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 Post subject: The dangers of religion
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:58 pm 
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The dangers of religion

I have hesitated often over the last weeks to post this, I am afraid, it will offend some of you or create me enemies.

However, as I have often stated, I am an atheist. So I mean, that my personal belief is that God does not exist at all, that the main spiritual force in our universe is mankind and that there is no afterlife and no higher power than our mind to conceive a higher power.

As long as I remember, I never believed in God, although I might have had some agnostic moments as a teen-ager. Yet, I had my children baptized and want them to learn about the Bible: Europe is culturally Christian for me and I judge important for them to know about this culture. Maybe I also think that religion is something you have to know in order to reject it.

But I see also that with increasing age, I find religion more and more problematic. Maybe because I have more contact with religious persons through the Internet and the regain of religion surprises, if not shocks me and is for a step backwards. I become in fact more atheist, the more I am in touch with religious persons.

As I see it, religion is the haven for intolerance. In fact all religions give behaviour rules which imply intolerance for me. And churches, at least in Europe, have been the most powerful and the most bloodthirsty institutions existing in history. When I see that creationism is taught, that in the name of God, women are married at the age of 13 as second or third wife… I cannot help thinking that in fact the world entire would be better off without any religion. I don’t see any specific religion, but religion in general as a failure. By the very concept of holding some divine truth and thus be authorised to derive moral and ethic rules from it, religion for me creates intolerance and fails.

So now, I have more and more come to the conclusion to reject religion per se. I see the cultural, historical contribution of religion. But it cannot outweigh, at least not for me, its immorality. My personal path made me an atheist more than ever.

But from that I derive several questions: why do I still want my children to know about the Bible? Because I do, maybe like I want them to know ancient Greek mythology. And on what build my own moral system and how to define it? (because even as an atheist, I have some very strong moral and ethical beliefs, one being a complete refuse of death penalty) And here on the boards, on all boards, I often hold back with my opinion, just to give you an example: for me John-Paul II by prohibiting Safe sex becomes a murderer, condemning people to die if they follow his will.

It’s hard to say why I am posting this. Maybe to face some contradiction?

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 4:22 pm 
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The danger of religion is the wickedness in people. Perhaps we can use Communism as an example. There was no shortage of horror perpetrated under that system, which ideology eschews religion entirely. You don't need religion for there to be horror and injustice, you just need people.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 4:46 pm 
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I think I agree with Cerin. Humans banded together do terrible things to each other and to the world, whether those terrible things are in the name of religion or politics or whatever.

If religion vanished, people would still be cruel to each other.

On the other hand, I think there is Light in each person, too. What a puzzle people are! Sometimes I think the universe would be better off without us, and other times I think that the kind and loving sort of human consciousness is the best thing the universe ever came up with!


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 5:14 pm 
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I also agree with Cerin. Indeed, I would take her analogy a step further. Communism in its purest form is a great ideal. It is only what imperfect people made of it that caused so much evil.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 9:01 pm 
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Quote:
Communism in its purest form is a great ideal. It is only what imperfect people made of it that caused so much evil.


You want to be careful saying that. When I said it, I got talked down to, etc.

Moving on, there is religion and religion.
One says "do this, do that, whatever you do, make sure you hate people who are different."

The other says "People might be different, or disagree with you, but we're all people, and we all have feelings, so let's just get along with each other and agree to disagree"

The former disgusts me, the latter is my goal.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 9:50 pm 
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What Cerin and Teremia said.

And a good analogy about Communism, Voronwë.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 10:39 pm 
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Quote:
Crucifer wrote:
Quote:
Communism in its purest form is a great ideal. It is only what imperfect people made of it that caused so much evil.


You want to be careful saying that. When I said it, I got talked down to, etc.


Is disagreement the same as talking down to? Because I really disagree that communism in any form is a great ideal. But this is a subject for another thread.

I don't really agree with Cerin and Teremia. Well, I agree that people would be cruel to each other without religion. Of course. But to simply end the statement there excuses religion too much, I think.

Religion in many of its forms encourages intolerance and focuses fear into violence. Any time personal belief is transformed into public policy you have big time problems, because what room for discourse is there when truth is simply what some old man in a tower says? Religion has a peculiar capacity to encourage evil when it thwarts reason and communication instead of fostering spirituality and morality.

Not all religion is bad. Not at all. And criticising religion isn't the same thing as criticising faith or God.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 10:46 pm 
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[OT]
Faramond wrote:
Crucifer wrote:
Quote:
Communism in its purest form is a great ideal. It is only what imperfect people made of it that caused so much evil.


You want to be careful saying that. When I said it, I got talked down to, etc.


Is disagreement the same as talking down to? Because I really disagree that communism in any form is a great ideal. But this is a subject for another thread.


