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Thread: Evidence:social benefits, or otherwise, of religion

  1. #1 Evidence:social benefits, or otherwise, of religion 
    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
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    There is an article in The Guardian by Susan Blackmore (of Meme Machine fame) regarding the socal benefits or otherwise, of religion, based on this published research.

    Blackmore is cautious in her acceptance of some of the findings, but it nevertheless makes for interesting reading - levels of religiosity appear to correlate most highly with states that have the highest levels of social dysfunction, and the key inference made by the study's author is that religion is not the basis for a stable society but in fact possibly an invention for times of stress or worse, a cause of the stress.

    In any case, as she points out, it blows out of the water the notion that religious societies are happier/more peaceful/more moral societies.


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  3. #2  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    William James wrote that religion begins with a "hint" as to the way things must be, based on a feeling (by definition, irrational), and then an attempt to develop a rational philosophy from that irrational hint. Since no two people's initial ideas are likely to be identical, the rationalizations will diverge, resulting in a variety of religions. My extrapolation is that then the individual hints (for want of a better word) that billions of people have have to be shoehorned into a religion that happens to be extant in the locality in which they were born, that is not theirs but someone else's leading to stress as the shoe doesn't fit well. Thus a personal belief unencumbered by religious doctrine can lead to happiness whereas that same belief hammered into conformity is like a bunion in the shoe of religion.

    Religious societies thus are like a horde of people with painful bunions in tight shoes, while the individual without religion runs joyfully barefoot on the beach.

    Thus spake Bunbury, who knows of bunions.


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  4. #3  
    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Thus a personal belief unencumbered by religious doctrine can lead to happiness whereas that same belief hammered into conformity is like a bunion in the shoe of religion.

    Religious societies thus are like a horde of people with painful bunions in tight shoes, while the individual without religion runs joyfully barefoot on the beach.
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  5. #4  
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    Well, any such speculation is really nothing more than, well, speculation. There is no way we can know what the world would be like if our history had been different.

    The problem is finding a truly non-religious society of the past and comparing it to religious societies of the past. Any comparison of modern societies to past societies is going to be very problematic. I am not sure what our bases of comparison could be.

    I am not aware of any society which has developed without some aspect of religion being present. Nor can we know what such a social order would have developed into or what it would look like had it remain until today in a religious vacuum.

    We have the problem of not knowing what, if it is even possible, a perfect society would look like. What values would you want in that society? Can all the desirable qualities actually coexist? Could you, for example, have a society with freedom of thought and freedom from conflict?

    I think not. Unless we could eradicate freedom of thought to the point that everyone thinks exactly alike, it seems highly unlikely that we could be free of conflict.

    And whether we have religion present or not, there are people who will be disobedient to the socially accepted behaviors. No parent ever had a child who had to be taught to be disobedient. That seems to come pretty much naturally!

    Certainly, a society would, with or without religion, develop rules of conduct in an effort to maintain social order. The question is how effective is that society at enforcing its standards.

    There is, perhaps, something to be said for a "higher authority" which will set things straight even if society itself fails to do so.
    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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  6. #5  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    Having now read the article I see that the correlation seems to be real, but the causation is highly speculative.

    The stress caused by such things as the appalling health care system in the US, a system designed by and for the insurance companies is a stress I feel personally. I would be enjoying a comfortable retirement today, except that I refuse to quit my job and put myself at the mercy of that particular bunch of amoral whores. Funny thing though; this level of stress has never led me to rush out and join a mosque, or a synagogue, or the Church of What's happening Now. Why not I am wont to wonder?

    America is a very different country from the European nations. It's the only country that was designed from scratch, and with a built in tension between libertarian principles and Christian heritage. This tension pervades American society as no other. Hence we can love guns and love God, deplore government interference in our lives and ban abortion, and so on.
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    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Certainly, a society would, with or without religion, develop rules of conduct in an effort to maintain social order. The question is how effective is that society at enforcing its standards.
    All one needs to do is look to the Scandinavian countries to find out. Things seem to be remarkably successful for them.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...icle571206.ece
    http://www.salon.com/books/review/2008/10/22/zuckerman/
    http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.html


    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    There is, perhaps, something to be said for a "higher authority" which will set things straight even if society itself fails to do so.
    Nothing but an empty platitude completely without utility or merit.
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  8. #7  
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    inow said:

    daytonturner wrote:
    There is, perhaps, something to be said for a "higher authority" which will set things straight even if society itself fails to do so.
    Nothing but an empty platitude completely without utility or merit.
    Well, let's see here. May I ask: if there was a one percent chance that your conduct in your lifetime would result in you spending an eternity in hell, would it have an impact on your lifetime conduct?

    So even if you are in possession of 98 percent of all the knowledge of the Universe, that still leaves you with a 50 percent chance that the one percent possibility exists within that two percent gap in your knowledge. (Individually, I suspect none of us knows much more that one (or maybe in the case of Stephen Hawking, two) percent of the total knowledge of the Universe. With that low of base knowledge, I'm not sure one should confidently exclude the possibility of God's existence.

    inow also said:

    All one needs to do is look to the Scandinavian countries to find out. Things seem to be remarkably successful for them.
    Well, yes if your criteria is taxation where Sweden, Denmark and Finland lead the world in taxing the highest percentage of their gross national product and Norway is ninth. (http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/ta...otal-as-of-gdp)

    Sweden, the highest taxing country in the world, rakes off 54.2 percent of it's GDP in taxes. Denmark pulls 48.8 out of its economy while Finland take only a paltry 46.9. What this means to me is that they have perfected the art of taking money from the people who work hard to make it and turn around and give it to the people who won't. Here in the U.S. we complain because we give back 29.6 percent of our GDP in taxes.
    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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  9. #8  
    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    There is, perhaps, something to be said for a "higher authority" which will set things straight even if society itself fails to do so.
    Quote Originally Posted by iNow
    Nothing but an empty platitude completely without utility or merit.
    Well, let's see here. May I ask: if there was a one percent chance that your conduct in your lifetime would result in you spending an eternity in hell, would it have an impact on your lifetime conduct?
    No, because Pascal's wager is retarded and could be applied to just about anything... like if I told you there was a purple unicorn under your chair that would push its horn through your testicles if you refuse to sing Barry Manilow. You'd rightly reject my claim as ludicrous, even if I told you there was a chance that the unicorn would kill you if you didn't listen. I simply reject your claim as equally ludicrous and worthy of dismissal.

    http://saintgasoline.com/2008/12/28/...f-youre-wrong/


    Quote Originally Posted by iNow
    All one needs to do is look to the Scandinavian countries to find out. Things seem to be remarkably successful for them.
    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Well, yes if your criteria is taxation where Sweden, Denmark and Finland lead the world in taxing the highest percentage of their gross national product and Norway is ninth. (http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/ta...otal-as-of-gdp)

    Sweden, the highest taxing country in the world, rakes off 54.2 percent of it's GDP in taxes. Denmark pulls 48.8 out of its economy while Finland take only a paltry 46.9. What this means to me is that they have perfected the art of taking money from the people who work hard to make it and turn around and give it to the people who won't. Here in the U.S. we complain because we give back 29.6 percent of our GDP in taxes.
    Taxation is irrelevant to the comment I made in context of your statement.


