Peter Boghossian – Authenticity – TAM 2013 | YouTube

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His new book A Manual for Creating Atheists is available on Amazon now

Peter Boghossian is a Philosophy professor at Portland State University, where his main focus is bringing the tools of professional philosophers to people in a wide variety of contexts. Dr. Boghossian's primary research areas are critical thinking and moral reasoning. His is the author of the forthcoming book A Manual for Creating Atheists.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. It bothers me that Peter and Sam blame all the troubles with suicide terrorists on Islam. They see things in a very simplistic way. It bothers me even more they consider anyone who disagrees with them is a “faker”.

    I have argued this several times before. Once again quickly.

    Suicide attacks are not isolated to Muslims. Americans, Europeans and Japanese did them in WWI and WWII. They might not have been called that, but the odds of returning successfully from suicide missions were very low, especially for repeated missions.

    There are a number of motives for co-operating in a suicide attack.

    • pressure from military authority
    • fear of offending Allah (Muslims spend their whole lives worrying about what is haram. Nitpicky squared.)
    • peer pressure
    • personal glory
    • family glory
    • hatred of the enemy, desire for revenge for death of family or comrades.
    • socially acceptable suicide, say after wife and family are killed.
    • financial rewards for your family who might otherwise starve.
    • the enemy normally mows 100 of you down for every one of them you nail. Here is a way to reverse the odds.
    • hope of reward from Allah.

    I don’t claim to know how much each factor plays in each suicide attack, but knowing a number of Muslims, I am quite sure reward from Allah is not 100%.

    • In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      It bothers me that Peter and Sam blame all the troubles with suicide terrorists on Islam. They see things in a very simplistic way. It bothers me even more they consider anyone who disagrees with them is a “faker”.

      I have argued this several times before. Once again quickly.

      Suicide attacks are…

      I agree, Roedy. When people ramble on about suicide bombers being the epitome of Islamist religious fanatics, I always think of Palestine. There, at least among the people I met and talked to, religion was a much smaller factor than the rage at what Israel had been doing to them for half a century – with full US support. Even Osama bin Laden, who of course hammered away on the theme of reward in heaven, also clearly mentioned Muslim outrage at Israel. So you’re absolutely right. Revenge is a mixed stew.

    • What about fear of offending Yahweh or hope of reward from Vishnu?

      In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      It bothers me that Peter and Sam blame all the troubles with suicide terrorists on Islam. They see things in a very simplistic way. It bothers me even more they consider anyone who disagrees with them is a “faker”.

      I have argued this several times before. Once again quickly.

      Suicide attacks are…

      • In reply to #5 by Marktony:

        What about fear of offending Yahweh or hope of reward from Vishnu?

        There is a ton of Jehovah demanding genocide and other atrocities in the OT. In modern war, Christians assert “gott mit uns”. I don’t recall the notion of reward limited to those who deliberately killed themselves, just for those who kill others or those who take large risks trying to kill others. There is a fair bit of its ok to kill non-Christians. They don’t count as human.

        If we go back to the Crusades, the Christians killed everyone in Jerusalem, including the Christians, on the grounds they had been contaminated by living peacefully with Muslims and Jews, though there was no invader Christian suicide required.

        Christianity has a strong no-suicide rule. It even prohibits physician assisted suicide. They disguise it with extreme high risk attacks.

        • Christianity has a strong no-suicide rule.

          It seems that is the case for Islam too, in fact for most religions:

          Religious views on suicide

          Suicide attacks are not isolated to Muslims. Americans, Europeans and Japanese did them in WWI and WWII.

          They have been pretty much isolated to Muslims recently. You gave a list of 10 motives – do you think some of the more influential of these motives are (at least recently) only relevant to Muslims?

          In reply to #7 by Roedy:

          In reply to #5 by Marktony:

          What about fear of offending Yahweh or hope of reward from Vishnu?

          There is a ton of Jehovah demanding genocide and other atrocities in the OT. In modern war, Christians assert “gott mit uns”. I don’t recall the notion of reward limited to those who deliberately killed…

    • In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      It bothers me that Peter and Sam blame all the troubles with suicide terrorists on Islam. They see things in a very simplistic way. It bothers me even more they consider anyone who disagrees with them is a “faker”.

