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Author Topic:   Why should religion get a free pass?
Larni
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Posts: 3998
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


(1)
Message 1 of 112 (465668)
05-09-2008 2:53 AM


I've just listened to an interview between BBC Radio 4s John Humphreys and Richard Dawkins in reaction to the statements by Cardinal Cormack Murphy O’Connor:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7390941.stm

Now, during the interview Dawkins asked Humphreys why he is well renowned for 'tearing into' the statements of politicians demanding evidence, rational and justification; yet does not apply the same standard to to religion.

Humpreys replied that some people 'believe what they believe'.

This prompted Dawkins to ask: why do you give religion a free pass?

When I say 'free pass' I mean (what I think Dawkins means) letting a statement of faith (such as that Jesus returned from death, humans are reincarnated or there is a non material realm that can be accessed through prayer or meditation for example) go unchallenged because it is somehow 'off limits' to such challenges.

Humphreys implied that it is ok to let people believe what they believe for no reason other than because that's what they believe.

If one claimed that they beleived in the invisible pink unicorn they would be challenged as to why they beleive so.

Dawkins implied that Humphreys would give politicians are real roasting asking them to give detailed explanations and justification for their position but would not do so for certain positions and statements made about the reality of religios teaching.

So, my question is: does religion get a 'free pass' and is it ok to give religion a free pass when it makes such extraordinary claims e.g. that we can reincarnate?

I think extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Is it Science, please.

Edited by Larni, : Added paragraph 5 and 6

Edited by Larni, : More additions for clarity (hopefully).


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Admin
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Message 2 of 112 (465691)
05-09-2008 8:10 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Larni
05-09-2008 2:53 AM


To better focus discussion, could you edit your opening post to include a couple examples of things upon which religion gets a free pass, and how that free pass manifests itself? Please post a note when you're done and I'll take another look.


--Percy
EvC Forum Director

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Larni
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Posts: 3998
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


Message 3 of 112 (465698)
05-09-2008 9:08 AM
Reply to: Message 2 by Admin
05-09-2008 8:10 AM


I've had another go.

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Admin
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Message 4 of 112 (465702)
05-09-2008 10:15 AM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
helenavm
Junior Member (Idle past 4420 days)
Posts: 18
Joined: 04-18-2008


(2)
Message 5 of 112 (465762)
05-10-2008 4:58 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Larni
05-09-2008 2:53 AM


So, my question is: does religion get a 'free pass' and is it ok to give religion a free pass when it makes such extraordinary claims e.g. that we can reincarnate?

I think extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Is it Science, please.

Religion is not science.It's not supposed to be. Religion can be a lens through which we view science, and a guide for how we use the knowledge we have, but religion is based on a moral code, a worldview, a structure that makes sense out of our lives.

Science exists to answer questions with cold hard facts. Religion exists to help those cold hard facts make sense.

That said, there are other reasons why religion gets a "free pass".

Many people don't care to analyze their belief systems in a serious way, or cannot because of a lack of wider knowledge.

Others don't take their own faith literally anyway, and pick and choose from religion what has given them personal fulfillment, abandoning the unworkable parts as errors in man's translation of the divine.

Some reasons are political.You don't want to disparage a popular faith if you want to get elected, or anger those who might react violently.

There are others who think all religion silly,and so can't be bothered to pick apart what doctrines seem more credible than others.

I think that religion is held to a different standard for an obvious reason. It is enough for most people of faith that their religion tells them fundamental things about who they are, and how they should live, and have a cohesive worldview inherent in it. Every story in a holy text need not be proven a historical fact for a religion to be credible. One can believe in a scientific theory without having all the evidence to "prove" it. It sort of the same for religion.

And finally, until science can actually credibly disprove heaven, or reincarnation, people will be willing to have faith in these concepts, even when the minutiae of their religions have been disproven.


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obvious Child
Member (Idle past 2741 days)
Posts: 661
Joined: 08-17-2006


Message 6 of 112 (465796)
05-10-2008 3:15 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by helenavm
05-10-2008 4:58 AM


But you haven't addressed much of the issue. If one is going to tear politicians a new one on their policies and the beliefs their policies come from, why should we give free passes to religion where many of the policies come from?

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Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 1323 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


(1)
Message 7 of 112 (465809)
05-10-2008 7:46 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by helenavm
05-10-2008 4:58 AM


helenavm writes:

Religion can be a lens through which we view science...

Maybe, it can be, but that doesn't mean it should be. You don't put anything up as a lens through which to view anything unless you have a legitimate reason to do so. Of all the ideologies and concepts in the world, only religions and diet plans have ever been allowed to be used as a "lens to view the world" without any legitimate backing: of everything else is demanded solid, rational reasoning.

helenavm writes:

Science exists to answer questions with cold hard facts. Religion exists to help those cold hard facts make sense.

