But mostly I consider religion a tool, and one which focuses input and increases the output, in much the same way a hammer does.
But mostly I consider religion a tool, and one which focuses input and increases the output, in much the same way a hammer does.
“I have just never, ever understood this line of thought”
“This is one of the directions "imagine there's no religion" sometimes goes,”
Perhaps this will clear things up:
(Please watch the video before reading the rest of this)
Okay there are a lot of important issues on the table right now, and I don’t want to put any of them aside so I’ll be sure to whip up another wall-o-text within the next day or two that addresses the questions you raised in a lot more detail. But I’d like to go back for a moment and clarify that whole “imagine no religion?” thing since it seems to have caused a bit of a misunderstanding.
“Imagine No Religion” is not meant to be an argument. It is meant to be a “what if” (and to be fair you’ve used a few “what if”s in place of arguments here). It is by nature a strictly hypothetical question. In this case I was presenting it to you as groundwork for an actual argument later. I was asking you JonJon to (not to admit anything out loud or here on UF that could be used against you in an argument or used to make fun of you or anything like that but simply to take a brief moment within the safe comfortable confines of your own mind and) “imagine” “no religion”.
I was not asking you to accept as true the premise that religion is harmful. Or to accept any premise at all for that matter. I was simply asking you to “imagine” how our species might have turned out differently (better or worse) if religion was not one of those fundamental human qualities that seem to have been present for most, if not all, of the species' development. “Imagine” how our values would be different (better or worse) if the natural evolution of those values had never become intertwined with theism. “Imagine” what kind of person JonJon would be (better or worse) if the development of your own values had never become intertwined with christianity (I wonder if you can). My goal in including your quotes was to put this in some context, not to be bitchy. If believing in god and abhorrent behavior are (maybe completely separate) both baseline human behaviors, then what would happen in a hypothetical scenario with a radically different baseline. And for the moment you can just ignore everything I have already suggested about how that scenario might play out. If you think a religionless universe would somehow result in more children being raped by priests, that is (even if it is patently illogical) a totally acceptable thing for you to think within this exercise.
There is as you noted, no actual right answer to this question (this question is not about “is the correct answer A, B. or C?” this question is about “what does this inkblot look like to you?”). We can only “imagine there’s no religion” and speculate about what we imagine that would be like. On a very related note, I don’t have to “imagine” that there are 23 churches within 4 miles of my house. Nor do I have to “imagine” that the current pope has personally overseen the cover up of child molestation. These are verifiable real things. I don’t have to “imagine” what a world where religion had gotten out of hand would look like. You don’t need that much imagination to imagine a world with too much religion. You just need a window. But a world with no religion? Well, you’d have to get pretty f*cking deep into parentheticals to address that one.
Here’s where I think we may be misunderstanding each other. I think that you think that I think that there are only two categories of human behavior relevant to this question. Something along the lines of “stuff that people *only* do because of religion which has *no other* contributing factors” and “stuff that has *absolutely nothing* to do with religion and to which religion contributes *nothing*”.
So let me just take a moment to state clearly that this is not the model I am working with here (and I don’t think that “by virtue of it's "religion-ness," religion causes people to behave badly”). As I see it, any complete attempt to address this topic would need to include at least four categories (actually a lot more than four, but this is just a simplified explanation so I’m gonna stick to four). A.“Human behavior to which religion has not been a significant contributing factor”. B. “Human behavior to which religion has been a secondary contributing factor”. C. “Human behavior to which religion has been a primary contributing factor”. And D. “Human behavior to which religion has been the main contributing factor”. As my central thesis here has been “f*ck religion” you might expect me to put every atrocity in category D, and every scientific advancement in category A (at least if I was more concerned with trashing christians than accurately pointing out problems with christianity). In my own calculations, the preponderance of the human experience (good and bad) falls pretty heavily into category B.
But that certainly does not mean the question of whether religion has done more harm than good is ethereal or unanswerable.
