Free Saudi Liberals

UPDATED on 9th of January, 2015

Raif Badawi had been sentenced to flogging with 1 000 lashes and 5 years in jail.  For more info, click here.

The website is in Arabic, but since it is easy to get translated (not well, but understandably), please, feel free to visit the site ‘Free Saudi Liberals’.

According to Human Rights Watch, that website’s creator Ra’if Badawi has been arrested and charged under the cyber-crimes law for having created and operated this website.  Apparently, providing a forum where people can discuss matters of concern ‘infringes on religious values’.

He is also criminally charged with ‘not obeying his father’…

From Reuters:

‘Court documents show the evidence against Badawi includes a post on the website that asks, “is God unjust?”, sarcastic remarks about the Saudi religious police and a senior scholar, and a post that asks, “why is Saudi’s Grand Mufti blind?”‘

Online political forums are important to society.

And, it is not only in Saudi Arabia that online forums are targeted by censors.  Right here, in Canada, the methods may be civil rather than criminal law, but, the impulse to censor is the same.  At least here, we can help people who are unfairly targeted raise the funds for their defense.

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36 Responses to “Free Saudi Liberals”

  1. Richie Says:

    This kind of regime with its religious police is crazy. This man has committed no crime. Lets be real, There is no god
    For a start. Many countries seem to practice psychic numbing and Saudi is no different. They have Dated laws which need serious reform
    If humanity is
    To move forward in a productive manner. People of the Middle East need to wake up to reality and stop fighting and destabilising the world over their beliefs which are based in mere fiction and not scientific fact. We have a similar problem in Northern Ireland where they fight over a god that doesn’t exist. Just crazy.

    • Michel Says:

      Good evening Richie,

      I am both surprised and afflicted to see how naturally you say that God does not exist. The worst is that you (like the others in your case) are convinced of what you advance living in a society where religion has nearly disappeared and where those who does still believe in the existence of God are considered as irrationals with archaic conceptions.
      With the development of science in occident, I know that many thought that it would all explain, that all the mysteries of the universe are mere evidence that have to be solved. Nevertheless, as you know, science does not pretend to deliver an absolute truth that could not be reconsidered after (I can give you the exemple of the atom that become a nucleon then a quark). Moreover, even if a discover in science is real, you must keep in mind that it had been once undiscovered, you must stand back and watch, not what it is but how it is, how it could be without the intervention of a being. Indeed, when you watch a drawing, when you look at a house or simply when you admire a clothe with all its motifs and colours you are sure that it is the work of someone, it makes no doubt for you that someone with a science (a knowledge), a will and a power had use all this to realise those house, clothe and drawing. Likewise, it is impossible that this universe with all the perfection, the balance that governs it have no Creator. The chance have nothing to do with the formation of this universe – if we consider the chance as a result which arrrives with absolutely no external influence – since, for there to be formation it needs a cause or at least laws. If the formation is due to laws, there is necessarily whom made these laws because laws are the result of a Science (a knowledge), a Power and A Will. And, if there are a Science, a Power and a Will, necessarily there is the One who owns them…
      I took the time to explain you that because I want people to reflect, to step back towards our reality, all we are linked to, our society (doesn’t they told us in school to keep a critical mind? then, why not towards the system and the conceptions spread in our society) and realize how pitiful and sad it is to believe the reality is not the Work of a Creator.

      Meditates! In yourself, can’t you see ?

      • xanthippa Says:

        Thank you for your comment – it is clear that you have put a lot of thought into it and that you care. For that, I thank you.

        However, your comment illustrates a number of misunderstandings of science, its principles and the way language is used in science.

        Scientific ‘laws’ are not like human ‘laws’ which were created by someone – and which would therefore imply a ‘lawmaker’.

        Rather, science is a method of observation.

        Scientific ‘laws’ are a collection of descriptive observations that successfully predict outcomes of events.

        As our observations improve, so the laws become perfected: thus, Newtonian mechanics is perfectly contained within Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, subatomic particles make up atoms, and so on. Emergence of better and more accurate descriptions of reality does not mean science is faulty: to the contrary! It is a necessary part of the very nature of science and results from the scientific method itself.

        One could go so far as to say that if science were to stop producing better and better descriptions of reality which would predict outcomes of events with greater and greater accuracy, it would degenerate into a dogma and stop being science!

        So, science is not a capital letter Science – it is simply a method of objective observations and analysis.

        There is no scientific evidence of a Power, or of a Will – and thus there is nothing to imply the One who owns them…

        Of course, science does not speak to the topic of supernatural beings and thus has nothing to say on the topic of non-specific deities. However, once specifics of any deity are provided, science can be applied to study them. So far, no specific deity has withstood the test of scientific scrutiny successfully.

        You make a very impassioned argument best known as the ‘watchmaker’ argument: the existence of a watch implies a watch-maker therefore the existence of the Universe implies a Universe-maker and therefore God. However, this argument has been shown to be seriously flawed. Please, follow this link for a thorough explanation: http://www.update.uu.se/~fbendz/nogod/watchmak.htm

        In short, most people who have studied science do not ‘believe things’ without solid evidence. And, there is no scientific evidence for supernatural beings. I’d go even further and assert that since science is the study of natural phenomena, it is not physically possible for it to ‘prove’ anything about supernatural things.

        This leaves the belief in deities strictly in the realm of ‘faith’.

        And faith is ‘believing in things’ without any proof, without any good reason.

        Faith is, from our point of view, a form of gullibility and a serious human flaw – something that can be used to manipulate people, perhaps the only thing that can make even good people do evil things.

        Thus, faith is something to be avoided at all costs!

      • Michel Says:

        Good evening,

        First of all, I do not think you understood what I wanted to say about Science in my first message. I did not want to say Science is not reliable, all I said is it evolves so you should not consider it as “the most reliable source”. Admittedly, some theories postulated before have been useful to build actual theories (as you indicate it concerning the elementary particle or for Newtonian mechanic) but some other conceptions are totally reconsidered then as the theory of the Four temperaments or the Contractionism theory (Eduard Suess). This could be because of means, because we do not have the technology to make better observations or to experiment the theory. But, we can also make mistakes due to observations (even with the technology) or in the experience. Sometimes reality is hidden, what appears to us is due to physic phenomena that change the caracteristcs of an object. Sometimes, mistakes are made which affect the conditions of realisation of an experience so the results (that was the case when scientists announced recently that the neutrino was faster than light; what would it be if we did not remark the mistake?). And, sometimes theories are unverifiable not because we do not have yet the technologies required but because it is over our own capacities (the Big Bang theory, the theory of evolution). Scientists exposed what are for them indirect proofs of these theories like what they called the cosmic microwave background or fossils they found. These are not proofs but pieces, elements about which they put their own interpretations. If two fossils are similars or if sequences of a gene present points in common it does not mean necessarily there is an ancestor…

        However, many people consider those theories as truths despite of their state of theories. When these people heard about science they accord to informations such a credibility, it is for them rational. In very truth, there has been a confusion between Science and reason, logic. Nevertheless, they are two distincts things : while the reason (the rational reasoning) is a mechanism – that all men of sound mine share – made of implications that permit to access to a truth, a “solid evidence”, Science uses assumptions which are the results of interpretations and which are not always verified. In the two cases we talk about a reasoning but they do not use the same ways and they do not end in the same thing.
        Besides, there are things Science can prove and the reason can not, and things reason can prove but Science can not. Thus, Science, by itself can not prove directly the Existence of a Creator since it applies to beings that could be seen (with our actual eyes), mesured. Yet, God, by definition is not material, does not have any likeness with things of this universe whatever they are palpable or impalpable, by definition, he cannot be in a place, the directions do not concern Him, he does not have a way or a mean to exist and he does not depend of time. Nevertheless, the Existence of God can be proved by the reason as I tried to explain in my last message.

        I have read the page of the website you linked in your mail. All the counter-arguments can be contested, they are based on a bad comprehension of Paley’s argument or self-interpretations.

        1) In the website it is said first that there is a contradiction in the reasoning since it presents first the stone, which we can say is a representative of the universe as a random thing and then it says the universe is complex. It is totally false if we based on the extract given in the website : Paley never mention the term random. Then, either you consider the stone as a random object either you deduce that because Paley says that seeing the stone we could possibly answer it has been there forever. If it is the first reason, then let me remind you a stone got many properties – I mean caracteristics – and if we explore it intimate structure we can find a complex assembly of minerals. If it is the second reason, then I would say if Paley said this it is not because the stone appears uncomplicated but because it appears as a normal thing, it is there naturally, it was there since our birth and even before so we could think it lays there since ever. Moreover if you read correctly the paragraph you will see that Paley says : “nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer” that is to say this semblance of familiarisation must not be (but this I would explain it later :).

