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Thread: Benefits of organised religion?

  1. #1 Benefits of organised religion? 
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    My friend and i have recently been discussing the benefits of religion. We are both atheists, often talking about the ugly side of religion. However, we also found it quite interesting that we both had recently fallen for Muslim girls. We reasoned it was something to do with strong family values and morals. We also lamented the demise of British youth (drunkenness is celebrated and we cheer when we top Europe's teenage pregnancy leagues). This seems to be correlated to the demise of religious upbringing here.

    But enough of anecdote. Does organised religion bring about more benefits to society than harms? Does anyone actually know of any real evidence of either. Belief is a non-issue here, only the social function religion serves and the benefits, or harms, it brings.


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    You are asking a very difficult question.

    But a possible way to approach it would be to look at a happiness index and a an atheist ratio.

    It looks like less religion correlates well with happiness.

    With no religion you can still have close family and strong morals.


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    Here is another link of interest:
    Atheistic Societies Are Happy Societies
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  5. #4 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Does organised religion bring about more benefits to society than harms?
    Early religions were much more solidly integrated into society than is currently the case in the West. As such, it is not a stretch to say they were society. Arguably, therefore, many of the benefits that flow from society were intimately related to and directly or indirectly dependent on religion.

    That is true of the bad things, just as much as the good. However, we might be better attributing the endless wars and inhumanity (odd word for such a common human behviour) to innate human tendencies rather that religion. Religion has often provided the focus and excuse for these expressions, without being the ultimate cause.

    In the meantime, the very structure and rules of society, without which it could not function, were - for millenia - provided by religion. I doubt civilisation could have advanced to this point without it.
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  6. #5 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    However, we might be better attributing the endless wars and inhumanity (odd word for such a common human behaviour) to innate human tendencies rather that religion. Religion has often provided the focus and excuse for these expressions, without being the ultimate cause.
    I sorry I cant agree with that!
    I'm not saying religion is the only cause but it must be the main cause, anybody that holds an imaginary being above the lives of it's own human species, can not respect human life.
    Religion has to be a catalyst in the causes of the death of said species. Especially consisting the words it's adherents hold to be true, written in it's holy books.
    A logician saves the life of a tiny space alien. The alien is very grateful and, since she's omniscient, offers the following reward: she offers to answer any question the logician might pose. Without too much thought (after all, he's a logician), he asks: "What is the best question to ask and what is the correct answer to that question?" The tiny alien pauses. Finally she replies, "The best question is the one you just asked; and the correct answer is the one I gave."
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  7. #6 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    But enough of anecdote. Does organised religion bring about more benefits to society than harms? Does anyone actually know of any real evidence of either.
    I think the fact that religion is so common place among every set of humans we know about strongly suggest that it brought about some advantage to individuals and probably to the larger group in societal evolution.
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    Most of the advantages are about the social cohesion it brings to local communities, and the ease it provides when caring for sick or elderly, etc. It's a social community which comes with all of the benefits therein.

    However, there is a detriment, too, as that community is held together on fairy tales and stories which drive wedges and divisions across people who hold differing beliefs. It also breaks down in many ways the individuals ability to successfully review claims for validity, or to accept well documented evidence in support of argument (it's the whole faith is more important than evidence problem, coupled with my faith is not equal your faith so you're going to burn for eternity assumption).

    However, the community benefits are strong. Like minded tribes with clear hierarchies and authorities help groups be more successful... as long as it doesn't drive them too far away from other tribes with other hierarchies and beliefs.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Most of the advantages are about the social cohesion it brings to local communities, and the ease it provides when caring for sick or elderly, etc. It's a social community which comes with all of the benefits therein.
    Practical knowledge as well, all wrapped up in shared ceremonies, such as when to plant seed, what foods are ok to eat and which aren't etc.
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    Quote Originally Posted by c186282
    It looks like less religion correlates well with happiness.

    With no religion you can still have close family and strong morals.
    The first link: won't link back to the original research. I'd like to see the methodology in detail first. Such is the complexity of the issue i doubt the results are valid. The second links don't really support the argument. They may correlate, it's hard to tell without a correlation coefficient, and even if they do, correlation is not causation. But thanks for providing some stats.

    Sure you can have strong family values without religion. But i wonder if at a population level presence of religion leads to more families having this standard.


    Quote Originally Posted by pavlos
    I'm not saying religion is the only cause but it must be the main cause, anybody that holds an imaginary being above the lives of it's own human species, can not respect human life.
    Look at the sectarian violence of Northern Ireland. Less to do with Catholics vs Protestants, more to do with angry young men and a blatant invasion still reverberating. That being said some religions are quick to turn to violence; Islam encourages violence when the religion is threatened. Unfortunately Muslims seem to feel threatened a lot just now. But without religion, i'm sure our history would be just as bloody - we'll never really know though.


    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    In the meantime, the very structure and rules of society, without which it could not function, were - for millenia - provided by religion. I doubt civilisation could have advanced to this point without it.
    Assuming this to be true, the question becomes whether society still requires this moral crutch or can areligious societies now function. And if we do away religion, do we need anything to replace it?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Quote Originally Posted by pavlos
    I'm not saying religion is the only cause but it must be the main cause, anybody that holds an imaginary being above the lives of it's own human species, can not respect human life.
    Look at the sectarian violence of Northern Ireland. Less to do with Catholics vs Protestants, more to do with angry young men and a blatant invasion still reverberating. That being said some religions are quick to turn to violence; Islam encourages violence when the religion is threatened. Unfortunately Muslims seem to feel threatened a lot just now. But without religion, i'm sure our history would be just as bloody - we'll never really know though.
    I don't think so, Ireland, is all about Catholic vs Protestants, with a few minor things thrown in, but it all goes back to religious hatred all due to Cromwell's hatred for Catholics and his execution of 3500 catholics all from one town, in the Irish campaign.
    A logician saves the life of a tiny space alien. The alien is very grateful and, since she's omniscient, offers the following reward: she offers to answer any question the logician might pose. Without too much thought (after all, he's a logician), he asks: "What is the best question to ask and what is the correct answer to that question?" The tiny alien pauses. Finally she replies, "The best question is the one you just asked; and the correct answer is the one I gave."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    The first link: won't link back to the original research. I'd like to see the methodology in detail first. Such is the complexity of the issue i doubt the results are valid. The second links don't really support the argument. They may correlate, it's hard to tell without a correlation coefficient, and even if they do, correlation is not causation. But thanks for providing some stats.
    It goes even deeper than what was shared above. Religiosity correlates rather strongly with poverty and strife. Where there is more poverty and less well-being there is more religion (there are tons of links on this, I could provide some if needed). So, the data suggests that with well-being and happiness, religion is less needed, less common, and more rejected.

    More here:


    http://www.religionnews.com/index.ph...not_religious/
    Yahoo travel produced a piece on the world's happiest countries citing data from a Gallup poll that looked at responses from 155 countries between 2005 and 2009.

    "First they asked subjects to reflect on their overall satisfaction with their lives, and ranked their answers using a 'life evaluation' score between 1 and 10. Then they asked questions about how each subject had felt the previous day. Those answers allowed researchers to score their 'daily experiences' - things like whether they felt well-rested, respected, free of pain and intellectually engaged."

    This study reminded me of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan and its call to replace Gross National Product with a Gross National Happiness Index as the leading economic indicator. But Bhutan does not appear with top marks in the Gallup poll. (However it did, according to the BusinessWorld article, rank 8th out of 178 in a ranking of "Subjective Well-being" by Adrian G. White of the University of Leicester. This was, moreover, "despite the fact that it is the only country in the top 20 'happiest' countries that has a very low GDP").

    The nations taking the top spots include: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands. This might not come as a surprise to many who have been to these nations. What is surprising, however, is that three of these five nations are among the top 10 least religious nations in the world (also from Gallup).

    Indeed, Sweden, Denmark and Norway came in at second, third, and fourth, respectively. Only Estonia was less religious than these nations.

    <...>

    These results are discussed in a book I read several months ago by Phil Zuckerman, a sociology professor at Pitzer College, titled Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment. In the piece, Zuckerman discusses how these nations function quite well sociologically without firm religious convictions (much to the surprise of many in the U.S. who would argue to the contrary). The interviews Zuckerman collected offer an insight into what a Godless society actually looks like from the ground.

    I am fully aware that the data presented in this short post might be like comparing apples to bookshelves. Additionally, measures of "happiness" or "religiosity" can often be so vague and difficult to quantify that they lose their meaning. However, I still found it quite interesting to notice the trend between religiosity (or not) and happiness.





    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Assuming this to be true, the question becomes whether society still requires this moral crutch or can areligious societies now function. And if we do away religion, do we need anything to replace it?
    See above, plus more here:


    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/28/us...ef=todayspaper
    Phil Zuckerman spent 14 months in Scandinavia, talking to hundreds of Danes and Swedes about religion. It wasn’t easy.

    Anyone who has paid attention knows that Denmark and Sweden are among the least religious nations in the world. Polls asking about belief in God, the importance of religion in people’s lives, belief in life after death or church attendance consistently bear this out.

    It is also well known that in various rankings of nations by life expectancy, child welfare, literacy, schooling, economic equality, standard of living and competitiveness, Denmark and Sweden stand in the first tier.

    Well documented though they may be, these two sets of facts run up against the assumption of many Americans that a society where religion is minimal would be, in Mr. Zuckerman’s words, “rampant with immorality, full of evil and teeming with depravity.”

    Here's an interview with the author about his book (about 17 minutes total for the two parts):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cn1il00qIzI
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eEojwlG4cU


    As well as MUCH much more here: http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.html


    EDIT to add: I think the premise at the root of your question is invalid. Inherent in the question "does anything need to replace religion to ensure a moral society" is the a priori assumption that religion actually provides a morality to society. This has questionable validity. Morality is derived from the fact that we are a social species, the individuals in which rely on the larger group for survival. If we fail to adhere to the expectations and regulations of the group (or group leaders), we are shunned, ostracized, and thus lose reproductive potential, protection (in food, kin, and skirmish), and ultimately lower our evolutionary success.

    Morality has evolved along with the success brought by our existence in troops and tribes. Religion is just itself another group, not a source of the human tendency to adapt and adhere to social norms to maximize reproductive success and survival.
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  13. #12 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by pavlos
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    However, we might be better attributing the endless wars and inhumanity (odd word for such a common human behaviour) to innate human tendencies rather that religion. Religion has often provided the focus and excuse for these expressions, without being the ultimate cause.
    I sorry I cant agree with that!
    I'm not saying religion is the only cause but it must be the main cause, anybody that holds an imaginary being above the lives of it's own human species, can not respect human life.
    Religion has to be a catalyst in the causes of the death of said species. Especially consisting the words it's adherents hold to be true, written in it's holy books.
    Sorry, but you are talking complete nonsense. Any study of human psychology, not to mention animal behaviour in general, demonstrates the evolutionary value of aggression for territorial species. That is the root cause of everything from the office squabble to the intercontinental war. Religion then becomes one of the tools of rationalisation and implementation.
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  14. #13 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Quote Originally Posted by pavlos
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    However, we might be better attributing the endless wars and inhumanity (odd word for such a common human behaviour) to innate human tendencies rather that religion. Religion has often provided the focus and excuse for these expressions, without being the ultimate cause.
    I sorry I cant agree with that!
    I'm not saying religion is the only cause but it must be the main cause, anybody that holds an imaginary being above the lives of it's own human species, can not respect human life.
    Religion has to be a catalyst in the causes of the death of said species. Especially consisting the words it's adherents hold to be true, written in it's holy books.
    Sorry, but you are talking complete nonsense.
    No.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Any study of human psychology, not to mention animal behaviour in general, demonstrates the evolutionary value of aggression for territorial species.
    Not disputed.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    That is the root cause of everything from the office squabble to the intercontinental war. Religion then becomes one of the tools of rationalisation and implementation.
    Exactly, we are human, not just animals. Things can incite us to violence, Religion incites people to violence, it incites them to be disrespectful of human life. Hence why it is the main culprit. As I said it isn't the only cause, but it is the worst, because it effects so many.
    A logician saves the life of a tiny space alien. The alien is very grateful and, since she's omniscient, offers the following reward: she offers to answer any question the logician might pose. Without too much thought (after all, he's a logician), he asks: "What is the best question to ask and what is the correct answer to that question?" The tiny alien pauses. Finally she replies, "The best question is the one you just asked; and the correct answer is the one I gave."
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    inow: you are a veritable repository of knowledge. I especially like 'Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look' (Gregory and Baltimore, 2005). However...

    The extent of this data makes it potentially superior to results based on much smaller sample sizes
    This is not always true of epidemiological data (essentially what this study is). Where there are many confounding factors and sources of known bias and untold unknown biases, a smaller study with much stricter controls would be superior. Bigger is not always better.

