Jesusama

Just read this quotation first:

Queensland artist Priscilla Bracks denied she had deliberately set out to be offensive.

“Absolutely not, no, no. I am not interested in being offensive. I am interested in having a discussion and asking questions about how we think about our world and what we accept and what we don’t accept,” she told ABC radio.

Now: the picture in question. It’s a holographic image that “morphs” two separate images:

Jesusama

Bracks’ work was in the running for the Blake Prize, Australia’s top religious art award. It was going up against Luke Sullivan‘s “statue of the Virgin Mary wearing an Islamic burqa”:

MaryBurqa

Neither of them won the award.

In one interview, Bracks said this:

BRENDAN TREMBATH: So it’s a case of a good figure and a bad figure, but how they’re portrayed over time?

PRISCILLA BRACKS: Yeah, exactly. So there’s so many ways you can read that image. You know, immediately, people are seizing on what they see as the most controversial, that I’m comparing the two, but I could actually be saying that it’s a juxtaposition of good and evil, which I see as the base level reading of that work.

But then, on a more sophisticated level, you could perhaps look at how it could be an image which is a cautionary tale, asking the question, do we have to be a little bit more careful about what we focus on in the here and now?

Some Christians were keeping a level head about all this:

The Reverend Rod Pattenden, who awarded the $15,000 prize to the competition winner in Sydney yesterday, said his mission was to spark debate about spirituality in a world that was “cynical, degraded and in crisis”. Mr Pattenden said he did not expect controversy to result from the exhibition at the National Art School Gallery “because the Christian community doesn’t look at art a great deal.”

Everyone else, though, was complaining. Including politicians:

Both Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd have criticised their inclusion.

“The choice of such artwork is gratuitously offensive to the religious beliefs of many Australians,” Mr Howard said in News Ltd newspapers.

(via mediawatchwatch.org.uk)


[tags]atheist, atheism, art, Jesus, Osama bin Laden, Christian, Christianity[/tags]

  • http://mollishka.blogspot.com mollishka

    So we’ve learned that no hat and well-trimmed beard = good, while hat and untrimmed beard = bad evil. Glad we’ve cleared that up.

  • Pingback: How Did Jesus Look? A Blake Prize Nominee « Pop Culture

  • Julie

    My gut level reaction to the hologram was offense, but I’m very close to the whole 9/11 thing. Then when I thought about it, of course I thought, “Wait, it’s religious extremism and people as religious icons that create the whole mess–this holographic image thing is totally right on.”

    So…that’s some good art.

    Same with Mary in the Burka. I wasn’t offended. I just thought, “Why?” Then I thought, “It’s the same: Virgin Mary and the message of “purity” for Catholics, and women having to cover their bodies in Islam–essentially the same message.”

    It’s not like these are new thoughts. I’m pretty aware at this point that all religions are the same nonsense. It’s just that the juxtaposition of images can be so powerful and shake up what our notions of good and bad are. Cool.

  • Claire

    “The choice of such artwork is gratuitously offensive to the religious beliefs of many Australians,” Mr Howard said in News Ltd newspapers.

    Crap, this again?!? For some odd reason, I thought the Australians were better than us, but apparently not. It’s not gratuitously offensive, it’s not offensive at all – unless someone is going out of their way to be deliberately offended. In which case, nothing will appease them, so they can go get stuffed.

    People likely to be so easily offended should stay home, read their religious text of choice, and wallow in their own crapulence.

    That’s some interesting art, by the way, I quite like the second one.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Either Priscilla Bracks is lying about intentionally being offensive or she’s too stupid to be practicing art. Not that a lot of alleged artists aren’t that stupid, it’s just that I don’t believe it’s credible. Claire, don’t you get it? It’s the offense that the artist is counting on to get attention and boost sales. You think this kind of stuff has any intrinsic value other than that? The art market these days is based on publicity and there isn’t any surer means of getting that than offending people. Otherwise, who pays attention? I have no opinion on what Australia does with its public funding for the arts but I’ve got no problem with their creating the offensive “art” and exhibiting it with or without public funding. I do have a problem with being dishonest about the offensive intent that is so clearly there. Dishonesty in the arts leads to Thomas Kinkade. Come to think of it, the aesthetic content here is about on that level.

    “Wait, it’s religious extremism and people as religious icons that create the whole mess–this holographic image thing is totally right on.”

    Julie, you do realize that Osama bin Ladin is a Wahabist and one of the tenets of that form of Islamic fundamentalism is that it is offensive to create images of religious figures, don’t you? Last time I read about it, that would have included images of Jesus and Mary.

    Not that I’m expecting anything like actual justice or common fairness to figure into the discussion of this, you know actually accounting for who did it and who is innocent but how many Christians flew into the twin towers? For that matter how many Moslems did. No religious persons other than the ones who planned and executed the attacks on 9-11 have the slightest culpability in those crimes. Not a single one. If you want to find people who are more to blame you could look at the people who designed the aircraft used in the attack, those who taught them the science needed to do it and those who created the commercial airline industry. All of those people have more direct involvement in the act than the billions of religious people who had absolutely nothing to do with it.

    Just back between trips, in case you’re cringing at too much rigor getting in the way of bigotry and snark.

  • Claire

    Claire, don’t you get it? It’s the offense that the artist is counting on to get attention and boost sales.

