - the genius is that there is so much good built in, that disease and error don't have the space to grow.

    Since it's clear that not believing in god has the same non-genius designed errors - man-made errors - as those who do believe in god have, we're back to the beginning, aren't we?

    We need to promote having enough "health", so to speak, in all our systems and processes that "disease" has no space to grow.

    The hybrid of church and state IS disease taking over the body because the combo is a freak that has nothing left of the original genius design that is "good".

    What is the psychological profile of the "corporation" that has presumed to tell me (a human being) that I can't plant tomatoes in my garden with the seeds from last year's tomatoes? And worse, sets me up to be at the whim of a paranoid, drug-addicted, wracked by jealousy neighbor who can rally a con-gregation of hallelujia clappers speaking in tongues for the army that'll come get me and my tomatoes - mass-media cameras in tow to record the horror and brain lock everyone into submission.

    Shoot, man, even Stalin's paranoia did not extend to forbiding my great aunt from growing cabbage and potatoes and a couple of chickens and a piggie on the little plot of land she had backing up onto the railroad tracks where his speed train zipped back and forth between Moscow and St Petersburg.

    Would GOD tell a weathered, shell-shocked Russian babushka that she can't keep herself alive to the best of her abilities on a spit of land?

    Get my drift...? You've all got the same "god" - atheist and hallelujia clappers...even Stalin had boundaries, person to person, that the "corporation" is hysterically re-writing "law" to cross through force and fraud and farce (aka "government").

    Karen Armstrong in the final analysis is begging for some sign of compassion from a corporation - ain't gonna happen. Can't get blood from a stone.

    Anna D.
    All I am trying to do is warn people about the poop in the sand box.
    My wife teaches pre-school Sunday school; her main theme is God loves you and be nice to others.
    We need the strength to endure hardship and the grace to love the unloved.
    There lies the way to peace and contentment.
    There is the story about a man called Joe. His life had turned into a disaster and he decided to jump of a bridge and end it all. When he jumped of the bridge there was a ship passing under the bridge.
    Joe landed on the deck of the ship with a thud. Joe got up and brushed himself off. A sailor on the ship asked Joe how he survived such a long fall. Joe said, "I am used to hardships".
    Life is a challenge and we need all the help we can get. As for me; I find comfort and help in the realization that life is no accident and that there is a more to reality than meaningless random happenings. There is a creator and sustainer that is a source of strength in a time of need.

    Silver Bullet,
    Even obvious is insufficient evidence according to your limited reality.

    America Is in Need of a Moral Bailout. Is there a relationship between morality and compassion?

    Good article from Chris Hedges at Truthdig.org

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20090323_america_is_in_need_of_a_moral_bailout/

    el Ateo wrote: "You are a loud enigma, Anna D."

    Why thank you! Nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

    Looks like the same ol' scripted conversation about "god", devised by self-proclaimed (and self-educated - yikes) social engineers, has taken over the board thanks to David E and Silver Bullet (aka as Cutey Bear).

    I suggested that David E might not be in possession of the same skill set as his God when it comes to solving "human" problems and "knowing" how to control the spin of atoms.

    Bullets took over the conversation by setting up his non-god as a provable Absolute in contrast to an Absolute god that is non-provable.

    Sigh.

    While infinitely tolerant of what people might want to warm the air with through idle conversation, I do draw the line in being "ruled" by anything other than the human rights laws that everyone in the USA still want to operate under as "government". Problem is, our HUMAN rights have been given away to a man-made absolute entity called "corporation". Humans have no rights in the heavens of "corporation". That's just nuts, in my opinion.

    Bullets doesn't realize that he, too, worships at the altar of an "absolute" - a man-concocted, OT-era psycho god - money.

    And David E is hoping "science" can tame both absolutes - the OT god and the newly minted money god.

    Both don't realize that they are playing ruthless, sociopathic politics with the absolutism of the god/non-god of their own imaginings.

    There was a reason that it was called "The Dark Ages".

    And for lazy thinkers, tada! Enter in the fairy tale, er, "prophecy" that some super-duper being (Mom or Dad?) is coming to solve all our problems - just keep praying and building the temple.

    Enough.

    Here's a quote from the "forbidden" book: "Enduring liberty is predicated on the reality of justice - intelligence, maturity, fraternity and equity."

    Why not go play in the pool now, kids?

    (Clever parent,no? Easiest way to get the sand that they've been throwing at each other off of them :)- SOLAR machine pump will filter out the sand from the pool). See, I'm a "nice" god - figured out enough "science" to make life better for all.

    Tempting, but don't worship my "powers" that I derived from the mental and physical LABOR of all who came before.

    Anyone who is delusional enough to think that ANY absolutistic god is going to take for itself - as sacrifice - the LABOR built civilization of the ages needs to be warned - it's only fair to send that shot over the bow.

    Russian humor is so ironic - "absolute" vodka - lol.

    You're alright, Mr(s) Bullet. Another problem with those book worshippers is that they have a flair for false prediction, no?

    But in a culture which lets it all hang out for the pecking order, we'd be smart to keep an eye on "science". Here's a big question - who's made to sacrifice experience for "knowledge"?

    Duane el Ateo:

    Science may never be able to predict "all things", but what a tall order that is! As I wrote, we have MUCH to learn about experience and consciousness at the level of the brain.

    There is no hubris in these statements, nor in the idea that we do not need to believe anything on insufficient evidence.

    The real hubris comes from religious believers who claim to "just know" all about god and tell us that "it is what it is" because they believe that they possess magical books.

    While watching your TV show last week, Bill Moyers...

    ...I was appalled by its content. [March 13] All of the sanctimonious reverence given to the so-called "Abrahamic Religions," of Judaism, Christianity and Islam!

    Modern archaeological research confirms the fact that the Abraham legend was probably pure fiction. Even if the story were true, Abraham was a delusional and despicable character and certainly no model to base any religion on. What kind of inspiration made him circumcise himself when he was 99 years old? [Gen 17] It was not original form of mutilation even in those days! What about the ghastly story of Abraham's attempt to sacrifice his son Isaac?[Gen 22] A crazy piece of nonsense which would rightly land a man in jail if he tried it today! The Muslims in their version claim that Allah really prefers first-born sacrifices. They believe that Ishmael, Abraham's illegitimate son, went through this grisly ordeal!. Christian prefer the Isaac story and cheerfully proclaim that Jesus was also a first-born child sacrifice. [John 3:16] This is 2009 and we are still in the intellectual Dark Ages!

    As for the Golden Rule and former Sister Karen Armstrong’s campaign to promote it. What a lot of twaddle! You and she both had the Golden Rule wrong. You stated it in its negative form! This is pure nonsense! I grant you that it is a much better aphorism in a negative style. However it is what Confucius said 500 years earlier [Analects 15:23] but it is absolutely NOT what Jesus allegedly said [Matt7:12 and Luke 6] either in the King James Version or the Revised Standard Version of the Bible

    The Golden Rule is not a good moral guide but a form of philosophic anarchy. That’s because the rule is no better than the person who applies it. In the hands of a good man or woman it is the basis of reciprocity, but the hands of the evil doer [such as a pederastic priest] it merely allows him to do unto others what he wants others to do unto him!

    Why not get some different talent on your show? People like Sam Harris? [The End of Faith] Prof. Paul Kurtz? [Secular Humanist, Head of CFI,] Fred Edwords? [American Humanist Association] Christopher Hitchens? [God is not Great] Prof Schlomo Sand? [History Department, Tel Aviv University] or Prof Israel Finkelstein? [The Bible Unearthed]? It’s time to open up this whole can of worms with some freethinking fresh air!

    Sincerely,
    Dr. Rick Rickards

    Mr(s) Bullet, isn't it likely that it will be a long time before science provides more than a shabby explanation of conscious experience? And then, I meant experience in the broad sense of the unfolding of "life" or things. Even if science has catalogued all patterns, it is very unlikely that it will be able to anticipate all things. The unfolding exceeds the prediction.

    Emergence is the breakdown of prediction.

    That's no reason to believe in ghosts in the machine, but it is a reason to shun hubris.

    "Scientists are human like everyone else and are fallible. If they are honest they admit it. There are plenty of times Scientists have had to correct there conclusions because they were in error."

    The scientific process is one of accepting that there are errors and constantly striving to identify them. Scientists are always trying to prove each other wrong. What identifies errors and moves science forward is EVIDENCE.

    What would it take for you to accept that your ideas about god (including the ever insightful "it is what it is") are wrong?

    "You can thank [scientists] for weapons that can destroy the world and biological weapons that can eat you alive."

    True. We can also thank scientists for the eradication of small pox and the longest life expectancy that humanity has ever known, as well as the computer that you are using at this very moment. Science can be applied in good or bad ways. What's your point?

    "I would like to suggest that you worship a false god."

    Science is not a god that requires "faith" in or worship. Science is a process of understanding. It is the best one we have, and that's why we all use it to test all of our beliefs (I am a human, my wife loves me, my car is very likely to start tomorrow, ground beef should be cooked 'well done' but steak can be rare) except religious ones. Religion is really exempt from critical inquiry and a requirement for reasonable levels of evidence. It is a basic scientific principle to not 'worship'. Authority (so-and-so said so) is not a valid source of information (no matter how important so-and-so is).

    Silver Bullet,
    SB - I know something that humbles this type of arrogance: science. (There have been arrogant scientists to be sure, but science always reveals when it is justified, and the process itself is one of utmost humility.
    Scientists are human like everyone else and are fallible. If they are honest they admit it. There are plenty of times Scientists have had to correct there conclusions because they were in error.
    You can thank them for weapons that can destroy the world and biological weapons that can eat you alive. I would like to suggest that you worship a false god.

    "What David E. means, in my understanding, Mr(s) Bullet, is science will never explain experience. Can you object to that?"

    Yes. Our experience is the construct of our brains. How our experience changes with modifications of the brain (injury, disease) is well documented in Neurology. We do still have MUCH to learn, but I have no doubt that science will continue to shed light on the nature of "experience" and consciousness for that matter.

    "If only the third commandment had left out 'in vain'."

    Here here.

    "More than half of the people in the world believe there is a God."

    That makes it true?

    "They base their belief on deductive perception, historical evidence, and personal experience."

    Deductive perception and personal experience? Exactly my point: what arrogance.

    The historical evidence you site is so weak that it is useless for supporting your grand claims.

    "I would think that anyone that thinks we are the only intelligence that exists and that we are more intelligent than the creator of this reality is both arrogant and clueless."

    I never claimed that we are the only intelligence. There is other intelligent life on earth and I am entirely open to the idea that there is other intelligent life in the universe. I cannot possibly have made any assertion about being more intelligent than a creator I see no sufficient evidence for. Your arrogance is further displayed in these erroneous assertions.

    I know something that humbles this type of arrogance: science. (There have been arrogant scientists to be sure, but science always reveals when it is justified, and the process itself is one of utmost humility)

    Silver Bullet,
    SB - How do you claim to know that "it is what it is"? On what grounds do you make such sweeping statements about the state of the cosmos?
    Again, what arrogance.

    DE - Arrogance? You must be kidding.
    Most of the sane people in the world would agree that the cosmos is what it appears to be. We depend on the consistency of reality to support our existence. Reality is consistent with our needs and desires which proves that reality not only is what we imagine it to be; it is also consistent with our best interests. For that to happen; it is necessary that it is planned that way.
    Science is based on the consistency of reality.
    More than half of the people in the world believe there is a God. They base their belief on deductive perception, historical evidence, and personal experience.
    I would think that anyone that thinks we are the only intelligence that exists and that we are more intelligent than the creator of this reality is both arrogant and clueless.

    Jeanne Carlisle wrote: "God is not religion. Nor Politics but Redeemer. He shed blood for change...He shed His own in our place to give the only power to bring the change we all need and can believe in...."

    More incredible arrogance.

    Jeanne - how do you know this to be true? By what magical powers are you aware that this statement is the truth and that our well being is not in fact controlled by Zeus, Allah, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or nothing else but ourselves?

    Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc have to stop this divisive arrogance.

    DE said: "By any other name God is who He is. You can deny his existence and all other existence but it is what it is. Our ability to recognize reality and deal with it is essential to our survival."

    What arrogance.

    Nobody is denying all existence here, just the entirely unsubstantiated claim that a personal god exists.

    I agree that our ability to recognize reality and deal with it is essential to our survival, and that's why I think we all have to agree on how we decide upon reality. That is what science is all about. The beauty is that there isn't Christian science and Jewish science and atheist science etc - there is just science. We can almost all agree that Elvis is dead and that the holocaust actually happened, even though there are small groups who would oppose those statements on no good evidence. On the other end of the spectrum, we have large groups who claim that a personal god exists and "it is what it is" on equally bad evidence. You do the math.

    How do you claim to know that "it is what it is"? On what grounds do you make such sweeping statements about the state of the cosmos?

    Again, what arrogance.

    God is not religion. Nor Politics but Redeemer. We shed blood for change...He shed His own in our place to give the only power to bring the change we all need and can believe in....

    Sliver Bullet,
    "No one has ever proved that they have scientific evidence that I exist; yet here I am."

    This is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard.

    SB - Nice shot Bullet. You hit me right in the funny bone and "made my day".
    Thanks for reinforcing my "Scientific notation".

    SB - Now, as for the rest of your post, just replace "god" with "flying spaghetti monster" or "Zeus" and see how ridiculous it sounds, and is.

    DE - By any other name God is who He is. You can deny his existence and all other existence but it is what it is. Our ability to recognize reality and deal with it is essential to our survival.

    I really enjoyed this program. I would like to point out, however, that a discussion of religion without talking about the Flying Spaghetti Monster is infinitely inferior to a discussion that includes His Noodly Goodness. RAmen.

    Anna D.
    I have done some blurry eyed middle of the night posting that has gone astray.

    AD - There's been entirely too much emphasis on the human body being made in the image of God. I believe all that emphasis on the body comes from a subtle form of self-worship that is manipulated in today's society to create massive brain lock.

    BC(DE)- It is all true. You can go to jail for hurting someone's fragile ego.
    Suggesting that the state of the union is screwed up could get you water boarded too.

    AD - "Religion" is about the "soul". Sooner or later, people should start taking care of what they really are made of and not just what they "see".

    DE - How true, Life is short and eternity is a loooong time. 600BC Plato prayed that he would be pure within.
    Also he died for his belief that there was only one God.
    We do need to realize the importance of our inner self while as well as the value of all human life. Fortunately; God is benevolent and not malevolent. I was trying to get some sympathy from one of my kids when they were three years old. Their comment meant was, "You live until you die dad".

    God is not fully comprehensible to the human mind. Why did it take thousands of years for the "sons of god" to figure out electricity if the sons have the same skill set as god for "knowing" everything and solving problems?

    DE - Good question.
    Maybe Understanding is an "evolutionary process. Unfortunately, People tend to become arrogant and deny their source of understanding.

    AD - And once they "knew" more, they ended up "knowing" that there is no "god".
    As Spock would say, "Illogical".

    DE - Well said.
    People need to understand that when it comes to logic, the premises has to be consistent with reality and the conclusion has to follow the premises.
    Live long and prosper!

    You are a loud enigma, Anna D. At least you've been stirred up to be intolerant of intolerance.

    But what can this mean: "God is not fully comprehensible to the human mind." Perhaps that you have an inhuman mind? Or ...?

    What David E. means, in my understanding, Mr(s) Bullet, is science will never explain experience.

    Can you object to that?

    If only the third commandment had left out "in vain".

    I want my advanced human rights put back up on that STATE philosophical pedestal. I'll do the protecting of them, thank you very much.
    Huh? Please explain, Ms. Porcupine.

    Apologies for the error, David E - yearly eye exam coming up :-)

    Even back when humans did not hide their hairy bodies unless it got cold outside, they had acknowledged something that they experienced as "soul". Hence all the ghost fear.

    There's been entirely too much emphasis on the human body being made in the image of God. I believe all that emphasis on the body comes from a subtle form of self-worship that is manipulated in today's society to create massive brain lock.

    There probably is no culture more in denial about death than the church/state freak hybrid people are intellectually operating under today in USA.

    "Religion" is about the "soul". Sooner or later, people should start taking care of what they really are made of and not just what they "see".

    God is not fully comprehensible to the human mind. Why did it take thousands of years for the "sons of god" to figure out electricity if the sons have the same skill set as god for "knowing" everything and solving problems?

    And once they "knew" more, they ended up "knowing" that there is no "god".

    As Spock would say, "Illogical".

    David E.:

    "No one has ever proved that they have scientific evidence that I exist; yet here I am."

    This is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard.

    "Scientific evidence" is no different from the evidence that everybody uses everyday of their lives. We all seem to get by just fine with the evidence we have that certain other individuals exist and that can just as easily be applied to you.

    Now, as for the rest of your post, just replace "god" with "flying spaghetti monster" or "Zeus" and see how ridiculous it sounds, and is.

    If you are not sorrowful from others' suffering, You are not worthy of being called a human being.

    Thank you, Laura. I don't know Farsi, but wouldn't "You know not the worth of being a human" be better?

    Anna D.
    You are replying to a DE not a DH...
    None the less...
    AD - My point is how could it be otherwise? You are a different person than me.
    And since we are talking about an IDEAL "god" that we all pretty much agree upon is incomprehensible, especially when "material" tests are applied to the understanding of the incomprehensible, then we have to adjust, socially, to unique viewpoints.

    DE - We learn things from what we learn and what we experience. From my view point; it is easier to relate to a physical entity than an abstract. I have seen the writing on the wall and understand its meaning. We often work from principles that work without them being proved in a chem lab. Many scientific "facts" cannot be proved but the results are obvious. Even the obvious is often denied based on lack of "scientific evidence". No one has ever proved that they have scientific evidence that I exist; yet here I am.
    AD - My "religious" point was that you couldn't do any of the above if it was not "by the grace of God" that was gifted to you.

    DE - You have that right.

    AD - Yeah, but it certainly isn't PERFECT, is it? Actually, I have arrived at the theory that something very wrong happened somewhere along the "evolutionary" process. There was some tinkering by a "being" who was not "god", but wanted to be?

    DE - You are right again. God gave people a free will and the first thing they did was ignore God's instruction to their own determent and they have been their own worse enemy ever since.
    AD - Ever hear of "speed dating"? People, rightly or wrongly, don't take too long to get a "feel" for a person. Right now, I'd move on at the ding of the bell to the next 10 minute interview joting down next to your name, "wants to be worshipped as a god."

    DE - WOW! That is the last thing I would want. I would be amazed if I could just get some cooperation.

    AD - I'm saying that a "non-physical form" is the "form" of God. It's all about the power of imagination - God IS infinite existence outside the laws of time and space - always was and always will be. Now what are people here on earth experiencing, if anything, that "always was and always will be" that helps people solve all their self-inflicted, free will choice problems?

    DE - That is the intent. We are in the process of understanding reality and developing skills and attitudes that make us acceptable to a more perfect existence.
    I am "dealing with it".
    My best regards.



    Silver Bullet wrote:

    "One more time:

    There is not a single good reason to believe in god, so why doesn't Karen Armstrong, learned as she is, (and all the other believers who post here for that matter) stop lying to herself & simply acknowledge that, and get on with employing and advocating the golden rule anyways?"

    You might want to get yourself a different nom de plume than "Silver Bullet" if you want to manipulate the poor, huddled masses into instant, freeze-dried "compassion". "Huggy Bear" or something cute and cuddly that creates enough cognitive dissonance so that a reader accepts the hiddenn meaning of your Golden Rule interpretation of "do unto others before they do unto you."

    I'm a big advocate of separating church and state.

    It was "state" that gave USA the most philosophically advanced HUMAN RIGHTS LAWS because they didn't cherry pick just the "Golden Rule" from the magic books.

    I want my advanced human rights put back up on that STATE philosophical pedestal. I'll do the protecting of them, thank you very much.

    Some wars are just. Especially when the "government" becomes your enemy - a psycho biblical-god that commits endless force and fraud against the individual.

    I, too, am saying "enough", Silver Bullet.

    Yours truly,
    Huggy Bear

    Jake: Can you draw all the lurid stuff you narrate from holy books? If you can, I'll encapsulate the dialog and we can produce the ultimate graphic novel of all times. In a few years when all media has merged into a "tbtf" they will option and make it. And then, because the market has produced a Grand Canyon hunger for violence and power admiration, America will be more religious than ever! (Hairy butts and all, religion is a very different animal from the golden rule. Maybe we'd be better off if no one read religion, only loved one another.) Does anyone think Michelle Robinson is beginning to resemble Eva Peron?

    One more time:

    There is not a single good reason to believe in god, so why doesn't Karen Armstrong, learned as she is, (and all the other believers who post here for that matter) stop lying to herself & simply acknowledge that, and get on with employing and advocating the golden rule anyways?

    Quit kidding yourself Karen: we don't need to believe anything on insufficient evidence (like god loves me and listens to my prayers and created me and will come flying out of the clouds one day to rapture me and provided a son via virgin birth only to succumb to dad's bloodthirst etc) to employ good objective moral principles, of which the golden rule is just one.

    When will we all finally get over the ridiculous idea that we have magical books inspired by our imaginary deities from which moral clarity can only be derived - the same moral clarity that has been used over and over again in history and today to justify the most immoral behavior imaginable?

    My heart & mind criy out, "give me a break!"

    DH - Anna D.
    I appreciate your most excellent intellect...

    AD - we all knew there was going to be a "but..." :-)

    DH - My prospective of God is somewhat different than yours.

    AD - My point is how could it be otherwise? You are a different person than me.
    And since we are talking about an IDEAL "god" that we all pretty much agree upon is incomprehensible, especially when "material" tests are applied to the understanding of the incomprehensible, then we have to adjust, socially, to unique viewpoints.

    DH - My relationship with God is personal and up front. While I respect His authority as the creator of this phenomenon that I experience; as a sentient being, I think for myself and understand the complexity and limitations of this physical and mental reality.

    AD - My "religious" point was that you couldn't do any of the above if it was not "by the grace of God" that was gifted to you.

    I think this reality is amazingly functional considering the complexity.

    AD - Yeah, but it certainly isn't PERFECT, is it? Actually, I have arrived at the theory that something very wrong happened somewhere along the "evolutionary" process. There was some tinkering by a "being" who was not "god", but wanted to be?

    Purely from a pragmatic view point; God has His limitations within the confines of his own system of function and design.

    AD - GOD has "limitations"? Looks like Karen's point is valid....

    I think this reality is a work in process and that it is in a continual state of revision.

    AD - What is it being "revised" to become?

    I think we have the same method of discernment as God and that He has to deal with problems the same way we deal with problems.

    AD - Could it be that God already has the "correct" solution to the problem and is waiting for man's ego to mature enough to figure that out about how smart "god" really is? If "god" wanted to keep us guessing he'd have devised laws of physics that would have the sun rise from a different direction every morning - place your bets, folks!

    We are the most likely design for a physical sentient being and that God would take on this same form.

    AD - Ever hear of "speed dating"? People, rightly or wrongly, don't take too long to get a "feel" for a person. Right now, I'd move on at the ding of the bell to the next 10 minute interview joting down next to your name, "wants to be worshipped as a god."

    He may also take the form you suggest when not in a physical form as may be true of people in a non-physical form.

    AD - I'm saying that a "non-physical form" is the "form" of God. It's all about the power of imagination - God IS infinite existence outside the laws of time and space - always was and always will be. Now what are people here on earth experiencing, if anything, that "always was and always will be" that helps people solve all their self-inflicted, free will choice problems?

    I think there is a source of universal intelligence that Christians call the Holy Spirit which is a source of knowledge and power which we ignore to our own detriment. Posted by: David E.

    AD - I don't think we have the basic equipment to access all that "knowledge and power". God, as a Father, was wise enough to limit how much damage we can inflict upon ALL of creation. Seems just and fair, no? For instance, if it was my job to maintain the mental focus to directionalize 70,000 volts from Arizona to Canada (perception is reality?) and I sneezed, poof - everything along the way gets fried. That's why engineers do what they do - build in more than one circuit breaker along the way. Separating church from state is a necessary circuit breaker lest the "sons of god" start believing that they are "god". I'm deciding to exit before the sand in the sandbox starts flying and you come back one more time with the "my god is better than your god" schtick. You live in a time/place, David H, where the majority of normal minded people decided long ago not to worship themselves as gods. Deal with it. Kind regards.

    REF: Moyer’s Journal, Blog- Stephen Guittard | March 17, 2009
    The Golden Rule is universal because it has been expressed by various prophets.
    Abraham- Bible- Genesis 13.8 “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee.”
    Moses- Talmud- Shabbat 31a- “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man.”
    Krishna- Mahabharata- 5: 5-7- - “Let no man do to another what would be repugnant to himself.”
    Buddha- Udanavarga- 5:18- “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”
    Zoroaster- Dadistan-I- Dinik 94:5- - “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto others whatsoever is not good for itself.”
    Christ- New Testament- Luke 6:31- “As you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”
    Muhammad- Sunnah- Hadith- “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.”
    Bab- Writings of the Bab- Page 129- “Become a source of comfort to one another.”
    Baha’u’llah- Tablets of Baha’u’llah- Page 71- “Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself”.