    Nor were multivariate analyses used because they risk manipulating the data to produce errant or desired results
    This study, or another, desperately needs multivariate analysis. In such a study it's realistically the only way to control for confounding.

    More generally, religiosity needs to be better defined. Belief in a creator, rejection of evolution, church (not temple/mosque?) attendances and belief in god as a percentage were all used to measure this. It would be better to either create an aggregate score for these so we have one number, or, my preference, determine which of these single factors best reflects religiosity and use that exclusively. Temple attendance might be best, as it ignores theological differences (belief in god is absent in Buddhism, for example) and focuses more on the putative cause of increasing social morality: social participation and shared goals/beliefs. Whichever one would need be well researched first.

    ...Bhutan and its call to replace Gross National Product with a Gross National Happiness Index as the leading economic indicator
    Genius. Also raises the issue of how to quantify social morality/cohesion. I can't help but think if religions were allowed to dictate this particular feature they would always come out on top. Abortion is wrong according to Catholics. The Catholics ban abortion. Catholic countries have less abortions. Therefore Catholic countries are better... No.

    Gregory and Baltimore (2005) again use many measures of social dysfunction. Homicide, suicide, STDs, teen pregnancy and birth. Again, this is too many. With so many factors being measured (or selected? but now i'm being naughty) you are bound to find something which correlates to something else. Again, use an aggregate score, or a single score which best reflects the outcome we want to measure; though i'm less sure which would be the best.

    The study ends up being a comparison of European and American society, with Europe winning. There are many other reasons why this may be so, other than America's religiosity.

    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Morality is derived from the fact that we are a social species, the individuals in which rely on the larger group for survival. If we fail to adhere to the expectations and regulations of the group (or group leaders), we are shunned, ostracized, and thus lose reproductive potential, protection (in food, kin, and skirmish), and ultimately lower our evolutionary success.
    While I accept that morality has a evolutionary root, i disagree that it is the only factor in play. With language and culture comes factors not quantifiable to our evolutionary past. The popular term seems to be memes at the moment. They do provide a second avenue from which a sense of societal morality might develop divergent of evolutionary roots.


    This area of study is very similar to epidemiology. I might actually look to do some research myself in the field, if i ever get enough spare time. Or it might be something we, as a scientific community, could do. I'm sure we have the expertise, so long as data collection is limited to publicly available sources. Thoughts...
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  16. #15  
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    Pavlos,

    Cart. Horse.

    Place in correct order.

    Reflect.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Pavlos,

    Cart. Horse.

    Place in correct order.

    Reflect.
    How so!, holy books should only profess love not hate, words like enemy, kill, rape, etc.. are nothing but an incitement to do such things given that the gods of said books have ok'ed them. If you believe an imaginary being is watching over you, you are going to do things to appease it, regardless of what those things are, guided by the only source you have, holy books.
    There's nothing arse about face here, only people trying to put religion in a good light. which is an impossibility, religion is evil to it's core and can never be anything else.
    It has and does make countless good people do the most awful things.
    The followers of Jimmy James, David Koresh, The Heaven's Gate cult, the person who killed the abortion doctor, and the mother who hacked her baby to death, etc etc etc.
    To name a few.
    These people did not believe they were doing anything evil.
    If they had no indoctrination into religion would they have still done the same things. I don't think so.
    Indoctrination is a form of abuse.
    A logician saves the life of a tiny space alien. The alien is very grateful and, since she's omniscient, offers the following reward: she offers to answer any question the logician might pose. Without too much thought (after all, he's a logician), he asks: "What is the best question to ask and what is the correct answer to that question?" The tiny alien pauses. Finally she replies, "The best question is the one you just asked; and the correct answer is the one I gave."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    inow: you are a veritable repository of knowledge.
    Lol. Thanks. This isn't exactly my first trip to this proverbial rodeo.



    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Morality is derived from the fact that we are a social species, the individuals in which rely on the larger group for survival. If we fail to adhere to the expectations and regulations of the group (or group leaders), we are shunned, ostracized, and thus lose reproductive potential, protection (in food, kin, and skirmish), and ultimately lower our evolutionary success.
    While I accept that morality has a evolutionary root, i disagree that it is the only factor in play.
    This is a good point, so let me clarify that I didn't intend to suggest it was the "sole" or "only" factor in play, just the primary one. I think that the culture, memes, and language actually piggy back on the deeper need to live within the norms of the group. Adherence to those norms have a direct impact on evolutionary success and survival, and IMO the language and memes and other cultural aspects are just the details which map out the borders of that broader need to be a non-ostracized member of that particular troop or tribe.

    Basically, my point remains valid even in context of religion. If we go against the expectations of the religious group, we find ourselves ostracized from it and are forced to find a means of survival outside that group... Without their assistance.


    I've written on this topic a few times before on this site and others. Here's one example where I spent a bit more time laying out my thoughts:

    http://www.thescienceforum.com/viewt...=215057#215057




    There's also this:

    http://atheistexperience.blogspot.co...s-for-god.html
    Moral precepts rooted in human empathy and consequences, while no one would claim they are perfect, at least have a real-world referent. Human beings, being thinking creatures, can understand the difference between observed positive and negative consequences. Moreover, another point she ignores in her claim that secular morality leads only to "self-preservation" is the fact that we are a social species, and our instinct for self-preservation is still tied to species success. It is not the norm for human beings to exist in total isolation, and in order to coexist we develop behaviors that are beneficial to maintaining that coexistence. (And humans are far from the only species that do this. Basic moral behaviors have been observed in a number of primate species, as well as in such animals as dolphins and dogs.)

    If anything, it is religious "morality" that stems from self-preservation, because a person who adopts moral behaviors simply in order to please a god whom he fears will punish him otherwise is not really a moral person, just a terrified, submissive and broken one. He has been given no reasons to be "good" other than to avoid negative consequences to himself. Beyond this he has been given no understanding of the positive benefits of his moral behavior. Religious morality, as has been said here many times, gives people bad reasons to be good. If you live a moral life simply to score yourself a ticket to heaven, you're doing it wrong, and worst of all you haven't been given the intellectual tools to understand why.<more at the link>

    Another nice video on topic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnXmDaI8IEo
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  19. #18 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by pavlos
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    However, we might be better attributing the endless wars and inhumanity (odd word for such a common human behaviour) to innate human tendencies rather that religion. Religion has often provided the focus and excuse for these expressions, without being the ultimate cause.
    I sorry I cant agree with that!
    I'm not saying religion is the only cause but it must be the main cause, anybody that holds an imaginary being above the lives of it's own human species, can not respect human life.
    Religion has to be a catalyst in the causes of the death of said species. Especially consisting the words it's adherents hold to be true, written in it's holy books.
    If religion is the root cause of violence between members of the same species, then we would not expect species without religion to exhibit the same behavior, would we?

    http://www.world-science.net/exclusi...209_warfrm.htm
    http://www.world-science.net/otherne..._prejudice.htm
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  20. #19 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Quote Originally Posted by pavlos
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    However, we might be better attributing the endless wars and inhumanity (odd word for such a common human behaviour) to innate human tendencies rather that religion. Religion has often provided the focus and excuse for these expressions, without being the ultimate cause.
    I sorry I cant agree with that!
    I'm not saying religion is the only cause but it must be the main cause, anybody that holds an imaginary being above the lives of it's own human species, can not respect human life.
    Religion has to be a catalyst in the causes of the death of said species. Especially consisting the words it's adherents hold to be true, written in it's holy books.
    If religion is the root cause of violence between members of the same species, then we would not expect species without religion to exhibit the same behavior, would we?

    http://www.world-science.net/exclusi...209_warfrm.htm
    http://www.world-science.net/otherne..._prejudice.htm
    Strawman! I did not say it was the root cause I said it was a main cause, due to the hatred it incites which are the beliefs it's adherents hold.
    A logician saves the life of a tiny space alien. The alien is very grateful and, since she's omniscient, offers the following reward: she offers to answer any question the logician might pose. Without too much thought (after all, he's a logician), he asks: "What is the best question to ask and what is the correct answer to that question?" The tiny alien pauses. Finally she replies, "The best question is the one you just asked; and the correct answer is the one I gave."
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  21. #20 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by pavlos
    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Quote Originally Posted by pavlos
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    However, we might be better attributing the endless wars and inhumanity (odd word for such a common human behaviour) to innate human tendencies rather that religion. Religion has often provided the focus and excuse for these expressions, without being the ultimate cause.
    I sorry I cant agree with that!
    I'm not saying religion is the only cause but it must be the main cause, anybody that holds an imaginary being above the lives of it's own human species, can not respect human life.
    Religion has to be a catalyst in the causes of the death of said species. Especially consisting the words it's adherents hold to be true, written in it's holy books.
    If religion is the root cause of violence between members of the same species, then we would not expect species without religion to exhibit the same behavior, would we?

    http://www.world-science.net/exclusi...209_warfrm.htm
    http://www.world-science.net/otherne..._prejudice.htm
    Strawman! I did not say it was the root cause I said it was a main cause, due to the hatred it incites which are the beliefs it's adherents hold.
    Then you agree it is not the root cause?
    What make you think it it the main cause? What is the difference between a root cause and a main cause?
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  22. #21 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Quote Originally Posted by pavlos
    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Quote Originally Posted by pavlos
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    However, we might be better attributing the endless wars and inhumanity (odd word for such a common human behaviour) to innate human tendencies rather that religion. Religion has often provided the focus and excuse for these expressions, without being the ultimate cause.
    I sorry I cant agree with that!
    I'm not saying religion is the only cause but it must be the main cause, anybody that holds an imaginary being above the lives of it's own human species, can not respect human life.
    Religion has to be a catalyst in the causes of the death of said species. Especially consisting the words it's adherents hold to be true, written in it's holy books.
    If religion is the root cause of violence between members of the same species, then we would not expect species without religion to exhibit the same behavior, would we?

    http://www.world-science.net/exclusi...209_warfrm.htm
    http://www.world-science.net/otherne..._prejudice.htm
    Strawman! I did not say it was the root cause I said it was a main cause, due to the hatred it incites which are the beliefs it's adherents hold.
    Then you agree it is not the root cause?
    What make you think it it the main cause? What is the difference between a root cause and a main cause?
    A root cause is ingrained in the species, instinct if you like. we are naturally aggressive creatures. A main cause is one that changes, alters, or exasperates, via inculcation.
    Children are enforced(abused) with religion from birth (this is not simply teaching) they are born tabula rasa (a blank slate). To enforce anything on to them is wrong. it causes them to do the same to others, thus they lose respect for human life, That and being told to kill, hate, rape, slaughter, ethnically cleanse, etc... Whereas they should just learn to get along with people of different religions, races, etc..

    Religion by it's very nature is divisive.
    A logician saves the life of a tiny space alien. The alien is very grateful and, since she's omniscient, offers the following reward: she offers to answer any question the logician might pose. Without too much thought (after all, he's a logician), he asks: "What is the best question to ask and what is the correct answer to that question?" The tiny alien pauses. Finally she replies, "The best question is the one you just asked; and the correct answer is the one I gave."
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  23. #22 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by pavlos
    A root cause is ingrained in the species, instinct if you like. we are naturally aggressive creatures. A main cause is one that changes, alters, or exasperates, via inculcation.
    Children are enforced(abused) with religion from birth (this is not simply teaching) they are born tabula rasa (a blank slate). To enforce anything on to them is wrong. it causes them to do the same to others, thus they lose respect for human life, That and being told to kill, hate, rape, slaughter, ethnically cleanse, etc... Whereas they should just learn to get along with people of different religions, races, etc..

    Religion by it's very nature is divisive.
    Since morality is all relative, there is nothing inherently wrong with slaughtering infidels or any other thing written in the Bible or other holy texts. You are simply promoting your own views about a moral issue. This is called "preaching" and is not appropriate for the "scientific discussion of religion" forum.
    Furthermore you have not shown that religion is a main cause, a root cause, or any other kind of cause, of the behavior of which you disapprove.
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  24. #23 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Since morality is all relative, there is nothing inherently wrong with slaughtering infidels or any other thing written in the Bible or other holy texts. You are simply promoting your own views about a moral issue. This is called "preaching" and is not appropriate for the "scientific discussion of religion" forum.
    While agree with you that the argument being made about religion as the root cause of various atrocities has not yet been well articulated or supported, I cannot help but strongly disagree with you on the above.

    We can, in principle, think about moral truths in the context of science, and I propose that at it's heart, morality is essentially finding and practicing those behaviors which maximize well-being in conscious creatures.