    Of course I get it, controversial art gets the publicity and that boosts sales. You may want to notice that I said controversial, not deliberately offensive. Although, there is always something to be said for offending the right people.

    in case you’re cringing at too much rigor getting in the way of bigotry and snark.

    No, no, we don’t mind your bigotry and snark at all. Feel free…

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    No, no, we don’t mind your bigotry and snark at all. Feel free…

    Claire, is that it? Is that as witty as you’re going to get?

    What did I say that was an example of bigotry? Quote me.

  • Claire

    What did I say that was an example of bigotry? Quote me.

    Sorry, I was just tired of the listening to the pot constantly calling the kettle black, over and over and over again, time without end. Don’t you have someplace else to be, someplace where they want you?

    Then again, really, what are the odds?

    I should have known better than to respond to a troll. THAT won’t happen again. Others may want to learn from my mistake.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    I was just tired of the listening to the pot constantly calling the kettle black,

    Call me sensitive, but I’ve always had a problem with the racial implications of that cliché.

    Now, let me get this straight. The six-hundredth + parroting of the Sam Harris Richard Dawkins blanket guilt of every last religious believer even there is absolutely no association with a crime line isn’t overkill for you but pointing out that people who had no part in the planning and execution of 9-11 are innocent is the raspberry seed in your tooth. In other words, when it’s endless repetition of group blame of billions of people for crimes they had no hand it, lovely, pointing out that they are not guilty, annoys you off to no end.

    Thought so.

  • Julie

    Julie, you do realize that Osama bin Ladin is a Wahabist and one of the tenets of that form of Islamic fundamentalism is that it is offensive to create images of religious figures, don’t you? Last time I read about it, that would have included images of Jesus and Mary.

    What’s your point? Are you saying Osama bin Laden would be offended by this art? Who cares?

    Not that I’m expecting anything like actual justice or common fairness to figure into the discussion of this, you know actually accounting for who did it and who is innocent but how many Christians flew into the twin towers? For that matter how many Moslems did. No religious persons other than the ones who planned and executed the attacks on 9-11 have the slightest culpability in those crimes. Not a single one. If you want to find people who are more to blame you could look at the people who designed the aircraft used in the attack, those who taught them the science needed to do it and those who created the commercial airline industry. All of those people have more direct involvement in the act than the billions of religious people who had absolutely nothing to do with it.

    But after this whole rant, you must admit, religious people are the ones that did have everything to do with it, and their religion is directly to blame.

    Please get laid. I think it would help you immensely.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Julie, I’m not so sure how religious all of the 9-11 attackers were, considering some of them spent their last night at a strip bar. Why stop at religion, though? Some if not all of the ring leaders and planners had education in the sciences and engineering, most were middle class or above, all of them were men. Why aren’t all males from the middle to upper classes with training in the sciences and engineering blamed for 9-11? You might as well go all the way and say all Arabs are guilty of 9-11. But, wait, that really was done by the white supremacists here, wasn’t it. Is it worth pointing out a link?

    But even if every single last one of them had had exactly one motivation, say religion, that would make not a single other person in the world responsible for what they did. That is unless you believe in guilt on the basis of group association instead of actually performing an act of culpability. I don’t.

    As to the charge of “rant”. I’m sorry if sometimes my comments get a bit longer but trying to develop a reasonable argument isn’t as concise as repeating common bigotry.

  • Lorem ipsum

    Call me sensitive, but I’ve always had a problem with the racial implications of that cliché.

    If the implications offend you, stop inventing them. It’s about soot on kitchen implements. It has nothing to do with skin color. If you had bothered to check before you wrote about non-existent racial context, you would know that. Didn’t someone just mention something about people who go out of their way to be offended?

    I’m new to this blog. Are there a lot of jerks like this here, or did I come on a bad day? It seems pretty interesting, I’m going to go look around some more.

  • http://starseyer.blogspot.com Mikel

    I think that’s really great art. Get people to think… I mean, the world is not like ‘Christianity good, Islam bad.’ They both have some good and bad in them just like all the other religions in the world. People are just so stuck on their own point of view that they can’t see that. I think art like this is great for consciousness raising.

  • Maria

    well, at first glance I did think she was comparing the two, but her quote and interview did make sense. The truth is, having been Jewish and Semitic, Jesus probably did look much more like an Arab (which Bin Laden is) then the nordic version that’s been portrayed for so long. There’s even a joke online about it-then one night George W. Bush is praying to Jesus, and he appears to him, and Bush goes “oh no, it’s Bin Laden” and tries to shoot.

  • Jen

    I think it it is very interesting art, and certainly worth talking about. If there are two men, and people are willing to die and kill for them, as we have seen, there is a link there worth exploring.

    I don’t know if the first one deserved a prize, compared to the other art, but it made me think.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    If there are two men, and people are willing to die and kill for them, as we have seen, there is a link there worth exploring.

    In your explorations, do look at the words of the two men. There is nothing in the canonical gospels which could be construed to encourage or require the killing of innocent people. In fact, there is everything to discourage people from making those kinds of judgments against people guilty of crimes in the words of Jesus. I’m trying to remember the first word advocating killing someone on any basis in the words attributed to him and am coming up with nothing. To blame him for the actions of other people who profess to act in his name and on his authority would be to reassign blame for their actions onto someone who had no control over them.

