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Author Topic:   Is religion good for us?
Dogmafood
Member (Idle past 31 days)
Posts: 1815
From: Ontario Canada
Joined: 08-04-2010


Message 1 of 181 (576380)
08-23-2010 10:23 PM


Without question, organized religion is an immense and awesome presence in the world today. From a quiet reassuring and cohesive force that literally billions of people feel in their everyday lives to a loud and divisive force that is at the root of conflicts around the world.

Simply put; Is organized religion in the world today a greater force for good or evil? (there may be problems with good/evil perhaps someone can suggest better words)

It is my assertion that organized religion is doing more harm to man than good. I may concede that it has been beneficial in the past and may even have been pivotal in our assent from darkness but in the world today, it is a cancerous blight.

I offer these examples,

-the Israel/Palestine conflict
-the sunni/shia conflict
-India/Pakistan conflict
-stem cell research in the USA
-the Texas board of education
-drug war/policy (this may be strictly economics hiding behind morals)
-quality of life for women in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan
-quality of life for anyone in places like Saudia Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan
-caste system in India
-seperate school board funding
-religion based terrorism
-the fact that I have to swear on the bible in a court room (whole truth my ass)
-Jehovas witnesses (granted they do provide entertainment value)
-religion based censorship/miseducation around the world (is that a word?)

All this against what? A warm and fuzzy feeling for the intellectually lazy?


Replies to this message:
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 Message 8 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee, posted 08-24-2010 12:08 PM Dogmafood has acknowledged this reply
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Message 2 of 181 (576507)
08-24-2010 10:31 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Is religion good for us? thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
Coyote
Member (Idle past 1043 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 3 of 181 (576518)
08-24-2010 11:16 AM


History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it.

Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love, 1973

Edited by Coyote, : Format


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

  
Dr Jack
Member (Idle past 1042 days)
Posts: 3507
From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 4 of 181 (576521)
08-24-2010 11:28 AM


I see the "crutch for the weak" and "intellectually lazy" canards have been dropped all ready.

Replies to this message:
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Larni
Member (Idle past 12 days)
Posts: 3999
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


(1)
Message 5 of 181 (576522)
08-24-2010 11:29 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dogmafood
08-23-2010 10:23 PM


Here's the thing: that warm fuzzy feeling is actually good for people to have. It is good way to stave off several debilitating psychological problems from stress, to depression, to reaction adjustment.

While this is true for any given individual it is also true that religion also serves as a common unifying concept for different groups of people.

People who are xian can know that they will most likely be on the same page as other xians (maybe more theoretically than in fact with xianity but the point stands). This allows them to function better in that cultural group.

It does mean that for an in group to exist you will tend to have out groups. This is where the problem comes into play: depending on how seriously you take your chosen faith it can motivate you to perform terrible acts in the name of your faith (which is of course the right one).

I see religion as a problem when it rejects every other religion and cannot live in harmony with the out groups.

Of course, by our very nature we form in groups and and demonise out groups so it's hard to say that religion courses it. Religion does do a bang up job of maintaining out groups, however.

Religion is anti intellectual inso far as it is irrational, but people are irrational anyway (and in fact we need to be) so it is hard to blame this on religion per se. However, religion is very good at building on people's inbuilt irrationally and motivating people to ignore reality by assuming that the irrational is in fact rational.

That for me is my beef with reigion: it make people too irrational (more so than they need to be).


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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ringo
Member
Posts: 19139
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 6 of 181 (576528)
08-24-2010 11:50 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dogmafood
08-23-2010 10:23 PM


Dogmafood writes:

Is organized religion in the world today a greater force for good or evil?


I don't think we can measure good and evil reliably enough to say which way the balance swings. Does a life saved in a charity hospital cancel out a life lost in a religious war?