    Without that common baseline and starting premise, we have no room for conversation. How you maximize the well being of conscious creatures is another discussion, but maximizing well-being is at the heart of morality itself, and should serve as a baseline from which we can both work... Regardless of our religious or group affiliations... and with that reasonable baseline on the concept of morality, we CAN say that slaughtering is inherently wrong, and not subjective, since it decreases the overall well-being of conscious creatures.

    While the application of morality and moral principles can be relative, the central axiom and root of the concept is very much objective. Morality is that which informs behaviors such that the well-being of conscious creatures is maximized.



    http://www.samharris.org/site/full_t...se-to-critics/
    Morality and values depend on the existence of conscious minds—and specifically on the fact that such minds can experience various forms of well-being and suffering in this universe. Conscious minds and their states are natural phenomena, of course, fully constrained by the laws of Nature (whatever these turn out to be in the end). Therefore, there must be right and wrong answers to questions of morality and values that potentially fall within the purview of science. On this view, some people and cultures will be right (to a greater or lesser degree), and some will be wrong, with respect to what they deem important in life.

    <...>

    Even if this is an exaggeration, Harris has identified a real problem, rooted in the idea that facts are objective and values are subjective. Harris rejects this facile opposition in the only way it can be rejected—by pointing to evaluative truths so obvious that they need no defense. For example, a world in which everyone was maximally miserable would be worse than a world in which everyone was happy, and it would be wrong to try to move us toward the first world and away from the second. This is not true by definition, but it is obvious, just as it is obvious that elephants are larger than mice. If someone denied the truth of either of those propositions, we would have no reason to take him seriously…

    <...>

    I consistently find that people who hold this view are far less clear-eyed and committed than (I believe) they should be when confronted with moral pathologies—especially those of other cultures—precisely because they believe there is no deep sense in which any behavior or system of thought can be considered pathological in the first place. Unless you understand that human health is a domain of genuine truth claims—however difficult “health” may be to define—it is impossible to think clearly about disease. I believe the same can be said about morality.
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  25. #24 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    We can, in principle, think about moral truths in the context of science, and I propose that at it's heart, morality is essentially finding and practicing those behaviors which maximize well-being in conscious creatures.

    Without that common baseline and starting premise, we have no room for conversation. How you maximize the well being of conscious creatures is another discussion, but maximizing well-being is at the heart of morality itself, and should serve as a baseline from which we can both work... Regardless of our religious or group affiliations... and with that reasonable baseline on the concept of morality, we CAN say that slaughtering is inherently wrong, and not subjective, since it decreases the overall well-being of conscious creatures.

    While the application of morality and moral principles can be relative, the central axiom and root of the concept is very much objective. Morality is that which informs behaviors such that the well-being of conscious creatures is maximized.
    Well said.
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  26. #25  
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    Quote Originally Posted by pavlos
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Pavlos,

    Cart. Horse.

    Place in correct order.

    Reflect.
    How so!, holy books should only profess love not hate, words like enemy, kill, rape, etc.. are nothing but an incitement to do such things given that the gods of said books have ok'ed them. .
    why should they do so when they are mearely relfecting the innate character of humans. you still have the cart and horse back to front.
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  27. #26 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Since morality is all relative, there is nothing inherently wrong with slaughtering infidels or any other thing written in the Bible or other holy texts. You are simply promoting your own views about a moral issue. This is called "preaching" and is not appropriate for the "scientific discussion of religion" forum.
    While agree with you that the argument being made about religion as the root cause of various atrocities has not yet been well articulated or supported, I cannot help but strongly disagree with you on the above.

    We can, in principle, think about moral truths in the context of science, and I propose that at it's heart, morality is essentially finding and practicing those behaviors which maximize well-being in conscious creatures.

    Without that common baseline and starting premise, we have no room for conversation. How you maximize the well being of conscious creatures is another discussion, but maximizing well-being is at the heart of morality itself, and should serve as a baseline from which we can both work... Regardless of our religious or group affiliations... and with that reasonable baseline on the concept of morality, we CAN say that slaughtering is inherently wrong, and not subjective, since it decreases the overall well-being of conscious creatures.

    While the application of morality and moral principles can be relative, the central axiom and root of the concept is very much objective. Morality is that which informs behaviors such that the well-being of conscious creatures is maximized.
    I seriously doubt that such objective criteria can be developed. In the first place, you have to identify those conscious creatures whose well-being you wish to improve. Inevitably, it will exclude to a large degree those who do not conform to your particular vision. In addition, well being will never be defined to everybody's satisfaction. The very existence of the Bible and other texts that you find objectionable should tell you that. These were the very pinnacle of righteousness reflecting perfectly the values of the societies for which they were written.
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  28. #27 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    I seriously doubt that such objective criteria can be developed. In the first place, you have to identify those conscious creatures whose well-being you wish to improve. Inevitably, it will exclude to a large degree those who do not conform to your particular vision. In addition, well being will never be defined to everybody's satisfaction.
    Much like defining "what is health," it's difficult to define "what is well-being." Yes, I get that. However, we still know that we can take steps to avoid disease, and similarly we can take steps to avoid suffering and misery.

    Can we not, at the VERY least, agree that we want to move away from the worst possible state of misery and suffering for conscious beings? Can we not even establish that as a common baseline in this discussion and go from there?


    From the link above:
    Is it unscientific to value health and seek to maximize it within the context of medicine? No. Clearly there are scientific truths to be known about health—and we can fail to know them, to our great detriment. This is a fact. And yet, it is possible for people to deny this fact, or to have perverse and even self-destructive ideas about how to live.

    <...>

    “Health” is a loose concept that may always bend and stretch depending on the context—but there is no question that both it and its context exist within an underlying reality which we can understand, or fail to understand, with the tools of science.

    <...>

    Again, consider the concept of health: should we maximize global health? To my ear, this is a strange question. It invites a timorous reply like, “Provided we want everyone to be healthy, yes.” And introducing this note of contingency seems to nudge us from the charmed circle of scientific truth. But why must we frame the matter this way? A world in which global health is maximized would be an objective reality, quite distinct from a world in which we all die early and in agony
    I find myself in agreement with Harris that we can replace the word "health" with the word "morality" in these arguments.
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  29. #28 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    I seriously doubt that such objective criteria can be developed. In the first place, you have to identify those conscious creatures whose well-being you wish to improve. Inevitably, it will exclude to a large degree those who do not conform to your particular vision. In addition, well being will never be defined to everybody's satisfaction. The very existence of the Bible and other texts that you find objectionable should tell you that. These were the very pinnacle of righteousness reflecting perfectly the values of the societies for which they were written.
    That's not really all the hard and been done in part through the development of laws all the way back the Code of Hammurabi and easily seen in more modern text such as the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights where all the definition of "conscious creatures" means all humans.

    Future morals which are codified many incorporate even a larger group such as other primates, whales etc.

    --
    why should they do so when they are mearely relfecting the innate character of humans. you still have the cart and horse back to front.
    And more importantly of the society they serve. Also they often work to control and mitigate innate character traits that don't serve the society well or for other reasons are considered immoral by the society or their rulers
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  30. #29 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    That's not really all the hard and been done in part through the development of laws all the way back the Code of Hammurabi and easily seen in more modern text such as the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights where all the definition of "conscious creatures" means all humans.
    Right, and I am pretty sure you would find some parts of the Code of Hammurabi to be highly objectionable. I think the UDHR is a horrible document which is more a declaration of socialistic or communistic principles than it is of human rights.

    Being a soldier yourself, I think you understand that there are circumstances where we don't favor the well-being of certain conscious creatures.
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  31. #30 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    I think the UDHR is a horrible document which is more a declaration of socialistic or communistic principles than it is of human rights.
    What specifically do you find objectionable about it? If this is too far off topic, perhaps you couls split this to a new thread as I would be interested in a discussion on the matter.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    This is a good point, so let me clarify that I didn't intend to suggest it was the "sole" or "only" factor in play, just the primary one. I think that the culture, memes, and language actually piggy back on the deeper need to live within the norms of the group. Adherence to those norms have a direct impact on evolutionary success and survival, and IMO the language and memes and other cultural aspects are just the details which map out the borders of that broader need to be a non-ostracized member of that particular troop or tribe.
    Not sure it would necessarily be the primary factor, even if it is the antecedent factor. An 'ethical meme', would take on its own life diverging from that of its evolutionary roots. The meme would exist only to further propagate itself. This would depend on the environment in which it exists. Perhaps we could liken the genetic inheritance of group morality to be the environment for memes: the meme would develop in relation to that environemnt while not itself being the environment. Therefore, human ethics could become something different from that we evolved with. Purely speculative, i'm not totally convinced by memes myself.

    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Morality does not come from religion...
    I would argue otherwise. I think we can agree that morality is not divinely prescribed; it is a human construct with evolutionary roots. Within society these evolved traits became institutionalised (as discussed above), usually through the medium of religion. Our genetic moral heritage may not come from religion but memetic moral heritage has been shaped and passed down via religion. This does not mean it had to religion, or still has to be religion, but this is how it has transpired until now.

    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Also, the gathering of people is less about worship or churches and more about being social and sharing common worldviews and stories with one another. It's easy to replace that... Just be social, and do so in an environment which values rationality, reason, and the quest for knowledge. We don't need churches for that. We don't need fairy tales written by barely literate tribal peoples in the desert during the bronze age for that... We just need to reinforce those values which have merit, and ostracize those which do not (such as faith in the absence of evidence).
    I would agree with most of this, but for the 'easy to replace' bit. Religion still accounts for the vast majority of global belief. There is no secular institution in existence which could possibly hope to replace this around the globe. As for whether one is needed, my worry is that commercial exploitation has become the driving factor in Western society. No longer is the moral question 'is it good for the well-being of the many?' but 'is it profitable/is it economically viable?' The religion meme has been replaced by the commercialism meme - and i prefer the devil i know.

    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Since morality is all relative...
    Just a note while on the issue of objective morality. Even if god does exist and decreed certain moral laws, this does not make them somehow 'objective'. A parent can admonish their child 'because i told you so!' when challenged about the unfairness of bedtime. God could likewise admonish us, but this morality is no more objective than the parent choosing a bedtime. To think of subjective or objective ethics is to make a category mistake.
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  33. #32 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Right, and I am pretty sure you would find some parts of the Code of Hammurabi
    Sure I would, but an early attempt to do what you infer can't be done, which is apply societal principles and morals into law for the greater good of the peoples--if nothing else it made things more orderly and consistent, characteristics which tend to strengthen society. Religious-based rules serve much the same purpose.

    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    I think the UDHR is a horrible document which is more a declaration of socialistic or communistic principles than it is of human rights.

    Being a soldier yourself, I think you understand that there are circumstances where we don't favor the well-being of certain conscious creatures.
    Actually as a soldier for the past 25 years, I find the UDHR to be the absolute best document of its type. Also as a combat vet who's done many missions I can tell you it not only doesn't interfere with military operations but its principles (laid out in similar regulations, rules of engagement etc) help define appropriate actions and ensure potentially hostile populations are still treated with dignity.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Morality does not come from religion...
    I would argue otherwise. I think we can agree that morality is not divinely prescribed; it is a human construct with evolutionary roots.
    And hence does not come from religion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Within society these evolved traits became institutionalised (as discussed above), usually through the medium of religion. Our genetic moral heritage may not come from religion but memetic moral heritage has been shaped and passed down via religion. This does not mean it had to religion, or still has to be religion, but this is how it has transpired until now.
    I would challenge this a bit, for two primary reasons.

    One - I think the data suggests that religion merely piggy-backed on an existing human trait, and borrowed from our natural predilections when forming the core content of their stories and "instructions" on stone tablets. The central issue, however, is that those predilections were already present, religion is not the source, but instead a type of "virus" leveraging the trait.

    Two - Your argument carried to it's logical end seems to imply that those who are non-religious are also prone to amorality, and that's not supported by the data, either. Religious and non-religious people, theists and atheists alike tend to be moral folks, and that's primarily because morality is rooted in human selection and society itself, not the local group, various denomination, or flavor of religious practice.



    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Also, the gathering of people is less about worship or churches and more about being social and sharing common worldviews and stories with one another. It's easy to replace that... Just be social, and do so in an environment which values rationality, reason, and the quest for knowledge. We don't need churches for that. We don't need fairy tales written by barely literate tribal peoples in the desert during the bronze age for that... We just need to reinforce those values which have merit, and ostracize those which do not (such as faith in the absence of evidence).
    I would agree with most of this, but for the 'easy to replace' bit. Religion still accounts for the vast majority of global belief. There is no secular institution in existence which could possibly hope to replace this around the globe. As for whether one is needed, my worry is that commercial exploitation has become the driving factor in Western society. No longer is the moral question 'is it good for the well-being of the many?' but 'is it profitable/is it economically viable?' The religion meme has been replaced by the commercialism meme - and i prefer the devil i know.
    I largely agree with your sentiment here, but still think you're working from a flawed premise. It seems to me that you continue to assume that religious teaching is the (or "a") root of morality and behavior. I repeat, when viewed more fully it's truly not. It simply borrows on an existing root.

