Fundamentalism and Fear - Dr V.V. Raman

Some partial backups of posts from the past (Feb, 2004)
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Re: Technical difficulties

Post by Katy » Sun May 27, 2007 3:54 am

oh, crap, I was hoping that would improve when I moved and got a decent net connection. Although... yours is actually better than mine is most of the time.....

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Diebert van Rhijn
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Re: The Reasoning Show - Dr V.V. Raman

Post by Diebert van Rhijn » Sun May 27, 2007 4:00 am

The discussion so far in this thread has left me wondering if I should abandon my resistance to the cherished idea of separation of organized religion and state *). Perhaps the type of philosophizing as put forward on this forum and having a grip on world affairs, the murky, nitty-gritty complex details of world events with all the fuzzy boundaries and un-sound definitions one tends to give them, are not compatible?

It doesn't look that way, barring one or two exceptions.

*) resistance because of the question of what's the worth of a religion when it doesn't affect the way a country is run; one cannot serve two masters: state and some religion. The moment the State affects living in the way it does nowadays in the West, we only have the choice to dump religion, or dump the state. Separation is only a nice way to say that 'church' has lost relevance when it comes to relevant topics - the here and now, our morality, applied wisdom and so forth. The fundamentalist Muslim understands this better, way better than the average Western agnostic.

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Diebert van Rhijn
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Re: The Reasoning Show - Dr V.V. Raman

Post by Diebert van Rhijn » Sun May 27, 2007 4:38 am

The popular meme about the latest brand of terrorist networks purely stemming from Muslim fundamentalism is so extremely error-prone that it's hard to know where to start.

When you start tracing the origins of the ideology of the majority of Muslim terrorists you do not just arrive at some purely religious idea. I repeat: you do not arrive there, although at times the more violent passages of the Qur'an are used as propaganda elements to get more popular support. But the ideology of Islamism sprung from a different source, much closer to home.

Organizations like Al Qaeda and many similar thinking groups and cells got their ideas about revolution from the intellectual climate around thinkers as Heidegger, Sartre and Fanon, in the 1950's and 1960's. It's easy to follow the spread of ideas to Algerian revolutionaries, Biko, Che Guevara and Pol Pote, the Khmer Rouge revolution but also reached revolutionary parties in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, all of which got hell bound to overthrow the oil-backed dictatorships in their own countries. When they didn't succeed at first - a majority being imprisoned or killed off - attention became focused on other causes abroad to gather more international popular support and a new target arose: the source of support for the governments they couldn't overthrow: the foreign aid of the USA. Also in other places the influence is clear: the Shiite revolution in Iran in the 1950's leaned on the ideas of Fanon e.g. the Iranian Ali Shari'at, educated at Sorbonne in France.

The Al Qaeda types like Bin Laden are very poorly educated in their own religion and can hardly be called 'fundamentalist' just like George W. Bush is hardly a 'born again' Christian, unless his PR guy tells him to be. They know much more about business deals and networking. They believe in revolutionary philosophies, nihilist, post-modern ones which state that violence is a worthy self-affirming process in itself, to accomplish a goal, create some new reality and uproot old decadence.

Interesting enough is that what we call the 'neo-conservativism', nested around VP Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz come from the same revolutionary breed, a Neo-Trotskyism with its philosophy of permanent revolution. They want to change the world into their image, break the status quo and 'liberate' people as to give them their concept of freedom.

My point is not that violent revolution is bad in itself because perhaps some things need the interruption of violence to get uprooted. My point is that we should not see terrorism as rising out of religious fundamentalism but more in spite of fundamentalism. It only says something about the weakness of fundamentalism that it tries to keep itself from collapse by rejecting the foreign, the new influences. It certainly isn't justified to link something like fundamentalist currents in Islam directly to terrorist movements. I'd say it's more likely the reverse: the serious fundamentalists are right now one of the last things holding a massive Middle East revolutionary movement back! A true conservative movement at the core.

[Edited post for clarity since it's very dense material just touched upon]

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Dan Rowden
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Re: The Reasoning Show - Dr V.V. Raman

Post by Dan Rowden » Sun May 27, 2007 10:28 am


I'm currently speaking with our domain hosts about the frequent connections failures but as you might expect it's hard to get reliable info from such people. I hope I'm wrong but I'm getting a nasty feeling the company may have oversold their servers. Anyway, we'll see what actions they take to resolve the issue.

