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Religion in today's society

Discussion in 'Debate Forum' started by Clone™, Mar 4, 2014.

  1. Antiyonder

    Antiyonder Well-Known Member

    I didn't say, nor infer anything about a correct or incorrect belief, but merely that there is a right and wrong way to express it.
  2. Brutaka

    Brutaka Ignition

    And which way is the right way? Every religion has a different opinion.
  3. Antiyonder

    Antiyonder Well-Known Member

    ^^^Basically anything that doesn't infringe on the rights of another. I mean, Mormons are entitled to say wanting to avoid coffee and certain other drinks their religion finds taboo, but they still need to respect that Non-Mormons aren't going to deny themselves such.
  4. Brutaka

    Brutaka Ignition

    I agree, but where does this opinion come from? What tells you this? It's certainly not your religion.
  5. Antiyonder

    Antiyonder Well-Known Member

    What do you mean by "where does my opinion come from, if not from religion"?

    At any rate, I'd rather be able to relax for the weekend, so can we just agree to disagree and move on?
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2014
  6. Aegiscalibur

    Aegiscalibur Add Witty Title Here

    If you think these things can be said politely without losing any of the original content, how would you for example say "You're a sinner and you're going to hell" politely?

    Something like "I would kindly like to inform you that according to my religion you are an evil person and will regrettably spend an eternity in torment, for which I am sorry"? Doesn't help much, does it?
  7. Antiyonder

    Antiyonder Well-Known Member

    ^^^Maybe there isn't. But then you're assuming that all people in religion place themselves on a pedestal and go around lecturing people frequently.
  8. Divine Retribution

    Divine Retribution Master of the freak show

    Fact is, quite a lot of them do.
  9. Antiyonder

    Antiyonder Well-Known Member

    ^^^Ok, but again, a person can only be held accountable for their own actions/comments.

    At any rate, I'll accept the fact that I failed on my part of the debate, but I'd at least ask that I'm not stereotyped as a bible thumper.

    I'll even concede to flaws I've committed on the forum overall, like being too into the shipping stuff, being nitpick and even being redundant in many threads I've posted in and going too far in a response to a poster who I found homophobic.

    But fine, I've failed in this thread and am out.

    Edit: I will add this though and if it's invalid, I'll accept it declared as such. Even if I felt that other should join my religion and that it was the only valid religion, I don't know. I think it means more when a person does it for their own accord, rather than to appease a family member, a friend or just out of peer pressure. But then any big decision should be made on those grounds.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2014
  10. Polecat

    Polecat Cool Cat

    As a mainline Christian, I fully believe that religion can coexist society and help provide morals to people. It seems like there's a lot of anti-religion vitriol on this thread, and I find it amusing that the people bashing religion and claiming that it does nothing but forces beliefs on others are the ones forcing their anti-religion on everyone else and claiming that all religion must be abolished, which would require, by nature, forcing people to give up religion. Fact is, people force all sorts of opinions and beliefs on each other, not just fundamentalists.

    And for all those claiming that religion is in direct opposition to science (Usually because they heard a crazy rant from a creationist and assumed that all religious people are like that), you need to realize that almost all mainline Christian branches recognize evolution and science in general. In addition, plenty of scientists are religious. So don't try to stereotype us all as backwards, anti-gay zealots. Plenty of us, myself included, are pro-LGBT rights and pro-science.

    Religion =/= fundamentalist zealotry. Just because someone's loud and annoying doesn't make them indicative of a whole group.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2014
  11. Rational Rayquaza

    Rational Rayquaza Well-Known Member

    You don't need religion in order to promote virtue. And why necessarily do need a religion to increase unity among the peoples of a nation? A national religion, no matter how appealing it sounds will not create unity. Even if the nonreligious/other religions were granted equal rights they would feel left out. An national faith would only further create disunity among the believers of the established faith and those who do not follow that faith.
  12. I've been spewing tons of anti-religious vitriol, but who said anything about forcing anything on anyone? Thinking religion is generally a shitty thing that societies should avoid if they can help it is not the same thing as like, burning down churches, mmkay? As far as religion and science being reconcilable, Ockam's razor makes all supernatural explanations of the universe superfluous and redundant. Fundamentalists kinda suck, I'm glad we're in agreement there, but it's not just fundamentalism that we angry atheists have an issue with. It's faith based thinking in general. Why is believing in anything without evidence something that we should be encouraging or endorsing? Isn't that generally an undesirable thing? Or put simply, skepticism works better than wish thinking.