    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Certainly, a society would, with or without religion, develop rules of conduct in an effort to maintain social order. The question is how effective is that society at enforcing its standards.
    Nice attempt at a red herring, though.
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  10. #9  
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    inow said:

    Taxation is irrelevant to the comment I made in context of your statement.

    Well, I should think if I felt that way, I would be moving to one of those highly desirable tax laden scandahoovian countries.
    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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  11. #10  
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    I'd rather support the change I wish to see than to run away from those with whom I disagree.
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    What a load of bullcrap.

    Start with a conclusion and massage the data to fit it ?

    "By definition' only 1st world countries are included." What definition is that ? The definition: only include data that brings the desired results.

    And the measure of success : lifespan and money. (If this doesn't say I can't escape America no matter how hard I try, I don't know what does). There are certainly a lot of old rich alcoholics on Prozac around.


    I am all for bashing Christianity in the USA. Let's do it big style - don't hide. Why don't we just open a new forum where people can say : "I hate Christianity" over and over again.

    How can a paper be Objective if it is called : "The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosocial Conditions". That's a conclusion isn't it ? Otherwise it would be called "Investigation into ..."

    But no, the conclusion comes first, it's a poltical piece ... maybe scientists have had to become that in order to make money (but it's still objective, right ?)

    Science is a great idea. But people bend ideas.
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    I am not sure I understand the tone of your response, rideforever. I don't hate Christianity. I do, however, despise the lack of reason, rationality, and critical thinking which tends to accompany religious belief.

    Either way, none of that is relevant to my offering above, which was a well-documented real-world example of precisely the type of scenario/society which daytonturner questioned would be effective at maintaining standards and enforcing rules of conduct.

    And... btw... You need to read the paper more closely. It's rather obvious that the authors chose the title AFTER reviewing their findings... As happens with pretty much every scientific paper published. It seems rather silly for you to make the assumption you have, and worse, to admonish them based on your flawed assumption alone.

    If you've got a problem with ANY of their methods, with ANY of their data, or with ANY of their conclusions, then state them clearly and openly so we can discuss it. However, to simply attempt to poison the well based on their title, and to assert (fallaciously, mind you) that they chose their title and conclusion prior to doing any research is disingenuous at best, and most certainly rather underhanded, speculative, and lacking in integrity.
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    Hey Inow. No my post wasn't in response to what you wrote.

    Also, just because every other scientific paper approaches titling in the same way (politically), doesn't mean that it's ok. Can you see that or have you spent too long in the industry ?

    You often stand in JUDGEMENT of my posts. Who asked you ? Don't understand them, leave them.
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  15. #14  
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    First of all, we have to understand that we are human beings first an religious second. None of us is "born" religious although some may be raised in an environment where religion is a part of their environmental influence.

    One of the things we humans seem to be very good at is observing an effect and asking, "What the hell caused that?" We then go around collecting up data and forming opinions about the cause.

    What is amazing is that several people looking over and studying the same information can come to different conclusions as to the cause of the effect under study. This, of course, give rise to a new question -- why doesn't everyone always come to the same conclusion?

    Sometimes, it is because of preconceived notions. If, for example, someone is anti-religious, it is easy to blame all the ills of the world on religion. If, on the other hand, someone is a religious advocate, it is easy for him credit religion with all the good in the world while blaming lack of religion for the bad.

    But we need not have religion present for 'all these kinds of conflicts. I fail to find any religious implications in the global warming discussion even though it is hot topic -- pun unavoidable. Or the current world economic conditions. Again I fail to find a religious connection. There are numerous differences of opinions relating to many things which have no religious significance whatsoever.

    One of the things I have discovered in this discussion so far is that Europe, which is probably the least religious area of the developed modern free world is also the most highly taxed area of the modern free world. Is this coincidence or does it have religious implications? Does the U.S. have lower taxes because it is more religious than European countries? Are Europeans more happy, as some studies indicate, only because government takes so much from them that they have nothing left to fight over?
    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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  16. #15  
    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rideforever
    Who asked you ? Don't understand them, leave them.
    Oh... I see. So you choose to post your thoughts to a scientific forum such that nobody will read them, comment on them, or demonstrate flaws within them. You're treating this place as a personal diary and don't want any interaction or correction. Got it!











    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    If, for example, someone is anti-religious, it is easy to blame all the ills of the world on religion.

    <...>

    But we need not have religion present for 'all these kinds of conflicts.
    Yeah... Uhmm... Nobody here has suggested any such thing, daytonturner. Nobody is claiming that religion is responsible for all evils, nor is anyone claiming that evil would not occur in the absence of religion.

    Do you happen to know what a strawman is? You have misrepresented the position of those who disagree with you, argued against that misrepresentation instead of their actual position, and then claimed some sort of rhetorical victory (implicitly).


    As for your attempt to associate taxation structures with a lack of theism... I'll just be nice on that one and say kindly... That's a bit of a stretch there, mate. If you can connect two such unrelated things, then there is no end to the associations you can and will draw.
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  17. #16  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rideforever

    "By definition' only 1st world countries are included." What definition is that ? The definition: only include data that brings the desired results.

    And the measure of success : lifespan and money. (If this doesn't say I can't escape America no matter how hard I try, I don't know what does). There are certainly a lot of old rich alcoholics on Prozac around.
    So... You think religion would come off looking better if they included the most religious states in the world: the Middle East, Africa, and India.

    They obviously chose to exclude developing nations so as to limit the possibility of confounding variable. If you include states from Africa the data will be skewed by the effects of poverty and disease. When you just look at the developed world most variable are controlled since health, education, and civic freedom, are relatively universal.

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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    ..
    I wouldn't prejudge the outcome one way or the other. If however it is to be good 'science' and meaningful for mankind then I wouldn't exclude half the planet.

    Does that not sound like common sense ?

    If you really want to do a more thorough investigation you could also open up the investigation into civilizations from the past : why don't they count ? And also to more sophisticated measures of happiness.

    The 'news' article that stems from this piece of work promotes a particular kind of society based on the work. The work however is extremely limited and closed minded to (a) half the planet (b) all of the past (c) alternative measures of happiness. Pretty big holes. Black holes, really !

    It's not good, it's not even attempting to be objective, but instead is political : pushing a particular view of the world without attempting to research it. Call that 'science' ?

    It's very interesting that this low standard of thinking creates a symbiotic relationship between 'scientist' and 'journalist'. And I use those terms very loosely. The scientist gets a big expose in the papers > great for funding. And the journalist is spared the expense of thinking.
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by rideforever
    The work however is extremely limited and closed minded to (a) half the planet (b) all of the past (c) alternative measures of happiness.
    No, it's not.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T69TOuqaqXI



    Also, here's more data from other arenas supporting the idea you so desperately wish to dismiss:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00m1nlh
    Tom Rees has conducted research into religion and personal insecurity in 50 countries. Using figures on how much people pray and how unequal income is in each of them, he claims to have found evidence to show that the most religious societies are the most unequal, and concludes the inequality leads to religion. Is it fear and hardship that makes people of one country more religious than another, or is there a mysterious third factor that can explain why some nations pray so much more than others? Laurie Taylor talks to Tom Rees about his findings, and to sociologist of religion David Voas.
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    No, it's not
    uh ... hello ? Chill out ?

    I am just talking about this piece of research. That's the thread.
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  21. #20  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rideforever

    I wouldn't prejudge the outcome one way or the other. If however it is to be good 'science' and meaningful for mankind then I wouldn't exclude half the planet.