I have to say, as a religious person myself, this is completely wrong.

Even as my religion explains to me the purpose of life and where I'm going, they don't do a very good job of making it make sense. In fact, I'm pretty sure they go out of their way to make it not make sense. After all, if it made sense, it would just be mundane and not divine, right? For example, have you ever heard things like "I don't know how I survived that car accident" or "I don't know how I managed to pay all the bills this month," which are then immediately attributed to God's love for that individual?

When I try to provide a legitimate answer to such questions (which is considered tactless in religious circles, by the way), it is often taken as an attempt to undermine their faith, and people get offended and/or accuse me of being unfaithful (which I still take as a insult--so it usually works).

That's why religion always gets a free pass with people like Humphreys: not because the religion is necessarily worth anything, but because he is afraid that doing so would incur the wrath of God.


I'm Thylacosmilus.

Darwin loves you.


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helenavm
Junior Member (Idle past 4420 days)
Posts: 18
Joined: 04-18-2008


Message 8 of 112 (465820)
05-10-2008 10:31 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by obvious Child
05-10-2008 3:15 PM


obvious Child wrote:
But you haven't addressed much of the issue. If one is going to tear politicians a new one on their policies and the beliefs their policies come from, why should we give free passes to religion where many of the policies come from?

I think the concept of a "free pass" if a faith doesn't stand up to scientific scrutiny, is wrong. It misunderstands what the role religion plays in society.

Moral questions like abortion, stem cell research, cloning,and gay marriage will be filtered through the religious beliefs of policy makers and their constituencies whether or not religions are questioned and challenged, because religious beliefs go deeper than the assorted legends and myths that may or may not ever be proveable. Most religious people have their own personal experiences that solidify their faith, and no scientific scrutiny will likely change their minds.

In the realm of politics, maybe a more relevant thing for society to scrutinize may be the results of a particular religion, if it's basic tenets and philosophies are upheld, ignoring any dangerous fringes which will arise out of any human movement. Whether they would produce a generally healthy or an unhealthy environment for humans to live in.

If a religion can pass this test, demonstrating why it's philosophy is beneficial to humans, then legends or myths that are not fundamental to it's existence, and even some that are if they can't be solidly disproved, should get a free pass.


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helenavm
Junior Member (Idle past 4420 days)
Posts: 18
Joined: 04-18-2008


Message 9 of 112 (465822)
05-10-2008 11:06 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Blue Jay
05-10-2008 7:46 PM



helenavm writes:
Religion can be a lens through which we view science...

Bluejay wrote:
Maybe, it can be, but that doesn't mean it should be. You don't put anything up as a lens through which to view anything unless you have a legitimate reason to do so.

If you look at the universe as God's creation, how can that not be a lens through which you see reality? It doesn't seem a matter of should or shouldn't, just as what is. Sure, if you don't believe in God, or religion, then you will not use that lens.

But I don't understand how one can believe in a creator but not have that seep into his worldview, even unconsciously. You don't need to disregard objective scientific thought for your faith(ideally), but it is also hard for me to see how you can honestly disattach from your faith when pursuing science.


helenavm writes:
Science exists to answer questions with cold hard facts. Religion exists to help those cold hard facts make sense.

Bluejay wrote:
I have to say, as a religious person myself, this is completely wrong.

When I say " make sense" I guess what I meant was "give meaning". Science offers no comfort to the grieving, no moral guidelines to conduct one's life, no answers to deeper questions of why we're here, etc.

Science doesn't and can't speak to the spiritual, and if a person has no interest in the spiritual, then he has no use for religion anyway. I wasn't trying to say religion explains the meaning of everything clearly in explicit detail, because, you're right, it would then be mundane. But the major religions, when not hijacked by the corrupt or the crazy, provide a useful and healthy framework for the faithful to successfully operate their lives.


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Larni
Member
Posts: 3998
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


Message 10 of 112 (465873)
05-11-2008 6:41 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by helenavm
05-10-2008 10:31 PM


helenavm writes:

Most religious people have their own personal experiences that solidify their faith, and no scientific scrutiny will likely change their minds.

This is the nub of the issue. The religious person can say pretty anything in spite of any evidence to the contrary and be respected for that point of view.

If I was to perform in depth research into drinking tea during pregnacy and my findings indicated that this caused abnormalities in the children this would constitute a valid reason to not drink tea.

If I was to do no research into it at all but proclaim to all and sundary that it was my belief that tea caused these problems then people would call me a crank and I would be asked to justify my position.

The religious position does not justify itself further than 'because that's what I believe'.

That's the free pass.