      Hi Roedy,

      I don’t disagree with your analysis of the reasons given, but I haven’t gotten the impression that Harris et al were exclusively blaming religion rather my reading was they were criticising some on the left excluding it as an important factor. From my own point of view I would thing it would be significantly harder (but not impossible) to convince an atheist to commit suicide than the fundamentally religious. I know people in the past talk about the Japanese suicide bombers as an example of secular suicide. I have read a bit about this because I’m an aviation buff and they did go through a significant amount of religious rituals leading up to their missions. Here is a few parts of a Air and Space Article on Japanese Suicide Bomber pilots

      When the Thunder Gods had been assigned their quarters they re-hoisted banners Nonaka had flown at Konoike reading “HI-RI-HO-KEN-TEN” and “NAMU-HACHIMAN-DAI-BOSATSU.” Both were favorite saying of the famous mid-14th century general Kusunoki Masashige, who had attempted to help the Emperor regain power from the ruling shogun and killed himself when he failed. HI-RI-HO-KEN-TEN was an acronym for “Irrationality can never match reason—Reach can never match law—Law can never match power—Power can never match Heaven.” The inscription on the second banner was a popular Buddhist prayer.

      “My body will collapse like a falling cherry blossom, but my soul will live and protect this land forever,” wrote 23-year-old Reserve Sub-Lieutenant First Class Yuzuru Ogata. “Farewell. I am a glorious wild cherry blossom. I shall return to my mother’s place and bloom!”

      “Looking back, your serene state of mind and outstanding behavior since last November has impressed me. I could not be more proud of you. Now you will go into the next world. And just as you have been in this world, I pray that you will continue to be pure, beautiful, healthy, and cheerful. Your colleagues and I will soon be following you. Please remember the ties we had in this world!”

      Full Article here it also supports most of the other factors you mention so I have no doubt that these are of equal importance. As for suicide missions in wars in WW1 people were shot if they did not go up and over the trenches, in WW2 people may have know they were on very slim odds but they often held onto the belief that they would somehow survive although many became fatalistic. However I am unaware of specifically training soldiers with the express intent of blowing themselves up except where religion has been used as an additional motivation to get them over the line. However I am happy to be convinced otherwise.

      I also think that cultural factors are often amplified by religion and visa versa. Dogmatism being the unifying factor here

      • In reply to #10 by Reckless Monkey:

        In reply to #1 by Roedy:

        It bothers me that Peter and Sam blame all the troubles with suicide terrorists on Islam. They see things in a very simplistic way. It bothers me even more they consider anyone who disagrees with them is a “faker”.

        The Japanese have a different take on suicide even to this day. If you look up leagues tables on global suicide rates, you’ll see that the Japanese have quite a high rate. ( sorry to intrude into your designated reply, but it caught my eye).

        • In reply to #11 by Nitya:

          In reply to #10 by Reckless Monkey:

          In reply to #1 by Roedy:

          It bothers me that Peter and Sam blame all the troubles with suicide terrorists on Islam. They see things in a very simplistic way. It bothers me even more they consider anyone who disagrees with them is a “faker”.

          The Japanese have a different take on suicide even to this day. If you look up leagues tables on global suicide rates, you’ll see that the Japanese have quite a high rate.

          You are quite right there, my point is and I highly recommend the article I linked to by the way, is these guys didn’t want to die but due to numerous factors that Rodney sited and their brand of religion they were able to see themselves as dispensable. That it was honourable to do so and dis-honerable to not do so. I am saying that their religion in which their emperor was deemed to be a God was not secular. Too often I think people at the top are happy to use religion as a lever to help shift the population to do their bidding. Without religion they need to fall back on reason. It is much harder to come up with a reason to kill yourself that could not equally be applied to the leader who is asking you to do so, without heaven I’d have to ask the General if it is so important that someone kills themselves then why don’t you? Same could be asked of Islamic extremists. I would I believe (hope) be willing to die for my direct family, I would be prepared to risk my life for much less but I cannot imagine the argument that would convince me to kill myself, but as I’m sure Rodney would point out I have been brought up in a peaceful county with plenty, I haven’t had my friends or family killed and I am well educated and I would add an atheist. I am genuinely interested in having this debate, my mind is not fixed on how much each factors weigh in these decisions.

          I would very much like to hear on equivalent suicide attacks to extremist religious ones like those perpetuated by Islamic fundamentalists carried out by say atheists. There may have been some examples in communist countries but considering the regimes in place going to your almost certain death when the alternative of disobedience would have been torture followed by certain death makes it hard to make a fair comparison. Does anyone have examples of atheists deliberately committing suicide while blowing themselves up for a cause?