    Does that not sound like common sense ?

    If you really want to do a more thorough investigation you could also open up the investigation into civilizations from the past : why don't they count ? And also to more sophisticated measures of happiness.
    The article makes no claims about happiness, it says that secularism correlates with socio-economical security in societies with free choice about religion. It's kind of meaningless to compare religiosity in Europe to a country like Saudi Arabia, where atheist are put to death.

    Quote Originally Posted by rideforever
    The 'news' article that stems from this piece of work promotes a particular kind of society based on the work. The work however is extremely limited and closed minded to (a) half the planet (b) all of the past (c) alternative measures of happiness. Pretty big holes. Black holes, really !
    Yes every scientific study should examine every single possible possibility and event in human history

    Quote Originally Posted by rideforever
    It's not good, it's not even attempting to be objective, but instead is political : pushing a particular view of the world without attempting to research it. Call that 'science' ?
    Yes it's terrible when people insist on promoting reality.

    Quote Originally Posted by rideforever
    It's very interesting that this low standard of thinking creates a symbiotic relationship between 'scientist' and 'journalist'. And I use those terms very loosely. The scientist gets a big expose in the papers > great for funding. And the journalist is spared the expense of thinking.
    Sure newspapers suck, big whoop.
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  22. #21  
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    Well, so far inow, the only actual information you have presented was three links to articles glamorizing the “successful” lifestyle of Scandinavian countries introduced by this comment:

    All one needs to do is look to the Scandinavian countries to find out. Things seem to be remarkably successful for them.
    To which I suggested maybe their highly taxed civilization was not something all would find to be successful. I have done some further investigation and find that Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark all have higher suicide rates than the U.S. according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...y_suicide_rate) Maybe the reason their murder rates are lower is because they are too busy killing themselves.

    I think, at some point, it might be helpful if inow would set forth his criteria for success and then show some information that indicates those countries are better at those things than others, especially the U.S. I do not recall what the article inow cited suggested Scandinavians were doing, only that I was not particularly impressed with their accomplishments.

    Then you opined, relating to the possible value of responding to a higher authority with:

    Nothing but an empty platitude completely without utility or merit.
    Now this is a really strong and effective argument (sarcasm intended) supported by your own expert opinion and disdain for God. Not a shred of indication as to why this would be detrimental rather beneficial. Your statement is, indeed, a self caricature of an empty platitude completely without utility or merit.

    Then you offered:

    No, because Pascal's wager is retarded and could be applied to just about anything... like if I told you there was a purple unicorn under your chair that would push its horn through your testicles if you refuse to sing Barry Manilow. You'd rightly reject my claim as ludicrous, even if I told you there was a chance that the unicorn would kill you if you didn't listen. I simply reject your claim as equally ludicrous and worthy of dismissal.
    I did not respond to this earlier because it was, again, internally self descriptive in the ludicrous and unworthy of comment statement. But, in order to humor you, let me point out that your “threat” is a physical threat to be inflicted by a physical entity whereas the threat I suggested is an eternal consequence resulting from a spiritual decision. When you to show me a physical unicorn and examples of it carrying out such threats which should be possible if it exists as a physical entity in the physical world, then I will give consideration to the physical threat. In the mean time, I am 100 percent convinced that unicorns do not now exist in our physical world and am about 99.9 percent convinced they have never existed. I cannot show you the spiritual world because it is not perceived by the physical senses as a unicorn would be. When you can disprove beyond a shadow of a doubt the existence of the spirtual world, then you can feel safe in your smug disregard of the possibility of an unpleasant eternity.

    Then you went back to a former nonsense argument:

    Taxation is irrelevant to the comment I made in context of your statement
    Again, you were attempting to show how “successful” Scandinavian countries were – in what I do not know – and I merely showed you a way in which I felt they are not successful. If my comment about taxation was irrelevant to the context of my statement, it is only because your comment professing the merits of Scandinavian “success” were irrelevant to my statement. So, I suppose you could be correct in that it was an irrelevant response to an irrelevant response.


    And then you offer the following quote and comment:

    daytonturner wrote:
    Certainly, a society would, with or without religion, develop rules of conduct in an effort to maintain social order. The question is how effective is that society at enforcing its standards.
    Nice attempt at a red herring, though.
    The only red herring I see here is your claim that I have offered a red herring. Which statement is the red herring and in what way does it constitute a red herrring? I can only guess that since you later admit that societies can establish rules of conduct with or without religion, it must be my suggestion that the success of that society’s rules is dependent upon the society’s ability to get its members to conform to those rules. What is red herring about that? Would you consider a society in which no one followed and rules of conduct would be successful at anything other than anarchy and social mayhem?

    Then you ignore (naively, I hope) a general theme which permeates the writings in the many threads here:

    Yeah... Uhmm... Nobody here has suggested any such thing, daytonturner. Nobody is claiming that religion is responsible for all evils, nor is anyone claiming that evil would not occur in the absence of religion.

    Do you happen to know what a strawman is? You have misrepresented the position of those who disagree with you, argued against that misrepresentation instead of their actual position, and then claimed some sort of rhetorical victory (implicitly).
    There are those (perhaps not you, personally) who post here who tend to suggest that the world would be hunky dory if only religion could be eradicated. I do not think I have misrepresented their position one iota. Have you ever read any of the posts of (Q)?

    And then you are back to taxation issue:

    As for your attempt to associate taxation structures with a lack of theism... I'll just be nice on that one and say kindly... That's a bit of a stretch there, mate. If you can connect two such unrelated things, then there is no end to the associations you can and will draw.
    Well, now, if that ain’t a strange charge in view of the fact that the OP was related to associating religion with social practices from the standpoint of whether they are beneficial or not. You seemingly attempted to attribute the (undefined) “success” of Scandinavian countries to their lack of religion. I merely showed how silly it can be to attempt to relate everything to being an affect of religion.

    Personally, if I were looking at the affects of religion in the big picture, I would look at large areas of the world which have been long influenced by a major religion to see what they have accomplished. In that study you would see Africa as having been mostly influenced by pagan worship; Eastern Asia mostly influenced by Buddhism; the sub-continent of India by Hinduism; the Middle east by Islam; Europe by Christianity; the Americas by Christianity.

    Are the differences in the development of these large areas of the world dominated mostly by single religions coincidental to those religions or the result of the societies which developed as a result of those influences?
    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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  23. #22  
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    I feel said:

    The article makes no claims about happiness, it says that secularism correlates with socio-economical security in societies with free choice about religion. It's kind of meaningless to compare religiosity in Europe to a country like Saudi Arabia, where atheist are put to death.
    Don't you suspect that from an Islamic perspective, the Muslum would consider the Saui Arabian outcome more successful?

    While I agree with I feel's assessment, I have a tendency to also sort of agree with rideforever's objection to the narrowness of the study which seems focused only on EEU countries and the U.S. And then narrowing that into a recent time frame only. I'm not sure it provides a good overall picture of the effects of religion on a society.

    Europe has been dominated by Christianity for maybe 1700-1800 years and America since before its birth. To narrow the focus to the last few decades or even couple of centuries, is to denigrate the overall influence of Christianity which still has strong residual affects even in the least religious countries of Europe. Probably the most significant factor in our lives today both in Europe and America is the Protestant reformation which spawned many of the governmental concepts such as individual freedom of thought and separation of church and state which we seem to place as our highest societal possessions. I'm sure that few of you here realize that the idea of separation of church and government came from John Calvin, a leading religious leader of the reformation movement in Geneva.