    If you could find someone who really tried to live and act out the teachings of Jesus, you might be on more solid ground in assigning Jesus with some measure of responsibility. You wouldn’t find people like that flying planes into buildings on any rational interpretation of his teachings. That people who are willing to kill people are willing to lie about their motives isn’t surprising. They’re morally depraved enough to kill, how much worse is lying about their motives? However, you certainly would find such people acting on the words of Osama bin Ladin and bin Ladin would proudly accept his part in the matter, in fact he does frequently.

    If the difference doesn’t mean anything here, it’s not because a rational person wouldn’t see the difference staring them in the face.

    I wonder, if sometime, someone who has read The End of Faith decides to put Sam Harris’ idea that some ideas require killing those who hold them into action, are you ready to put the blame on Harris and his admirers who have endorsed him? When you start advocating killing on the basis of ideas, it’s not only restrained and rational people who are paying attention. Throwing around ideas like that is irresponsible.

  • http://goblinpaladin.livejournal.com goblinpaladin

    Wow, this olvlzl, no ism, no ist guy is something else, isn’t he? I’ve not read any comment threads here before and didn’t know that there was a pet troll.

    Anyway. The fact that Jesus’ reported words do not directly approve of violence is not relevant to the interpretation that both Jesus and bin Laden are holy men whose followers can be (and often are) violent. If the artist was trying to draw that comparison (and I don’t think so. I get the impression Bracks was trying to make people think and allow the viewer to handle his or her own conclusions) then the mere fact of their words is mostly irrelevant. People murder in the name of Jesus. People murder for bin Laden. Bin Laden is ‘evil,’ while Jesus is ‘good.’ This should be thought about.

    Etc, etc.

    As for your comment that she is either “lying or too stupid to practise art,” I suggest you take a brief course in thinking before typing. Silly boy, yelling at someone when you should be thinking about what she might be saying.

    I find it interesting that no-one here is pointing out that the Australian political leaders are ALSO finding offensive the Virgin Mary being depicted in a burka, which is the least offensive thing ever in the history of anything. The Virgin is highly regarded in Islam, and while it is forbidden in Islamic art to depict her, if that were not the case I would imagine she would be commonly represented as wearing a burka.

    Besides, most Christian art has her in a headscarf, and she certainly would have worn something similar if she had existed.

    Howard and Iemma are getting offended over nothing, and it’s making them look foolish.

    [I also wrote on this, a few days ago: http://goblinpaladin.livejournal.com/96161.html

  • Miko

    There is nothing in the canonical gospels which could be construed to encourage or require the killing of innocent people. In fact, there is everything to discourage people from making those kinds of judgments against people guilty of crimes in the words of Jesus. I’m trying to remember the first word advocating killing someone on any basis in the words attributed to him and am coming up with nothing.

    Well, we could start with Matthew 10:34-36:

    34″Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to turn
    ” ‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
    a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
    36a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
    (cf. Micah 7:6)

    And then there’s Luke 12:49-53:

    49″I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! 51Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

    And let’s not forget Luke 22:35-38:

    35Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
    “Nothing,” they answered.

    36He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

    38The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
    “That is enough,” he replied.
    (cf. Isaiah 53:12)

    You wouldn’t find people like that flying planes into buildings on any rational interpretation of his teachings.

    …unless they’re read Matthew 21:42-44:

    42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
    ” ‘The stone the builders rejected
    has become the capstone;
    the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

    43″Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”

    And let’s not even mention what the OT has to say on the subject.

    The moral of this story is it really isn’t hard to find passages in the Bible advocating killing and destruction, even if we just stick with what Jesus is said to have said.

    wonder, if sometime, someone who has read The End of Faith decides to put Sam Harris’ idea that some ideas require killing those who hold them into action, are you ready to put the blame on Harris

    If you mean in the U.S.: no, because his comments were sufficiently vague. Freedom of speech protects one up to the point when one makes comments directly calling upon readers/listeners to commit certain crimes.

    By the way, I know your not interested in context, but let’s not forget that what Harris actually said was:

    “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people.”

    When he advocates “killing on the basis of ideas,” we should notice that the “ideas” he’s referring to are ones like “I’m going to blow myself up in a crowded restaurant.” There’s a bit of a false dilemma in his argument (killing them or letting them kill aren’t the only options), but trying to make it sound like he’s suggesting it’s okay to kill people if, say, their favorite color is different from our own is pointless.

  • Miko

    Wow, this olvlzl, no ism, no ist guy is something else, isn’t he? I’ve not read any comment threads here before and didn’t know that there was a pet troll.

    Yes. But it’s also fascinating in the sense that a train wreck is. Olvlzl seems to have basically rejected the idea of deductive reasoning and replaced it with a logic in which invective inductive reasoning reigns supreme (with the caveat that because the deductive side has been abandoned, counter-examples are no longer a valid method of disproof); the arguments are often valid, but almost never sound since the basic premises are usually false.

  • Claire

    Mr Pattenden said he did not expect controversy to result from the exhibition at the National Art School Gallery “because the Christian community doesn’t look at art a great deal.”

    I just found this pricelessly sweet – just like one of the gentle, unworldly, wooly-minded vicars in an Agatha Christie novel. I want to make him a cup of tea and give him a scone.

    Are there a lot of jerks like this here, or did I come on a bad day?