        2) The second argument is unfounded. Indeed, the analogy does not target specificly a watchmaker but a being and which possesses at least these third attributes : a science, a will and a power. A science because to make something need a knowledge, we must know how to build it and you do not need to be necessarily a watchmaker for that – I can build a watch for example on condition that I have the expertise. A will because how something can be if you do not want it to, if there is no will there is no purpose, nothing planed so no reason for the thing to be. A power, because to assemble a thing or for it can be solid you must have the possibility to do it. Therefore, the shoe does not need specificly a shoemaker, the life a lifemaker, the sun a sunmaker but a being, possesor of a will, who have the science and the power to make it.

        3) As I said, the reasoning does not say the object involves there is a man specificly who made it. Therefore, there is no reason to attribute to the Creator a father as the man has a father.Someone could object the Creator must have a Creator since I am saying the man has a Creator. But, once again, the analgy does not consist of that, the analogy made between two elements A and B and two elements C and D does not make specifcly the comparaison between A and C or B and D but between a logic link that unites A to B and C to D. Nevertheless, I want to answer why the Creator could not have been created whereas we are created. First, we can not apply the reasoning to the Creator that is to say we can not say His existence involves there is a being which has a power, a will and a science. Indeed this reasoning concerns beings that have a form, which are composed and assembled that is to say which revealed a particular organisation, particular limits. God, by definition does not have a form, He is not a body since the body involves a limit, a composition, a division. A body is necessarily contained in a place and God lives without a place. Besides, God can not be created since to be created means to have a begining and he who has a begining is imperfect and has many similars – that is to say he is not unique – therefore he does not merit to be worshiped – He who merits to be worshiped is precisely the definition of God.
        But then, as it is said in the website we can ask ourself why this universe, it, must necessarily have a begining, an origin. As you can see, things of this universe are changing, they evolve, they move, they transform in short they passed from a state to another. Yet, to change, to pass from a state to another it need to have a begining because it is impossible to achieve a particular state if there is no initialization, if the being is since ever. This reasoning does not concern God since God does not change, He is like He is from all Eternity.

        4) God creates from nothing wereheas the man has to find the elements to assemble something. However, the analogy is not false since it says as a shoe, a watch need the being who assemble it, this universe all the more need a Being who gave it all its perfections and organisation. It does not say that the Creator creates from nil but this is deduced then. Indeed, for there to be an organisation, a composition it need the elements which compose and given that these elements are not since ever – as we saw before – the Being which made the organisation have raised the elements from nil.

        6) The sixth argument is not consistent because it wants to use an anology wereheas it does not respect the conditions of an anology. The analogy used in the website to demonstrate Paley’s reasoning does not stand up, first uses only the logic link that the word “yet” express then uses an implication. Indeed, the reasoning they use is the following : 1. Leaves are complex cellulose structures. 2. “Yet” leaves grow on trees. 3. Money bills are complex cellulose structures. 4. “Therefore” it grows on trees. That does not make sense, if you use the implication you must use it from the begining to the end. The Paley’s analogy, it, admittedly uses the logic link “yet” to reveal the watch has a watchmaker but there is also the implication : if there is a watch “therefore” there is the one who made it.

        5 and 7) The fifth and the seventh arguments can not be accepted since they based on believes that are not shared by everybody : the belief the universe is the result of the Big Bang, the belief life is the result of evolution and the belief all we have in this universe is regulated by chance only. As I tried to explain in my last message, as they admitted in the website chance is blind, chance has no will, no plan, it acts without a self-awareness, not from his own will. So, on a hand it can not be responsible of all the amazing order of this universe and the perfection of the bodies it contains, on the other it necessarily put up with the power of another being. How chance can perform if no-one produced a randomized experiment ?

        Whatever arises, comes in existance (an object, its characteriscts, a change, a transformation, a cause, an effect…) it need the Creator, it need God since no-one except Him has the power to make them exist. Nothing can change, nothing can be engaged without the intervention of God because what change necessarily need he who permits it to change.

        To conclude, I would say faith is not in all cases bad, it is not consistently arbitrary and groundless. Admittedly, some faiths are contrary to reason, even absurd, some faiths are blind faiths, some faiths are even responsible of injustices but faith in God is not – I mean the faith in conformance with what God is necessarily exempt like the limit, the ignorance, the incapacity and what God necessarily possesses like the Science, the Will, the Power. I am not saying this faith is based on reason – faith is based on a submission – but reason and reality confirm it since it is the very truth. To embrace this faith, it definitely need to accept things, to abandon others but this is not without any good reason. If, there are things forbidden, red-lines fixed, this is not to confine people, to attack their freedom but this is to preserve them from what is harmful. Obviously, there are things you can not understand but it does not mean they are foolish, it only means you do not have the wisdom necessary to see their interest.
        When I converted to Islam, it was the most important day of my life. Before, I was very inattentive, I did not pay much attention when someone talked to me or when something important happened, I did not have a personality, I acted to satisfy people, to feel more accepted, sometimes I did not manage to control my emotions, what led me to do regrettable things – and this list is not exhaustive. Now, I am more ready to listen to people, I do what I really want to do – the real freedom is in the full and deliberate obediance to the Creator – and I try not to follow my passions but to follow what is good and reasonable. In fact, things became clearer to me, I had landmarks, a path, the means to cross it. I learned you must not ruch in a judgement but you have to step back and consider more fully the situation. Indeed, sometimes you are more disposed to consider some judgement because you are linked to some conceptions, a certain relation with your reality so you can not see further than it. It is the same with this universe and what compose it, if you look at it thinking it is normal, it always been thus you will never be able to appreciate – I mean to consider – it full perfection, it real nature. It is only when you will take the time to step back, to reflect steadily and clearly that you will see deeply the wonder of Nature and at the same time that you will reveal your greatness…

  2. CodeSlinger Says:

    Michel:

    Most of the arguments pitting Science “against” God are between people who understand neither Science nor God.

    Most people who argue against the religious viewpoint do so because they cannot get past a very simplistic picture of God as a “white-bearded man in the sky.” They completely miss the subtlety of the idea of the unmoved mover, the self-creating creator, or, in Jewish esoteric teachings, the Ain Soph.

    Likewise, most people who argue against the scientific viewpoint do so because they cannot get past a very simplistic picture of “everything coming about by chance.” They completely miss the subtlety of the principle of self-organization: that order comes out of chaos by fluctuations stabilized by dissipation.

    The deeper one delves into either viewpoint, the more one finds oneself thinking about the same kinds of questions: What is energy? What is life? What is consciousness? How should a man live? What is the origin of chaos? Why is there anything at all?

    Neither high-school science nor Sunday-school theology gives credible answers to such questions.

    However, people who think deeply about these questions end up coming to similar views. Where the differences arise is in that some people prefer to express these views in animistic terms, and others prefer to use mechanistic terms.

    Let me give you an example which has direct relevance to how we perceive the relationship between the individual and society.

    The religious man will say, “the rights of man are given to him by God.”

    The scientific man will say, “the rights of man are inherent in the fact of his existence.”

    These are just two different ways of saying the same thing.

    And the sooner we realize that, the sooner we will rob the ideologues of their power, whether they are Islamic, Christian, or cultural Marxist.

  3. xanthippa Says:

    Michael and CodeSlinger:

    Thank you both for your thought out answers.

    There are a few things I’d like to raise and, perhaps, open up for discussion as you both appear to be deep thinkers and approach these same difficult questions from very different backgrounds and I think reading your reasoning will enrich all who are following this discussion.

    In my never-humble-opinion, it is impossible to argue that something ‘started to exist’ or ‘exists eternally’ without actually understanding what it is that ‘to exist’ actually means.

    In my limited thinking – and, I am fully aware that not everyone shares my views and ideas – ‘to exist’ means to be objectively perceptible.

    By objectively, I mean in a repeatable ‘manner’.

    For the ‘manner’ to be repeatable, that perception necessarily needs to be describable in material terms because if it were not, it would be impossible to compare the result in order to establish that the results were indeed repeated.

    Energy is measurable in a repeatable manner, thus, to my understanding, it ‘exists’.

    God/Goddess/supreme being is not measurable in a repeatable manner, the perception thereof varies greatly among humans yet no two peoples experiences are identical and no instrument has ever detected ‘a deity’ under any conditions, either.

    What is measurable is the ‘idea of God/Goddess/supreme being’ – we can see it as a thought pattern on fMRIs when believers are actively thinking about their deities. Thus, I can only conclude that it is the ‘idea of’ deities that exists, but not that actual deities themselves do.

    It therefore seems to me that to believe in things that cannot be demonstrated to ‘exist’ is a very counterproductive thing to do and to expend energy on praying/worshiping/making sacrifices to things that cannot be demonstrated to ‘exist’ actively detracts from human well-being.

  4. CodeSlinger Says:

    Xanthippa:

    Well, in the language of quantum mechanics, what you are claiming is that only observables exist, and that is obviously nonsense.

    The concept of existence is much more subtle than that. To see this, just ask yourself if the concept of existence exists. I don’t mean the pattern of activity your brain exhibits when you think of the concept of existence, or any other physical representation of the concept; I mean the concept itself. Does it exist?

    How about the real numbers? Do they exist? Nobody has ever observed one – or, if they have, they have no way of knowing that they have, because you can’t distinguish a real number from a rational number in a finite number of decimal places.