          • In reply to #12 by Reckless Monkey:

            In reply to #11 by Nitya:

            In reply to #10 by Reckless Monkey:

            In reply to #1 by Roedy:

            It bothers me that Peter and Sam blame all the troubles with suicide terrorists on Islam. They see things in a very simplistic way. It bothers me even more they consider anyone who disagrees with them is a “fa…

            I happened to know the Japanese incidence of suicide because I had cause to look it up recently. Historically suicide was looked on as the honourable thing to do in response to a shameful situation. For a wealthy, industrialised country the results are quite high. Another mitigating factor in wealthy industrialised nations could be euthanasia.

            I generally admire Sam Harris and even subscribe to his emails, however it disagree with him on a couple of key issues, notably possession of guns and his apparent demonising of all Muslims. I think his judgement is clouded by his partly Jewish heritage.

            Actually I enjoyed the video posted, but I’m definitely in the minority. I think that I must have viewed it with a completely different set of preconceptions and expectations. I’m very surprised by the comments posted.

          • In reply to #13 by Nitya:

            In reply to #12 by Reckless Monkey:

            In reply to #11 by Nitya:

            In reply to #10 by Reckless Monkey:

            In reply to #1 by Roedy:

            It bothers me that Peter and Sam blame all the troubles with suicide terrorists on Islam. They see things in a very simplistic way. It bothers me even more they consider an…

            Hi Nitya,

            I’m with you on Sam re-gun control and I’d add I was troubled by some of the stuff he wrote about torture (although here I think he may have been genuinely attempting to have a full and open debate about it). I live in Australia where very few people have guns and most gun deaths are Biker Gang member killing opposing Biker Gang members over drug territories very few civilian deaths from gun violence. Sam quoted some stuff that was about at the time that was I think misrepresenting the data on violent crimes etc.

            I think you are right too about the cultural impact on suicide rates. But as they were also a particular type of Buddhist I’m not certain you can separate the two I think it likely they re-enforce each other. Buddhism (as I understand it) seems to emphasise attempting to remove attachments from your wants and desires which it sees as destructive. I can see how practising this could increase a sense that you are not so important, and you need to control any emotions you may have about yourself. This may make it easier to take yourself out for what you believe to be the greater good. I’m also not sure if it is a positive impact on their culture or if our Western Society as Rodney pointed out is particularly against suicide. However there seem to have been a number of Buddists over the years setting themselves on fire in protest and I wonder if aspects of Buddhism may increase the likelihood of suicide as an honourable option. But I don’t know enough about it. I’d be interested in knowing exactly how much any particular factor plays on this.

            I also enjoyed the talk. I just got the message try to be honest and clear. I’m all for that.

          • In reply to #14 by Reckless Monkey:

            In reply to #13 by Nitya:

            In reply to #12 by Reckless Monkey:

            In reply to #11 by Nitya:

            In reply to #10 by Reckless Monkey:

            In reply to #1 by Roedy:

            It bothers me that Peter and Sam blame all the troubles with suicide terrorists on Islam. They see things in a very simplistic way. It bothers me…

            That was the message I took from Peter’s talk as well and I agreed with him. Being forthright and not lending tacit support for belief’s you don’t hold, seems like a worthy aim. I was about to put stylus to iPad in support of his views when I read the negative comments. I thought that maybe I had misinterpreted the video and decided to wait and see whether I had got it completely wrong.

            Torture is my other gripe with the recent provocative comments to come from Sam Harris. I disagree with this so strongly that I don’t know where to begin. IMO torture should never be used. It’s rarely effective in getting accurate information and the person doing the torturing is as damaged by the process as the victim.

            Oh…and even taking into account our recent spate of bikie related drive-by shootings, our gun deaths are still miles behind those of the US.

          • In reply to #15 by Nitya:

            In reply to #14 by Reckless Monkey:

            In reply to #13 by Nitya:

            In reply to #12 by Reckless Monkey:

            In reply to #11 by Nitya:

            In reply to #10 by Reckless Monkey:

            In reply to #1 by Roedy:

            It bothers me that Peter and Sam blame all the troubles with suicide terrorists on Islam.
            Torture is my other gripe with the recent provocative comments to come from Sam Harris. I disagree with this so strongly that I don’t know where to begin. IMO torture should never be used.