    “Truth in its essence cannot be put into words”. Abdu'l-Baha in London, p.21
    The criterion of eternal truth is that its exposure is eternally partial thus the revelation of truth is an eternal quest.
    Eternal disclosure is the criterion of eternal truth thus the return of Christ (the revelation of truth) is an eternal event.

    Anna D.
    I appreciate your most excellent intellect...
    My prospective of God is somewhat different than yours.
    My relationship with God is personal and up front. While I respect His authority as the creator of this phenomenon that I experience; as a sentient being, I think for myself and understand the complexity and limitations of this physical and mental reality. I think this reality is amazingly functional considering the complexity. Purely from a pragmatic view point; God has His limitations within the confines of his own system of function and design. I think this reality is a work in process and that it is in a continual state of revision. I think we have the same method of discernment as God and that He has to deal with problems the same way we deal with problems. We are the most likely design for a physical sentient being and that God would take on this same form. He may also take the form you suggest when not in a physical form as may be true of people in a non-physical form. I think there is a source of universal intelligence that Christians call the Holy Spirit which is a source of knowledge and power which we ignore to our own detriment.

    Professor Majid Naini's Message for Spring and Norooz (Persian New Year)

    IN THE NAME OF THE DIVINE GOD OF LOVE

    HAPPY SPRING & NOROOZ MOBARAK

    Happy Norooz and Spring,
    To my friends, fellow life travelers, and loved ones.
    Oh God, in honor of your shining light,
    Please send love and goodness in the Spring.
    A year full of grace and kindness,
    Please grant us from Your mercy.
    Oh God of love, I humbly ask of you,
    For a good year full of mercy and love.
    So peace, sincerity, and good fortune,
    Will cover the entire universe.
    For the sake of this Spring and Your pure love,
    For the sake of Your grace and merciful essence,
    Oh God, Oh King, God of love,
    Please grant us love and mercy from Your grace.
    Oh God, oh King of kings of both worlds,
    Please forgive and pardon us in both worlds.

    As the Supreme God of love revives nature with an abundance of beauty, color, and bounty in this vernal equinox or our Spring, which always coincides with the ancient Persian New Year Norooz, I would like to offer my best wishes for a year embodied with health, love, peace, prosperity, happiness, and harmony. In our wonderful journey of life on this Earth another year has passed, and the new Spring marks Enshallah (God willing) a new era in the dimension of time and history of the world. I sincerely and humbly pray to the loving God of love, the Divine Supreme Master Creator of the Universe who created everything out of love, that this new Spring or Norooz ushers in a new era in the history of our beautiful planet Earth in terms of ending the ongoing wars, hunger, and conflicts, and making a true peaceful effort towards the mutual dialogue, understanding, and respect for every race, creed, religion, nationality, background, etc. Let us remember that in this short time that we have left on this beautiful planet before we continue to our higher journey, the only true capital that we can take with us are our good words, good thoughts, and good deeds. I sincerely wish everyone again health, happiness, peace, prosperity, serenity, and especially love in your hearts, as manifested in my above humble poem and translations.

    I hope that every one of us in this New Year and Spring, will allow love and compassion to burn all the ills and bad memories of the past so our hearts and souls can become fertile and the new flower buds of good intentions and wishes will bloom once again. Let us all join our hands together and make this year the best year that we have ever had on this magnificent and beautiful spaceship Earth, full of love, peace and harmony. Let us all humbly join together in prayer and ask the God and Creator of love to help us all to wish and work towards that noble intention and goal. Let us remember that love is the only thing that can quicken the energy of our souls and love is the only healer of all the ills of humanity.

    After all, as my beloved teacher Rumi (1207-1273), one of the greatest mystic poets who has been the best selling poet for the past decade and for whom UNESCO named 2007 as the Year of Rumi, has stated a long time ago:

    از برای عشق عالم را بساخت ذره ها را آفتاب او نواخت
    گر نبودی بهر عشق پاک را کی وجودی دادمی افلاک را
    من بدان افراشتم چرخ سنی تا علو عشق را فهمی کنی
    دور گردونها ز موج عشق دان گر نبودی عشق بفسردی جهان

    Let me offer you my humble translation:

    For love, God created the whole universe,
    Every particle benefited from God’s Sun.
    If it wasn’t for pure love,
    When would I (God) have created the universe?
    I (God) created the universe,
    So you may comprehend the glory of love.
    The spinning of galaxies is from the wave of love,
    Were it not for love, the world would perish.


    عشق از ازلست و تا ابد خواهد بود جوينده عشق بيعدد خواهد بود
    فردا كه قيامت آشكارا گردد هر دل كه نه عاشق است رد خواهد بود

    Let me offer you my humble translation again:

    Love is from eternity and will last till eternity,
    Seekers of love will be infinite.
    Tomorrow when the judgment day appears,
    Whatever heart that is not in love will be rejected.

    Saadi (circa 1188-1290), another great Persian poet, writer, and thinker from Shiraz whose most famous works are the Boostan (The Orchard) and the Golestan (The Rose Garden), wrote:

    بنی آد م اعضا ی یگد یگرند که در آفرینش ز یک گوهرند
    چو عضوی بدرد آورد روزگار دگر عضوها را نماند قرار
    تو کز محنت دیگران بی غمی نشاید که نامت نهند آدمی

    Let me offer you my humble translation:

    The descendants of Adam (human beings) are from one another,
    In creation (they) are from the same essence.
    If destiny brings pain to one organ,
    Other organs will not be at ease.
    If you are not sorrowful from others' suffering,
    You are not worthy of being called a human being.


    Speaking of morality, I'm afraid I neglected, Grady, to tell you something on my mind. Perhaps my mind was guilty of not letting it come through but so far. You may not be in any need of hearing it, but...to speak on behalf of civility on this board (perhaps connected in some way to empathy and peace across the planet)...I should have told you that IMO you wouldn't be at all right-off if you paid Irene no mind.

    I happened to mention in one of my posts that I was thinking a lot about a recently departed progressive friend. From somewhere Irene seems to think she has earned the right to relegate all such reflection to fluff that is besides the point. Nothing seems to meet the radical standard she imagines she exemplifies. And, as inconceivable as it may appear as you read this, anyone who mentions such an exemplary departed friend could very well end up reading attempts by Irene to guess which of the progressives she knows...it is (she knows so many). I got the point, though. There are many people who help stray cats. Oh yes, the mighty legalists who own the right to project the standard of loyalty, IOW to attempt to project guilt trips re how ignorantly the rest of us write. Hmm...I wonder if stereotyping has anything to do with Armstrong's message. If we take Irene seriously, no doubt IMO at least, we'll fall for people paid to union bust on these boards (should any drop in). Toxic or paid, what's the dagone difference? Here's what she said Feb 13th 10:12 AM in the Serota-Frank-Expectations thread...

    "David H. talks about the survival of soul and consciousness. Then he fails to mention the identity of the woman who died at the young age of 56. Maybe his women possess only cat identities and their names, Snowball or Pussy, will be reincarnated upon the next kitten. Even if an identity could survive without a brain, maybe in a dream state, how would it be distinguishable from the links it floated, if its force were fixated upon the superficialities of a particular time and place and not upon enduring good will and justice. Please tell me the woman's name, link to her obit, and locale for I may have even known her. Was it Red Emma or Rosa the Poet? Was it Singing Sue who abandoned revolution for ski holidays or Flighty Michele with a bad back working in a hospice, bad Medtronic wire on her atrial-fib pacemaker?"

    Of course, Grady, you may also think posters like me are all talk who have done no real living. Thus you may deem me a miserable comforter.

    If Grady proves to be of such mind, then please everyone accept (ahead of time) my second apology for wasting space.

    Ideally I'll be offline for a spell. But if I do get back on I'll probably come here.

    Adios for a while compañeros

    Much as I like your programs and cherish your presence on TV, I have to correct a statement you made during the Karen Armstrong interview. Talking about conflict you said, and I paraphrase "...Muslims against Jews, Christians against Muslims..." Forgive me, but Muslims as a religion are not in conflict with Jews. In fact, Jews for millenia, persecuted by Christians, often sought refuge in Muslim lands. The Middle East conflict is political. It is Israel versus Palestine and the Palestinians are almost a quarter Christian. If you wish to cast it in terms of the religions of the antagonists, it is Jews on one side against Muslims and Christians on the other.

    The most well-known Palestinian woman minister, Hanan Ashrawi, is a Christian; the most uncompromising Palestinian resistance/terrorist leader George Habash is a Christian. Yasser Arafat, a Muslim, married into a prominent Christian family and has consequently left behind a Christian widow and a child likely to be brought up as a Christian.

    The person in my memory, most responsible for framing this political conflict in false religious terms was Menachem Begin, problably to solidify fundamentalist support. Repeated often enough falsehoods acquire a unique cultural veracity in our country leading even people like you to repeat them. Another example, "they hate our freedoms." Who can hate freedom for heavens sakes. I do hope you will make a correction, and as Spock used to say, "Live long and prosper".

    David H

    I can only relate to you as an individual being - both of us unique and in possible possession of an immortal soul.

    Yes, we are all part of a bigger organism, if you want to use that metaphor, but that does not, logically, translate into an idea that we are all one.

    We are merely all in one place right now - the material world. And the material world is but a shadow of the "power" that created both - the spin of the first bit of "material" and the genius management of the slow down of the spin into "life".

    I reached the limits of my brain's computing power (actually "felt" the imprisonment of the bones of my skull) when I caught a glimpse of who God might really be. I happen to believe that it was God who gifted me with something other than "material" that allowed me to catch the glimpse. And no, I was not taking any drugs nor did I stare at my navel for hours - I was just stuck in NYC traffic :-)

    The truth could be that spirit is what casts the shadow that we "think", with goofy two year old egos, is the "image" of God.

    As for the we are all one ideas? I find them creepy crowd control psychobabble.

    You won't understand God any better if you believe that we are all "one".

    What else have I missed in the religious world? Never hear about soul and no one undertakes to approach the incomprehensible? All you get is ideas like "god wants you to be rich"...

    My suggestion? Go spend a night somewhere where you can see the stars. Most normal people end up refreshed by the humility that comes to them at some point during the night.

    Re the faith and reason dot org site I mentioned at 11:10 AM (that NPR keeps mentioning), maybe I'm not remembering correctly the actual site they're saying, but at the one I just checked there are no message boards that I could see.

    Have enjoyed rapping it down here, but may have to give this PC a rest...or new OS + new browser. Slowness has invaded every site I visit (invaded my visits that is). Strangely (and luckily) interaction at this site still goes at normal speed for me; and commondreams.org isn't, for example, near as bad as NPR's site, though it's pretty unacceptable.

    peace everybody

    Sorry for digressing somewhat below (will have to check out that faith & reason dot org site). Back to the main concern...

    "The moral philosophies we have ignored, once a staple of a liberal arts education, are a check on the deluge. They call us toward mutual respect and self-sacrifice. They force us to confront the broad, disturbing questions about meaning and existence. And our callous refusal to heed these questions as a society allowed us to believe that unfettered capitalism and the free market were a force of nature, a decree passed down from the divine, the only route to prosperity and power. It turned out to be an idol, and like all idols it has now demanded its human sacrifice." Chris Hedges 3/16
    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/03/16

    I am not worried about one size fits all taking over. We are focused on the Moyers show, but a lot of other folks are watching BaliWood stuff (or is it Bollywood?). Doesn't Trump still have his own show? Greed marches on apace.

    Anna, thanks for the feedback over in the nationaization-thread. For the sake of our discussion here I feel like I have to ask you [sorry we have to differ on this]...when you question the oneness-below the-surface-thing (among humans), do think you've dealt sufficiently with Eileen's post and Jack's post? The oneness on the collective unconscious level is not unreal for me (but I could quibble all day about distinctions between Cosmic Mind and Purusha, though I won't cause I don't have all day). David E writes well too. For unpublished folk (perhaps) these three are at least able to communicate what they've put together with the same elements I struggle with. I could say it's all just words (like Grady over in the Feb 27th thread), but everyone here is at least significant enough to keep goading each other on...cause we are here aren't we? And we are all sacrificing time, aren't we?

    I don't try to be a qualified non-dualist to be a fly in the oinment. My thinking just ends up that way sometimes. True, life seems like a "stage" (David E). And sometimes entities seem way less than images in the likeness (Anna D). The OT is very, very old and there are ancient regressive takes along with a true prophetic tradition IMO (dialectical, just as how the Vedas led to the Upanishads). But IMO we do qualify as "sparks" sent forth from Krishna-Great Spirit-God [Easwaran's "Bhagavid Gita," page 182]. Jivas are sentient after all. Why's it, like Maureen says, worth the trouble tryin to exercise love (before it comes more natural)? Because in this world it isn't just the faces of others that are clearly (at other times) perceived as in-the-image, but even the waves of the ocean (not just visual either, there's something to feel if you ride'em). If humans would value what's worthwhile things could get a lot better.

    David E, have you come across "Path to the Soul" by Ashok Bedi MD? I think Descartes gets too much of the blame. Guys like Amit Goswami, PhD are still thinking about the interaction problem (evidently widely read...but he blames the influence of Descartes' frame somewhat too).

    Regarding compassion and examples of its social and political influence.

    Gandhi deployed satyagraha in campaigns for Indian independence and also during his earlier struggles in South Africa. Satyagraha theory also influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. during the campaigns he led during the civil rights movement in the United States.

    I have also called it love-force or soul-force. In the application of satyagraha, I discovered in the earliest stages that pursuit of truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one’s opponent but that he must be weaned from error by patience and compassion. For what appears to be truth to the one may appear to be error to the other. And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine came to mean vindication of truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent, but on oneself.—the Great Soul Mohandas Ghandi

    Origins of Satyagraha

    Gandhi coined the term Satyagraha to describe his philosophy of non-violent resistance. The concept was influenced by the notion of ahimsa in the Hindu Upanishads and the tenets of Jainism, as well as various theorists of non-violent resistance and non-resistance including Jesus (particularly the Sermon on the Mount), the Imam Hussein, Leo Tolstoy (particularly The Kingdom of God Is Within You), John Ruskin (particularly Unto This Last), and Henry David Thoreau (particularly Civil Disobedience).—wikipedia

    David E

    You are considering a Luminous Being who never had a hair on its back.

    If there is a way that you can approach such an incomprehensible Being it would be because the Being gifted you with a way to do it.

    The material world is but a shadow of the Being, it's not even an "image".

    As for the logic of "you are me and we are he and we are all together" - well, I think you are just goofing on us with that grammar school pretension, right?

    At least kids use that kind of logic for humour's sake....

    Anna D.
    I have hair on my back and I am created in the image of God so that makes me a creature.
    What else is new?
    It is my contention that if I am made in the image of God; then inversely, God is in my image. I do not fear God but I do respect His authority and His amazing capacity for creation. I do not fully understand God's intent but I do get the strong feeling human beings volunteer for this reality. I think that we are more than the sum of our parts and that there is a flip side to reality from which our inner self originates.
    There is no such thing as a coincidence.
    This is far to organized a reality to be a coincidence.
    We are just actors on a stage and the props are designed to make life a viable experience.
    Compassion is a vital element of our attributes that make us human. If we are to survive our own foolishness it will be necessary to do what is right and good not what is self-destructive.

    BILL MOYERS: Can you point today to one place where this notion of compassion has been embraced by different religions to actually bring about a political consequence that we could look upon favorably?

    KAREN ARMSTRONG: Not as yet. No, I can't, because we're not living in a compassionate society...

    Wouldn't the Great Soul Mohandas Ghandi's application of Ahimsa to liberate India from the tyranny of the British Empire qualify as an instance where genuine compassion was employed to produce a "political consequence that we could look upon favorably"?

    Link below is a good example for these wisdoms to base on.

    In our own interest, America must totally disassociate now from the rogue state Israel.

    Hi Jake, Makes sense why Jesus did NOT write a book, eh? :-))

    There is a book that everyone (sorry, people, but I do mean EVERYONE who is attached to religion - Jew, ALL sects of Christianity, Masons, Mormons, Muslims, heck even wiccans, etc.) has been hiding, so don't anyone think that the days of sending "holy" armies to beat up on the smart kid - Copernicus - are behind us. Even a 15th century geek had no idea that the self-worshipping, medieval church/state thought police would go all frizzy over anyone saying, "Hey, look at that, earth is NOT the center of the universe!" Whose heart does NOT go out to the unsuspecting, sophistry-less young 'un who had a "out of the mouth of babes" moment? I will always be on the side of the innocent geek against the "armies" of man. That's my idea of compassion.

    I guess the only operational-how-to-make-it-happen suggestion I wanted to offer about compassion was that unless a MINIMUM amount of social order is present (ie. the psychos and sociopaths are NOT in charge), compassion is throwing pearls to swine.

    There is no one size fits all solution to the problems we have today and if we continue to waste time considering each new age-y presentation of a one size fits all idea, well, here we are.

    Funny how different the paths are that led us here to share the "truth" that most can agree upon - the pot isn't telling the potter how to fashion the clay.

    Or put another way, a creature with hair on its back needs to be humble when approaching even the idea of "god".

    I'm with Karen Armstrong, perhaps more than philosophically, as we share a family name.

    Compassion is the real truth and the true answer. However it is phrased in whatever language, the Golden Rule applied uniformly in our own lives will bring peace and joy; applied in all lives will bring us understanding and security.

    Like a stone in a pond, no one can know the ultimate reach of the ripples of living such a simple and elegant philosophy.

    Some airbrain said "The bible is a timeless, living, God-breathed document, which is still relevant to our daily lives."

    What an F'ing imbecile you must be. Which one of the hundreds of bible versions did your god breathe? Do you think maybe yahweh the moron breathed the old bible known, the Sinai codex, that is nothing like the bible we know today??!!! What about the 14 other books your bible mentions that were taken out by the RCC? If the writters of the bible are to be trusted, then we should have had the other books they referred the reader to. The RCC did not want to have to explain the insanity of those books. The bible changes with each generation as they continue the age old practice of creating god in their own image. If the truth is ever released of the contents of the dead sea scrolls, the world is in for a great surprise. Many of the RC translators/priests, such as Jozef Milik, eventually and quietly left the priesthood and the church, developed drinking problems due to what was contained in the scrolls. John Strugnel was the chief DSS editor for 40 years and he also began to drink heavily. He had one drink too many before an interview and stated that the religion in the scrolls was horrible!!!! He was fired immediately. The RCC was finally forced to release most of the remaining scrolls in the early 90's so the world's greatest translators now all have access to them. There is still a small amount that the world will never know about. The truth is beginning to come forth and that would explain why the poopy pope has announced that he now believes jesus the jew and john the baptist were both essenes and the vatican now says it is ok to believe in life on other planets!!!! Didn't they kill people for that not so long ago?? The vatican knows exactly what they have been hiding and the poop knows is it a matter of time before the holy shit hits the fan. I always thought, from the vast evidence and hush money, the main purpose of the RCC was the rape and sodomizing of helpless innocent children and the degradation of women. It is the largest organized pedophile ring in the world and only fools refuse to face facts. Of course, any religious establishment that practices such perverted doctrines can back them all up with the good old word of yahweh the butcher, robber and rapist. He invented them all.

    The OT is most likely the bloodiest and filthiest book ever penned by man. That book is the reflection of the ignorant savages of the age it was written. They believed it was ok to steal, kill and rape as long as their concocted 'tribal' god approved such actions, and somehow yahweh the maniac always had the hebrews best interest at heart. This hatefilled deity had no problem with the rape of little girls and women virgins. He had no problem with the complete slaughter of male infants and children. He would punish his own 'chosen' by spreading their own 'dung' on their faces or by making them eat their own dung. He would cause situations where they could either kill and eat their own children or starve to death. The reason for this punishment was because the chosen were not worshipping this insane monster in "joy and gladness of heart"!!!! In todays world, any such leader would be tried and convicted of crimes against humanity and rightfully executed. It is almost unbelievable that so many can still worship a make believe deity that makes Hitler and Pol Pot look like innocent Boy Scouts. From one of the posts earlier by 'Pat' who has to accent his/her ravings by using capital lettering to announce he/she is shouting their message just proves how demented one has to be to follow such teachings as the bible provides. There is nothing holy about any holy book. They are works of deception and pure control of ignorant superstitious people. You can lead an idiot to knowledge but you can't make them see nor accept it.

    Grady- You illustrate how even a "sick f**k" can contribute to discourse. I get what you're saying. You invalidate the Nixon argument to Frost,"It's not wrong when the President does it."

    The problem is not that people don't see value in a reflexive and listening empathetic golder rule; it is that we all have exempt elites over us. We have lost meaningful free will and volition because we are convinced overthrow is suicide. Deitrich Bonhoeffer came to the conclusion that leadership is not always sanctioned by God. His obligation was reversed. He was then able to participate in a resistance ready to assassinate an unbridled tyrant and mass murderer, while his fellow clergymen saluted Nazi style and made pacts with the Devil. Deitrich was hanged for his trouble after the British elite decided that spoils and revenge were theirs alone. (He was ready because Christ's call was for him a call to mortal death.) Telling Hitler no is like telling God no for the superpatriot. Some saw telling Reagan or G.W. Bush or Nixon or Bill Clinton no as blasphemy.

    As a bride who has said no to Christ (and rightly so) you'd think Karen Armstrong would understand disobedience before power.

    Virgin Birth: This assertion contains irreconcilable contradictions as pertains to sexual purity. There were many precedents in regional cosmology (Zeus was a serial impregnator.) Imagine the All-powerful forcing himself upon the young and innocent.How does the victim/chosen say no? It reflects the wealth gap in our society somewhat. Does one remain untraumatized and virginal because the perpetrator is a Deity? Are you impure because of the pleasure, or defiled because of the lack of choice? How many would choose congress with the Omnipotent, and how many would rather reject it? (if possible.)

    So tomorrow an "angel" will come asking you carry the baby of "The Big Guy", or maybe asking you to get intimate with him. What will you say? (You've seen how His Earthly Representatives get into trouble trying the same power trip.)

    "Which backlash are you referring to David E.? If it's the one I'm thinking of (the Religious Industrial Complex, for brevity) I wonder if Mr. Moyers will investigate that?
    Whose "reality" are we dealing with here and are the mutations we've seen recently spontaneous or induced?"
    Duane el Ateo

    Yes to the first question and I would probably include the ultra right wing politicians. I think Mr. Moyers would find it a worthwhile subject.
    The reality I am reffering to is the current social and environmental reality that is about to unravel world wide stability. We all live in a yellow submarine and it has been shot full of holes and is well below its safe depth.
    Our present situation was induced through a long process of entropy caused by care less decisions and intentional maliciousness.

    "Yet most Westerners, wedded still to a Cartesian worldview and mistaking it for "nature" rather than a "model of nature," think they have nothing to learn from animists."
    Priscilla Stuckey PhD

    You are right, Animists get a bum rap. Just like the Atomists; they have an accurate image of how reality functions that few people can comprehend. There is a universal intelligence that comes in many forms that makes the reality we experience functional.
    Some time in the near future scientists will confirm this fact just as scientists became familiar with atomic structure.
    In the mean time; scientist ignore the obvious.

    As a person trained to do mental health assessments, maybe some of the contributors should see their therapist instead of committing psychological indecent exposure.
    Counselor

    I think you are exposing a hyper-critical attitude that is unprofessional.

    "Which backlash are you referring to David E.? If it's the one I'm thinking of (the Religious Industrial Complex, for brevity) I wonder if Mr. Moyers will investigate that?
    Who’s "reality" are we dealing with here and are the mutations we've seen recently spontaneous or induced?"
    Duane el Ateo

    Yes to the first question and I would probably include the ultra right wing politicians. I think Mr. Moyers would find it a worthwhile subject.
    The reality I am referring to is the current social and environmental reality that is about to unravel world wide stability. We all live in a yellow submarine and it has been shot full of holes and is well below its safe depth.
    Our present situation was induced through a long process of entropy caused by care less decisions and intentional maliciousness.

    "Yet most Westerners, wedded still to a Cartesian worldview and mistaking it for "nature" rather than a "model of nature," think they have nothing to learn from animists."
    Priscilla Stuckey PhD

    You are right, Animists get a bum rap. Just like the Atomists; they have an accurate image of how reality functions that few people can comprehend. There is a universal intelligence that comes in many forms that makes the reality we experience functional.
    Some time in the near future scientists will confirm this fact just as scientists became familiar with atomic structure.
    In the mean time; scientist ignore the obvious.

    As a person trained to do mental health assessments, maybe some of the contributors should see their therapist instead of committing psychological indecent exposure.
    Counselor
    I think you are exposing a hyper-critical attitude that is unprofessional.