    Likewise, any other shared system... secular or otherwise... could borrow from that root. Just look at the green/environmental movement... Or how people rally when there are natural disasters such as in Japan recently. It's all flowing from a human tendency which has been selected for as a result of our existence in troops and packs. Maybe I'm splitting hairs, though, and perhaps we're closer on this than it seems.
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  35. #34 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Does organised religion bring about more benefits to society than harms? Does anyone actually know of any real evidence of either. Belief is a non-issue here, only the social function religion serves and the benefits, or harms, it brings.
    Maybe if that question was put to the natives of South America at the time of the Conquistadors, then they would have answered in the negative, as hundreds of thousands were killed by violence and disease. And where did the gold end up? Much of it is still in bank vaults in the US, the UK, and Switzerland, helping to make the Catholic church the richest institution on Earth with wealth estimated at around $3TRILLION!!!! No wonder they need barely bat an eyelid when paying out massive claims to child abuse victims. Why don't they give their wealth to the poor? Obviously they are not 'Christian'.
    This is one example of how religion benefits ITSELF.

    Religion divides people. It never unites.
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  36. #35 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Can we not, at the VERY least, agree that we want to move away from the worst possible state of misery and suffering for conscious beings? Can we not even establish that as a common baseline in this discussion and go from there?
    If I did agree with that, and I'm not saying I don't, it would only be a personal opinion or feeling. I would not claim any scientfic basis for it. History suggests that humans are concerned about the misery and suffering of their own tribe or group, not necessarily mankind as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Actually as a soldier for the past 25 years, I find the UDHR to be the absolute best document of its type. Also as a combat vet who's done many missions I can tell you it not only doesn't interfere with military operations but its principles (laid out in similar regulations, rules of engagement etc) help define appropriate actions and ensure potentially hostile populations are still treated with dignity.
    Surely you would agree that you are not benefitting the health or welfare of the particular individual you are shooting at at the time.
    The fact that you like the UDHR and I do not, merely indicates that we have not reached a consensus.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite

    What specifically do you find objectionable about it? If this is too far off topic, perhaps you couls split this to a new thread as I would be interested in a discussion on the matter.
    I'll start a thread in Politics when I find a little more time.
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  37. #36 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Can we not, at the VERY least, agree that we want to move away from the worst possible state of misery and suffering for conscious beings? Can we not even establish that as a common baseline in this discussion and go from there?
    If I did agree with that, and I'm not saying I don't, it would only be a personal opinion or feeling. I would not claim any scientfic basis for it.
    This is a curious position, as even science must begin with starting principles. It's part of the process.

    All scientific knowledge begins with axioms. That's just how it is. While the establishment of those axioms may be somewhat opinion based, it is the consensus and shared agreement on them which we share as humans that ultimately allows science to progress.

    So... again, if we cannot at least agree that we wish to move away from the worst possible state of suffering and misery, then we have no basis for conversation whatsoever and we've entered the realm of the absurd.
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  38. #37 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Actually as a soldier for the past 25 years, I find the UDHR to be the absolute best document of its type. Also as a combat vet who's done many missions I can tell you it not only doesn't interfere with military operations but its principles (laid out in similar regulations, rules of engagement etc) help define appropriate actions and ensure potentially hostile populations are still treated with dignity.
    Surely you would agree that you are not benefitting the health or welfare of the particular individual you are shooting at at the time.
    Considering shooting at an enemy is not a violation of UDHR your point is meaningless. On the other hand the reasons for firing at him, the choice of weapons we use, the treatment he receives once captured or injured are all guided by regulations and rules consistent with UDHR.
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  39. #38 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Considering shooting at an enemy is not a violation of UDHR your point is meaningless. On the other hand the reasons for firing at him, the choice of weapons we use, the treatment he receives once captured or injured are all guided by regulations and rules consistent with UDHR.
    We are having a communication problem and talking about two different things.

    My points were: (1) Since we agree that there are times we need to go to war, we should also agree that there is not a simple overriding principle of not causing harm to conscious creatures. WE have already found an exception to the rule. (2) The UDHR does not form the basis for a morality we can all agree on, as evidenced by the fact that I most emphatically do not agree with it.
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  40. #39 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    We are having a communication problem and talking about two different things.

    My points were: (1) Since we agree that there are times we need to go to war, we should also agree that there is not a simple overriding principle of not causing harm to conscious creatures. WE have already found an exception to the rule.
    What exception? Other than trying to create a false dichotomy that assumes protecting conscience creatures means letting it live no mater how dangerous it is to other conscience creatures, or killing it I don't know what your point is.

    You're doing the same with the idea about consensus and the UDHR. Most nations agree with and were signatories UDHR (as are their citizens). A few aren't. No one other than you is suggesting every single person or nation must agree to a set of moral standards in order to say its based in some overarching principles that their societies agree with. Moral codes certainly are.


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  41. #40 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    We are having a communication problem and talking about two different things.

    My points were: (1) Since we agree that there are times we need to go to war, we should also agree that there is not a simple overriding principle of not causing harm to conscious creatures. WE have already found an exception to the rule.
    What exception? Other than trying to create a false dichotomy that assumes protecting conscience creatures means letting it live no mater how dangerous it is to other conscience creatures, or killing it I don't know what your point is.

    You're doing the same with the idea about consensus and the UDHR. Most nations agree with and were signatories UDHR (as are their citizens). A few aren't. No one other than you is suggesting every single person or nation must agree to a set of moral standards in order to say its based in some overarching principles that their societies agree with. Moral codes certainly are.

    --

    Life is more like a paint pallet than a checker board.
    As I understand it, you are trying to turn morality into a scientific enterprise. Like any scientific theory, it can be undone by a single counter example.

    I don't think it can be done. In the end, you are going to have to hedge, make exceptions, use rules of thumb, etc. and will be no better off than the folks who slaughtered infidels. At least you will not be able to prove it is better on any rational, objective basis.
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  42. #41 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    As I understand it, you are trying to turn morality into a scientific enterprise. Like any scientific theory, it can be undone by a single counter example.

    I don't think it can be done. In the end, you are going to have to hedge, make exceptions, use rules of thumb, etc. and will be no better off than the folks who slaughtered infidels. At least you will not be able to prove it is better on any rational, objective basis.
    Again, we can all agree that we should move away from the worst possible state of suffering and misery. If you don't agree to that, then you're not here to have a rational discussion, and should go away.


    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/arch...ght-and-wrong/
    Indeed the divide between facts and values is, he says, largely illusory. Harris offers several reasons for this conclusion but he seems fond of two. Neuroimaging studies of the human brain at work reveal that the same regions of our brains are active when people judge the truth or falsity of both factual statements (“Spain is a country”) and ethical statements (“Murder is wrong”). In particular, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, performed by Harris and colleagues as part of his doctoral research, reveal that blood flow to certain regions of the brain increase during such judgments: believing the truth of factual and ethical statements involves increased blood flow to the medial prefrontal cortex, for instance, while disbelieving factual and ethical statements involves increased blood flow to the left inferior frontal gyrus, among other regions. (Uncertainty about the truth or falsity of such statements involves increased blood flow to yet other regions of the brain.) In the face of such neurological findings, it is hard, Harris says, to sustain the view that a divide separates facts and values.

    <...>

    “The split between facts and values—and, therefore, between science and morality—is an illusion.” Contrary to received wisdom, then, nothing would seem to stand in the way of a science of morality.

    <...>

    [He suggests that the correct conception of good] is the well-being of conscious creatures. Indeed Harris suggests that any other conception of the good either is equivalent to this one or is nonsense: “Concern for well-being (defined as deeply and as inclusively as possible) is the only intelligible basis for morality and values.” After all, every notion of the good ever offered concerns a putatively conscious creature (either our present selves or, in some religious traditions, our future spiritual selves in an afterlife) and it’s hard to see how concern for a conscious creature could involve anything but concern for its well-being. A science of morality must, then, be concerned with what contributes to well-being: a “prosperous civil society,” for instance, or an atmosphere of “beneficence, trust, creativity,” and the pursuit of “wholesome pleasures.” (Harris also concludes that those, like serial murderers, who would champion some perversely eccentric conception of the good are so far outside the conversation that they needn’t be refuted, only ignored.)

    <...>

    Harris further suggests that this notion of the good is associated with a “moral landscape.” This landscape is a hypothetical

    ...space of real and potential outcomes whose peaks correspond to the heights of potential well-being and whose valleys represent the deepest possible suffering. Different ways of thinking and behaving—different cultural practices, ethical codes, modes of government, etc.—will translate into movements across this landscape and, therefore, into different degrees of human flourishing.
    Harris acknowledges that the moral landscape might have multiple peaks—there might well be several or perhaps many ways in which people can maximize their well-being—but there are still facts of the matter here. Some “ways of thinking and behaving” are objectively better than others.

    <...>

    Given that the moral landscape reflects a world of facts, it can be studied by science. Science can map the topography of the landscape and help us to traverse it, efficiently ascending peaks of well-being. Harris acknowledges that we have no guarantee that science can, in all cases, uncover the relevant objective facts about morality. But this doesn’t change the fact that these objective facts exist. (As he says, there is a difference between “answers in principle” and “answers in practice.”)

    <...>

    There is every reason to expect that kindness, compassion, fairness, and other classically “good” traits will be vindicated neuroscientifically—which is to say that we will only discover further reasons to believe that they are good for us, in that they generally enhance our lives.
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  43. #42 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Again, we can all agree that we should move away from the worst possible state of suffering and misery. If you don't agree to that, then you're not here to have a rational discussion, and should go away.
    I would submit that those who should go away are those who would engage in a pseudoscientific pursuit, such as a science of morality.

    Neither you nor Sam Harris has come close to anything resembling a scientific methodology.

    You have not defined "the worst possible state of suffering and misery." Who are the ones doing the suffering and being miserable? How are you measuring the misery?

    I already raised one objection for which you do not have any answer, and instead just tell me to go away. We are all supposed to work for the benefit of all conscious creatures, (making no distinction between conscious creatures). We are to accept without question that this is a universal aim, even though virtually nobody actually believes that. Everybody, including you, I'm pretty sure, values his immediate family and friends above any strangers.

    Now let's look at the article you posted.

    In particular, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, performed by Harris and colleagues as part of his doctoral research, reveal that blood flow to certain regions of the brain increase during such judgments: believing the truth of factual and ethical statements involves increased blood flow to the medial prefrontal cortex, for instance, while disbelieving factual and ethical statements involves increased blood flow to the left inferior frontal gyrus, among other regions.
    Yeah, so what? Does that mean there is no difference between facts and opinions? Maybe that just proves that you are capable of deluding yourself as much as any theist.

    I watched a Ted Talk by Sam Harris and was appalled by the level of scientific rigor. Basically it was an anti-theistic rant, filled with very obvious logical fallacies. He had an audience of anti-theistic atheist and he was telling them what they wanted to hear. That's his shtick.
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    I think there's great resistance by some to the idea that morals and their effects on people and the society can be observed, quantified and applied as feedback to changing morals and their related laws. The reality is psychology, sociology, criminal law and many other fields can be applied to do exactly that. Those are where you'll find the best guidance on ethics, not from a priest who has nothing more to go on than the badly translated and fragmented text of an ancient superstitious peoples who if you believe the scripture didn't do very well.
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  45. #44 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    I already raised one objection for which you do not have any answer, and instead just tell me to go away. We are all supposed to work for the benefit of all conscious creatures, (making no distinction between conscious creatures). We are to accept without question that this is a universal aim, even though virtually nobody actually believes that.
    Wait, what? You think nobody agrees that we should, at the core of our behavior, attempt to move away from the worst possible misery there is? To at least make an attempt to go in the other direction? I'm not claiming to have defined all of the parameters on the landscape of peaks and valleys Harris describes. I'm suggesting we can make measurements based on an agreeable and reasonable central axiom.


    Let me clarify, Harold. I'm not asking that everyone work or behave in ways which benefit all conscious life. I'm asking that, as we discuss morality, we can at least agree in principle that a baseline which assumes that it's appropriate to move away from the state of worst possible suffering and misery is a baseline which allows us to begin making measurements, finding patterns, and ultimately studying morality in an objective way.

    I find great value in the neuroimaging study approach.


    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Now let's look at the article you posted.