    The concept of existence is far too subtle to be captured by the simple, reductionistic mechanics of observables. Bohr’s infamous claim that “nothing exists until it is measured” is one of the most ill-considered things he ever said.

    Much more profound is his statement that “there is no quantum world. There is only an abstract quantum physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature.”

    I would refine this by saying that the task of physics is to reduce to an absolute minimum the gap between how nature is and what we can say about it.

    In our day-to-day affairs, this difference can usually be made negligible. But when we approach the limits of very large times and distances, or very small ones, or very great simplicity or complexity, we reach the limits of our ability to say consistent and unambiguous things.

    It is precisely at these limits – in the interstices between how nature is and what we can say about it – that both the secular and the religious world-views fall into inconsistency and ambiguity, and hence, conflict… both within themselves and with each other.

    If taken too seriously, the ensuing ill-formed constructs are then projected back to the everyday world, resulting in tragically flawed conceptions of human nature and the human condition.

    On the religious side, we see the anthropomorphosis of God, which leads to theocracy.

    And on the secular side, we see the apotheosis of Man, which leads to collectivism.

    Both lead to similar evils by different routes.

    But it is a mistake to think that the religious and the secular views are necessarily in conflict. They often are, but it need not be so.

    Where the religious viewpoint sees the hand of the Creator, the secular viewpoint sees order emerging spontaneously from chaos via the self-organizing dynamics of non-equilibrium systems. And where the secular viewpoint sees consciousness emerging spontaneously in neural systems by a formally identical self-organizing dynamics, the religious viewpoint sees God creating Man in His own image.

    The difference between them, as long as neither side becomes too enthralled by its own dogma, is merely a difference of emphasis.

    Where the one view is mechanistic and reductionistic, the other is animistic and holistic.

    Each mode of description, alone, is inadequate.

    Together, they can do much better.

    But first they have to overcome their mutual distaste.

    • xanthippa Says:

      I’m afraid I agree with what you say, CodeSlinger!

      With, of course, a few caveats…

      You say: “It is precisely at these limits – in the interstices between how nature is and what we can say about it – that both the secular and the religious world-views fall into inconsistency and ambiguity, and hence, conflict… both within themselves and with each other.”

      This is precisely why I self-identify as BOTH an atheist and a poly-theist, depending on the other person’s specific definition of ‘deities’. It is precisely because of this ambiguity that I do so…

      Yet, it is also this very same ‘ambiguity’ (for lack of a better term) that makes all forms of monotheism illogical and fundamentally unacceptable to my admittedly limited thinking.

  5. CodeSlinger Says:

    Xanthippa:

    Well, well. You surprise me.

    But this is just why I brought up the concept of Ain Soph – the ineffable infinite, which transcends all distinctions. We cannot describe it as male or female; it is both and yet it is neither. We cannot describe it as singular or plural; it is both and neither.

    To this I would add, we cannot describe it as animistic and holistic or mechanistic and reductionistic; it is both and neither.

    And so, just like the distinction between theism and atheism, the distinction between polytheism and monotheism becomes ill-formed in the last analysis.

    • xanthippa Says:

      CodeSlinger,

      now you surprise me!

      That ‘feeling’ you describe as Ain Soph is, in my never-humble-opinion, nothing mystical or particularly supernatural.

      From its descriptions, it sounds very much like the feeling of security when we are pre-verbal infants and well cared for. Since it is first perceived in our our pre-verbal times, from when our own cognitive functions were not quite fully operational, we have a difficult time describing this form of bliss. And, when we experience it as adults, we re-experience it through (re-awaken) this pre-verbal, pre-higher-cognitive memory.

      Do most people not remember their early experiences and is this why this feeling baffles so many of them?

      Could the source of theism really be as simple as a misinterpretation of our early-infancy memories?

  6. CodeSlinger Says:

    Xanthippa:

    Feeling?

    I don’t know how you got the impression that I’m talking about a feeling.

    I do agree with what you say about religious feelings having roots in the echoes, in the adult mind, of infantile feelings related to mother and father. How could it be otherwise? Such feelings are sublimated over time into archetypes that form the subconscious foundations upon which we build our mentation.

    And indeed, such feelings may well have a lot to do with a person’s preference for a religious or secular mode of expression.

    But the central thrust of my remarks has nothing to do with feelings, religious or otherwise.

    My point is not that the uncreated creator is, or is not, inherently mystical.

    Some people prefer to describe it as such, and others prefer to describe it in terms chosen to sound as unmystical as possible.

    What I am saying is that both are trying to come to grips with the same concept – an ultimate, ineffable, unbounded formlessness, from which everything emanates, or upon which everything rests – an infinitely creative void, which is utter and complete absence and therefore entails infinite potential.

    But when we put it like that, it begins to sound a lot like the primal singularity, which is colloquially called the big bang, but is better expressed as a highly distinguished state of the quantum vacuum, described in terms of the superposition of creation and annihilation operators.

    This can be made to appear very rigorous, but at its core, the mathematical formalism of quantum field theory is just as inchoate and nebulous as the theological pronunciations of the mystics.

    The source of the difficulty is eloquently expressed by George Spencer Brown in the introduction to Laws of Form, his seminal book on the foundations of mathematics and symbolic logic:

    “The fact that we have to use words and other symbols in an attempt to express what the use of words and other symbols has hitherto obscured, tends to make demands of an extraordinary nature on both writer and reader.”

    “We are extending the analysis through and beyond the point of simplicity where language ceases to act normally as a currency for communication. … To extend back beyond this point demands a considerable unlearning of the current descriptive superstructure which, until it is unlearned, can be mistaken for the reality.”

    “We have here reached a place so primitive that active and passive, as well as a number of other more peripheral opposites, have long since condensed together, and almost any form of words will suggest more categories than there really are.”

    • xanthippa Says:

      OK, CodeSlinger, point taken.

      So, how/why do people go from this recognition/acknowledgment to worshiping in and/or obeying rules they are told it has decreed?

  7. CodeSlinger Says:

    Xanthippa:

    These are questions we have discussed at length in this post from a couple of years ago.

    As we noted there, there are deep psychological and neurophysiological connections between religious experience, sexual ecstasy, epileptic seizure, and hypnotic trance. Ancient cultures used music, chanting, dance, orgies, and entheogens to achieve these altered states of consciousness. Modern society has secular ways of inducing the same states – football games, rock concerts, movies, television, vallium, and prozac, to name a just few.

    The secular ones are the more dangerous, because they allow us to pretend we have left all that behind, which induces us to drop our guards and leaves us even more vulnerable to manipulation.

    When people worship God, they do so explicitly. In order to oppress people by hijacking this worship, the state must enlist the collusion of the church. Great evil often results, but the two are often at odds and thus tend to limit each other’s depredations.

    But when people give up worshipping God explicitly, they mostly end up worshipping the state implicitly. This frees the state of the need to hijack the worship, and simultaneously frees the state of the need to maintain an uneasy peace with the church.

    This disguises the abuse of power and concentrates power in fewer hands.

    And this is why people in the enlightened, secularized West are more down-trodden and exploited than ever before.

    • xanthippa Says:

      Yes CodeSlinger, you are corrrect.

      But, that was not my intent…

      I suppose it is not surprising that in this area, words are failing me.

      What I was trying to get at is that on the one hand, we have difficulty using words to describe a singularity, like the Big Bang.

      On the other hand, we have several ancient schools of mysticism, theistic or atheistic, that have difficulty describing ‘the divine’. Ain Soph would be just one such thing…

      Besides the overlap in difficulty using language, I don’t see how you get from one to the other: a singularity may be difficult to describe, but there is nothing inherently mystical/spiritual about it… These are very different fishes.

      One is fun to learn about and speculate and forces us to acknowledge the limits of our knowledge, even as we pursue to stretch them. 100% reason.

      The other is intentionally inducing an imbalance in brain chemicals akin to mental illness and feeling superior about it afterwards. 100% un-reason, active suppression of reason, self-induced madness – even if pleasurable.

      Example: the Pythagoreans figured out the square root of two to a lot of digits – pure reason. But, right away, they sought to keep this knowledge secret because they considered it mystical and powerful.

      THAT is the leap I don’t get.

      I get wanting to keep it secret if it gave them competitive advantage. And, I get feeling good by inducing altered brain chemistry. What I don’t get is how/why the square root of two became ‘mystical knowledge’. Not just the manipulation – I get that, but that people would actually buy into it, because they did drink their own Kool-Aid, so to speak…

      That I don’t get.

  8. CodeSlinger Says:

    Xanthippa:

    I should add that people do not go in the direction your last post indicates. That is, they do not go from an understanding of the ineffable infinite to obeying rules they are told it has decreed. If anything, they go in the opposite direction – beginning in the outermost ring of the exoteric religious doctrine, they gradually come to appreciate ever more subtle aspects of it until they achieve initiation into the esoteric teachings.

    The general public is given a “dumbed-down” version which bids them to worship and obey, while deep understanding is reserved only for the initiates. These latter go through a long process of instruction, training, and indoctrination to make sure that only those who can be relied upon to perpetuate the entrenched power structure reach the inner circle.