Life is like a Hot Wheels car. Sometimes it goes behind the couch and you can't find it.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Dogmafood, posted 08-23-2010 10:23 PM Dogmafood has responded

Replies to this message:
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caffeine
Member
Posts: 1800
From: Prague, Czech Republic
Joined: 10-22-2008


Message 7 of 181 (576529)
08-24-2010 11:56 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dogmafood
08-23-2010 10:23 PM


The problem with your list, is that it's not at all clear that any of them are examples of organised religion causing a problem. Let's have a look

quote:

-the Israel/Palestine conflict
-the sunni/shia conflict
-India/Pakistan conflict

I've put these three together, as they're all the idea of religion driving a people apart and causing conflict. Thing is, we know from looking at other examples of communal conflict that religion isn't a necessary part of this. The Hutu-Tutsi conflict, or the Sri Lankan civil war, are not based on religious divides, yet the divides produce the same anger, brutality and capacity for violent self-sacrifice.

The key thing here is just the notion of different identities. Yes, in these cases those identities are tied to religions, but this is in no sense essential to create these conflicts - nor is it just about religion. Palestinian rhetoric has grown more Islamic as the years have gone by, but there have always been a minority of Christians fighting against Israel too, and in the past the major armed Palestinian groups were secular leftists. Conflicts over land and identity don't require any religion, and I don't think it's at all clear that religion makes them more common.

quote:
-stem cell research in the USA

Even though opposition to scientific research such as this often comes from religious groups, Luddism also crops up outside organised religion. Consider the attitude of many green groups to things like GM-food. They stem from the same revulsion of man meddling in things he should not wot of, but these arguments can come without any religious terms from people who wouldn't consider themselves religious.

quote:

-the Texas board of education

In a world without religion there would still be historical revisionism, as people tried to preserve the 'greatness of the nation' and what-have-you.

quote:

-drug war/policy (this may be strictly economics hiding behind morals)

Maybe there's an American context that I'm missing here, but I don't see any religion in the drug war. I grew up in the UK, which is a much more secular country, and religion is never mentioned in connection with drug policy, that I've seen. Nevertheless, drugs policy is irrational and wasteful there in much the same ways that it is in the US.

And this is the point I'm trying to make, I think. Your beef isn't with organised religion at all. It's with human irrationality and illiberal ideologies which are present all over the place, with and without organised religion. You're mistaking causes, I think.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Dogmafood, posted 08-23-2010 10:23 PM Dogmafood has responded

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Jumped Up Chimpanzee
Member (Idle past 3879 days)
Posts: 572
From: UK
Joined: 10-22-2009


Message 8 of 181 (576530)
08-24-2010 12:08 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dogmafood
08-23-2010 10:23 PM


I offer these examples,

-the Israel/Palestine conflict
-the sunni/shia conflict
-India/Pakistan conflict
-stem cell research in the USA
-the Texas board of education
-drug war/policy (this may be strictly economics hiding behind morals)
-quality of life for women in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan
-quality of life for anyone in places like Saudia Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan
-caste system in India
-seperate school board funding
-religion based terrorism
-the fact that I have to swear on the bible in a court room (whole truth my ass)
-Jehovas witnesses (granted they do provide entertainment value)
-religion based censorship/miseducation around the world (is that a word?)

When you put it all in a list like that, it's so easy to see how religion is used by the selfish and power-hungry to treat their fellow humans in the most appalling manner, while conveniently absolving themselves of all responsibility.

"Hey, it's not me who wants to bury you in the sand and stone you to death/blow up the plane you're in/deny you an education/condemn you to a life of servitude/deny you medical treatment/deny truth and justice. No, no. Oh no. You've got it wrong. It's not me. It's God. I'm just following orders."


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Dogmafood, posted 08-23-2010 10:23 PM Dogmafood has acknowledged this reply

  
Rahvin
Member (Idle past 5 days)
Posts: 3966
Joined: 07-01-2005


(1)
Message 9 of 181 (576538)
08-24-2010 12:40 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dogmafood
08-23-2010 10:23 PM


Without question, organized religion is an immense and awesome presence in the world today. From a quiet reassuring and cohesive force that literally billions of people feel in their everyday lives to a loud and divisive force that is at the root of conflicts around the world.