    I am no more sure that the phenomena singled out in the article are any more the affect of religion than my silly example of the fact that the more religious U.S. collects less taxes from its citizens as a percentage of the gross national product than do the less religious EEU countries and that the top 10 taxing countries are all less religious European countries.

    I think one can build a much stronger case for the lack of positive influence by religion if one includes the rest of the world along with the Christian dominated West. As I sort of intimated in another post, those areas of the world long dominated by other major religions have not been major contributors to today's world, scientifically, socially or in human rights.

    Even if one concluded that the less religious Europe is better off with less Christianity, would it not be even more compelling that it has been far, far better off without Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or paganism?

    Even as a Christian who thinks Christianity has been the most positive in terms of religious influence in the world, I think the world would be better off with no religion than to be dominated by Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or paganism.
    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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    Even as a Christian who thinks Christianity has been the most positive in terms of religious influence in the world, I think the world would be better off with no religion than to be dominated by Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or paganism.
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    But Dayton, you are focusing on the last few years of Christianity and concluding it is better than the other religions and a hypothetically non-religious world, while you seem to disregard the periods where some of the other faiths were the "good" ones, while Christianity was out murdering and oppressing people? Islam had a much longer reign of enlightenment than the current trend of Christianity. One could also convincingly argue that precisely because Christianity was not forced on people that that is what was the driving factor in the success of so-called Christian nations in recent times. It is precisely because scientific research could progress without being oppressed by disallowing anything opposed to Christian doctrine as found in the Bible that the western world is where it is today. No?
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    I love how theists often attack others for weak arguments and lack of evidence when the position they themselves espouse by definition lacks evidence and is based on nothing more than personal interpretation and faith. It's just classic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    Quote Originally Posted by rideforever

    I wouldn't prejudge the outcome one way or the other. If however it is to be good 'science' and meaningful for mankind then I wouldn't exclude half the planet.

    Does that not sound like common sense ?

    If you really want to do a more thorough investigation you could also open up the investigation into civilizations from the past : why don't they count ? And also to more sophisticated measures of happiness.
    The article makes no claims about happiness, it says that secularism correlates with socio-economical security in societies with free choice about religion. It's kind of meaningless to compare religiosity in Europe to a country like Saudi Arabia, where atheist are put to death.
    Sure it does. Are we 'better off' without religion ?

    Quote Originally Posted by rideforever
    The 'news' article that stems from this piece of work promotes a particular kind of society based on the work. The work however is extremely limited and closed minded to (a) half the planet (b) all of the past (c) alternative measures of happiness. Pretty big holes. Black holes, really !
    Yes every scientific study should examine every single possible possibility and event in human history
    Only the ones that are meaningful.
    Quote Originally Posted by rideforever
    It's not good, it's not even attempting to be objective, but instead is political : pushing a particular view of the world without attempting to research it. Call that 'science' ?
    Yes it's terrible when people insist on promoting reality.
    Let's wait till after the research is done before we decide what reality is. Or are you in a hurry ?
    Quote Originally Posted by rideforever
    It's very interesting that this low standard of thinking creates a symbiotic relationship between 'scientist' and 'journalist'. And I use those terms very loosely. The scientist gets a big expose in the papers > great for funding. And the journalist is spared the expense of thinking.
    Sure newspapers suck, big whoop.
    It is the you scratch my back I'll scratch yours relationship between science and journalism ... that undermines this kind of bullcrap.

    Frankly, what people call science these days is just petty pious and political. Like the Church.
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    Kalster, I am not ignoring you, I am working on a reply, but will be gone most of today and do not have time to do justice to your excellent observations and questions at this time.
    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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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    I love how theists often attack others for weak arguments and lack of evidence when the position they themselves espouse by definition lacks evidence and is based on nothing more than personal interpretation and faith. It's just classic.
    If we are sincere we should ALL be attacking weak arguments. No matter from where they come or what it means for your own person beliefs.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rideforever
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    I love how theists often attack others for weak arguments and lack of evidence when the position they themselves espouse by definition lacks evidence and is based on nothing more than personal interpretation and faith. It's just classic.
    If we are sincere we should ALL be attacking weak arguments. No matter from where they come or what it means for your own person beliefs.
    Yes, I agree, but that does nothing to negate the humor and hypocrisy I find in the situation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Kalster, I am not ignoring you, I am working on a reply, but will be gone most of today and do not have time to do justice to your excellent observations and questions at this time.
    Thanks Dayton.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

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    KALSTER, to be fair, no faith, at any point in time, went out and murdered people. The crusades were not preformed by religious doctrine, nor where any other genocides nor conquering tirades that took control of the world. All of these things were carried out by people, and a fair amount of the driving force in the people who carried out these actions, or at least those that commanded that the actions be carried out, was not religious, but a hunger for power. It was and will always be people who carry out the deeds, and the blame should fall on the people who were in charge of the horrors rather than the beliefs they hold, or whatever cause they claim to be adhering to. It is a property of the tyrants in charge to be greedy, malicious, and down right cruel to those who disagree with them, and in all reality, the only people they had power over were those who aloud them to have power, and it was important to those people to ensure that as many people as possible gave the tyrant the power he wanted.

    A religious tyrant is still a tyrant, and his decisions are not necessarily driven by their 'belief' in the religion they promote. The crusades are not necessarily a religiously driven war, but more a power struggle. The power of choice and the ability to freely reject a doctrine is what keeps religion "good" because there is then no tyrant that can use it to control people, because it can then be freely discarded by the would-be subjects. The early days of all religions are relatively peaceful because of that fact: no basis for control. The violence and bloodshed occur when it becomes a "major" religion, and perhaps the falling of Christianity in the last couple centuries has hearkened the rise in civility of "Christian" nations.
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    Arcane, I agree completely, though I think we are assessing the cultural effects of particular religions. If we are discussing the effects of religion on peace and prosperity in correlation with each other, I don't see any particular reason to omit the drawing of correlations between religion, violence and poor living standards.

    Having said that though, I think you advocate the separate consideration of violence within a society from that perpetrated by a society on another and how they relate to each other, which is maybe a more revealing way to go about it.
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    I suppose I was separating a bit, and I must admit that I do agree with the idea that the tenements within a society are different than those between societies, especially when considering the actions of the people of those societies. Still, it isn't necessarily religion and religious beliefs that drive violence among religious people within a society, either. There are other factors that could tend to make one group of people with a particular set of beliefs different than another group of people with a different set of beliefs. It could be that stereotyping and misinterpreting correlation for causation drive violence amongst separate sects of Islam, for example, in that one group may have more wealth or better education and hence had more for another group to become jealous and potentially resentful of.

    I know I'm reaching, and I know it's not the most likely explanation, but it is a possibility and it isn't unbelievable that simple coincidence of living conditions could attribute to resentment, jealousy and any number of other contributing factors to violence. The causes of internal conflicts amongst rival groups usually comes down to a difference between the groups, and not necessarily, if applicable, the specific doctrines that they believe.



    note: I just realized that I kind of had an air of pompous arrogance in my tone, and I'd like to say now I'm just presenting an idea, I'm no expert nor am I even CLOSE to being an authority on any topic in this discussion. I apologize for any offense you may have taken to it, KALSTER
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    note: I just realized that I kind of had an air of pompous arrogance in my tone, and I'd like to say now I'm just presenting an idea, I'm no expert nor am I even CLOSE to being an authority on any topic in this discussion. I apologize for any offense you may have taken to it, KALSTER
    I didn't infer any arrogance from your post Arcane. No offense taken at all. I hope you don't see any in mine?