Questions of what the bible means to you or what kind of religionless world you would imagine are by nature subjective. But the question of how religion would affect humanity just might be the most well documented thing in all of history. After I look up a couple names and dates I’m going to present my case that history has conclusively answered the question of whether belief in god has been generally beneficial to humanity (but I am of course open to rebuttals). I think you can guess where I’m going with this but we can get to that in time. I certainly don’t want to fall into the trap of stating personal opinions without justification and calling it an argument.
And right now I am a little more concerned with clarifying sh*t I’ve already said than advancing to new arguments. We were having such a nice little moment there, and I wouldn’t want a miscommunication caused by my penchant for speaking in parables (something that was very much influenced by religion) to send us off on a hostile and counterproductive tangent.
So just to make sure we are all on the same page prior to the resumption of hostilities.
The reason religion causes people to behave badly is not because of it’s “religion-ness”. My personal belief on why some personal beliefs cause people to behave badly has very little to do with the belief that “there is a god”, even less to do with the belief that “there is no god”, and almost everything to do with the belief that “thou shalt have no other gods before me”.
I do not believe that religion is the primary causal factor in human behavior. At the very least I would put hunger and libido above religion. Religion is a disproportionately causal factor in human behavior (and I firmly believe based on a wealth of evidence that a disproportionate amount of behavior caused by it is not helpful). I may have made “agency” too big to fail (and I did clearly state that there are other factors), but I’ve given no such ground to religion.
I do not think christianity is evil because I am opposed to it, (and this point is absolutely central) I am opposed to christianity because I think it is evil. I did not come to this conclusion as an atheist who wanted to believe christianity was evil. I came to this conclusion as a christian who wanted more than anything to believe that christianity was not evil. And perhaps more fundamental than not believing in the doctrine, this is the first and still main reason why I am not a christian.
I do not entirely blame the institution of christianity for the actions of some random christian wackos. A woman in Texas who drowns her kids for Jesus is at most anecdotal evidence. But the issue is not just that people use religion as their justification to do terrible things. It is that the same people who made up the religion are commanding them to do terrible things. Any terrible things that happen to have been done by some random christian are not really related to my point (and neither is any terrible thing that you have to majorly twist christianity to justify). This is about the terrible things that have been done by the christian religious hierarchy. The issue is that the people who defined exactly what is and is not christianity for most of christianity’s history, the people who decided the exact beliefs that would later evolve into your beliefs (in case you still can’t guess who I’m talking about, here’s another clue: really big hats), are the exact same guys who ordered and carried out all the most terrible things in the history of your religion.
I kinda feel like I’ve been the opposite of bitchy here. I think I’ve been at least reasonably accommodating (“saintly” is a word I would never apply to myself in any serious context). In the interest of productive discussion I’ve taken every opportunity on this thread to grant the legitimacy of your points (including [and please don’t take this as bitchy] some pretty f*cking iffy ones). And on this latest tangent I think I’ve already bent over backward to explicitly state that “a lot of the atrocities that are commonly blamed on religion have been largely based on other causes”. I mean I f*cking gave you the tea party and one of the crusades. The g-dd*mn crusades for christ’s sake. And one of the bigger ones at that (do you have any f*cking idea how many people died in the Second Crusade?).
if I really was more interested in denigrating you than speaking accurately, do you actually think that (without even being asked) I would just toss out a political movement with the stated goal of establishing a christian theocracy, and a war to reclaim the holy land in the name of Jesus, as things that can’t be entirely blamed on religion? *Especially* when my openly stated bias is against christianity and my openly stated goal is to argue that christianity leads to sh*t like crusades and tea parties.
Just a couple more quick thoughts in closing. Something from someone named Duncan Hunter via Brian M on the “Is religion to blame for atrocities?” thread. And something I told you in our first conversation on “Why must we respect your beliefs?”. I think that both are particularly relevant at this moment.
"I myself don't blame religion for human violence, because I regard religion as a human invention. To blame atrocities on religion is to take religion at its own estimation as an autonomous, superhuman (or other-than-human) force; I blame them on human beings projecting their own attitudes onto their gods and getting them back endowed with authority. This also means, however, that the good things about human beings are also our doing. I think we can do better, but I'm not sure I have much faith in that possibility. One way to advance in that direction, I think, is for human beings to own all our actions, instead of crediting gods for them for better or worse."