No, disagreement is most definitely not the same as talking down to. I think that would be a discussion worth having, Faramond (though as you say, it would be a subject for another thread).
[/OT]

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 11:51 pm 
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Quote:
Religion in many of its forms encourages intolerance and focuses fear into violence. Any time personal belief is transformed into public policy you have big time problems, because what room for discourse is there when truth is simply what some old man in a tower says? Religion has a peculiar capacity to encourage evil when it thwarts reason and communication instead of fostering spirituality and morality.



I really think that religion needs to be defined, for this discussion and others.

Religion, from my personal viewpoint, is very... personal. I do believe that my faith is a relationship, not a religion.

Religion in the context of manipulative churches, examples like that, really have more to do with politics, to me, than the relationship that I reach for, and enjoy, every day.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 12:01 am 
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If we're talking religion-as-institution, then I don't see how religion has been any worse than many governments, empires, other organized human institutions. That's not letting religion off the hook, because the behavior of human institutions, religious, political, or whatever, has frequently been ABYSMAL.

I'm worried that if one singles out "religion" as a bad institution, then one might actually be letting other human institutions off the hook! Cruelty can creep into any human group, and certainly lurks in any institution with power. We can only try to be vigilant about recognizing power-hunger, selfishness, cruelty, and prejudice wherever they arise, whether in our own hearts, in the organizations we care about, or in the larger world.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 12:04 am 
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Wow. I SO agree with Teremia.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 12:29 am 
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As do I (not surprisingly).

I also agree with something that my friend Whistler shared with me privately (wave to Whistler, everyone):

Whistler wrote:
The "dangers" of religion actually illustrate the need for it, as they merely show the inclination of man to pervert any institution to his own corrupt ends. It is faith that identifies that corruption, even if it appears within the faith itself. Minus the faith, there's no moral compass except for the conscience of the individual. And if (as Christianity holds) that conscience can be trusted no more than an alcoholic in a liquor store, then morality itself becomes so vague and undefinable as to be meaningless. Imperfect as it is, faith is the constant that declares: "This is the way to behave, whether you like it or not."


I don't really have anything to add to that.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 12:33 am 
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Well, I disagree with that enormously, but I do agree with waving at Whistler.

:wave: Whistler :love:

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Last edited by yovargas on Wed Jul 04, 2007 1:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 12:55 am 
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I agree in waving to the wonderful Whistler, but agree even less than yov. I'll elaborate later when less water is on fewer burners.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 1:02 am 
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Whistler! Darn, it's good to see you, even if once removed from the posting action.

That said - and I know this will come as a major surprise, so brace yourself! - I disagree with you. ;)

Quote:
And if (as Christianity holds) that conscience can be trusted no more than an alcoholic in a liquor store, then morality itself becomes so vague and undefinable as to be meaningless. Imperfect as it is, faith is the constant that declares: "This is the way to behave, whether you like it or not."


To me, the very nature of faith gives cause for concern precisely where it demands that we elevate it over our own consciences. It is where faith talks down to us, like the alcoholic in the liquor store, that I see danger. Where faith is compatible with one's own internal moral compass, one's own sense of right and wrong, I see no danger. Where faith informs one's internal moral compass, I do not necessarily see danger. It is where faith contradicts one's moral compass ("whether you like it or not") that I see danger.

By "moral compass" I do not mean "considerations of expediency that cause us to want to act in a certain way." For instance, if I want to download music online; if my own understanding of morality informs me that this is "theft" to the extent that it results in the creators and distributors of the music receiving no compensation for their efforts; and if I still really want to download it...then it seems to me that I have a choice whether to act like a responsible, unaddicted human being in a liquor store or like an alcoholic in a liquor store. The responsible and unaddicted human being would acknowledge that regardless of whether I really want to download music for free online, it is Not Moral and therefore should not occur. The alcoholic in the liquor store would come up with a line of persuasive "moral" reasoning that permits the downloading (and I could have a really persuasive argument for that one typed out in about five minutes...) But it seems to me that all I need in that hypothetical is my internal, sound moral compass - not an external dictate.

Now, let's say that I am a doctor of reproductive medicine who sees a wide variety of women in my practice. Some of my patients wish not to have children at this time, or ever, for a variety of reasons. Some are not at the right time in their lives; others do not ever wish to have children for reasons of their own. My internal moral compass says that it is a moral necessity to make contraception available to these individuals: first, to ensure their right to bodily autonomy; second, to decrease the number of abortions based on unwanted pregnancies; and third, to ensure that children are not born who do not have at least one and ideally two parents who are prepared to care for them adequately. Let's assume that these moral views are the product of years of research into issues involving pregnancy and childrearing, years of experience in the medical field, and much careful thought and consideration. Let's further assume that I am a Catholic doctor (certainly, Catholic doctors who prescribe contraception and think along the lines I describe exist.) So, my religion (which in this case I think is synonymous with "my faith") dictates that the "way to behave, whether I like it or not" is NOT to make contraceptives available, because the use of contraceptives is immoral.