    Neither am I an expert and the possibility (or should I say, probability) that I make mistakes, even glaring ones, is not small. Thankfully we can gain better understanding by hashing it out.

    Your points are valid, but I think it might be a good idea to look at the effects of how religion has integrated into society and how that in turn can redefine a religion. Religion is after all a cultural interpretation of one holy book or another and is not necessarily defined by the holy book itself. Two Roman Catholic societies for example might have fairly different interpretations of their religions based on their current and/or historical cultural differences.
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    Religion is definitely a big part of culture, or, more specifically, the shared beliefs of a society are definitely a big part of culture. I agree that the way religion is integrated into societies helps define the specific brand of religion of that society, which is why I offered the example of separate sects of Islam, but I suppose the interpretations of the religion are more what I'm interested in. For an act of violence to have a religious source, the specific religion must be instructing the person preforming the act of violence (or in the case of a leader commanding others the leader must be the one who is instructed) explicitly, and not just offhandedly. It has to be a solidified message in the individual to, say, "kill all those who believe Jesus to be the messiah", and not just an expression of distaste for another interpretation or religion.

    I don't believe that simple misinterpretation of a holy book, taking it to be more extreme, can be faulted on the religious source i.e. the holy book. That is my opinion, at least.

    And no, your posts nearly always have a tone of general respect and humility, I've never been offended by you.
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    Arcane_Mathematician - One important point which I notice is absent from your presentations is the psychology involved when people feel their actions are sanctioned by an ultimate authority... When they feel they are acting on "god's will," there is truly no end to the evils they can rationalize and ultimately commit. It really has little to do with the teachings of their religion, or the differences in teachings between religions, and everything to do with the individuals internal justifications and rationalizations in the context of their belief that they are doing god's work and exercising god's will. With that particular "get out of jail free" card, they can commit nearly any atrocity, and will often feel that they are helping the world and doing good deeds despite the often obvious detriment and harm resulting from their actions.

    That's something rather important to consider, and I just didn't see it as an acknowledged point in your words. Take care.
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    Well, Kalster, I always enjoy your observations and questions because they seem motivated by intelligence and curiosity and interest rather than the malice which many posters here exhibit against religion in general and Christianity specifically.

    I'm just not sure if one can jump into the middle of the history of the influence of Christianity on Europe (and the world). I think one must consider the entire development of any movement as it evolved and went through its stages to become what it is today.

    Probably the most defining event in American history is its darkest and worst event -- the Civil War. This was a heinous, murderous, terrible event in our history, but it was also the event that ultimately united our nation into one country rather than several individual closely related nations. Prior to that, America was only slightly more "united" than the EEU.

    More than 1,000,000 Americans died in that war, more Americans than have died in all the other wars we have been involved in put together. But America cannot be summed up only in the Civil War. America, today, is the sum total of all of its entire history and from that period of deep internal strife and conflict for the freedom of all people in our country, we have seemingly become the protectors of freedom in the world.

    Any movement is the sum total of its evolution and it must be assessed both on the basis of its current performance and its enduring contributions. This would be true of religious movements, political movements, social movements or whatever affects society on a large scale.

    I am not sure when the "age of enlightenment" permeated what is now the Islamic world. Nor can I even say with certainty that it was a result of Islam or if it was the dying swan song of the Medo-Persian influence that dominated prior to the emergence is Islam which began in approximately 500 A.D.

    Islam grew in influence and power for the next six or seven hundred years until the Crusades. I am making a big assumption that you are referencing that period of time as being a time when perhaps Islam was the good guys and Christianity the bad guys. I am not convinced that Islam has ever been the "good guys,"
    although I admit I may be influenced by a degree of prejudice. However, from the very outset of Islam, the major recruitment method has been, "Repent or die, Infidel!"

    In contrast to Arcane Math, I would say the Crusades were highly motivated by religion as Christian European nations sought to retake the Holy Land from Islam which had come into dominance and power there much to the detriment of Christians there.

    Whether this was a righteous, altruistic motivation can be debated. But the Crusades did not involve hordes of bloodthirsty Christian armies whose single purpose was to slay evil Muslims. Their purpose was to re-secure control of Jerusalem and the historical territory where Jesus lived and ministered. Historically speaking, I think this is one of the few (maybe the only) conflicts that was motivated almost 100 percent by religious sentiment.

    The question posed in the OP relates to attempting to determine whether the impact of religion on the human race has been positive or negative. The only valid answer to the question is, "Yes, indeed."

    Your final sentence, Kalster, ("It is precisely because scientific research could progress without being oppressed by disallowing anything opposed to Christian doctrine as found in the Bible that the western world is where it is today. No?") focuses on Martin Luther's doctrine of Solo Scriptura. The doctrine seems to literally say that scripture is the only definer of scripture. The effect, however, was to remove the church as the definer of scripture and put that power in the hands of all people. When confronted with the fact that this would lead to individual interpretation and chaos, Luther agreed but suggested that was better than having a human body being the sole authority of what scripture means. With some 30,000 current denominations of protestant Christians, this seems to have become the case.

    I think as you seem to suggest, however, it has been that freedom within Christianity which has spawned the ideals of individual thought and freedom of expression which we in Western Civilization enjoy and regard as our greatest possession and which we practice anytime we post to this forum. Sometimes, I think the anti religious scientificos who post here have lost sight of the fact that they, too, are products and benefactors of this legacy.

    I hope I have addressed your concerns, Kalster, even if I have not satisfied them.
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    inow said:

    Arcane_Mathematician - One important point which I notice is absent from your presentations is the psychology involved when people feel their actions are sanctioned by an ultimate authority... When they feel they are acting on "god's will," there is truly no end to the evils they can rationalize and ultimately commit. It really has little to do with the teachings of their religion, or the differences in teachings between religions, and everything to do with the individuals internal justifications and rationalizations in the context of their belief that they are doing god's work and exercising god's will. With that particular "get out of jail free" card, they can commit nearly any atrocity, and will often feel that they are helping the world and doing good deeds despite the often obvious detriment and harm resulting from their actions.

    That's something rather important to consider, and I just didn't see it as an acknowledged point in your words. Take care.
    This is one of the few things you have written with which I must say I sort of agree.

    However, the problem I see here is the danger of blaming the religion for the actions of some deranged individual. Do you think that such deranged people would not find some other justification for their action if religion did not exist? Or would all such activities cease once the concept of an ultimate authority were eliminated? And can you differentiate between random deranged individuals from different religious affiliations as opposed to large organized groups within a single religious affiliation? How would you feel if someone committed such an atrocity and said he did it because he believed inow had told him it was OK? And then you became the object of criticism rather than the perpetrator?
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

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    Dayton, you flatter me. It is nice to be able to engage in discourse with a thinking theist on these important matters. I value that highly. :wink:

    I will respond to your post, but I have to get some sleep if I don't want to become another road statistic tomorrow. Have a good day.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Well, Kalster, I always enjoy your observations and questions because they seem motivated by intelligence and curiosity and interest rather than the malice which many posters here exhibit against religion in general and Christianity specifically.