Simply put; Is organized religion in the world today a greater force for good or evil? (there may be problems with good/evil perhaps someone can suggest better words)

It is my assertion that organized religion is doing more harm to man than good. I may concede that it has been beneficial in the past and may even have been pivotal in our assent from darkness but in the world today, it is a cancerous blight.

I offer these examples,

-the Israel/Palestine conflict
-the sunni/shia conflict
-India/Pakistan conflict
-stem cell research in the USA
-the Texas board of education
-drug war/policy (this may be strictly economics hiding behind morals)
-quality of life for women in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan
-quality of life for anyone in places like Saudia Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan
-caste system in India
-seperate school board funding
-religion based terrorism
-the fact that I have to swear on the bible in a court room (whole truth my ass)
-Jehovas witnesses (granted they do provide entertainment value)
-religion based censorship/miseducation around the world (is that a word?)

All this against what? A warm and fuzzy feeling for the intellectually lazy?

Religion's place in human society is a bit more complicated than a simple label of "good" or "evil" would allow.

For one thing, religion has done more good than you give it credit for. I would even speculate that religion has historically been a necessity in human history, allowing for social grouping, the propogation of ethical systems, etc. While we certainly consider many of the ethical systems and social guidelines of religions to be anachronistic today, in many cases they were very progressive at their inception. Mosty also served as a codified set of laws, beyond simple ethics, by which a society can run. Religion can still serve that purpose, and does in many cases - the problem is not so simplistic because not all religions or even followers of a specific religion grant the same degree of social harm or benefit. Most forms of modern Christianity, as an example, often encourages sympathy and charity for the less fortunate, even if the results are often less than optimal.

The major negative of religion is actually not on your list at all - in fact your list consists only of symptoms of the on real problem: religion does not significantly change, because it is not at its core a rational approach to determinign the real state of the Universe.

Religion (organized or otherwise) primarily consists of humanity's attempts to answer the so-called "big questions" of life in a world where we simply don't (or didn't) have any evidence from which to draw a rational conclusion. Think about the level of knowledge of the average Grek philosopher, for example, and you find that they knew virtually nothing. They were no less intelligent than you or I, but we have the benefit of a few thousand years of cumulative investigations that tey were not privy to. They had no idea what, beyond their own personal will, made their own hands move. They had no idea why blood was so important, only that if you lost enough you would die. They didn't know what the Sun was, or the moon, or the stars.

Religion purports to fill in some of those gaps in knowledge with what would have been speculation, a possible explanation to a given mysterious phenomenon that was consistent with what little was understood at the time, but in the absence of evidence. The Sun, then, was Apollo's fiery chariot wheel as he drove across the sky. Often times, the given explanations to mysterious phenomenon were mysterious themselves, but served to stop curiosity and thereby halt further investigation.

Essentially, when faced with an unknown with no immediate method for examinign the territory, religion simply draws its own map. The religion then claims that its map is more accurate than any other maps, and we sow the seeds for trouble when two conflicting religions meet...or we become better able to investigate the real territory and find that the old map wasnt actually accurate at all.

This is the major problem of religion - the claim that the facts are already known, and a reisistance to conflicting ideas regardless of their source. A rational person would want to believe that x exists if they found themselves in a Universe where x does actually exist, and would not want to believe in x if they found themselves in a Universe where x does not exist. A rational mind lets reality dictate belief, because our beliefs are rather ineffective at dictating reality. A rational mind seeks to investigate reality so that its beliefs can be changed to match - because an unchanged belief never becomes more accurate.

The methodology of religious faith means that the belief set is either right or wrong, and that's that. It is difficult and sometimes impossible to change religious dogma. Official Mormon Church dogma still states, as an example, that Native Americans were descended from a tribe of Jews from the Middle East, and that their skin pigmentation was altered due to a curse from God, even though genetic and archeological evidence compeltely falsifies such a belief - reality and Mormon dogma are at odds, yet the Church still endorses that falsified claim. In doing so, it harms society with the racist claim that skin pigmentation is related to favor from God (a popular belief in Joseph Smith's time) and the propagation of known falsehoods as truth. This same basic behavior can be traced to most if not all of the negative aspects of religion that you mentioned.

