Author Topic: Religion chat anyone  (Read 9660 times)

Thought

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Re: Religion chat anyone
« Reply #105 on: February 12, 2009, 02:57:04 pm »
Other, less dangerous flavors of human frailty. There is no Church of Eugenics; no far-reaching organization teaching humans from infancy to believe in irrational ideas; no promotion of questionable moral codes in government and life; no favorable protection under the law.  Science...

Different flavors, but same frailty.

You will also not find a Church of Hate, a Church of Sexism, etc. yet you ascribe such crimes to being religiously inherent. This is what I meant by double standard. Even assuming your attribution of these elements to religion is correct, they are tertiary elements, not central themes. You no more find a specific Religion uniformly espousing a doctrine of sexism than you find a science department espousing eugenics.

Though there is no Church of Eugenics, Eugenics is a uniquely scientific bastard child; that evil, in that form, could not have existed without science. Eugenics is not a central theme to science, but it is a product of it. A product resulting from miss application and abuse of science, admittedly, but if science can be used as such and remain blameless, why can't religion?

It would seem that you are objecting not so much to religion alone, but non-scientific beliefs in general, particularly as applied through a social network. That is, you are not only objection to religions "questionable moral codes" but you are also objection to those codes being disseminated through "indoctrination" by religious individuals into their children.

However, once again this seems to be a trait that is in no way unique to religion and so to blame religion alone for this folly is what gives the appearance of a double standard. One hardly needs religion to indoctrinate children with irrational ideas. Merely ask people how to spell "island" and you almost always get an irrational answer (the s in "island" does not belong; it was added in the 15th century when academics inaccurately accessed the word's etymological history. The English language has been irrational in this continued misspelling since). Likewise, one hardly needs religion to indoctrinate children with an irrational and naive perspective of science (one merely needs to look to The Jetsons, Buck Rogers, and other forms of soft-science fiction marketed to children). The widespread desire in America for a pill that can make individuals lose weight without a change in lifestyle, or the belief that science will cure all sickness, or the belief that science will bring immortality, etc, are all signs of an irrational belief in the power of science. Indeed, compare the popular definition of a "theory" with the scientific definition of the word; religious or not, people often get this wrong.

One might well say that science cannot be held accountable for the misconceptions disseminated about it. Yet, if that is the case, should religion be held accountable for the misconceptions disseminated about it?

If someone wants to whip up the masses into a fervor with science, they're going to have to have damn good evidence.

Yeah, no.

The Patagonian Giants were accepted fairly readily. Problems with the accounts of the "stone age" tasadays were happily overlooked until it was revealed (by non-scientists) that they were a hoax. Scientists from Harvard were easily fooled into thinking that residents of Vilcabamba, a small town in Ecuador, were incredibly long-lived; the village having generally three times as many centarians as America, when adjusted for population. The somewhat recent misconduct of Shinichi Fujimura was understandably accepted by the Scientific community (his hoax-claims were difficult to scientifically test), so while not a shining moment for science, it isn't as black of a mark as other failures of the peer-review process. The case of Mary Toft is far from so benign, as scientifically minded individuals ignored evidence of the fraud. Likewise, that the Calaveras skull was able to survive for years is ridiculous (found in 1866, it wasn't until 1901 that the matter was even begun to be put to rest, and even then, in the face of clear evidence of forgery, some scientists held to the belief that it was real).

The list goes on. It is quite easy to fool scientists and the scientific community; no "damn good evidence" is needed.

However, though these examples are rather ill-favored towards science, this is not an argument that science is bad or particularly gullible, especially not more so than religion. One only has to look at those throughout history who have claimed that the world was about to end, to see that religious individuals are quite easy to fool as well. This is, however, an argument pointing to your double standard. It seems that when religious individuals are gullible and allow harmful elements to enter into their belief, you blame the larger concept of religion. But when scientists are gullible, you seem to expunge science of fault.

Allow me to here state clearly that science does have a particular advantage and safeguard over religion in the matter of overcoming the introduction of harmful and irrational elements: that of formal peer-review. All of the above listed hoaxes were, in time, discovered and removed from the scientific community. While the community might have been particularly lax in allowing them any acceptance, the community was not lax in attending to the correction of this flaw.

Religion certainly does not have this benefit. While there is a degree of what one might term informal peer-review, as the debates regarding various religious issues demonstrates, this does not occur in as wide-spread of a manner as in science, and certainly not with the same degree of vigor or thoroughness. Religion is rather slow in this regard; while daily the flaws of Creationism are eroding away as its legitimacy, far too many religious individuals still hold to it in the face of clear evidence of its inaccuracy. Whereas the scientific community almost moves as one to reject clearly false concepts, religion splinters and fractures so that as some move towards the acceptance of true concepts, some cling to the old ones.

Perhaps it is this flaw in particular that you object most to? While both science and religion are quite capable of making mistakes, science does leave religion in the dust in regards to correcting those mistakes.

If I stab you and then treat the wound, should I be praised as a healer; should I be seen as good for my actions?

Depends; do you hold an M.D. and are you employed as a surgeon?

Much of my comments were regarding perception and the inherent difficulty of judging objectively if something is good or bad. If you stab me for no purpose, then I'd say you were bad. But if you stabbed me for a purpose, and if that purpose is desirable, they I'd say you were good.

Immediate unpleasantness must be weighed against long term benefits before one declares something objectively good or bad. However, as you brought up in regards to my own personal experiences, this is incredibly difficult. That which is bad may give way to good, and good may give way to bad. To quote the LOTR movie: "Even the very wise cannot see all ends."

This touches onto my statement that the only logical standpoint is agnosticism. In this regard, it seems that it is equally illogical to say that an experience is good or evil or, indeed, indifferent.

Believing in God is not virtuous.

While it is possible a greater good may come from any given bit of suffering, an omnipotent being must have the power to accomplish the same good without the suffering. Of course, that's assuming an omnipotent god. But given such an entity, for whom all courses of action are equally trivial, it is cruel to chose the course that does not have the least suffering.

The simpler solution still is that we live in a godless universe; unconscious and thus unconcerned with the trivia of a bunch of apes on a little rock somewhere. That not every event is caused by an intelligent entity, nor is it for any greater purpose. Some may find such a notion upsetting. I find it comforting.

First, I do hope I didn't state or imply that belief in god is virtuous. If I did, I am quite sorry. Though I do believe I both stated and implied that if the pursuit of truth is virtuous, then the acceptance of unpleasant truths is likewise virtuous.

Second, regarding omnipotence, you are quite correct that such a being could produce similar results without suffering. The question, however, is why? I asked before, why do you believe suffering and pain is bad? Though I am not among them, there are individuals who would argue that suffering and pain are pleasurable and good (specifically, individuals that hold to specific sexual fetishes). So let us remove all religious implications and attempt to address this in the void of the possibility of the divine.

You seem to associate suffering with cruelty and general badness. A masochist would associate suffering with pleasure and goodness. Please, do tell me why your perspective is right and a masochist's perspective is wrong.

However, that is a lesser issue; the greater issue is, assuming that suffering is bad, why would an omnipotent and good creator allow it?

The answer I would provide for this is a rather illogical one (but are you surprised?): free will.

Applying Occam's Razor, there is no reason to assume that human free will exists. I see no reason to assume it does, I would behave exact as I do now even if it didn't exist, so why suppose it without necessity?

Indeed, science would seem to imply that free will doesn't exist. If the beginning position of a system can be known, and the forces active in that system are likewise understood, then the position of that system at any given time point can be determined because it directly followed from a proceeding time point, which came from another, and can be traced definitively to the known starting point. This is just a chain of scientific principles; events follow from earlier events.

I bring this up because free will limits a limitless being. That is, assuming god exists, assuming god is omnipotent, and assuming he desires to create and allow beings to exist with a will independent of his own, then suffering must inherently be involved. Such a god could produce any result by any means, but such a god, under these assumptions, has willfully limited itself, thereby willingly allowed suffering.

So the greater issue would be, which would be the greater good: for there to be no suffering but no free will, or for there to be free will and for there to be suffering?

As I believe (rather illogically) in free will, I thus believe that suffering is necessary and potentially good, and I would rather have free will and suffering than not.

As for comforting, I would actually agree. A universe in which there is no god is quite comforting. But comfort is not virtuous either.

This view is overly simplistic. Human knowledge has not been static over the last two thousand years.

I quite agree, however I think you have conflated modernocentrism with human knowledge; the two are not the same, and I am sorry if I implied that they were.

Modernocentrism is the idea that the present is superior to all other points in the past and (as a subsequent supposition) that the present is superior to all other points that will follow. Part of the point being that in the future the faults of the present may well be as ridiculed as we currently ridicule the faults of the past, and that our own harsh treatment of faults of the past is itself a fault of the present.

If one were to graph human development, one would generally find that it does not form a straight line "upward." Rather, human development is volatile; we advance, regress, advance, regress, etc. To graph it would look like a read-out of the stock markets, sometimes.

So then we have a problem; while humanity may generally be more developed in the present than we were in the far past, we have no means of properly judging if we are more developed than the resent past; until historians can look back at this age, there is no objective way to determine if we live at a peak or a trough.

While we may know more in the present than at any point in the past, that does not necessitate that we are better able to make "right" decisions in the present.

I suppose one might term this a dichotomy between knowledge and ethics (though perhaps useful, I would maintain that such a comparison is not perfectly accurate). Knowledge is something amassed, but ethics is something changed and modified. Because of this, though we know more, we can't know if our ethics are more proper than they used to be. We think they are, but one would expect us to think that regardless of the objective state.

Like much of what I have said, this is an argument for the ability to perceive. While we believe we are more sophisticated "ethnically" now than in the past, we are capable of imagining that the reality is something other than what we perceive. We can imagine a world in which slavery is objectively good and will be reinstituted in the future, for example. I don't believe that it is objectively good, but I can imagine such a world.

This is not to say that sexist, racism, oppression, etc, if it in reality exists as a fundamental component of religion, is good. Rather, if, in seeking the truth regarding religion we find these things to likewise be "truth" (that is, that which is objectively good, as I am using the word here), we aught be willing to change our perspective.

Which gets down to a fundamental point; even when blaming religion for various ills, we should first establish the validity of our own perspective of what is good and bad. This is not to say that you should start posting arguments as to why sexism or racism are bad; rather, it is an encouragement to be sure that when we fault an individual or institution for something, we are first sure that our reason for doing so goes beyond "well I just don't like it."

This harkens back to the mindless indoctrination Zeality was talking about, and specifically overcoming that indoctrination. Everyone is subject to it, so I am attempting to argue that it is good to ensure that such indoctrination is valid before we use that indoctrination in our arguments.

This is not true. If sexism is itself bad, and religion promotes it as good, then religion is at odds with what is true. Or put another way, the religion is false, and since our sincere desire is to know the truth, we must reject it as such. So yes, it must influence our perception of religion.

I would quite agree with that train of thought; however, I would also note that you proposed a supposition that I had not included (for the reasons stated above): that religion is a secondary issue of investigation, not the primary issue.

That is, you seem to be claiming that if sexism is bad, and if religion promotes sexism, then religion is bad. I agree with that. However, my argument was essentially if religion is good (or true, as I used the word), and if religion promotes sexism, then sexism is good.

These are the same trains of thought with different nouns, I think.

I think you misunderstand Occam's Razor.

Actually, I think you misunderstand my intent. The example was meant for amusement, not for a serious debate. But as I didn't clearly state as much, such a misunderstanding is quite understandable.

If you approach what I wrote from the popular definition of occam's razor (that being, the simplest solution is most often the correct one), then yes, the "poof, god did it" approach would be the favored result; Science is incredibly complex, and thus the amusement. However, the popular definition is not the correct definition.

The correct definition cannot be applied between science and religion because the very first premise is violated; they are not competing hypotheses, nor are their starting states equal. Occam's razor cannot be applied for the simple reason that any scientific hypothesis can be verified but no religious "hypothesis" can be (at least, not from our perspective). The starting positions are not equal, so the concept cannot be applied.

What defines a religion then? The beliefs of the laity, clergy and/or theologians? The text of the religion's holy books? The interpretation of one of the above groups?

A wonderful question. Perhaps we would define religion as "a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects" ... except, that could reasonably include forms of government. Should we define it as a "body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices"? Alas, that could include scientists, as they adhere to the belief that empirical experimentation is fundamental for understanding the universe and they adhere to a practice of academic integrity (those instances I noted earlier of scientists being duped usually resulted from a breach of this integrity).

So perhaps the definition we need would be this one: Religion is "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs." The key component here is that these beliefs must include the conception of a superhuman agency. Devotionals, ritual observances, and moral codes are all unnecessary to a definition of religion. As religions do often include these things, one might discuss the comparative merits of these things, but a fault in one is not the fault of the whole, as the part is nonessential to the whole.

So for Christianity, one plausible definition of what religion is in this specific case could be found in the apostles' creed:

Quote from: Apostles' Creed
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.

Though it should be noted that in this usage, the word "catholic" is rather archaic, meaning "universal." Also, it should be noted that minor variations in this creed do exist.

That is a system of beliefs held by nearly all Christians regarding the superhuman agency responsible for the creation of the universe.

So it would seem that if you want to attack the pure religion aspect of Christianity, you'd need to attack those points. Which, even if successful, would really only result in revealing a benign group of dimwits; hardly the lurking menace that Christianity (or religion in general) is sometimes portrayed as.

Ultimately though, aren't we all agnostic? None of us can prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that there must be or must not be some deities sitting on the other side of human perception. I call myself an atheist and not an agnostic because, while it is true that I am in theory an agnostic, I am in practice an atheist, for without evidence of gods, I live as though there aren't any. Of course, this brings up the inverse of what has been brought up before: The existence of a god or gods does not imply that any present religion is true.

Not really; even if we admit that we can't know for certain, we heavily lean in one direction or another and behave for all intents and purposes as if we did know for certain. To use an analogy, we might call an agnostic someone who does not know if a boat will float or sink. Even if you admit that you don't know for certain that the boat will float, the fact that you have gotten into the boat implies that you have made your choice.

But you last comment is one that I would quite agree with; it is possible that even if god exists, no present religion is true. Which further makes the rejection of god on the grounds of the behavior of religion a curious one. Even if all religion is inaccurate, that does not speak a wit about if god exists.

Still, a quick look at Methodism's Wikipedia article reveals that while the Methodist churches have functionally overcome sexism, there's still room for improvement on the valuing of homosexuals, and then there's the nefarious discouragement of drinking alcohol. 8) But kidding aside, I think the Methodist churches are generally going in a better direction than other, more static, religions.

Amusingly, Methodism is a rather conservative sect of Christianity, and a very slow moving one too. But the difference between it and other conservative sects of Christianity is that it is moving, and intentionally so. I generally think that they (we? I dunno, itís weird being part of a specific Christian sect now) are the closest one will get to a scientific approach in religious circles. Methodists want to be sure that they have things right. They will make damn sure that they are wrong before they will change, and they will make damn sure that what they are changing to is right.

But to be fair, that is a bit of an exaggeration. That is the Methodist perspective, but like all things, practice doesn't always match up with the ideals. Still, I like it more than most.

At least from what I know about the last United Methodist conference in which the issue of homosexuality was discussed, the reason why the church didn't adjust its position was that tradition had not been shown to be incorrect nor had the new stance been shown to be correct. They're sort of conservatively agnostic; if they don't know which way is the right way to go, they'll stay put.

Certainly, the modern world might want Methodists to move more quickly on these matters, but quick movement has its own pitfalls. The Assemblies of God, for example, is a much more lively movement. But it moved in what I believe you'd agree is an undesirable direction (as a reminder, this would be the denomination that scared some people away from Sarah Palin).

The analogy breaks down, I think, because religion is so wildly open to interpretation. How do you determine which are valid and which are invalid?

I know this isn't what you meant, and I almost didn't say anything, but I found it amusing. I hope that once I explain why I find this amusing, you will too. I do not mean it, however, to be an argument of any sort.

I find this statement amusing because, in essence, you are faulting religion for being open and free, while you are favoring science because it is closed and restrictive. If taken out of context, this could be mistaken for a pro-religion comment.

For which reason it'll be fascinating to see if they find anything buried deep within the ice of Mars.

Actually, I have wondered fairly often what the implications would be, if any, if it is ever discovered that extraterrestrial intelligent life (if it exists and if we can communicate with it) has a religion, and if that religion matches up reasonably well with a religion on earth.

It is a question, I suppose, of improbability. How improbable must something be before the divine becomes the more probable explanation (if ever)?

chrono eric

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Re: Religion chat anyone
« Reply #106 on: February 12, 2009, 03:53:07 pm »
As I believe (rather illogically) in free will, I thus believe that suffering is necessary and potentially good, and I would rather have free will and suffering than not.

It's not that illogical actually. I do as well, and I think that most people with an education in biology (or physics) will agree with you there. Contrary to popular belief, the brain and consciousness are not the same thing. The brain is the physical machine that produces consciousness much like a computer is the physical machine that processes information and produces output on the monitor. We have absolutely no idea what consciousness is made of. We don't know if it is electromagnetic in nature (highly likely I think) or what it is. We have no idea whether or not extra-neuronal processing occurs in consciousness and influences circuits in the brain or if consciousness is simply an epiphenomenon of brain function. Because we don't know, I would say that the door is still wide open to the possibility of free-will or at least partial free-will existing with consciousness outside of the normal chain of causality. One thing is for sure, consciousness is clearly special and an important part of the universe, since it is associated with the lowest level of entropy and the highest level of informational order. I think it would be foolish to write off the possibility of free-will simply because of "causality" reasons at this point.

But then again, even if free-will is truly just an illusion - who cares? Does it really matter? Will most certainly exists, whether it is truly free or not. I think that we get bogged down in arguments about free-will for no good reason.

Indeed, science would seem to imply that free will doesn't exist. If the beginning position of a system can be known, and the forces active in that system are likewise understood, then the position of that system at any given time point can be determined because it directly followed from a proceeding time point, which came from another, and can be traced definitively to the known starting point. This is just a chain of scientific principles; events follow from earlier events.

This was a quote from before the previous one, but I felt it appropriate to add it after what I just said. The problem with studying the true nature of consciousness is that we cannot study it independently from the electrical activity of the brain since consciousness and the brain are linked. All we know is that electrical activity in the brain is necessary but not sufficient to create consciousness. Every conscious experience is associated with electrical activity in the brain, but not all electrical activity in the brain is associated with conscious experience. So how would one demonstrate the existence of extra-neuronal processing in consciousness, and thus free-will, since such a thing would in turn be reflected as electrical activity in the brain? At this stage in modern neuroscience, it is impossible to separate the two. But I personally suspect that extra-neuronal processing occurs and is very important, since there is clearly an evolutionary benefit to consciousness and (I hope) that that benefit is free will and thus the classic argument of a "phenomenological zombie" cannot exist in reality.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2009, 08:37:20 pm by chrono eric »

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Re: Religion chat anyone
« Reply #107 on: February 12, 2009, 07:30:57 pm »
Though there is no Church of Eugenics, Eugenics is a uniquely scientific bastard child; that evil, in that form, could not have existed without science. Eugenics is not a central theme to science, but it is a product of it. A product resulting from miss application and abuse of science, admittedly, but if science can be used as such and remain blameless, why can't religion?

...

One might well say that science cannot be held accountable for the misconceptions disseminated about it. Yet, if that is the case, should religion be held accountable for the misconceptions disseminated about it?

This is why I was asking about how a religion is defined. What is a proper use of a religion? With science, we can clearly differentiate between proper and improper use, but how do you say that this or that use of religion is or is not legitimate? But this is touched upon later.

Allow me to here state clearly that science does have a particular advantage and safeguard over religion in the matter of overcoming the introduction of harmful and irrational elements: that of formal peer-review. All of the above listed hoaxes were, in time, discovered and removed from the scientific community. While the community might have been particularly lax in allowing them any acceptance, the community was not lax in attending to the correction of this flaw.

Religion certainly does not have this benefit. While there is a degree of what one might term informal peer-review, as the debates regarding various religious issues demonstrates, this does not occur in as wide-spread of a manner as in science, and certainly not with the same degree of vigor or thoroughness. Religion is rather slow in this regard; while daily the flaws of Creationism are eroding away as its legitimacy, far too many religious individuals still hold to it in the face of clear evidence of its inaccuracy. Whereas the scientific community almost moves as one to reject clearly false concepts, religion splinters and fractures so that as some move towards the acceptance of true concepts, some cling to the old ones.

Perhaps it is this flaw in particular that you object most to? While both science and religion are quite capable of making mistakes, science does leave religion in the dust in regards to correcting those mistakes.

Your honesty in this matter is appreciated, especially when it does great harm to the cause of religion. It speaks well of you that you can see and admit this glaring weakness. And it is a major one. The failure of religion to take into account new knowledge means that it acts to limit human knowledge. How can a thing be good if it acts deliberately to prevent the gain and spread of knowledge?

Much of my comments were regarding perception and the inherent difficulty of judging objectively if something is good or bad. If you stab me for no purpose, then I'd say you were bad. But if you stabbed me for a purpose, and if that purpose is desirable, they I'd say you were good.

Allow me to get to the point of my hypothetical then: If I do some act of evil only to turn around and act to mitigate that evil act, should this course of action be considered good or evil?

Second, regarding omnipotence, you are quite correct that such a being could produce similar results without suffering. The question, however, is why? I asked before, why do you believe suffering and pain is bad? Though I am not among them, there are individuals who would argue that suffering and pain are pleasurable and good (specifically, individuals that hold to specific sexual fetishes). So let us remove all religious implications and attempt to address this in the void of the possibility of the divine.

You seem to associate suffering with cruelty and general badness. A masochist would associate suffering with pleasure and goodness. Please, do tell me why your perspective is right and a masochist's perspective is wrong.

Allow me to clarify, then, to allow for the case of the masochist. By suffering, I mean that pain which is unwanted by the entity experiencing it.

However, that is a lesser issue; the greater issue is, assuming that suffering is bad, why would an omnipotent and good creator allow it?

The answer I would provide for this is a rather illogical one (but are you surprised?): free will.

Applying Occam's Razor, there is no reason to assume that human free will exists. I see no reason to assume it does, I would behave exact as I do now even if it didn't exist, so why suppose it without necessity?

Indeed, science would seem to imply that free will doesn't exist. If the beginning position of a system can be known, and the forces active in that system are likewise understood, then the position of that system at any given time point can be determined because it directly followed from a proceeding time point, which came from another, and can be traced definitively to the known starting point. This is just a chain of scientific principles; events follow from earlier events.

I bring this up because free will limits a limitless being. That is, assuming god exists, assuming god is omnipotent, and assuming he desires to create and allow beings to exist with a will independent of his own, then suffering must inherently be involved. Such a god could produce any result by any means, but such a god, under these assumptions, has willfully limited itself, thereby willingly allowed suffering.

So the greater issue would be, which would be the greater good: for there to be no suffering but no free will, or for there to be free will and for there to be suffering?

As I believe (rather illogically) in free will, I thus believe that suffering is necessary and potentially good, and I would rather have free will and suffering than not.

You think poorly of our hypothetical omnipotent. Surely a being of such power could find a way to structure the universe such that suffering and free will were not mutually exclusive. Surely such a being could find a way to teach us all the lessons we must now suffer to learn without the suffering.

For an omnipotent creator of life to create a world with caveats is absurd. It can be seen as nothing but malicious, for such a being would be unconstrained by any of the limits we presently experience, or any limits at all. Why create a world with suffering if not for the sake of causing suffering?

As for comforting, I would actually agree. A universe in which there is no god is quite comforting. But comfort is not virtuous either.

Quite true, and it was not my intent to imply otherwise. Many people seem to find the notion of a godless universe troubling; I was merely asserting that it need not be so, and offering myself as an example of someone who finds a godless universe preferable to a theistic universe.

If one were to graph human development, one would generally find that it does not form a straight line "upward." Rather, human development is volatile; we advance, regress, advance, regress, etc. To graph it would look like a read-out of the stock markets, sometimes.

So then we have a problem; while humanity may generally be more developed in the present than we were in the far past, we have no means of properly judging if we are more developed than the resent past; until historians can look back at this age, there is no objective way to determine if we live at a peak or a trough.

We are not entirely without historical guidance, though. While it is true that we advance fitfully, and not always consistently, our "stock" has shown an overall trend of growth. While it is not a guarantee, we can look at history, both recent and not so recent, and evaluate whether a given policy is roughly in line with the overall arc of human progress. It won't guarantee that we are at a local peak, or that we are ultimately right, but I think it helps tip the odds in favor of choosing correctly.

While we may know more in the present than at any point in the past, that does not necessitate that we are better able to make "right" decisions in the present.

I suppose one might term this a dichotomy between knowledge and ethics (though perhaps useful, I would maintain that such a comparison is not perfectly accurate). Knowledge is something amassed, but ethics is something changed and modified. Because of this, though we know more, we can't know if our ethics are more proper than they used to be. We think they are, but one would expect us to think that regardless of the objective state.

I disagree with you here. Knowing more does mean we are more capable of making "right" decisions. When faced with a nontrivial problem, one can attempt random attempts at solving it, hoping to succeed through sheer luck, or one can try to learn as much about the problem as possible. What is the root cause? What are the symptoms? What has solved or failed to resolve similar problems in the past? What in the problem lends itself to particular solutions? Is this really a problem at all?

Armed with this superior knowledge, we are far more liable to chose correctly than if we just try throwing random solutions at a problem and seeing what sticks.

Like much of what I have said, this is an argument for the ability to perceive. While we believe we are more sophisticated "ethnically" now than in the past, we are capable of imagining that the reality is something other than what we perceive. We can imagine a world in which slavery is objectively good and will be reinstituted in the future, for example. I don't believe that it is objectively good, but I can imagine such a world.

I assume you meant "ethically" rather than "ethnically". If I'm wrong, well...what follows may not make much sense in that context.

We do have a greater capacity for ethical behavior and decision making than we did in the past. We know more. Ethical problems are like any other; more knowledge increases our ability to solve them, and solve them correctly. We are certainly not perfect, and we may, despite our knowledge, wind up being wrong where the past was right. There is no grand power forcing us to use our tools well, but we do have more and better tools, and thus greater capacity.

We can certainly imagine a world in which slavery is good, but we cannot presently perceive it, because it is not, to our present knowledge, the world we live in. Shall we reinstitute slavery on the chance that our aversion to it may be proved incorrect at some later date, or shall we continue to operate with the best knowledge we have?

This is not to say that sexist, racism, oppression, etc, if it in reality exists as a fundamental component of religion, is good. Rather, if, in seeking the truth regarding religion we find these things to likewise be "truth" (that is, that which is objectively good, as I am using the word here), we aught be willing to change our perspective.

Which gets down to a fundamental point; even when blaming religion for various ills, we should first establish the validity of our own perspective of what is good and bad. This is not to say that you should start posting arguments as to why sexism or racism are bad; rather, it is an encouragement to be sure that when we fault an individual or institution for something, we are first sure that our reason for doing so goes beyond "well I just don't like it."

This harkens back to the mindless indoctrination Zeality was talking about, and specifically overcoming that indoctrination. Everyone is subject to it, so I am attempting to argue that it is good to ensure that such indoctrination is valid before we use that indoctrination in our arguments.

And how can we have a better reason and a better understanding if not through better knowledge?

That is, you seem to be claiming that if sexism is bad, and if religion promotes sexism, then religion is bad. I agree with that. However, my argument was essentially if religion is good (or true, as I used the word), and if religion promotes sexism, then sexism is good.

That may be the case, but it's a bit backwards. For us to evaluate a religion, we must evaluate its claims. The question of sexism must be answered prior to answering the question of if a religion is good or not. A religion may make good and bad claims, and we cannot assume that because a given claim of a religion is good or bad, they all are.

The correct definition cannot be applied between science and religion because the very first premise is violated; they are not competing hypotheses, nor are their starting states equal. Occam's razor cannot be applied for the simple reason that any scientific hypothesis can be verified but no religious "hypothesis" can be (at least, not from our perspective). The starting positions are not equal, so the concept cannot be applied.

I don't know that I agree with this position. Everything on the earth is exists within the same global context, and any context larger than that as well. We have a world, we have a universe. To say that "The universe arose naturally" and "The universe was created by a supernatural entity" are indeed competing hypotheses, and the fact that the religious guess is not verifiable does not mean it is making an unrelated claim about an unrelated topic.

I would argue that it makes it a hypothesis that is less useful, but that very well may be my personal bias.

A wonderful question. Perhaps we would define religion as "a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects" ... except, that could reasonably include forms of government. Should we define it as a "body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices"? Alas, that could include scientists, as they adhere to the belief that empirical experimentation is fundamental for understanding the universe and they adhere to a practice of academic integrity (those instances I noted earlier of scientists being duped usually resulted from a breach of this integrity).

So perhaps the definition we need would be this one: Religion is "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs." The key component here is that these beliefs must include the conception of a superhuman agency. Devotionals, ritual observances, and moral codes are all unnecessary to a definition of religion. As religions do often include these things, one might discuss the comparative merits of these things, but a fault in one is not the fault of the whole, as the part is nonessential to the whole.

This isn't quite what I was asking. I mean to ask by what means a religion is defined; you've responded with a definition of religion. Below, you give the Apostles' Creed, and say that this is the definition of Christianity. I imagine that if any Gnostics remain today, they'd want to have a word with you about that definition, which is somewhat getting to my point. You say that the Apostles' Creed is what defines Christianity. Others might say that the Bible in general, or the New Testament in particular define it. Some would likely say that to be a Christian is to attempt to be Christ-like in life.

What makes you right, and them wrong? You seem to be implying that the Apostles' Creed is exactly the beliefs of Christianity; that anything less is not quite a Christian, and that anything more is not Christianity but some other...something else. A sect perhaps?

You have not answered my previous question: You say we cannot blame religion for perversions or misapplications of religion, but you fail to provide any means for determining what is a proper use of religion. By what means is a religion defined, and how can we determine what is a proper or improper use of a religion? Why should I take your word on what it means to be a Christian over that of the Pope or of Fred Phelps?

That is a system of beliefs held by nearly all Christians regarding the superhuman agency responsible for the creation of the universe.

So it would seem that if you want to attack the pure religion aspect of Christianity, you'd need to attack those points. Which, even if successful, would really only result in revealing a benign group of dimwits; hardly the lurking menace that Christianity (or religion in general) is sometimes portrayed as.

If such a point is proved, it demonstrates that Christians as a group are active promoters of ignorance. Spreading ignorance is not benign, but indeed harmful.

Not really; even if we admit that we can't know for certain, we heavily lean in one direction or another and behave for all intents and purposes as if we did know for certain. To use an analogy, we might call an agnostic someone who does not know if a boat will float or sink. Even if you admit that you don't know for certain that the boat will float, the fact that you have gotten into the boat implies that you have made your choice.

I think we agree here. Neither of us knows if there is a god, but we both in practice operate under an assumption. I think that the existence of any deity is extremely unlikely; you believe that a particular deity is extremely likely. This doesn't change that in the abstract, neither of us can claim absolute certainty. Not honestly at least.

I know this isn't what you meant, and I almost didn't say anything, but I found it amusing. I hope that once I explain why I find this amusing, you will too. I do not mean it, however, to be an argument of any sort.

I find this statement amusing because, in essence, you are faulting religion for being open and free, while you are favoring science because it is closed and restrictive. If taken out of context, this could be mistaken for a pro-religion comment.

Out of context, perhaps. But what is a virtue in one situation may not be a virtue in another.

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Re: Religion chat anyone
« Reply #108 on: February 13, 2009, 01:25:18 pm »
How can a thing be good if it acts deliberately to prevent the gain and spread of knowledge?

Quite a good question, and here is where the major divergence between us seems to be.

I would say that the thing that is acting deliberately to prevent the gain and spread of knowledge are the people in a religion, but not the religion itself. If I am understanding Zeality's (and your?) position correctly, the claim is the opposite; the thing is the religion, not the people themselves.

My reasoning for this is that I see the same themes in almost every human institution; since it is not a unique evil in religion, I don't blame religionas an abstract concept. I might blame specific parts of religion, and specific religions, but not, shall we say, "Religion" itself. But I'm pretty sure we've treaded over this ground before in other threads. Please let me know, however, if you'd like me to expound upon this reasoning again.

Allow me to get to the point of my hypothetical then: If I do some act of evil only to turn around and act to mitigate that evil act, should this course of action be considered good or evil?

If I am understanding you correctly, you are supposing if only the evil was exactly and proportionally countered; is that correct?

To be sure that we're on the same page...

Let us give the evil action a value of -10 (and assuming negative numbers are bad).
If you mitigate that evil act (adding 10 to the previous number), then I'd probably maintain that the act would be considered evil.
But if in addressing the evil you instead added 11 to the starting number, I'd probably say that that act would be considered good.

But I must confess... I've lost where this thread of discussion was going.

Allow me to clarify, then, to allow for the case of the masochist. By suffering, I mean that pain which is unwanted by the entity experiencing it.

I would maintain that you still haven't addressed the issue; why is pain and suffering bad?

So, pain is unwanted by the entity experiencing it? It is hardly difficult to imagine that, though unwanted, that pain is good (or at least, caused indirectly by good).

Imagine, if you will, a parent taking a child to the doctor. The child does not want to get stabbed by a needle, but the parent insists and so the doctor gives the child a tentenous shot.

By your definition, that is suffering. But that suffering is good, caused by good individuals, and the suffering is directly the result not of the outside forces but of the entity experiencing the pain rejecting the good that comes with it.

Why create a world with suffering if not for the sake of causing suffering?

As you defined it above, it appears that suffering can be the fault of the entity experiencing pain, not the entity causing the pain. The pain brings a good, but the entity experiencing the pain cares more for unpleasantness than the good it shuns. If an omnipotent being has limited itself to allow free will in others, it could not force us to not inflict suffering on ourselves. We are free to do that as we choose.

One then might object to the very existence of pain, as a sensation being undesirable. If pain weren't undesirable, individuals wouldn't shrink away from it, and therefore one wouldn't suffer.

To which the book "The Gift of Pain" provides a better answer than I could. But allow me to try to answer nontheless.

Imagine a universe in which sharp objects and soft pink squishy things can co-exist. It is harmful to the soft pink squishy things to have sharp objects imbeded in themselves. So, how might one discourage this behavior?

One might take away the sharp objects, but that also takes away the potential benefits of the sharp objects.

One could take away the soft pink squishy things, but that removes the interesting part of the universe.

One could constantly follow the soft pink squishy things around to prevent it from hurting itself, but being a helicopter parent doesn't promote maturity and maturity is desirable.

Perhaps one could add a sensation to the soft pink squishy things so that they might willingly avoid the behavior that is harmful to themselves while still allowing the benefit of the sharp objects!

Should such a sensation be something that the soft pink squishy things desire? Probably not; that would probably promote the joining of sharp objects to the soft pink squishy things, which isn't good. So should the sensation be undesirable? Yes, that seems to work nicely. The soft pink squishy things would avoid the behavior that causes an undesired sensation, thereby reinforcing concepts that it should understand on its own.

That seems to be essentially what pain is; an undesirable sensation, usually warning us that we are doing something we really shouldn't be doing (like stabbing outselves with knives). Any deterant against undesirable actions works because of "pain." Therefor, insofar as undesirable actions are allowed in the universe, deterants are in turn desirable. That we call the deterant "pain" and that we hate it for itself is a commentary on our own limited perspective.

I disagree with you here. Knowing more does mean we are more capable of making "right" decisions.

I think we are approaching different issues here. You seem to be taking the approach that more knowledge allows us to identify problems and treat them more efficiently. In that I would agree, but more knowledge does not allow us to recognize the potential for problems more easily.

Let us consider animal rights. We treat our animals, by and large, far better in the modern western world than, say, at the turn of the era. Was this the result of accumulated knowledge?

Personally, I cannot identify anything indicating that our change in our behavior to animals resulted directly from an increase in knowledge. Did we at some point realize animals feel pain, whereas before we did not? Did we at some point realize that they protect themselves to the best of their abilities, just as we might? I cannot find a link between our change of ethics regarding animals to an increase in knowledge, but perhaps you can?

I assume you meant "ethically" rather than "ethnically". If I'm wrong, well...what follows may not make much sense in that context.

Yup, thanks for catching that.

Below, you give the Apostles' Creed, and say that this is the definition of Christianity. I imagine that if any Gnostics remain today, they'd want to have a word with you about that definition, which is somewhat getting to my point.

Actually, I said that the apostle's creed could be "one plausible definition" (emphasis added). Though I was being sneaky; that is often the academic distinction between Christianity and various similar-yet-different traditions that not counted as part of the whole.

You have not answered my previous question: You say we cannot blame religion for perversions or misapplications of religion, but you fail to provide any means for determining what is a proper use of religion.

Oh, is that what you're looking for?

Sure! The proper use of religion is that which it can uniquely be applied for. While using religion in a manner not unique to religion may be acceptable, a misuse of religion in manner not unique to religion cannot be counted the fault of religion.

To offer an example, a screwdriver is a unique class of tools. A proper use would be that which, as a class of tools, it is unqiuely fitted for (that is, driving in screws). Using a screwdriver as a hammer isn't going to be particularly effective, but I don't know if I'd call that an improper use. An improper use might be, say, to use it to bore into an individual's skull, but one could do the same with a nailgun or a number of other classes of tools.

Likewise, Religion is a unique class of human institutions. A proper use of it would be for that which relates specifically to beliefs and rites associated with a superhuman agency. An imporper use of it might be that which does not relate specifically to a superhuman agency (say, for example, uses applied specifically to very human agencies).

If such a point is proved, it demonstrates that Christians as a group are active promoters of ignorance. Spreading ignorance is not benign, but indeed harmful.

One can't spread ignorance, but one can spread misinformation.

Radical_Dreamer

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Re: Religion chat anyone
« Reply #109 on: February 13, 2009, 07:38:18 pm »
I would say that the thing that is acting deliberately to prevent the gain and spread of knowledge are the people in a religion, but not the religion itself. If I am understanding Zeality's (and your?) position correctly, the claim is the opposite; the thing is the religion, not the people themselves.

My reasoning for this is that I see the same themes in almost every human institution; since it is not a unique evil in religion, I don't blame religionas an abstract concept. I might blame specific parts of religion, and specific religions, but not, shall we say, "Religion" itself. But I'm pretty sure we've treaded over this ground before in other threads. Please let me know, however, if you'd like me to expound upon this reasoning again.

Religions influence the behavior of people. They are not unique in this, but it is a property they poses. If they influence people to be adverse to gaining and spreading knowledge, this is a very negative influence, and while the people are ultimately implementing it, the ideology shares in the blame for encouraging and seeking to justify the wicked behavior.

That an evil is not unique does not make its perpetrators innocent. We strive to arrest every murderer, for example, as we find the act of murder to be in of itself harmful, regardless of whether others have occurred previously.

But I must confess... I've lost where this thread of discussion was going.

It had to do with nightmare assigning responsibility to god for he and his mother surviving his birth, but not for creating the dangerous situation that they survived.
I would maintain that you still haven't addressed the issue; why is pain and suffering bad?

So, pain is unwanted by the entity experiencing it? It is hardly difficult to imagine that, though unwanted, that pain is good (or at least, caused indirectly by good).

Imagine, if you will, a parent taking a child to the doctor. The child does not want to get stabbed by a needle, but the parent insists and so the doctor gives the child a tentenous shot.

By your definition, that is suffering. But that suffering is good, caused by good individuals, and the suffering is directly the result not of the outside forces but of the entity experiencing the pain rejecting the good that comes with it.

Then my definition of suffering is flawed, as it does not convey the concept I wish to convey.

Imagine a universe in which sharp objects and soft pink squishy things can co-exist. It is harmful to the soft pink squishy things to have sharp objects imbeded in themselves. So, how might one discourage this behavior?

One might take away the sharp objects, but that also takes away the potential benefits of the sharp objects.

One could take away the soft pink squishy things, but that removes the interesting part of the universe.

One could constantly follow the soft pink squishy things around to prevent it from hurting itself, but being a helicopter parent doesn't promote maturity and maturity is desirable.

Perhaps one could add a sensation to the soft pink squishy things so that they might willingly avoid the behavior that is harmful to themselves while still allowing the benefit of the sharp objects!

Should such a sensation be something that the soft pink squishy things desire? Probably not; that would probably promote the joining of sharp objects to the soft pink squishy things, which isn't good. So should the sensation be undesirable? Yes, that seems to work nicely. The soft pink squishy things would avoid the behavior that causes an undesired sensation, thereby reinforcing concepts that it should understand on its own.

That seems to be essentially what pain is; an undesirable sensation, usually warning us that we are doing something we really shouldn't be doing (like stabbing outselves with knives). Any deterant against undesirable actions works because of "pain." Therefor, insofar as undesirable actions are allowed in the universe, deterants are in turn desirable. That we call the deterant "pain" and that we hate it for itself is a commentary on our own limited perspective.

Imagine a universe in which the sharp things are not harmful to the soft pink squishy things. An omnipotent being could just as easily have created such a universe as the more familiar "pointy harms squishy" universe in which we live. To an omnipotent being, all of these problems are trivial, and the existence of any pain, suffering, etcetera is, assuming an omnipotent creator, must be because the creator wanted them to exist. As they are all ultimately unnecessary in this context, as any benefit they give can be achieved without the detriment, we have to assume that if the universe was created by an omnipotent entity, that this entity is at least somewhat malicious and sadistic.

As an aside, I find it very amusing that I'm arguing for the power of a god, and you are arguing against it.

I think we are approaching different issues here. You seem to be taking the approach that more knowledge allows us to identify problems and treat them more efficiently. In that I would agree, but more knowledge does not allow us to recognize the potential for problems more easily.

Let us consider animal rights. We treat our animals, by and large, far better in the modern western world than, say, at the turn of the era. Was this the result of accumulated knowledge?

Personally, I cannot identify anything indicating that our change in our behavior to animals resulted directly from an increase in knowledge. Did we at some point realize animals feel pain, whereas before we did not? Did we at some point realize that they protect themselves to the best of their abilities, just as we might? I cannot find a link between our change of ethics regarding animals to an increase in knowledge, but perhaps you can?

Off hand, I cannot think of any one piece of knowledge with a casual link to a society wide change in the perception of how animals should be treated. Indeed, I would not be surprised to find that such a piece or collection of knowledge does not exist, as there is a great deal of individual variation in how people believe animals should be treated.

I will say this, however. Without the knowledge that animals are capable of joy and suffering, such a conversation could not even occur. In a sense, the knowledge becomes a prerequisite for ethical behavior.

For a direct example of where more knowledge helps us predict where problems may emerge, look at pharmacology. If you know two different drugs interact poorly, that's one problem solved. If you know that two categories of drugs interact poorly, that's a whole series of problems you can potentially predict and avert.

Actually, I said that the apostle's creed could be "one plausible definition" (emphasis added). Though I was being sneaky; that is often the academic distinction between Christianity and various similar-yet-different traditions that not counted as part of the whole.

Who has final say, though? Why should I consider what academics, many of whom are likely non-Christians by their own reckoning, consider the definition of Christianity, versus the definition of one who practices something not quite the Apostle's Creed but considers themselves a Christian? To whom should I defer, and why?

Likewise, Religion is a unique class of human institutions. A proper use of it would be for that which relates specifically to beliefs and rites associated with a superhuman agency. An imporper use of it might be that which does not relate specifically to a superhuman agency (say, for example, uses applied specifically to very human agencies).

Just superhuman, or anything supernatural? Are ghosts within the acceptable range of what religion can relate to? Unicorns, fairies? Or does it have to be something of greater intellect than humans? If this is the case, what of organic intelligences? If extraterrestrials who have superior intellectual capabilities relative to we simple apes make contact with us, should we seek to learn of them by the means of religion?

By your definition, would sacrificing children to appease the gods be a valid use of religion?

Are the contents of holy books implicitly religious, or are passages relating to non-superhuman agencies invalid?

More generally, when dealing with those issues within the valid realm of religion, is it fair to criticizes the views held and put forward by the religion, or do you maintain that as a greater principle, ideologies are themselves blameless for the actions of their followers?

One can't spread ignorance, but one can spread misinformation.

Misinformation is a special case of ignorance. You still don't know the truth, you just no longer know that you don't know the truth. If anything, it's a deeper ignorance, and thus, all the more harmful.

Jutty

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Re: Religion chat anyone
« Reply #110 on: February 13, 2009, 08:06:29 pm »
I don't really follow any religion, but I was took to Methodist Churches when I was growing up. I get extremely depressed and sometimes even have panic attacks when thinking about death tho. I mean if you just die and there is nothing what is the point. I think I would be much happier if I could devote myself to some kind of religion, but I always have this lingering doubt and I feel that you can not truly devote yourself to something if you are constantly having to reassure yourself that it is true. However, the teachings of Christianity are not really all that bad. I mean it basically tells you to be a good person. On the other hand tho most Christians in my area seem to think that because they go to church every Sunday it gives them the right to pass judgement on those who do not go and just be a giant prick in general. I hate people that think because of their faith they are better than someone else. It's pretty much contradicting everything they are supposed to stand for in that we are all equals and that you reach out to help someone who is struggling not to treat them as some kind of sub-human. I do remember the reason why I stopped going to church, because the assholes in my church forced a man out because he was poor and didn't have nice clothing. I thought it was complete bullshit. Not to mention how they thought it was hilarious apparently and didn't even attempt to treat the man as if he were a human being.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2009, 08:08:55 pm by Jutty »

FaustWolf

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Re: Religion chat anyone
« Reply #111 on: February 13, 2009, 09:04:43 pm »
Quote from: Jutty
I get extremely depressed and sometimes even have panic attacks when thinking about death tho.
Just know that you're not alone on that one. Here's a hopefully comforting thought -- I think the questions of whether there's a God and whether there's life after death should be separated. Why should one be dependent on the other? Of course, I think that way due to a Xenogears-influenced worldview. Some anthropologists theorize that religion developed to fulfill our psychological needs regarding death.

Quote from: Jutty
I do remember the reason why I stopped going to church, because the assholes in my church forced a man out because he was poor and didn't have nice clothing. I thought it was complete bullshit. Not to mention how they thought it was hilarious apparently and didn't even attempt to treat the man as if he were a human being.
Seriously? That's one of the points anti-religion atheists make, and it has merit due to real-world examples. For my part, I know Catholic priests (you know, the ones who ritually devour Cathol :P) who would take in anyone in need, regardless of religion, race, gender, or sexual orientation, and that gives me a bit of faith in my religion. I have no doubt - absolutely none - that there are Muslim clerics, Hindu clergy, atheists, etc., who would do the same. Granted, they're going to try to proselytize, but still. What's more important than ideology, in the end, is how you treat other people.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2009, 09:24:07 pm by FaustWolf »

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Re: Religion chat anyone
« Reply #112 on: February 13, 2009, 09:22:35 pm »
I do remember the reason why I stopped going to church, because the assholes in my church forced a man out because he was poor and didn't have nice clothing. I thought it was complete bullshit. Not to mention how they thought it was hilarious apparently and didn't even attempt to treat the man as if he were a human being.

Seriously? I agree, that is total bullshit.

Quote from: Eric Cartman
THOSE BASTARDS!!!

As for the looking nice part, that is especially bullshit IMO. My mom, who grew up as a Methodist, always makes me at least wear a polo shirt to church (and forbids me from wearing them unless going to an occasion where I have to look nice, at least I don't need to tuck in my shirt and wear a belt. Lucky me, my pants never fall down), if I refuse to wear a button-up shirt, complete with tie (*shudder*), slacks (my poor waist), and dress socks/shoes.

The fact that the guy was poor just shows how corrupt some congregations can be. I know this one church (a Presbyterian church, like mine) that doesn't give any fraction of a rat's ass whether or not you show up, as long as you put money in their offering plates.

ARE YOU F***ING SERIOUS, PEOPLE?

ZealKnight

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Re: Religion chat anyone
« Reply #113 on: February 15, 2009, 06:49:08 pm »
Well, those people are crazy. Don't let them be the reason you leave a faith. Find a church you like, one without stuck up crazy asses. They don't represent the population as much as they would like you to think. Another thing we're all human, we can't speak for god. I guess what I'm saying is don't leave because of one man, there are churches out there with normal people running it. When I was at church one day this guy was trying to say the Bible proved things before humans, like the earth being round I told him he was an idiot because everyone already knew the earth was round you can see the curvature of the earth at sea. He told me that I was wrong Christopher Columbus discovered the earth was round, even though he didn't go around the world.

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Re: Religion chat anyone
« Reply #114 on: February 15, 2009, 08:19:02 pm »
He told me that I was wrong Christopher Columbus discovered the earth was round, even though he didn't go around the world.

Some people are stupid and believe that, regardless of their faith.  Many cultures and even some scholars within European society had theorized a round Earth before Columbus' voyage.  That may have been a tipping point for many scientists at the time, but they certainly weren't the first, and some civilizations never believed in a flat earth.

Also, dammit all for me getting dragged back into this thread!    :x

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Re: Religion chat anyone
« Reply #115 on: February 15, 2009, 09:46:16 pm »
He told me that I was wrong Christopher Columbus discovered the earth was round, even though he didn't go around the world.

Some people are stupid and believe that, regardless of their faith.  Many cultures and even some scholars within European society had theorized a round Earth before Columbus' voyage.  That may have been a tipping point for many scientists at the time, but they certainly weren't the first, and some civilizations never believed in a flat earth.
Krispin, being versed in antiquity, might know this one. But I think it was Eratosthenes that was the first one to prove that the Earth was ultimately round by ingeniously using shadows' angles at solstice.

Also, dammit all for me getting dragged back into this thread!    :x
Admit it; you wouldn't have come back if you truly didn't want to...
« Last Edit: February 15, 2009, 09:48:40 pm by BROJ »

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Re: Religion chat anyone
« Reply #116 on: February 15, 2009, 11:47:33 pm »
Krispin, being versed in antiquity, might know this one. But I think it was Eratosthenes that was the first one to prove that the Earth was ultimately round by ingeniously using shadows' angles at solstice.

I must admit I'm not quite sure who it was, though the name does strike me as right. But yes, I do recall that there was such an understanding in antiquity. I think it's a pretty obvious observation, seeing that ships go down over the horizion, rather strange if the earth was flat.

As I remember it, as much as everyone thinks that Columbus was vindicated and shown right in his voyage, in fact he was quite a failure as to his ambitions, and never learned it. As I've heard it, everyone knew full well the earth was round. The question was how big it was. Some figured it to be small, and hence a westward voyage could easily bring one to China and its trade-wealth. Some, however, thought it large, and that the sea was too great to traverse in that direction. Columbus weighed in on the former side, and attempted to prove that such a voyage was indeed possible. He died thinking he'd proved it, when in fact he'd proved himself and his own side of the debate wrong: the world was not as small as he had thought, and the 'large earth' crowd was right. It's only that one thing happened that was unexpected: an unknown land-mass in the way.

So yeah, I think that's the sum total of that story. But by that time everyone knew it was round. I can't recall when this was realised, but probably when long distance trade ocurred. And anyway, Columbus wasn't the first to the new world. Aside from the well known story of the Vikings landing in Newfoundland in Canada, there have been some finds that imply Chinese expeditionaries manage to begin to found a colony in Nova Scotia. If that is true, that is a far greater feat than anything Columbus managed. As it is, I think sometimes people attribute too much ignorance to the ancients. We must be wary of this. For as much as people of 19th century were wont to call Herodotos the 'father of lies' because of his outrageous claimes, many of the semi-mythical things described by him and other writers have turned out to be pretty exact, and show a great understanding of the further world. For example, the 'wool' the grows on trees in India; the customs of the Scythians. Heck, even the golden fleece has been shown to be real: not too long ago they found that certain people in the region of the Black Sea where the Argo was said to have gone pan for gold in the rivers by placing sheep's wool in the river and let the gold get caught. Hence, the golden fleece.

Or also, for all the scorn that's levelled on the Trojan war as anything approximating history, that may well be misjudged and from over-enthusiastic archaeologists of the past century who were desiring to de-myth many things. In one of my classes we were watching and examinging this very well made documentary on the Trojan war, and in it there is brought up the interesting matter of the Hittite documents. Now for those who don't know, the Hittites an empire that vied with Egypt in the time before the 1200s BC. The two superpowers fought a massive battle at Kadesh at one point. Anyway, the Hittites had their capital in sort of central Anatolia (that is, Turkey), and were good record keepers. In some of their documents they mention some interesting points of dealings with peoples. He talks about a group called the Ahhiyawa, a power on their western border whom they regarded as near equals in strength at points. A diplomatic message to the king of these people mentions something about how the Hittite king is putting behind them the whole business of the Ahhiyawa occupation of a city called Wilusa. At another point mention is made of a Alaksandu, prince of Wilusa, who has kidnapped a princess of the Ahhiyawa. Hm.

Now, I suppose that doesn't seem like much to most of you. Ahhiyawa and Alaksandu and Wilusa might as well be gibberish. But in fact these might well be Greeks, Paris, and Troy. Some explaining is required. Firstly, the Greeks did not ever call themselves this. They were the Hellenes in Classical times. Earlier they were either Danaaoi, or, importantly, Akhaioi. Now I suppose Ahhiyawa doesn't seem much like Akhaioi, but in fact it is. Etymologically they are very similar. Likewise Alaksandu. Paris is almost never called as such in Homer. He is rather Alexandros. Now how Alaksandu and Alexandros are similar is quite plain. Lastly,  for Troy, well, its more common name is Ilion, which might well have lost an initial digamma, which makes a w sound (like the later Greek word anax, lord, is originally wanax.) So then we get Wilion... Wilusa is not an etymological stretch. The point is, that a lot more, even of the names, of the Trojan war might be entire real, despite the opinion that it is not 'historical'. Hey, a name like Achilles (Akhilleus) is certainly one that was of the Mycenaean era, so who knows? Sometimes these ancient people knew very well what they were talking about, and it's best not to disregard their wisdom.

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Re: Religion chat anyone
« Reply #117 on: February 17, 2009, 03:20:09 pm »
Religions influence the behavior of people. They are not unique in this, but it is a property they poses. If they influence people to be adverse to gaining and spreading knowledge, this is a very negative influence, and while the people are ultimately implementing it, the ideology shares in the blame for encouraging and seeking to justify the wicked behavior.

That an evil is not unique does not make its perpetrators innocent. We strive to arrest every murderer, for example, as we find the act of murder to be in of itself harmful, regardless of whether others have occurred previously.

While we strive to arrest every murderer, how far do we go (or should we go) to condemn those factors and influences that produce murderers?

Video Games are commonly held to be responsible for violent behavior; assuming that such a common assumption were true, should video games be shunned and the field seen as undesirable?

Statistically speaking, individuals who have been abused in childhood appear to be more likely to themselves abuse others. Should preventative treatment for such individuals be mandatory?

I would quite agree that individuals who use religion to harm humanity should be "arrested," as it were, but I would be much more reluctant to approach a similar ban on religion itself, especially when it has been responsible for so much good in the world. For example, public education in an outgrowth of religious education (Cathedral Schools and Sunday Schools, being two prime examples in the west). The religious imperative of "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you" and the exhortative tale of the Good Samaritan are hardly harmful.

Indeed, the idea of religious freedom was born directly from Religion and religious strife. That it is socially acceptable to differ from others on religious matters (even to the extent of being non-religious) is a product of religion.

So if Religion is merely a lens which can be used to magnify or hamper human behavior, what processes can be used to determine if it has largely had a beneficial or harmful effect on humanity? We are getting dangerously far from objective science and treading closely to the subjective domain of History, at least in topic. Just as Scientists adhere to certain ethics to keep their work objectively scientific, Historians likewise adhere to certain ethics and among those is historical objectivity; elements from previous eras must be evaluated primarily in context. That is, it is improper to condemn someone for being, say, a slave holder when the era itself allowed and promoted slavery.

Because of this, it becomes all the more difficult to evaluate if Religion is more good than evil. Not only must one remove inherently non-religious forces from the discussion, one must also take into consideration the era in which events occurred as a separate entity.

To attempt to summarize my point: while one could well claim that religion has caused more harm to humanity than good, such a claim has not yet been made effectively and historically.

Then my definition of suffering is flawed, as it does not convey the concept I wish to convey.

And so again I must ask, what makes pain and suffering bad?

It appears that you are basing much of your understanding of what is good and evil in the world on pain and suffering. However, you still haven't been able to define why pain and suffering is bad.

I would generally define suffering, it is the result of the individual not getting one's way, which would make suffering subjective rather than objective. I thus see no reason why I should fault a hypothetical omnipotent creator for not forming the universe according to my whim. This is, admittedly, very close to the Buddhist approach that says that desire causes suffering.

But the point being, if suffering is subjective rather than objective, how can it be used as a criterion for which other things might be judged to be good or bad? Until one can establish that pain and suffering is bad, it does not seem like one can thus say that pain and suffering existing in the universe is a sign of either a lack of god or the existence of a cruel god.

As an aside, I find it very amusing that I'm arguing for the power of a god, and you are arguing against it.

Meh, not really.

I am saying that in a universe with multiple free-willed entities, an omnipotent free-willed entity could very well create a universe which is not inherently evil or cruel, but in which the lesser free-willed entities could, by their own volition, produce behaviors and circumstances that are "evil or cruel."

It appears that you are saying that any universe in which the lesser free-willed entities could experience something defined as "evil" or "cruel" indicates that there an omnipotent entity must inherently be cruel, since if it was omnipotent it could arrange the universe to the same effect but lacking the possibility of those experiences.

Or to put it another way, it appears that you are requiring a good omnipotent entity to be inherently subject to the whims of the lesser entities, since anything the lesser entities view as "evil" or "cruel," even if such a perspective is incorrect, should not be possible.

Or to put it another way yet again, it appears that you are saying an omnipotent being should be able to create a universe in which "good and evil" are possibilities (for the lesser beings to thus have free will) but in which "evil" is impossible.

I will say this, however. Without the knowledge that animals are capable of joy and suffering, such a conversation could not even occur. In a sense, the knowledge becomes a prerequisite for ethical behavior.

Well, in that sense any behavior that isn't instinctual requires the knowledge of language and thought.

But I am not saying that knowledge doesn't help us avoid problems; rather, I am saying that more knowledge doesn't directly affect ethics. You pharmacological example isn't really one based primarily on ethics.

To recast it, suppose an individual is sick and two different medications are prescribed. Would it be ethical to withhold either? Most likely not... unless the pharmacists knew that there was an undesirable interaction between the two medicines. In such a case, one might even argue that the pharmacists is ethically required to withhold medication.

Thus, we have a specific case in which added knowledge effect ethics... sort of.

The problem is that your example and my recasting of it inherently assumes larger ethical principles: that a pharmacist giving a patient medicine with potential undesirable interactions is bad. This stems from the Hippocratic Oath; that individuals trained in medicine have an obligation to do no harm. However here again we have an instance in which Ethics do not seem to be related to knowledge; what increase of knowledge did Hippocrates experience that produced this ethical code?

An increase of knowledge can increase our recognition of instances in which ethics apply, but I can see no influence on the ethics itself.

Who has final say, though? Why should I consider what academics, many of whom are likely non-Christians by their own reckoning, consider the definition of Christianity, versus the definition of one who practices something not quite the Apostle's Creed but considers themselves a Christian? To whom should I defer, and why?

And you have just summed up a major religious debate in Christianity that has never really been solved. That is exactly why the Apostle's Creed and the Nicean Creed were created; to attempt to define who are Christians and who aren't.

Which should then hint at the difficulty of painting all religions with a single brush. For each evil done, is it Religion that is responsible or is it a sub-group? And even if it is a sub-group, is it really that group or a separate branch?

Without common and identifiable traits across religion and across religious groups, Religion is quite similar to a hydra. Cut off one head (that is, accurately pegging one religious group as harmful to humanity) and the beast doesn't die.

Just superhuman, or anything supernatural? Are ghosts within the acceptable range of what religion can relate to? Unicorns, fairies? Or does it have to be something of greater intellect than humans? If this is the case, what of organic intelligences? If extraterrestrials who have superior intellectual capabilities relative to we simple apes make contact with us, should we seek to learn of them by the means of religion?

Actually, ancestor worship (ghosts) and nature worship (fairies and other elemental manifestations) are all parts of various religions. So yes.

And there are certainly some religious groups that worship and attempt to communicate to extraterrestrials via religious rites (the Heaven's Gate cult being one that jumps to mind).

By your definition, would sacrificing children to appease the gods be a valid use of religion?

By that definition, nope, because though while it addresses the superhuman agency, it is in a function outside of addressing the cause, function, or nature of the universe in relation to that superhuman agency. So while such might be under the general umbrella of religion, it wouldn't be fundamental to religion.

More generally, when dealing with those issues within the valid realm of religion, is it fair to criticizes the views held and put forward by the religion, or do you maintain that as a greater principle, ideologies are themselves blameless for the actions of their followers?

Me personally, as opposed to an objective perspective? While I would say it is fair to criticize the views held and put forward by religious individuals and groups, such criticism doesn't address Religion as a whole. In a similar manner, one might criticize the views and research held by certain scientists, but that does not reflect on Science itself.

One might well say that Christians are wrong, just as one might say that Eugenicists were wrong. But the latter case does not mean that Science is wrong, and so I claim that the former case is likewise. The fault of a component is insufficient to fault the whole.

Misinformation is a special case of ignorance. You still don't know the truth, you just no longer know that you don't know the truth. If anything, it's a deeper ignorance, and thus, all the more harmful.

Not really. Misinformation is actually a pretty common tool in education. When did old-worlders discover the New World? With Columbus! ... or Leif Erikson... or you know, all those people from Asia who settled the land. What caused the American Civil War? Slavery! ... or social and political power struggles that were primarily influenced by differences in labor bases ... or a lack of a unifying culture and sentiment. American Revolution? Don't answer taxation without representation, because the colonists were represented just about as much as any other English group. Drop two objects and they should fall at the same rate because of gravity, right? Not quite, depends on a lot of other factors.

And so on, and so forth. Misinformation is not ignorance.

Anywho, this might seem like I'm arguing over semantics, but it is actually relevant.

Certainly there are some religious groups that promote ignorance: those groups that attempt to prevent Evolution from being taught in school, for example. They are attempting to actually prevent individuals for obtaining information, thereby attempting to keep them ignorant.

However, that is not a universal function of religion. Compare two individuals, both of whom know the exact same information in all respects except one. Individual A, in addition to everything else, "knows" (that is, believes) that God created the universe. Individual B does not "know" that (that is, does not believe). To say that A is more "ignorant" than B is a curious claim; they are both equally knowledgeable about everything and could as easily discuss evolution or particle physics as the other.

A might be misinformed, however; all the knowledge is there, but the weight given to that knowledge is off. As the knowledge is there, I can't see a reason to call this misinformation to be ignorance or inherently evil.

Misinformation can be potentially useful for explaining complex concepts in a manner that one can easily absorb, keeping the more accurate but also more complex information until one is better suited for it.

So again, we are left with gullible individuals, potentially spreading misinformation, but not spreading ignorance (and not even necessarily promoting ignorance).

Of course, relatively few religions are actually evangelical, so not all religious would even be spreading misinformation.

... and I feel that you can not truly devote yourself to something if you are constantly having to reassure yourself that it is true.

Actually, I would say that (depending on the form your reassurance takes) what you described is a good thing.

Academically speaking, I want to devote myself to history. It is good to constantly question if history is true (and thus, constantly reassure myself). The reason for this is that maybe something isn't true, and it is only through constant questioning and repeated testing that you'll find out.

To use another example, I devote myself to my wife, but there are times I wonder if I am just following habits or if I truly love her. I thus reassure her and myself of my love often, through behavior that indicates love. As love is a matter of will, often times, it is better to actively reassure than to take it for granted. Indeed, it is generally a sign of a healthy relationship when both individuals feel reassured about the other's feelings. In turn, it is generally a sign of an unhealthy relationship when an individual is so firm in their belief that reassurance never happens (leading to the other person feeling neglected).

I hate people that think because of their faith they are better than someone else. It's pretty much contradicting everything they are supposed to stand for in that we are all equals and that you reach out to help someone who is struggling not to treat them as some kind of sub-human.

I totally agree. Indeed, I often feel ashamed for being associated with such a group (I'm also a Republican and often feel ashamed for being associated with other Republicans... actually, same goes for being Male).

On a side note, you might be interested in a book called "Pagan Christianity." Among other things, the authors really get after "Christians" for that sort of behavior and identify it as a general corruption in the way Christian churches are structured. While I certainly don't agree with everything the book claims, it might help you gain some understanding of why this happens (and potentially how to correct it, both personally and on a social scale).

When I was at church one day this guy was trying to say the Bible proved things before humans, like the earth being round I told him he was an idiot because everyone already knew the earth was round you can see the curvature of the earth at sea. He told me that I was wrong Christopher Columbus discovered the earth was round, even though he didn't go around the world.

While I would agree that the bible might contain information that can coincide with later human development, I've never seen anything that even hinted at "proving" scientific concepts before science. Like with Kosher foods; we can say, looking back, that there was a reason they weren't supposed to eat pork. But it isn't like anyone ever said "Hey, we aren't supposed to eat pork; there has to be some really small life thingies that pig-meat is particularly prone to that will harm us if we consume it!"

At best, expanding human knowledge can give us greater understanding of biblical texts, but I am generally dubious of the reverse.

Though it is possible; the Bible recorded the Hittites (since Daniel mentioned them) before Western Civilization found confirmation that the people group existed. Course, all that really shows is that there is at least a degree of historical accuracy to some elements in the text.

Particularly I am dubious since I've seen the same claims in other religions and it is generally laughably vague (for example; did you know that the Koran contains the speed of light? Itís true... as long as you don't mind calculating the speed of light inaccurately and taking things to mean things that they probably didn't mean).

Also, Columbus is notable for having woefully miscalculated the circumference of the Earth, as Daniel and BROJ mentioned. His might be one of the world's most famous blunders, actually.

chrono eric

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Re: Religion chat anyone
« Reply #118 on: February 17, 2009, 05:25:31 pm »
Let us consider animal rights. We treat our animals, by and large, far better in the modern western world than, say, at the turn of the era. Was this the result of accumulated knowledge?

Personally, I cannot identify anything indicating that our change in our behavior to animals resulted directly from an increase in knowledge. Did we at some point realize animals feel pain, whereas before we did not? Did we at some point realize that they protect themselves to the best of their abilities, just as we might? I cannot find a link between our change of ethics regarding animals to an increase in knowledge, but perhaps you can?

Because this thread is so damned big I overlooked this statement, but I feel that I am uniquely qualified to answer this question since I am going to veterinary school and work in the veterinary field. The answer Thought is yes, we did at some point realize that animals feel pain, whereas before we did not. It is counterintuitive I know, but there was a major argument about this in the past. About 50 years ago, there was a legitimate argument going around that animals such as dogs and cats weren't even conscious for one reason or another and thus there was a legitimate argument about administering pain relief to animals in veterinary medicine. This of course is false, but it nonetheless influenced practice for quite awhile.

And you are talking about two different things here, mainly the perception of ethics in veterinary medicine and ethics by society in general. So yes, in veterinary medicine direct scientific evidence and knowledge of the animal mind, animal cognition, and pain perception directly influenced medical ethics. As far as the general public accepting a new moral outlook based on this evidence - I don't think that is the case.

Educating people when they take their pets to veterinary hospitals certainly played a role, that is for sure. But I think it played a minor role compared to pets (especially dogs) becoming a part of the family. I think media definitely was a major catalyst for this change, and animal welfare laws solidified it.

I will say this, however. Without the knowledge that animals are capable of joy and suffering, such a conversation could not even occur. In a sense, the knowledge becomes a prerequisite for ethical behavior.

I'm confused by this statement. We do know that animals are capable of joy and suffering - there is abundant evidence for this. I don't think there is anyone in their right mind that would argue against that in this day and age. So I think it was the way you phrased the sentence, and I think you were trying to say that since we have knowledge that animals are capable of joy and suffering, this directly influences any ethical decisions we make about animal welfare.

And to that, I would say that it depends. Ethical decisions can be made based on newly acquired evidence, but ethical decisions can also be made based on assumptions that we hope are true in a best case scenario. And for that matter, ethical decisions can even be made for unethical reasons. For example, I tell people all the time that they need to keep their dogs on heartworm prevention every month for the rest of their lives, because the incidence of heartworm disease in the southern states is high and the disease is ultimately fatal. Moreover, the treatment for the disease can actually be fatal as well. Believe it or not, this information doesn't seem to phase people. You know what convinces them? Telling them that the heartworm treatment costs upwards of $700 dollars while the prevention costs less than $100 a year.

So you see, in this case people make what I would consider an ethical decision but for an unethical reason. This of course falls back on what the definition of an ethical choice is. Do the people making the decision realize it is a moral choice and not a monetary one? You might argue that either way, but I believe that they do realize it is a moral choice but simply don't care until they see the dollar sign.

And this perhaps falls back on the concept that pain and suffering is not universally a bad thing. I cause transient pain and suffering in animals all the time, but I do it to treat them and to better improve their health. I do it for the greater good. Pain is a necessary emotion and it serves an evolutionary purpose. An animal that has a broken leg will feel pain, and will not put pressure on it by continuing to walk on it - thus refraining from injuring it further. Doing orthopedic surgery on that leg is invasive and may actually increase the pain that the animal experiences. But this is considered a moral thing to do because after the animal recovers he can live a long and healthy life. So you see, the morality of it depends on the circumstances involving the origin of that suffering. If we viewed pain and suffering as bad under all circumstances, then the moral choice for the above example would be to euthanize the animal to prevent the animal from experiencing the pain of the surgery and the recovery. You will not find many vets these days that would adhere to such a moral viewpoint.

And all of this comes full circle to the concept of a god creating pain and suffering in the world. Is this an evil and uncaring god? How could you say that, when pain and suffering serves a purpose and can be beneficial? Imagine a hypothetical natural world in which some animals experienced pain and suffering and others did not. The ones that did not would clearly be at an evolutionary disadvantage. So the whole argument of "is god evil for introducing pain and suffering into the world?" isn't ultimately pointless, but one could easily argue that god is in fact benevolent for introducing pain and suffering into the world.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2009, 05:30:52 pm by chrono eric »

ZealKnight

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Re: Religion chat anyone
« Reply #119 on: February 17, 2009, 05:35:19 pm »
Quote
Particularly I am dubious since I've seen the same claims in other religions and it is generally laughably vague (for example; did you know that the Koran contains the speed of light? Itís true... as long as you don't mind calculating the speed of light inaccurately and taking things to mean things that they probably didn't mean).

Also, Columbus is notable for having woefully miscalculated the circumference of the Earth, as Daniel and BROJ mentioned. His might be one of the world's most famous blunders, actually.

Well the Koran(grossly misspelled by the way and I'm dyslexic its more like Qurron or Korron if you want the correct pronunciation) isn't like the bible, like everyone believes. It's more like a moral guideline. I doesn't really contain the history of the people who believed/came in contact with god, if it did it would have to contain the Bible. It isn't about prediction, it isn't about any of that. Just you should live your life this way, another idiotic thing about it is that it was written after Mohammad's death. And it wasn't written by the guy he picked to takeover either. So I frankly find a lot of stuff in there inaccurate.

Also, didn't Columbus go crazy because that? I'm pretty sure he was thrown in jail for insanity.