    In particular, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, performed by Harris and colleagues as part of his doctoral research, reveal that blood flow to certain regions of the brain increase during such judgments: believing the truth of factual and ethical statements involves increased blood flow to the medial prefrontal cortex, for instance, while disbelieving factual and ethical statements involves increased blood flow to the left inferior frontal gyrus, among other regions.
    Yeah, so what? Does that mean there is no difference between facts and opinions? Maybe that just proves that you are capable of deluding yourself as much as any theist.
    There are differences in facts and opinions. The point you're missing (whether intentionally or not) is that we can measure via neural response in the brain ethics and factuality, and those are directly linked to a morality which assumes at it's base that we should move away from the worst possible state of misery and suffering.

    From the link above:
    To many, then, the world of facts (described by science) and the world of values (described by ethics) must remain distinct. Any hope of a science of morality must, consequently, be abandoned as not only hubristic but nonsensical. As Harris emphasizes, the taboo against the idea of a scientific morality is widely accepted in smart circles, including smart scientific circles. Indeed we scientists, and especially biologists, are taught early to steer clear of anything that resembles the naturalistic fallacy: never confuse your scientific facts with ethical norms.

    Harris will have none of this. He makes at least three big claims in The Moral Landscape. The first is that he believes that the is/ought problem is a nonproblem. Indeed the divide between facts and values is, he says, largely illusory. Harris offers several reasons for this conclusion but he seems fond of two. Neuroimaging studies of the human brain at work reveal that the same regions of our brains are active when people judge the truth or falsity of both factual statements (“Spain is a country”) and ethical statements (“Murder is wrong”).


    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    I watched a Ted Talk by Sam Harris and was appalled by the level of scientific rigor. Basically it was an anti-theistic rant, filled with very obvious logical fallacies. He had an audience of anti-theistic atheist and he was telling them what they wanted to hear. That's his shtick.
    Not sure how that applies here.
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    "Elementary Forms of Religious Life" by Durkheim would be a good reference point for this. A must-read for anyone remotely interested in this topic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    I think there's great resistance by some to the idea that morals and their effects on people and the society can be observed, quantified and applied as feedback to changing morals and their related laws.
    No, there is great resistance to pseudoscience with no definied methodology.

    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Wait, what? You think nobody agrees that we should, at the core of our behavior, attempt to move away from the worst possible misery there is? To at least make an attempt to go in the other direction?
    Okay, let's play this silly game.We will move away form the worst possible misery. Now what is that? Has the human race been wiped out entirely and gone extinct. Probably not, since there wouldn't be any suffering. So there are billions of people living in abject poverty with all kinds of painful diseases. Now we start to move away from that. Do we start with ourselves, our immediate family, or do we try to help all those billions at the same time? You see, we are already making value judgements before we even started to build our science of morality, which is supposed to be the basis for it.
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    Every science requires defining variables, and more importantly what you want to measure to observe those variables. If you want to measure temperature, you'll likely use an instrument that actually measures the volume of a liquid, the length of a metal, the electrical resistance of some solid or even the thickness of a tree ring and make some assumption that relates what's actually measured with what you're actually trying to get at within some margin of error--yet it would be silly to dismiss the exploration of using any of these just because you're simultaneously trying to study something related the study of temperature. And ironically many of these were known before science understood that temperature was a stochastic measurement of average molecule speed.

    Real science doesn't work in strict unimaginative series of formal steps--quite the opposite. There would be absolutely nothing wrong with defining misery while also examining the myriad of things you could measure to quantify its degree.
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    Any science should start out without preconceptions. Can you imagine that your science will result in somthing totally different than you believe now? What if the conclusion of the "scientific" investigation is that we really "ought" to gang up on our neighbors and seize their territory, then turn them into slaves to serve our own progeny, in this way to maximize our own genes in future generations. Are you prepared to accept a result like that?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Every science requires defining variables, and more importantly what you want to measure to observe those variables.

    <...>

    Real science doesn't work in strict unimaginative series of formal steps--quite the opposite. There would be absolutely nothing wrong with defining misery while also examining the myriad of things you could measure to quantify its degree.
    Exactly.



    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    What if the conclusion of the "scientific" investigation is that we really "ought" to gang up on our neighbors and seize their territory, then turn them into slaves to serve our own progeny, in this way to maximize our own genes in future generations. Are you prepared to accept a result like that?
    Your example is so incredibly unlikely it is comical and a bit irrational (so hence can technically be ignored), but in principle, yes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Maybe I'm splitting hairs, though, and perhaps we're closer on this than it seems.
    Science is all about splitting hairs...

    So i agree morality has evolutionary roots. I argue that since 'memes' have spread through culture, morality has become something different from what it originally was when it first evolved (i.e. there is a second selection process: memes). This second selection process has been largely channelled through the cultural medium of religion. Therefore morality has religious roots, though it's oldest roots are evolutionary. Maybe we can agree on an analogy where the evolutionary part of morality is the roots while the religious part is the stem - the bit most people see.

    Atoms! Science is all about splitting atoms... i get confused.

    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Two - Your argument carried to it's logical end seems to imply that those who are non-religious are also prone to amorality, and that's not supported by the data, either. Religious and non-religious people, theists and atheists alike tend to be moral folks, and that's primarily because morality is rooted in human selection and society itself, not the local group, various denomination, or flavor of religious practice.
    Disagree with this bit. Even though 'religious memes' may historically be the predominant moral meme, there could have been others, and there still could be others. The success of religion as a moral meme, i conjecture, would be due to it being a memeplex with many other facets that protect and propagate it. But, as you suggest, other moral memes may exist outside religion.

    Quote Originally Posted by ox
    Maybe if that question was put to the natives of South America at the time of the Conquistadors,
    I doubt, though have no real evidence, that human history would be one drop less bloody if religion had never existed.

    Quote Originally Posted by ox
    This is one example of how religion benefits ITSELF.
    Yes. If we are to view religion as a meme, then it would, like genes, serve itself, and only others by way of shared interest/collateral.

    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Any science should start out without preconceptions.
    Perhaps it should, but it rarely does, in the fields i'm involved with anyway.

    As for the science of morality debate going on... i'm not entirely sure of my position yet, but it's something i think about alot so i'm enjoying the debate.
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    I'm not able to agree with your assessment that morality has religious roots. As stated previously, my stance is that religion hijacked existing moral systems, and that those moral systems are largely in place because they aided in our survival as pack animals existing in troops. I think this is reinforced by the data on the neurobiology of morality, and also the fact that we see similar "moral" activities in other non-human animals, but generally only in animals which also exist in groups.

    I could also point to the numerous amoral teachings and stories in religion to flank your point. I could discuss how religion forces us to know in advance what is right and wrong, and hence cannot be the source or stem. I say we must know in advance what is right and wrong since one must pick and choose which parts of these teachings to follow and which parts to ignore... one must know before hearing religious teachings, for example, that slavery and murder are wrong, or that homosexuality is not a sufficient cause to kill someone, or that non-belief is just another approach to the world and also not worthy of slaughter.

    If one did not know these things in advance, those more negative teachings would be scarcely indistinguishable from the ones on which you seem to be focusing... The negative teachings would take on the same prominence as the "love thy neighbor" and "do unto others" type teachings of religion. The only reason we are able to pick and choose from those teachings is because morality runs much deeper... it is part of who we are and has been selected for for thousands and thousands of years...and we know before we even hear those various religious teachings which are good and which are bad. Even if you focus solely on memes, my point that religion merely hijacks existing systems remains valid.

    Religion cannot be the source because we do not treat the teachings of religion equally, and we discard those which run counter to our already established knowledge of right and wrong. Since this knowledge is already established, it's source must lie elsewhere.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    I say we must know in advance what is right and wrong since one must pick and choose which parts of these teachings to follow and which parts to ignore... one must know before hearing religious teachings, for example, that slavery and murder are wrong, or that homosexuality is not a sufficient cause to kill someone, or that non-belief is just another approach to the world and also not worthy of slaughter.
    If "knowing in advance" means knowing by instinct, that is plainly wrong. Many people have NOT known that slavery and murder are wrong. Slavery has been widely practiced in many cultures. Murder was part of the ethical system of the Thugees.

    If we knew those things in advance there would be no need for parents to teach it to their children, and all people would believe the same things.

    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    [Your example is so incredibly unlikely it is comical and a bit irrational (so hence can technically be ignored), but in principle, yes.
    Why is it irriational? It is a fair representation of the moral system of the Nazis of Germany, as well as other societies who had more success than the Nazis. It is based on the principles of evolution. In this way it is unlike Sam Harris's principle of trying to benefit all people of the world equally, which has never actually been seen in any real society.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    I say we must know in advance what is right and wrong since one must pick and choose which parts of these teachings to follow and which parts to ignore... one must know before hearing religious teachings, for example, that slavery and murder are wrong, or that homosexuality is not a sufficient cause to kill someone, or that non-belief is just another approach to the world and also not worthy of slaughter.

    If "knowing in advance" means knowing by instinct, that is plainly wrong. Many people have NOT known that slavery and murder are wrong. Slavery has been widely practiced in many cultures. Murder was part of the ethical system of the Thugees.

    If we knew those things in advance there would be no need for parents to teach it to their children, and all people would believe the same things.


    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    [Your example is so incredibly unlikely it is comical and a bit irrational (so hence can technically be ignored), but in principle, yes.
    Why is it irriational? It is a fair representation of the moral system of the Nazis of Germany, as well as other societies who had more success than the Nazis. It is based on the principles of evolution. In this way it is unlike Sam Harris's principle of trying to benefit all people of the world equally, which has never actually been seen in any real society.
    Inconceivable, you are so wrong!

    All living creatures are motivated by two overwhelming primal instincts. These are survival of the individual and survival of the species as a whole. (I stick with the first for now.)

    Within the first instinct falls the daily routine of foraging for food, finding shelter against the hostile elements and defence against, or avoidance of, predation.

    With the likes of most fish and turtles, this is a fend for yourselves the moment they are born, scenario, they only have those two primal instincts.
    But with humans and other social animals, the young have to be nurtured, so the first primal instinct is the duty of the parents, this does not mean they don't have the first primal instinct, it just means they are unable to carry it out. Teaching of other ethics within there group, is all carried out by the parents. So apart from the first primal instinct humans learn to work within a group this means not harming, stealing, etc.. This can be seen in other primate groups. Religious morals are an addition, not the beginning of morality.
    A logician saves the life of a tiny space alien. The alien is very grateful and, since she's omniscient, offers the following reward: she offers to answer any question the logician might pose. Without too much thought (after all, he's a logician), he asks: "What is the best question to ask and what is the correct answer to that question?" The tiny alien pauses. Finally she replies, "The best question is the one you just asked; and the correct answer is the one I gave."
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    Quote Originally Posted by pavlos
    Inconceivable, you are so wrong!

    All living creatures are motivated by two overwhelming primal instincts. These are survival of the individual and survival of the species as a whole. (I stick with the first for now.)

    Within the first instinct falls the daily routine of foraging for food, finding shelter against the hostile elements and defence against, or avoidance of, predation.

    With the likes of most fish and turtles, this is a fend for yourselves the moment they are born, scenario, they only have those two primal instincts.
    But with humans and other social animals, the young have to be nurtured, so the first primal instinct is the duty of the parents, this does not mean they don't have the first primal instinct, it just means they are unable to carry it out. Teaching of other ethics within there group, is all carried out by the parents. So apart from the first primal instinct humans learn to work within a group this means not harming, stealing, etc.. This can be seen in other primate groups. Religious morals are an addition, not the beginning of morality.
    I am not sure what you are disagreeing with or why. I didn't claim anything about religion being the beginning of morality.

    Animals are much more dependent on instinct than we are. They can learn from others, mostly by a monkey-see-monkey-do kind of process. Humans can transmit much more complex information about behavior.

    If you do not know instinctively which fork you should use first at a formal dinner, then how do you think you would know instinctively when it acceptable to kill a member of the neighboring tribe?
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    We seem to be going off path here.

    When Inow made the point that morality is about the rules of behavior that get us away from suffering and misery, he never claimed it wasn't cultural. In fact morality as it applies to those beyond our extended family could entirely be cultural because there doesn't seem to be a strong genetic reason such as there is in say wolves which have a very strong sense of morals (absent religion).

    The tread than spun off in some refutation that misery and morals based on them could be examined scientifically. Examples of moral systems which aren't predicated on reducing the misery of other peoples, say empirical Japan, don't seem to have much relevance here. Arguably though it's similar and one could have measured the misery of Japanese peoples using similar techniques.

    The Old Testament was much about reducing the misery of its own tribes. The New Testament is a hybrid morality which is superficially about reducing the misery after death but all-to-often at the expense of living especially as it applied to the Jews and those marked with the sign of Cain etc.

    Modern Western secular morality, such as the type most Americans and Europeans support (e.g. UCHR) tries to embrace all living humans.
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    Hmmm, upon a review of the four pages so far of this discussion I found myself agreeing and disagreeing with the various points which have been brought up by the various participants.