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Equalization First

Post by keenobserver » Thu May 31, 2007 1:36 am

Someone ought to put this one to song:

Look at it from their perspective.

How will we get respect, power, prosperity as it stands?
Diplomacy? No way, trust will never sufice.
Only one way, get as big a gun as they have.
And blast it, preferably without revealing who pulled the trigger.
Some far off island, maybe Hawaii Little Island, or out in the Atlantic.
Immediately everything changes, respect is assured and Islam is saved.
There is much too much bad blood, nothing else will work, not with Zionists here
and their warplanes parked.

Recall when Reagan suggested it may be necessary for all to be equally equipped?
So Iran chugs along, and our foolish polits finally after 27 years are forced to treat
them like humans, and talk. What fools, to wait so long.
Now Iran saids we are almost done, we will have the power. Now our leaders are
shitting their pants. What a bunch of assholes.
Can we be sure that no nation will come to their aide? Is that where Saddams
weapons of mass destrction went?

I think we better get a grip. Our leaders have failed us.
Whether overtly or covertly they will never stop until they get the power.
And our side will never stop bombing until they have it.
Simple as that.
Hard to say how bad the mess will be then, lets hope for a little mess.
One way or another its going to be a mess, and has been.
Dont bother with peace until the war is over.
This is no time for peace.
Equalization is not complete.

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Re: Fundamentalism and Fear - Dr V.V. Raman

Post by Kelly Jones » Sun Jun 17, 2007 8:33 pm


Kelly: Do you believe it's possible to separate Islam and Christianity (religious vendettas) from political squabbles? If so, what do you think is the best way to correct hundreds, if not thousands, of years of political squabbles? Become war allies?

Dan: If we have to couch everything in the language of war then we may as well just give up and kill each other. Because Islam (and Judaism for that matter) has not undergone the kind of separation of Church and State that Xianity has it is more difficult to separate the religious from the political (but this is now rather true for Xian nations too). Political debate and disagreement tends to be articulated through religious speech, and action justified through religious morality. However, it is possible to see those circumstances in which the underlying problem is essentially of a political nature. Things have just gotten out of hand on that front. I actually don't think Osama bin Laden, for example, is really that bad a guy (comparatively speaking). I am quite sympathetic to his actual demands, the meeting of which could well bring about a cessation of action on his part - or even a meaningful recognition thereof. I do not extend this attitude to others in his "organisation" however. As to religious squabbles - yes, they've existed for ages but it's true that the problems between contemporary Judaism (or, frankly, it should be said: Zionism) and Islam are largely politically driven.
It appears that you're saying that Islamic political debate tends to be articulated through religious speech, meaning, "real Islamic politicians" (for instance Osama bin Laden) are occasionally offering solutions that do not have any religious - meaning, dogmatic, undertones. But, generally speaking, that he uses dogmatism in order to try to get attention.

Your position seems to be: the "real Islam" consciously employ terrorist actions and dogmatic religiousness as political tactics. I don't think you believe it works, and I also don't think you do believe that the "real Islam" consciously employs dogmatic rhetorics - it does it because it's frightened and

The trouble we see in the middle east is a direct result of the creation of the Israeli State and the general shamozzle of the partitioning of that entire region. That was so poorly handled, much like the partition of Pakistan and India (millions died in that process), that these problems were inevitable. We leave things in a shambolic state and expect the peoples of those territories to sort things out. Unfortunately, things aren't as simple as that. Even now we continue to make these same mistakes, seemingly learning exactly nothing from them. Our motives are simply impure. We all too readily exploit cultural and religious conflicts that already exist for our own political purposes.
Given this, an intelligent Muslim politician would not try to exacerbate the religious image, no?

It'd be more efficient to use the political language and tactics of the corrupt partitioning agency, to point out their corrupt behaviour. I don't mean behave corruptly when I say, "use their tactics".

My point in all of this, really, is that we are no better than those we seek to demonise; no better and no less a danger to ourselves than they are to us. If you beat a tease a dog and then complain later because it bit your hand off, you're an idiot.
A human is more intelligent than a dog, so relatively better.