A rational invesitgation of reality requires a much more mutable mindset. A given belief may be perfectly rational today, and tomorrow you may acquire new evidence that forces you to radically change or even discard that belief. This is the view that is strengthening in the world today, even amongst the nominally religious, and often in direct contradiction of the teachings of the self-identified religion. The reality that homosexuality does not actually harm society and that homosexual people are still people just like our other friends, neighbors, and family members, for example, is overcoming historical biases even among Christians whose own text calls homosexuality an "abomination" and calls for their execution.

Those societies that do not constrain themselves so strongly to religious teachings tend to have happier, wealthier, and more educated citizens than those societies who still cling to religion as infallible truth.

I would say that religion as a whole represents a flawed and outdated method of thought, where beliefs become stagnant and very often conflict with reality. I would say that it's less than optimal in the grand scheme of things, that it provides less potential benefit and significantly more harm than would be found in a world without religion, but is not necessarily "evil." The growing trend for people to allow their own beliefs to conflict with the literal teachings of their faith is slowly serving to negate the stagnation of ethical, intellectual and scientific progress represented by people like the Dover school board or Fred Phelps. The inherent conflicts between various religions, and between those religions and reality, can and have caused massive harm...but the fact that such massively harmful events as 9/11 or the Holocoust are the exceptions rather than the rule, and that by and large people of multiple beliefs are able to get along without violence or religious oppression in many nations, suggests that religion today is rather like a loaded rifle on a table: you probably don't need it, you might use it to shoot your neighbor, but you could also use it to hunt food for your family, even if it would probably be better to just go to the grocery store.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Dogmafood, posted 08-23-2010 10:23 PM Dogmafood has responded

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Tram law
Member (Idle past 3642 days)
Posts: 283
From: Weed, California, USA
Joined: 08-15-2010


Message 10 of 181 (576539)
08-24-2010 12:52 PM


I often wonder about how far both humans and technology would've advanced if things like the Middle Ages and the Inquisition and the fear of science never happened.

Religion has an inherent fear and misunderstanding that need not be there.


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Huntard
Member (Idle past 1232 days)
Posts: 2870
From: Limburg, The Netherlands
Joined: 09-02-2008


Message 11 of 181 (576551)
08-24-2010 1:42 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Tram law
08-24-2010 12:52 PM


Tram law writes:

I often wonder about how far both humans and technology would've advanced if things like the Middle Ages and the Inquisition and the fear of science never happened.


I've always liked this graph, though I'm sure it's far from accurate:

The video I got that from, I think linked to this subject:

Linky


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Stile
Member
Posts: 4041
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


(1)
Message 12 of 181 (576570)
08-24-2010 3:03 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dogmafood
08-23-2010 10:23 PM


Part of the Problem
Simply put; Is organized religion in the world today a greater force for good or evil? (there may be problems with good/evil perhaps someone can suggest better words)

Simply put? Evil.
(But it's really rather naive to reduce such an "immense and awesome presence in the world today" to anything resembling "simple")

It is my assertion that organized religion is doing more harm to man than good. I may concede that it has been beneficial in the past and may even have been pivotal in our assent from darkness but in the world today, it is a cancerous blight.

...
All this against what? A warm and fuzzy feeling for the intellectually lazy?

Essentially? Yes.
But, as Larni has described, this warm and fuzzy feeling is rather important... sometimes even a requirement for humans to work together in a functional society.
The fact that some (many?) humans have used this knowledge to abuse and control and destroy the lives of others does not negate it's importance to us.

So, the issue isn't identifying religion as a problem and getting rid of it.
That won't solve anything.
The issue is working out the good parts of religion, taking them out, and dumping the rest of the useless baggage that can be used to abuse and even destroy the lives of our neighbours.
Can this be done and keep "the religious part" alive (if, for nothing else, for tradition's sake)? Yes, for some people. No for others.
Can this be done without "the religious part" at all? With all the good-parts still identified and available for use? Yes, for some people. No for others.