Under those circumstances, it seems to me that it would be, well, immoral to subjugate my own experience, my own carefully reached moral conclusions, everything that I know about life, because other imperfect human beings have decided that "God's will" requires the exact opposite of my own conscience. I think that it can be dangerous (and perhaps self-satisfied) to rely overly on one's own conscience - but I submit that it is far more dangerous to rely exclusively on the consciences of others, and I submit that that is precisely what faith requires. (Perversely, I can only make this contention BECAUSE I am a non-believer; otherwise, I would see faith as reliance on the Divine rather than the consciences of others. And right here we find the unbridgeable gap. I find faith dangerous where it clashes with conscience because I am suspicious whether and how faith is linked to the Divine (particularly since different religions, whose teachings contradict each other, claim to be linked to the Divine.) As I understand your views, you find faith necessary even when it clashes with conscience because you trust that faith (at least your own) is closely linked to the Divine.)

As I say, I trust myself to strive to behave better than an alcoholic in a liquor store, though I am sure that I will fail, perhaps more than I succeed. More importantly, though, I believe that religions are fundamentally human institutions, and I do not trust that any given religion will succeed more often than I will at behaving better than an alcoholic in a liquor store.

To be sure, I could have a faith apart from organized religion - but then my view of God (in which I would have faith) would be intimately shaped by my own moral conscience. In essence, I will have created a God in my conscience's own image - it seems to me it is safer, and less egotistical, to remain agnostic than to do that.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 1:09 am 
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Quote:
Religion, from my personal viewpoint, is very... personal. I do believe that my faith is a relationship, not a religion.


I agree with what Anthy said. Religion is personal.

Quote:
The "dangers" of religion actually illustrate the need for it, as they merely show the inclination of man to pervert any institution to his own corrupt ends.


I agree at least with this part of that old Whistling dude's post.
(Blows raspberry in Whistler's general direction :D)

And this part as well;
Quote:
Minus the faith, there's no moral compass except for the conscience of the individual.


Ipso facto, the less man is involved in religion the better I like it.

My compass is screwed up I will admit, but so are others.
Doesn't mean I do not know right from wrong.

Sometimes I choose to be wrong.
No amount of fire and brimstone sermons is going to knock that out of me.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 1:26 am 
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The core of my disagreement with Whistler (and boy do I wish he'd at least post a hello!!!!!) is that, even when the guidance is clearly good (eg. "Thou shalt not steal"), if the reasoning behind that is merely "Because our Holy Book said so", then it is in my judgement not a good moral system.

The "Because I said so" form of morality allows too many people to cop-out of the hard work of thinking about what's moral and I can't agree that that is a good thing.

I wonder if Whistler would make that same statement if he had Muslims in mind instead of Chritians.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 1:29 am 
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yovargas wrote:
The "Because I said so" form of morality allows too many people to cop-out of the hard work of thinking about what's moral and I can't agree that that is a good thing.


Agreed.

Quote:
I wonder if Whistler would make that same statement if he had Muslims in mind instead of Chritians.


Question seconded.

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I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 1:45 am 
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I can't speak for Whistler (of course) but I didn't take what he said as referring specifically to only Christians. The main point that I took from his statement is that faith is the best moral compass that we have. Whether we call the being that we have faith in God or Allah or Ilúvatar doesn't really matter. For myself, that faith exists outside of the structure of any formal religion. For me, as others have said, religion is personal. For others, they best find that relationship inside a formal church. Others still don't feel they need that relationship to find their moral compass. None of us are right or wrong, per se.

But I look to the example of some of the priests in Germany who risked their lives (and sometimes lost them) in order to help save the lives of Jews and others persecuted by the Nazis. They found the strength to do that through their faith. That doesn't negate the bad things that have been done over the years in the name of religion. But neither do those bad things negate the good that their faith (and that of so many others, of all different religions) have led them to do.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 2:23 am 
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nerdanel wrote:
I find faith dangerous where it clashes with conscience because I am suspicious whether and how faith is linked to the Divine (particularly since different religions, whose teachings contradict each other, claim to be linked to the Divine.) As I understand your views, you find faith necessary even when it clashes with conscience because you trust that faith (at least your own) is closely linked to the Divine.)

I'd say nel has identified the crux of the matter. I think this is a good way to define the essence of faith -- it is the conviction that one has connected with the Divine. And given that there seem to exist contradictory faiths, it would also seem that at least some of those who are convinced they have connected with the Divine, are wrong. This conclusion would seem to only contribute further to those suspicions nel mentioned, which people without faith, or without a defined faith, are bound to entertain.

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