The solution to the innate religious conflicts is to encourage greater secularisation of these societies. This can't be effective in a volatile political environment. It just isn't possible. Instead of demonising Iran as part of the Axis of Evil, it would be far more politically astute to encourage the significant secular movement there. But we have leaders that are just as brainless as they do. Nought of worth can be expected from such a scenario.
I thought you were saying there is no actual religious conflict, seeing as it's largely rhetorical from the "real Islamic politician"'s perspective. Thus, simply abandoning that false front makes more sense: one can then simply focus on the politics, and create some kind of political language with values that don't have strong religious connotations. What would those values be, do you think?

Do you think that is possible? I mean, to abandon religious language and ideologies? Or do you think that people do believe in them, or do like to believe in them, because they empower the ego?

Dan: Islamic extremists are to feared and controlled; no doubt about that. However, they're not the only problem and argubaly not even the main one.

Kelly: What is the "main problem", Dan?

Dan: The West's obvious desire for economic, social and military influence, control and even dominion over other people - and the natural consequences thereof. People tend to get all Peter Finchy over stuff like that. Of course, some would argue that a nation like the U.S. has "civilised" itself into a corner and virtually needs to take control to ensure its survival at its present level of material wealth and sophistication. That's quite possibly true, but let's not pretend it doesn't have consequences.
I don't see anything particularly disturbing about "The West's obvious desire for economic, social and military influence". Are these things carrying inherent bad Karma, or does "The West" mean something other, some underlying values which you haven't mentioned?

If so, these "underlying values" would seem to be the main problem. Or are they a religious rhetoric used to justify political actions, so that in fact, "The West" is the main source of problems in earth's political conflicts because it doesn't solve everyone's problems to suit everyone....?

Ryan: Also some of these Islamic extremists organizations are not governed by a fear of self-preservation; they’re fanatical beliefs have overridden these instinctive fears, as many of them are hoping for the return of their messiah, the end of the world, and so on.

Dan: I don't believe this line of argument at all. These organisations simply exploit the weakest of their members, the most desperate, the ones with nothing to lose, the mentally fragile.

Kelly: Are you saying that the majority of Islamic extremists are psychologically stable, Dan, and free from suicidalism ?

Dan: They're hardly psychologically stable. The average human being isn't psychologically stable. But a handful of swallows does not a summer make. I also think the language we're employing makes this issue tricky to discuss. If we keep saying "extremists", well, sure, by their nature they tend to be on the loony side and more easily given to suicidalism. But these people are a minority.
So are you saying that the organisations, such as those started by Osama bin Laden, and those that integrated with his political aims even if he doesn't know who they are, are deliberately exploiting their weakest members, using their psychological fragility as expendable weaponry?

Are these political organisation justified, do you think, in using a religious rhetoric, to exploit gullible believers? Would you say they're as corrupt as "The West", or even more corrupt, because they're using the helplessly insane to further their economic, social, and so forth? Or are you saying that, since "The West" is the one with the most power, that Islamists' Nazist behaviour is not really their fault.

I'm just trying to get down to brass tacks - to see if your position is coherent.

Dan: The average Muslim fundamentalist is not a suicidalist. The dynamic and causes of the movement from simple fundie to extremist is one we need to understand and work towards avoiding where possible. Sadly, we're contributing to the forces that produce such a dynamic.
Do you think "we" encourage "real Islamic politicians" to employ religious rhetoric and actions? Are they so gullible, so incapable of detecting political solutions?

Are you actually saying that Muslim cultures, having abandoned non-religious intellectualising in the 12th century, are intellectual equivalents to dogs, and that their carers are not treating them humanely?

Dan: Even sadder, it may well have taken on a momentum of its own that has no readily identifiable political salve. This is the real danger of the modern global scene. I concede that things may have gone beyond the potential for a non-war resolution. Trouble is, if the U.S. is in charge we'll still be screwed afterwards because they are totally incompetent - and what's worse, their motives cannot be trusted.
Right, you are saying that. So, are you saying that "The West" is actually more conscious than "The East" (I suppose), or that they're just more numerous?

Well, I think the readily identifiable political salve is much like Freud's psychoanalytic technique with the hysterical 21yo Anna patient (the traumatised - whether dog or human, if you like). His basic premise was that ongoing discussion with the patient, in a stable, calm environment, would encourage her to form a quiet, reflective attitude, and help to find the most intense and frightening aspect in all her emotional traumas.