    And sure, religions that have especially bad PR can take liberal interpretations of their texts to make them a little less archaic and crappy for the 21st century, but it's not like religion does it on it's own or anything, like a self improving system. Why no, that sounds much more like science. In fact, the reason why so many Christians today have more lax, less literal, more liberal interpretations of their texts is because of science and skepticism. Only from the outside does religion ever change. Though, I could be wrong. If anyone would do me the kindness of showing me, at any point in history, where religion was spearheading progressive, social change in a society, and not being dragged a long by other secular and humanist movements, I might retract my statement. I don't think anyone can do this, though.

    Even if religion does promote virtue like you say (I usually find the opposite to be true), is believing in something that's untrue or less likely to to be true in order to promote the common good such a good idea? We don't have to, and should not exchange misapprehension of reality in exchange for morality. It's not a good trade. How is religion not simply inferior to a nuanced, skeptical, and scientific understanding of the world?
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2014
  13. TheFightingPikachu

    TheFightingPikachu Smashing!

    Note that I am not attempting to address the whole of your post, but I feel that something I read today might help. I got a copy of Richard Dawkins's book The God Delusion for Christmas. The book was on my wish list, and though I haven't been reading through it but have just been bouncing around reading random sections, it has already been incredibly enjoyable (for the things Dawkins gets right in addition to the points where he has not paid due attention to relevant sources or been inconsistent with himself).

    In any case, Chapter 7, entitled "The 'Good' Book and the changing moral Zeitgeist" (which begins with the historically laughable Sean O'Casey quote "Politics has slain its thousands, but religion has slain its tens of thousands."), contains a point from Dawkins that is worth considering. He says, "Well there's no denying that, from a moral point of view, Jesus is a huge improvement over the cruel ogre of the Old Testament. Indeed, Jesus, if he existed (or whoever wrote his script if he didn't) was surely one of the great ethical innovators of history" (page 283 in the first Mariner Books edition of 2008). On the next page, Dawkins mention a few examples and the 'Atheists for Jesus' article he wrote. He then says that Jesus didn't derive ethics from the Hebrew Scriptures, but departed from them, and goes as far as to say that Jesus provides a model of not deriving morals from religious texts. The specific teaching Dawkins points out, however, shows Dawkins has not done enough research. It is Jesus' teaching that it is acceptable to do work on the Sabbath for purposes of healing humans or saving life, even animal life.

    But if Dawkins had paid more attention to the Oxford historian Geza Vermes, he would have known that it may not be an innovation, as multiple Rabbis had said similar things (and Jesus is quoted as saying that those hearing, including the religious leaders, already practiced this). It wouldn't have been hard for Dawkins to read more of Geza Vermes. Dawkins quotes him on the same page!

    But then again, the scholarly work of Vermes would have given Dawkins more insight into the consensus of historians that Jesus was a religious Jew who actually lived, and that would have required him to give the thesis that Jesus didn't exist even less credence.

    Back to the topic at hand, though, Dawkins's point is definitely true that Jesus taught things that were morally superior to things practiced by others in Judaism of the day. But I am in good company in being cautious about chalking them up to "departure" from Judaism.

    An even earlier example of a decidedly good thing coming out of religion would be one of the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures. A portion of the book of Isaiah is known for including a view that Gentiles, too, will experience God's blessings in a great way in the future. As this was written long before Jesus, it is hard to see why more scholars don't think Jesus had a view to the salvation of Gentiles. While Dawkins seems to consider the Hebrew Scriptures definitely racist in their emphasis on the Jews, this universal emphasis is undoubtedly a good thing. (Just a note, I don't think the book of Isaiah actually made an innovation over the earlier Scriptures, just that it was emphasized in a new way.)

    And I know I could easily draw fire for bringing this up, but the abolition of slavery in Britain appears to provide a later example. I will not tell you there was no secular influence, as that would go beyond my knowledge. However, to follow your wording, this positive social change was spearheaded by two Christians, John Newton and William Wilberforce. (Inb4 "the Bible said you should have slaves!" No it did not. It said you could have slaves, which is not the same, and legally commanded certain consequences or punishments on the mistreatment of slaves. It also never said to enslave people based on skin color, BTW.)

