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PostPosted: Mon Dec 11, 2006 5:39 pm 
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Shirriff note: These posts were moved from the thread discussing the films based on Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, in the Cottage of Lost Play.

Teremia, please feel free to retitle this.

—Prim

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I haven't read Dawkins's book, but after reading lots of reviews, I've gotten the impression he blames religion for much of the world's misery. My suspicion is that the truth is people behave cruelly to each other, and that religion is a bit of a red herring here.

Religion is brought in to justify all sorts of bad behavior, but that doesn't mean we'd all be angels as universal atheists, either.

I may be misrepresenting his argument, though.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 11, 2006 6:20 pm 
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Teremia wrote:
IMy suspicion is that the truth is people behave cruelly to each other, and that religion is a bit of a red herring here.


My general feeling is that religion is a power influence on people's thinking and that that influence can be used for good and for evil in equal measures. I imagine the bad gets more press because, besides the general human inclination to focus on the negative, it's easier to do catastrophic bad then to do great good.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 3:33 pm 
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Any collectivization of humanity has more potential to do bad than the same number of people acting independently. The reason they all seem to eventually go bad is that the odds of someone getting at the helm of said collectivization who is more interested in keeping power than in accomplishing any noble goals is roughly 99%. Give or take a percent. OK, just give. :|

Organizations don't start bad and go good, they start good, bad, or indifferent, and go downhill from there, until such point where something new comes along to replace them. Then it's wash, rinse, repeat.

Weren't we talking about a book or something? :D

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 4:55 pm 
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ax and yov -- you speak my mind. I think about this all the time. People must mostly be doing good, constructive work, because evil/destruction is so much easier to accomplish. One person could spend almost all of his/her life healing the sick and feeding the poor, and then in one day of mayhem set off bombs that destroy 10 times the lives he/she spent the rest of his/her life saving. (Not a likely scenario -- but it says something about the proportions involved.)

So I find this all profoundly encouraging and discouraging at once. If we were mostly evil/destructive, the planet would be an entire hell-hole already, and probably rather unpopulated. But instead the world trundles on, festering and miserable in places, but largely trundling on: a testament to the 99.99% of the human mind that feels like tending to things and building things and caring for things and people. The enormous tragedy that the destructive 0.01% of human nature keeps threatening to undo all this good breaks my heart again and again.

As for the "good" or "evil" of religion, I suspect it falls within these human parameters, with of course the added caveat that power does seem to corrupt, so any institution that becomes powerful must be watched with (perhaps loving) suspicion.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 5:22 pm 
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I think the only question you need to ask to determine if religion is good or bad as a whole is simple...

If we took religion away from the world... would it be a better place?


The answer is quite simply no. Presumably the goal would be to eliminate people doing things "in the name of their religion" that are horrible, or cause pain or problems... or in general make other's lives miserable.

Does anyone honestly think that one group hating another group and using religion to justify it... would not simply find another reason if they didn't have religion?

People that follow religions leaders that tell them to hate other people, or fight a war with them, or simply look down their noses at them... aren't going to stop following that leader just because they no longer think of them in terms of religion. They will follow them for some other reason... or they'll follow someone else.

People that want decisions made for them that look to religion to do it... would simply look elsewhere if religion wasn't an option.


Personally, I think if you remove religion from the world, you remove much of what is good in the world... including truth... a lot of hope... and a lot of joy. How would that be a good thing?


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 5:37 pm 
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halplm wrote:
Personally, I think if you remove religion from the world, you remove much of what is good in the world... including truth... a lot of hope... and a lot of joy. How would that be a good thing?


I don't think religion, per se, has much to do with truth, hope or joy. I can't see how "removing" it would remove those things from the world.

I think most organized religions, in spite of very good intentions, many times cause more harm than good. As soon as any kind of hierarchy is formed, as soon as people begin to be included or excluded on some arbitrary basis, as soon as the people who have come into power begin to make rules about who can do what and how and why...the religion becomes something of Man and not of God.

But humans tend to organize and codify everything and we also tend to complicate simple matters.

Jesus tried to make matters as simple as possible - boiling all the Law and the Prophets down into two very simple statements. Love God. Love your neighbor. He even gave an example of who our neighbors were, in the parable of the Good Samaritan...using Samaritans as an example because they were reviled by the Jews.

We seem not to be able to follow these two very simple directions. Instead we have turned Jesus' message into a complex labyrinth of facts and rules and opinions and hate.

Jesus weeps.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 5:39 pm 
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Would it get rid of televangelists with bad hairpieces? I would be willing to put up with a little less truth, hope, and joy if that were the case. Or perhaps they would all work for QVC...