    <...>

    Sometimes, I think the anti religious scientificos who post here have lost sight of the fact that they, too, are products and benefactors of this legacy.
    Listen... I just treat all ridiculous claims not grounded in evidence equally, and I provide no deference for religion. I am an equal opportunity basher of silly nonsense, and I treat your religious views no differently than I would treat someone who believed in Thor, Zeus, Apollo, the tooth fairy, or unicorns. You have no privileged right toward respect for your beliefs. I fully respect your right to hold your beliefs, but the beliefs themselves have not only failed to earn respect, but they outright demand criticism, mockery, and rejection.

    It's simple, really. I don't respect all beliefs. I don't respect people who think that the easter bunny is real, and I don't respect people who think global warming is a big conspiracy. I certainly respect their right to believe what they want, but I don't have to respect the belief itself. This is a crucial difference. I respect your right to believe what you want, but the belief itself is not worthy of ANY respect or deference if the belief itself is ridiculous, fallacious, and/or based on nothing more than scripture.

    Historically, religion seems to have received some unearned deference, and it's been granted a special sort of respect that other topics simply are not. I'm merely no longer willing to continue the double standard.

    Sam Harris explains the above rather well in terms of "conversational intolerance" which is further explained here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convers...al_intolerance


    What you dismiss as "malice" or "militancy" is little more than a consistency in my approach to the world. I am just not showing the deference and respect of religion which it has enjoyed for so many years in the past... simply dismissing religious claims for lack of proof... encouraging others to do the same (just as they do with nearly all other aspects of their lives)... and, for this, I am called loud mouthed and militant, and it's an incorrect usage of the label "militant" in nearly all instances where it's being applied.

    My approach is similar to what we do in science and with scientific claims... we critique them... we challenge assertions... we demand empirical evidence which can be replicated by others... So, why aren't you and these other religious people claiming persecution calling scientific journals "militant" or full of "malice" for holding their article submissions to a harsh peer review? I'll tell you why... because that would be stupid beyond all measure. The difference is not in the approach people are using, nor in what people are advocating. The difference resides entirely in the topic being criticized, and as I stated above many of us are simply tired of the double standard.


    This video struck a chord with me if you wish to better understand where I'm coming from:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H74ckoCYq3c






    http://atheism.about.com/od/atheists...ifferences.htm
    What does "respect for religious differences" mean, though? This is a very important question because "respect" seems to mean very different things for different people. Too often, religious believers will behave as though "respecting" one's religion and religious beliefs doesn't mean mere tolerance of a religion and acceptance of different religious opinions. Instead, they behave as though respect actually means deference to, if not some measure of admiration for, someone's religion — solely because the religion is important for this person.

    It should be granted that a person's religion may be very important to them, even fundamental for the way they view the world, but this isn't enough to expect others to show admiration or deference towards their religion.
    http://atheism.about.com/od/atheists...ctReligion.htm
    What does it mean to 'respect' someone's religion or religious beliefs? Many religious theists insist that their religion deserves to be respected, even by non-believers, but what exactly are they asking for? If they are simply asking to be let alone in their beliefs, that's not unreasonable. If they are asking that their right to believe be honored, then I agree. The problem is, these basic minimums are rarely, if ever, what people are asking for; instead, they are asking for much more.

    The first clue that people are asking for more is demonstrated by the fact that no one who asks to be let alone is denied this and few Christians in the West have any trouble with their right to believe being infringed upon. The second clue that people are asking for more is how they accuse atheists of "intolerance" not because atheists are infringing on anyone's right to believe, or because they are going around badgering others, but rather because atheists are being very critical of the content of those beliefs. It can be argued, then, that what religious believers are really asking for is deference, reverence, high regard, admiration, esteem, and other things which their beliefs (or any beliefs, opinions, ideas, etc.) are not automatically entitled to.

    <...>

    Respecting religion in the sense of tolerating it is usually a fair request; but such minimal respect isn't what religious believers usually want. After all, there is little danger in America of most religious beliefs not being tolerated on a basic level. Some religious minorities may have legitimate concerns in this regard, but they aren't the ones making the most noise about getting respect. Religious believers also don't appear to be interested in simply being "let alone" to go about their religious business.

    Instead, they seem to want the rest of us to somehow admit or acknowledge just how important, serious, admirable, valuable, and wonderful their religion is. That's how they regard their religion, after all, and sometimes they seem unable to understand why others don't feel the same way. They are asking for and demanding much more than they are entitled to. No matter how important their religion is to them personally, they cannot expect others to treat it in the same way. Religious believers cannot demand that nonbelievers regard their religion with admiration or treat it as a superior way of living.

    There's something about religion, religious beliefs, and theism in particular which seems to increase a person's sense of entitlement and the demands they make on behalf of it. People can act brutally in the pursuit of political causes, for example, but they seem to act even more brutally when they believe that they have religious or even divine sanction for that cause. God becomes an "amplifier" for whatever happens to be going on; in this context, even more respect, deference, and reverence is expected for religious beliefs and claims than other sorts of beliefs and claims which a person might have.

    It's not enough that people in the religious community want something; God also wants it and wants it for them. If others don't "respect" this, then they are attacking not just the religious community, but also God — the moral center of their universe. Here, "respect" can't possibly be thought of in the minimalist sense. It can't simply be "tolerance" and instead must be thought of as deference and reverence. Believers want to be treated as special, but irreligious atheists should treat them like everyone else and, perhaps more importantly, treat their religious claims and opinions like any other claim or opinion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    However, the problem I see here is the danger of blaming the religion for the actions of some deranged individual. Do you think that such deranged people would not find some other justification for their action if religion did not exist? Or would all such activities cease once the concept of an ultimate authority were eliminated? And can you differentiate between random deranged individuals from different religious affiliations as opposed to large organized groups within a single religious affiliation?
    The challenge with your inquiry, daytonturner, is that I see pretty much all religious people (and those who accept a deity concept as a valid description of our universe) to be... by definition... themselves delusional and often deranged. You simply cannot hold such beliefs and not be a bit delusional. With that said, I cannot see the delineation you are attempting to make between the "deranged/delusional" and the "rest" of religious people, and hence cannot really comment on your questions.



    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    How would you feel if someone committed such an atrocity and said he did it because he believed inow had told him it was OK? And then you became the object of criticism rather than the perpetrator?
    Your comparison fails, primarily since any third party and objective observer can seek me out to validate and/or falsify the claims. I am a real entity which can be subjected to test and inquiry, who can be seen, heard, and asked about the claims of the individual making them. God is not any of those things.
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    inow:

    You as well as many others of your ilk who post here, just cannot seem to accept that religion and science are different. And they cannot be compared on the basis of each other. You can point to similarities and differences, but you cannot define one by the other.

    You cannot compare roast beef to raspberries only on the basis of raspberries other than to note in what ways they are similar or different. But there is no way by which one can define the other.

    inow says:
    I respect your right to believe what you want, but the belief itself is not worthy of ANY respect or deference if the belief itself is ridiculous, fallacious, and/or based on nothing more than scripture.
    Well, your own intolerance shows through in your ignorance of why people believe in God and the different bases by which they come to that belief. Most people who believe in God, came to do so with little or no knowledge of scripture whatsoever. There are many believers who have never read the Bible, do not even have access to one, and who could perhaps quote only a few verses from the Bible.