    I did not see the first 15 minutes of the program with the woman who was discussing faith and compassion. One thing I do know is that Mohammed first went to the Jews as a prophet and they rejected his ideas and then he went to the Christians who also said no thanks because he had such radical ideas. Then he went to the MUSLIM group and was accepted. THE BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD! HAVE PEOPLE TWISTED IT FOR THEIR OWN PURPOSES? OF COURSE! THEY HAVE USED IT FOR EVERYTHING FROM MAKING MONEY TO DECEIVING PEOPLE FOR OTHER REASONS TO USING IT AS A REASON FOR GOING TO WAR. That is why we can never completely understand GOD until we become like HIM if we have repented and accepted HIm as LORD and SAVIOR. HE IS A SPIRIT and THEY THAT WORSHIP HIM MUST WORSHIP HIM IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH. We cannot think of HIM as being like us. HE ISN'T in any way! The reason that HE sent Jesus was so that we could see that "in truth" GOD IS LOVE. JESUS LIVED A PERFECT LIFE and went around doing only good things for people.HE loved everyone even his accusers and killers. From the cross HE prayed "FATHER FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING". He did,however, lash out at the Pharisees and other religious leaders of the day because they were so consumed with looking righteous and setting themselves above other people that they could not see nor hear the truth. They wanted to be the "authority" but JESUS in HIs wisdom knew that the common people would accept HIM. You see, GOD has put an empty place in all our hearts that can only be filled by GOD. WHether you believe it or not,it doesn't matter! You have a choice! You are not a puppet-you can choose to believe or not to believe. And when you choose,you choose your destiny. It will happen as the BIBLE says no matter what you think. I am only one messed up person who chose all the wrong paths until GOD touched my soul and I gave it to HIM. Then HE changed me from the inside out. I worship HIM in SPIRIT and TRUTH! HE is not a human being so we can not possibly comprehend HIM In HIS entirety. MAy GOD touch you all! PAt

    I truly understand that this is a forum for free speech, BUT... As a person trained to do mental health assessments, maybe some of the contributors should see their therapist instead of committing psychological indecent exposure.

    Posted by: Counselor

    If there was such a job as "mental health assessor" for internet forum posters, the rules of privacy would still need to be paramount, Counselor.

    As is, you seem to want to leave everyone guessing who you are talking about.

    Maybe yourself?

    Illustrious family history dating back to the glory days of the rule of self-proclaimed thought police - the "Inquisition"?

    Do tell.

    Karen mentioned her time as a professional where she used language as a weapon (nothing new to the rest of us when it comes to the Brits) and until she stopped all that verbal fun, her imagination was activated enough to see another viewpoint.

    That's what justice depends upon - seeing the "other" as a real person.

    The best analogy for all the judging going on today is the interrogation room in your average, Everywhere, USA law enforcement facilities.

    TV interviews are conducted in a room where the person sees themselves in the mirror and not who is on the other side looking in.

    Very interesting that the hybrid of "church" morphed with "politics" is not even aware that there are souls on the other side of the mirror.

    At one time, "Church" knew it and "Politics" knew it. The combo hybrid does not. Interesting....

    I truly understand that this is a forum for free speech, BUT... As a person trained to do mental health assessments, maybe some of the contributors should see their therapist instead of committing psychological indecent exposure.

    Dear Bill Moyers - I found the dialogue between you and Karen Armstrong on March 13th (Compassion) transformational. Never have I sat so enthralled in front of my tv set, trying to absorb into my head all the marvellous insights that Karen Armstrong offered in her lovely, humorous and very empathetic manner. Her brilliance, her way of 'connecting the dots' among such thinkers across the centuries and cultures astounded me - and thrilled me. I went on line to your website and played it over twice, that night. Also sent the link on others (family & friends) and again, today to send it on to a friend in Australia.
    Please pass along my best wishes and my comments to the wonderful Dr. Armstrong. Thank you. Ruth Tuft

    You'd be so much more presentable, Anna D., if you took off your top paragraph.

    Posted by: Duane el Ateo

    No one gave you permission to judge, but since we're at it, I find your uses of sexual terminology revolting. And worse. The perverse social engineering launched by all the non-Americans who think all USA citizens can continue to be distracted into brain lock by SEX SEX SEX is OBVIOUS. As another poster already mentioned, people in other countries and cultures need to learn more about the real people in USA.

    Not sure why all the polite silence about being revolted by the puerile attempt to assign another meaning to "words" whose definitions have long been settled, especially in light of the fact that there are 700,000 words in the English language available for a more precise definition of whatever it is that people might be wanting to define as "soul"?

    Obviously my first paragraph was too subtle of a hint to you that you are crossing the bounds of what "words" are fruitful in soul conversations.

    I'm sure we have learned a little more about the, possibly, genetic issues that breed so many misogynists. Nature or nurture? Internet forums present compelling data for which sex - male or female - God forgot to give a soul to.

    Ms. Armstrong could benefit from analyzing the data. She might need to reconsider whether compassion, mercy, forgiveness, etc. are possible to mine in a population for the cause of "peace" without utilizing the search for what is fair and just as a "vehicle" to said "peace".

    Which backlash are you referring to David E.? If it's the one I'm thinking of (the Religious Industrial Complex, for brevity) I wonder if Mr. Moyers will investigate that?

    Whose "reality" are we dealing with here and are the mutations we've seen recently spontaneous or induced?

    "Is this madness natural or nurtured?"
    Duane El Ateo

    In the world of cause and effect...
    First comes the cause and then comes the effect. There is also the if then propositions.
    Before birth is the situation in which we are born; the chemicals and attributes we inherit from our parents. Then comes input from our family and our society which is nurture. From these things we gather the attitudes and decisions that affect our life, our society and our environment.
    That having been said; we are both a product of our Choices, our environment and our circumstances.
    It is my observation and contention that
    good intentions went astray and we became the victims of the backlash. The coup de grace was the pollution from the industrial era fried people's brains enough to undermine their ability to cope with reality.
    Exposure to radiation and drugs was another complication.
    Now we are handicapped and face a critical adjustment in our modus operandi.
    Sad but true; we have to pray for a miracle, find alternative pursuits and learn to work together to "Get it Right" despite the madness.

    You got most of that right, David E. The hippies shouldn't get top billing though. It wasn't they who most sold their souls.

    We were on top for such a short time because so many followed the ill-intentioned pipers. The religion of empire went putrid.

    Is this madness natural or nurtured?

    Anna D.
    The vietnam war was the prelude to our present disaster. It was the end of doing what is right for the common good. It was the beginning of disillusionment and dispair. Prince Valiant is dead and Camelot has faded away. The Blue Meanies have sank the Yellow Submarine and death dealing Rambo is the new hero. The love of God is replaced by the love of money.
    The disillusioned hippies did a metamorphose to yuppies and joined the Blue Meanies.
    All we have left is a Godless religion and a lot of electronic toys that fry the mind and isolate people in their virtual cubicles. The visions of endless wars and mindless consumption reinforces fear and dispair.
    And you wonder why madness is the rule instead of the exception?

    Karen raises an important issue, and I was touched by her authenticity. The only comment I would like to make is that regarding the "Golden Rule," all religions have some form of it, but only Jesus put it in revolutionary language. His version was "Do..." not "Don't do..." I read a book with readings from all the world's religions and this was the one thing that convinced me to be His follower.

    It is way more challenging to be accountable for doing things for others that need doing; much harder than just not doing anything to hurt them. I'm not saying I am perfect at it, but it has given me a star to hitch to.

    Ms. Armstrong's answer struck me out of tune, flow, in that she implied empathy is "invoked" by a "sense of urgent need." I would say more that it's suppressed until it can't be.

    Can we quarrel over children and intercourse? Your focus inspired another interpretation of the immaculate conception, that of the born-again type, recovering the innocence of the child. There's conflict between the Greek's virtue for the few and children's innocence. Who best gets right the mix (of innocence and virtue)? As to virginity, in the sense of purity, well, there's no getting round the "mess" of social or sexual intercourse. We don't rise in spite of them but because of them.

    Here's to good intercourse!

    As a person whose spiritual beliefs include the commonly held beliefs that all people are unique and that they are all deserving of compassion, I have always found the Golden Rule to be unspeakably tactless. "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you?" There is no guarantee that this is what these unique other people want! While not usually a problem in broader ethical dilemmas, this can influence perspectives on such issues as "white" lies and, more seriously, euthanasia.

    You'd be so much more presentable, Anna D., if you took off your top paragraph.

    Because Mr(s). Bullet, that would require naming the devils.

    The light reflecting off that scarred moon, ryan, is it all the same? Or matter it whence from Venus or Mars?

    If the light be love, what is the moon's contribution but the reflection? Or if we be all suns, what is our light for? The perfection or the imperfection included?

    Tell me, ryan moon, what is this Love?

    Quite simply, the golden rule is universal because humans evolved to become intelligent enough (capable of abstract thoughts such as empathy) to conceive of it and to see that it works. Humans in large numbers recognize how much better life is (how much more secure, happy, and productive they are) when it is in play.

    Its ubiquity does not require anyone to posit any sort of deity.

    Furthermore, the utility of the golden rule is about as objective a fact as any scientific fact, and can certainly function as an "absolute" moral principle without a requirement for any divine origin.

    Why can't Karen Armstrong acknowledge these issues and avoid requiring that anybody have to accept any propositions (like the existence of a god and his/her qualities) on insufficient evidence?

    I feel sad and sorry for all of our lack of understanding...... Once one has experienced the Love ,that truely exists,it can not be diminished ...the words God is one..must be known ...He has been revealed to man in the person of Christ, as well as in the Prophets..Mohammad after hearing for the first time the words that would become the Quran.... he wasn"t so sure the words were of God....when he told his wife , he thought maybe a demon had spoken to him...|}perhaps that was the only truth he spoke?} Well his wife , being a good wife..... persuaded him, surely it was Gods voice .. indeed
    we would rather have our husbands conversing with a God rather than a demon...what would the neighbors think... Thinking about it now it could be likened to Eve,, what seems right for positioning of the self..so careless..and oh how much harm has come because of it...and she would probably be so sorry to see how much the muslim women have to endure in todays world.I think she would be crying out, help yourselves... seek out the truth for all.... take the broken moon, turn it into your boat to sail away from the fallen star... God made us all, He has set eternity in our hearts, but we know it not.....

    After all the self-worshipping bosom-heaving and mental masturbation secular idealism wrought in the drug drenched 1960's social "revolution", all that was produced through all that spiritual gyration as the final product was Jim Jones and Jonestown.

    When "religion" is the playground of sociopaths who emotionally prepare the "compassionate", if you will, to give up on sincere and responsible "justice", you got nothing that can survive as a bona-fide civilization built by the people for the people.

    You have mass-induced insanity, which is yet another measurable, "scientific" reason for the separation of church and state.

    A soul knows even the "scientific" facts.

    Thank you, Duane el Ateo for you kind words.

    Regarding my reference to "immaculate conception." My intent was to remove the concept from the realm of dogma and place it instead within the domain of human potential; to interpret it mythologically (i.e. metaphorically) with reference to, and currency for the individual rather than read it as literal in the historic sense.

    Concerning my reference to a "being" produced "without intercourse." I should have clarified my reference by preceding intercourse with sexual. Regarding your assertion that the "being" is produced by social intercourse. I regard social intercourse as having tremendous value in preparing the individual for the ultimate adventure. However, to my way of thinking, the perilous journey, the ultimate adventure must finally be embarked alone, given that it has as its destination the very center of your very being. It is by way of this adventure that the Advent is realized.

    I personally have deep affection, appreciation and reverence for the myth of Immaculate Conception, particularly the role it ascribes to the venerable Virgin Mary. She informs us of the value of virtue in conceiving the "child." Are we not admonished (in Christianity) to become "as children" to enter the kingdom? However, we not demean her significance by making an icon or idol of her and directing our worship towards her (thus misdirecting and diffusing our vital substance), when instead we may pay proper tribute by laboring to embody that which she signifies.

    The path to compassion is paved with virtue and obstructed by vice. Consider the word diabolical for instance! Does it not mean "that which blocks or obstructs, that which is cast down in the way." Consider too the root of virtue and virgin, Vir. Vir, man or more properly, human. It is by virtue of virtue that we become truly human and thus genuinely humane. Virgin in this case is little concerned with sex and more concerned with eliminating vice and the obstacles and obstructions it produces.

    Healing the broken hearted...
    Basically, there is a time and place for everything. There is also the right solution for the problem.
    When a child is broken hearted because they have to take out the garbage instead of going out to play it is time to instill responsibility not encourage self-satisfaction.
    We are all subjected to nature nurture from the time of birth. We are born into this experience with many predetermined situations and limitations. We develop our human understanding both from nature and our society. We learn from what we are taught and from our personal experiences.
    there are many experiences that need to be avoided to maintain a meaningful and productive life.
    Compassion is a vital human skill that makes civilization possible.
    Sociopathic behavior causes destruction and death. Compassion provides love and peace.

    I like your answer, flow, but I'm not sure about the Source. The allusion of poetic construction is powerful but also a opportunity for manipulation.

    For example, you say


    There is a new conception of self, a new being is conceived, a "being" produced without intercourse. An immaculate conception.

    That's an interesting allusion, but I am confused what you meant about a "being produced without intercourse." It seems that that being is actually produced by social intercourse. Please enlighten.

    Compassion is based on reciprocity; it's in our self-interest to be compassionate. Evolution has "hard-wired" us to be compassionate. Religion belief is not the source of compassion. Rather, it is the expression of it.

    The question touched upon by Armstrong and Moyers but not discussed is: why is "The Golden Rule" universal? I submit that it has nothing to do with religion: rather, it is an inherent behavioral trait that has evolved in humans, based on the principle of reciprocity. The sequential question is whether a rule that works on the level of individuals would work as well on a more inclusive group, such as a polity -- if not, then why not.
    These sorts of issues are extensively discussed in the field of evolutionary psychology -- if someone from that discipline has not interviewed on the show, then I would recommend someone such as David Buss, of the University of Texas. A part of the movement known as "sociobiology," it has the potential for significantly altering our views of behavior, including a rethinking of the bases of religion.

    Karen Armstrong advocates and paraphrases Augustine and says that if science and scripture are at odds, then a new interpretation of scripture must be created . . . it must be allegorized some way.

    Why not do what humans do when evidence is at odds with ANY belief, and REJECT the old belief.

    She puts religion on a very high pedestal indeed, when it ought to be exposed for what it is (a sham) and torn down.

    First, thanks as always to Mr. Moyers and his guest Ms. Armstrong.

    In the interview Mr. Moyers poses a question to Ms. Armstrong: "What is it that invokes the empathy and the commitment — which you are calling for — to put our self in the other's shoes? What is it that invokes that in people?"

    Ms. Armstrong responds, "a sense of urgent need."

    I would like to offer a somewhat different response to Mr. Moyers' question: Metanoia.

    Jesus of Nazareth taught the concept of metanoia. A movement beyond (meta) ordinary mind (noia, i.e. ego).

    As a consequence of inheriting the body, each of us in born into a condition of ignorance (i.e. of not-knowing, i-without knowledge-gnosis). So what is it that we are ignorant of? We are ignorant of our connectedness. We perceive our self as a separate distinct autonomous individual, without perceiving the integral nature of our relation to the whole of existence (at-one-ment, atonement). We are born into a temporal condition, with a form that has a distinct beginning, period of development and subsequent decay and dissolution. It is identification with this form that causes us to miss the mark.

    As a consequence of developing a body, each of us forms an interpretation of self (persona) based on the information provided by our physical senses and social conditioning. This formation obscures the deeper, more integral nature of our being.

    Metanoia is the Greek term used to describe the moment of psychological transformation when an individual realizes the truth of their integral nature. In that realization the valid yet illusory concept of a strictly temporal, ego-centered, identification-with-the-body sense of self yields in sublimation to a more profound, authentic truth concerning the nature of our existence. Our identify is no longer ego-centric, but other-centered, and our prior sense of self is seen clearly in terms of its delusional nature. There is a new conception of self, a new being is conceived, a "being" produced without intercourse. An immaculate conception.

    Failure to achieve this realization is the consequence of the ideas and conceits of the persona obscuring our true nature. Each of the world's great religions teach a method of transcending the limited sense of self and achieving this profound realization. As Kahlil Gibran wrote, "all of the world great traditions are fingers on the hand of God."

    Compassion is the natural disposition of an individual that has experienced metanoia. Compassion and empathy cannot be taught, they must be felt, the former is the natural out-flowing of a certain psychological state (post-metanoia) and the later is the fruit of the wisdom realized by anyone having achieved that state. The master-disciple relationship and monastic tradition of all religions have as their primary object assisting the aspirant towards this realization.

    Anyone having achieved this realization is said to be "awakened", to have seen the "light", to have removed obstruction, to have become "enlightened", to truly "know thyself", to have realized not only the genuine essence of their being and overcome the illusion of separation from Source, but their connection in truth to all that is or was or will be. In ancient Greece such a person was highly regarded for their wisdom and integrity and honored with the title Khristós, from which we derive the term Christ.

    Hmm, I hate to say something against such an obviously kind lady, but I found her perspective to be unbelievably simplistic. Compassion is something we should all strive for, but it's not the answer to all or even most of the world's problems, unless you're talking about achieving a fantasy utopia. And hard as it may be to hear for the open-minded among us, there are some actions, some aspects of our culture AND foreign cultures that really don't deserve acceptance or understanding. This lady has taken gray-area moral relativism and come full circle to simplistic black and white good and bad. Anyone see Donnie Darko? Remember the fear/love lifeline?

    Yeah.

    I also thought she was a little over-eager to criticize or dismiss nonbelievers and secularism (maybe she was being oversensitive to a perceived bias in Bill; I can't say) and tellingly unable to articulate that yes, peoples outside the West have a responsibility to try to understand US better as well. She skirted that quite clumsily.

    I would never deny that the West has a lot of work to do in terms of consideration for others, but if there is a reason we should carry the greater burden, I would argue it's only because we enjoy such lopsided plenty and power. I don't believe the West is intrinsicly more likely to think of itself before others than any other region, it's just that the result of our self-centeredness tends to be more evident.

    I have little patience for people that profess to seek understanding between cultures, but are so obviously judgmental of one side, be it theirs, or ours.

    I would very much like to see Bill Moyers set up a debate...with people like K Armstrong, Ravi Zacharia, John Polkinghorne and eastern scholars...it would be delightful to hear ... the compassion bit reminds me of a G.K. Chesterton quote.."Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, It hasn't been tried because it has been found difficult" I feel a kind of resentment that Karen has tried to put out the fire of the Prophets of old and try to contain the mighty in a small and hollow way....it as if you use the reflected light of the real truth to steer people in the wrong way,,, why let people believe they will come out to light when you are letting them stay on a miserable road... do you think people are happy wrapped up in tents... under harsh rules...would it not be a far better thing to lead them to freedom and grace? Where the humbled are loved and endless mercy. compassion would have you help the oppressed..and heal the broken hearted as Jesus explained.

    Anna D. : Caesar has no compassion for "holy" persons because they're in competition for the "booty."
    Posted by: Grady Lee Howard

    I agree, Mr. Howard, that today's "religionists" are in competition, and in cahoots, with Caesar for the booty - that's the problem, isn't it? That's WHY we have separation of church and state in USA.

    There will always be times when "we" have to bring up that uniquely USA "law" back into public discourse.

    The "experience" of having a "soul" goes way back, doesn't it? Pyramids, funeral rites, etc. Without having "soul", could the mathematician figure out "eternal" calculations?

    Of course, once you multiple anything by zero, you get zero. Some "theoretical theology" may have been doing that no matter how "complex" the calculation appears to the layman.

    Could be the truth that God is the Father and we are all the Children. In which case, there's bound to be lots of need for compassion to one another.

    However, children learn from observing. If neither parent exhibited "compassion", telling the kids that they need to won't make them listen to, and accept, "theoretical" compassion as something that they can practice.

    The reason a stage of childhood development is referred to as the "terrible twos" is because it took parents by surprise when the child started to act out their own personality. We now know that the most necessary condition for nurturing to adulthood a "normal" brain is the process of "bonding" that an infant goes through. During that process, the child does not recognize themselves as separate from the care-giver with whom they are bonding. They are "one" (infant and primary care-giver) for all intents and purposes of experience.

    "Compassion" is experienced, hopefully, by a human being before the human has been taught a "word" to describe such a multi-layered state of being. The experience of all layers of reality happen before we introduce "words" into our communications with others.

    Sociopaths and other harmed and harmful beings tend to, ultimately, use the words that those who can tear up use to communicate the "why", but sociopaths do not use the words for the same reasons.

    "Soul" will survive and thrive. And that is what drives Caesar and his "priests" nuts. Deal with it :-)

    If after trillions of $$$ devoted to a "prophecy" is spent and it still did not happen, wouldn't GOD be smart enough to stop spending $$$ on it?

    Bill, Karen, etal:
    I thought it was a wonderful program. I do have some questions for Ms. Armstrong. What happens when one tries to show compassion to a small group of people who fail to show compassion in return. I am going thru that now at my church. A small group of elite are trying snd alas, succeeding in slowly killing off a church full of people who believe in and what to show compassion. Our problem, those of us with compassion, are made out to be heretics, full of demons, or just plain crazy.
    Our administrative/senior pastor seems to enjoy the power-tripping and although preaches the "good news" does not seem to think his own sermon or words of the Bible apply to him.
    Brenda M

    Dear Bill,
    Could you ask Karen Armstrong to study the Baha'i Faith? How I would love to have her objective anaysis of this religion!

    Thank you for having her on your show.

    This was amazing.

    Karen Armstrong's "Charter of Compassion" reminds me of Robert W. Fullers views on "Rankism" and The Dignity Movement.

    Still, I can't help thinking that at the root of it all is a case of mistaken identity.

    "Self-inquiry directly leads to Realization by removing the obstacles which make you think that the Self is not already realized."

    Ramana Maharshi


    Well, Karen Ar,srong made a study of the Koran... congradulations..It has been called by another famous scholar The most tedious piece of literature in History...{.among books that are much read.}..She stated the truth must be respected... but does not bring it up much... the truth is you can not fit the religion og Islam into Abrahams tent..Karen states that the Quran says that teachings of islam are not meant to cancel out the teachings of Jesus , Abraham , or Moses....yet they absolutely do....Islam does not even believe that jesus was crucified.. along with many other fundamental bearings of the Old and New testament.... therefore if one is true , one is a lie...or both are untre...I am encouraged , Jesus said to seek the truth and it will set you free... we must have the courage to think.... it is the same for the mormons,,, could there really be golden plates and magic glasses? Does that sound like God to you...and then wherever their are secrets,,,then there are rituals as strange....yet the truth sets you free... "If ever the divine appeared on earth it was in the person of Christ. The human mind will never transcend the height and moral culture that shines in the words of Christ"

    Two of my longtime heroes in one conversation! I think Karen is accurate in suggesting humans have a tendency to elevate our own way of seeing things to the absolute. I have just been writing about this when it comes to the Cartesian worldview. As a religious studies scholar, I pay attention to the "new animism" as outlined, for instance, in the work of Graham Harvey of the UK (in his book Animism: Respecting the Living World, put out by Columbia Univ. Press in 2005). The main idea is that an animistic worldview is a worldview based on relationship. Western society tends to think of itself as far superior to animists, whom it regards as primitive. Yet the Cartesian worldview has certain drawbacks, such as regarding the natural world as machinelike--an image and assumption that has helped land us in our present ecological crisis. Yet most Westerners, wedded still to a Cartesian worldview and mistaking it for "nature" rather than a "model of nature," think they have nothing to learn from animists. This is one example of secular as well as religious folk following the same habit of idolatry.

    Thanks for the thoughtful conversation.

    Anna D. : Caesar has no compassion for "holy" persons because they're in competition for the "booty." As George Carlin observed (I see you "up There" watching me, George.) God is all knowing, all powerful, created everything, but always needs money, lots of money.

    There can be alliances. On right wing radio today I heard several "holy ones" say that "America" is now being punished for having chosen the "wrong leaders." Now when did we choose wrong? 2000? 2004? 2008? My suspicion is that we never had any opportunity to choose the "right leaders." "You wanted to stomp the anthill right from the start, didn't you, Big Guy?" (I wonder who I'm talking to, Wall Street Mafia Dons or a giant hermaphrodite in the cosmos. It's all predestination I suppose.)

    "Now, after years of observation and enough courage to admit what I have observed, I try to plant peace if I do not want discord; to plant loyalty and honesty if I want to avoid betrayal and lies."
    Maya Angelou

    What you plant is what you get...
    If we want to fix our present economic system; we will have to plant the seeds of economic support where they will do the most good. So far we seem to be planting the seeds on solid rock. It is the people who need the seed that we should be supporting not the greedy rich. We are planting discord instead of loyalty and honesty. We reward betrayal and lies instead of truth and patriotism.
    We cry peace, peace and there is no peace because we refuse to do what is right and good.

    Bill, Your Journal is most informative, thank you. I am a very spiritual person who believes in God and I try to live up to a life that Jesus would agree with. About thirty two years ago I moved to the inner city and took up carpentry and in doing so, with a little help from my friends, I changed my beliefs from agonistic to a true believer in Christ. The better I became at carpentry the better a became at being a Christian. I do not read the Bible and I do not go to church, but yesterday for musical reasons my son and I went to a church service at the Salvation Army. It was a great experience and the place was packed with what looked liked mostly black ex-cons and poor people. Very poor people! What I would like to convey with this blog is this; If your bloggers would do the same they might find the true meaning of Christ. What I see in this blog are intellectual people fighting with words instead of guns.
I guess they must believe that words are better, but the end result seems to be the same. Separation..... I do not believe this is the way. 