            We agree on this also. However, my reading of Sam’s was that the debate needed to be had fully. That’s what I uncomfortably took from it at the time anyway. I could be mis-reading Sam, I have taken him at his word that he did not support torture but felt those prosecuting the case against needed to justify their claims. He seems to periodically stir the pot. I felt his support of guns may be linked to the very large target his has painted on his back by doing what I would be hesitant to do. So while I disagree I am hesitant to be too judgemental as I am not vocally speaking out myself. It’s possible I’m too much of a fan boy but I can only take him at his word.

          • In reply to #17 by Reckless Monkey:

            I’m having difficulty submitting anything longer than a couple of sentences (again!) so I’ll be brief. I’m disappointed that Sam seems to have lurched to the right, but maybe that’s what happens when you receive repeated death threats.

      • In reply to #10 by Reckless Monkey:

        In reply to #1 by Roedy:

        It bothers me that Peter and Sam blame all the troubles with suicide terrorists on Islam. They see things in a very simplistic way. It bothers me even more they consider anyone who disagrees with them is a “faker”.
        However I am unaware of specifically training soldiers with the express intent of blowing themselves up except where religion has been used as an additional motivation to get them over the line.

        Appreciated the linked article from Air & Space thanks. Plenty of praying and talk of killing evil devils mentioned there. All highly authentic religious minds at work, hellbent on revenge.

        One kamikaze pilot named Ichizo Hayashi carried his bible aloft with him, as did other Xian kamikaze pilots. Ichizo wrote a final letter to his mother declaring “for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain, and I will be sure to sink an enemy vessel.”

        And prior to that our Authentic Xian Ichizo wrote this, referring to his biblegodthingy:

        “How fortunate I am that I believe in God, whom my mother believes in. My mind is at ease when I think that God takes care of everything. God would not make my mother or myself sad. I am sure God will bestow happiness upon us. Even [though] I will die I dream of our lives together…I know my country is beautiful…My earnest hope is that our country will overcome this crisis and prosper. I can’t bear the thought of our nation being stampeded by the dirty enemy. I must avenge [it] with my own life.”

        Kamikaze Diaries by Professor Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

        • In reply to #16 by Len Walsh:

          In reply to #10 by Reckless Monkey:

          In reply to #1 by Roedy:

          It bothers me that Peter and Sam blame all the troubles with suicide terrorists on Islam. They see things in a very simplistic way. It bothers me even more they consider anyone who disagrees with them is a “faker”.
          However I am unaware…

          Hi Len. I think you’re trying to tell us something. Ummm, what could it be? Maybe he overused the word ‘authentic’! Touché!
          It took a while to catch on, but I think I’ve got it.

  2. All well and good, but easier said than done. In my experience being forthright with blind faithers is counter productive; it’s a sure way of losing friends.

    I think the best that can be done is to protect children from religious indoctrination by teaching them to think for themselves and question what they’re told; not necessarily immediately or on the spot, but to go away and quietly ponder it. Then, be alert for the next time the subject comes up and, strike back.

    That way there’s a better chance that their opponent will be off guard, the child’s argument will have more impact and they won’t be molested again; they’ll also enjoy the satisfaction of winning an argument.

    • In reply to #3 by Stafford Gordon

      All well and good, but easier said than done. In my experience being forthright with blind faithers is counter productive; it’s a sure way of losing friends.

      Or family …

      An excellent speech for a receptive audience does tend to overshadow the need for tailored response.

      While I love Peter’s approach in many ways, a little diplomacy can take us a long way.

      Peter would no doubt respond that the time for soft-peddling is past and that changing minds is only done by challenging the thinking of those minds – and for that, at some point, we need to be frank where we see error.

      Still, a little friendliness and thoughtful response will take us a lot further a lot faster.

      Peace.

  3. Much talking, little said.

    Thou shall not tell lies. So what ?

    I sincerely struggle to listen to each speech of Peter Boghossian. So patronizing. Listen carefully, good people, for that is philosphy : authentic people are Gandhi, Mandela, Richard Dawkins and Einstein. Non-authentic people are Hitler, Genghis Khan, William Lane Craig and Bin Laden. Do you now finally understand what authenticity means ?

    Well, if that is philosophy, I prefer propaganda.

    • Non-authentic people are Genghis Khan

      He may have been brutal, selfish and egotistical, but I think by Peter’s definition, Genghis Khan is authentic. He did not beat about the bush expressing what he thought.

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