    Of particular distress to me was finding that I agreed with iNow on at least one point -- that morality is more a product of human experience in successful and unsuccessful conduct. Even as a Christian, I have never felt the Bible was a place where God "invented" morality. It is merely a place where God has stated what kinds of conducts (with some specifics) He endorses and what kinds of conducts (including some specifics) He rejects.

    I would not, however, characterize this as "hyjacking," but rather a codification process. I don't think the U.S. constitution "hyjacks" the philosophical movement that was taking place in Europe (a product of the Reformation) in the 17th and 18th Centuries, but codifies it and puts it into a practical application.

    We also have the slow politizitation of moral benevolence and charity that use to be fulfilled by the religious community. The hungry and sick use to have to look to the chruch and family for assistance that is now provided by government programs. Thus, dependence on the church as decreased bringing about a greater feeling toward the church as being unnecessary.

    However, for whatever it is worth, I think religion may provide some deterance value to individual disruptive conduct. The person who is thinking, "Even if I pull off this conduct and do not get caught by civil laws, I will still have to face The Ultimate Judge," may decide not to become involved in that conduct.

    I also saw some discussion based on the idea of "the worst possible misery and suffering," without ever being able to determine what that might be. It is a very relativistic term which must be dealt with almost totally in the abstract.

    Early on there was discussion as to religion being the root or main cause of problems (?) or disruption in the world. I thought Harold did a decent job of trying to blunt that charge, but the discussion did not lead to much discussion of alternative causes for world problems and disruptions.

    My opinion is that much of world disruption can be traced to desire to gather or control wealth and territory and to influence political influence (dominance) over large populations. Religion becomes a major justification and motivating influence through demonization of those who have religion or lack religion or are different religiously, lending credence to (Pavlos said it, I think) the idea that religion can be a very devisive element in society.

    There is yet another driving social force in attempting to defend from those who would disrupt a reasonably peaceful status quo.

    I also found the discussion on contented people interesting but not pointing out that contentedness promotes complacency and those who are content actually become more vulnerable to those who are not content.

    Disruption can also be a result of circumstances in which the "Have Nots" become so envious of the "Haves" that they attempt to possess form themselves that which the "Haves" have. Or, it can be that the "Haves" have just taken so much that the "Have Nots" have no recourse but to rebel.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    I say we must know in advance what is right and wrong since one must pick and choose which parts of these teachings to follow and which parts to ignore... one must know before hearing religious teachings, for example, that slavery and murder are wrong, or that homosexuality is not a sufficient cause to kill someone, or that non-belief is just another approach to the world and also not worthy of slaughter.
    If "knowing in advance" means knowing by instinct, that is plainly wrong.
    In this context, "knowing in advance" means having that understanding in place before religion.

    The point is that we are predisposed to learn and adhere to the expectations of the group... That those who went against the group expectations were shunned, ostracized, and less successful in reproducing and surviving. This is the source of morality. The groups who did not murder or steal from one another... the groups who helped each other find food, shelter, and protection... did better than groups which did not. The argument is that morality is rooted in this, not religion. Religion merely hijacked an existing trait for it's own purposes.

    I proceed by extending this point to ensure that the "group" is no longer limited in scope and narrowed to merely the local kin or family unit... the local township or practiced religion... the local country or region... and instead apply this logic about moving away from the worst possible state of suffering and misery to a group defined as all "conscious creatures."


    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Many people have NOT known that slavery and murder are wrong. Slavery has been widely practiced in many cultures. Murder was part of the ethical system of the Thugees.
    Which is why the above point is so critical. These actions you describe clearly moved those conscious creatures closer to the worst possible state of suffering and misery, and so hence by the starting premise previously laid out, were amoral acts from an objective standpoint.


    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    [Your example is so incredibly unlikely it is comical and a bit irrational (so hence can technically be ignored), but in principle, yes.
    Why is it irriational?
    Because we are having this exchange in the context of a starting assumption. That starting assumption is that we agree to attempt to move conscious creatures away from the worst possible state of misery and suffering.

    Hence, when you suggest that the outcome of an exploration rooted in this axiom could be that "we really "ought" to gang up on our neighbors and seize their territory, then turn them into slaves to serve our own progeny," I stated that (if we are being honest to that axiom) this was incredibly unlikely, and my comment about rationality was due to how comically and disingenuously you are approaching this otherwise reasonable discussion... a discussion exploring the potential for a common non-subjective approach to understanding and studying morality.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    We seem to be going off path here.

    When Inow made the point that morality is about the rules of behavior that get us away from suffering and misery, he never claimed it wasn't cultural. In fact morality as it applies to those beyond our extended family could entirely be cultural because there doesn't seem to be a strong genetic reason such as there is in say wolves which have a very strong sense of morals (absent religion).
    Had Inow said that he "knew" certain actions were wrong, because he had learned it from some other cultural source, which he holds in greater esteem than the religious teaching. then I would not have had a problem. That is not what he said, however.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    [Which is why the above point is so critical. These actions you describe clearly moved those conscious creatures closer to the worst possible state of suffering and misery, and so hence by the starting premise previously laid out, were amoral acts from an objective standpoint.
    How do you know that the conquering tribe's joy in having the additional territory does not compensate for the suffering of the conquered tribe, in the calculation of the overall happiness of humanity?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    How do you know that the conquering tribe's joy in having the additional territory does not compensate for the suffering of the conquered tribe, in the calculation of the overall happiness of humanity?
    Because it's an objective truth so obvious that it doesn't require defense. It's obvious in the same way that it's obvious that elephants are larger than mice.

    Your opposition is facile, and your denying the truth of this proposition suggests that I have no reason to view you as a serious participant in this conversation.


    http://www.samharris.org/site/full_t...se-to-critics/
    One can pose this type of question about any kind of truth. What makes it true that 2 + 2 = 4? What makes it true that hens lay eggs? Some things are just true; nothing else makes them true. Moral skepticism is caused by the currently fashionable but unargued assumption that only certain kinds of things, such as physical facts, can be “just true” and that value judgments such as “happiness is better than misery” are not among them. And that assumption in turn leads to the conclusion that a value judgment could be true only if it were made true by something like a physical fact. That, of course, is nonsense.
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    Okay, here is another scenario. Tribe A and B occupy a territory which is overfished and overhunted. Everybody is miserable and starving. A war breaks out. Tribe A obliterates Tribe B entirely. Tribe B is not suffering, they're dead. Tribe A feasts on the bounty. We have demonstrably reduced the level of human suffering.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Early on there was discussion as to religion being the root or main cause of problems (?) or disruption in the world. I thought Harold did a decent job of trying to blunt that charge, but the discussion did not lead to much discussion of alternative causes for world problems and disruptions.
    It's a natural tendency to protect ourselves (and our kin) and to do better than those not considered as part of the "us" group (competition).

    Humans and animals are natural classifiers. Even simple organisms classify objects as food versus not food, or ouch versus not ouch. The more groups we split ourselves into as humans, the more the us/them mentality is reinforced, and the easier it is to dehumanize and kill the "others."

    Religion is just another source of division, and hence makes it easier to act on these natural tendencies to do better than "them," even if that means stealing or killing. Prime example... Look at all of the people in the US claiming President Obama is a secret Muslim. Why isn't the first question we're asking, "How does that matter, and why is that relevant?" It's not, but the "us/them" mentality takes over and by casting him as being part of a "different" religion it's easier to attack and dehumanize him.

    The root of the argument that religion has led to a lot of killing stems from similar source. It's a natural tendency, but made worse by the way so many religious teachings profess to be the one true path... to have the one true god. Well, that makes everyone else wrong and fooled by the devil (or some other such garbage).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Okay, here is another scenario. Tribe A and B occupy a territory which is overfished and overhunted. Everybody is miserable and starving. A war breaks out. Tribe A obliterates Tribe B entirely. Tribe B is not suffering, they're dead. Tribe A feasts on the bounty. We have demonstrably reduced the level of human suffering.
    I disagree with your conclusion, but will accept it for purposes of conversation. Yes, this is a complex subject, and the details are tough to find. In order to begin exploring those details, I'm asking folks to accept the general premise that it is possible, at least in principle, to objectively have right and wrong answers grounded in the central axiom that we should at least attempt to move away from the worst possible state of suffering and misery for conscious creatures.


    http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/cu...-torture-human
    we can recognise that things like right and wrong, good and evil, relate to the experience of conscious creatures, and to nothing else - and the consciousness of creatures is itself a natural phenomenon that is constrained in some way by the laws of nature. So, granted it's fantastically difficult to get down to the details and know you have right answers, just as it is in economics. Economics struggles to be a science, but just now we are blown about by uncertainty at every moment. But there's no question that there are right and wrong answers - we're talking about fantastically complicated systems, and here we're talking about brains and societies and it's all very complicated, but it's not so complicated that you can't recognise obviously wrong answers and obviously right answers.

    <...>

    there's just no question that there are obvious wrong answers. We can't be sure of the right answer in economics and morality - the right answer, the best of all possible answers - but we can recognise wrong answers. You can look at what people value and what that leads them to do the things that they do, and the consequences of those actions in the lives of their children, and their neighbours, and you can look at that entire context and you can say, "OK, that is clearly the wrong answer to a set of problems that human beings continue to confront".

    <...>

    I think that the problem of there being trade-offs between fundamental values is a real one. I don't think it's going away, but, again, the fact that it exists doesn't suggest that there are no right answers. This is why I think my analogy of the moral landscape is an improvement on run-of-the-mill moral consequentialism because it makes it intelligible that there could be peaks on this landscape that could be different in all kinds of interesting ways, but it wouldn't be a morally salient difference.
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    I think we have to listen to Spock on this one: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" to be able to advance from the fact that morals are relative. Solutions must be looked for that can benefit as many people as possible. A set of morals that are geared towards the benefit of all mankind are what Humanism are after. In that sense it is flexible instead of rigid as religion often is.
    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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    Quote Originally Posted by inow


    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    What if the conclusion of the "scientific" investigation is that we really "ought" to gang up on our neighbors and seize their territory, then turn them into slaves to serve our own progeny, in this way to maximize our own genes in future generations. Are you prepared to accept a result like that?
    Your example is so incredibly unlikely it is comical and a bit irrational (so hence can technically be ignored), but in principle, yes.
    Not irrational at all. Science can be "hijacked" just like a religion can if the political atmosphere is right.

    Nazi Eugenics did exactly that. It specifically drew, and assigned full academic authority to the conclusion that the German people "really "ought" to gang up on (their) neighbors and seize their territory, then turn them into slaves to serve (their) own progeny, in this way to maximize (their) own genes in future generations.

    For Harold to think that could happen again is wise. It shows he learns from history.


    Quote Originally Posted by pavlos
    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    I say we must know in advance what is right and wrong since one must pick and choose which parts of these teachings to follow and which parts to ignore... one must know before hearing religious teachings, for example, that slavery and murder are wrong, or that homosexuality is not a sufficient cause to kill someone, or that non-belief is just another approach to the world and also not worthy of slaughter.

    If "knowing in advance" means knowing by instinct, that is plainly wrong. Many people have NOT known that slavery and murder are wrong. Slavery has been widely practiced in many cultures. Murder was part of the ethical system of the Thugees.

    If we knew those things in advance there would be no need for parents to teach it to their children, and all people would believe the same things.


    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    [Your example is so incredibly unlikely it is comical and a bit irrational (so hence can technically be ignored), but in principle, yes.
    Why is it irriational? It is a fair representation of the moral system of the Nazis of Germany, as well as other societies who had more success than the Nazis. It is based on the principles of evolution. In this way it is unlike Sam Harris's principle of trying to benefit all people of the world equally, which has never actually been seen in any real society.
    Inconceivable, you are so wrong!

    All living creatures are motivated by two overwhelming primal instincts. These are survival of the individual and survival of the species as a whole. (I stick with the first for now.)

    Within the first instinct falls the daily routine of foraging for food, finding shelter against the hostile elements and defence against, or avoidance of, predation.

    With the likes of most fish and turtles, this is a fend for yourselves the moment they are born, scenario, they only have those two primal instincts.
    But with humans and other social animals, the young have to be nurtured, so the first primal instinct is the duty of the parents, this does not mean they don't have the first primal instinct, it just means they are unable to carry it out. Teaching of other ethics within there group, is all carried out by the parents. So apart from the first primal instinct humans learn to work within a group this means not harming, stealing, etc.. This can be seen in other primate groups. Religious morals are an addition, not the beginning of morality.
    A part of that first instinct to forage for food is to measure how much forage you're getting out of your foraging grounds and ask yourself if it's going to be enough to support both yourself and that other tribe that's foraging on the same lands as you.