    Suzanne,
    I do admit that I am blinded by the light of Christ. I do understand what Karen Armstrong is saying, but it is twaddle. "What fellowship has light with darkness or Christ with Belial?" If she wants to get along with everyone and have them all play nice in the sandbox, that's fine. It just has nothing to do with Christianity, so she should leave our faith out of it and concentrate on her own, which I believe is Roman Catholicism. The Bible can be comprehended only by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, not by intellectual prowess. It takes insuperable vanity to imagine that one can understand a multitude of faiths with only superficial reading. Neither Yahweh nor Christ ever tried to sue for peace with other religions. God destroys them.

    Thank you Bill for your selection of keen thinkers.

    Karen Armstrong was most interesting, even if a little light on Mohammed. That insight happen under war as I understand it. His beliefs and writings were later interputed by men clerics. I am a student of this religion but an old scholar recounted the descrimination againist womenn held in their renderings of Mohamad's writings. Is this true? Is that why the middle east culture languished behind modern civilization?

    Bill, enjoyed Karen very much, especially her thoughts on the Golden Rule and idolatry. Did you overlook her admonitions when you dismissed Rick Warren's convictions about certain issues based on ANOTHER person's view of the Bible? I think you're doing the very thing Karen was cautioning us about.

    If might is right and underneath all raids for booty on the "other" is just about the booty, then why are people who speak a language of "soul" constantly being assasinated?

    Seems to me like it is Caesar who wants what belongs to God and not vice versa.

    I'm all for practicing compassion towards people who live soulfully.

    Ms. Armstrong was not necessarily practing "compassion" when she stumbled upon the reality that the Brits manhandled a culture that was experiencing trauma with the rapid change from pastoral/agricultural based slavery to industrial based slavery.

    Living in the material world allows for the manufacturing of "proof" and a "scientific" conceit that turns human beings into a number that Caesar then presumes to own.

    High finance and investors very much have their own High Priests and their own theology - atheism and agnosticism. It just happens to be composed of people who observe that some tear up when another is crying. Their "truth" demands that there be no leaders of that kind of teary, compassionate human.

    I'd like to have a chance to examine their "scientific evidence" for the dangers of spiritual "might". Evidence that is so overwhelming, in their opinion, that the assassination of the "holy" man or woman is ordered by Caesar before Caesar bothers to assassinate a couple of token drug pushers or sex perverts or thieves who use paper instruments to create poverty among "free" men and women.

    But it is a good question - why does Caesar have no compassion for the "holy" man or woman?

    I am so grateful to both of you for all your fine work. When i listen, the feeling on this end is sanity. Bless you for that. I would like to contribute this notion to the discussion. Faith is accepting or assuming something is true. Even compassion requires faith. I use to associate sympathy with pity and believed that empathy was far superior. Empathy, as it turns out, is an act of the imagination while sympathy is something we do together. As Tommy Smothers use to say, "Keep smiling and laughing in the muddy road of life." Thanks again, jim

    Well, Bill and Karen, and all,


    I have to say, after seeing the show and reading and re-reading this whole blog several times, I have to give kudos to anyone out there still convinced that compassion may be a fundamental, useful, and enduring guide to our future actions.


    And I have to say that I think it will be many people: people who left the program on cloud 9, people who had quibbles, and people who just wanted to check in and let us know they were alive and thinking about this.


    To all: you done good!


    Thanks for your thoughtful programming and for your thoughtful comments!

    Thanks Bill for having Ms Armstrong on...she has got me thinking of a show that i would like to see produce on PBS called "Mining Our Monotheism" where scholars of the three monotheistic religious traditions search for divine comedy in the Talmud, the Bible and the Koran-present it in a theatrical format. I think such a program if done well, can foster compassion for the other- by exposing and sharing our collective religious foibles will go a long way in taking the ego out of our religion-

    This is a remarkable idea. I think this is what humanity needs right now. A formal declaration of compassion. So many religious 'leaders' in all faiths want your membership/money and will lie to get it.

    So how can a individual protect themselves from being duped? By formalizing such declarations.

    Indeed people will make anything into an idol.

    It has been very interesting to watch as the Primary focus of Friday's discussion, "Compassion", has been deconstructed into head-bashing "isms." Are we so unable to detract ourselves from our own "personal gods"?

    Perhaps this blog is just a microcosm of Ms. Armstrong's underlying premise - that current culture seems to be unwilling (and perhaps, due to conditioning, unable) to seek the unity, the tie-that-binds, with even those with disagree with us.

    Why is "compassion" such a Radical notion? "Radical" is, by definition, a vast departure from the "norm." Is the "norm" so precious, so life-affirming, so joyous, that we must cling to it so vorciferously?

    Its always nice and refreshing to hear someone speak so eloquently all three main religions and not trying to attach the actions on men to the teachings of the religion.

    Hmmm...as a traditional believing Catholic, I am amazed at the ease with which bashing my Catholic faith, and lifting up the bashers as modern prophets, is done.

    As a socially concerned Catholic for all my 48 years, I have had to put up with this bashing from those whom fight for justice as I do.

    Every time I listen Karen Armstrong or read her works my religious beliefs become clearer and indeed more compassionate of other religions and their people. I find that any opportunity to listen to her is a teachable moment and for a change I am willing to be taught to see God and the other sheep in his fold that I do not know as brethren rather than enemies or worse "others."

    I have agape love for you Bill Moyers because you bring a way to listen carefully and hear diverse opinions that help me grow every time. Thank you.

    To ken,

    I have done my homework Ken.

    You are right Jesus was a Jew. But then he had to be to fulfill the many prophecies of Isaiah, the
    Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants as well.

    The term "Christian", as is applied to those who follow Christs teachings, was appropriately by "Divine providence.

    Note what Acts 11:26 in part says,

    "... It thus came about that for a whole year they gathered together with them in the congregation and taught quite a crowd, and it was first in Antioch that the disciples were by divine providence called Christians."

    Divine meaning, "given or inspired by God" according to Webster's.

    Providence, meaning "guidance by God" according to Webster.

    So your assertion that the Apostle Paul "invented" the term is not correct.

    Here is some extra credit, bonus homework for you.

    Prior to Divinely receiving the name "Christian", followers of Christ were refer ed to as "The Way".

    Note the following:

    Acts 9:1 & 2 "But Saul, still breathing threat and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, in order that he might bring bound to Jerusalem any whom he found who belonged to The Way, both men and women.

    Acts 19: 9, "But when some went on hardening themselves and not believing, speaking injuriously about The Way before the multitude..."

    Acts 19:23, "At that particular time there arose no little disturbance concerning The Way".

    And lastly your statement that Jesus had no intention of inventing a religion isn't entirely correct either.

    First the Jewish religious system of things, as governed by the Sanhedrin, were apostate by then for the following reasons:

    Jesus own word confirm this.

    "... hypocrites! because YOU resemble whitewashed graves, which outwardly indeed appear beautiful but inside are full of dead men’s bones and of every sort of uncleanness."

    “Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are YOU to flee from the judgment of Ge·hen′na? Matthew 23:27, 28 and 33.

    "Offspring of vipers, how can YOU speak good things, when YOU are wicked? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:34.

    Further, under the old Law Covenant, Worship of God required priest and high priest to preform gift offerings and burnt animal sacrifices. this was done away with and changed with the sacrifice of Christ.

    Note what the apostle Paul at Hebrews 9; 13, 14

    "For if the blood of goats and of bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who have been defiled sanctifies to the extent of cleanness of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of the Christ, who through an everlasting spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works that we may render sacred service to [the] living God?

    Hebrews 10: 1-4 "For since the Law has a shadow of the good things to come, but not the very substance of the things, [men] can never with the same sacrifices from year to year which they offer continually make those who approach perfect. 2 Otherwise, would the [sacrifices] not have stopped being offered, because those rendering sacred service who had been cleansed once for all time would have no consciousness of sins anymore? 3 To the contrary, by these sacrifices there is a reminding of sins from year to year, 4 for it is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take sins away".

    Lastly Ken, worship of God now meant a loving ones enemy.

    In Jesus’ sermon on the mount he made this very astonishing statement:

    “You heard that it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you; that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous."

    "For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have? Are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing? And if you greet your brothers only, what extraordinary thing are you doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the thing? You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”—Matthew 5:43-48.

    So you see Ken, Christ Jesus did change religion or how we worship of the true God.

    The problem is that there are few real Christians among many whom claim to be Christians.

    No one alive is more dismissive of popular culture than myself and my circle. But the truth is sometimes accidentally expressed amidst the glut of commercialism and needless competition for "goods." There used to be a hateful poster (on these blogs)called "Shane" who bowdlerized one of the most meaningful & beautiful "collectively written" (putatatively by John Lennon, but from the collective subconscious)poems/songs of our time. Shane's loathing of that poem illustrates its power. When rugged individualist performer Neil Young sang Imagine at a post 9/11 tribute-memorial saying:

    "Imagine no possessions,
    I wonder if I can.
    No need for greed or hunger,
    A brotherhood of man.
    Imagine all the people
    Sharing all the world,"

    this was the American individualist's concession to an ideal truth. (A concession Shane was not enlightened and mature enough to understand)

    We owe some of this space even to the Shanes, but at this time when our laws protecting property seem to be the main barricade to solving a financial debacle that has instigated a global Depression we need to reorder legal priorities and serve basic human needs first, without regard to the fictions of ownership and debt. No one needs to lose their basic human rights because of what they supposedly owe, and the same is true of populations grouped in nation states by accident of birth.

    Listen to Paul Farmer; listen to Helen Caldicott; Hell, listen to me or anyone else cognizant or brave enough to say it. "Imagine" is a comprehensive restatement of the "Golden Rule" that we should and must follow now as closely as we can.Too many walls are closing in for the winners of the rigged capitalist game to insist upon their etiquette. I for one am not going to kill or deprive people over a "place setting" or "proper attire." No matter how obstinate, hateful or selfish the Shanes we must attend to their needs also.
    Survival: Hate won't get it.

    Rarely does a concept arise that has universal palliative potential. Compassion qualifies as one of those exceptions. Its universality was evidenced by Ms. Armstrong when she said, “Compassion is more important than belief.” The benefits of compassion transcend religion.

    Why the fuss? Again, Ms. Armstrong reveals the answer. Referring to compassion, she stated, “We have an urgent need.” Based on performance, we must agree with her next statement that we must “do better than this.” Making compassion the cornerstone of our culture will lead to a fulfillment of needed charge.

    Make no mistake, change toward compassion will not come easy. The difficulty of compassion is the reason we move so quickly toward military conflict. Military attack is much easier than engaging in the messy business of diplomacy. The costs of our sloth remain high, however. For us they come in the form of wasted treasure and human sacrifice. For our antagonists, payment comes through destruction and death. Weighed against the marginal costs of compassionate diplomacy, taking the path of least resistance appears ignoble.

    We must recognize that military action indicates the failure of opportunity, not a chance for the subjugation of others. Still, we look for excuses. This rang from the words of Mr. Moyers when he referred to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and of the bellicosity of Nazi Germany. Surely, we had no choice. Self-defense was our only option. By now, we should know that deeper investigation reveals hidden details that become convenient to ignore, but are most condemning when uncovered. Ms. Armstrong correctly pointed out, such is the nature of ideology, which is the mere manifestation of ego. Compassion begins with honest self-assessment. Until we take a close look at our actions, we will never understand our complicity and responsibility for the condition of others. How are we to understand their pain if we only see ourselves as sublime?

    Some already recognized the need for change, and have taken steps toward a more compassionate existence. The majority of influence over our collective actions lie with our political leaders, however, and they prove to be the most intractable of all. The country faces a crossroads. What better time than now to make the switch away from imperialism, with its requisite military expenditures. No change will come from Washington D.C. without our insistence. A switch toward cultural compassion will be a paradigm shift and won’t be easy. But, based on our current condition, that is exactly what is needed.

    Compassion, empathy, feeling able to identify and relate to the other in ourselves as well as the 'other' in them brings us to true contrition--a forgiveness of ourselves as permanently imperfect and yet worthy of love, respect and compassion. Progress, not perfection. Progress not Perfection. Becoming not finished. Life as a journey not a destination, mindfulness, connection and synchonicity. All the stuffs of the spiritual life.

    Kant reformulated the Golden Rule as “Only do what you believe everyone ought to do.” We can see the weakness of all such oversimplifications, even and especially when well beloved. Ruthless capitalists acquire wealth and power because that is what they believe everyone ought to do. Criminal gangs, likewise. The reverse form offered by Armstrong changes nothing. We dare not abandon the rule of law, even while we know it fails miserably.

    Armstrong exemplifies what St. Francis brought at a time in European history much like our own—a time of need and a time of chaos. Yes, compassion is good. But telling people just to be good is about as effective as shouting at the wind. Her motherly pleas for care, set as they are in strong convictions and historical insights, are appealing. And so are Gerber babies.

    I did find Ms. Armstrong's take on process theology thin and unfair in her book "The History of God."

    Actually suzanne, I do get it, I think. I am not a religious person. I consider myself atheist hedged a bit with agnostic as I cannot prove or disprove the existence of a god or gods. I prefer the scientific method whereby conclusions are reached only after the preponderance of evidence leads to them, and they also can be changed when evidence leads in another direction as Brian Wilkinson points out in his post.

    I like the words of Karen Armstrong because they make sense to me on a gut level, no more, no less. We are all bozos on the same bus so it makes sense to me that we try to get along, rather than kill one another (almost always over resources by the way). We live in a world of might makes right and humans will use their tribalism/religion to affirm that. But if someone finds comfort and solace in their religion that is fine by me, as long as they don’t try to sell their beliefs to me.

    Okay, so maybe we do need to rescue religion from religionists :-)

    Hi Arne, You wrote, "None of the religions has ever produced anything but war, hatred and superstition, oppression of women and children, witch hunts, inquisition trials and torture chambers. None of the monotheistic religions have ever been practicing the golden rule. The political ideologies wasn’t any better. Communism and Nazism created nothing horror. And now we are living at the end of the neo-liberal era with a ruined planet, pollution, a climate change and an economic crises of enormous proportions brought about by the idea that egoism would create prosperity. Not even science is of much help. Scientists care only about that which can be measured, and they have always been working in one ideological system or another.
    I think that all religions and all political ideologies should be abandoned."

    Once humans mix "religion" with "power over others" all you get is the worship of self, which is not the role of religion in a civilization built from an experiential culture which harmonizes the thinkers, inventors and feelers.

    It's scary that no one even mentions the reality of a "soul" anymore. There is no other aspect of a human that is capable of compassion. Wasn't "religion" originally organized around the protection of a "soul"?

    In the USA we have separation of church and state because we want the church to remain uncorrupted. Also being a practical people, we realize that priestcrafting is incompetant in building and maintaining a civilization, hence the polluted planet and absurdly theoretical economics.

    Being as how theologians are operating in an echo chamber (I have no idea what half of the people posting here are referencing as "truth"), "we" might need to approach them the way a teacher approaches the slow learners - keep repeating the facts.

    USA has separation of church and state.

    No one gave anyone permission to indulge in using the life maintenance production capabilites of USA citizens to conduct a "holy war" (talk about your oxymorons!).

    And we need to keep repeating the TRUTH about separation of church and state.

    No law on the books nor law enforcement group ever prevented me from choosing with my own free will to "love one another".

    That's NOT where the theologians want things to remain, it seems.

    So let me repeat with full, free will citizen authority, no one is allowed to wage a "holy war" in the name of the USA or in the name of USA corporations. Anyone who has done that needs to be brought to justice because they broke the laws of reality - both realities - the material and the spiritual.

    Get it? "Holy War" advocates are criminals. Period.

    If "religion" does not get back to taking care of people's SOULS then it is NOT religion nor is it politics defined as the art of getting things done to create, nurture and improve a life maintenance providing civilization.

    It's just nuts.

    In the final analysis of all the human bits and parts that walk, talk, breathe and chew gum at the same time, "compassion" already exists. Why do some people have tears well up in their eyes when they see another crying and why are there people who think that they should have tears well up in their eyes when another is crying but don't?

    Guess abusing "freedom" did extend itself to abusing the freedom of religion that was put in place in the USA by trying to keep "religion" free of politics.

    Enough.

    It is false to assert that I have faith in science and religious people have faith in their imaginary gods. These are not equivalent. Faith is the willingness to believe something without or in the face of, evidence. And the false notion that this is noble. I have faith only in the unrestricted truth testing that is the core of scientific inquiry. The first moment the theory of gravity makes innaccurate predictions I will abandon it remorselessly. It's ridiculous that these points are still made to our own countrymen when they have been refuted ad nauseum. You just have to read the relavent books. As for the individual who said agnosticism is the only defensible stand. That sounds nice to our relativistic liberal minds, but is nicely put to bed by Russel's teapot. There is such a thing as probability. You don't accord 50% probability to something for which there is no evidence.(Are you agnostic about the existence of unicorns, or Zeus? strictly speaking yes, but not really. As Christopher Hitchens has said "what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."

    None of the religions has ever produced anything but war, hatred and superstition, oppression of women and children, witch hunts, inquisition trials and torture chambers. None of the monotheistic religions have ever been practicing the golden rule. The political ideologies wasn’t any better. Communism and Nazism created nothing horror. And now we are living at the end of the neo-liberal era with a ruined planet, pollution, a climate change and an economic crises of enormous proportions brought about by the idea that egoism would create prosperity. Not even science is of much help. Scientists care only about that which can be measured, and they have always been working in one ideological system or another.
    I think that all religions and all political ideologies should be abandoned.

    Arne

    Can't believe that Bill Moyers stated that only Islam in its classical phase has recognized the validity of the "other" in religion. Judaism has historically recognized that non Jews need only adhere to the eight Noahide laws to be rightous and no convert to Judaism and thus be responsible for the 613 mitzvot of a Jew. Someone as learned as Ms Armstrong should have made an immediate correction.

    Ken, John jp and the likes. You don't get it do you? You aren't getting the words and message from Karen because you are blinded.

    I don’t affirm nor deny that Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus. I wasn’t there so I have no idea as to its veracity. But I do believe that Saul believed it to be true, so much so that he ended up inventing Christianity.

    Ken Condon, you must do your homework, too. Do you deny that Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, or that the Holy Spirit who guided Paul's ministry is one and the same as the Spirit of Christ ("I and my Father are one.")? You are correct, however, that Jesus did not start a new religion, but perfected Judaism. What is often missed is the fact that the church was spirited away into the wilderness for 1260 years while ersatz, worldly versions arose in Asia and Europe.

    The first point of confusion is the mistaken belief that there is only one God. "For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is only one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we live." [I Corinthians 8:5]

    "I am the Lord your God...you shall have no other gods before me." [Deuteronomy 5:6,7]

    Some religions, such as Hinduism, believe in many gods.


    Allah and Yahweh are not one and the same god. Allah is an Arab tribal moon god, as reflected in the crescent moon symbol on mosques. It is a gross error to accept the Muslim notion that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are all Abrahamic religions, and all people of the book. It's all well and good that the Muslims believe that they have a prophet or messenger of god, but the Jews and Christians (Christianity is a sect of Judaism) have dozens, some of whom were women. For the Koran to repeatedly declare that Jews and Christians are apes and swine slanders many holy men and women, and offends God Himself.

    A western apologist for Islam stated that Mohammed was not really as murderous as commonly reported (personally responsible for killing 600 or 700 infidels) because he actually only killed about 100 persons. Wow! How benevolent.

    Jesus never killed anyone, neither did he advocate killing anyone, nor did he sanction killing anyone. He possessed the power to annihilate mankind, yet he laid down his life rather than kill and commanded his disciples to follow his example, which Christians, by definition, do.

    "By their fruits ye shall know them." One can justify Islam until one is blue in the face, but the truth is revealed in the rivers of blood shed by this faith.

    Only perversions of Christianity result in violence, as Karen Armstrong should know perfectly well. It was the Catholic Church that committed rabid anti-Semitism, the great slaughters of the bloody Crusades, the burning of heretics at the stake, hideous tortures, political intrigue and subsequent murder, bribes, and extortion in the Vatican, and religious wars on the European continent that continued until the 20th Century with "the troubles" in northern Ireland.

    To put all so-called great religions on a common footing is naive in the extreme, and a great lie.


    jp:

    Jesus was a Jew who had no intention of inventing a religion called Christianity. His main intention was to reform the corrupt Judaism he experienced in his lifetime. Paul (Saul of Tarsus), a Pharisidic Jew, invented Christianity after his vision of Jesus he encountered on the road to Damascus. This was 70 years after the fact. Saul of Tarsus never met Jesus and Jesus was crucified long before Paul, or Saul, take your pick, was born. Do your homework.

    Bill, thank you for all your programs. I am a retired hospital chaplain, worked in NYC on 9/11. What I have learned from life and my study of Buddhism especially is that, until we "know our own suffering" and extend compassion first to ourselves, we cannot see others' suffering and feel compassion with them. I do know that this is very very difficult; most of our personal and corporate lives are structured on the denial of suffering, especially our own. (I don't mean here our own sense of victimhood and blaming others.) There is a deep sadness in the human heart that is crying to be heard. Karen Armstrong mostly hears and very clearly articlulates.
    Thank you for your showL>

    To "Balance of Power" who wrote,

    "Jesus preached tolerance and humility above all".

    Yes he did.

    And he did so to those “he felt pity for..., because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.”—Matthew 9:35, 36.

    The only exception was when it can to the worship of God and to those religious leader responsible for worship.

    To the religious leaders of Jesus' day, he said at Matthew 23:27, 28:

    “Woe to YOU, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because YOU resemble whitewashed graves, which outwardly indeed appear beautiful but inside are full of dead men’s bones and of every sort of uncleanness."

    "In that way YOU also, outwardly indeed, appear righteous to men, but inside YOU are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."

    At John 14:6 Jesus said ...

    "I am the way, and the TRUTH, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

    Accepting Jesus as the Christ or Messiah and not merely, "a prophet", would be the foundation to the correct form of worship of the Father, or worshiping in truth.

    Having said that, the Christ also made it clear that just because one makes the claim to be "Christian" and call upon his name that they are "Saved".

    Notice Jesus words at Matthew 7:21-23:

    “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.

    Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did WE not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?

    And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

    How could so-called Christian be called "worker of lawlessness" ???

    Why, because Christ Jesus made this point at John 4:20, 23,24 :

    "Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him.

    God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him MUST worship with spirit and TRUTH.”


    Lastly, while, as you say "intellectual discourse regarding faith" is important, it should be based on God's Word of "truth", the Bible and Christ teaching otherwise were just people blowing smoke.


    Ref: zakia- 3-15-09 Pure truth (God, Maximum Good) is one and indivisible; ignorance or adultery is the basis of division.

    Compassion, and the Golden Rule…….what a concept. Cut out all the nonsense of and in religious hierarchies of all flavors and boil it to the essence. A good idea that’s unlikely to happen as leaders of all flavors need their power bases fueled by tribalism and hate in order to survive. Armstrong’s line of thought would eliminate it.

    Karen Armstrong makes way too much sense, but certain people need their religious dogmatism as proven by some of the previous posts. For some the “written word of God” answers all their questions and frees them from having to form opinions and thoughts of their own. That is why we will always have religious fanatics of all brands…and people with common sense as well.

    I believe Compassion is letting go of any personal beliefs, agendas or desires while facing a situation that is outside of my normal scope.
    Armstrong is correct, truthful and rationale on her point about humanity elevating its ideals to idols, no matter what religion or belief system is practiced.
    Well-intentioned values, like compassion and intercultural understanding, themselves have NOT become idols, because as I witness daily, they are not even a consideration by society. I am afraid if you read most of the comments here on this post, you will get a good idea of this. Society's agenda is presently on another path far from this idea. It has been observed that this started transpiring centuries ago. The question is, is this the path we will continue or how and can we persuade positive change in society. My answers are grim.

    Bill and Karen, I can't thank you enough for relevant, stimulating and provoking conversation and knowledge. Now if the masses could just grasp [some] of it. I see a one comment that suggests the person wasn't really listening at all. I'm sure there are many more. Anyhow thank you Bill, and know I am usually left with needing more from your programs like this. And thank you Karen for your insightful knowledge and bravery. If we could have more like you...

    Compassion means not to desire for others that which you would not desire for yourself.

    Compassion or love means feeling the pain of others as not to reside in well-informed apathy or capitalize on it, but passionately want to join in the effort of its elimination.

    I appreciate somebody taking the trouble to articulate what is disconcerting to many non-mainstreamers like us. In time we learn to assimilate such “misnomers” to try to get at the essence of such discussions. And usually it is worth the effort. I do want to add another thought to “wtp”s saying that Christianity is “NOT seen by the other THREE Peoples of the Book as ‘Monotheistic’”. This could be generally true for most of these people, but anybody who has been in the spiritual path tends to see very clearly the Monotheism in the stated Trinity of Christianiaty. People from avowedly monotheistic traditions go through a journey where they come to the true sense of “Unity” that Monotheism is about. That essence of that Unity is much beyond the “One God”. There is in fact no seperation between the worshipper and the worshipped as that itself is a duality. Once in that mindset all the other faiths take on a mythic level where trinity or one in many or many in one has its place. Monothiem is very pluralistic.