    In short, your claim that religion changes only from outside, secular influences is a plainly ideological anachronism.
  14. Polecat

    Polecat Cool Cat

    The Abolitionist movement gained much of its prominence in Northern churches that preached the equality of all races under God. In fact, churches and religion in general were a prominent part of all major black civil rights movements, especially in the 1950s and 60s with the reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who preached loving your neighbor as yourself. His preaching and religion was a major portion of his activism, and his religion informed the methods of his nonviolent protest. He was hardly "dragged along" by secular movements.

    In addition, you have religious underpinnings to many of the progressive social movements of the early 1900s. While we can all agree that Prohibition was a mistake, many of the first social justice movements had theological underpinnings. One of the most notable of these was the Social Gospel movement, which was built on Biblical teachings. The Social Gospel movement worked to help victims of economic inequality by promoting labor unions and combating poverty, poor neighborhoods, and poor schools. Though short-lived, the Social Gospel movement helped many people by providing poor people with housing, education, and food. This movement was a key part in inspiring many other progressive movements, such as women's suffrage, larger organized labor movements, and even the Civil Rights movement.
  15. Are you really splitting hairs on whether the bible endorsed vs condoned slaves? It makes no difference, both are morally damnable.

    In regards to the abolitionist movement being your example of religion being a primary engine for social change, I'm still skeptical. I'm not an expert in that chapter of history, but I find it almost insulting to compare the bible being used as a force for anti-racism to the bible being used as a source for racism. What I mean by that is, if someone used the teachings in any particular religion to dehumanize, oppress, and subjugate you, and hundreds of years later, people from that same religion come back and say "Well, you see, this is what God really meant, he was just kidding about that slavery stuff. Sorry about all that." is the faith white washed and redeemed? Seems cheap. I'm aware that black churches in the 1950's for example served as bulwarks against racist violence, but that seems like pocket change compared to all the hundreds of years where the primary moral justification for slavery in the first place was the bible. Anyways, the argument wasn't that religion can't do good things, or help progressive values a long. The argument is that it's redundant. While it's true that the first people that advocated for the abolition of slavery in England were quakers and evangelicals, it's a leap to say that if there were no quakers and evangelicals, the abolitionist movement wouldn't have happened. I'd sooner attribute their anti-slavery sentiments to their humanism than I would their religion, and that their religion simply expressed what they intuitively knew to be true. I mean come on, if they needed the bible to receive their inspiration that racial injustice is not acceptable, that would make them horrible people. To think that you could witness slaves tied up, whipped and bloody and have no problems whatsoever, only to learn that it isn't so nice after all because of some religious text is deplorable, right? In addition, rationalist and enlightenment thinkers in Europe were also making critiques of slavery at the exact same time, and while it wouldn't be fair to say that they dragged the abolitionist movement a long, it demonstrates that religion didn't answer any moral dilemma or question that those without faith weren't already able to figure out.

    I think it's disingenuous to give religion credit for those things because Christianity was forced on black slaves. It doesn't come as any surprise to me that black people adapted to life in America after being forcibly converted, and slowly changed a tool of their oppression, Christianity, into a tool for their freedom. There's a difference between something being useful in and of itself for social change and something being co-opted for social change. I still think my claim in this instance, that religion is primarily static and doesn't change unless external factors force it back down from it's teachings is well supported. In this instance, the external factor would be an oppressed minority.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2014
  16. TheFightingPikachu

    TheFightingPikachu Smashing!

    My comment was intended to preempt the apparently not un-heard of claims that the Mosaic Law said "You need to have slaves," or "Well you're not absolutely required to have slaves, but it is highly encouraged." Checking the definitions of those terms, "endorsed" is in line with either of those claims while "condoned" is not in line with either of them. It confuses me greatly why the Old (or even the New) Testament didn't say "Do not have slaves." So while I can definitely understand where you are coming from, my point is that the actual statements in the text are certainly not anywhere near as morally damnable as the claims some people think are in the text.

    First, the way you say "your example" gives the impression you didn't bother to read the other examples I provided, both of which were centuries before secular people were numerous enough to have any kind of appreciable outside influence on religion.

    Second, the claim you make about the Bible being the source for racism ignores what I had previously pointed out about how slavery under the Mosaic Law, like slavery throughout ancient times, was not based on skin color. Not only is there no biblical passage that specifies anything about the skin color of slaves, but so far as I am aware there is no ancient text anywhere that promoted such an idea. That is a modern abomination.