That is, "conversational pressure" plus secular discussions between all kinds of people who are interested in reaching political solutions that .... perhaps?.... provide easy access to water, food, shelter, health, education.... ?

I suppose it comes down to: what aims are most rational, and how can they be encouraged?

So, this does mean a destruction of all other aims....... including Christian and Islamic cultures, to be strictly intelligent.


Dan: Suicidalism as a broad psychology is an argument for which I can see exactly zero evidence.

Kelly: Zero evidence for the majority of Islamic extremists, or absolutely zero evidence for all Islamic

Dan: The former.
Can you tell me what proportion of Muslims you think are extremists, by which do you mean, religious or political dogmatists ?

Are you saying the same minority of Islamic extremists are religious dogmatists - ie insane?

In your opinion, what proportion of Americans are religious dogmatists within upper-echelon political organisations? Are they psychologically fragile and suicidalist/homicidal?

Dan: If we were to take away the political dimension to such activities we would see a very large diminution of suicide attacks.

Kelly: To do so, would mean correcting political issues. Would this boil down to interfering with decisions about how to organise a society?

Dan: I think America has to step aside and let other parts of the world deal with certain issues, such as Palestine. They are too inept, distrusted and parochial to be effective in their influence. Britain likewise.
Are you saying American politics cannot be fixed, or that they have to focus on fixing their own political errors while some disinterested party is allowed to interfere?

Who would you suggest as the most ept, trusted and homeless party?

From East or West?

Or neither?

Dan: we can ignore the way they are actually living and how we are actually treating them.

Kelly: What do you think we should change?

Dan: At this point a simple change in attitude would help. If Britain, for example, put its hand up and acknowledged its role in leaving behind the shamozzle I spoke of earlier it might go some way to tempering people's attitudes. One of the reasons it and the U.S. won't do this, or back off from their attempts at influence and manipulation, is that they are solely concerned with political outcomes that suit themselves. Resolution, per se, is not really on their agendas, which is why they are as dangerous to us as the Islamic nutters. Somewhere along the line the West appears to have adopted the idea that Islam must be crushed into passive submission rather than modified and encouraged and nurtured into a more secular and less fundamentalistic form. Unfortunately, this approach just pours fuel on the fire of fundamentalism. It aggravates it, spurs it on - validates it.
Well, fundamentalism is evident in all the approaches you suggest.

I think dogmatism vs reasoning is perhaps better than religious fundamentalism vs secular fundamentalism.

The political outcomes you're talking about: can you please list them?

Dan: I find it incredibly stupid. Let's take Iran for example: when 9/11 happened, the West immediately went to its own form of fundamentalistic flapping and we're still flapping like mad people. We just invaded two of Iran's Islamic neighbours and have decided that it is possibly next on our list. What the friggin hell do we expect as an outcome of that but that fundamentalism will rise just as it did with us? I mean, seriously, what the hell do we expect? The humanist/secular movement in Iran, which is culturally significant and has been growing in significance - must be wondering the same thing. I'd hate to be them right now, frankly. They must be wondering if secularism naturally breeds as much stupidity as religiosity does.
Well, if they are rational, rather than dogmatic, they'd probably see fundamentalism as the key concern.

Ultimately, this entire discussion comes down to non-attachment as the value you're trying to promote.

Lots of talk, Dan, and you never mention it.

Got to wonder.

Dan: Iran doesn't have nukes. It never will have them. It's a meaningless argument. As I've said before, we have to argue Pakistan in that sense, not Iran. And if Muslim fanatics somehow got control of power in Pakistan, why do we think we'd have anything to fear? If I was an Indian I'd be shitting bricks, but if that power shift happened I would not lose sleep over it. You can't just hand a nuke to someone and say: "Go for it, muhammo-dude, kill a few Septics for me".

Kelly: Why?

Dan: Nukes only work that way in Hollywood movies.
No, why do you think Muslim fanatics obtaining nuclear weapons is never possible?

Ryan: Islamic Extremists operating in Iran and Lebanon believe that if they destroy Israel with nuclear weapons, the biggest evil in the world will be eliminated, which will cause Allah to soar down from the clouds and reward them all for their good deeds.