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Coragyps
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Posts: 5546
From: Snyder, Texas, USA
Joined: 11-12-2002
Member Rating: 3.0


Message 11 of 112 (465894)
05-11-2008 11:57 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by Larni
05-11-2008 6:41 AM


The religious person can say pretty anything in spite of any evidence to the contrary and be respected for that point of view.

If and only if their particular religion is one of the "acceptable" ones in the spot where they live. The Mormon guys down the road from me at Eldorado say it's fine to marry several 13-year-old girls, but the rest of the population around here doesn't respect their opinion much.


"The wretched world lies now under the tyranny of foolishness; things are believed by Christians of such absurdity as no one ever could aforetime induce the heathen to believe." - Agobard of Lyons, ca. 830 AD

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helenavm
Junior Member (Idle past 4420 days)
Posts: 18
Joined: 04-18-2008


(1)
Message 12 of 112 (465897)
05-11-2008 12:49 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Larni
05-11-2008 6:41 AM


helenavm writes:
Most religious people have their own personal experiences that solidify their faith, and no scientific scrutiny will likely change their minds.

Larni writes:
This is the nub of the issue. The religious person can say pretty anything in spite of any evidence to the contrary and be respected for that point of view.

That's not entirely true. I think anyone today proclaiming that homosexuals and adulterers in America should be stoned to death, or that a man who rapes a virgin must marry her because it says so in the Old Testament would most definitely be proclaimed a crank, mostly by modern Christians. Likewise, on this forum and in many other places , Creationists are challenged for their adherence to the literal Bible, and seem to be losing the argument in the mainstream culture.

Where people have broadened their knowledge of the physical world, parts of their faith that are not fundamental to it's existence seem to become accepted as allegory, something only relevant to the time it was written, or a mistranslation of the divine, while the essence of the religion remains intact.

To use Christianity as an example, the main teachings are belief in redemption and reform through Christ, love for one's neighbor, and generosity to the needy. You can't actually prove that redemption is impossible, and love and generosity are good things. So these things get a free pass because most people have no problem with them. They don't produce a harmful result.


Larni writes:
If I was to perform in depth research into drinking tea during pregnacy and my findings indicated that this caused abnormalities in the children this would constitute a valid reason to not drink tea.

If I was to do no research into it at all but proclaim to all and sundary that it was my belief that tea caused these problems then people would call me a crank and I would be asked to justify my position.

Religion doesn't exist to tell us how to do research and further our body of scientific knowledge. But religions and religious people are called on to justify their positions on the basis of their faith all the time.

Whenever the abortion argument comes up, pro- choicers say pro -lifers violate their own beliefs by caring more about unborn life than the born, a violation of religious tenets, in their eyes. The same argument is used against those who oppose embryonic stem cell research. Those who oppose programs that help the poor are challenged as well, if they are publicly religious. And acceptance of gay marriage is often defended as a natural progression of Christianity's doctrine of loving one's neighbor and "judge not lest ye be judged".

Christians, at least, are always called to explain and justify their faith in terms of the results it produces for society, which is a fair debate to have, within a faith and outside of it.

Larni writes:
The religious position does not justify itself further than 'because that's what I believe'.

That's the free pass .

The religious position is often called to justify itself in the public sphere, just not with the same criteria as applies to scientific research. Until people decide that only what is scientifically proven will guide their lives, and people still have faith and want a spiritual experience,this will be the case.


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Larni
Member
Posts: 3998
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


Message 13 of 112 (466000)
05-12-2008 10:56 AM
Reply to: Message 12 by helenavm
05-11-2008 12:49 PM


helenavm writes:

So these things get a free pass because most people have no problem with them. They don't produce a harmful result.

So they do get a free pass, then?

I would argue that the main teachings of xianity are that their god is real and miraculous events did take place.

When asked to substantiate this replying with "I believe this to be true because I believe it to be true" is bad logic of the highest order but the religious (in this example xianity) person does not need to give any justifiable reason to beleive such extraordinary claims.

helenavm writes:

But religions and religious people are called on to justify their positions on the basis of their faith all the time.

But you can't justify faith based reasoning with further faith based reasoning. That's like saying I beleive in god because the bible says god is real and I can trust the bible because it is inspired by god.

helenavm writes:

Whenever the abortion argument comes up, pro- choicers say pro -lifers violate their own beliefs by caring more about unborn life than the born, a violation of religious tenets, in their eyes.

Please show how pro choicers justify their position via religion.

And acceptance of gay marriage is often defended as a natural progression of Christianity's doctrine of loving one's neighbor and "judge not lest ye be judged".

Can you substantiate this? I sounds contrary to what I understand xianity to proclaim: it certainly is here in the UK.