    No, Lorem, not a jerk – a troll. Someone who goes to blog with a viewpoint they disagree with just to make inflammatory statements and annoy people. This is a typical example, so I’m told – hate, anger, venom, attacks, then accusing everyone else of being the haters, all while yapping on about his own pet peeve (in this case, those evil atheist authors) no matter what the topic of the post is. Best to ignore them.

    Sorry about the lecture if you already knew about trolls – I only found out about them when I came here. Not that this place has a lot of them, I just hadn’t run across them before.

  • Richard Wade

    Who’s Lorem?

  • Claire

    Addendum – teach me not to refresh the damn browser! Now I find a couple of other people have discussed the troll, and my post is redundant. Sorry, my bad.

    Miko – wow. That’s all, just wow. Someone who really knows his stuff…

    And this is their HOLY book? I’m getting more of an education in religious writings from this blog than I’m really comfortable with – it’s creeping me out. Not an elegant expression, but accurate. Now I know why I always seem to hear the same few bible verses quoted all the time – it’s the good parts version.

    Richard – I thought I saw something from someone named Lorem, I even quoted from it, but now I can’t see it – maybe on another thread? Sorry, didn’t mean to confuse.

  • Richard Wade

    Claire, not to worry. Lorem is correct and so are you. Sadly the troll is ubiquitous, so it doesn’t really matter which thread you’re coming from.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Miko, where in what you list is there a requirement to kill innocent people in the fasion of bin Ladin? Where in the gospels is there an instance of Jesus requiring the killing of guilty people? Oddly, the earliest Christians were noted as being just about uniformly pacifists, those in the Jerusalem community who were closest to Jesus, his own brother was the leader, after all, were a pretty peaceable and egalitarian bunch.

    As we were discussing the comparison of Jesus and Osama bin Ladin I kind of thought it made logical sense to refer to what Jesus said instead of what other people said. Or doesn’t that procedure make sense to you. In that case do you agree with the creationists that Darwin should be answerable for the crimes of the eugenicists? And how can you escape the accusation of applying double standards if you endorse the arguments for guilt by posthumous association made by others above?

    You like the display of logic given above by Claire, Julie and the hurt feelings of Richard Wade better than what I presented. Remind me what you do for a living? Math, I seem to recall. I seem to recall talk about foundations. Given that you seem to carry over to an unfortunate extent the habit of dealing with individual people as merely members of a class instead of looking at the real differences, that make all the difference in the real world, I can believe it. Though forgive me if I don’t believe an objective observer would necessarily agree with your critique and comparison of our various abilities to construct a logical argument.

    Claire, Richard Wade won’t forgive me because of some critical remarks I made regarding psychology, remarks he didn’t refute, just that he didn’t like them. Like you, he depends on invective instead of argument. I suspect some of the critiques got too close to his source of income.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    goblinpaladin, you do know what a Paladin was, don’t you? Forgive me if I point out that you endorse exactly the kind of “christianity” that the great example of “art” under discussion critiques. Irony is a constant visitor here.

    As to me being a troll, if that’s what you want to call someone who disagrees and can argue his point, then I can get used to it. I’ve invited Hemant to let me know if he’d rather I didn’t comment here and he hasn’t requested my absence yet. If he did ask me not to I would stop without further comment since I hold it is a blog owner’s right to control the content of their blog. Until then it’s a forum I don’t see any reason to avoid participating in.

  • Jen

    Boy, if only this Jesus fellow, who was certainly educated in the Jewish tradition, had left behind some of his own writings…

    And if only he was wasn’t 1/3rd of God, who spent the OT killing many, many people and creating Satan so that other people would kill people….

    And if only any of this really existed….

  • Miko

    As we were discussing the comparison of Jesus and Osama bin Ladin I kind of thought it made logical sense to refer to what Jesus said instead of what other people said.

    Sure. But if you’re claiming that the things that the Bible claims Jesus said weren’t really said by him, there’s not really much ground for discussion on the subject… And if you’re not, then you clearly didn’t read what I wrote.

    In that case do you agree with the creationists that Darwin should be answerable for the crimes of the eugenicists? And how can you escape the accusation of applying double standards if you endorse the arguments for guilt by posthumous association made by others above?

    I’m not sure what others you’re referring to, or where you think I’ve implied that I endorse whatever these hypothetical others said, or for that matter how it would even necessarily be relevant if I had. But I’ve come to expect bizarre accusations from you, so I won’t bother trying to escape it.

    You like the display of logic given above by Claire, Julie and the hurt feelings of Richard Wade better than what I presented.

    Quite possibly, but I’m not sure because it’s not worth the time to reread all of their comments to figure out what you’re talking about and it’s irrelevant anyway since I was responding to what you said, not what they said. Actually, I will look at what Richard said: “Who’s Lorem?” “…Lorem is correct…”: definitely a display of hurt feelings if I ever saw one. :roll:

    Given that you seem to carry over to an unfortunate extent the habit of dealing with individual people as merely members of a class instead of looking at the real differences, that make all the difference in the real world, I can believe it.

    Yeah, I get this one all the time from the class of people like you. ;-) Seriously though, if you reread what I actually wrote, you’ll notice that I never once referred to any group of people in it, except vaguely in a couple of responses to instances in which you already had ‘defined the class.’ And even if I had, the fact that differences exist is no guarantee that they’re significant to any particular discussion.

    Though forgive me if I don’t believe an objective observer would necessarily agree with your critique and comparison of our various abilities to construct a logical argument.