    Third, just to be absolutely clear, the idea of people being inferior based on skin color is not found anywhere in the Bible either. The idea that the mark of Cain was black skin (or that the mark could be passed down to his descendants!) is a distinctly modern idea so far as I am aware. There are some references to skin that might indicate color, but these conspicuously fail to actually say that any skin color marks one as inferior. They could be used by people who are racists in the same way some passages are used to "prove" that using musical instruments to worship God is evil despite musical instruments being plainly endorsed in the Psalms. And while this last point is not a certain indicator of skin color, Joseph (one of the sons of Jacob) was said to have married an Egyptian wife. I think it should be self-evident that correcting mis-attributions is moral whether regarding religious texts or non-religious texts, and should not be compared to the propagation of mis-attributions.

    Fourth, your argument fails to trace the cause of American slavery properly, and is a perfect example of a post hoc fallacy. Slavery existed long before any books of the Bible were written, by anyone's estimation, and it was only abolished in many countries in comparatively modern times. Thus people in the Colonies didn't say, "Hmm. I think slavery sounds like a good idea. I wonder if it can be found in the Bible. Yup, there it is, so let's do it!" The existing practice of indentured servitude (including plenty of people who were white) later transitioned to black slavery. There were multiple reasons for this shift, but the biggest has to do with the widespread belief that black people were inferior. This was not drawn from religion, as even some of the non-religious thinkers promoted it. (Dawkins even quotes T. H. Huxley of the 1800s, the man who coined the term "agnostic," to this effect.) Thus the idea that blacks were inferior (yet able to withstand heat and the sun better than whites) was clearly the primary justification for black slavery. (EDIT: Because I just noticed it, I should say that even if you meant that it was the primary "rationalization" I still don't think history bears out that conclusion, as racism was rampant in that time period and people were open about it.) And black slavery as an institution is undoubtedly the most heinous slavery the world has ever known.

    Fifth, the way you worded that paragraph indicates that you know your stated criteria of religion spearheading positive social change has significantly been met in this case, but the philosophical discussion you get into appears to be sidestepping the historical issue to move the goalposts in order to downplay the fact that someone has dealt a serious blow to your claim.

    Sixth, and finally, I know I've forgotten something. It probably had to do with the way you seemed to miss my statement about the Mosaic Law's regulations regarding mistreatment of slaves and legal consequences that would follow. It definitely shames what counted as legal in America. It might have something to do with the fact that the American Constitution, written by people whom I am pretty sure you have described as "secular," definitely condoned slavery. It might also have to do with whether you think any of Dawkins's lapses in scholarship should be counted as "morally damnable" (though obviously not comparable in degree to slavery). Hmm. I still think there's something else I'm forgetting.

    I would like to see a source that indicates that forcible conversion was what characterized American slaves who were Christians. Just looking around a little bit (admittedly on Wikipedia), I found at least some evidence that forcible conversion was not the general rule for how such beliefs were obtained. (In fact, one page indicated that some laws in Colonial America prevented someone baptized, even forcibly, from being counted as a slave.) I believe I have heard historical evidence to support the idea that slaves found the theme of the deliverance of the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt to have been intrinsically appealing. In the absence of a source indicating what you say, I think it sounds like another anachronism.

    That only strengthens my next point: counting the oppressed minority as external is nonsensical. In what way are the adherents of a religion, no matter how they obtained their beliefs, external to the religion (or, per your stated criteria, "secular")?
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2014
  17. Does it really make a difference on what "level" something is reprehensible, when we're talking about (in this instance, at least) a flawless deity? This is almost as bad as Bill Clinton saying "But I didn't inhale."

    I felt like one example was all I really needed. Remember when I mentioned that I think it's more likely that abolitionist Christians in England were more inspired by their humanism than their religion? The same point holds water in regards to Jesus' more progressive teachings. As an atheist, I can't attribute his teachings to the supernatural or divine because I don't accept he was supernatural or divine. Ethical teachings and moral guide lines aren't religious in nature, they're just simply human, though religion can offer an extra layer of incentive to follow them. Belief in unsubstantiated truth claims is inherent in religion though, as is dogma.

    I understand that slavery and racism aren't the same things, and my claim was never that the bible explicitly spells out racism in any patently obvious way, such as "X people are inferior and you should subjugate them." but that the bibles condoning of slavery prolonged, aided and abetted racist sentiments. By the looks of it, that doesn't seem much better. Also, can't racism be inferred from the text? When Jehova gave license to wipe out the Phillistines so the Jews could have their promised land, that reads a lot like racism. Destroying and displacing an entire group of people because another group of people are more worthy of it seems pretty racist to me. .

    I think I sufficiently addressed this above, but let me know if I wasn't clear enough.