    I was so delighted that you devoted your entire program to Karen Armstrong and to the topic of Compassion and the challenge our nation and the world face to respond with more compassion. I would like to add a different thread into the tapestry of the discussion. My own expertise for 30 years is the physiological bases for Dr. Carl Jung's Typology model (Thinking, Intuition, Feeling, Sensing, Extraversion, Introversion and what Dr. Jung referred to as Falsification of Type). My own observations are that while every humanbeing is capable of compassion, the people whose own brains are tasked with the job of compassion are the Feelers. However as our national and global society has for 300 years increasingly honor, trained and rewarded Thinking and Sensing, most Feelers are not in position power. And as well as 80% of the global population is not using their natural gifts, but are falsifying type leading with Thinking or Sensing in order to protect themselves (responding to the needs as detailed in Maslow's Hierarchy for survival and belonging, people are for the most part in fear and anger both of which physiologically drive their behavior so that compassion isn't something they ever express, in fact may see as a weakness.

    I have been teaching and writing about this for more than 30 years. This is a time when with the collapse of the global economy combined with the clear dishonest of many trusted business leaders and the global need for more Intuition (creativity) and Feeling (compassion, trusting building behavior) to respond to the global problems due to global warming as well as the global poverty. You can find some more about my work on this at www.benziger.org

    ...May I add that yes the golden rule is vital for peace, however, Karen Armstrong is not the author or the golden rule.
    The Bible teaches that you cannot have faith w/o works (good deeds) and you cannot have good deeds w/o faith (salvation)
    Armstrong seems to be conveying that we can get to heaven by good deeds alone. No.

    Armstrong portrays herself and her ideas as unbiased when actually she is biased. I listened to her interview and I am disappointed.
    It was inappropriate for her to state that the Bible is conflicting and contradicting. Armstrong may have credentials but she is not using common sense. She claims this one world "compassion" mission, however did we hear her say anything negative about Islam? Of course not.
    Who taught about compassion before Ms. Armstrong? Jesus, God's Son did. She behaves as if she discovered compassion.
    She questions if God exists. She cannot speak about God if she has never experienced salvation through Jesus and if she has never has a personal experience w/ God, therefore she cannot speak about God because she does not know God. She indeed is behaving like a satan's ventriloquist dummy.

    Karen Armstrong's learned but naive personal version of religion is simply based on what components of various religions she likes. The problem is that the scriptures can all too easily be used against her: too many people believe that theirs is the magic book containing the perfect word of a perfect god and those perfect words are far too often exclusive, divisive, misogynistic, and cruel. Those words far too often lead humans to make choices that diminish the well being and increase the suffering of conscious beings. This "bad religion" can't be separated from "good religion" because they are both forever etched together in those texts.

    The threat posed by religion is all too real for people to be influenced by this fatally flawed fantasy, which should expose it as such.

    Mr. Alan Galowitz,

    "...a global federation of nations"???

    Certainly the defunct League of Nations and the ineffective United Nations makes that suggestion moot.

    You correctly say,

    "Problems of poor health, education and human rights have not been solved under the influence of the three major religions".

    And neither have they been solved by any human government to date, or ever will they by man's efforts.

    All hope lay with God's Kingdom of the Heavens, the only hope for mankind.

    See what it will accomplish

    Revelation 21:4 "And He will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”

    Part of being human in an "information age" is forgetting what you already knew becuase there is so much that is claiming to be new that is nothing more than re-inventing the wheel.

    When I mention in converstion that the reason people wanted a separation of church and state in the "colonies" was because they wanted to keep religion pure, I get that deer trapped in the headlights look from most of the people who heard me.

    Soul and free will need a language and that language is "religion".

    I think politically motivated priestcrafting may have finally exhausted itself. Which is a good thing. Then we can freely give an atta-boy, I hear you and have had the same experience with God to someone else - here's mine to Charles Michael Couch in Brooklyn NY who wrote, in part:

    "When you approach things from a logical perspective; logic dictates that God exists and the absence of God would be illogical. Modern physicists still seek for something that is a "something". The failure to find the Higgs Boson with the multi-million dollar accelerators coming on line may require Science to finally admit that the absolute scientific fact is that there is nothing here; that all we experience as "real" is only a vibration through nothing. In my theory of the Universe, that Nothing is in the most reverent of words, God. I have actual experience with this being I call God, though sometimes I'm guilty of imagining a god in the image I prefer instead of communing with the God who is. Thank God, He forgives me.
    Charles Michael Couch
    Brooklyn, NY"

    The "religion" of the soul that we are free to think about on the subway! Thanks for sharing, Charles.

    I have become more circumspect, however, when I drop my other standard "religion" line - "We all know that Jesus was not an unlearned man, so why didn't HE write a book?"

    If we should make a collective effort to give a soul expression in this material world, we should take back art from social engineers even more than taking back religion from self-proclaimed religionists. Beauty has saved my soul many times.

    I actually donated to PBS after this show's airing. Keep the "soul" conversation gowing...

    I have never understood why good hearted people like Karen Armstrong don't acknowledge the obvious. The golden rule, and similar core principles of compassion, are simply HUMAN values. They weren't invented by religions. Christians have them. Muslims have them. Jews have them. Hindus and Buddhists have them. Zoroastrians and Wiccans have them. So did worshipers of Norse gods and believers in the thousands of other variations of religious belief that humanity has held for many thousands of years.

    And so do Atheists.

    Come on, guys. Let's give up this canard that religion is the source of morality. It just ain't so. Get Occam's Razor out. Let's do good for it's own sake and stop attributing morality to foggy notions of divine inspiration from invisible friends.

    As a practical exercise in compassion-and a revealing one, as well, let's consider our treatment of animals and see if we can't do better. Let's consider,especially, our indirect treatment of animals, what, to put it bluntly, is done to poultry, swine and cattle, so that we might continue to have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

    If we dare hope for peace in our lives and country and for the compassion that would manifest that reality, this, I believe, marks our starting point. But vegetarianism is a tough pill for most folks, I'm afraid. Still, please give it some thought.
    Einstein believed that so long as we have slaughter houses, we'll have wars. Whatever else the two may have in common, they are dreadful to think about, and so we don't think about them very much, do we?

    Karen Armstrong is a delight, especially for her footnote Damascus. Intellectual arrogance is typically the last bastion, and she seems to have conquered it in style. Thank you for introducing us to her and the compassion project.

    To me, it seems compassion is what our actions SHOW, when what we FEEL is empathy. Everyone can agree in theory that compassion is admirable, but empathy is in terribly short supply.

    Its lack, you know, is the defining attribute of a sociopath -- and our world has for so long been run by them that callous selfishness became the norm. It should be easy now to turn away from that, seeing its ugliness paraded daily by the remorseless grillionaires who take it as their right to keep plundering us -- but they continue winning, we continue losing and suffering almost always makes people bitter, not better.

    Compassion alone has done little to better the lot of the six billion people living on earth.

    More stress should be put upon the formation of a global federation of nations. A well ordered world, under rule of law, is called for. Problems of poor health, education and human rights have not been solved under the influence of the three major religions.

    Alan Galowitz

    Why don't Moyers and Armstrong just admit that they are humanists, and divorce themselves from religion. I see people all the time unable to make the break, even tho they have philosophically. Armstrong has made a good living repeating the obvious about world religions. I am shocked she is so well read and respected.
    But of course the Golden Rule is all the is important and everything else about religion is politics. DUH!
    She is just figuring this out??? Glad I have a fast forward on my DVR.

    Fantastic insight that most fundamental religions start with people feeling persecuted. Thus part of the religion is based on defending themselves and their faith. The same observation seems to apply to many secular groups with strong beliefs. (Pro-Gun, Anti-Gun, Strong Right, Strong Left, Pro-Union Anti-Union, Palestinians, Israelis, etc.)

    If I first try to understand why a group feels prosecuted, then I might be better able to understand them.

    If the entire world understood Karen Armstrong’s thesis, of compassion being the foundation of religion, then 90% of the world’s problems would disappear.

    Al hemdoullilah for having the chance to see and to hear Karen Armstrong again on the Bill Moyers Journal last eveving, and for finding a link to the program in order to share it with others: others who profess Islam, Christainity and/or Judaism. She is such a joy to listen to and to learn from, and could be Sufi if she chose.

    Karen Armstrong understands Islam and the Qur'an and the Prophet Mohmed's life and responsabilites far better than many who profess Islam, and has the ability to share her knowledge with rest of us. She explains rather than pontificates which allows others to further their knowledge without being coerced to do so.

    Compassion is indeed being the other, or as the indigenous North American proverb says: Walk a mile in another man's moccasins before criticising him.

    I found it refreshing that she could link Islamist politics with the corruption of modern Islam, although she did not use the term "Islamist". She made me think of the FIS, GIA, GSPC and now Al Qaida of the Maghreb who all but decimated the population of Algeria during the 1990s because of their violent means of the attempt the enforce their version of Islam on the Algerians. And I remembered also that it was the secularity of the US government who gave one of the founders of the FIS safe haven in the US...politics indeed is the bane of existance!

    As Karen Armstrong stated so eloquently, Islam was not sent to the Arabian peninsula to erradicate the two existent montheistic religions of Judaism and Christianity, but to enhance them as well as to perfect the religion of Islam for the neophite Muslims of the 7th cenury, people who were enmeshed in tribal wars, idol worship and panththeism -or as Islam calls it "jahyllia'. Just as Issa (Jesus) had done before him. Mohamed broght the knowledge of The One Creator and used the term Allah to name this One. This is no different than using God, Jehovah, or Dieu to 'name' the same One.

    Islam and Judaism and Christianity all hold all life as being sacred and each teach peaceful coexistence; however, too many confuse what humans do in ignorance of their or others religion as the tenets of that religion.

    Perhaps what we need to do is to understand that we are far more similar than different and that the 'differences'are superficial. When we can understand that, I beleive that Peace will indeed come to this badly troubled palce we call earth.

    I'm not going to comment on Karen Armstrong's ethical ideals or interpretation of various religions, but I strongly object to a practical aspect of her efforts. In his inaugural address Obama enumerated "Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers" This still leaves out a lot of people (e.g. Buddhists), but it at least expanded the list of religious stances (there doesn't seem to be a word for this concept) from the three Abrahamic religions. As a non-believer I am offended by her implicit presumption that I am excluded from the community of those who should be allowed to contribute to a dialog on "Compassion". If she excludes some religious stances from her organization then she isn't creating a universal declaration.

    March 14, 2009

    Dear Mr. Moyers:

    Thank you for being a journalist extraordinaire. Your dialog with Karen Armstrong illustrates your long history of enlightening our global community on issues of substance.

    “The Golden Rule” definitely provides a common ground for all people. However, the history of humans clearly demonstrates we have difficulty keeping this simple rule that is described in the Christian tradition, one of the two “Great Commandments” that encompasses all of the 623 Jewish Laws of the “Old Testament”.

    Human’s inability to keep even this simple rule raises the question of whether human indeed possess the ability to keep the Golden Rule. The rule is really grounded in the basic character of love. Again, history is riddled with stories of human’s struggle to fully comprehend the concept of love. Love is denigrated to its expression, often in bestial form; sex.

    I submit we need to address the basic nature of humans demonstrated in history. Yes, humans have demonstrated the capacity to love, but it remains a complex expression, stemming from an ambiguous nature.

    The Apostle Paul in his epistles summarized the struggle of human nature, “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want”. (Romans 7:19 New American Standard Version) The nature of humans needs to be transformed.

    The question is who will do that and how will it be done. The answer predicates that there is an entity that is the essence, total and complete expression of the nature of love. The Apostle John provided the answer in his epistle, “God is Love”. (I John 4:7-8 New American Standard Version (NAS)) The Apostle John prior to making the preceding statement emphatically informed “everyone who loves is born of God”.

    How is one ‘born of God”? The Apostle Peter in his epistle states “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again”…”for you have been born again not of seed which perishable but imperishable, that is through the living and enduring Word of God”. (I Peter 1:3, 23 NAS)

    If scripture is merely allegorical and/or metaphoric, then what portion of scripture should a pay any attention to? What portion scripture is valid? What portion of scripture is applicable? The Apostle Paul gives us a clear, concise response, “every Writing [is] God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for setting aright, for instruction that [is] in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16 Young’s Literal Translation)

    The Seven Laws of Nature and scripture inform “For every effect, there is a cause.” Love is the character, God is the originator. The first name of God in Hebrew scripture, the Pentateuch is “Elohim”, which translates into “The Almighty One Who Swears by Himself”. The translation captures the idea that the spoken word becomes a physical thing as the words spoken by God made the Creation given in Genesis chapter one.
    The Gospel of John 1:1 more clearly relays this truth, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 NAS). The chapter further identifies this “Word” as “Jesus”…”Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 NAS).

    What other religious tradition, philosophy addresses and transforms the basic “sinful, evil, hateful” nature of humans? The hope to fulfill and fortify the expression of love through the Golden Rule, will only come to pass when we address the root cause, with an eternal and substantive solution, “we are made a new creation in Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NAS).

    Sincerely

    CDD
    Rome, NY


    I understood her message to be more HUMAN then religious based...to understand that WE ALL as Humans MUST live & EXIST on ONE planet...to me,it seems religion has wrought more Evil into the world under the guise of GOD's wisdom.

    For the enthusiasts on Karen Armstrong, see, for example, Hugh Fitzgerald's critique in "New English Review". I'm surprised that, in view of his and others' doubt about her capacity, that Bill Moyers would interview her. The TED recognition prompted it, I suspect, which makes the TED a little more suspect still.

    Thanks, I have read seveal of Ms. Armstrong's book. She is a fine popular writer on religion. Hearing her speak refreshed the spirit. Thanks for having her on your program from time to time.

    I am still reading writers you featured on your long ago program on the Bible. Good stuff.

    I do not even know what a blog is--- daily journal?? whatever, I saw Ms Armstrong last night on Bill moyers and I ordered two of her books-- at last-common sense ! not EGO's. Are we not all one?

    I think I agree with Armstrong. We make God in our image, our ideals, and our line of thinking. I've struggled with this issue as I try to determine just who and what the Divine really is. We live in a violent natural world where choas pushes us into believing certain ways. I, personally, think of God as a being that dwells outside the written scriptures of all faiths.

    I believe many of the religous tradtions and rules we've grown up with, regardless of faith, are man-made inventions to suit the times they were created in. Rules are made by those in power. That's why I agree with Armstrong that the Osma bib ladens are not men of faith, they are politcal figures seeking power using the disguse of religion to sanctify the ends they seek.

    I think in the end, God is love. God doesn't care about your color, your faith or your sexual orientation. God is interested in what you do in life, how you treat others with compassion and understanding and how you learn and grow from your mistakes.

    I think Armstrong is on to something here.

    How wonderful for you to have Karen Armstrong on as a guest. Thank you.
    I really understand her ideas re compassion. To be able to listen...really listen. To dialogue without judging. And to say Who is God? The pie in the sky answers just don't work for me. We are all connected. And I believe tht we are all made of star dust.
    And as Joseph Campbell said, "We need a new Myth."

    I especially appreciate your having Karen Armstrong on your program. I have long looked to her as a person who is a deep thinker and knows more about religion than anyone I have ever heard or read.

    Thank you John Clark,

    While we may never fully understand the needs, feelings and intentions of another, we can at least—in the meantime—attempt to empathize with them enough to establish a dialogue of common interest.

    I make no claim to knowledge or comprehension of anything, and I try not to have opinions, but I do have a perspective and can make observations.

    If compassion comes before faith and belief, open dialogue is possible. If not, preconceptions tend to trump potential insight and transformation of understanding, and dialogue can be difficult.

    If constructive dialogue is desired, I suggest looking into Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication model, http://www.cnvc.org/, which has proven helpful in both interpersonal and inter-tribal communication.

    In the sixth century BCE Lao Tzu attempted to convey the virtues of harmony and humility. In the fifth century BCE Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) stressed ethics and correct understanding. A hundred years later—and four hundred years before Jesus—Socrates stressed not only the virtue of correct understanding through examination of reasoning, but he also stressed that no one should harm another, even if harmed. The Sanskrit term is ahimsa.

    Bill Moyers -

    I love your Journal and each time I think it is so special that you will not be able to out-do yourself in another program. Karen Armstrong was a really wonderful and inspiring guest (I will read both Muhammad, A Biography of the Prophet and The Bible - A Biography). I am so happy that you bring such wonderful programs to all of us--THANK YOU.

    The Golden Rule says "Don't do to others what you would not like them to do to you." The Platinum Rule says "Do unto others as they would have you do unto them."

    The Golden Rule only requires knowledge of what a person would not like done to himself or herself. Where is the compassion in knowing only your own desires? There seems to be no requirement for real compassion in the Golden Rule.

    The Platinum Rule requires knowledge of what others would like done to them. If compassion means "...putting yourself in the position of the other, learning about the other... ", then the Platinum Rule seems to require real compassion in order to learn what others would like done to them.

    The Golden Rule is an excellent rule, but I would like to suggest that the Charter for Compassion consider adopting the Platinum Rule, since real compassion seems to be required to follow it.

    Although I usually disagree with Bill Moyers I have to congratulate him on this program. Maybe you should stick to philosophy and theology and leave the political issues to others?

    "Do you agree with Armstrong that humanity elevates its ideals to idols representing 'the supreme reality?'"

    Whenever I hear someone proclaiming some version of a "supreme truth," I view it in light of what psychology has suggested: that we are generally egocentric, tribal, reality-distorting and self-deceiving creatures. Fundamentalism combined with the technological power to harm or kill others is the equivalent of a loaded gun in the hands of a 3 year-old. We may have some growing up to do before we (and others) are safe from our spiritual aspirations.

    "How do you balance compassion and empathy for others’ experience with working towards your core beliefs?"

    Maybe an even simpler version of the golden rule is "be kind." Yet the practical application is where things get complicated. I'll get back to this question when I've worked this one out in my own life.

    to poster Brian Wilkinson - FINALLY - a voice of REASON here! Thank you!!

    Wish Bill Moyers had more smarts to debate with this gargoyle! Google the debate between Armstrong and Robert Spencer. Now THERE is a debate.

    And I would LOVE to here Armstrong's reaction to the MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS of muslims who actually pray for the death of infidels, while thousands carry out those instructions in the Qur'an. Check YouTube out for this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2lhJ3imqLI&feature=channel_page

    and thousands more like it.
    Armstrong is a blight.

    The program with Karen Armstrong was a near perfect distillation of the worst excesses of liberal ideology. More tortuous reasoning would be hard to come upon. Where does one begin to point out the dishonesty and lack of integrity in her rorschach readings of "scripture".. The first thing to say is that her notion of what religion is is not what it is for billions of believers on the planet, the ones who actually believe the truth of their holy books. Please, please search youtube for "Sam Harris". Watch all the talks you can find, consider his message(which he risks his life to give) and then come back to this program and see how it strikes you. I reject the notion that the victims of violence are the ones responsible for it(thinly veiled). I reject the notion that religion is the best teacher of compassion(and is certainly not indispensible to it.) I reject the notion that not people have a right not to be offended. I reject the notion that we must love our enemies.(I don't find this to be a moral teaching. I am not interested in adopting the morality of a Nazi who is roasting a jewish baby on a fire pit. I want to stop him(killing if necessary), and fight the false ideas(unjustified beliefs) about demonic infestation, racial inferiority and a supposed collective guilt that led to the act. Moyers dewey-eyed desire to somehow seperate religious faith from its consequences is not a noble thing, it is denial in the face of empyrical reality. And that desperate clinging to our primitive past is wreaking havoc on morality, every single day.

    Some sites/texts cite three kinds: Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Bhakti Yoga. Some add Raja Yoga. [maybe some reader here could give an opinion on Karma Yoga vs Bhakti Yoga in the context of Karen Armstrong's message]. In Karma Yoga one performs his/her "duties" in an unselfish manner for the pleasure of the Supreme, which is the welfare of the world (see Wikipedia); and for many reasons it seems to make more sense as I get older (for me, as opposed to Jnana).

    Karen Armstrong spoke to so many issues, and on 99.9% of them she was so right on.

    "Why do they hate us?" and "Who is Osama Bin Laden?"...big strides toward answers.

    Our tradition of humiliating those even in our own camp over fine points...covered. [Bill, very astute on the "red thread." Please consider interviewing Rene Girard.]

    Always great IMO to hear a mention of Origen. [he was too close in time to NT events IMO, though, to deny some literalisms, and most of the ones he didn't question...I personally don't question either]

    Armstrong was so heavy on Scopes and Dawkins it was unbelievable. The nail went in with one blow. What she said was so true, I had to go back to the transcript this morning to make sure someone had actually said it.

    The quotes on the American Dream synched in amazingly with Armstrong's message (I related most to Richard Barter's).

    IMO if we persist in worrying over X number of souls getting saved, that's putting an idea above the Great Spirit. If we persist in worrying about Obama not listening to Kuttner and Daly and Klein and, yes, even Nader soon enough (my tendency)...same thing. I'll do all I can to get Obama and Congress to listen, but the freak-out factor I strongly tend to think is not where it's at. There's usually some available act of compassion that would take my mind off...freaking out.

    Quibble #1: Re the Pagels statement Bill quoted, that level of intolerance might not have existed at the extreme grass roots level in India in the relatively recent past. Somebody help me...was it Ramakrishna or Kathleen Raine who mentioned that a remarkable tolerance had existed in India? Or both? [I know, Hinduism had its extremes. But it's been claimed there was a mutual tolerance.]

    Quibble #2: Re the Great Spirit is an "idea" that came from humans, what about that Robin sing'n in the tree by my house in the morning? Did Robins evolve after us?

    PS "Morphed-in" IMO works just as well as "evolved."

    PSS The Robins and squirrels hear the tree falling.

    The Enlightenment of Truth

    I idealize the truth of equality.
    Equality that unites us All and makes All One.
    I realize the absolute truth that All is One, the Universe is One, God is One, as You are One. I see the light, I am the light, and equally or truly so are you.
    I am One.
    How is this Truth So?
    Truth is more simple than thought. It’s in simplicity itself.
    The synonym for 'is' is equal, and mathematically the symbol for equal is simply =.
    Mathematically or empirically, = or equal, as truly is, unites All things. The simple truth lay hidden under our uncertain measures of difference all along. Measure is the uncertainty that divides us All; measure was the flaw. Once the uncertainty of an equation is removed, = or equal is All that remains. Do you have any uncertainty about this equation: God is = equals One? If so, by removing those uncertainties, the judgments or measures, the theories or faiths, equal or = is All that truly remains.
    Equal is the equation is the foundation is the truth itself! Wow!
    Physics finally has a true not theoretical equation for nature, for the Universe, for All: =
    And Einstein came so close with e = mc2. The solution to his unsolved unified field theory was at the very center of his own equation. But the solution is not a theory; it’s the most simple, most beautiful truth of All. Had he known nature was truly and infinitely immeasurable, he would have let go of his uncertainties, simplified his own equation, and found = too. He was right that God is not probable, but a role of the dice certainly is. Science is still rolling dice.
    And religion finally goes beyond the uncertainties of faith too, to the true equity that unites us all. Science unites with mathematics with religion at the point of Truth Equals One. =
    And what of Justice, nothing is more right (not fair as practiced) than equality. There is no grey area in truth.
    Democracy you ask? Ask Jefferson, he knew the truth of equality as well.
    Life without measure is truly One. Equal is the Enlightenment of Truth that will set us free.
    Free at last, free at last, free at last. King knew it too!
    God is One,
    Be One too,

    =
    MJA


    Dear Bill:

    When all is said and done about the topic of religion, I believe that we as a race of human beings on this planet called Earth are missing one very important fact.

    That is that no one on Earth chooses their own religion in the first place. As a child a few weeks old in America I was baptised a christian.

    And I am sure that on that day some child in the far east was being made a member of the Islamic religion by his parents.

    Just as the parents of a family that practices Judaism were delivering their child up to God as a Jew.

    For thousands of years religion has been handed down from one generation to the next. Those born of christian parents are christian. Those born of Isalmic parents are I slamic. And so on. Our parents, grandparents and all of those decendents in our own geneology have passed down their own religon to their own decendents.

    This makes religion more of a regional endeavor other than an ecumenical endeavor. You could say that people are of the religion that they follow simply by where they were born on Earth and who they were born to. That very few people ever choose their own religion for themselves. It is choosen for them.

    Because of this I fail to see the reason for all of the conflict over religion. As if this conflict was also choosen for you by your forebearers on this Planet.

    Until the time comes when all of the people on Earth realize that God started every religion on Earth in the first place.

    And that through religion and religious practices we are all related in the family of faith on Earth. There will never be any peace on Earth.

    If Socrates is still with us (and karma is still focusing on the development of his mental subtle body) IMO it's likely he's interested in what the Integral movement has to say about where our sojourns here are ultimately taking us. Beyond bronze and silver?

    He might be interested in more solidarity in today's "democracies" too...a solidarity on behalf of justice and beyond bronze, silver, gold.

    Dear Mr. Moyers,
    Another wonderful program this week. Thank you for bringing Ms. Armstrong to my attention. Her message is wise and very much needed. I will add her name to my list of "must read" authors.