    I’ve never had trouble getting logical arguments published in peer-reviewed journals and you get identified as a troll by most of the people here twenty minutes after they first see what you’ve written. Believe me, I’d be incredibly interested in seeing you actually produce a sound logical argument some time. Instead, we get a stream of ignoratio elenchi, ad ignorantiam, ad hominem, and straw man reasoning, typically supported by premises which are false in the first place.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Jen, you are absolutely right, by his teachings and especially when the record of those have the reliably spurious ones taken out by modern scholarship, Jesus was a completely Jewish figure who probably knew the teachings of Hillel who was actually an extreme liberal of his day. Any honest evaluation of Jesus has to begin with the fact that he was born and died a Jew, something that most of what called itself “christianity” not only ignores but denies. Since you know that, you shouldn’t be tempted to blame the historical Jesus, of whose existence in some form there is an unusually large amount of documentary evidence as compared to similar people of his social class, for the mythology that has sprung up in the period after he lived. That would be not only unfair, but entirely irrational. It doesn’t surprise me to find that encouraging that the basic rules of fair and honest inquiry would be unwelcome among fundamentalists, it’s exactly what I expected based on my previous experience of neo-atheism.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Miko, I assume you gave refuting my rejection of equating Jesus with Osama bin Ladin based on what Jesus is supposed to have said your best shot and you failed to make the point that Jesus called for killing people. I’m not surprised, I tested the idea and couldn’t find that either.

    You aren’t familiar with the attempts of creationists to paint Darwin with the crimes that arose from later eugenicists? And here I thought you were an informed observer of the struggle to protect science against superstition. Try google. It’s not hard to find. Your attempt to attribute that folly to me on the basis of my using it to point out what was a double standard applied by neo-atheists in this thread is intellectually dishonest. I didn’t endorse it but only pointed out that it was being said for purposes of comparison.

    Since the entire discussion I was engaged in was my objection to classifying religious believers into the same class as Osama bin Ladin and you sided with those who were doing it without objecting to the practice, I assumed you were endorsing that viewpoint. I will add that apologizing for Harris, whose entire career as a public thinker is based on this kind of stereotypical bigotry would lead any but a true atheist fundamentalist to come to the same conclusion. Since what you presented as a pantomime of refutation seemed to lead to that conclusion it’s an error that any reasonable person could make.

    You know, I’m not feeling particularly anxious about my ability to reason based on what I’ve reread above. If you aren’t even willing to check to make certain that you are characterizing the arguments I made accurately before judging them, I wonder why anyone should consider your evaluation as being worth anything.

    But, that’s about what I’ve come to expect from neo-atheists.

  • Miko

    And this is their HOLY book? I’m getting more of an education in religious writings from this blog than I’m really comfortable with – it’s creeping me out. Not an elegant expression, but accurate. Now I know why I always seem to hear the same few bible verses quoted all the time – it’s the good parts version.

    Although almost all of the books of the Bible have significant bad parts, Matthew and Luke are some of the worst in the NT. Mark was probably written as a fictional update of the story of Moses to then-modern times, almost certainly to draw attention to abuses of the Jews under the Romans. Then a couple of decades later, a couple of fanatic true believers decided to write their own versions (later called Matthew and Luke) to create the impression that the Book of Mark was recounting historical fact. Hence we all of a sudden get an explosion of OT prophecies ‘fulfilled.’ And if you’re trying to fulfill every OT prophecy under the sun, it’s hard not to make your hero look like a jerk, especially if you’re trying to get people riled up against the Romans and don’t really want them hearing a message of peace in the first place. The little bits of the message that are peaceful basically serve as a foil: notice how Jesus’ message becomes increasingly violent as time goes on (both during his lifetime and during his return in Revelation)–it’s the classic story of the nice guy who tried to work within the system, but finally concluded that the system was so corrupt that the only way to get things done was by violence. So you start with a nice Jesus that your audience will relate to, slowly morph him (and the audience by extension) into a rage-filled monster, then show him betrayed and brutally murdered. If there’s any doubt that the moral is “it’s time for the readers to take up the fight,” Jesus actually comes back from the dead, just to tell them to go conquer the world in his name.

  • Miko

    You aren’t familiar with the attempts of creationists to paint Darwin with the crimes that arose from later eugenicists? And here I thought you were an informed observer of the struggle to protect science against superstition.

    I am familiar with the idea, but I fail to see its relevance here.

    Your attempt to attribute that folly to me on the basis of my using it to point out what was a double standard applied by neo-atheists in this thread is intellectually dishonest. I didn’t endorse it but only pointed out that it was being said for purposes of comparison.

    I’m not attributing it to you, I’m just pointing out that it’s irrelevant.

    Since the entire discussion I was engaged in was my objection to classifying religious believers into the same class as Osama bin Ladin and you sided with those who were doing it without objecting to the practice, I assumed you were endorsing that viewpoint.

    If you’ll read my argument, you’ll notice that I did not mention classifying religious believers in any way whatsoever. You made the claim that Jesus did not say things that could easily be interpreted as endorsing wanton violence and I provided examples that he obviously did. If you don’t believe me that these verses are commonly interpreted this way, do a literature search on Matthew 10:34: you’ll end up with a fairly even split between people using it to justify things like capital punishment and war and apologists trying to find excuses for why Jesus said it (i.e., he was really trying to say that God would punish people so that Christians wouldn’t have to, which is a perfectly valid interpretation if one ignores all of the context). And your argument wasn’t (or at least shouldn’t have been and doesn’t appear to be) that religious believers don’t belong in the same class as Osama: since the artwork is of Jesus and of Osama, the followers of Jesus are not involved any more than the followers of Osama are.