“I think what you are defending when you defend “christianity” is a much different idea than what I am attacking when I attack “christianity”.”
Well, guys, I hate to duck out while things are still lively, but I'm in the middle of packing for a two-week camping vacation and at best I'm just going to be lurking on the forums between now and Friday morning. Then it's off to the wilds of western Pennsylvania to spend two weeks in a yurt for the 39th annual Pennsic Wars (I invite you to google for images if you don't know what the Pennsic Wars or the Society for Creative Anachronism are). I am going to be offline, and off the grid as well.
Anyway, the next time you hear from me will probably be August 15, or when the yurt canvas has dried and been packed away, whichever comes first.
Cheers all, and I will try to catch up on the thread when I get back. Whoever produces the longest coherent wall-o-text in my absence gets a gold star.
"Okay there are a lot of important issues on the table right now, and I don’t want to put any of them aside so I’ll be sure to whip up another wall-o-text within the next day or two that addresses the questions you raised in a lot more detail. But I’d like to go back for a moment and clarify that whole “imagine no religion?” thing since it seems to have caused a bit of a misunderstanding."
Please take your time. I'm (to my chagrin) not employed, so I tend to have lots of time. Don't burn yourself out.
"And right now I am a little more concerned with clarifying sh*t I’ve already said than advancing to new arguments. We were having such a nice little moment there, and I wouldn’t want a miscommunication caused by my penchant for speaking in parables (something that was very much influenced by religion) to send us off on a hostile and counterproductive tangent."
Yes, I went on a bit of a tear. It certainly felt nice for a moment, but I confess I liked the tone we were setting before quite a bit better. I threw up a bunch of hypotheticals and shot them down. Partly, that's because I don't know what you actually think, and since this is something of a pet peeve I wanted to say *something*. The other reason is that I don't *like* the arguments I've so far heard for why religion is 'bad,' or perhaps I don't understand them properly.
I understand that "Imagine" is not in itself an argument, and I made a leap in presuming you would go on to make one, or were laying the groundwork for it. I have seen and heard people bridge that gap many times. Obviously, you would like to point out some of what you think is wrong with or unhelpful about religion, and I think you should do that. I apologize for jumping in and making that harder for you: even if you are going to go on and make an actual argument, it isn't terribly productive to rant about groundwork.
"I kinda feel like I’ve been the opposite of bitchy here. I think I’ve been at least reasonably accommodating (“saintly” is a word I would never apply to myself in any serious context). In the interest of productive discussion I’ve taken every opportunity on this thread to grant the legitimacy of your points (including [and please don’t take this as bitchy] some pretty f*cking iffy ones). And on this latest tangent I think I’ve already bent over backward to explicitly state that “a lot of the atrocities that are commonly blamed on religion have been largely based on other causes”. I mean I f*cking gave you the tea party and one of the crusades. The g-dd*mn crusades for christ’s sake. And one of the bigger ones at that (do you have any f*cking idea how many people died in the Second Crusade?)."
I insist on saintly. Take the credit, you earned it. Accommodating is an understatement. Trust me, I know how iffy some of my points are, and I know how far backwards you're bending when you let them fly.
"if I really was more interested in denigrating you than speaking accurately, do you actually think that (without even being asked) I would just toss out a political movement with the stated goal of establishing a christian theocracy, and a war to reclaim the holy land in the name of Jesus, as things that can’t be entirely blamed on religion? *Especially* when my openly stated bias is against christianity and my openly stated goal is to argue that christianity leads to sh*t like crusades and tea parties."
Fair point: I don't feel denigrated. I didn't mean to accuse you of being denigrating, merely to say what I thought arguments about the overall 'badness' of religion often had trouble distinguishing between. I suppose I should begin to presume that you won't make the same irritating leaps I have seen others make. My forum instincts tell me this is a bad idea, but I will make an effort.