    If it's not going to be enough, then that instinct tells you to go over to that other tribe and ask them politely to leave, so your tribe can forage there alone, and thereby obtain enough food to sustain themselves. Surely the other tribe understands your situation, and realizes that you need the food for your children, yet....... for some strange reason, even knowing this, sometimes the other tribe refuses to leave.

    It's like they want your children to starve.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    What if the conclusion of the "scientific" investigation is that we really "ought" to gang up on our neighbors and seize their territory, then turn them into slaves to serve our own progeny, in this way to maximize our own genes in future generations. Are you prepared to accept a result like that?
    Your example is so incredibly unlikely it is comical and a bit irrational (so hence can technically be ignored), but in principle, yes.
    Not irrational at all. Science can be "hijacked" just like a religion can if the political atmosphere is right.

    Nazi Eugenics did exactly that.
    While I appreciate the fact that you've gone Godwin and gotten that out of the way for this thread, you missed my point.

    I said, given the premises, that Harold's suggestion is comically unlikely, and I maintain the validity of that position.


    Seriously... It is silly to think that we will discover that the way to move farthest away from the "worst possible suffering and misery we can imagine" could be to "gang up on our neighbors, enslave them, and seize their territory."

    You can talk about science being hijacked and nazis doing eugenics all you like. That's totally separate from the point. Harold's suggestion was ludicrous, which is why I said this:

    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Because we are having this exchange in the context of a starting assumption. That starting assumption is that we agree to attempt to move conscious creatures away from the worst possible state of misery and suffering.

    Hence, when you suggest that the outcome of an exploration rooted in this axiom could be that "we really "ought" to gang up on our neighbors and seize their territory, then turn them into slaves to serve our own progeny," I stated that (if we are being honest to that axiom) this was incredibly unlikely, and my comment about rationality was due to how comically and disingenuously you are approaching this otherwise reasonable discussion... a discussion exploring the potential for a common non-subjective approach to understanding and studying morality.
    And even with that, I addressed the root of his question. If the science showed something with which I was not comfortable, would I accept it anyway. I said, in principle, yes... Yes, I would.
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    There is a science which addresses the optimization of results of human interactions.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory
    I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
    Lucky me. Lucky mud.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    What if the conclusion of the "scientific" investigation is that we really "ought" to gang up on our neighbors and seize their territory, then turn them into slaves to serve our own progeny, in this way to maximize our own genes in future generations. Are you prepared to accept a result like that?
    Your example is so incredibly unlikely it is comical and a bit irrational (so hence can technically be ignored), but in principle, yes.
    Not irrational at all. Science can be "hijacked" just like a religion can if the political atmosphere is right.

    Nazi Eugenics did exactly that.
    While I appreciate the fact that you've gone Godwin and gotten that out of the way for this thread, you missed my point.
    I don't think it's Godwin if it's in context, and I'm certainly not accusing you of being a Nazi or trying to label your perspective as a Nazi perspective. It's a simple historical fact that a pseudo-science justification was employed by an actual nation on this planet as a directive to gang up on a weaker group of people, take their stuff, and make slaves of them. At the time, it even had endorsement from the academic community.

    Right now we could argue that Neo-Libertarian economics is a "science" justification for reducing some people in third world countries to border-line slave status, and allowing them to kill one another off (often providing the weapons for them to do it with) so we can step in an loot their natural resources after the dust settles. Just because we aren't willing to call a spade a spade doesn't mean it isn't a spade.
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    I still think you're missing the point, and I'm losing patience quickly. I'm not challenging you that people (like the nazis) may misuse science, or misapply it pseudoscientifically to justify their ends.

    I'm saying that, yes... It's possible to have an objective and science based discussion about morality if we agree on the axiom that we should attempt to move away from the worst possible state of suffering and misery for conscious creatures.

    I am saying that if we do this, it's incredibly unlikely that Harold's proposed possibility that we should take our neighbors as slaves and seize their territory will be what the science suggests to us in achieving that end. I'm saying his comment was so unlikely it was comical, and seemed a bit disingenuous in a reasonable discussion of this nature.

    Let's try to avoid missing this point again, shall we? I'd rather like to not have to explain myself for a fourth damned time.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Let's try to avoid missing this point again, shall we? I'd rather like to not have to explain myself for a fourth damned time.
    I think the point I may have left out is that, just like science, religion only does these things when it gets hijacked as well.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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    iNow said:
    Religion is just another source of division, and hence makes it easier to act on these natural tendencies to do better than "them," even if that means stealing or killing. Prime example... Look at all of the people in the US claiming President Obama is a secret Muslim. Why isn't the first question we're asking, "How does that matter, and why is that relevant?" It's not, but the "us/them" mentality takes over and by casting him as being part of a "different" religion it's easier to attack and dehumanize him.
    The root of the argument that religion has led to a lot of killing stems from similar source. It's a natural tendency, but made worse by the way so many religious teachings profess to be the one true path... to have the one true god. Well, that makes everyone else wrong and fooled by the devil (or some other such garbage).
    While there is a degree of agreement with you in theory, I am not so convinced of your applications.

    You have seemed to discovered the truth that there are only two groups in the entire Universe -- Us and Them. I have been making this point for the last 35 or so years. While religion MAY provide another deliniation between some usses and themses, I could not agree that, overall, religion is now or has ever been the major divider in the course of human history. (Not that iNow suggested such.)

    I am not convinced that Obama is (wrongly) demonized as a Muslim for religious purposes. The motivation behind this attack as well as the now debunked birthers and also the "poor grades," phoney name and all that kind of crap is not religious at all, but purely ideological, political conservative versus liberal convictions.

    There was no religious, per se, reason for the Civil War. It was based completely on economic and political differences. More U.S. people died as a result of this single conflict than in all the other wars the U.S. has been involved in together. Ethnicity and national dislikes also play a huge role in civil disruptiveness. I suspect more people have been killed in the U.S. because of their race than because of their religion.

    I just do not see religion, in and of itself, as having been the catalist for a huge portion of world's disorders. Even the invasion of Palestine by the children of Israel was more of a land grab than it was an attempt to change the religion of the residents.

    I did not vote for Obama and would vote for him the next time only if the GOP is stupid enough to nominate Trump. But he is my president and I respect his status and the fact that he is the most important of world leaders. I do not agree in the least with any of the villification and questioning of his motives. I am sure that Obama believes his liberal outlook will direct the U.S. toward a better life for all. I detest the language that suggests he is attempting to subvert the U.S. or turn the U.S. into an Islamic state.

    However, this type of villification and accusations of subversion did not start with Obama's ascendancy to the presidency. Bush was subjected to the same kind of demeaning, unfair criticism from his opponents. I think that is when this crap began in earnest. Clinton and the Bush before him and Reagan before that had their detractors, but I do not recall that they were subjected to the same kind of nastiness that Bush and Obama have received. And I don't think this kind of nastiness has anything to do with religion.

    And thinking of iNow's "worst possible state of suffering and misery" axiom, I am not sure we could come to an agreement on what is the "worst possible state." It does seem to me that this would be a rather subjective determination. Shouldn't an axiom be somewhat more objective and obvious. Axioms are, usually, virtually a priori.

    Perhaps it would be easier to determine a standard under which we could come close to agreeing is a minimum standand, below which suffering and misery should not be tolerated. This would probably not be the "worst possible," but it would provide us with a measurable standard which the "worst possible" does not.
    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
    While religion MAY provide another deliniation between some usses and themses, I could not agree that, overall, religion is now or has ever been the major divider in the course of human history.
    Then I do fear you are failing to acknowledge something which is plainly true. Rose colored glasses, and all.

    A few examples:
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/negative2.htm
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/relhateex.htm


    There are others, but I'm not feeling like searching. The point is... It quite clearly exists, whether you agree or not.


    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    I just do not see religion, in and of itself, as having been the catalist for a huge portion of world's disorders.
    I know you do not. I'm not personally arguing that it has caused all problems. I am, however, arguing that it has caused a fairly significant number of them. I fear using a specific example since this point is so broad and I don't want you attaching to the details of merely one... but all one needs to do is look at Jerusalem. Don't tell me the violence there is not religious... Or Ireland, as another example.

    Here are yet more:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_war
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/curr_war.htm


    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    I did not vote for Obama and would vote for him the next time only if the GOP is stupid enough to nominate Trump. But he is my president and I respect his status and the fact that he is the most important of world leaders. I do not agree in the least with any of the villification and questioning of his motives.
    I want to note that you've just earned a bit of respect from me. We disagree religiously, but when you express thoughts like this it reminds me that you're at your heart a decent guy. Again though... It was just an example within a larger point, so I don't want to turn this into (another) thread on Obama and the silliness he faces from the crazies in our country. Regardless, you showed something with these comments here.


    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    I don't think this kind of nastiness has anything to do with religion.
    It's a way of looking at the world... It's the attempt to make things black and white in a universe of gray spectrum. It's about the us / them... I think a firm argument exists that religion plays a role here... very much so... in the way it disregards evidence, treats personal belief as more important than fact, and allows fairy tales to take such prominence.

    I'm just spit-balling here, and I know you disagree, but I think it's fairly simple to associate the nastiness we see with religion. Again... not all nastiness... not a primary source... but it plays a role, and it would be silly to suggest otherwise.


    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    And thinking of iNow's "worst possible state of suffering and misery" axiom, I am not sure we could come to an agreement on what is the "worst possible state."
    Fair enough, but as a concept it serves as an incredibly favorable baseline to begin the exploration.


    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Perhaps it would be easier to determine a standard under which we could come close to agreeing is a minimum standand, below which suffering and misery should not be tolerated. This would probably not be the "worst possible," but it would provide us with a measurable standard which the "worst possible" does not.
    I'm not sure how this helps. Does this approach not suffer from the same criticism you just leveled at "worst possible" in that the details surrounding it too are subjective?

    At least if we ground ourselves in the "worst possible state" and agree to attempt to move away from it, we have a common foundation and begin building a more robust and universal understanding.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    I just do not see religion, in and of itself, as having been the catalist for a huge portion of world's disorders.
    I know you do not. I'm not personally arguing that it has caused all problems. I am, however, arguing that it has caused a fairly significant number of them.
    I'm just spit-balling here, and I know you disagree, but I think it's fairly simple to associate the nastiness we see with religion. Again... not all nastiness... not a primary source... but it plays a role, and it would be silly to suggest otherwise.
    Maybe it is preventing some nastiness, too.
    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    And thinking of iNow's "worst possible state of suffering and misery" axiom, I am not sure we could come to an agreement on what is the "worst possible state."
    Fair enough, but as a concept it serves as an incredibly favorable baseline to begin the exploration.
    I don't think it serves much of anything. Morality is all about weighing competing interests against each other, choosing the lesser of two evils, individual benefit versus group benefit, and things like that. If you set up a situation where everybody agrees - "let's move away from the worst possible situation" you have simply identified a trivial case which is not any kind of moral dilemma at all. Morality doesn't even apply.

    Once you perturb the situation one iota, your universal agreement suddenly evaporates. Let's relieve the misery of one person. Who is it? All of a sudden you have gone from universal agreement to a situation where no two people agree at all.

    Regarding the analogy to health - I don't think it works. We can agree generally about what is health because one person's health does not usually detract from anybody else's. As a matter of fact it is better for you if others are not going around spreading germs and if they are able to be productive. If there is a questionable situation, like abortion or euthanasia, we think of it as a moral issue instead of a medical issue. Abortion is not a question about health, it is a question about whether a fetus is even a being whose health anybody is or should be concerned about. Which is healthier, somebody who is dead, or somebody who is dying and in extreme pain? Sure we can talk about these things using science, but we will never get a scientific answer.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    I'm not able to agree with your assessment that morality has religious roots. As stated previously, my stance is that religion hijacked existing moral systems, and that those moral systems are largely in place because they aided in our survival as pack animals existing in troops. I think this is reinforced by the data on the neurobiology of morality, and also the fact that we see similar "moral" activities in other non-human animals, but generally only in animals which also exist in groups.
    I haven't argued that morality does not have evolutionary roots. Also, i'd be interested to see this neurobiology data.

    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    I could also point to the numerous amoral teachings and stories in religion to flank your point.
    Irrelevant. We are both arguing from a position of a moral vacuum i.e. morality is not an inherent property of the universe, nor decreed by a supreme being. Therefore we are just arguing about where morality has stemmed from in humanity. Today's morality will be tomorrows immorality.

    The crux of the argument hangs on whether you accept memes as subject to natural selection the way genes are. For my argument about religion, i am assuming they are.

    Do you make the same assumption? It appears not (fair enough, not totally convinced by memes myself).