One of the worst... worst in deception, worst in leading us to the wrong conclusion, worst in predicting the future, worst in popularity, worst in ease-of-making... worst mistakes in human thinking is to have the idea that somehow billions of different subjective humans can all find the answers to subjective questions using the same method.

The idea that "this method works fantastic for me... it must therefore be a perfect method and all people should use it!"... can in any way apply to subjective humans attempting to deal with subjective feelings of fear/depression/anger/life... is ludicrous.

It's a great idea when trying to objectively make sense of the reality of the world we live in... and science proves that.

But, people are different. Different from science, and different from each other.
People are subjective. We may both feel something we refer to as "fear". But how do we know that the "fear" you feel is equivalent to the "fear" I feel? Without having a definite answer to that question, how can we possibly consider that your solution to your feelings of fear would in any way be useful to my solution for my feelings of fear?

In this way, the only solution is to acknowledge that people are different, and we all have to find our own ways to deal with our own subjective feelings and reach our own subjective answers. We may be able to advise and help each other... and sometimes we may not be able to do this. Many people will likely have extremely similar paths towards their answers... and others will be completely different.
We can see where the "it worked for me, it worked for my bother, it worked for my whole god-damn town... what the hell do you mean it doesn't work for you!!!??" mentality comes from... but in looking at how subjective humans are, and how subjective these issues can be, is it really that strange to think that different people will require different paths to attain the same subjective goals?

So, again:

The issue is working out the good parts of religion, taking them out, and dumping the rest of the useless baggage that can be used to abuse and even destroy the lives of our neighbours.

For some of us this will include a lot of religion.
For some it will include a bit of religion.
For others it will include no religion at all.
...all three are valid avenues to reaching the subjective heights of human awareness, euphoria and clarity.

But let's be clear that "getting rid of religion" is not a solution to the problem. In fact, it's a very large part of the very large problem that created the mess in the first place.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Dogmafood, posted 08-23-2010 10:23 PM Dogmafood has responded

Replies to this message:
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Coyote
Member (Idle past 1043 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 13 of 181 (576572)
08-24-2010 3:14 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Stile
08-24-2010 3:03 PM


Re: Part of the Problem
But let's be clear that "getting rid of religion" is not a solution to the problem.

How about getting rid of religious fundamentalism, in all forms?

That seems to be where the real problem lies.

Art Hoppe writes:

Save us, dear Lord, from those who would save us.

Art Hoppe, On the Death of Robert Kennedy
San Francisco Chronicle
, 1968


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

This message is a reply to:
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Stile
Member
Posts: 4041
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 14 of 181 (576576)
08-24-2010 3:59 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Coyote
08-24-2010 3:14 PM


Re: Part of the Problem
Coyote writes:

How about getting rid of religious fundamentalism, in all forms?

That seems to be where the real problem lies.

Much better... but still not dealing with the issue directly.
Even if we did get rid of "religious fundamentalism", don't you think that conmen and evil-folk would just find other avenues to take advantage of people?

Other avenues would be
-certain types of "natural remedies"
-certain types of "pseudo-science" or "alternative science"
-I'm sure there's plenty of other areas where snake-oil scams could be (or are?) rampant

I'm more concerned with identifying the real issue(s?) than I am with removing specific symptoms of the problem.
As far as I can tell, the largest issue seems to be related to the following:

-Strict adherence to the idea of "what works for one person can work for all people" even when dealing with subjective issues.
-In other words "intolerance of alternative solutions for the same problem"
(These can stem from a multitude of different things including fears of being wrong or simply departing from tradition)

Please feel free to add to this list.


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ringo
Member
Posts: 19139
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 15 of 181 (576587)
08-24-2010 5:35 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Coyote
08-24-2010 3:14 PM


Re: Part of the Problem
Coyote writes:

How about getting rid of religious fundamentalism, in all forms?
That seems to be where the real problem lies.


The phrase "getting rid of" has some scary connotations.


Life is like a Hot Wheels car. Sometimes it goes behind the couch and you can't find it.

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