    Supposed intellectual discussions such as this that contain so many common sense contradictions make my head spin. A common one running through this interview is (to paraphrase from the 60s) the “whatever is real for you, man” nonsense such as Karen Armstrong’s belief (which Bill Moyers also seems infatuated with) that we are “expected to find new meaning in scripture”. If there is no absolute truth revealed to us by an absolute God then obviously we can make up any Golden Rules or other rules we want. So we are left with “absolute truth” being delivered to us by Karen Armstrong and Bill Moyers. As in Karen Armstrong’s insistence that “If you don't like hearing your own traditions traduced [to say very critical or disparaging things about somebody or something] then have the discipline not to traduce the traditions of others.” The lone exception to this “rule" seems to be those of us who believe the Bible and in a God as he is revealed through Jesus Christ, his Son a belief which she and Bill go about traducing the dickens out of. Another troublesome “truth” is Karen Armstrong’s subtle change of the Golden Rule as given to us by Jesus from active/positive to inactive/negative:

    Jesus’ Golden Rule: Matthew 7:12 “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

    Karen Armstrong’s Golden Rule: "every single one of the major world religions has developed its own version of the Golden Rule. Don't do to others what you would not like them to do to you."

    My apologies to Karen Armstrong and Bill Moyers if I have traduced any of the beliefs or traditions that they or anyone else on earth embrace.

    Re Karen Armstrong:
    I was struck thoughout the program of the effect on the discussion of the use of a negative definition of the Golden Rule - that one should not do unto others that which you would not have them do unto you. The definition I have always lived with is a positive version - do unto others what you would have them do unto you.
    To me, the positive version is far more compatible with the idea of compassion, because it implies the active rather than the passive; making an effort to be compassionate rather than merely refraining from hurting, insulting, denigrating or devaluing others. Living under the shadow of a plethora of 'thou shalt nots' eschews the joy of giving, playing, loving, and forgiving.
    Forgiveness, expressed and testified to, is to me active; unexpressed, it contributes to personal peace but is not as powerful or socially constructive.
    I am curious as to how Bill's discussion with Karen might have proceeded if the positive version of the Golden Rule had been used.

    Thank you for continuing to bring ideas and discussion, to us, the public, for which we can contemplate and comment on. Your interview with Ms Armstrong, on such a sensative topic was well delivered and insightful on another view of our world. Reading the comments posted is as interesting as the interview itself. May the spirits of compassion, what ever form they may be, allow you to continue such topic's and discussion.

    Bill, when do you plan on having someone on who defends the bible as it is written?

    As soon as he finds one who isn't a gibbering moron.

    Do you agree with Armstrong that humanity elevates its ideals to idols representing “the supreme reality?” Why or why not?

    Yes indeed. This is a wonderful elucidation of our core cultural problem. It pertains not only to religious competition, but also economic, political ,social, and every other area of life. One of the most interesting explanations of the need to idolize and then compete with other's idols is given by Scottish author, Benjamin Creme in his 2008 Tokyo lecture, "The Time of Change has Come". See
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djXiEW5P38Y

    Creme explains that we live in a transitional period between the values of two major astronomical periods, the Age of Pisces and the Age of Aquarius. The qualities of these two ages are "at war". The cultural structures, which are now collapsing, of the past Piscean Age are built on the ideals of indiviuality and competition, and those are sadly materialistically expressed. Those of the new Age of Aquarius will be built on the new values of cooperation, synthesis, and the greater good over strictly individual benefit. Our political polarization is a good example of this relatively temporary crisis.

    The problem will be how to move forward into these progressive values without destroying our planet and ourselves in the process. Creme speaks of a great spiritual Teacher, whose stature is that of the Buddha, and who fulfills the role of the Teacher expected by all traditions, religious and non-religious. This Teacher has come, as has a great Teacher come at the beginning of every Age (2000 or so year period) to lay down the principles by which humanity may rebuild the world according to the new energies...in this case, those of Aquarius. There is a new luminary in the heavens, a "star" increasingly seen all over the world, night and day, which heralds His emergence and first interview on a major US television program. He will appear as one of us, a simple man but with profound ideas for the future, if we will accept that we must share Earth's resources so that all may have the basic necessities of life: nourishing food, adequate shelter, healthcare and all the education needed. Reports of the star can be seen at:
    http://www.share-international.org.

    Q: Have well-intentioned values, like compassion and intercultural understanding, themselves become idols? Explain.

    Yes, when they are expressions of ideologies instead of practical experience. We speak of "the poor" , for example, as if they were just numbers.
    We have built exclusive groups (social/political/artistic/religious etc.)
    on our differences and, standing within our own group, we peer out at "others" without ever personally experiencing or participating in their situations.

    Q: How do you balance compassion and empathy for others’ experience with working towards your core beliefs?

    Dialogue with honesty, sincerity, detachment We all have something to contribute to human experience. The richer, more diverse the input to the pool of that experience, the more we will recognize our common needs, common goals...our oneness so to speak. When we can experience that, and are willing to rebuild the world based on that experience, we will open the floodgates of creativity and joy, and nothing will be impossible. No one will be left out. Life will resume its satisfying and spiritually nourishing purpose.

    Dear Bill:

    One of my favorite sayings is that you will never get any five people on Earth to agree about anything that concerns religion.

    And in watching this program a few items have come up that I disagree with. One is the attack on the Pope. That he is and maybe should not be the keeper of the purse and control of the religious doctrine taught in the Catholic religion throughout the world.

    The Pope as the leader of the Catholic religion on Earth is the one man of religion that all six billion people on Earth can see. If I say to you who is the number two or number three priest in the vatican, I am sure no one knows.

    And yet, everyone has an opinion on the Pope. The fact that the Catholic religion has endured and survived on this planet for almost 2,000 years speaks for itself. The bible is the oldest and most published book in the world. And I feel that anything that promotes religion is okay, no matter how much people disagree with the methods used to do it.

    As far as the topic of God. The only thing God ever did on Earth was to promote the idea of religion and worship to him, Nothing more and nothing less.

    On the topic of Islam. the amount of violence used during the 1900's and 2000's clearly shows it is a religion out of control. It is no longer the religion Mohammed started for Allah. And it show be viewed as suspect. As a religios mistake and experiment in life on Earth that has run out of it on doctrine. It is a religion that is disfunctional and out of step with modern times. And should always be viewed as such.

    wtp

    am interested in thr further explanation (further explanations on req. hate these tiny spaces-send me a direct address")Here is the e-mail address: zakiyahasna@comcast.net

    Thanks

    request to wtp;
    am very interested in the further explanation (Persian religious text rewritten to add a day of Holy Revelry to the calender, as the Festival of the Flash was allowed before Lent.(paralleled in other faiths too). It is not the Jewish Bible, the 'Old Testament' in any way, ("further explanations on req. hate these tiny spaces-send me a direct address")")here is the e-mail zakiyahasna@comcast.net

    Thank you

    Karen Armstsrong opened a deeper meaning about the other and largest God worshiping people of our planet. I was raised Catholic, yet I found Jesus in Las Vegas, NV, USA. I found charity that God is talking about, when a God-child/woman gave me 2 pieces of chicken parts so I'll can eat. Presently, I invite all people to my flat so they can eat. I strongly agree with Karen Armstrong's basic and proven truth to all mankind in a span of 2,000 yrs. plus: "do unto others as you would like others to do unto you.
    The Bible or the Koran are full of stories ... and loaded with wonderful gems (of choice) to guide earthlings in their respective journey. But, LOVE is the only human gift from the Almighty that will last to the end.

    Bill, thank you so for guesting Karen Armstrong. How encouraging!
    Would like to suggest jim guilfoil watch it again.

    Genesis tells us that God gave Dominion over the Word into Matter to One; which became Two and Fell with the Two. Reading "Comments" reaffirms my belief that Truth can only work in a % in Matter.

    While Karen Armstrong was cherry-picking religions to reinforce her conceit, she made a mess of Christianity, and by extension, Judaism. Obviously, she has never seen Jesus Christ, i.e., He has never revealed Himself to her. Mohammed is as dead now as the day he died centuries ago. Jesus is alive and seated at the right hand of God. The astounding miracles that Jesus performed proved that God was with him (Mohammed performed none); the resurrection of Jesus proves that He is now with God. Karen Armstrong cuts a sad figure who, thinking herself wise, prattles twaddle while stumbling down the increasingly dark road to eternal perdition. Choosing that path for oneself leads to the grave. Leading others down that path leads to eternal punishings.

    The golden rule begs the question of the 'self' which rules. Socrates distinguished the golden self from the silver and bronze and argued that the bronze self needed guardians to order his actions. The military self is not ordered by 'compassion' but by 'death before dishonor(Achilles).
    The mercantile self is ordered by profit and not by 'empathy' in Adam Smiths sense.
    Karen Armstrong needs to show how 'compassion' will overcome the warrior or mercantile self image of dedication to honor or profit.
    On the battlefield or market place compassion is to see the other as another self and expect 'caveat emptor' or 'kill or be killed'.
    Why should a public morality trump the strong vs the weak morality?

    I also happen to be a long time fan of Karen Armstrong, having read a number of her books. I see the relevance of what she said resonating throughout these postings. I find it fascinating the diversity of perspectives and the strong feelings this interview provoked. I am very encouraged by those who are motivated to take a step back and look at how they are looking at things. In my view, doctrinaire certainty while comforting can short circuit what needs to be a continual searching for deeper truths. For some such a search may ground them more fully in their outlooks and, hopefully, give them a confidence that makes it unnecessary for them to make other people "wrong." For others, it will lead to fresh and widened perspectives that deepen their sense of their own and others' humanity. Either way, such a search is necessary if we are to behave with more and more effective compassion.

    In the essential article "Fighting Terrorism by Understanding Man's Capacity for Evil," available at www.zimbardo.com, Stanford psychology professor Philip Zimbardo underscores the continued need for compassion as a national character trait following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
    The article is prophetic in pointing out that the work of "our intelligence and military forces has the collateral danger of modeling revenge and retaliation at a national level that can become a stimulus for individuals to adopt a similar orientation. [This] fuels the cycle of violence started by the terrorists," accelerating fear and anger, aggression and intolerance.
    Zimbardo cautioned us that regarding a terrorist attack as "'senseless,' 'mindless,' 'insane,' or the work of 'madmen' is wrong [because] it fails to adopt the perspective of the perpetrators, as an act with a clearly defined purpose that we must understand in order to challenge it most effectively." Interestingly, at that same time, our president seemed to dismiss this instruction when he said, "We will have no compassion for our enemies."
    Understanding compassion, as the ability to "feel as the other," can be aided with an understanding of attribution theory, as developed by Gustav Ichheiser and Fritz Heider, expanded by Edward Jones and Keith Davis, Harold Kelley, Bernard Weiner, and their research collaborators and assistants, and brought to the public mind by authors and teachers of social psychology. In seeking to understand the behavior of others, which helps us achieve a view of them and the greater world that is consistent, we consider causal factors that are from their disposition and from their situation, remembering, too, that some of these factors we as the observer do impact.
    With compassion, we can fulfill the command as found in Hebrew scripture (Leviticus 19 v.17-18), and repeated in Christian scripture, to love our neighbors as ourselves.
    This program was enlightening. I'm encouraged. Thank you.

    Bill, It is in answer to your question "Who made God?"--that philosophical resolution may reside; that the means to understand and release an inherent compassionate nature may exist. Some new food for thought on this matter exists, but is impossible to explain in a brief note. Thoughts on this and other complex issues can be found in a book "The Long Overdue Letter." The ideas are so new, they may need to be digested slowly. In essence the work states the reason we ask such questions is because mankind is not in its right mind! Our reality traces to isolated primitive ancestors who functioned at an entirely physiological level. The body automatically takes a picture of the environment, and delivers it to the person; and we copy what we see. The view would have been of objects that begin and end; thus failing to abandon this foundation; to this day, even though physicists have proven objects are not as they appear; it remains the range of human mentality, it is the encapsulation of thought in this physical perspective that gives us a picture of isolation from the whole of reality. The view also would have been of predatory activity. Discussion in the book surrounds reasons to believe this intermittent motion that overpowers the normal state and brings things to an end was not part of our original environment. Suggestion is given that it was because of this physical focus, God appeared in the physical form of Jesus to direct our vision away from the environment to a place deep within personal thought. The activity and parables of Jesus awakened an insight; a pure conscious sense of 'fairness'; which is our true inherent mindset; and once this personal worth, was released from oppressive social conditions; an awesome progress followed; suggesting a REAL person is not a body; but an everlasting unlimited conscious energy; and herein exists our only likeness to God. Explanation is given that conscious dissociation from each other, and God separates us from reality; as it was our ability to come together in thought; that brought environmental truths into view; which could be related to the Biblical story relative to the vine. Credit is given to all major religions for directing vision to this common place deep in thought, but most especially credits Jesus for guiding us toward personal freedom from the mind of physical images; our direction toward exercise of compassion and social peace did not come down from human authority; but flowed out from the heart of the people; from this inner mindset; from personal convictions.

    I am amazed that you can speak of the Golden Rule, war, and colonialism in the same breath and not include Native Americans. You cannot see what you do not acknowledge. Lincoln may have emancipated the slaves, but he instituted a policy of extermination and concentration of Native Americans and foreclosed on their land. Swapping one racism for another does nothing to end racism, even as swapping the war in Iraq for the war in Afghanistan will not end the conflict with the Arab world.

    Lincoln used Sherman and his total warfare strategy to defeat the South. Then he sent Sherman west to do the same and instituted a policy of extermination and concentration of Native Americans. Heintz Guderian via Liddell Hart picked up on this strategy and renamed it blitzkrieg. Substitute Jews for Native Americans and you have Hitler and World War II. Total warfare, concentration, extermination, and confiscation -- objectively speaking Lincoln was the father of Nazism. Blocks of 640 acres were take from one people and given to another based solely on the color of their skin, and Obama has praised this. Actually, much of America approved what Hitler did until those Native American surrogates, the Japanese, got into the war.

    The Golden Rule as found in the New Testament is much more oriented toward karma. It reads more like “Even as you do to others, so it will be done to you.” You take Native Americans homes and livelihood, and yours will be taken. You destroy their economy, and yours will be destroyed. You destroy their environment, and yours will be destroyed. You make a racial war on brown people, and they (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq) will make war on you. I see our inability to win these wars and our national economic distress as an indication that we have reached our karmic limit, and our karma is contracting. Karma is multidimensional. Whenever you solve one problem, it gives you a related one to see if you understood it. America elected Obama, but racism against Native Americans goes unabated. To advocate compassion for and putting yourself in the shoes of Muslims without a thought of doing the same for the people whose continent you took does not ring true. How can you speak of respect for other religions but make no attempt at understanding the Native American one. Compassion and Golden Rule ring hollow until you have the willingness to look at the beam in your own eye.

    Dear Bill,
    Jesus made it very clear that unless a man is born of water and spirit he can not enter the Kingdom of God. Those outside of the KOG are not able to understand the things of God. Every one is invited to come to Jesus but you refuse to come because your deeds are evil. You hate the light but if you repent and turn from your sins God will receive you.
    The Kingdom of God is at hand so repent. Why? Because God is wonderful and he loves you more than we can understand he loves you more and wants only good for you. To know Jesus is live eternal. Call on him today.

    Once I was lost but now I am his child
    Brother Jim

    Bill,
    In her quote, Armstrong calls Christianity a monotheistic religion when it's actually trinitarian. I suppose it's only natural to sacrifice one's own tradition in an effort to embrace others, but to minimize differences in an attempt to establish common ground is taking a short cut to tolerance-- it neither promotes understanding nor require real respect.


    Bill, your stuck in the sixties. I can't believe people buy into your communist ideals. Just shows how debased we've become as a nation by drinking in the kool-aid you in the corporate controlled media force down our throats daily. Too bad the mindless zombies lap up your insane drivel.

    Bill, your an intellectual fool. All of your guests, Ms. Armstrong as example, belong in a padded cell away from normal society.

    Your so called program isn't ballanced. Just more crazy anti-American hippies living in the past with their drug induced utopian fabtasy world. What an utter joke you in the media are.

    It's amazing to see the diversity of views whenever the public comments on Ms. Armstrong. There's invariably more unrest and dissent than praise, which is understandable (though unfair) since she covers the most sacred issues known to humankind. In a way she serves as a kind of Rorschach test representing the broadly conflicted state of spirituality in America. Obama's difficulties with the Rev. Wright, the perpetually unresolved issues of abortion rights, prayer in school, stem cell research, etc. likewise signify that profound disturbances plague us. And the conflicts have been compounded since 9/11.

    Forty years ago, or so, many felt that America had found a secular equilibrium and that religious allegiances would forever be consigned to the private sphere. But because the secular revolution blindly extended liberties while at the same time indiscriminately delegitimized moral values, millions of individuals lost their way. And consequently, America became cursed with reactive, resurgent Evangelicalism, as well as the Culture Wars and the polarization that divides us into sinners or saints, unforgivably gay or fruitfully heterosexual, sacrilegious or righteous. Welcome to the world of black or white, either/or, good or bad categories where there is rarely a middle ground upon which one can work out civil accommodations. Unfortunately, it's a realm closer in scope to Salem than to Heaven.

    Ms. Armstrong, following the logic of her research, is simply attempting to provide us with, let's say, the GPS signal that will lead us to that common ground. But she's got her hands full. The trip requires saintly moderation. One bellicose recitation about the End Times or Marx's quote about the opium of the people, and, wham, bam, the journey to Golden Rule Village is over. Like the Titanic hitting the ice, everyone will scatter to their dens of certainty, which contain the beloved creation stories, shamanistic rattlers, or atheistic barbs that fortify preexisting biases. Oddly, at that point, individuals otherwise guided by empirical data in their everyday existence -- accountants, dentists, politicians -- will relax their dependency on facts and resort to their deepest unfounded beliefs. "Love is God." "There is no God." "Religion is destructive." "Atheists deserve a wicked death." And so on.

    But where's the proof? There is no empirical proof of God, despite the fact it seems nearly impossible to conceive of the universe self-assembling through fate and chance. Certainly there's no proof in the Bible, anymore than there is proof in the polytheistic creeds of native Americans that there are rain and wind gods. There are indications. There are clever, at times, exceedingly logical arguments. But proof. Nope.

    It should be said that for many citing "the Bible" as proof, the book actually being referred to is the New Testament, not the Hebrew Bible. St. Paul and Christ were Jewish rebels, as were the scribes constructing the New Testament and thus much of their account is in conflict with the Hebrew Bible, as well as with each other -- a fact routinely overlooked by many believers. And since the Bible was written by different authors at different times, as Armstrong brilliantly illustrates, there are grave inconsistencies throughout the book. That doesn't mean you shouldn't believe in these books, but it also means there are sufficient grounds to discredit them from serving as the de facto source for universal human governance. You're entitled to your belief system, but why insist on forcing your beliefs on everyone else? That's essentially what Armstrong is saying.

    Just as believers do not have empirical, indisputable proof, neither do atheists. Simply because religions have been associated with atrocities such as the Crusades and the Inquisition, doesn't mean they are worthless or inevitably evil. And it doesn't mean there isn't a God, or, maybe two, or five, or a board of divine directors. Right now, in the post-Enlightenment world geared for Reason, there isn't enough proof for or against God or any particular religiously determined set of moral values that can be reasonably, unequivocally supported. So why not seize upon the secular kernel -- Compassion -- common among spiritual and religious beliefs and agree upon this most sensible, universal component? Concepts such as understanding, mutual concern, community, unity, could be substituted for compassion since compassion must exist for them to thrive. The point is, establishing mutual respect for other people's pro or anti religious beliefs that aren't grounded by empirical proof.

    Sadly, it's not only this thread that demonstrates how difficult it will be to realize Armstrong's ideal. Just look around. Where are the organs of inquiry in America? Many of them are going out of business. Infotainment rules the land. Other than Bill Moyers and a handful of others, where are the leaders who provide a lengthy forum for philosophical debate? Indeed, much of the current economic tumult is directly related to philosophy. "Free-market" capitalists like Phil Gramm, Greenspan, and other Ayn Rand ideologues, abide by the Enlightenment view of human affairs, especially Adam Smith's Invisible Hand. This perspective is at the heart of the continuing polarization between Republicans and Democrats and yet there's no widely distributed, meaningful debate about it.

    Basically, F. Hutcheson, Hume, Smith, and, subsequently, a chain of pro-capitalist advocates extending down through the Austrian school, have functioned according to the presumption of the impartial observer theory. It's similar to the Golden Rule. Supposedly, strangers have a natural affinity for each other, and therefore because of this natural bond -- which is the Invisible Hand -- freedom and minimally regulated capitalism will work harmoniously.

    Then, if that's so, if the Golden Rule, give or take a few degrees, keeps things in check, then why did bank regulators deceive the public about the ratings of derivatives, particularly Credit Default Swaps that weren't worth the paper they were printed on? Why did Wall Street firms hire physicists to devise arcane "instruments" like CDOs and SIVs that virtually no one clearly understood? And then why did investment firms, which should have had the capacity to realize snake oil when they encountered it, push the stuff on millions of unsuspecting investors, like Iceland? Why? Because there is no Invisible Hand. Because when Glass-Steagall was repealed, the shysters sensed that the unwitting masses were ripe for the picking. Because there is, as Plato insisted, a beastly element within human nature that manifests itself as insatiable greed, fraud, sociopathy, and conspicuous consumption.

    But since philosophy in America is generally treated like a wasted exercise, those discussions get neglected. The notion of the Invisible Hand is perpetuated. The "free-market" exponents, like Bernie Madoff keep pushing their delusions. And the unwitting masses, unenlightened about the matters affecting them the most, keep taking a beating. Regardless of what you may think of Ms. Armstrong's views, her campaign to keep inquiry alive is noble, and illustrative of a compassion for her fellow earthlings.

    All Ms. Armstrong has to do is read the comments here to see the futility in believing some notion of compassion found in every religion can bring peace.
    Clearly half the posters are self-righteous and arrogant believers posting only to assert the superiority of their own sect, their own scared text, and their own interpretation of it.
    Our founding fathers had it right – a secular state where every man is equal and no religion can rule over another.
    It really doesn’t matter if we like, love or respect each other; we just need to respect each other’s rights.
    Fundamentalists and ideologues can’t abide that thought, and there will always be a struggle between them and people of reason.

    Bill;
    I would like to associate myself with the remarks of P.A. Moye and add my personal thanks for your entire body of work.

    Bill;
    I would like to associate myself with the remarks of P.A. Moye and add my personal thanks for your entire body of work.

    Well, Karen Armstrong, who has certainly long since shaken free of any and all vows she made as a nun that "We believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth" has certainly turned the definition of idolatry on its head! The "New World Religion" she is certainly working to "emerge" is a very strange one indeed. It appears that in Karen Armstrong and the Alliance of Civilization's New Religious Order, one indeed is allowed to have a 'religion.' One, however, is not allowed to believe it true. One must, in Karen Armstrong's newest universe say "blessed by THY God, rather than 'blessed by MY God." She calls this "compassion"? I call what she proposes nothing less than 'religious rape' of souls. While people must remember that a central monotheist religious concept is "thou shalt not kill," they must also not forget, "thou shalt have no other gods before me." As Karen Armstrong utterly rejects and despises Book of Revelation warnings, obviously she is unmoved by the Scriptural warnings of a time she obviously seeks to advance: FEAR GOD AND GIVE GLORY TO HIM FOR THE HOUR OF HIS JUDGMENT IS COME -- WORSHIP GOD WHO CREATED THE HEAVEN, THE EARTH, THE SEAS AND THE FOUNTAINS OF WATERS." Karen Armstrong would have us worship everything and everybody but our Creator -- and dare to call us uncompassionate if we exercise our conscience in this regard. May God have mercy on her poor apostate soul!

    CONSTANCE E. CUMBEY

    Mr. Moyers - Thank you so Very Much for your continuing exploration into "What it means to be Human?"

    Does not this question underlie your entire career?

    I have been blessed by the journey, through Campbell/Myths, Aspen series, Amazing Grace, and Journal. Whether you have felt it or not, you have been, and continue to be, a Blessing.

    "THANK YOU" doesn't begin to cover my gratitude.

    Fascinating conversation. Thank you for having Karen Armstrong as a guest. I hope we will see more of her as we did Mr. Campbell years ago.

    I offer for your consideration that the controlling elements of society rather than humanity at large creates idols our of greed, gullibility, and the inability to conceive or hold two or more contradictory or opposing thoughts at the same time. They then manage communication (books and publications), control information (sermons and classes), and use politics (favors and promises) and coercion (punishment and isolation) to persuade others to believe, agree, or buy in to their idols.

    This is perhaps especially so in the Abrahamic religions. Not surprising as Abraham heard 'God's voice' (schizophrenic?) telling him what to do. He followed instructions (almost sacrificing his own son) and left his homeland (isolation) to father the twelve tribes. Abraham created an idol he called God instead of heeding the teachings of his homeland's prophet, Zoroaster, who encouraged the use of free will to pursue good thoughts, good words and good deeds (compassion?) in pursuit of truth (wisdom) within a world dictated by order and chaos, equal but opposite divinities, under the rule of time, the almighty that is without beginning or end.