    We have recently discussed in this post how modern science is structured in exactly the same way. The public gets a dumbed-down version, worships the state in place of a deity, and complies with politically-correct dicta instead of obeying religious taboos, all while pretending that they aren’t really worshipping or obeying at all.

    The modern system retains everything that was detestable about theocracy, but does so in a way that allows it to deny that this is what’s going on.

    Pseudo-scientific dogmatism, collectivist moral relativism, and feminist secular edenism come together to create what amounts to a totalitarian stealth-theocracy on steroids.

    It’s nothing but a much slicker version of the same old scam.

  9. CodeSlinger Says:

    Xanthippa:

    It’s hard for us, today, to know for sure what the initiates of the ancient mystery schools actually believed. The inner teachings were oral traditions and are thus largely lost to us. Out of the lot of them, I think only Kabbalah has been committed to writing in anything resembling its complete form.

    Those teachings that were written down were written in a way that meant one thing to the lay reader, and something quite different to the initiate. In addition to the confounding effect of changes in word usage over time, the various schools use words in a technical sense, which allows greater precision of expression among the initiates, but leaves the lay reader baffled or, preferably, mislead.

    This remains true to the present day. For example, the general public, and even the majority of working physicists, have unreservedly drunk the Copenhagen Kool-Aid. But it’s clear that the most advanced thinkers in physics hold a much more nuanced view of the nature of physical reality and what we can say about it.

    For the Pythagoreans, there were, of course, practical reasons for keeping the knowledge of the properties of numbers secret, because such knowledge enabled them to calculate things like solstices, equinoxes, and eclipses. They also had detailed knowledge of the medicinal properties of many herbs, and thus had very good reasons to protect their competitive advantage, as you put it, by keeping their knowledge secret.

    But, all that aside, I think you are over-simplifying the Pythagorean mysteries. The resulting straw man is easily knocked down, but has no bearing on the substance of the discussion.

    The Heiros Logos, the holy book containing the Pythagorean mysteries, was destroyed in the same fire that killed Pythagoras and all but two members of his inner circle. Nonetheless, we know that those mysteries were much deeper than you portray them, because we know that Pythagoras was privy to the inner teachings of all the main mystery schools of his time.

    In addition to studying under Thales of Miletus, he spent decades travelling and consorting with the initiates of the Phoenician, Egyptian, Babylonian, and Hindustani mystery schools. Part of what he learned is revealed to us in Fragments of Pythagoras, written by Archytas of Tarentum in about 400 BC:

    “There are therefore three principles: God, the substance of things, and form. God is the artist, the mover; the substance is the matter, the moved; the essence is what you might call the art, and that to which the substance is brought by the mover. But since the mover contains forces which are self-contrary, those of simple bodies, and as the contraries are in need of a principle harmonizing and unifying them, it must necessarily receive its efficacious virtues and proportions from the numbers, and all that is manifested in numbers and geometric forms; virtues and proportions capable of binding and uniting into form the contraries that exist in the substance of things.”

    This sheds some light on the deeper reasons why Pythagoras was concerned with numbers. His interest was founded on the tradition of Sacred Geometry, which was carried forward by Plato – after whom we name the Platonic solids, which embody the fundamental symmetries – and it is still central to the study of advanced physics today, in that the Standard Model of the elementary particles is grounded entirely in the study of symmetry groups.

    All of this is an attempt to understand how intent, extent, and content emerge from the void together, or not at all. Factored another way, it is an inquiry into how time, space, and energy exist together or not at all. Now, the trio of (intent, extent, content) seems to imply one who intends, while the trio (time, space, energy) seems to imply no such thing. Yet…

    They are just two different ways to factor the same primal concept.

    In this regard, we should remember that only in the last couple of hundred years have the ideas of life and motion become clearly distinguished, and that it took some of the greatest thinkers of the Enlightenment to do it, like Leibniz, Newton, Descartes, and d’Alembert.

    Until then, beginning at least as early as Thales of Miletus (a teacher of Pythagoras), the ideas of momentum and kinetic energy were conflated with each other and with the idea of “vis viva” or “life force.”

    And since then, Einstein has re-united energy and momentum by showing that energy is the time-component, and momentum is the space-component, of a single underlying entity which we now call the energy-momentum four-vector.

    In addition, Prigogine has laid the foundations for the re-unification of animism and mechanism with his elucidation of the crucial roles of fluctuation and dissipation in the self-organizing dynamics of non-equilibrium systems. We have seen in a previous post how the emergence of mind from brain, life fron non-life, and ultimately, everything from nothing, all obey this same formal dynamics.

    Thus, no matter how much the animists and the mechanists may want to turn their backs on each other, they are constantly forced to confront each other – to the exact degree that they think clearly and correctly about the fundamentals of their own subject matter.

    In summary, we see that the path forward leads not through a victory of mechanism over animism, or vice versa, but through a realisation that the two are complementary views of the same underlying reality.

    Each has its place.

    Esoterically, as a path to deeper understanding and unification of physical, abstract, and moral principles.

    And exoterically, as a way to disseminate knowledge, philosophy, and morality to the lay public.

    In the case of religion, we have seen how the improper balance of the esoteric and the exoteric leads to horrific abuses.

    In the case of science, we have seen how the mistaken belief that secular knowledge is immune from such imbalance has re-created the same abuses in an even more harmful form.

    We should therefore seek a synthesis of the two, because each forms a defence against the abuses peculiar to the other.

    • xanthippa Says:

      CodeSlinger:

      You say:
      In the case of religion, we have seen how the improper balance of the esoteric and the exoteric leads to horrific abuses.

      In the case of science, we have seen how the mistaken belief that secular knowledge is immune from such imbalance has re-created the same abuses in an even more harmful form.

      We should therefore seek a synthesis of the two, because each forms a defence against the abuses peculiar to the other.

      Quite agreed on that.

      And, I am not attempting to argue – just expressing just how baffling I find the first leap to the esoteric to have been. I know it is my deep limitation, but, I suspect that the esoteric is something I’ll never be able to wrap my mind around.

      I find it fascinating, and have since childhood, that people ‘have faith’ and believe in stuff and all that and have partaken in religious ceremonies and such where I attempted to follow the esoteric teachings of all kinds – but I still find taking it seriously to be silly. Metaphorically – OK, but that is not how the believers take it…

      I am not trying to disagree with what you say – I just find that whole thing frustrating.

  10. CodeSlinger Says:

    Xanthippa:

    The inner teachings are not matters of faith; they result from careful observation and deep thought.

    The exoteric dogma that is fed to the lay public is the part that is to be taken on faith, and those who actually do take it on faith will never be initiated.

    Those who show a grasp of the subtleties are either invited inward or persecuted as heretics, depending on whether or not they avoid leading the faithful into doubt.

    Between the exoteric dogma and the esoteric teachings, there are several levels of doctrine, and every level presents the same choice between accepting misleading half-truths on faith, or displaying just the right combination of posturing and questioning to earn advancement to the next level.

    So what, exactly, is the “it” that you have trouble taking seriously?

    • xanthippa Says:

      CodeSlinger,

      the bit that baffles me is the faith bit of the non-initiates.

      And how information security got so overblown that it defines peoples’ very self-identity…

      Yes, I understand the bits, I’m just baffled how such a silly thing could take over humanity.

  11. CodeSlinger Says:

    Xanthippa:

    Aha. Yes, I’m with you on that!

    Though I’ve always been deeply interested in the roots of the world’s belief systems – both in how they bear on the mysteries of nature and the human condition and in how they are woven into the foundations of societies – I have never been able to relate to the subjective experience of the true believer.

    By the way, I notice we’ve lost our Muslim participant in this conversation, presumably because he realized that there was no hope of converting either of us…

    • xanthippa Says:

      CodeSlinger:

      EXACTLY!!!

      And – yes, I suspect so.

      • Michel Says:

        Good evening,

        Sorry to answer so late, I had vacations and it ended at the begening of January. I am a student in Science, I have a lot of work (an exam on Monday about mechanic and also spectroscopy…) so I do not have always the time to read and analyse your comments. Moreover I am french and I need the time to understand or to write correctly.

        Anyway, I have read more or less what you have said. I think you talk about too much things at a time, sometimes I do not see the link between the arguments. We can not have a real debate if each time we jump from a subject to another. We must advance step by step, isn’t it ?

        Let’s start from the begining, my aim was not to criticize Science nor oppose Science and religion. At the contrary, I do think Science can help us to understand more our world so to know better how to fit in it and use it potential but also our potential to make great things. Moreover, Science and religion are certainly not opposed since they do not concern the same field. If, sometimes there are conflicts between Science and religion that is only because some people either use Science to discuss of things only religion can discuss, either use religion to discuss of things only Science can discuss. Indeed, the field of Science deals with what is mesurable, observable and with the experience – not only in laboratory – wereheas religion talk about revelation, things that men have to know to distinguish the truth from what is false, what is fair from what is unfair – among others. This does not mean Science and religion never can meet but when they meet they do not use the same ways to broach a subject or they do not touch the same points of the subject.