    We can all look at the evidence of global warming and see that yes, indeed, the earth is warmer today than it was a few decades ago. Denying that observation would be absolute ignorance. We are observing an effect for which we are not 100 percent in agreement as to the cause, nor as to the long term prognosis. We can only make our observations, weigh the possibilities and advocate action based on what we think the data suggests as the cause and the long term effects.

    The thing is, we all have access to the same information. Some place greater weight on some information while others find different information more valuable. But, at least, we all acknowledge the existence of the evidence whether we agree as to its significance. It is hardly unusual that people studying copious quantities of information can come to different conclusions.

    Some people are just not at all that excited about any of it, remembering that only 40 or so years ago scientists were warning of a coming ice age. And, hey, they had evidence -- wrong though it was.

    It is not the same with religion. I can only speak as to Christianity, but what we believe cannot be quantified in the same way that one can quantify the evidence related to global warming or ice ages.

    We "see" God in the magnificence, the complexity and the beauty of the Universe and life itself. We "feel" His presence someplace within us, perhaps in a place we did not know existed before we believed.

    When I look into the night sky (well, not here in the city) I see God's handiwork. All you see is stars. But then, since you do not see God there, you claim that what I see is ridiculous and fallacious. What you are doing is calling me a liar and yet you claim to be a tolerant person.

    As Christians, we do not call you a liar when you say you do not see any evidence of God. We merely call you a person to whom God has not, and may never, reveal Himself, even hoping all the while, for your sake, that He will. And you call us an intolerant people.
    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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    inow said:

    Your comparison fails, primarily since any third party and objective observer can seek me out to validate and/or falsify the claims.
    Uh, the delusion here is that you think everyone will inevitably believe you. Perhaps just presenting selected copies of your writings here on this forum might be enough to cause some objective observers to suspect you might have sanctioned the actions of the deranged person. You never know how others will view what you say.
    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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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    You as well as many others of your ilk who post here, just cannot seem to accept that religion and science are different. And they cannot be compared on the basis of each other. You can point to similarities and differences, but you cannot define one by the other.

    You cannot compare roast beef to raspberries only on the basis of raspberries other than to note in what ways they are similar or different. But there is no way by which one can define the other.
    Oh... Please tell me you didn't just summon Stephen Jay Gould's concept of non-overlapping magisteria.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-ove...ria#Criticisms
    Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) is the view advocated by Stephen Jay Gould that "science and religion do not glower at each other...[but] interdigitate in patterns of complex fingering, and at every fractal scale of self-similarity."

    <...>

    ould put forward what he described as "a blessedly simple and entirely conventional resolution to ... the supposed conflict between science and religion." He defines the term magisterium as "a domain where one form of teaching holds the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution" and the NOMA principle is "the magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for example, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty)."

    <...>

    religion does not, and cannot, steer clear of the material scientific matters that Gould considers outside religion's scope.

    Dawkins argues that "[a] universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without. [...] Religions make existence claims, and this means scientific claims." These "existence claims" include miracles such as the Catholic Assumption of Mary: whether Mary's body decayed when she died or was physically lifted to Heaven is a material fact, and thus outside the moral magisterium to which NOMA would limit religion.

    Dawkins also argues that a religion in which there were no interventions in the physical world by supernatural beings (hence subject to scientific investigation) would be a far different one to any existent ones, and certainly different to all the Abrahamic religions. Moreover, he claims that religions would be only too happy to accept any scientific claims that supported their views. For example, if DNA evidence proved that Jesus had no earthly father, the argument of non-overlapping magisteria would be quickly dropped. Also, Dawkins quotes the well known logical argument that not all grammatically correct questions are legitimate (for example, "What does the color red smell like?"), and thus the Why? questions of religion do not necessarily deserve an answer.

    Although a fervant supporter of Gould's works, Francis Collins also criticised the limits of NOMA, believing that science, religion, and other spheres have "partially overlapped"




    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Most people who believe in God, came to do so with little or no knowledge of scripture whatsoever. There are many believers who have never read the Bible, do not even have access to one, and who could perhaps quote only a few verses from the Bible.
    I agree. Most of them come to their belief through indoctrination since early childhood and it's reinforced by the community around them.



    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    I can only speak as to Christianity, but what we believe cannot be quantified in the same way that one can quantify the evidence related to global warming or ice ages.

    We "see" God in the magnificence, the complexity and the beauty of the Universe and life itself. We "feel" His presence someplace within us, perhaps in a place we did not know existed before we believed.
    Which is why it is complete and utter bullshit worthy of dismissal and derision.


    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    What you are doing is calling me a liar and yet you claim to be a tolerant person.
    No, I am not. Let's be clear, here. I am saying you are delusional. I don't doubt that you sincerely believe these things, and that you are attempting to share your beliefs authentically.



    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    As Christians, we do not call you a liar when you say you do not see any evidence of God. We merely call you a person to whom God has not, and may never, reveal Himself, even hoping all the while, for your sake, that He will.
    And that's really arrogant and ignorant of you... to assume that you have access to some absolute truth which I'm "just missing." Seriously... [...]. Your claims are no different than those made by people who believed in any of the other countless deities laying dead in the graveyard of human mythology.







    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    inow said:

    Your comparison fails, primarily since any third party and objective observer can seek me out to validate and/or falsify the claims.
    Uh, the delusion here is that you think everyone will inevitably believe you.
    <...>
    You never know how others will view what you say.
    It has nothing to do people with believing me. It has everything to do with the fact that I am an actual being whom is present and available to them for questioning. It wasn't a difficult logic structure I was employing. I am present for questioning, god is not. Your comparison fails.

    You missing such a simple and straight forward central point leads me to sense that we are done here now. If you cannot understand such a simple point (not to mention that you honestly believe I cannot look into the sky and be awe-struck simply because I reject your god-concept) means that this engagement with you is little more than an exercise in futility. Enjoy your night.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Most people who believe in God, came to do so with little or no knowledge of scripture whatsoever. There are many believers who have never read the Bible, do not even have access to one, and who could perhaps quote only a few verses from the Bible.
    Which is probably a good thing for religion. Indeed, it was only a few hundred years ago that the laity were prohibited from possessing biblical literature that was in their own language and a hundred or so years more before education levels were such that it was common enough for the actual ability to read it existed. People are lazy -they'd prefer to get their biblical mythology from televangelists, AM radio nuts, and word of mouth than actually read. If I were someone financially dependent upon the laity (i.e. T.D. Jakes, Pat Robertson, or some other modern cult leader), the last thing I'd want people to actually do is read their bibles. That's why they have television shows and books of their own, so they can tell people what their versions of biblical mythology is all about.

    Should they actually read it and discover that murder, incest, rape and slavery are encouraged by their god, they might begin to think it through. They might start asking questions. And if they didn't, they'd have to compartmentalize their beliefs and lie to themselves about the significance and meanings of these passages, justifying them all the while creating an overarching delusion to shroud them in their comfort zones.

    We "see" God in the magnificence, the complexity and the beauty of the Universe and life itself. We "feel" His presence someplace within us, perhaps in a place we did not know existed before we believed.
    How do you know its a god? Moreover, how do you know its the god you think it is? Why can it not be neuro-chemical processes to which we already have empirical evidence for existence? Why can't it just be a delusion, which is something that we already know humans experience with such regularity that probably everyone has them?