Seriously, I think Dawkins is a tad overzealous, but he raises an important issue: how can people who base their actions on codes of behavior with non-empirical bases EVER get along with others who base their actions on DIFFERENT codes of behavior with DIFFERENT non-empirical bases? Or for that matter, with those who base their codes of behavior on empirical bases? The most that can be hoped for is accommodation of differences...if the code of behavior in question allows it. Some don't.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 6:02 pm 
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that's why I said "Personally", jewelsong. I don't expect everyone to agree.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 6:26 pm 
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halplm wrote:
Does anyone honestly think that one group hating another group and using religion to justify it... would not simply find another reason if they didn't have religion?


Eternal punishment/reward makes people able to do things I don't think they'd be capable of doing otherwise. Religion is unique in that sense.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 6:36 pm 
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The religious people I know well don't act out of fear of punishment or desire for reward. I don't. The mainstream Protestant view, anyway, is that we've got God's grace (which we can't earn by being "good"; it's a gift)—so now what? Now we try to do what is right (show compassion, work for justice in the world) simply because it's right.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 7:02 pm 
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halplm wrote:
that's why I said "Personally", jewelsong. I don't expect everyone to agree.


And that's why I said, "I think..." and so on.

Obviously not everyone agrees...on this or anything else. By posting your opinion(s) here, it stands to reason that you are willing to have them disagreed with, debated and discussed.

That's kinda the point of a message board like this.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 7:07 pm 
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JewelSong wrote:
halplm wrote:
that's why I said "Personally", jewelsong. I don't expect everyone to agree.


And that's why I said, "I think..." and so on.

Obviously not everyone agrees...on this or anything else. By posting your opinion(s) here, it stands to reason that you are willing to have them disagreed with, debated and discussed.

That's kinda the point of a message board like this.


A truly excellent and important point.

We don't, or shouldn't, have to go around saying "This is my opinion, this is my idea, this is what I think, IMHO", etc. It ought to be, like, obvious. 8)

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 7:09 pm 
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That's your opinion.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 7:11 pm 
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I disagree.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 7:18 pm 
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axordil wrote:
Seriously, I think Dawkins is a tad overzealous, but he raises an important issue: how can people who base their actions on codes of behavior with non-empirical bases EVER get along with others who base their actions on DIFFERENT codes of behavior with DIFFERENT non-empirical bases? Or for that matter, with those who base their codes of behavior on empirical bases? The most that can be hoped for is accommodation of differences...if the code of behavior in question allows it. Some don't.


That's one of the many knotty problems the human race is going to have to solve if we want to plan on still existing a thousand years from now.

Fanaticism on all sides has got to ease, though, and that may take a miracle.

It's a good point that the abolition of religion, if such a thing suddenly "happened," would not eliminate class and race and culture and history as sources of strife. Religion has often been a "pasted-on" justification for politically based conflicts.

The model we used to follow in the United States, of separation of church and state with all faiths (or lack of same) treated equally, may be what we end up with worldwide, if we end up anywhere at all.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 7:22 pm 
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Prim wrote:
It's a good point that the abolition of religion, if such a thing suddenly "happened," would not eliminate class and race and culture and history as sources of strife. Religion has often been a "pasted-on" justification for politically based conflicts.


Agreed. First there is a perception of harm from some physical source, like economics or military aggression, and then there is an attempt to seize on identifications that differentiate us from the 'enemy.'

If the religion is different, people will seize on that. If the religion is not different they will seize on something else, nationality, ethnicity, gender, etc.

Jn

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 7:23 pm 
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so discuss, debate, whatever... just saying you think someone's opinion is wrong and dropping it is pointless.

Quote:
I don't think religion, per se, has much to do with truth, hope or joy. I can't see how "removing" it would remove those things from the world.


I expressed an opinion about what good things would be reduced in the world if religion were removed from it. Your response was basically: "yeah, I think you're totally wrong about that, so moving on..."

That's not discussion or debate...


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 7:29 pm 
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jny--

Although as yovargas notes, religion (in some manifestations) has the trump card none of those other differentiations posesses: divine approval/eternal reward or punishment/similar unanswerables. Force someone to fall back to their base position when defending their country's actions, and they have to reckon with the facts. Force someone to fall back to their base position when defending their religion's actions, and it's "God said so."

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 7:34 pm 
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halplm wrote:
so discuss, debate, whatever... just saying you think someone's opinion is wrong and dropping it is pointless.

Quote:
I don't think religion, per se, has much to do with truth, hope or joy. I can't see how "removing" it would remove those things from the world.


I expressed an opinion about what good things would be reduced in the world if religion were removed from it. Your response was basically: "yeah, I think you're totally wrong about that, so moving on..."

That's not discussion or debate...


And then I went on to say WHY I thought the way I did. WHY I did NOT think that removing religion would remove hope, joy and truth.

I disagreed with your opinion, gave my own and gave reasons why I disagreed and why I thought the way I did.

THAT is discussion and debate.

What it is NOT was any kind of personal attack or dismissal.

However, I will refrain from responding to you in this thread in the future.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 12:38 am 
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Jeepers Hapalm, you are being far to touchy there with Jewelsong. Just having a bad day?

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