Tag Archives: religion

We Don’t Know What We Are Talking About When We talk about Religion | Medium

We Don’t Know What We Are Talking About When We talk about Religion

People rarely mean the same thing when they say “religion”, nor do they realize that they don’t mean the same thing. For early Jews and Muslims, religion was law. Din means law in Hebrew and religion in Arabic. For early Jews, religion was also tribal; for early Muslims, it was universal. For the Romans, religion was social events, rituals, and festivals –the word religio was a counter to superstitio, and while present in the Roman zeitgeist had no equivalent concept in the Greek-Byzantine East. Law was procedurally and mechanically its own thing, and early Christianity, thanks to Saint Augustine, stayed relatively away from the law, and, later, remembering its foundations, had an uneasy relation with it. For instance, even during the Inquisition, a lay court handled the sentencing

Religion, Pasquale Cirillo, Costco, Olive Oil, Narcissism, Gene Editing, Clintons

@wcsoto “Religion isn’t so much about telling man that there is one God as about preventing man from thinking that he is God.”
N. N. Taleb
@nntaleb Permalink 8:44 AM – 13 May 2015

@nntaleb 2nd accepted paper this year w/Cirillo.
We need a paper on statistical properties of squid ink to have a good y. https://twitter.com/DrCirillo/status/697796849713967104   Permalink 7:04 AM – 11 Feb 2016

@nntaleb The problem with mental clarity is that you need to have mental clarity to understand what it means. Permalink 6:56 AM – 11 Feb 2016

@nntaleb Costco buys it in Italy @ArrogantMonkey Permalink 6:19 AM – 11 Feb 2016

@nntaleb Any olive oil expert in the room? Great to see that Costco, a large corp, doesn’t cheat.
https://c1.oliveoiltim.es/library/ucd-2010-report.pdf   pic.twitter.com/UMKDaPhlGr Permalink 6:00 AM – 11 Feb 2016

@nntaleb My understanding of narcissist is that they think they are the center of the world/others are objects, bt they DON’T show it like sociopaths Permalink 11:56 AM – 10 Feb 2016

@yaneerbaryam Top U.S. Intelligence Official Calls Gene Editing a WMD Threat https://www.technologyreview.com/s/600774/top-us-intelligence-official-calls-gene-editing-a-wmd-threat/#.VruTWntnw5w.twitter   Permalink 11:45 AM – 10 Feb 2016

@nntaleb Answering questions on gamblers ruin (technical) pic.twitter.com/sSRhV2c25J Permalink 11:42 AM – 10 Feb 2016

@nntaleb My understanding of narcissists is here: they don’t have empathy. pic.twitter.com/8HSuoFuzvP Permalink 10:56 AM – 10 Feb 2016

@nntaleb A narcissist tries to please pple to manipulate them,treats them like tools. Not the case w/The Donaldo @realDonaldTrump More like B.Clinton Permalink 10:51 AM – 10 Feb 2016

@bankofengland Nassim Taleb’s One Bank Flagship Seminar will be webcast live here http://goo.gl/XVRLiU   on 18 February at 16:15 hrs GMT #BoETaleb Permalink 8:48 AM – 10 Feb 2016

@nntaleb Additional reason I am more impressed by erudition than “intelligence”: to have erudition requires NOT reading the newspapers (#vianegativa) Permalink 8:07 AM – 10 Feb 2016

@nntaleb Hillary Monsanto-Malmaison used the State Department to promote Monsanto overseas/lobby against GMO-skeptics while Bill was paid by them. Permalink 7:56 AM – 10 Feb 2016

@nntaleb It hit me from the origin of the term halal that morality has minority dynamics
http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/minority.pdf   pic.twitter.com/JMuRpmXiET Permalink 7:42 AM – 10 Feb 2016

@nntaleb In past Jesuist priests had monstrous erudition & practical sense; there was a huge demand by industry for few who left orders @JasonSCFung Permalink 6:51 AM – 10 Feb 2016

@nntaleb Clintons: As becoming a Jesuit priest to build a CV to get job w/~Goldman Sachs is unethical, so is using public office to get rich later. Permalink 6:43 AM – 10 Feb 2016