    I will add that apologizing for Harris, whose entire career as a public thinker is based on this kind of stereotypical bigotry would lead any but a true atheist fundamentalist to come to the same conclusion. Since what you presented as a pantomime of refutation seemed to lead to that conclusion it’s an error that any reasonable person could make.

    I have absolutely no idea what this means.

    If you aren’t even willing to check to make certain that you are characterizing the arguments I made accurately before judging them, I wonder why anyone should consider your evaluation as being worth anything.

    I find it ironic that we’re both accusing each other of this. The difference, I imagine, being that I was responding to a specific claim you made, while you were responding to the fact that I wasn’t responding to a different claim that you made. Pointing out that your premise was false demonstrates that your argument was unsound, but has nothing to do with your conclusion.

    You know, I’m not feeling particularly anxious about my ability to reason based on what I’ve reread above. If you aren’t even willing to check to make certain that you are characterizing the arguments I made accurately before judging them, I wonder why anyone should consider your evaluation as being worth anything.

    But, that’s about what I’ve come to expect from neo-atheists.

    Both of these paragraphs are essentially ad hominem. Besides which, as I’ve mentioned repeatedly, I’m evaluating your premise, not your argument. I didn’t comment on your argument at all, or characterize it in any way.

    For the record, your argument (of Sept 1, 10:16) is structured as follows:
    Premise 1: Jesus never said anything which could be interpreted as endorsing violence.
    Premise 2: If Jesus never said anything which could be interpreted as endorsing violence, then we should not blame him for violence committed in his name.
    Premise 3: People who do kill in Jesus’ name are liars.
    Premise 4: People who do kill in Osama’s name are being honest.
    Premise 5: If you don’t see the difference I’m referring to, it’s because a rational person would see the difference. (I’ve removed a double-negative from the original)
    Conclusion: Sam Harris is irresponsible.

    I’ve demonstrated that Premise 1 is false. Premise 2 is true, but since it’s a conditional statement and “if false, then X” is always true for any X, it’s not meaningful here since Premise 1 was false. Premise 3 is an ad hominem, not an argument. Premise 4 serves only to illustrate the hypocrisy inherent in Premise 3. Premise 5 is again ad hominem and bordering on circular reasoning. And the Conclusion has absolutely nothing to do with the argument.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    You made the claim that Jesus did not say things that could easily be interpreted as endorsing wanton violence and I provided examples that he obviously did.

    I refuted the idea clearly implied in the “art” and the comments that Jesus called for the killing of either innocent or guilty people in the fashion of Osama bin Ladin. If that isn’t the message of the “art” then my comment about the possible stupidity of the “artist” are supported. You have not contradicted what I asserted with quotations of what was actually attributed to Jesus. Can you come up with these quotes? If they don’t exist my point is true. Unless you know some other meaning of the word “true” which I don’t think is known either informally or in the most formal sense. By the way, I think Alfred North Whitehead alone, no slouch in matters formal, would put the lie to your attempts to claim the entirety of formal logic as atheist literature. I doubt Bertrand Russell would deny his claim to being an important figure, for obvious reasons.

    What other people do with what someone says is their responsibility, not that of the person who said the words. I don’t think that Darwin should be held responsible for the use of his ideas and words by people he didn’t authorize to use his words. I don’t even think Darwin should be held responsible for the virulent racism of T. Huxley, his close associate. Why should Jesus be held to a different standard of responsibility for the actions of people who he never met than Darwin is for his friend and defender? I don’t think Darwin should be answerable for anything except what he said, but, then, I’m not endorsing vicarious culpability, you, Dawkins, Harris and the worst of fad atheists are. I used to be used to atheists who had a sense of fairness, where are they?

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Oh, Miko, about ad hominem, talk, gnothi seauton.

  • Miko

    Oh, Miko, about ad hominem, talk, gnothi seauton.

    Yep. Straw man too. And a few others. Most of humor is based on the use of logical fallacy and is funny precisely because we realize that it’s ridiculous from a logical perspective. But while I feel that a bit of levity is worthwhile now and then, I don’t include it as a step in a logical argument. Rather, I typically insert my logical fallacies directly after establishing a conclusion, and even then only when I’m not writing formally.

    By the way, I think Alfred North Whitehead alone, no slouch in matters formal, would put the lie to your attempts to claim the entirety of formal logic as atheist literature.

    This being a case in point: the original context was non-fiction as atheistic literature, which itself doesn’t really make sense, hence conclusions drawn from it don’t either. And as I noted in that thread, there’s a difference between atheistic literature and atheist literature in the sense that the first is concerned with the content and the second is concerned with the authorship. Formal logic would or would not be atheistic regardless of the religious views of any particular author talking about it. Also, Whitehead was a panentheist, not a theist: thus, in particular, his god was not omnipotent or changeless.

    I don’t think Darwin should be answerable for anything except what he said, but, then, I’m not endorsing vicarious culpability, you, Dawkins, Harris and the worst of fad atheists are.

    You keep accusing me (and others) of this, yet you never provide evidence for your conclusion. And seriously: fad atheists?

    You have not contradicted what I asserted with quotations of what was actually attributed to Jesus.