    When I look into the night sky (well, not here in the city) I see God's handiwork. All you see is stars.
    To turn this sentence around, "when I look into the night sky, I see the awesome wonder of the universe and unimaginable glory of nature. All you see is goddidit. How boring.

    But then, since you do not see God there, you claim that what I see is ridiculous and fallacious.
    I can't speak for inow, but I look at you looking at the magnificent glory of nature but only seeing a god that exists only in the minds of the deluded with the same magnificence and awe that I see in the night sky. I'm eager to stick a microscope in your brain (figuratively speaking) and see why those delusions exist but, more eagerly, I'm also interested in tracing these cultural delusions and memes back as far as I can in human history to test the evolutionary advantages of allowing for one to be deluded. Is it the same advantage of being sure a leopard is in the tall grass and running for safety when all it was was a change in wind direction? Surely there were times when Homo erectus was faced with this very quandary when the answer could have been either. Surely running for safety was the right thing to do and his delusion saved him.

    What you are doing is calling me a liar and yet you claim to be a tolerant person.

    As Christians, we do not call you a liar when you say you do not see any evidence of God.
    He didn't call you a liar. That's a fallacious response to what he did say, which is that you're deluded. Delusion is a fact of being human. I've been deluded on several occasions and, for a while, was deluded by the superstitions of religion. This is a bit different than being a liar, don't you think. Unless you're conceding that there's a "lie to yourself," which is probably true, though, as a psychological response, its just part of the delusion, to which no malicious intent is involved.

    That's not to say that there aren't those who are religious that don't lie. Indeed, Christianity tends to make it very easy to lie (the 'lying for Jesus' claim) since its for a perceived "good cause." You, however, don't seem the sort to engage in that type of immoral behavior.

    We merely call you a person to whom God has not, and may never, reveal Himself, even hoping all the while, for your sake, that He will. And you call us an intolerant people.
    I've yet to meet a completely tolerant person. I'd feel sorry for the bastard if I did. But there's a difference to being intolerant of irrationality and superstition (which is potentially harmful) and intolerant of the things Christians are often proud of being intolerant of -particularly the more conservative (I don't mean "conservative" in the colloquial, political sense) bent.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Arcane_Mathematician - One important point which I notice is absent from your presentations is the psychology involved when people feel their actions are sanctioned by an ultimate authority... When they feel they are acting on "god's will," there is truly no end to the evils they can rationalize and ultimately commit. It really has little to do with the teachings of their religion, or the differences in teachings between religions, and everything to do with the individuals internal justifications and rationalizations in the context of their belief that they are doing god's work and exercising god's will. With that particular "get out of jail free" card, they can commit nearly any atrocity, and will often feel that they are helping the world and doing good deeds despite the often obvious detriment and harm resulting from their actions.

    That's something rather important to consider, and I just didn't see it as an acknowledged point in your words. Take care.
    You are right, I missed that one. Although, God is not necessary as an internal justification, anything that the individual holds to be an authority will do, and in the case of those I mentioned, it is likely any excuse imaginable will do, be it God's will, their king's will, or even their mother's will. Simply believing that there is something more... "important"... to one's life than their life itself is a dangerous belief to have, and is very likely a major contributing factor to the atrocities committed. The followers definitely abide by the pathology you are suggesting, but I'd pin the moral depravity on the leader, and weigh that individuals pathology and conditions much more heavily than their subjects.
    Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools, because they have to say something.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    ..
    I would also say that you have stumbled upon the psychological angle which is very important. Like you say if you believe you are doing 'what is right' it can lead you to do some very terrible things.

    'What is right' might come from religion, or from science, or anywhere.
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    I am not sure when the "age of enlightenment" permeated what is now the Islamic world. Nor can I even say with certainty that it was a result of Islam or if it was the dying swan song of the Medo-Persian influence that dominated prior to the emergence is Islam which began in approximately 500 A.D.

    Islam grew in influence and power for the next six or seven hundred years until the Crusades. I am making a big assumption that you are referencing that period of time as being a time when perhaps Islam was the good guys and Christianity the bad guys. I am not convinced that Islam has ever been the "good guys,"
    although I admit I may be influenced by a degree of prejudice. However, from the very outset of Islam, the major recruitment method has been, "Repent or die, Infidel!"
    Sorry for simply providing a Wiki link, but it is much better explained there than I could manage. LINK. I think you might be surprised with what you find. The Islamic Golden Age lasted some 600 years and scholarship, tolerance, even humanism, etc. characterised this period.

    In contrast to Arcane Math, I would say the Crusades were highly motivated by religion as Christian European nations sought to retake the Holy Land from Islam which had come into dominance and power there much to the detriment of Christians there.
    I would say that the Islamic invaders’ treatment of the other religious, including Christians, after the fact was rather atypical of the period. After the conquest no Christian religious sites were damaged and Umar even went out of his way to not pray in Christian temples, which would have automatically made them Muslim mosques according to their traditions. He was also horrified at the state of the fabled magnificent Solomon’s temple which was found in ruins and had been used as a garbage dump. He also allowed Jews back into Jerusalem for the first time in quite a while.

    My use of the terms “good guys” and “bad guys” was to demonstrate that the perceptions of people are relative to their subjective viewpoints. While it may be easy to make judgements from our 21st century moral high ground perch, my point is that no clear determination of “good” and “bad” religions can be made. Contributions to all things good have been made by nearly all religions over history and from my perspective, Christianity can be associated with current trends in the west by virtue of coincidence only. In fact, the Renaissance probably would not have happened had it not been for the Islamic golden age, as their advancements spread after the crusades and were largely responsible for the establishment of the institutions that drove the Renaissance.

    My larger point, and the one I was driving at with Arcane, is that religions are largely a function of culture and perceived necessity than the holy books they supposedly base their beliefs on. Even when you look at the holy books themselves, a picture of moral relativism, cultural trends and survival emerges quite clearly as the main author of them, rather than a divine scripter.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
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    Quote Originally Posted by rideforever
    I would also say that you have stumbled upon the psychological angle which is very important. Like you say if you believe you are doing 'what is right' it can lead you to do some very terrible things.
    Terrible by whose standard? Certainly not to the person doing the deeds. And there are no other objective standards.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Well, any such speculation is really nothing more than, well, speculation. There is no way we can know what the world would be like if our history had been different.
    Hi Dayton

    My OP had specifically referred to the argument, posited frequently by some who claim to argue for religion, that religious societies are happier, more peaceful, more moral (or some combination of the three). As this was the forum for the scientific study of religion, I was just making the point that this study seems to show that argument is null and void.

    Whatever the direction of causality, by the standards measured, the more religious societies also have higher crime rates, less social stability/peace and appear to have unhappier citizens as a whole.

    Perhaps a useful discussion on this topic would be:

    - What might cause this correlation and can we test our theories on it?

    - Is this study at all reliable (being a meta-study as it is), or are there others that may have been conducted that could verify or disconfirm its findings?

    Alas, not many of the posters appear to have addressed these points.

    Note that, from my point of view, the question of whether or not there is a god is irrelevant to this discussion: I am merely asking about the social benefits, or otherwise, or religiosity.

    Anyway, it's interesting how a post that had apparently died a death suddenly sparked into furious life over the past few days.

    cheer

    shanks
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