@nntaleb The Clintons managed to convince many, many people that they were not sumbags… but it is eventually like keeping a balloon under water. Permalink 5:27 AM – 10 Feb 2016

Sam Harris Responds

Probably you find yourself as am I, baffled by the recent spat of Twitter hate emanating from NNT towards @SamHarris, @sapinker and many others. The Steven Pinker spat goes back to a 2009 NYT book review by Pinker of Malcolm Gladwell’s “What the Dog Saw”, where Pinker beats up on Gladwell (see also). Taleb, featured in the book, by then a friend of Gladwell, comes to the rescue. Pinker is surprised, Taleb doubles down. From Maclean’s 12/10/2012:

So, when the renowned Canadian-born Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker penned a critical review in The New York Times of fellow Canadian Malcolm Gladwell’s novel, What the Dog Saw, Taleb rushed to Gladwell’s defense. “I got furious. I feel loyalty for someone who does something nice for you, when you are nobody.” Taleb wrote a scathing critique of Pinker’s research in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined. In his critique, titled “The Pinker problem,” Taleb claims Pinker’s book is riddled with errors in sampling and doesn’t “recognize the difference between rigorous empiricism and anecdotal statements.” Pinker responded with his own paper in which he writes, “Taleb shows no signs of having read Better Angels.”

NNT’s beef with Sam Harris is a little harder to track.


The debate Harris talks about, which seems to be the nexus of NNT’s beef with him, happened in 2009.
In a recent podcast, Sam Harris responded to NNT’s Tweets and shared some context.
Listen to the relevant section of the podcast

The entire debate, from La Ciudad de las Ideas 2009, full and unedited, can be found here. What follows are relevant clips from NNT and then Sam Harris.

The neuroscience papers Sam Harris refers to are:
Neural Correlates of Religious and Nonreligious Belief
Functional Neuroimaging of Belief, Disbelief, and Uncertainty (pdf)

People rarely mean the same thing when they say “religion”…

People rarely mean the same thing when they say “religion”, nor do they realize that they don’t mean the same thing.

For early Jews and Muslims, religion was law. For early Jews it was also tribal; for early Muslims it was universal. For the Romans religion was social events and festivals (law was separate ). For Jews today religion became ethnocultural, without the law –and for some, a nation. Same for Syriacs, Copts, and Maronites. For Orthodox and Catholic Christians religion is aesthetics, pomp and rituals. For Protestants religion is belief with no aesthetics, pomp or law. For Buddists/Shintoists/Hindus religion is philosophy. So when Hindu talk about the Hindu “religion” they don’t mean the same thing to a Pakistani as it would to a Hindu, and certainly something different for a Persian.

People keep talking past each other. When the nation-state idea came about, things got more complicated. When an Arab now says “Jew” he largely means belief; a converted Jew is no longer a Jew. But for a Jew it means a nation.

In Serbia/Croatia, or Lebanon, religion means something at times of peace, and something quite different at times of war.

via: Facebook


This is a picture of a church altar in Maaloula (St Sergius/Mar Sarkis) I saw a few decades ago, with a striking feature: it has a drain for blood. This altar came from a reconverted pagan temple used by early Christians. Pre Nicea (4th C) Christians recycled altars. Altar in Arabic/Aramaic is still Mazba7 from “DB7=ritual slaying by cutting the guttural vein”. And Korban is still used for sacrament (the Semitic word for sacrifice).

Well, in the Mediterranean pagan world, no worship without sacrifice. The gods did not accept cheap talk. This also applied to the Temple of Jerusalem.

Somehow Christianity removed the idea of such sacrifice under the notion that the Christ sacrificed himself for others; but there is still a simulacrum with wine representing blood, at the close of the ceremony flushed in the piscina (the drain).

So in a Judeo-Christian place of worship, the focal point, where the priest stands, symbolizes Skin in the Game. The notion of belief without tangible proof is not existent in history.

Hebrews 9:22 ” And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” (et omnia paene in sanguine mundantur secundum legem et sine sanguinis fusione non fit remissio)

(Credit Elisabeth Thoburn)