The religious position is often called to justify itself in the public sphere, just not with the same criteria as applies to scientific research. Until people decide that only what is scientifically proven will guide their lives, and people still have faith and want a spiritual experience,this will be the case.

Why should different criteria be used?


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helenavm
Junior Member (Idle past 4420 days)
Posts: 18
Joined: 04-18-2008


Message 14 of 112 (466015)
05-12-2008 12:41 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Larni
05-12-2008 10:56 AM


quote:

The religious position is often called to justify itself in the public sphere, just not with the same criteria as applies to scientific research. Until people decide that only what is scientifically proven will guide their lives, and people still have faith and want a spiritual experience,this will be the case.

Larni writes:
Why should different criteria be used?



Because of the different functions religion and science perform for society.

Science is there to answer questions in ways that can be quantified. Religion is there for people seeking answers to spiritual questions, which cannot be. If you don't believe in things that cannot be scientifically proven, you will not be satisfied with what religion has to offer. All religions, whether you find their related legends silly or not, rely on faith in a higher supernatural power that can not be proven to exist or not to exist, so a " free pass" is necessary, unless or until society no longer wants to rely on faith based religions.

quote:

helenavm writes:
So these things get a free pass because most people have no problem with them. They don't produce a harmful result.

So they do get a free pass, then?


Yes, they do, and I believe that they should. Unless you are trying to make the argument that religions should each be scientifically scrutinized, and then be ranked on a scale of which is least to most believable , it seems like a pointless task. Any negative results of a religion's practice can be dealt with by society as just another social issue, as society evolves with it's religious communities, which do change over time. For example, when a religion allows domestic violence towards women,or sex with minors, we still arrest the offender for breaking the law, but we don't waste time trying to "reeducate" the church members with scientific evidence, because that is almost never a person's reason for believing.

quote:

helenavm writes:
Whenever the abortion argument comes up, pro- choicers say pro -lifers violate their own beliefs by caring more about unborn life than the born, a violation of religious tenets, in their eyes.
Larni writes:
Please show how pro choicers justify their position via religion.


It is often argued here that pro-lifers don't take into account the fates of those who are born to disadvantaged mothers, and the reasoning that is used tries to call them hypocrites, willing to protect the sanctity of life of a clump of cells but not a poor child. There's also an ongoing discussion among some Catholics over who to vote for, a candidate who is pro-choice but seems to care more for the poor, or a pro-lifer who doesn't.

I wasn't trying to say pro-choicers justify abortion on religious grounds, just that they use the religious teachings most pro-lifers adhere to criticize their supposed lack of empathy for impoverished women with unwanted pregnancies.

quote:

helenavm writes:
And acceptance of gay marriage is often defended as a natural progression of Christianity's doctrine of loving one's neighbor and "judge not lest ye be judged".
Larni writes:
Can you substantiate this? I sounds contrary to what I understand xianity to proclaim: it certainly is here in the UK.

This is used by some Christian gay marriage supporters here, not their opponents. No mainstream Christian doctrine that I know of accepts gay marriage but that doesn't stop independent Christians from using the argument.


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Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 1323 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 15 of 112 (466021)
05-12-2008 1:32 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by helenavm
05-10-2008 11:06 PM


helenavm writes:

If you look at the universe as God's creation, how can that not be a lens through which you see reality?

For the simple reason that God's presence or absence does not change the answer I get when I add two plus two: whether or not God made it that way, that is still the way it is. If looking through the lens doesn't make it look any different from not looking through the lens, why look through the lens?

helenavm writes:

...it is also hard for me to see how you can honestly disattach from your faith when pursuing science.

See above. When we talk about gravity, we see things falling to the ground in such a way that the motion is roughly predicted by Newton's laws of motion (and predicted better by the tweaking of these laws by Einstein and company). Who cares if it's angels pulling things toward each other, the Spirit of God heaving things around, or just an inherent property of matter? The effect is the same, and Newton's and Einstein's equations still hold in their respective spheres. Likewise, evolution still works the same, whether or not I add "because God did it that way" at the end of my explanations. Therefore, looking at it through the "God-did-it" lens doesn't make a difference.

helenavm writes:

Science offers no comfort to the grieving, no moral guidelines to conduct one's life, no answers to deeper questions of why we're here, etc.

I don't know where you're from, Helenavm, but here in the United States, we spend a lot more time worrying about how people feel than I think we need to. When you spend all your time worrying about how you feel, you start getting the impression that your feelings are more important than reality.

Do you think God ever gets tired of hearing people whine to Him for answers? Do you think He ever wishes people would just try to figure it out and leave Him alone? He's got to feel like a complete failure we he sees us Americans (His creations) complaining that science hurts our feelings.


I'm Thylacosmilus.

Darwin loves you.


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