    If by “what I asserted,” you mean that Jesus didn’t say those things, I did refute this in my first response to you in this thread. You seem to continually ignore this and talk about unrelated things like vicarious culpability. Some of your ideas are interesting, but your arguments are endlessly repetitive and unchanged by being proven wrong. Unless you’ve got something new to bring to the table, I don’t think I really have anything else to say on this topic.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Miko, with your assertions that you aren’t familiar with the Dawkins-Harris line that all religious believers, especially religious moderates and liberals, are responsible for the sins of the violent fundamentalists, you have crossed way beyond the line of folly into complete and obvious dishonesty. Considering the beginning point of this conversation, a picture that morphs between Jesus and Osama bin Ladin, asserting that you are unfamiliar with the subject matter is entirely outside the realm of reality or credibility. In short, failing to argue effectively to support your assertions you fall back onto tactics that a ninth grade forensics novice would blush to try.

    Having taken a close look at neo-atheism for the past year all I’ve found is that the only thing you guys are unusually good at is maintaining an unusual ability to be conceited about an intellectual superiority and rigor that you presume as a matter of course but which is simply not there. I’ve yet to meet an atheist fundamentalist who was the intellectual superior of the old, unpretentious atheists who don’t claim anything but disbelief, agnostics who are honest enough to say no one knows if there is or is not a God and religious believers who don’t pretend to know that which they only believe. You can, however, be comforted with the knowledge that your intellectual and moral equals are to be found among religious fundamentalists who, likewise, have complete faith in their superiority and special status.

  • Richard Wade

    Olvlzl
    It is with great reluctance and trepidation that I break my promise to not respond to you again, but I cannot abide your spreading a misconception about me. I make these remarks in the hope that things can be better for everyone who visits this blog.

    The difficulty that I have with you has nothing to do with any remarks you made about psychology or the social sciences, as you have boasted about on more than one occasion. I vaguely remember those comments, and for the most part I was in agreement with you. You assume that because I was once a provider of psychotherapy that I would automatically defend against any criticism you would make about the field. Nope. I have been far more critical than anything you ever said. I was a vocal skeptic about many things in psychology and social sciences all during my education, my internship and my practicing career. Nevertheless I managed to help many people and to avoid harming any. I retired from that kind of work long ago. Whenever someone makes critical remarks about the field I more often than not agree with them and even if I do not, I certainly don’t have any “hurt feelings” about it. So I hope that you can lay that misconception you have about you and me to rest.

    The difficulty that I have with you I explained more than once with increasing earnestness, but you continued to ignore my explanations. I’ll try once again. Even at this point I’m trying to keep anger out of my words, trying to communicate to you something that you could use. I am very confident that others share similar frustrations with you and that things could be better for all of us if you could actually look at yourself and consider their validity.

    On several occasions I tried to engage you with sincere questions in an open-hearted and open-minded way about whatever the topic of discussion was. You either ignored me entirely, or skipped around the central point I was making and turned some peripheral issue into another chance to complain about Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and the rest of the authors you dislike. They had nothing to do with the original topic of the thread, and nothing to do with what I was wanting to talk with you about. It was very frustrating and after many times it was eventually aggravating.

    Somehow, very often when you chime in on a thread the conversation begins to revolve around you. I’m contributing to that right now; here I am talking about you. The focus stops being on whatever the original topic was and people talk to you about you or to each other about you. Then when people realize that they have blundered into this process once again, they get frustrated and annoyed. If they direct that annoyance at you, then the process continues. If they look at their own participation in it, then they can simply stop responding to you in that way and the process stops until someone else blunders into it.

    Other people have objected to you many times about your repetitive steering of the conversation to your pet peeve, H,H,D&C, and your habit of not citing specific examples to back up your complaints, so there’s no point in re-hashing that. But there is another, more difficult to describe problem with your communicating, and that is your tone. Just about all your remarks have a subtle glaze of smug superiority. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but there is this snotty, down-your-nose quality pervading the many, many statements of disapproval that you make. It gets in the way of the point you want to make. It’s kind of like a speech impediment. I don’t think you’re aware of how much it interferes. Even if you’re saying something new and different, people don’t want to listen to you because they don’t want to put up with the put-down tone.

    The centering on you and the snide tone is why people refer to you as a troll.

    You have more than once said or implied that people here are angry at you because you are effectively criticizing notions they cherish, or that your arguments are so strong and skillful that they are frustrated and lash out at you. You are completely missing the point. Some of the things you say here are bull’s eye accurate and some of the things you say are just bull. I welcome your being a foil for some of the presumptions that may float around here, but I don’t welcome the same one after 145 times, or anything delivered in a way that gives me the feeling I’m somehow being subtly insulted.

    Please consider what I’ve said with an open mind. I have tried to be frank without being unnecessarily hurtful. When someone complains to me about my tactics or my tone I try hard to have the courage to look at myself and see if anything about their complaint is true. If for instance you really think that I “depend on invective instead of argument,” then I have to look at that with critical introspection and remedy it if I find there’s truth to it. That is why I have tried very hard to keep invective out of this comment.