    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Religion cannot be the source because we do not treat the teachings of religion equally, and we discard those which run counter to our already established knowledge of right and wrong. Since this knowledge is already established, it's source must lie elsewhere.
    Memes exist because they are successful replicators, not because of any right or wrong. A meme may have a better chance of replicating if it runs parallel to genetic interests (a memegeneplex!?). Sexual memes would be a good example of this process.

    You (and most atheists) may develop your morality outside a religious context, but most humans do so within a religion. Even though it is possible to have morality without religion it does not follow that morality has to be genetic (though it's roots would be). The moral codes you develop may simply be memeplexes competing with religion memeplexes, or memes borrowed from religion, minus the nastier memes. Having said this, i acknowledge the genetic roots of morality, but maintain a second driver of morality has taken over: memes. These memes have 'evolved' morality into something different from that which is purely genetic.

    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Even if you focus solely on memes, my point that religion merely hijacks existing systems remains valid.
    Again, i accept this but still argue religion has been a significant vehicle of human morality. This is because a meme has at least the same, if not more, power in natural selection than a gene ( if you believe the hype around them).
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    I think we have to listen to Spock on this one: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" to be able to advance from the fact that morals are relative. Solutions must be looked for that can benefit as many people as possible. A set of morals that are geared towards the benefit of all mankind are what Humanism are after. In that sense it is flexible instead of rigid as religion often is.
    Spock? I thought it was John Stuart Mill in his book Utilitarianism. Kant also tried to develop the Moral Imperative, but that states morality as an intrinsic property of the universe.
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    I think I've made the mistake of engaging too many people at once on a topic I'm just beginning to explore myself. I'll need some time to consider your points more fully, and hope to return after a few of my conference calls today.


    In the meantime, much of the legwork has already been done for me. For example, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_of_morality#Theory

    Thanks.

    ________________________________________
    Ok.

    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Morality is all about weighing competing interests against each other, choosing the lesser of two evils, individual benefit versus group benefit, and things like that. If you set up a situation where everybody agrees - "let's move away from the worst possible situation" you have simply identified a trivial case which is not any kind of moral dilemma at all. Morality doesn't even apply.

    Once you perturb the situation one iota, your universal agreement suddenly evaporates. Let's relieve the misery of one person. Who is it? All of a sudden you have gone from universal agreement to a situation where no two people agree at all.
    I feel there are two things happening here. One, we do not really have an operational definition of morality from which we are both working. What it means to me is different from what it means to you. So, starting there, from the wiki link I shared above:

    In psychology in general, it is granted that subjective experiences very often correspond to objective facts (e.g. about the brain). For instance, clinical depression certainly has a subjective component (when feelings of depression are experienced by an individual) but it has also been operationally defined and objectively studied (e.g. described in terms of physical characteristics of the brain, resulting in a biology of depression).

    As Michael Shermer explains, this is where the science of morality begins. "The first principle is the well-being of conscious creatures, from which we can build a science-based system of moral values by quantifying whether or not X increases or decreases well-being". Activities like lying or stealing, and even certain cultural values, for example, will be more morally "wrong" because they tend to cause more suffering than alternative group practices. The science of morality, then, is also a social morality; it must mediate between the varied needs and desires of many individuals.

    What one ought to do to be moral depends on there being definition of what constitutes a 'moral' goal in the first place. A case in point: it seems one ought not to infect themselves with various diseases and eat rotten foods if one has a goal of being healthy. But there is no meaningfully 'healthier choice' (any more than there is a 'moral choice') unless we define these terms. As mentioned above, modern psychology suggests there are facts about the way that brain activity results in well-being or suffering. This includes facts about which patterns of thought, policies or actions tend to promote such neural events. Harris describes how societies at least try to maximize people's well-being as best they understand it, and that they often call these 'moral' discussions.

    <...>

    Now with formal definitions of morality, discussions that have no bearing on "the flourishing of conscious creatures" would so simply not be moral discussions. Of course, operationalizing terms related to morality or physics does not prevent alternative use outside the scientific community.

    The second thing I see happening in your responses is that you are sort of "mixing frames." I notice you sort of bouncing between "general oughts" and "moral oughts." In essence, you are moving between "good for me" or "good for the one" and "morally good" in and of itself. I'm trying to focus us on the second... Morally good in and of itself. That changes the way our discussion flows in a fairly significant manner.

    I think we both need to agree up front to terms and context if we're going to have a meaningful exchange here.



    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Regarding the analogy to health - I don't think it works. We can agree generally about what is health because one person's health does not usually detract from anybody else's. <...> Which is healthier, somebody who is dead, or somebody who is dying and in extreme pain? Sure we can talk about these things using science, but we will never get a scientific answer.
    But that was not the point of the comparison. The comparison to health was to suggest that it has a subjective definition, but we can still all collectively agree on actions which move someone closer to the "worst possible state of health" versus those actions which move someone farther from it.

    It's the same with morality. We may face subjective definitions of morality, but we can still largely agree on what actions or behaviors move us closer to the worst possible state of suffering for conscious creatures and which move us farther away.


    With these issues in mind, supporters of the moral science propose that researchers have a reasonably intuitive, and more than adequate working definition of what makes something 'moral': it is something that concerns the flourishing (wellbeing) of conscious creatures. Something that is morally good is that which increases flourishing, and morally bad that which decreases flourishing.

    <...>

    If something does not, in any way, concern conscious creatures, then it is devoid of morality by these definitions.

    I'll also note that psychology and neuroscience are not like engineering. We're not going to be able to tell you that 0.07 kg of X moved along the z-axis at a rate of 6.92 kps will result in 4.261% change in well-being... But, despite that, it is clear that it can still be viewed and discussed scientifically, so I ask you to have a bit of tolerance in your need for precision during this dialogue.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Also, i'd be interested to see this neurobiology data.
    There's truly a lot out there, and I'd need to know about what specifically you would like to learn more. However, you can find a LOT of data by googling terms like "neuroscience morality" or "cognitive morality."

    Here are a few I picked sort of at random, as I'm not as close to this work as I was a few years back while still in university:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0329152516.htm
    http://research.duke.edu/stories/neuroscience-morality
    http://reason.com/archives/2007/11/2...ral-neuroscien
    http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~jgreene/...essChapter.pdf


    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    The crux of the argument hangs on whether you accept memes as subject to natural selection the way genes are. For my argument about religion, i am assuming they are.
    To be honest with you, I'm very undecided about how to look at memetics, but I see a lot of merit in exploring the ideas this way, so will (like you) assume it true for our purposes here.


    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Religion cannot be the source because we do not treat the teachings of religion equally, and we discard those which run counter to our already established knowledge of right and wrong. Since this knowledge is already established, it's source must lie elsewhere.
    Memes exist because they are successful replicators, not because of any right or wrong.
    But if you tie this back to my previous words, part of what I'm arguing here is that, due to our existence in groups and tribes, it was primarily those memes which caused us to act "right" or morally which were successfully replicated. I think we're pretty close on this.


    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    You (and most atheists) may develop your morality outside a religious context, but most humans do so within a religion.
    Again, I have to disagree. There are a lot of irreligious people in the world who have no noticeable difference in their moral outlook than those who were brought up religious. I think you continue to make this assertion as if it's true, and I don't think it is. It seems to me that morality is developed more due to the fact that we are human existing as a social species, and I don't think religion plays the prominent role you suggest it does.

    This does, however, seem to boil down to opinion, and if you disagree, that's fine. No worries.


    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    The moral codes you develop may simply be memeplexes competing with religion memeplexes, or memes borrowed from religion, minus the nastier memes.
    I find myself largely in agreement with this point. I'm trying to break away from the concept of religion a bit since I think the memes are tied to the group... and religion is "just another group," but I accept the premise certain behavioral tendencies to act morally could have easily propagated in the manner you suggest with memes.


    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Having said this, i acknowledge the genetic roots of morality, but maintain a second driver of morality has taken over: memes. These memes have 'evolved' morality into something different from that which is purely genetic.
    No problem here, either.


    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Even if you focus solely on memes, my point that religion merely hijacks existing systems remains valid.
    Again, i accept this but still argue religion has been a significant vehicle of human morality.
    Fair enough. I just disagree. I think religion is taking credit for something we as humans already do. We are predisposed toward certain traits, and you are positing that religion deserves credit where I personally don't think it does.

    I watched this a while back (in full, but here is just an on-topic clip) and it impacted my thinking a bit (I also alluded to it the post to which you were replying):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aARStlRf01w

    The central point is that one must cherry-pick from religious teachings to make the argument you are, and it requires another source for our moral thinking in order to perform that cherry-picking / selective editing. I propose that this other source is evolved predisposition toward acting in accordance with the group into which we're born, and that the vast majority of humanity groups have the moral codes you so easily attribute to religion.

    The above video also supplements my previous post to daytonturner.


    More here which articulates my views fairly well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxdgCxK4VUA

    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    I think we have to listen to Spock on this one: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" to be able to advance from the fact that morals are relative. Solutions must be looked for that can benefit as many people as possible. A set of morals that are geared towards the benefit of all mankind are what Humanism are after. In that sense it is flexible instead of rigid as religion often is.
    Spock? I thought it was John Stuart Mill in his book Utilitarianism. Kant also tried to develop the Moral Imperative, but that states morality as an intrinsic property of the universe.
    Yeah, but neither of them died of radiation poisoning saving the Enterprise in Wrath of Khan.
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    I cannot deny that religion provides an easy way to define sides. But that does not necessarily mean that religion is the underlying cause of many of the conflicts listed in the articles you link to.

    In Africa, for instance, many of those people were involved in tribal warfare long before they were introduced to the mainstream religions. The Balkan countries were Balkanized long before either Judiasm or Islam spread to that area of the world.

    As I pointed out, the U.S. Civil War was not motivated by any particular religious motivation. This one was, basically, Christian killing Christian. WWI has no religious motivation nor WWII, nor Korea, nor Vietnam. In the Civil War, the fact that most blacks in the war fought for the North does not turn the Civil
    war into a racially motivated war any more than being able to define which side of a religious line participants in a particular conflict makes the motivation religious.

    Even, as I suggested before, the Jewish invasion of Palestine following the exodus was not a religious recruiting program. It was a plain and simple land grab.

    I cannot speak to the historiosity of the many conflicts your links show had different religions on opposite sides although I do note that a huge percentage of the conflicts seem to be Muslims against someone else and their motivation does seem to be to spread their religion by whatever means possible, including "convert or die" military conquest. What we are seeing today is Muslims in conflict (often mortal) with just about everybody (including their own different denominations).

    I don't think iNow's example of Ireland holds up as a religiously motivated conflict. In all of Great Britain and Ireland except for Northern Ireland Protestants and Catholics live peaceably. The problem in Northern Ireland is political and comes about as a result of the early 20th Century establishment of the self rule on the island of Ireland. The conflict arose among those in Northern Ireland who wanted to be a part of the Republic of Ireland and those who did not want that political affiliation and chose to establish their own separate. I think the fact that these factions can be defined by religious affiliation is secondary to the political differences. It did turn out that protestant factions were able to seize political and economic dominance and control at the expense of the more Catholic affiliated group seeking to become a part of the Irish Republic. But this conflict was not motivated by the religious hatreds which developed as the conflict fomented. If the separatists were black and the unionists white, we would be calling this a racial conflict. I don’t think they really care that the other faction is of a different religion so much as whether they are unionists or separatists.

    My only real point here is that in the world wide view, even without the ability to define participating conflicted factions by their religious affiliations, we would still have horrible wars and horrible human atrocities. It may be a mis-application of Occam’s Razor. It is far too simple to blame religion for what are actually more difficult to isolate economically and politically motivated conflicts.

    Since 93 percent of the world population has some religious leanings and the other seven percent seem to have anti-religious leanings, it would be difficult to have a conflict that did not involve people of some religious sentiment.
    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
    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    You (and most atheists) may develop your morality outside a religious context, but most humans do so within a religion.
    Again, I have to disagree. There are a lot of irreligious people in the world who have no noticeable difference in their moral outlook than those who were brought up religious. I think you continue to make this assertion as if it's true, and I don't think it is. It seems to me that morality is developed more due to the fact that we are human existing as a social species, and I don't think religion plays the prominent role you suggest it does.
    Aha. I think i see where we disagree. I'm viewing religion not so much as a causative factor for morality, but a vehicle through which certain memes exist - and exist only to propagate themselves. This vehicle is an accident of history - it could have been another vehicle, like the Babylonian Code of Laws others have referred to here (of which i know little). The religion memeplex does contain lots memes other than the moral memes we are talking about, and some, if not many, are destructive to mankind. That is irrelevant to the memeplex so long as this destruction is not sufficient to destroy the memes too - memes would serve themselves, not individuals and humanity.

    Just my initial thoughts, i'll read the rest more thoroughly later.

    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Spock? I thought it was John Stuart Mill in his book Utilitarianism. