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Thread: Is religion bad for our youth?

  1. #201  
    Time Lord
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    Interesting.

    How about the more general / insidious "soulless self-interest justified by utility-derived ethics" ...which you could call the sociopath's working philosophy. This does seem to wax and wane as broad undercurrent, and enjoy periods of embrace by different subcultures. For example the neo-cons, or even the callous staff of certain nursing homes. And we could admit: many minds drawn to science also find the ethics of selfish utility appealing... e.g. I love my wife because it gives me pleasure to love my wife. So how about that? Is it science, or atheism, or the larger culture responsible? And in any case, can or should atheists as a presumably morally conscious group take some responsibility about it?
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  2. #202  
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    Pong

    Emotions are essentially imposed on us due to evolution, coding certain emotional responses into our genes, or modified by learning. Either way, they affect and influence both believers of religion and non believers. This is the 'wisdom' of evolution, and I see no point in fighting it. Emotions, as I have said before, have a vital function, in providing us with our motives, our goals, and our reason for living.

    In other words, emotions have nothing to do with what you call the 'ethics of selfish utility.' They are there because they have been genetically and culturally programmed into us.

    Nor is there any real difference between religious and non religious in terms of our emotions. As I have said before, the real difference is in how we think. Religious believers tend to think irrationally; meaning they believe in things that are not real. Non believers are more likely to think rationally, clinging to that whch empirical evidence shows to be real. That is not a rule that is 100% correct all the time. Some religious people can be more rational than some non religious people. However, it is probably true most of the time.
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  3. #203  
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    skeptic says:

    Nor is there any real difference between religious and non religious in terms of our emotions.
    If this is true, it should not be true of Christians. Christianity revolves around the idea that salvation involves a change of heart -- that is a change in the role of emotions in our decision making process. The emotions of anger, hatred, envy and greed should not be motivating factors. Rather, we should be motivated by love, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. I am not saying here that Christians do this better than others, only that they should do this better than others.

    skeptic also said:

    As I have said before, the real difference is in how we think. Religious believers tend to think irrationally; meaning they believe in things that are not real. Non believers are more likely to think rationally, clinging to that whch empirical evidence shows to be real. That is not a rule that is 100% correct all the time. Some religious people can be more rational than some non religious people. However, it is probably true most of the time.
    I think there is a degree of atheistic irrationality in this. The implication is that atheists are more likely to be rational (but by whose standard of rationality?) than are religious people. There is some wiggle room here as skeptic seems to concede that the more rational religious people are likely more rational than the least rational atheists. But I think the meaning is clear that most believers are less rational than most non-believers.

    Well, first of all, rationality is probably more related to sanity than it is a thinking process which skeptic seems to relate it to. But there is an element in the meanings and connotations of rational that relates to weighing evidence and coming up with a reasonable meaning of that evidence. What one needs to realize, though, is that a rational conclusion can still be wrong. We can lack empirical, non-controvertible evidence in which case it is possible that there is more than one rational answer. When two people sift through the same inconclusive information and come to differing conclusions is it not necessarily because one is more rational or more sane than the other.

    There is an extent to which skeptic is saying that it is more likely that religious people are insane than atheists. Although I don't think that is his emphasis, the implication is there. I think his emphasis is on the other aspect of rational as one might relate it to a thinking process.

    Now then, if he is correct, that is scary and would suggest that there are a lot of mad scientists out there. A somewhat recent survey ( http://www.livescience.com/strangene...tists_god.html ) revealed that 2/3 of scientists (in the U.S. I think) are believers -- not necessarily Christians, but believers in some religious way.

    If, as skeptic seems to imply, people who have some sort of belief in something religious are more likely to be irrational, the conclusion must be that more scientists are likely to irrational than those who are likely to be rational!!! For that reason I guess should consider that science, in general, is more likely to be irrational than rational.

    I'm not actually convinced of that rational conclusion, but merely point out that sometimes we can make silly claims that imply a lot more than we intended because we neglect to look beyond a small frame of reference to the larger overall picture.

    If religious people are dumber than atheist or they are less rational that atheists, we are in a huge heep of doo-doo. Believers far out number atheists and in any community-wide decision, the small number of "rational" atheists involved in the decision making process (voting) is so de minimis as to be irrelevant.
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

    If God DID do all of this, is He not the greatest scientist of all? -- dt, 2005
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  4. #204  
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    To DT.

    Re emotions like love, compassion, forgiveness etc. I agree that these should be more pronounced in Christians. My feelings towards Christianity are mixed. I have negative feelings based on the lack of rationality of the belief, but positive feelings due to the ethics. The ethical code shown in the four gospels is actually very admirable. If Christians follow it, then they are showing an admirable set of behaviours. Sadly, lots of Christians also follow other parts of the bible that are red necked and intolerant. Overall, I doubt that either Christian or atheist can be claimed to be more ethical. I suspect that human vices and virtues are equally balanced in both. I admit, though, that I have no data to back this up, and only good empirical data can settle the point.

    I have never said that being irrational was the same as insane. Most people are, to some degree, irrational, and yet live perfectly well balanced lives. Lack of rationality is not psychological illness. It is more like the person who lacks the ability to handle mathematics well. In other words, that person lacks a vital mental tool. Lack of rationality leads to people drawing the wrong conclusions, which leads to those people carrying out actions that do not achieve what they want to achieve. Irrational people are less effective people.

    For example, if some politician is led to believe, without good empirical evidence (in other words - irrationally), that some potential enemy is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, that political leader may commit his nation to war, massive loss of life and enormous financial expenditure without achieving the results desired. Lack of rationality can lead to disaster. That is a dramatic example, but the same applies on a small scale in people's day to day existence. Think of the harm to relationships that comes from irrational jealousy!

    Atheists can be irrational, of course. However, Christians believe in virgin births, miracles, and resurrections. All those beliefs are extraordinary, and call for extraordinary evidence. Yet there is precisely zero empirical evidence that any of those things occurred. Just some literature that falls pretty much into the same category as religious marketing promotional pamphlets. This demonstrates the irrational beliefs of christians. Atheists may, as I said, be irrational, but christians are proven to be irrational even before we start the discussion.

    DT, you talked of the possibility of data leading to several possible conclusions. And yes, this happens. When it happens, the rational person will admit the different possible conclusions, and look for extra data. The irrational person will pounce on one conclusion and ride it as if it were proven correct.

    You talked of scientists. Being a scientist does not automatically mean the person is rational. I know many scientists, and some are extremely irrational!!! I had the unfortunate experience of getting into an argument with a Ph.D. scientist who believed firmly that anything 'natural' was superior to anything 'unnatural' in spite of a a total lack of data to show that. The argument was about genetic engineering, which has been used for 15 years globally on a very large scale without any significant problems. But, due to his irrationality, that meant nothing to him. Yet he was good in his own narrow specialty.

    To be a good scientist requires sufficient mental discipline to be rational in that work. However, outside the scientific work, that person can be as irrational as anyone else. They may carefully collect good data during the week, and go to church on Sunday.

    Rationality is a mental ability. It is one that can be honed by training and practise. In that sense it is similar to having a high level of mathematical IQ. However, it is also a talent, as is math IQ. Some people are naturally more rational, but this is improved with proper effort.

    Rationality is not intelligence. It is not sanity. It is a specific ability of its own. More than anything else, rationality is the ability to recognise what is real, and work only with reality, rather than imaginary 'truths'.

    It is also vitally important. No-one who lacks rationality should ever be placed in a position of power. Such people are dangerous.
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  5. #205 Re: Is religion bad for our youth? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gen1GT
    In a somewhat recent issue of Macleans magazine, they discussed Project Teen Canada, and the results from the study. The study has found that Canadian teens are less and less likely to be religious as the years progress, yet teen behavior is improving inversely to the reduction in religosity.

    http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/04/07/t...ith-in-droves/

    http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/04/10/generation-tame/

    Thoughts?
    Unfortunately, as usual, this thread on religion is too long for me to read, so I will put in my opinion fully aware that I may be totally unaware that my views have already been refuted.

    It seems possible that this is a post hoc fallacy, that they are independent. As time progresses people may be becoming more civilized and less religious due to improved conditions. It seems crime and religion are both more prominent with the poor. As conditions get better due to technology and new innovations in politics, both decrease.
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  6. #206  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    How about the more general / insidious "soulless self-interest justified by utility-derived ethics" ..?
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    Pong

    Emotions are essentially imposed on us due to evolution, coding certain emotional responses into our genes, or modified by learning. Either way, they affect and influence both believers of religion and non believers. This is the 'wisdom' of evolution, and I see no point in fighting it. Emotions, as I have said before, have a vital function, in providing us with our motives, our goals, and our reason for living.

    In other words, emotions have nothing to do with what you call the 'ethics of selfish utility.' They are there because they have been genetically and culturally programmed into us.
    What are you replying to? I never suggested "ethics of selfish utility" come from emotion. On the contrary I've repeatedly claimed this comes from pure reason detached from human nature i.e. emotion & instinct. You may imagine that as the sort of mind an artificial intelligence, devoid of human emotion, would possess.

    Still hoping for answers to my questions. Could you please re-read them?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    How about the more general / insidious "soulless self-interest justified by utility-derived ethics" ...which you could call the sociopath's working philosophy. This does seem to wax and wane as broad undercurrent, and enjoy periods of embrace by different subcultures. For example the neo-cons, or even the callous staff of certain nursing homes. And we could admit: many minds drawn to science also find the ethics of selfish utility appealing... e.g. I love my wife because it gives me pleasure to love my wife. So how about that? Is it science, or atheism, or the larger culture responsible? And in any case, can or should atheists as a presumably morally conscious group take some responsibility about it?


    @Golkarian. Yes as a Canadian, and parent, I can say this generation had more social engineering in its upbringing than previous generations, at least partially replacing the traditional "indoctrination" of religion. Also relatively good times do not test the morals of this generation... for now.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  7. #207  
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    Skeptic: You are, of course, addressing the idea of rationality from the perspective of its relationship to ethical and logical analysis of information and, perhaps, philosophical.

    One paragraph of your post which interested me was this one:
    For example, if some politician is led to believe, without good empirical evidence (in other words - irrationally), that some potential enemy is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, that political leader may commit his nation to war, massive loss of life and enormous financial expenditure without achieving the results desired. Lack of rationality can lead to disaster. That is a dramatic example, but the same applies on a small scale in people's day to day existence. Think of the harm to relationships that comes from irrational jealousy!
    There are a couple of misrepresentations here. First of all it was not "some" politician, in the singular, who was led to believe Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. We had a long and heated debate in our country as to whether the evidence was sufficient to indicate the Iraqis really had such weapons. This debate also took place in other countries who also had the same information.

    Beyond the pictures and reports, the two most condemning pieces of information were that the Iraqis had had such weapons and had used them and while they denied any longer having such a program, they refused the let the U.N. verify their lack of such weapons.

    To me, perhaps a more potentially irrational thing in that situation was Saddam refusing to allow verification his lack of such a program because he feared the repercussions of his neighbors finding out he didn't really have them more than he feared the actions of the suspicious the rest of the world.

    The problem is that the rightness or wrongness of the conclusions are not actually indicative of whether the conclusion was rational based on the information available at that time. We can always look back and see that a decision may not have been the best one in the circumstance but, again, that does not mean it was irrational.

    I cannot look at what happened and based solely on the consequence state categorically that either decision was irrational. There were a large number of people in political power who were convinced Saddam had weapons and was willing to use them. Although I was not personally convinced of this, I can see how that conclusion could have logically and rationally been drawn based on the available information.

    And, based on the history of the Middle East and especially Saddam's experience with Iran, I am not so sure I could deem his belief that his potential for having weapons of mass destruction was something of a deterrent to hostile action from Iran as being completely irrational.

    This is really far off topic, though interesting.

    I think you have been taking a rather simplified view of rationality which seems only to be capable of determining what WAS rational in hindsight.

    We face many social, political and economic dilemmas today. We will end up doing what most people involved in the decision-making process think is the rational thing to do. Will it actually be the right thing to do? I dunno. Will it be the most rational thing to do? I dunno.

    I think most of us whose brains function in a normal manner and who have some ability to overcome our emotional bents will make mostly rational decisions about most things. I don't think it comes down to a matter of religion, or political orientation, or economic status. The fact that they may disagree about a course of action does not prove one or the other is irrational -- only that they have different perspectives.
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

    If God DID do all of this, is He not the greatest scientist of all? -- dt, 2005
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  8. #208  
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    Interesting difference in interpretation here. I said that Bush was irrational in invading Iraq because he lacked evidence of his over-riding purpose.

    You said that Bush was rational in invading Iraq because he lacked such evidence.

    We start with the identical proposition and draw opposite conclusions. I have to say, sorry, but you are wrong. It is not rational to commit enormous numbers of human lives, and literally trillions of dollar on the basis of a lack of knowledge. The first step is always to gain the knowledge you need. It is like diving into a river without first checking to see if there is any obstruction you will smash your head into. Precipitate action without data is irrational.

    Anyway, I am going to be away for a couple of days on business. Perhaps we can pick this up again after I return.

    Cheers.
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  9. #209  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Interesting.

    How about the more general / insidious "soulless self-interest justified by utility-derived ethics" ...which you could call the sociopath's working philosophy. This does seem to wax and wane as broad undercurrent, and enjoy periods of embrace by different subcultures. For example the neo-cons, or even the callous staff of certain nursing homes. And we could admit: many minds drawn to science also find the ethics of selfish utility appealing... e.g. I love my wife because it gives me pleasure to love my wife. So how about that? Is it science, or atheism, or the larger culture responsible? And in any case, can or should atheists as a presumably morally conscious group take some responsibility about it?
    I am not dodging your thoughtful question Pong, as I was out of town yesterday.

    But this is what I think: I think that group violence is the result of an unknown process that is probably fed/fueled by specific behaviors that can include exhortation of violence.
    The process could also be fueled by abuse of children as Moody suggested. The abuse of children is especially interesting because it is mentioned by one author, Ervin Staub, who studies genocide, as well as another study on peaceful societies where things like corporal punishment are discouraged/outlawed in societies that rarely or never participate in war.

    If there is a specific process that causes group violence then it is likely present in almost all countries except for a small number of peaceful societies.

    There may also be specific behaviors/ideologies/cultural norms that can reverse the process. Thus, you would expect that religion could play a preventive role to the extent that religion moves people away from behaviors that contribute to the process.

    Unfortunately, many churches do not do this.

    Thus, this is really a area where religion and science can work together. In countries where numerous variables are effecting behavior it is not easy to isolate a variable that could contribute to one particular process (if in fact such a process exists). However, I think by carefully examining societies who have been involved in genocide as well as societies that never go to war, it might be possible to isolate particular contributing and inhibiting variables.

    Then, perhaps religious groups can be more aware about what to tell their flock.
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  10. #210  
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    Quote Originally Posted by dedo
    Thus, this is really a area where religion and science can work together. In countries where numerous variables are effecting behavior it is not easy to isolate a variable that could contribute to one particular process (if in fact such a process exists). However, I think by carefully examining societies who have been involved in genocide as well as societies that never go to war, it might be possible to isolate particular contributing and inhibiting variables.

    Then, perhaps religious groups can be more aware about what to tell their flock.
    Sounds like the beginnings of a good plan. I was thinking more of general misanthropy within a society. But now I see that genocide is an empirical window into this elusive problem, and whatever counters genocide is probably going to apply as well at the day-to-day level. An altruistic package won't respect borders unless nationalism insists. I think that with multiculturalism entrenched (Ontario for good example) such nationalism will never fly.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  11. #211 Re: Is religion bad for our youth? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gen1GT
    In a somewhat recent issue of Macleans magazine, they discussed Project Teen Canada, and the results from the study. The study has found that Canadian teens are less and less likely to be religious as the years progress, yet teen behavior is improving inversely to the reduction in religosity.

    http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/04/07/t...ith-in-droves/

    http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/04/10/generation-tame/

    Thoughts?
    A quick Google of Jesus camp or killing African witches will show you definitive proof that religion is bad for children.

    As to Canadian children, you might remember that today’s generation is not as gullible as their parents and that there is a definite correlation between education and the need for a God. The smarter they are, the less they need that crutch.

    Canada is doing good. I hope the U S catches up soon but know that they are slow because of their fundamentals and literalists. That Bible belt does not help but a better education system would.

    Regards
    DL
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  12. #212 Re: Is religion bad for our youth? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greatest I am
    A quick Google of Jesus camp or killing African witches will show you definitive proof that religion is bad for children.
    Is it proof that Religion, in general, is bad for children? Or is it proof that these particular aspects of Religion are bad for children.

    If the former, then can we not draw similar conclusions that PE classes are bad for children? Or that public schools are bad for children? Or that private schools are bad for children? Each of these concepts have had their examples of negative results with regard to the welfare of children. Kids occasionally die of heat-related injuries and dehydration, break limbs etc in PE. They are variously abused physically and sexually by faculty members in both public and private schools.

    We could even extend the analogy to other institutions such as restaurants. Restaurants are bad for children since children have been known to get food poisoning in some.

    The best we can say about Jesus camp and the level of superstitions that leads to the death of children suspected of being witches in Africa is that religious superstitions can potentially be harmful for children.

    That is, it's the best we can say until more data is obtained. Or until "harmful" is more adequately defined. If it includes creating cognitive dissonance between superstition and reality, then I would have to agree that religion is harmful. But, by and large, most people seem able to cope with superstition and reality -justifying the former at the expense of the latter it seems, but they cope.
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