    I apologize to you and everyone else for the length of this comment. I hope that if it results in better communication then much more bandwidth will not be wasted in future futile bickering.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Richard Wade, to pretend that Dawkins and Harris and Dennett and Hitchens and the other central figures of organized atheism are off topic in these conversations is base intellectual dishonesty. It would be like discussing Catholicism without reference to the Pope or bishops or theologians. You haven’t noticed that atheists bring them into the conversation rather frequently? I have noticed that so long as it is favorable comment people aren’t bothered with them and what they say being discussed, it’s when someone criticizes them that your problems start. It’s pretty much the same with the Catholic League and criticism of the Pope, etc.

    I think if you review the thread above I was not the one who made myself the center of the conversation. But I don’t expect that you will do that because I have no reason to believe that the goal here is honesty, it is mostly reinforcement of predigested opinions and ideas. That isn’t unusual in blog threads of any kind but it isn’t really very interesting or productive. Parrots are amusing for a while but their repertoire is rather limited.

    As mentioned to Miko, the most annoying thing about neo-atheism is the pretension of superiority and self-congratulation matched with disdain for the large majority of humanity. That is guaranteed to lose politically, people don’t seem to care much for being told they are stupid. But, let me give you guys a hint. If you’re going to be smug you’d better be able to back it up with solid arguments. I wonder if it was Julie’s brilliant logical device of telling me to “get laid” that clinched the argument for Miko. Forgive me, but I don’t think I was the one making a jackass of myself above. I don’t think an objective observer would think I had.

    I’m too busy to deal with this anymore until next week.

  • Richard Wade

    Olvlzl

    to pretend that Dawkins and Harris and Dennett and Hitchens and the other central figures of organized atheism are off topic in these conversations is base intellectual dishonesty. It would be like discussing Catholicism without reference to the Pope or bishops or theologians.

    I’ve read plenty of honest and insightful discussions about various aspects of Catholicism that did not include remarks about the Pope or bishops or theologians. Those discussions were not deficient because of that and none of them would have benefitted from somebody coming in and chanting, “It’s all the Pope’s fault, it’s all the Pope’s fault,” ad nauseum as mechanically as you try to blame everything and anything about atheists and atheism on D,H,D & H et all.

    You haven’t noticed that atheists bring them into the conversation rather frequently?

    Nobody, but NOBODY brings them up as frequently as you do, not even close. You seem far more obsessed with them than any of the “blog atheists” or “neo-atheists” you accuse of worshiping them, not one of whom you have ever named. If you feel so strongly that the Evil Four should be incessantly opposed, then perhaps you should WRITE YOUR OWN BOOK repudiating them rather than wasting your talents on the likes of us. Then you could cite actual examples of their objectionable statements, something you seldom if ever seem to have time to do here. They might even read what you have to say and you could enter into debate with them directly. They’re certainly not hearing any of your views on this little blog. By putting yourself out there on paper as they have you could go toe-to-toe with them. …Unless that is what you want to avoid.

    Make no mistake, I do not worship those four guys you hate so much. Do not lump me into this nameless rabble of “neo-atheists” you apparently have invented to sneer at. Dawkins, Harris and co. don’t represent me. Nobody does. I disagree with plenty of what they have written, for instance the notion that religious moderates provide “cover” for the extremists. That’s nonsense, they provide no data to back it up, and I have said so vociferously long before you came to this blog. Some people agreed, some disagreed, others offered interesting views, but then the discussion was over and we moved on. Unlike you, I’m able to talk about lots of different things.

    I was disappointed but not surprised that you completely ignored everything I respectfully offered about how you interfere with your own ability to communicate, how you alienate people with whom you might otherwise be able to converse without rancor. All you did was give yet another demonstration of the very same things I was describing. You say others here are conceited, smug, full of disdain and acting like parrots, but you refuse to see or acknowledge any of that in yourself. You seem incapable of looking at yourself with the same critical eye you cast so freely on others.

    I tried. I really tried.

    I won’t again promise to not respond to you; I’ve already (futilely) broken that promise. I just can’t foresee any point in it other than to object to some misrepresentation you slip in about me, as you did earlier. Another thing you ignored.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Oh, Richard, the best laid plans. Tell me, did the “get laid” argument impress you with its depth of insight or its stunning originality? Perhaps it was the civility that you found congenial.

    As to my answering your distractions, I’m familiar with that tactic too. I’m afraid they are off topic. I don’t really care to be adored here and I certainly don’t expect any arguments made in favor of reason or fairness to impress. I think it was the post crowing about child murder that disabused me of that one. The use of a single standard instead of a double one, I’m not certain that’s something I ever expected.

    As for the future, I’ve got plans of my own that don’t involve testing the claims and presumptions of neo-atheists. I’ve come to the conclusion of that study.

  • Claire

    Miko – thanks for the summary! Another good example of why government and religion don’t mix.

    I am grateful for people like you who read this stuff with a critical eye and can pass on what they learn. Most of the less-quoted sections make no sense to me on first reading, and I don’t have the time or, really, the interest, to delve into it deeply enough to make it make sense. If I believed in it, yes, I would make a point, but I don’t, and life’s too short. So I am grateful to Miko and those others of you who are spot-on with the appropriate quote at the right time for bolstering arguments and confounding the ignorant. A most sincere thanks!

  • Richard Wade

    .

  • Jen

    I don’t pay that much attention to Harris or Dawkins, and I don’t even know what “Neo-atheist” is supposed to mean here, but I will admit:

    I am kind of worshipping Richard Wade right now.

  • Richard Wade

    Jen, thanks but please don’t attract more trouble my way.


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