    Fair enough, well done. You've succeeded in getting me to (slightly) back down from my claim that religion only ever changes from the outside, perhaps a more accurate phrasing would be this.

    Religion relies on unsubstantiated truth claims, which by it's nature discourages skepticism and the questioning of authority. This element makes it extremely difficult for religion to change and improve, or be a reliable force for social change because it's inevitable that religious values will clash with the values of society at large. If two people have conflicting values, they can argue and reason it out. If you add religion in the mix, constructive dialogue is made much harder because the views being held are in spite of reason. Given this complication, religion as a construct is arguably more trouble than what it's worth in the face of a naturalistic worldview.

    From what I gather, there wasn't anything like an inquisitional style of forced conversion, though looking at it from a social perspective, being assimilated into a hostile nations religion because you couldn't run fast enough seems just as forcible.

    As a side note, you make a lot of tangents about the historicity of Jesus in a lot of your posts. I've declined to comment so far because they're usually very loosely related to the topic at hand, but is that something you want to discuss? It makes little difference to me whether Jesus was an actual person or not, but the evidence for his existence is pretty shaky at best from what I've heard and I'm skeptical that his existence is as commonly accepted by historians as you say it is. You can PM me or post in tangent topic about it if you want, I'd be interested in seeing where that conversation goes.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2015
  18. Aegiscalibur

    Aegiscalibur Add Witty Title Here

    But if religious morals are inferior to the best secular morals, shouldn't we use them instead?

    Skepticism isn't anti-religious a priori. Religion has simply failed to fulfill its burden of proof.

    How can promoting skepticism be "forcing a belief" on anyone when it isn't even a belief in the same sense as religious belief? It's more like skepticism precedes belief.

    If you are selectively pro-dogmatism and pro-skepticism, it's pretty inconsistent.
  19. Silver Soul

    Silver Soul Well-Known Member

    You know about the attacks on French Paper Charlie Hebdo that led to deaths of the cartoonists by extremists who were then on the run before meeting their demise at a French Kosher Supermarket. Note that France has a growing Muslim population and that even citizens there condemned the attacks as the nation calls for unity against extremism. Now we can discuss about if our religion must conflict with our rights to free speech and such or... we discuss if it is really religion that's making people good or bad or it's their own actions. To prove my point, look at these two of these heroes who risked their lives but they are of the same religion as those extremists.

    French Police Officer Ahmed confronted the extremists and he got shot despite being recognized as one of Tunisian descent and a Muslim himself but he died. He died on duty to protect free speech even if it meant ridiculing his religion.


    Lassana Bathily, Muslim Clerk who worked at a Kosher Market where the gunmen were at, help hid some of the people into the freezer to protect them.

  20. All you need to know about the Charlie Hebdo attacks is that it definitely had nothing to do with the teachings of Islam, or at least that's the point many are rushing to make. "It's just a few bad apples!" they say, "It's all interpretation" they cry, "Don't blame Islam for what fundamentalists do!" they shout. I am so tired of this. I'm tired of religious apologists making excuses for the very real world consequences of religious faith under the false guise of nuance and complexity.

    If the attacks were religiously motivated in full or even in part by Islam, then Islam should be denounced. How do you not condemn a religion where violent injunctions are flatly spelled out in the text? Now I know some like to try and weasel their way out of this like Reza Aslan, and claim that religion is "pure interpretation", but obviously some interpretations make more sense than others. I don't know of any alternative interpretations of "if your kid mouths off to you, stone them" that there are, but I would question the honesty of a person extrapolating a metaphorical or symbolic reading from that. Likewise, there are mountains of rather straightforward verses in Quran that the attackers in question could have had a day with, and my money is on the fact that they did. They shouted "Allahu Akbar" and "the prophet is avenged" not "Down with Western imperialism" In the future, could we do the courtesy of believing people when they say their attacks are religiously motivated? Fuck'n A, seriously.

    If religion is just identity and culture and not fundamental truth claims about the supernatural and associated dogma, then I could say I'm an anti-theist Christian, and that obviously wouldn't make any sense. Islam, as well as any religion that sanctions violence or bigotry deserves to be condemned. All religions deserve our condemnation even if they aren't explicitly violent but because they are NOT TRUE, or if you like to split hairs, very likely, probably, and almost certainly untrue. The sooner accomodationists get this, the better.


    In other news, the pope is on the record saying that the folks at Charlie Hebdo got what was coming to them, because insulting faith isn't very nice. What a swell guy.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2015

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