Also, I don't think you are bitchy.
Have fun off the grid Ursa.
I Haven’t forgotten you JonJon. It just has been a pretty hectic few days. Finally started actually writing out Nox’s 143rd Proof of Nogod today and it is nowhere near finished. But I wanted to get your feedback on a couple of things and give you a little more of an idea of where I’m going with this most recent tangent. And I wanted to tell you I appreciate your last post. I will try to avoid any irritating leaps. But I should warn you, what I’m posting right now may seem a little disjointed. I am still ranting about groundwork here (sorry but this is one of those times when the best explanation isn’t simple). There are some statements on both sides of a gap, but if you can follow me I think I can show you the bridge soon. I know I keep getting in trouble for hinting at things and posting incomplete arguments and/or parables, but I have to go to work in a minute and I just wanted to throw this out there and get your thoughts and make sure we are on the same page with the dissociation thing before we move on to the historical consequences of dissociation.
“Is the idea that because religious beliefs are so fundamentally different from the way the world actually is, that somehow this dissociation causes people to behave badly?”
Yes. This is in fact the idea.
Probably not in the way that I think you meant. But in my opinion dissociation is exactly the issue. The problem with believing something that doesn’t match with reality is that you will eventually have to make the choice between belief and reality. Sometimes this choice is made consciously. In my observation it is usually not. But on some conscious or unconscious level each of us makes the choice to prioritize faith (the evidence of things unseen) or evidence (the evidence of things seen).
If you have an incorrect belief about something which is currently unknown or patently unknowable, then for the moment that belief is not threatened (nor is it necessarily threatening, as long as you’re not telling others it is true). If you have an incorrect belief about something which is currently known, then the belief will be altered or the reality will be ignored. Obviously my main topic here is gonna be the second category (beliefs which are known to not be true). But first let me rant for just a moment longer about the difference between these two classifications of belief and just why the hell it matters anyway.
The key thing to keep in mind here is that as human knowledge increases, beliefs sometimes move from the first list to the second. To be fair, some beliefs which are currently unknowable will probably turn out to be true when the day comes around that we can properly test them, but statistically this has always been and will always be a small amount (or as Dara O’Briain put it, “Yeah, herbal medicine has been around for thousands of years. And then we tested it, and the stuff that worked became medicine, and the rest is just a cup of tea and some nice potpourri”). But no matter how many astronomers the catholic church imprisons and forces to renounce heliocentrism (no I’m not making that part up, ask Vorjack), human knowledge will continue to expand. And as that happens, religious beliefs will continue to migrate from the “unknowable” list to the “demonstrably false” list. When a belief has been threatened by evidence, heresy, or just by the guys across the river having a different one true god than your one true god, then the believer faces a dilemma, and you have the universal setup for all the best religious atrocities.
I don’t want to go without mentioning that there is a very real danger from beliefs which are still on the first list. The danger of these beliefs is that they encourage people to be satisfied with a bullsh*t answer to an important question. When our knowledge does expand (and I hope no one takes anything in the previous paragraph as saying that expansion of knowledge is a bad thing) it is almost always because we admit the gaps in our knowledge and look for answers. When someone thinks they already have all the answers they usually don’t bother looking much further.
That religion teaches people to be satisfied with bad guesses is however only the first half of the problem. Of at least as much concern is how far religion will go to protect those bad guesses. Throughout history as things (people, books, statues, the Sun, etc) have threatened the guesses of christianity the church has made a monumental and frighteningly successful attempt to suppress these things.
This actually has a bit more to do with burning books than burning people. I made a brief and unexplained mention of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum earlier. You may or may not be familiar with this term, but it is rather central to what I’m about to say. So why don’t you take a quick look at this while I look up a passage in Acts.
Now why do you suppose the catholic church wouldn’t want people reading certain books? Maybe there’s a clue in this book.
18 And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.
19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.
(Sorry bout the cliffhanger ending but I'll get back to this a bit later with a more in depth explanation.)
Read and acknowledged.
Now I wait. >:D
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