Dan: Who cares what such idiots believe? I mean, seriously, who cares? They can't and never will be able to do any such thing. They may as well believe that Superman will convert to Islam and destroy all their enemies. I have to say I think these sorts of arguments are not much more rational than the ideas we're arguing against.

Kelly: How do you know this for certain?

Dan: I don't recall saying I knew any of this for certain. There's no certainty is such matters.
You do say "never".

Dan: I don't have the foggiest idea why Ryan even mentioned Lebanon. It's meaningless in this discussion. I have no doubt there are lunatics in Iran who think like that. There are Islamic lunatics in almost every nation who think that way. I happen to think the chances of them gaining control of government are close to non-existent.
That seems true, though of course, that's because the corrupt government employs them.


Dan: The expressed view that Israel should not exist is an arguable viewpoint. It's also a political view, not a "we'll nuke them off the planet" view. I don't think the world is about to allow the latter types to control a nuclear armed state like Iran.

Kelly: I think your basic argument is:

- America is a far more powerful country politically, than its enemies, and that American leaders are using that power poorly

Dan: Yes, that's part of it.
I thought that was the whole story. What's the other part?

Kelly: - Islamic extremists have virtually no power politically relative to America

Dan: That's obviously true, but more significantly we give them power - through validation - by our own actions.
So, actually, after all this, you're saying that the religious dogmatists in Islam are really being employed by Americans, to behave in extremist and insane ways, and remain incapable of solving their political squabbles.

So, that's the whole story, no?

Kelly: I am not sure if you are saying that America should relate to all other countries as a benevolent dictator, or a fair and honest, wealthy relative.

Dan: Well, I think we could give either one a try, really, but my preference would be for the latter. But it's a complex issue which takes in historical political realities
This just means problems that haven't been solved properly, still.

What are they?

Dan: and also contemporary trends like corporatism and the exportation of culture and so forth.
If there are any sane and intelligent aspects to that culture, then it isn't a problem to export them.

Dan: That's a thread in itself! The trouble is we don't recognise the worst elements and excesses of our culture anymore than Muslims do (so we keep exporting it and cry foul at the level of resistance to it - this is part of our own deep, cultural vanity). All either side recognises is the ways in which they conflict. That's not a very good recipe for anything but more conflict.
Well, since I'm not on any side, I'm supposed to be able to see ways in which they are the same. So I do, but that's not terribly effective either.

Since you keep saying "our", I suppose you're a Westerner. So, do you recognise the best elements and temperances of "our culture"? You can only recognise those that are not in conflict with the best elements and temperances of "their culture".


[edited code a few times]

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David Quinn
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Re: Fundamentalism and Fear - Dr V.V. Raman

Post by David Quinn » Sun Nov 11, 2007 10:36 am

Our guest for the show, Dr V.V. Raman, sent this email to me and asked that it be posted on the forum:


After all these months I happened to see some comments on my interview. There are some personal reactions to them.
V.V. Raman wrote:
1. I was disappointed to hear Dr. Raman explain how he places greater importance on what people do, rather than why they do it.
Sorry to have disappointed you. Actions and their impact are more important than opinions and beliefs: This happens to be my personal view. You are most welcome to hold a different view. To kill an opponent because he thinks differently is, as I see it, not better than to let him live even if he holds an opposite view.

2. In the case of religion helping feed the homeless, I think the saying "even a blind squirrel finds a nut" applies quite nicely.
I don’t understand this profound maxim.

3. Honestly it's just plain stupid of him to justify the continued respect for religion on the basis of the music and architecture it has inspired.
You can’t expect everyone to be as intelligent as you are. Sorry for being stupid.

4. I think Kevin made the most pertinent and interesting comments in that discussion. Particularly in regards to people doing 'good' due to faulty motivation, weak foundation. The Mother Teresa example was excellent.
We all think and behave differently. Recognizing this is the KEY TO DIMINISHING THE HATE AND HURT IN THE WORLD. You may think Mother T was mischievous, I think otherwise. We can do nothing about that. You may think you are the ultimate judge of correct and faulty motivation. I beg to differ. Too bad!