        All I wanted to say in my posts is Science evolves (some theories become clear, others are modified or even totally reconsidered) so it must not be taken as the absolute truth, very rational for which all other arguments are archaics. I know everybody does not think thus but many do so especially the atheists who search always more theories to justify there would be no need to believe in God and to criticize those who do believe in the existance of God. Nonetheless, this leads nowhere and despite all the efforts made to explain this universe would be the result of an auto-organisation, all we see is there are always more parameters that intervene which makes it impossible there is no creator. Besides, as I said and as I repeated : Science and reason are two different things, there is no reason to pretend something is rational because it is scientific. Admiteedly, Science concerns things observable, that exists in a “repetable maneer” that is to say our reality but our reality is not reason, the laws of our reality are not the laws of reason. The laws of our reality are only possible laws not necessary laws, they could be oversteped as they could be replaced. Reason, on the contrary leads to something categorical, a truth that can not be else. Reason is one of the three sources of science – I mean knowledge – with the five senses and the truthful news (the truthful news is a news reported by a lot of people who have been witnessed of a fact, who themself reported it to a lot of people and so on until it comes to us; it is like this we know Napoleon won a battle or countries or empires we never see had exist like the Mali Empire)…

        Do we succeeded to understand us ? Before to poursuive the debate, do you have some disagrees with what I’ve said so we can disscuss to see If I can make it clearer? It is only this way we would construct a solid debate…

      • xanthippa Says:

        Welcome back, Michel!

        I do hope your exam on Monday went well. I still (20+ years after University) wake up thinking I had overslept for an exam….it can get a little stressful!

        Thanks to CodeSlinger for having answered you earlier. And, while CodeSlinger and I agree on many things, I do not agree with him on everything. Thus, I will limit my response only to those bits that are different.

        First and foremost, before we can discuss any of the matters which are so esoteric as to be on the edges of what language can describe, we must agree on what we mean by the words we use.

        Perhaps the most essential – in order of discussion – is what is it that we mean by the term ‘exists’ or ‘to exist’. Unless we can agree on this, there is no point in going any further because we will not be able to understand each others’ points of view. From this we must extend to define what we mean by ‘a being’.

        Second of all (again, in order of discussion), we must agree on what we mean by ‘sentient’ or ‘self-aware’. After all, if we desire to apply the property of ‘sentient’ or ‘self aware’ to ‘a being’, we must agree what we mean by that.

        Thirdly, I reject CodeSlinger’s assertion that ‘faith’ or ‘feeling’ is a valid approach to observing the world, one that is simply complementary to the scientific method.

        The only approach which is valid in my never-humble-opinion is the one method with any actually demonstrated predictive accuracy: scientific observation. All else is a self-indulgence. I’m sorry if this offends either one of you, but things that are not rational are, by definition, irrational and thus not respectable (‘irrational numbers’ excluded, as that is a different meaning of ‘irrational’).

  12. Michel Says:

    Good evening,

    Sorry to answer so late, I had vacations and it ended at the begening of January. I am a student in Science, I have a lot of work (an exam on Monday about mechanic and also spectroscopy…) so I do not have always the time to read and analyse your comments. Moreover I am french and I need the time to understand or to write correctly.

    Anyway, I have read more or less what you have said. I think you talk about too much things at a time, sometimes I do not see the link between the arguments. We can not have a real debate if each time we jump from a subject to another. We must advance step by step, isn’t it ?

    Let’s start from the begining, my aim was not to criticize Science nor oppose Science and religion. At the contrary, I do think Science can help us to understand more our world so to know better how to fit in it and use it potential but also our potential to make great things. Moreover, Science and religion are certainly not opposed since they do not concern the same field. If, sometimes there are conflicts between Science and religion that is only because some people either use Science to discuss of things only religion can discuss, either use religion to discuss of things only Science can discuss. Indeed, the field of Science deals with what is mesurable, observable and with the experience – not only in laboratory – wereheas religion talk about revelation, things that men have to know to distinguish the truth from what is false, what is fair from what is unfair – among others. This does not mean Science and religion never can meet but when they meet they do not use the same ways to broach a subject or they do not touch the same points of the subject.

    All I wanted to say in my posts is Science evolves (some theories become clear, others are modified or even totally reconsidered) so it must not be taken as the absolute truth, very rational for which all other arguments are archaics. I know everybody does not think thus but many do so especially the atheists who search always more theories to justify there would be no need to believe in God and to criticize those who do believe in the existance of God. Nonetheless, this leads nowhere and despite all the efforts made to explain this universe would be the result of an auto-organisation, all we see is there are always more parameters that intervene which makes it impossible there is no creator. Besides, as I said and as I repeated : Science and reason are two different things, there is no reason to pretend something is rational because it is scientific. Admiteedly, Science is the study of what is observable, what exists in a “repetable maneer” that is to say our reality but our reality is not reason, the laws of our reality are not the laws of reason. The laws of our reality are only possible laws not necessary laws, they could be oversteped as they could be replaced. Reason, on the contrary leads to something categorical, a truth that can not be else. Reason is one of the three sources of science – I mean knowledge – with the five senses and the truthful news (the truthful news is a news reported by a lot of people who have been witnessed of a fact, who themself reported it to a lot of people and so on until it comes to us; it is like this we know Napoleon won a battle or countries or empires we never see had exist like the Mali Empire)…

    Do we succeeded to understand us ? Before to poursuive the debate, do you have some disagrees with what I’ve said so we can disscuss to see If I can make it clearer? It is only this way we would construct a solid debate…

  13. CodeSlinger Says:

    Michel:

    Welcome back!

    Yes, we have discussed many aspects of the matter while you were gone, but I think it is all very relevant to the substance and motivation of the debate. You, too, raise many different issues in your comment — indeed, many of the same issues.

    We humans want to understand the world and our place in it. Science and religion are two ways of expressing such understandings. The secular-scientific way is reductionistic and mechanistic, and the religious-poetic way is animistic and holistic. This is one main thread that is woven through our discourse.

    Also, we humans use our understanding of the world and our place in it as a foundation of our politics and culture. How and why we do this has a lot to do with the basic structure and function of our minds and brains. This is another main thread that is woven through our discourse.

    Both of these threads are important to understanding the relationship between science and religion.

    It is certainly not true that science and religion concern different things.

    They both concern the question, “what kind of creature is a man?” And the answer has profound implications for the question, “how should a man live?”

    Since science and religion both give answers to these questions, they cannot avoid coming into conflict where they disagree, or appear to disagree, on these answers.

    You want to distinguish “things only religion can discuss” from “things only science can discuss.”

    But there are no such things!

    There is nothing religion cannot discuss, and there is nothing science cannot discuss.

    You state that science concerns only what is concrete and observable.

    But I have already shown above that science cannot avoid being concerned with abstract things that are not observable at all.

    You give the example of deciding what is fair and unfair as a question about which science is silent.

    But science is not silent on this question!

    This is exactly the kind of issue we mean when we ask how a man should live. As I have already indicated, how a man should live follows directly (by reason tempered with compassion) from what kind of creature a man is.

    You are right in saying that science and reason are two different things. It is also true that religion and faith are two different things. In science, reason has priority over faith, but in religion, faith has priority over reason – and this is why science and religion conflict.

    You raise the issue of how to distinguish true from false. But true and false only exist in the abstract. When we think about the real world, all we have to work with are degrees of belief.

    The only absolute knowledge we can have is knowledge of abstract things – but abstract things have no concrete existence. Reasoning about the real world as though we can have absolute knowledge of it will necessarily lead us into error.

    We have no absolute knowledge of the real world. We have only evidence – and all evidence is uncertain to some degree. Therefore everything we conclude from that evidence carries some degree of uncertainty.

    Thus, in reasoning about the real world, the real question is how should we decide what to believe?

    Science and religion give two incompatible answers to this question.

    Again, this is why science and religion conflict.

    The resolution of this conflict requires us to understand the proper relationship between reason and faith, and never blindly give priority to either one.

    Let’s consider your example of knowing about Napoleon.

    Well, we do not know that Napoleon even existed!

    At least, not in the absolute way that we know the geometry of a circle. This knowledge is not obtained from observation of circles, because no one has ever seen a perfect circle. This knowledge is obtained by abstract reasoning from first principles.

    We cannot derive the existence of Napoleon from first principles. All we have is a large body of evidence that supports the belief that Napoleon existed. The body of evidence is very large and very consistent, so it very strongly supports the belief that Napoleon existed.

    Another to say this is that the uncertainty of the assertion “Napoleon existed” is very small. But it is not zero.

    Because the uncertainty is very small, we choose to believe rather strongly.

    Because the uncertainty is not zero, we could still be wrong.

    My point is this: when we say that we know the geometry of circles, we are speaking in absolute terms, we are saying that there is no doubt whatsoever. But when we say that we “know” that Napoleon existed, it is an approximation, we are saying that the doubt is so small that we can afford to neglect it.