    Many years ago, after working within a dozen countries and studying their cultures and religions, I was unable to reconcile many existential questions with my extensive scientific knowledge. Finally, I turned the word GOD into an acronym for Grand Omnipotent Dictator, effectively purging it of multiple layers of confusion and refining it to fit both ancient religions and modern science quite well. This self-excommunication from the culturally bound concept of God that I learned as a boy provided me with balance which stirred empathy in me for the experience of others as I continue to pursue universal truths and my own spiritual growth.

    My Goodness, Mr. Baum - Where to begin?

    Of course, the human concept of religion has often been a plaque. But, Many, many of our laws are based upon the Judeo-Christian ethic. What would the status of our heathcare be without the church-based hospitals? As Ms. Armstrong pointed out, before the "Scopes Monkey Trial", most "Christian fundamentalists" were partners, hand-in-hand, with the social activists that promoted labor reforms, unions, half-way houses, homes for "unwed mothers, and a myriad of other "progressive" movements.

    Prior to that US history, it was the Irish monks who preserved the vast majority of the greatest works of human literature, from the Egyptians to the Greeks to the Romans. It was Christian missionaries who first battled leprosy and sent other medical personnel into Africa.

    You must not succumb to the often one-sided propoganda against religion. Propoganda, region-based or not, is just most often based in some political agenda.

    "Idolatry" is "Idolatry". It need not have a God-basis.

    Ms. Armstrong had some interesting things to say, however, I think what she called the "Golden Rule" - "Don't do to others what you would not want for others to do to you" is actually the "Silver Rule" more closely associated with the Eastern tradition of Buddhism. This is a negative concept - it does not require the adherent to do anything, just not do anything that would hurt others.

    The "Golden Rule" is stated by Jesus Christ - "Do unto others as you would that they do unto you" or as C. S. Lewis paraphrased, "Do as you would be done by". This is a positive teaching that requires action, not inaction. Jesus illustrates this concept with the story of the good Samaritan. The priest and the Levite in the story did not violate the "Silver Rule" for they did not do anything to the poor man who fell victim to robbers, but neither did they do anything for him. The Samaritan in the story went out of his way to help.

    I grew up in the Eastern tradition and was converted to Christianity because of this positive and proactive aspect. Even today, most charities world wide is done in the name of Jesus Christ. A good Buddhist will not intentionally hurt someone else, but neither is he compelled to sacrifice to help a stranger. Jesus teaches that not doing harm is not enough. He demands his disciples to go to the whole world to spread the good news and to do good - even if that means personal sacrifice.

    Bill, have you forgotten your friend Joseph Campbell? He talked about Hinduism being a religion that accepts all other religions as valid, part of the larger truth. (You said you knew of no regligion that did.) It all seems like you are trying to reinvent the wheel: Buddhism has some terrific notions on Compassion and you are not even looking at what has long been worked out. I'm not a follower of the Dalai Lama but he's terrific on the subject. As for Ms Armstrong. I really enjoy her writings but am flumuxed when she says things ignoring the religions of the East. Hinduism became a monotheistic religion with the acceptance of the Upanishads and has no problem dealing with a million devas (incorrectly translated as Gods). Go to Southern India and you will find Christians, Muslims, Hinduism and more than a few Buddhists praying at each others' shrines. I despair when I saw the blind scholars huff stiff with their pens over a page on compassion. Go to India and you will find millions who take it very seriously.

    I am very impressed with Karen Armstrong.
    Bill Moyers is always exceptional.
    I have studied all of the Major Religions and agree that it all boils down to not having to say you are sorry. Sages and prophets are all about understanding life and doing what is right for the situation. Unfortunately, we all fall short of the glory of God and need compassion. Nature is not always kind and we all have to struggle to make our way in this world. There are many lights in the darkness and we need to find the right guidance for our lives and respect the lives of others.
    There is no "Supreme reality". There is only the reality of the moment. Religious books are written by people and contain important concepts but all concepts must be consistent with reality. Reality is in a constant state of change which means that truth is only consistent in a particular instance.
    The truth is that we need good information in order to make good decisions. Every moment is an essential reality that we need to deal with and any help we can get is important.
    There is a universal source of strength and understanding that abides within us that we need to acknowledge. Intelligence is a universal phenomenon that exists in all things and provides the continuity and meaningfulness of existence.

    Can you tell me how or when religon has ever had a positive impact on Humanity as a whole?
    Also if you have to have a God to explain the existance of the cosmos or life, what do you have to have to explain the existance of the God? A super God? Something had to begin someplace, sometime, in a very simple way. Science tells us that the simplest answer is often the right one. We know there is life here on earth, and we know that it started out simply. Do we really need to look for a more complex answer?
    Dan Baum

    I am struck by how many vehement statements, misunderstandings,? - (did Karen Armstrong REALLY come across to some as "intolerant of unbeleivers" as someone suggested??) - assertions of truth and passionate opinions poured out in response to this discussion. It seemed the main point was simply about trying to get into the place of someone who is different from, disagrees with, or even passionately dislikes you - ie to feel WITH them in trying to understand THEIR reality......not to agree or disagree or to be right or wrong. How hard this is for us! How difficult to temporarily step out of wanting to defend our own beliefs and prejudices, which - if we can't put aside just for a minute - we end up looking through, as if through dark glasses which distort what we see in the other....or think they said, or beleive...I know I am as guilty as anyone, clearly, in my urge to "correct" some of the "misconceptions" and blind assumptions about others who are different that I noticed in some responses. Thankyou Karen! Thankyou Bill.

    I have never met an idea that doesn't want to convert itself into power. This is a blessing and a curse for us humans, the ultimate meme machines. When the pure ideal of compassion rises to the level of idol, there you can find God.

    Ronald -
    Are you suggesting that the Bible is the "only" way to know God? Why then does St. Paul say that all of Creation proclaims His existence?

    I think, for most people compassion (feeling as if one were another)is to some degree impossible. To try to understand, yes, Ms. Armstrong's many examples indicate the possibility. But we are not only thinking creatures, we are chemical organisms, with autonomic systems. And one can practice the "Golden Rule" without compassion. It is, after all, a call to action, to behavior not to feeling. In that it is practical, even self-serving advice. And with that too is its basic ethics and morality, which I believe are logical (reality-based) awareness.

    Humans have to reconcile continually their dual nature of social and individual. Fluxuation demands one against the other.

    As to religion, general or specific, and Ms.Armstrong's characterization of much as idolatry, I'll stick that into the mixer -- food for thought. But she comes up with the need for compassion. I settled on the notion of Reverence as an internal not external requirement to get along with the world and others. It should fit with religionists of any pursuasion. From what I know, most people and peoples value it. Whether for creation or, as it were, God's Creation, there is a place for it in personal beliefs/attitudes.

    Also as to religion, I have observed that many religious fundamentalists today, especially the monotheistic ones, are by their own dogma, blaspheming their putative Gods. When Pat Robertson claims to know what God thinks, says or would say, is he not taking God's name in vain? (I may be wrong about Muslims. Do they reject taking God's name in vain?)

    Dear Mr Moyers
    I sat fasinated thoughout the entire interview with Ms Armstrong. I find it refreshing to hear someone advocating the use of spiritual teachings instead of talking about them. Her knowlege on the interelationship of religions and historical settings, filled gaps in my understanding of Islam and Christianity. Yet I have always known that, love and compassion in the end, are the only thing that matter

    Hello! Bill,

    I found your interview with Karen Armstrong intellectually stimulating. However, respectfully, it is clear that she is a biblical scholar who knows nothing about the Bible from a spiritual point of view. Her comments were meant to promote her "bible" and doctrine. I do agree with her goals, because everything she advocates is in the Bible.

    For a person to understand the Bible, Jesus tells us that the person has to be born again. If the person is not a born-again believer, He said that His teachings would be mysteries to the person.

    Ms. Armstrong suggests practicality. It is most certainly part of the solution, but not everything. Doctrine comes before practicality. In fact, in Christianity, we are commanded to apply Jesus' doctrine in our lives. He lived out His doctrine throughout His ministry (practicality) while He was here on earth. We should not ascribe inadequacy to His doctrine because many Christians fail to live it out in their lives. These are two different issues.

    I would like to know what and how much Ms. Armstrong is willing to give up, or to do to realize the transformation she would like to see. Until I know the answers to these implicit questions, I wouldn’t know if her proposal is an intellectual exercise or her belief system.

    Ms. Armstrong spoke about the Bible being replete with contradictions. Anytime we do not have instant answers or we are less than omniscient, the Bible would most definitely appear to us to be rife with contradictions.

    Did Ms. Armstrong contradict herself? I ask this question because she said that a person cannot know God from reading the Bible, and you mentioned that she has written a new book: "A Case for God." This title suggests that she is saying that people should believe in the elusive God of the Bible.

    If she could not find or understand the God in the Bible, how could she make an argument for or against Him? I would also like to know the answer for this question.

    Thanks for the engaging interview; it stirred up my thinking and made me love God more.

    1. Do you agree with Armstrong that humanity elevates its ideals to idols representing “the supreme reality?” Why or why not?


    Yes, often. The “supreme reality” is unknowable. It is too large for us to understand completely. Doubt must therefore be inherent in any view we have of the world (or other-worldly matters) which view always necessarily occurs on an “as I see it” basis. When we mistake our individual perceptions, aspirations, etc. for the supreme reality, we must remember that we are only creating an ideal (and maybe an idol) in our minds. The “little” realities we create are necessary for our ongoing sanity, but should never be mistaken for the ultimate reality, because our conception may or may not be correct on any given piece of the ultimate reality, let alone its entirety.


    2. Have well-intentioned values, like compassion and intercultural understanding, themselves become idols? Explain.


    In some cases, yes, but ideally, no. As somewhat noted by your guest, compassion is not a feeling; it is an action. When compassion is experienced as a feeling only and is not translated into the banal, day-to-day action that it can be, it may well become an idol (with its fantasy component) only. When it is lived on a moment-to-moment basis it is, paradoxically, the time when it may “become all it can be.”


    3. How do you balance compassion and empathy for others’ experience with working towards your core beliefs?


    Compassion and empathy are the core tenets of Buddhism, therefore, it coincides with my core beliefs.


    One note on some “jargon” Armstrong used during her interview.


    I guess it could be considered a matter of semantics.


    Ego.


    The goal of compassion should not be understood to be the annihilation of the ego self. The ego self, as defined by psychology, is the external self which interacts with the world. To become ego-less would render a human mind psychotic. If one has no exterior sense of self, one cannot engage with the world in what most of us would think of as a meaningful way.


    The goal of Buddhism is to explore, know, and then accept all aspects of self and non-self (everything that is not yourself) including the ego.


    Only by gaining a true understanding of self (including the ego-self), with compassion as the core guiding principle, can one begin to contemplate and attempt to understand the ultimate reality.


    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is the core of compassion and I am glad to hear that it is a central tenet of the philosophical side of other religions.


    You go girl! (Ms Armstrong)

    Of course our "ideals" can, and do, become idols. Afterall, "ideals" are just our "ideas-on-steroids" in our minds. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as steroids do have therapeutic and palliative benefits. However, when the element of ego is introduced into the equation, you can get "steroid-rage." I think that it's at the rage-stage that idolatry begins and reaches full-flower in it addiction.

    Afterall, steroid-addiction, as with all other addictions, is self-righteous and self-fulfilling in its interpretation of its circumstances. The foam-mouthed fundamentalist of any stripe views every word, every deed, every motivation through the hyper-critical lens of the "steroid-ideal." (Or, as we say in the South, if you think of yourself as a hammer, then the whole world is just nails.) Our ideals, blended with our egos/our pride, is the zealot's/steroid-raging addict's idol, and everthing must and will be sacrificed to it.

    P.A. Moye
    Texas

    Wonderful discussion. I spent most of it feeling I was being slapped upside my head with "OMG moments" of recognizing my failings.

    Mr Moyers I was 1st introduced to you in your Joesph Cambell interviews 20 years ago. I have never stopped pondering those issues. Because the subject of God and compassion has not evolved since then. I have one humble criticisim of your interview, which would have anticipated Mrs Armstrongs point. When you asked Dr. Cambell about death and purpose in life he answered that he was wearing his "Death clothing" that life has no meaning and Death was simply a phase to prepare for and accept. I was hoping as a man of faith, that after unraveling religion and its icons to myth an fable that you would have him define compassion an tolerance without faith or humanism. Because ultimately compassion, tolerance and empathy are all based on personal sacrifice for the greater good. Without "Ideals" ,man made or spiritual then what is our inspiration to combat the animal feelings of self persevation. But unfortunately he passed away shortly after.

    Thank you for your excellent thought provoking Journal. Your conversation with Karen Armstrong was awesome. It reminded me of a book, "A Sufi's Ruminations on One World Under God" by an almost unknown author John Ishvaradas Abdallah (available through Amazon.com), which talks about how love of God and love of neighbor may be translated into compassion and social justice. You should get him on your Journal.
    Keep up the good work and thank you again.

    Hi Bill,
    I watch your show with my godfather once in a while; I always like listening to your guests.
    I came on here not knowing what to expect and from what I've read I wished I did not come on to read.

    I don't know how Karen's message can get through when it seemed some of your viewers of this show didn’t understand or care for the message (for fairness-myself included). I think this world is just so bogged down and retarded that trying to subscribe to such a "strange" view of “compassion” sounds awfully distant.

    I’m not saying I’m innocent here; and I was hoping to read more people saying the same.

    I wanted to write in response to all the people I disagreed with, but kept erasing due to my inability to address correctly and intellectually.

    I agree with Karen in pretty much all her points. If more people subscribed to the notion of the golden rule, I believe that we would have a more respectful and advanced society and world.
    Sadly, I don’t see that happening EVER!
    There are too many people who have strong wills and beliefs on what the world should look like, too many powers wanting control, too many ideals fueled by them so called “sacred texts”.

    People who wield sacred texts as a means to put down people or tell people what to believe, think do, act and so forth are simply too vast, too many and plain and simply retarded.
    Retarded because they cause so much violence passive or otherwise and it seems to some degree there is no way out of that as they feel they need to convert others or “spread the word”.
    To me the good the sacred texts do is trumped by all the bad it does.

    Here is the thing, I did not need a book to tell me how to feel for my fellow man, I did not need a text to tell me that killing is wrong, that making someone feel bad is a good thing; I also try to exercise respect for all, until they hurt me or see them(or a group) hurting others. Of course I’m not out there preaching to them or trying to hurt them, but I do get angry at them if that counts for anything. All in all it does not.

    To make this point short I would say that it all boils down to love.
    Love of self and neighbor.
    I fear though, that people don’t know what that means. Maybe if you can get them to know what love is, maybe it would help?
    *sigh* I dislike the world more and more.

    "For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching,(that comes from God's Word the Bible) but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled"
    2 TIMOTHY 4:3

     "In reply he said: “Every plant that my heavenly Father did not plant will be uprooted.  LET them be. Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
    Matthew 15:13,14

    Nothing more need be said !


    To be completely "Transparent" I admit to being a huge fan of both Bill Moyers and Karen Armstrong. His programs have all been enlightening and a breath of clean air in a very polluted environment. Her books are similarly enlightened and are works to savor over & over.Like many I was raised and worked in a particular religious environment. I wanted to believe in this religions tenets but after being disappointed & disillusioned time and time again, I decided to abandon organized religion and search for God or whatever on my own. As I am nearing 70, I want to believe in both God and the "afterlife". However it is difficult to do so reasonably. In reading comments I am mystified to see that the Bible is considered the "absolute word of God". If that is so, God is a sloppy writer. In the new tstament none of the four gospels agree on exactly what Jesus said or did. In the old testament "god" devotes and entire book to "How to worship me" It is the humanity of both God and Jesus that strikes many who read this book without prejudice. At any rate, I am eager to join and try to live Ms. Armstrong's Compassionate Crusade. Thank both Ms. Armstrong and Mr. Moyers for their program. "The Jourmal" is one of the main reason I support PBS>

    I am growing weary my Children I see - killing others in front of me. The world I have given, each other too, to Love one another, but killing you do. The lifes you take are not yours alone, stop killng each other in my name sake. For I can not bear my Children to see, killing each other in front of me.
    You think I don't know, nor that I exist, yet I ask that you stop killing, please cease & desist.
    The Gift of Live I gave to each one of you, your Life is my Gift, I tell you it's true. Stop killing each other or soon it may be yourself, whose life it is - to be taken from you.
    My Children I Love you so, and I need your love too. Stop killing each other if only for one day, and do it now, or the tears of yor God will come raining down. Each of you know the love inside for the Children you have - they are your pride. So it is with me Children of Mine stop killing each other for your God is crying. I tell ahead so you now know, what you do to others, you will reap what you sow.

    Why is it that reference to sacred essence, i.e., G-d, assumes a male?

    Has the time sprial advanced enough to allow Sophia a place on the stage again ? I think this part of the essence is long overdue.

    Ms Karen Armstrong claimed that in 1935 Shah of Iran killed hundereds of people!!!!
    Please provide the source or appologize.

    I listened to Ms Armstrong's points and though I find her erudite, I must ask a few crucial questions:

    1. how compassionate is any one of these Abrahamic faiths toward gay people? where is the golden rule EVER applied to them?

    2. how compassionate is it to look upon women as lesser creatures--as MOST of these religions postulate---and treat them as beings undeserving of encouragement in the development of their talents?

    3. why should creationism be given an equal platform to natural selection in the SCIENCE education of young people?

    ALL these questions were spinning in my head even as I listened to Ms Armstrong arrogantly go on about unbelievers--no place for them in this "charter of 'compassion'"


    I am a woman: I do not stand for appeasement with any form of oppression, and more often than not, religion, all of them, have been agents of repression, oppression having destroyed countless lives with their archaic and brutal mentality--Inquisition, anybody?

    Religion is not love, love is not religion.

    Compassion is a fine and noble aim, and I do believe that there is a need to stop and understand how others live think and see the world DIFFERENTLY... but JUSTICE should be the means by which it is achieved....

    NEVER via religion.

    where have you been all my life!for my heart has cried out with,the hunger to meet someone who speaks to my inner being.the sheer existance of the soul depends on this thing,(compassion!)as a mother or five.for the last twenty-two yrs.i have the children of disfunctional societies,(my own included!)have produced more disfunctional existances for more people!!!which troubles me more than anything.for if you would do this to the people you suposedly love.why,in any deaties name.would you have the compassion to extend your conciousness to any other beings existance???i want to be your deciple, ms.armstrong,please contact me and impower a soul-mate to help us carry-on this great rejuvination of the inner child in all of us!!!

    I can't answer the first two questions posed on this page, but number 3. "How do you balance compassion and empathy for others’ experience with working towards your core beliefs?" is based on the premise that these things are in conflict. Check out this story on NOVA for how we are hard-wired for empathy as a possible survival mechanism. Makes sense for a social animal like us:
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/3204/01.html

    Almost all the people I know who have openly declared a belief in any of the three Abrahamic religions have all been to some degree crazy. Insistence upon literal interpretations of the Bible, homophobia, sexism, intolerance, self-directed hate, tendencies toward mixing religion and politics-it all seems like insanity to me.

    When I look at Muslims, I see 9/11 and burkas. When I look at Christians, I see abortion clinic bombings and attempts to hurt gay people. When I look at Jewish people, I see Gaza and Palestine.

    Karen Armstrong is something new to me. I'm not used to hearing a christian talk about tolerance and compassion in a non-condescending way.

    I have never trusted the 'big three' religions-I am suspending judgment on eastern religions because I don't know enough about them to trust or distrust them yet. Perhaps this might change some day if I meet someone like Karen Armstrong, who is more concerned about whether religion drives the believer to do compassionate acts than to judge and condemn everyone or to declare belief in some crazy story about burning bushes or talking snakes. And proselytizing makes little sense to me either-if you're that confident that you are correct in your beliefs, why should you care if anyone else agrees with you or not? It seems awfully insecure to act like everyone has to think like you do for you to be comfortable.

    I'm still not sure if I will ever trust Western religion. It makes me think of Bush and Bin Laden, who both did horrible things in the names of their gods. But Armstrong gives me reason not to dismiss everyone outright.

    Mr. Moyers,
    Do for us now what you did for us in 1986 with Joseph Campbell. Interview and feature the works of Ken Wilber on The Journal. There has been no clearer thinker or more articulate spokesman for the reconciliation of science and religion as a fundamental prerequisite for true compassion in the world than Wilber. His book 'The Marriage of Sense and Soul' addresses this topic and, in itself, could provide the basis for a wonderful and lively series of discussions.

    Dear Charles,
    A thought concerning your test with regards to homosexuality. Is it not equally plausible that if we were all heterosexual having had two or more children that humanity, and our planet, would certainly face extinction due to over population and a massive depletion of our planets natural resources?

    When one truly understands that beliefs are what separate us as human beings and that our beliefs are simply the result of where we were born and influenced, we see that identifying oneself as a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist,Liberal,American,Conservative or any other label is violent and leads to war. Examine your own beliefs and you will see why this is true.

    You just keep getting better, Bill Moyers. Ms. Armstrong's message is perhaps, in my opinion, the very most important one this world needs to hear right now. I myself need to work on being compassionate to those politically different from me. Ms. Armstrong helped me do that. I just love the intelligence and goodness in your shows!

    While waiting for Karen Armstrong's book to be published, I suggest the The Dalai Lama's book "the Compassionate Life."

    When one truly understands that beliefs are what separate us as human beings and that our beliefs are simply the result of where we were born and influenced, we see that identifying oneself as a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist,Liberal,American,Conservative or any other label is violent and leads to war. Examine your own beliefs and you will see why this is true.

    Additional comment: to your questions:

    1. Do you agree with Armstrong that humanity elevates its ideals to idols representing “the supreme reality?” Why or why not?
    Yes. Many may do so. Often because they have not made a decision about God.

    2. Have well-intentioned values, like compassion and intercultural understanding, themselves become idols? Explain.

    Yes, with some people. Answer is in #1.

    3. How do you balance compassion and empathy for others’ experience with working towards your core beliefs?

    No conflict, as explained in my statement a few min. earlier tonight. We need compassion for and empathy with others themselves, not just with their experiences.

    “The unnamable is the eternally real. Naming is the origin of all particular things.” Tao Te Ching
    Translation by Stephen Mitchell

    I agree with Karen Armstrong’s observation that we, as humans, have within us the propensity to make idols of our ideas. I believe that the reason we do this is because, as humans, we are symbol making beings. All language is symbolic. The very means, whereby we communicate and share ideas must be understood to be limited when we express our ideas about God. Language is emblematic because language is never the “thing” in and of itself. So, the Bible, Torah, Koran, and all other religious and/or sacred writings are indeed inspirational but they all point to an ineffable reality that is never bound by mere words. As a Christian, the Bible can inspire, comfort, and edify with its words but, the Bible is not the one who speaks nor is it the one who, though subject experience, changes who I am in my inner most being.

    I guess I'll nitpick one of Karen Armstrong's points as well. If the Enlightenment meant more intellectuals were drawn to sciences, then fewer creative thinkers went into religion and religion evolved accordingly. This hypothesis assumes that left-brained and right-brained people are represented in similar numbers in different eras and choose their professions largely based on cultural trends. This is easier for me to believe than her assumption that all the right-brainers (creative, intuitive types) just went away or were persuaded to left-brained (practical, realistic) thinking. And by the way, science is extremely creative (see Galileo and DaVinci).

    Thanks, Bill, for a great interview and Karen Armstrong for your great work and research! Your show gives us insight into our culture and into life.

    I was interested to see if Bill would ask Karen, "Do you believe that there is an absolute God?" Maybe this is "politically incorrect." Nevertheless, it must be addressed! What is your answer --both of you--to this fundamental question?

    Our research took us to an affirmative answer. We agree, with Francis Schaeffer, that the answer lies beyond science. Although intellectually reasonable, it is fundamentally a matter of the will.
    In consideration of this fundamental question, I did read the Bible through over a year in 1961, without regard to anyone else's opinion. I found that it compels one to form an opinion about the reliability of its message. My wife and I did agree. Accordingly, we redirected our lives. Not to decide on this issue, I felt, was to be intellectually dishonest. Although the application of this message is complex and very interesting, it was a great relief for us to see it as the most practical answer to philosophical and religious questions and, and a guide for planning one's life. One can discuss for ever, but it is a matter of the soul, the spirit, the will.

    A few lesser comments/opinions:
    1. On compassion: The power to DO compassion I believe comes from God the Holy Spirit, to believers and nonbelievers.
    2. On the evil deeds: The questions about the fall of man in Gen 3 and the evil actions in the OT are Biblical records of man, not God --Biblical dualism.
    3. On the "evil" pronouncements of God: The pronouncements in the OT, I completely agree, are very troubling. I wish you both had gone into more detail on that issue.
    On balance, however, my wife and I still take the Bible, as it was intended to mean, as true. We agree that its message is true.
    4. On muslims: We agree completely with your attitude of respect toward muslims. Our first deep appreciation of muslims came from L. Bevan Jones, "The People of the Mosque," which I read, with the bookcover torn off, on bus journeys in Pakistan, in 1969. A recent book by a muslim professor, bought in a Halal market, states that the goal of a muslim is to become close to God. Similar to J.I. Packer in his great book "Knowing God."