5. I was a little disappointed that, that concept was not delved into more deeply in the discussion, and that the Dr. was let 'off the hook' somewhat.
There is no question of anyone being led ‘off the hook.’ Nobody was on trial. We share our different views. It is the mentality of trying to get the other that has landed us in this mess.

6. Would also agree with Kevin that I too find it hard to find fault with what Harris and Dawkins are doing.
Again, the fault may not be in their arguments, but on the impact of how they present them. If more people are turned off and away from Science as a result of their virulent language about religion, I am not sure if it is good for humanity and for science and enlightenment.

7. A lot of good will come from their work.
I think so too, but also some bad.

8. I would have liked Kevin or Dan to have questioned Dr Raman more thoroughly on precisely what he found attractive about religious music and art.
I have personally been greatly enriched by listening to religious music and looking at religious art and architecture. If you have not been, that’s fine by me.

9. For it suggests to me that Dr Raman still has that religious yearning in him to surrender to a higher power, which relates to the kind of egotism that drives fundamentalism and religious warring.
If I still have some religious yearning, what are you going to do about it? Eliminate me from the face of the earth? You talk as if this is criminal behavior. Your type of thinking is as vicious as that of any religious fundamentalist and true-believer.

10. Dr Raman didn't seem to have any inclination towards becoming enlightened.
A rather sweeping and offensive caricature based on little knowledge about the person you are talking about.

11. so what kind of ideals would the religious music and art he likes embody for him?
There are religious expressions that inspire one to caring, compassion, and love. If you are unfamiliar with these and know only of the stench and evil that religions have wreaked, that is your prerogative. I can’t help you on this.

12. If the ideals are "excellence", "displays of genius", "aesthetic power", then they can just as easily be grouped under the umbrella of the larger ideal of "surrendering to a higher power" as they can under the umbrella ideal of "individuality and wisdom".
You are absolutely right (i.e. I agree with you). I don’t think I ever said we should ‘surrender to a higher power’ or that one can’t arrive at the ideals under the umbrella of individuality and wisdom.

12. Dr Raman seemed more interested in social harmony and peace, than truth - which, to me at least, is a form of surrendering to a higher power.
I will not say <more interested.> I am very deeply concerned, not so much with social harmony and peace, as with the rise of mutual hate, antagonism, intolerance, dogmatic conviction that one’s own version of TRUTH is the only right one, etc. that are on the rise in our world. There are truths about the physical world (Science) and truths about the human condition. There are no absolutes on the latter. The only criteria for the rejection of these truths should be whether they result in harm and hurt to others and to the environment.

13. I think Dan made the strong point that those things are only "beautiful" (idealistic and inspiring) if you don't think about where those works came from. I thought that was a consummate rebuttal of Raman's argument.
I am glad you feel Dan made a consummate rebuttal of my <argument.> Now you don’t have to agree with a word of what I said. Except that I was not making any argument. I was sharing my own perspectives on some issues. You are not obliged to accept anything of what I say.

Be well!

V. V. Raman

November 10, 2007

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Re: Fundamentalism and Fear - Dr V.V. Raman

Post by Nick » Sun Nov 11, 2007 11:45 am

V.V. Raman wrote:
I was disappointed to hear Dr. Raman explain how he places greater importance on what people do, rather than why they do it.
Sorry to have disappointed you. Actions and their impact are more important than opinions and beliefs: This happens to be my personal view. You are most welcome to hold a different view. To kill an opponent because he thinks differently is, as I see it, not better than to let him live even if he holds an opposite view.
You're putting the cart before the horse. You must realize one's opionions, beliefs, and values are what determines their actions. That being the case, if we are to expect good things from ourselves, it makes perfect sense to first make sure we have good values.
V.V. Raman wrote:
In the case of religion helping feed the homeless, I think the saying "even a blind squirrel finds a nut" applies quite nicely.
I don’t understand this profound maxim.
Just like the blind squirrel that bumbles about is bound to eventually stumble upon a nut or two. So to does religion bumble about, blindly destroying everything it touches, bound to destroy a few "bad things" along the way.
V.V. Raman wrote:
Honestly it's just plain stupid of him to justify the continued respect for religion on the basis of the music and architecture it has inspired.
You can’t expect everyone to be as intelligent as you are. Sorry for being stupid.
Tell that to the innocent victims of religion.

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