    Knowledge of abstract things can be perfect, but knowledge of concrete things can be never be better than close enough for practical purposes.

    We must be very careful never to mistake one for the other.

    This applies to both science and religion, and even more so to the relationship between science and religion.

    The third main thread that is woven through our discourse concerns the difference between the understandings reserved only for advanced thinkers (the esoteric teachings) and the understandings given to the general lay public (the exoteric teachings).

    This is important because the dogma given to the public on faith – both by science and by religion – is useful only for purposes like comparing social control structures.

    If we want to address the true essence of things, we can only make a valid comparison of science and religion at the esoteric level.

    And at that level, we find that science and religion are simply two different ways of expressing the same ulimate truths.

  14. Michel Says:

    Good evening CodeSlinger,

    Just for the remark : when I say “Science” I mean “Natural Science” – I am not including mathematics in it or other kind of science like sociology.

    I admit Science and religion can have points in common. As you said Science and religion give answers to some questions about this universe and what it contains especially the man – among others they talk about his place in this universe. Science and religion can even be in conflict – but I said it must not be. Now, thinking about it more I understood it can be because they have opposed opinions on a same subject.

    Nevertheless, I am sure there are things Science cannot discuss and things religion cannot discuss. On a hand, as I said before, Science alone – that is to say with it own method – cannot prove or deny the existance of God. Indeed, God is not material, he is not in the universe since, by definition he does not live in a place. And God is neither abstract nor concrete since those attributes apply for creatures – God does not have any likeness with any creature. (Also, God is not a mere principle given to explain the origin of the Universe. No, God does possess a reality – to possess a reality is the definition of existence. This reality does not need a mean, a place or whatever else that imply an imperfection or a limit. And there is no ambiguity made between what God really is and what we attribute to him. In fact, we do not know the reality of God and the reality of his attributes – because with our mind we can not know it, we can not imagine it – but we know, according to reason he does have a reality and we know he has Attributes of Perfection like A Science, A Will and A Power. Islam – because I am talking about it belief – does not search to know WHAT is the reality of God but WHO is God.)

    On the other hand, there are things religion cannot discuss since all we know in the religion is by revelation. The last Prophet Muhammad said “I do not talk under the effect of passion – that is to say by himself – but all I transmit is a revelation”. Yet, some things had been revealed but others not so there are things upon which religion is silent.

    Besides, I think you are resuming religion to an only answer to “ultimate questions”. But religion is not thus, religion is above all a way to preserve the man from what is bad and harmful so raise him in the agreement of God by teaching him how. All this is for ourself in order to prepare us for an imminent Judgment. If, we know a certain number of things concerning those “ultimate questions” it is more perceive as a blessing of God who preserve us from ignorance.

    You said ” You are right in saying that science and reason are two different things. It is also true that religion and faith are two different things. In science, reason has priority over faith, but in religion, faith has priority over reason – and this is why science and religion conflict”. The way you construct your argument indicate you consider reason is for Science what faith is for religion. Well, faith for religion is the most important, the base without what all you do as acts are invalid. However, the base of Science, what science lean over is not reason but observation and experience – this word of experience is very important, it directly links with the real world, the nature. The only Science – now I am using the general term – which is for me rational in itself is Mathematics and even in this case we can say Mathematics based on phenomens observed about numbers, forms (geometric objects) and all the tools used for Natural Science in order to confront to the real world.

    There is absolutely no reason to consider Science is more rational than religion. In fact, the rational reasoning is only a mean which can confirm what is enounced by Science or religion, it is a way to determine if something is true or not. Yet, the reason does not contradict any of the believes of Islam. There are some believes that can not be deduced by the rational reasoning and others that can be deduced by the rational reasoning as the existance of God and some of His attributes He necessary possess.

    I think you orient too much the debate to talk about the relationship between religion and Science. The debate I launched was about : The scientific verity / the distinction between this verity and reason / the need of man to reflect and step back of his reality (=/= materialism) / the proofs of the existance of God.

  15. CodeSlinger Says:

    Michel:

    Mathematics is the language of science; you cannot exclude mathematics from science. Nor can you exclude social science (sociology, psychology, and so on) from science as a whole. Science is whatever we study using the scientific method, and we can use the scientific method to study anything whatsoever.

    I agree with much of what you say about God: neither abstract nor concrete, and so on. This is exactly the idea of the “ineffable infinite” which I described above. In discussing it, we are speaking at a level so fundamental that all opposites merge. Thus we can say that God is neither one nor many, neither male nor female, and – contrary to what you say – neither who nor what. Of course, the word “neither” in these comparisons must be understood to mean “neither, yet both.”

    Yet we must use words like “he,” “she,” “it,” “they,” and so on, because we have no other way to express ourselves. However, each one of these words implies too much. Both in reading these words and in writing them, we must always bear in mind that what is meant is what is common between them all, and anything specific to any subset of them is excluded because it implies a limitation that cannot apply to God, the ineffable infinite.

    Anything true that can be said about God can be worded in terms of an entity or a principle. One way of wording it is more clear to some people, and the other way of wording it is more clear to other people. What matters is for people to come to a shared understanding of the underlying truth that is independent of the choice of wording.

    You say “all we know in religion is by revelation.” But this assumes – without proof – the involvement of a divine revealer. So I must ask… how can we tell the difference between divine revelation and direct personal comprehension?

    You quote Muhammad saying “all I transmit is a revelation.” But this is not an abstract statement that can be derived from first principles. Therefore it is a statement about the world, and believing any such statement without supporting evidence is irrational. But you give me no supporting evidence.

    So I must ask… why should I believe it?

    You say that “religion is above all a way to preserve the man from what is bad and harmful.” I agree that this is a central aspect of religion. Indeed, preserving us from what is bad and harmful is exactly the subject of the question I mentioned above: “how should a man live?”

    But this subject can only be understood in the context of the “ultimate questions” – most importantly, “what kind of creature is a man?” Questions of right and wrong, harm and benefit, rights and obligations, sin and virtue, are all part of how a man should live, and are all deeply related to what kind of creature a man is.

    Both science and religion bear crucially on such questions.

    And I must add that only one thing can preserve us from ignorance, and that is diligent study combined with deep reflection.

    Both science and religion require both reason and faith. In this regard, the only difference between science and religion is which of them takes priority when reason and faith conflict. When reason leads us to believe something different from what we accept on pure faith, which do we follow? There is no answer to this question that works in every case, but science very strongly favours reason and religion very strongly favours faith.

    The reason I keep coming back to the relationship between science and religion is because these are the two basic ways we have of understanding the world and our place in it. These different ways of understanding appeal to different kinds of people and lead to different ways of being.

    People with different ways of being tend to look down on each other – often to the point of killing each other – usually because matters of mere custom or convention are mistaken for matters of ultimate truth or universal morality, and vice versa.

    And this is why it is so urgent to resolve the conflicts between the various secular/scientific and religious/theological points of view.

    The things you say we should not discuss are thus precisely the ones which most urgently need discussion.

  16. CodeSlinger Says:

    Xanthippa:

    No matter how rational you are, you cannot escape faith. If nothing else, when you think you are observing the world, you must take it on faith that you really are observing the world, and not just imagining it all. You may assert that this is self-evident, and I agree, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is an assertion we cannot prove, therefore we must take it on faith. As Ernst Zermelo reminds us:

    Never mistake self-evidence for provability.

    Now, your program of rigorously defining all terms is a laudable one, and indeed, I advocate the same thing, as far as possible. But, sadly, in this case we are doomed to failure. In the pursuit of rigour, we are in august company: David Hilbert pushed for a similar program of strict axiomatization in mathematics and symbolic logic, but Kurt Gödel showed once and for all that it cannot be done.

    One problem with defining terms at this level of primality is that we encounter irreducible circularity. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary gives the following definitions:

    exist: have objective reality or being
    reality: the state of things as they actually exist
    being: existence
    objective: not dependent on the mind for existence; actual
    actual: existing in fact; real
    thing: an unspecified object
    object: a thing external to the mind
    fact: a thing that is known or proved to be true
    true: in accordance with fact or reality

    Need I go on?

    The problem is that we can only carry reductionism so far, and then we run into insurmountable difficulties. The mere act of giving names to concepts implies crisp distinctions which don’t actually exist. We must draw boundaries somewhere, but wherever we draw them will not be quite right for all possible purposes.

    This difficulty is fundamental. The founders of quantum mechanics ran headlong into it when they encountered the difference between how things are and what we can say about it. But this difficulty is not new. It has been known for a very long time:

    The Tao that can be told
    Is not the eternal Tao.
    The name that can be named
    Is not the eternal Name.

    The unnameable is the eternally real.
    Naming is the origin
    of all particular things.

    — Lao Tse, The Tao Te Ching, circa 600 BC

    • xanthippa Says:

      Hello Michel!

      Thank you for your well-thought-out response.

      There are a number of points of discussion I’d like to address, but, it would be overwhelming to tackle all of them at once. So, instead, let me first turn to the definition of ‘existence’ and its extension, ‘a being’.

      First, ‘existence’: does an electron, which only has a probability of being in a certain place with a specific momentum (the Heisenberg principle tells us we cannot know both) ‘exist’?

      What about the ‘existence’ of the alpha particle in the Shrodinger experiment: does it exist before it is observed (and its probability curve is collapsed) or does it only ‘exist’ once it has been observed?

      (OK – these may be cliche examples – but that is because they are demonstrative of the difficulty in defining what ‘existence’/’to exist’ actually means. Is it the occurrence itself or the observation which collapses the probability wave of the occurrence that defines ‘existence’? This is much more important an issue that may at first appear.)

      Secondly: what defines ‘a being’? Is a ‘rock’ a ‘being’? Why or why not? What about mono-cellular organisms? What about plants? After all, they do communicate with each other in order to protect against predators and even house plants have been demonstrated to be capable of recognizing individual human beings from each other, even if they alter their clothing.

      Until we successfully answer these questions, we cannot even begin to discuss deities and their particulars.

  17. Michel Says:

    Good evening,

    Xanthippa,

    I agree with you we must have the same comprehension of the terms we use in order to debate. In the language, “to exist” means to possess a reality. “Reality” indicates what is actual. To understand better the notion of existance we can help us with the notion of inexistance : what does not exist is nil, nothing. Therefore, a being – one who or which exists as a man, a tree, a bag, an idea, a movement – is not necessarily material, limited by a place or “repeatable”.

    Besides, faith based on a submission that is to say you follow something (the religion, its believes, its orders) because you choose it. This does not mean there are no reasons to this choice, this does not mean what is believed is irrational. Indeed, what is irrational is what is not in conformance with reason. Yet, since the reason does not contradict the faith it is not irrational. Moreover, as I said some believes in faith can not be deduced by the reason (that there will be a Judgement for example) but some bases of the faith can be deduced by reason like the existance of God, some of His attributes, things we cannot attribute to Him.

    CodeSlinger,

    There are many evidences of the acts the Prophet Muhammad did and the words he pronounced. These are transmitted the same way it is transmitted than Napoleon won a battle, said such thing, the same way it is trandmitted who constructed the Eiffel Tower that is to say the truthful news. I talked about before but I don’t think you understood this is a source of science fiable as the reason : it is a news transmitted by a lot of people who had been witnessed of a fact to a lot of people until us without any reduction of the number of people so in a way we cannot mastermind (reason) these people have made a lie or have made a mistake. This mean of transmission is also used by you who are quoting people you did not see or basing on studies you did not take part. Moreover, the way the words or the acts are itemized is very rigourous – with levels of reliability – that is what we call the Science of Hadith which follows chains of transmission (from a muslim savant to another) very controled. And hadiths – narratives of the acts and words of the Prophet – are linked to each others, there are no incoherences between them so that we say the better way to interpret a hadith is with another hadith.

    This said, there is no reasons to believe more the Napoleon’s battles than what did or what said the last Prophet.

    For that to know if there was really a revelation or if it is only a self-comprehension, the numbers of things revealed, the precisions and details, and the poetry and the distinctness of the Qour’an – none of the arabic poets, known for their great art never succeedeed to make such a great work – shows it cannot be the work of a human being nor the work of human beings.

    You said : “When reason leads us to believe something different from what we accept on pure faith, which do we follow? There is no answer to this question that works in every case, but science very strongly favours reason and religion very strongly favours faith”. Reason had never led to believe something different of what is accepted by the belief of Islam. So, Islam does not have to favour neither faith nor reason since such situations you explained does not perform. A faith which is in conflict with reason is false so cannot be accepted.

    If I said God is neither abstract nor constrete it is not because I think God is ineffable but because what is abstract – that is to say ideas – applies to creatures and what is concrete also. Yet, God does not have any likeness with the attributes of the creature since this would mean God has similars – this contradicts the definition of divinity. Moreover, the creatures got necessarily imperfections because of their state of creatures and God is exempt of all imperfections (like the ingnorance, the place, the limits, the organs, the incapacity). You cannot attribute to God one thing and it opposite or both, if you do so either it means you do really consider God can be male and female, unique and plural at the same time either you mean we can not know God since there are no words to express His reality. If it is the first reason then the rational reasoning does not accept such arguments since for example to be unique by definition excludes to be plural – you can see it as two distinct ensembles (mathemathic). Regarding the other reason, God is not ineffable that is to say we can know Who He is. This knowledge of God is the knowledge of His attributes. For example God necessarily got a Power since to Create, to pass from nil to existance it need this. Besides God is not concern by the need since it is an imperfection. When I say this, it does not mean I know what is the Reality of His power or of His non dependance but I know He has a Power and a non dependance. I am not even searching to know the Reality of God since I know it is impossible and over our capacities so He is great. We have words to indicate the Attributes of God but we do not have words to indicate their Reality, not because He is undescribibable but because He does not have a description – a description involves to have attributes specific of the creatures like a form, a color, a disposition etc. As a remark, if we use the pronoun “he” for God it is not because we consider God as male (God is not concerned by the genus) but because the word “God” in the language is masculine as the word “divinity” is feminine. We can not use “it” since this apply for a thing or an animal and God is neither a thing – a thing does not have a will for example – nor an animal – you may know why…

    • xanthippa Says:

      P.S.

      Why is it that, for 200 years following Muhammad’s death (and, for some, up to 270 years following his death), Mosques faced Petra and NOT Mecca?

      Both the Koran and the Hadith were exclusively oral traditions which were not written down until decades following Muhammad’s death. Yet, there are no non-Islamic sources that are contemporary to Muhammad’s life that mention him. Why is that?

      It is a long stretch to go from ‘some deity exists’ to proving it is the only deity ever and that it is the Islamic version thereof.

  18. CodeSlinger Says:

    Michel:

    Yes, exactly as you say: “there are many evidences of the acts the Prophet Muhammad did and the words he pronounced.”

    But there is no evidence that everything he said was true.

    Most importantly, there is no evidence that he was right when he said “all I transmit is a revelation.”

    I am not asking why I should believe that he said it.

    I am asking why I should believe that it is true.

    I do believe he said it, for all the reasons you give, but the reasons you give for believing that it is true are very weak.

    The “number of things revealed” proves nothing about the truth of those things.

    The “precision and detail of the revelations” depends on interpretation, and therefore proves nothing.

    The “beauty of the poetry” is a matter of personal opinion, and in any case applies only to the form of what was said, so it proves nothing about the truth of the content.

    Consider the quatrains of Nostradamus. Does their number, precision, detail and beauty prove that they are true? If not, why not?

    You say, “reason had never led to believe something different of what is accepted by the belief of Islam.”

    Yet reason leads me to believe that Muhammad was probably speaking metaphorically, and not literally, when he said things like “all I transmit is a revelation.”

    Further, reason forces me to admit that it cannot be proven that he was not lying outright when he said that. Therefore, by assuming that Muhammad was speaking metaphorically, I am already giving him the benefit of the doubt.

    Indeed, reason leads me to believe that one must read the Qur’an, the Bible, and all other sacred texts metaphorically, otherwise one is lead to believe things that are utterly absurd.

    And yet Islam and other religions demand that people read their sacred texts literally, and believe every word literally, based on pure faith.

    This is why faith and reason conflict.

    One thing that you and I do seem to agree upon is that one must use some word (he, she, it, or they) to indicate God, but it would be an error to take that word too literally, because each of those words implies too much and too little at the same time. And this is exactly what I mean by “ineffable” or “unspeakable.” Whatever words we try to use are inadequate.

    The same is true of the words “who” and “what.” Neither word is adequate. Neither word is completely right.

    But neither word is completely wrong, either.

  19. Michel Says:

    Good morning Xanthippa,

    There is really no difficulty to define the “existance”, if it seems, it is because you are searching it. To exist means to possess a reality, that’s all. Something does not need to be seen or more generally to be known to exist. Indeed, when you can see something it involves this thing already existed and when you see it, it is (only) a PROOF of it existance. For instance, when you were younger, when they did not teach you yet there is an organ named the heart inside you which permits the blood to run you were not aware of that but if it did not exist, then you would not be able to live, right ? Thus, an electron or any other particle constituent the matter exist, even if they are not stable or if they have a disordered movement so that we do know exactly where it going to be in a given moment – what is actual does exist.

    A being is what exist, what is actual. A rock exists so it is a being. A plant exists so it is a being. In fact, it does not need to communicate or to have a life or to have a self-awareness or a personality to exist. A mere word, a movement, a light, a change, an image, a space, the time are beings since they all exist. Besides, to exist does not need necessarily to be tangible, palpable, to have a consistence, to be contained in the space… If we, elements of this universe are thus it is only because of our state of creature : the creature has necessarily an aspect, a disposition, a mean, limits, some specifites beyond others and rather than others; also what has an aspect, a disposition, a mean is necessarily created since the existance of these specificites – reflect on this notion of specifities that is to say some characteristics beyond others and rather than others – are not owed to themselves.

    Good morning CodeSlinger,

    In my last message, my aim was not precisely to show you what our Prophet says is true but to show you he did say what I told you. In fact, I thought you did not believe he really says that all he transmits is a revelation. If I said that, it is because I wanted to show you the religion claims, affirms to base on revelations and not on mere opinions about what you call “ultimate questions”. Furthermore, I really aim to make you reflect, to generate interest in you, to push you ask yourself why a man as Muhammad claimed to be a messenger of God, is it ordinary to say such a thing? And for what, to attract all the hatred of a pagan society and to risk all risk men like Noah, Moses, Abraham, Jesus or Muhammad?

    Admiteedly, the number of things and the details alone don’t make the consistence of a work that is to say it importance and it coherence but when the elements are linked to each other without any contradictions and coherent in itself, the work made merit some attention. If I talk about the poetry of the Qour’an, it beauty, it is not a self opinion but this is admited by many emininent arabic poets and the Arabs are known to be masters – that is to say experts – in the language. For instance, when there were conflicts between tribes, to decide between them, they organised spars, battles of word during which the winner would be he who used the better rimes, the better expressions or turns of phrase. Yet, a challenge was lanced at the time of the revelation of Prophet Muhammad for whom would be able to do something comparable to the eloquence of the Qour’an. None succeeded and many converted to Islam for that reason. Know that what I am telling you is very objective, non muslims historians, writers or scientists acknowledge the greatness of Islam. Some even considered the Prophet Muhammad as one of the most important person in all human kind, him who helped unite the arabic peoble, him who protected the women in a society where they were buried alive once borned, him who scolded to abandon our passions to prefer what is reasonable…

    As regards your conception of an “ineffable” God, it is right there are words that can not apply to the Creator since they imply imperfections like the place, the mean, the need. It is also true, sometimes words can miss to express the Magnificence and the Perfection which are owed to the Creator. But, it would be false to believe there are absolutely no words which permits us to express the Attributes of God in conformance with what is worthy of Him. Indeed, the man have the capacity to find the words to indicate the more precisely as possible the reality. This does not mean these words are reality or aim to reproduce it but they are the expression of this reality that is to say the translation of this reality in terms of language in order to be intellegible for the man. Moreover, when you say God is “innefable” you are already using a word – that you consider is adequate – to call God.

    In fact, the man is limited, he cannot access to the knowledge of the Reality of God – God as He is from all Eternity. The imam – here it means a guide – Ahmad Arrifa^iyy said about it : “the limit of the knowledge we can have about God is to have the certitude of His existance, that He is without any place or any mean”. It means the same I told you before that is to say we can know God has a reality and we can know some of His Attributes but we cannot know WHAT is this reality. Yes, I use WHAT and I use HE not to target (at all) their deep meaning – I do not mean God has a What or is male; I do believe he has not – but to INTRODUCE my sentences and to designate God as it is the fonction of a pronoun. I am not taking at all these words literally. Last time, I said “God” is a masculine word wereheas “divinity”is is feminine, I am sorry I thought French since it is the case in French – in english, I don’t think so.

    In Islam, the way we read, we interpret the texts (Qour’aan and Hadith) is not literal. There are people who claim to be muslims as the wahhabi or those who call themselves salafists and who interpret the texts literally but they are not muslims since it leads them attribute to God imperfections like a face, a hand, a foot etc. As the imam Abou Ja^far AT-Tahawiyy, a great savant who died in 322 (Hijri) said “He who attributes to God one of the senses of the human, he definitely became non-muslim”.

    To interpret a text, we use other texts or the judgements of savants of Islam which have a high degree of interpretation beacause they have studied the religion during years with other savants. Remember, the best way to interpret a hadith is with another hadith. And it is not everybody who can interpret a text, it need a certain mastery of the subject especially in arabic which contains a lot of expressions. Our Prophet told us that if we want to understand some words we need to draw from the literature. This is all the more important that nowadays, people are more and more weak in the language (in it knowledge I mean).

    Some sentences of the Prophet or verses of the Qour’an must be taken literally – that is to say they have only one meaning in the language, a clear meaning – and other must be taken as you said “metaphorically” because it literal meaning would be absurd and in contradiction with the belief of Islam. You said : “reason leads me to believe that Muhammad was probably speaking metaphorically, and not literally, when he said things like “all I transmit is a revelation”. Well, it is not a good way to think, as you may know Muhammad spoke arabic so he never said expressly “all I transmit is a revelation”. Therefore, talking as you did, it affirms, on a hand that what Muhammad said means “all I transmit is a revelation” on the other that it is not really what he means but he spoke metaphorically. What I am telling you is that the sources of Islam are in arabic so you cannot use the translation in French to interpret it since a translation is already an interpretation. Besides, if you can interpret metaphorically something it is because there is a metaphorical meaning – I mean in the language – not because you attribute to the sentence a metaphorical meaning. For exemple when one say “in God’s hands” it is because in the language it has a meaning not because you reflect on the terms to deduce the meaning.

    Whatever interpretation Islam gives about the sacred texts, it is not in contradiction with reason.

    • xanthippa Says:

      Michel,

      thanks for your long response.

      I am unable to go into a long reply (I am at a conference and only ‘checking in’ during short breaks) but I would argue that ‘to exist’ is not as simple a definition as you suggest… More later.

  20. CodeSlinger Says:

    Michel:

    Many, many people have claimed to be messengers of God. Many were tortured to death for claming it, but they continued to claim it to their last breath.

    Don’t ask me why. All I know is that I have no way to tell which of them – if any – spoke the truth.

    I don’t doubt that many people (and not only Arabs) share your opinion that the Qur’an is beautifully written. That still does not prove it to be true.

    And I am not questioning Muhammad’s importance as a historical figure. I have all the evidence I need to convince me that he changed the course of history by uniting the Arabs.

    What I have no evidence of is that he spoke the literal truth when he said “all I transmit is a revelation.” So, let us leave aside the question of where Muhammad’s epiphanies came from, because we simply cannot know.

    The fact remains that Muhammad was a man, therefore his understanding of those epiphanies was imperfect, and due to the inherent limitations of human language, his spoken words were an imperfect expression of his imperfect understanding. In addition, the Qur’an is a record made by others of their imperfect recollection of Muhammad’s words, after many years had passed.

    Thus the Qur’an records an imperfect recollection of an imperfect expression of an imperfect understanding of certain epiphanies. And Hadith piles on even more layers of imperfection. And all this must be born in mind when trying to grasp the true underlying meaning of those epiphanies, no matter what language you read them in.

    You are right, the word “ineffable” is also inadequate, which illustrates my point: every word we try to use says both too much and too little. I think we understand each other very well about the use of words.

    However, this same difficulty applies to words like “exist,” too. Recall my post above, in which I quoted the Oxford English Dictionary: existence means reality, and reality means existence. Formal definitions cannot take us deeper; they are circular. Ultimately, we must refer back to our own experience of things that have abstract existence, like the solution of an equation, things that have concrete existence, like a physical system which may be governed by that equation, and things that have no existence at all. We all have an innate grasp of these categories, but as we push the level of discourse to ever more fundamental levels, the distinction dissolves into incoherence.

    I completely agree with you about the errors of Wahhabis, Salafists and the like. I put them in the same category with people who read the Bible literally: not only crude and naïve, but dangerously crude and naïve. Their concept of God never matures beyond the concept of father which they formed as little children. Thus they have a very childish picture of what these books mean, and they want to force it on everyone. Such people must be resisted with all our strength.

    And I completely agree, for the reasons outlined above, that the only way to find truth in the Qur’an and Hadith is to read them metaphorically. Further, all such truths are bound to agree with the truths one finds by reading the Bible metaphorically, or the sacred texts of many other ancient and modern religions, or the great works of secular philosophy. The things all these sources agree on are things we can consider more-or-less settled. Where they differ is where more study and reflection are needed.

    There are many paths, but there is only one truth. What matters is understanding that truth, not which books we learn it from. If Muslims and Christians were really to take this to heart, they would have nothing to fight about.

    Of course, in Islam, this line of thought leads inevitably to bid’ah, which is haram. And that is really too bad, because Islam – especially fundamentalist Islam – is sorely in need of a little well-thought-out bid’ah.

  21. Thábata Peixoto Says:

    Sabe o que eu tenho a falar sobre a condenação de Raif?
    Violação dos direitos humanos, violação de direitos fundamentais assegurados internacionalmente!
    Liberdade! Não há religião, não há política, não há soberania que passe por cima dos direitos de um ser humano. Raif é um humano e não um animal que merece levar chibatas para que aprenda o que é certo ou errado, ele com certeza sabe distinguir isso, e o que ele sabe acima de tudo, é que para ele, e para todos os outros seres humanos do mundo, há liberdade de expressão, bem como liberdade de escolha!
    Outro direito assegurado internacionalmente pela Declaração Universal dos Direitos Humanos é a FRATERNIDADE!
    Aonde está?
    Até onde sei, a religião é para ajudar as pessoas a evoluírem, a melhorar. Duvido bastante que há um Deus tão cruel ao ponto de querer que um homem seja lesado fisicamente por expressar seus pensamentos.


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