    Karen:

    The Big Bang declares that SOMETHING outside of space, time, matter and energy brought the universe into existence. Genesis states that in its first sentence: "In the beginning..." The two factors that govern cosmic expansion reflect the most exquisite fine-tuning noted in the sciences. The cosmic mass density must be fine tuned to at least one part in 10 to the 60th power. The cosmic dark energy on which all matter and energy resides must be fine-tuned to at least one part in 10 to the 120th power.

    This number EXCEEDS the number of protons and neutrons in the observable universe by 100 billion quadrillion quadrillion times. Arranging the universe would by definition have required a miracle. SOMETHING outside of space, time, matter and energy brought the universe into existence. That something is God.

    When you talk about Genesis, you really do not have any idea what science is discovering and how intricately it dovetails with the accounts in Genesis. Go back to school.

    Karen was brilliant and enlightening and her thesis soooooo relevant to-day.

    She was very right about Compassion and about the ageless and timeless rule --- the "GOLDEN RULE". It's message is universal and its practice would benefit all of humanity, even more so to-day than ever before.

    Compassion means in one dictionary of mine: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others; and, in another: pity for suffering, with a desire to help or to spare, commiseration, sympathy with pain or sorrow that prompts one to relieve. It is from the Latin meaning to suffer with. Adam Smith wrote as she has using the word sympathy and though it is often used in the same sense, it is a better word since it is as often used as she does as understanding between ppl or common feeling. Smith regarded it as seeing a relation as a third party might. But empathy would be even better as there is no confusion about it.

    Her comments concerning idolatry are certainly true. And if Bill does not understand being born again in this sense, then his upbringing was IMHO sorely lacking. There are two quite different evangelical conversions. One is essentially philosophic as in Stoicism, and the other is voluntarist, as practiced by someone such as Francis Wayland, a description of which can be found here http://www.merrycoz.org/articles/WAYLAND.HTM

    Bill's understanding of the Genesis 4 story of Cain and Abel is also lacking. Abel was a shepherd and Cain a farmer. Abel's sacrifice is said to have found favor wih God, but Cain's not. So firstly this says that farming was out and husbandry in. But there is more to it than that. The name Cain refers to free will or human agency, acquired skills. Abel means a breath, sometimes translated as vanity, but I think the reference is to the idea that is representive of a jealous creator God such as Plato's Timaeus describes. To prove loyalty a sacrifice is required. The animal sacrifice is symbolic of one's own loyalty as the Abraham story relates. So what we have here is a morality tale about the necessity of obedience. For his deed Cain's ppl were made landless nomads.

    The philosophic conversion is synonymous with the development of objectivity and aims necessarily at independence, free will, altho subject to truth. Voluntarist conversion aims at dependence.

    Paradoxically, perhaps, believing the Bible to be the literal word of God, is more objective than the position that the Bible is simply a collection of historical narratives where no sense of objectivity is present, as the Talmud did and the Catholics have also done, so it should perhaps be viewed raher as a stage in self-awareness.

    As usual Bill Moyers is the most reasonable voice in media by far. I hope I get to read Karen's books. However, close as you are, you miss the mark of truth somewhat.

    The "Liberal Dogma" that comes from the Golden Rule is the very salvation of many as Jesus said, and no good fundamentalist would argue against it as a primary lens for viewing and interacting with the world. It is completely compatible with "Fundamentalist Christianity". At the "judgment seat" many who are "saved" will not even recognize Jesus but he will welcome them because they ministered compassionately to others.

    "Seek and ye shall find." Jesus said; and so it is that the more a person, either Fundamentalist or Liberal, seeks the truth, the more we walk side by side in one accord. Indeed, I find very little separates us.

    Rick Warren is right about those five things, not because the scriptures say so, but because the Golden Rule would dictate those positions. The position on Gay Marriage seems to be the exception but is not.

    To a Christian Fundamentalist and in my mind to anyone not swamped by the tide of fashionable opinion; to oppose Gay Marriage is the compassionate thing to do. Otherwise, you encourage people to continue in the misery we call "missing the mark", the literal meaning of the word translated "sin", and miss the union with a real mate, in both a moral and physical reality. My compassion can rarely push myself into imagining such a hell, but I do sympathize and there is no condemnation in my position on this issue. I'm sure many others hold the same opinion in bigotry. Their bigotry is wrong but that doesn't mean their opinion is wrong.

    Instead of "supporting" the "right" to gay marriage. Compassionate Fundamentalist Christians will spend their time trying to figure out the cause of the condition and bring relief for it, without judging the one caught in it. From my experience there is usually some severe emotional trauma behind homosexuality and science has yet to find a natural cause. One test I use to ascertain the right thing in a situation is this, "What would happen if we ALL did that?" With homosexuality it is easy to see; the human race would cease to exist.

    The root of what separates us is in your agreement with a commonly repeated erroneous dogma of secular liberalism; that "man invented God". That, you see, is the ultimate ego crap that "progressives" swallow, though we agree on so much else.

    No, God didn't make the Universe in 7 24 hour days, the Sun and Moon weren't even created until the fourth "day" in scripture. Yes, ignorant "Fundamentalists" have argued such silliness. There is plenty of room for evolution in the Genesis account.

    Intelligent Design is not a contradiction of Evolution but an explanation of it. To argue against Intelligent Design, is to argue against intelligence period and the best argument against it.

    I can't wait to read "A Case for God", to see how close Karen's thoughts are to my own. We may agree quite a lot.

    I hope you and your viewers will consider that just because someone may view a violin and guess wrongly about the means of its construction, does not mean that there was no violin maker. There may be a lot of evidence of evolution but it is not "out of the woods yet", especially as a complete solution for many specific things, like vision just for one.

    Even if the fossil record was complete, and it isn't; the absence of living intermediary species is very puzzling to say the least. Logic demands that there would be hundreds of thousands of "missing links" still surviving, especially given the differences between the species that are related and did survive; both because there are so many some places and so few at others.

    Then there are the embarrassing living specimens of animals that were supposed to have gone extinct 50,000,000 years ago, like that "missing link" fish with the four limbs caught off the coast of Madagascar.

    And I still haven't heard an explanation of the human footprint inside the Dinosaur print in the dry river bed in Glenrose, Texas. Neither has anyone explained to me the circular wave pattern of rock clearly visible along the side of the road just outside of Chattanooga where I-75 was cut through the hill on the road to Knoxville.

    I'm not saying evolution isn't the primary means God used to form the Earth and its inhabitants; I just object to calling the conclusion in the middle of the investigation before the final evidence is in and to the exclusion of all other reasonable theories that might be investigated as well. And those who argue that Intelligent Design is not a reasonable theory have never given it an honest inspection. Evolutionist dogma is just as wrong as 7 Day Creationism dogma, neither one is science.

    When you approach things from a logical perspective; logic dictates that God exists and the absence of God would be illogical. Modern physicists still seek for something that is a "something". The failure to find the Higgs Boson with the multi-million dollar accelerators coming on line may require Science to finally admit that the absolute scientific fact is that there is nothing here; that all we experience as "real" is only a vibration through nothing. In my theory of the Universe, that Nothing is in the most reverent of words, God. I have actual experience with this being I call God, though sometimes I'm guilty of imagining a god in the image I prefer instead of communing with the God who is. Thank God, He forgives me.

    Charles Michael Couch
    Brooklyn, NY

    She is certainly sure of herself; is that why we want our God/god to be infallible? Her comments on Muslims being offended by our misconceptions of Islam reminds me of my being offput by her erroroneous views of Christianity and faith in God.

    Here in Minnesota we have a great number of Muslims and because of the war some otherwise very intelligent people are racist in this respect. Of course, people in all the US (and the world) need the type of enlightenment that Karen represents.

    Personally, I really would like to know that your program ran more than once a week - perhaps one more time earlier in the day - perhaps in the afternoon on Sunday - but certainly one more time during the week preferably earlier in the evening.

    Sincere thanks for your great work. Blessed be the peacemakers.

    I agree with the spirit of Frank Soriano and Tony Kubicki comments that the Golden Rule is not enough in itself. For example, we need to tell each other the truth even if we don't always want the truth ourselves. What's so powerful in the key religious texts are stories of people we can reference our lives against. This is why it is the Gospel stories that made it into the New Testament, not the unvarnished sayings of Jesus the gospel authors drew from. For more on this, check out the excellent "From Jesus to Christ" Frontline episode here:
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/watch/
    Maybe someone can offer an example of how the story of Muhammed or Buddha or another religious figure offers them guidance in daily life?

    Thank you for your always interesting interviews.
    Ms. Armstrong as a religion 'scholar' (not a religious scholar) has provided many interesting resources and thoughts worth to consider. Her desire to encourage people of faith to show with their actions what they teach with words is encouraging; regardless of some paradox and contradictions in her interview. Jesus of Nazareth said: "DO to other what you want them to do for you." Loving GOD and others, he said, is the essence of Judaism and true biblical faith. Loving mercy, doing justice and living humbling before GOD, is the way of the true prophet.
    (A note on interpretation: The only way we can become more compassionate is by understanding the meaning of these words, instead of pretending we can change their meaning. Her anti-Christian and anti-Jewish, or anti-Bible, approach contradicts her call for tolerance, respect, and compassion).
    Shalom
    Pastor Frantz

    As a relationship psychotherapist I've seen the egocentric damage the old "Golden Rule" keeps doing. I encourage people to switch to this new golden rule "Do unto others as they want to be done unto" The only way you'll ever know how another wants to be done unto is to ask them and then listen. Our clinic's communication maxim is "It is more important to understand then to be right" This maxim + the new golden rule is the road to compassion. Love to all, Tony

    Excellent interview. I have liked reading Karen Armstrong's books, and found watching the interview was not disappointing in the least. I feel motivated to pursue the concept of "compassion" in my own life and begin with greater awareness to walk in the other's shoes. Thank you, this was very inspiring.

    I was thrilled to have listened to Bill's interview with Karen Armstrong and totally agree with her analysis. Although I am not a historian of religions, I can appreciate how absolutes become reactions to historic moments in lieu of communication and compassion.

    On a one to one basis, egos definitely get in the way because we always try to prove something rather than listen and be more open to someone else's perspective. I have always believed that because compassion and love are so difficult to really live by day by day as Karen suggests, they must be divine virtues.

    Would the great prophets and non-violent leaders of our world have made these virtues central to their message if we were already behaving that way?

    It is becoming more and more apparent that we have to think more about our commonalities rather than differences if we are to have a peaceful world and that can only be achieved through the compassion that Karen Armstrong speaks about. Thank you for your clear observations Karen and Bill for having her on your show.

    Looking forward to reading her books.

    Was it in Joseph Heller's Catch-22 that he pointed out that even athiests differ? "OK,you don't believe in the god you don't want to believe in, and I won't believe in the god I don't want to believe in"

    God or no God. Your belief is irrelevant. Man's humanity to man...this is everything.

    I believe that being compassionate is a very complex social function. By being compassionate you are running a high risk of someone taking advantage of you. most people feel safe to be compassionate only under the umbrella of God wishes,

    I loved what Karen Armstrong said. The voice of reason in a world of chaos. The Golden Rule; so simple, so profound, so easily trivialized. We must teach our chldren empathy, they must learn it before they learn to be arrogant, before the need to be right becomes their focus in life. And the best way to teach empathy is to be a good example of it. It isn't always an easy philosophy to live by, it's easy to get caught up in ego. But when you see a child exhibiting compassion, and real empathy, it is both wonderful and frightening: they are a gift to the people of the world, but will the egomaniacs of the world see it as a sign of weakness and abuse them? Although it seems to me everything of this world is a double-edged sword, which edge we ultimately are part of is only decided after long and difficult searching.

    Prejudice is the opposite of compassion. I don't know why Ms. Armstrong doesn't make the contrasting comparison. After all, prejudice is the root of all wars and conflicts.

    Have had problem with the Golden Rule. At its core is a subjective standard based on my self concept. If I have low self esteem or am basically masochistic, I may welcome treatment that most of us would find abhorrent. Despite Christ's endorsement of the Rule in Matthew and Luke, in John He moves beyond it with "I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you." This sets an exterior standard against which we can measure the rightness of our acts.

    I was angered by Karen Armstrong's apparently naive perspective of Muhammad, seeing a man who in his 7th century setting truly believed he had a vision of God through the angel Gabriel.
    I see a man who, like most other Hebrew prophets, had similar hallucinations based on his life experiences. The subsequent rejection of his preaching by Jews with whom he came into contact led to his severe judgment of them. His penchant for killing of those who would not accept him as the Last Prophet and his Quranic verses (cf. his beheading of 600-700 or more non-believing captives after one battle) render him in my view as a psychotic megalomaniacal madman.

    Asalamo Alakum;
    I found Ms. Armstrong interesting. I found it refreshing to hear her admonish in the same way the the Quran does arguing against mankind's propensity toward the fashioning of new idols for every age-our age's idol being nationalism.
    I do; however,disagree with her assertion that "Islamic fundamentalism" has its roots in a well founded sense of betrayal of liberty by secularist societies. This couldn't be more mistaken. The concept of "fundamentalism" as a reaction to some disappointment has no place in Islam. Islam is submission so one is either a Muslim-a person who submits-or one is not. There are no compromises that can be made to the deen. It is what it is. The people that Ms. Armstrong labeled fundamentalist are just Muslims. Islam does not change with the ages as it is prefect and does not require improvement through change.

    Dear Mr. Moyers,
    Watched your conversation with Karen Armstrong with interest.

    Some comments as a conservative:
    1)Ms. Armstrong tends to equate the English and European experience (colonialism, cultural arrogance) with ours. We did conduct a revolution to break away from those traditions. Some of our difficulties may be the result of reverting to older norms.

    2) The reaction of radical Islam is not just the result of the rapid introduction of secularism, but that there is no tradition of secularism in that culture at all. It is an Hellenic-Latin phenomenon, as support by Ms. Armstrong's frequent allusions to Latin and Greek words. While I believe we need a bridge to empathy, the river is much wider than we think.

    3) At the risk of sounding like a solopsist, we only spend a short time here, and we are all fools. The best system will not let any particular group of fools impose their will on the rest of us... back to 1).

    I was angered by Karen Armstrong's apparently naive perspective of Muhammad, seeing a man who in his 7th century setting truly believed he had a vision of God through the angel Gabriel.
    I see a man who, like most other Hebrew prophets, had hallucinations based on his life experiences. The subsequent rejection of his preaching by Jews with whom he came into contact led to his severe judgment of them. His penchant for killing of those who would not accept him as the Last Prophet and his Quranic verses (cf. his beheading of 600-700 or more non-believing captives) render him in my view as a psychotic megalomaniacal madman.

    Sorry for the repeat...thought the message did not go through.

    I couldn't believe what I saw tonight. Finally someone who has the insight that so many of us are lacking.

    I was recently "forced" into religion by my wife and son. My wife because of her constant nagging. My son because he finally reached the age when he wondered why I wasn't attending church.

    In the past I rejected religion based on my belief that no one knows true religion and religion is the basis of most evil. It has been used throughout history as the reciprocal of it's intentions.

    I have no religious background at all but believe that the golden rule is the nucleus of humanity. We use religion as a tool to try teach this to others. If we all "got it", we wouldn't need religion except for our own ritual needs.

    Most people I see, especially church go-ers, are bad people trying to be good. Hoping to finally do the right thing in life. Rarely do I meet or see genuinely, pure souls. But tonight I saw that in Karen Armstrong.

    I can't wait to research her and I'm glad to see this show while I start my journey into religion.

    Yes, which is why it is necessary to get out of the 'tuna can' and educate one's self and allow for an understanding of the beliefs.

    No one has to accept the other's faith....just understand how it all happened...during the centuries of God's way of communicating with us.

    "It seems to me that in Christianity (as in other faith systems)there is both a simplicity and a complexity that neither "liberals" nor "conservatives" have come to appreciate. Both have their "simplicities" which are non-negotiable, but they are different one from the other, and, therein, lies the complexity which neither seems to acknowledge.Robert D. Shrum"

    There is only one way to God whether people want to hear it or not. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life, NO ONE comes to the Father, except by Me." Christ died unnecessarily if you could get to God any other way. Also there are no mistakes in the Bible. It is God-breathed. People will talk about God all day long, but mention Jesus and they get angry. To many people want to get to God their way. But truth is, you have to get to God, God's way. Read Genesis Chapter 3, after Adam and Eve sinned, God promised a Savior(a seed of the woman) that would crush Satan's head. God did not say you could get to heaven thru Buddha, Hindu, etc...He said only through believing on His Son, Jesus Christ. The wonderful thing about this, is this gospel is for anyone who will hear it and believe it in their heart and repent.

    Yes, which is why it is necessary to get out of the 'tuna can' and educate one's self and allow for an understanding of the beliefs.

    No one has to accept the other's faith....just understand how it all happened...during the centuries of God's way of communicating with us.

    "It seems to me that in Christianity (as in other faith systems)there is both a simplicity and a complexity that neither "liberals" nor "conservatives" have come to appreciate. Both have their "simplicities" which are non-negotiable, but they are different one from the other, and, therein, lies the complexity which neither seems to acknowledge.Robert D. Shrum"

    I think Karen Armstrong's definition of compassion is one we should all strive for in our daily lives. I appreciated her statement about how we must also hear the pain among fundamentalists and how we should understand via the historical context of how they have felt attacked...this is an idea that I had not thought about. I hope for more understanding & love in the world and less divisiveness. I will definitely read a few of her books. Thank you Bill for having thought provoking shows.

    Peg,
    I found the charter here:
    http://charterforcompassion.org. It's linked somewhere else on this website, too. I found it once and lost it again. Shoot! Oh, and the word missing from my last comment was "dialog." ;-)

    -Chris

    As a student of the Course In Miracles and a member of Unity, I was so pleased to hear Karen Armstrong coming forth on the basic studies of compassion and empathy that we desperately need for our world society today. There are many organizations and studies now as Be Peace, Non-violent Communication and Interfaith dialogues that people can not only read about but be a part of. But like she said, it's a 24 hour job to see the inner goodness in everyone you meet. I love your show and you never let me down on expanding my mind. Thank you. Ann

    Hi Karen - I was waiting for you to get to the compassionate Buddha! You did when you enumerated the figures of Islam, Christianity & Judaism. You landed on it when you said, "after all, they are not the Dahlia Lama”. Very cool. You also mentioned, Buddhists as perpetrators of violence. When I hear of violence in Burma - Buddhists killing Buddhists, those are not of the Buddha. They are politicians exploiting a population. Bad guys. You are the babe!!! (ps: Catholic Schooled by Nebraska Nuns/UCLA - reborn 1969). TR

    It seems to me that in Christianity (as in other faith systems)there is both a simplicity and a complexity that neither "liberals" nor "conservatives" have come to appreciate. Both have their "simplicities" which are non-negotiable, but they are different one from the other, and, therein, lies the complexity which neither seems to acknowledge.

    Bill's interview with Karen Armstrong brought tears to my eyes - it was everything I always thought but couldn't express and to who. Who would listen when everyone around you is the opposite of who you are!!!. The first step to any religion is to be a good human being. How can anyone be a good Muslim, Christian, Jew, Sikh, Hindu or atheist, when they are having a problem being a good human -compassion 101. To people seeking spiritual freedom that Karen spoke about, framing God and limiting 'his' capabilities to our understanding, in itself limits us as humans to grow.

    what karen saw in a footnote i realized while watching the journal tonight - i confess to being embarassed at myself for being so utterly arrogant and sure of my being in the right on all matters theological, philosophical and human - i will aspire to be compassionate and empathic to other points of view
    thank you karen

    As a professor who grew up in a fundamentalist Christian tradition and now teaches in a secular institution, I deeply appreciate Armstrong's championing of the Golden Rule as a universal standard of compassion that the world urgently needs. I see the need in the classroom daily, as well as in conversations and in the news. If we don't as human beings find ways to stop thinking in terms of "us" and "them," we doom all prospects for world peace, and we fail the God of Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad.

    Wow. Watching and listening to Ms. Armstrong was revelatory. It is amazing that for such a conservative that she sounds like the lazy minds of the left. She is good at being clever with language and quoting others, but offering nothing new. I do not think she has moved far from the woman of her youth.

    Compassion comes in many forms. Unfortunately, Ms. Armstrong seems openly hostile to those "without" belief.

    I truly believe that the Enlightenment is an important step in the growth of the human animal. I accept that my mother finds comfort in communion. However, I will always be comfortable confronting superstition. Faith can enrich, but it more often oppresses. Ms. Armstrong is too much of an apologist for beliefs that require submission to doctrine. Her justification that she stepped out of her "clever" life to that of Mohammed is beyond arrogant. It baffles the mind that she doesn't see the contradictions in her own statements.

    Again, wow.

    Where can I read the Compassion Charter

    I am a great admirer of Karen Amstrong and very much enjoyed your interview of her. However, I would like to correct her description of Ataturk's reforms. He did not force women at any time to don western style clothes. The famous hat law adopted during the early years of the Republic applied only to men requiring them to wear western style hats instead of the fez.
    Also, I think its important to place the closing of the medreses in context of that time. I fear that Karen Armstong depicted the Islamic orders of that period as innocent victims rather than perpertrators of the dark ages in an era when the western world was in a period of post-rennaissance enlightment. My question is why does the Islamic world insist on living in the static medieval ages of ignorance instead of embracing knowledge and progressive ideals?

    I just looked at the compassion charter website and was disappointed to find the charter was basically already written. It appears to be sparking positive, but any actual definition of compassion will be a unsatisfying rhetorical compromise.

    Most of us already feel compassion in our hearts. We define it most clearly when we practice it with every chance we get.

    Mr. Moyers - You and your guest tonight made serious linguistic errors, unfortunately common to those from a Christian background - that are, unfortunately, constant irritants to those from a Jewish one - the kind of error that causes listeners to subconsciously turn off good discussion and ideas. For Instance: The Bible is the name of the Christian central holy book as al-Qur`an is the central book of al-Islam. The Jewish holy text is the T'an'ach, shortening Torah (5 Mosaic Books) Prophets, and Writings, which range from history until the Maccabean Revolt (where the line was drawn to end the text) a wonderful piece of erotica oft mistranslated or deliberately misinterpreted because there were always those who couldn't accept the concept of a Supreme Being who approved of sex, and a Persian religious text rewritten to add a day of Holy Revelry to the calender, as the Festival of the Flash was allowed before Lent.(paralleled in other faiths too). It is not the Jewish Bible, the 'Old Testament' in any way, (further explanations on req. hate these tiny spaces-send me a direct address)"Hebrews" are speakers of Hebrew, those who follow Judaism are Jews, a word discredited because it also associates a people with a chunk of land.
    but to use an alternative seen by Christians for T'an'ach is as painful as referring to a Jewish or Muslim "church", another specifically Christian word. Lastly, Christianity is NOT seen by the other THREE Peoples of the Book as "Monotheistic," for its CENTRAL theme of a Trinitarian Godhead (as likely true as the other world's faiths and their none to uncountable Deities.
    Lastly, there are FOUR main traditions of the Book - the Baha'i may be the smallest of us, but as Jews hold Moses the last Great Prophet; Christians, Jesus and Muslims, Mohammad; the Baha'i consider The Bab to have been the Last.

    This is the first time I have heard of Karen Armstrong and listening to her was life changing. I wish Bill Moyers did a series with Ms. Armstrong like he did with Joseph Campbell.

    I am definitely going to get her books.

    This was such great television. So uplifting.

    And the blog had wonderful comments too.

    Thanks Bill Moyers!

    Paul - "God" no more breathed the bible than I did this email. Whatever gets you through the day though. Nobody can defend the bible as written because it is a book of fiction. All hail "insert-your-god-here" (and 10% of your money)!

    Concerning the 'word' of God, for instance The Bible... I'm always struck by the great infallibility of Man. And since the Bible, and other books of God, were written by man, people seem to defend the contents of these books as the 'word of God'. Somehow, while admitting that even the greatest writers and thinkers in history make/made mistakes... apparently the Bible is the one exception. If it's true that the Apostles felt sure that Jesus would 'return' in their lifetime, then this might be just ONE of their mistaken insights.

    I just loved your conversation with Karen Armstrong.... I could listen to her all night long.
    Thank you.

    I have read some of Karen Armstrong's books, especially when I was interested in her life as a nun....with my own interest in this, to become a nun.... since as a child.

    Being a Catholic Organist, I have had several years, not only in music...since childhoood, but an interest in God.
    I have taught CCD to junior high youth for them to know they have a choice in life to choose a vocation either in marriage, priesthood, or sisterhood, etc.
    I have also found an interest in something that I have feared..... Islam.
    Through this journey of discovery through reading, DVDs of unbiased data about Islam, etc. for several years, I have found my superstition of the Muslims has subsided, and that my understanding of the 3 faiths (which Pope John II spoke of "the same God of Abraham, Jesus, and Mohammad") has opened my view on God with more of an intense respect of the Muslims, Jewish, and Christians.

    "G-d loves an honest doubter".
    G-d will judge you by how you live your life,and not if you believed in him.


    I have come to believe that the gift from God is that the rest is up to us.

    The bible is a timeless, living, God-breathed document, which is still relevant to our daily lives.

    Bill, when do you plan on having someone on who defends the bible as it is written?

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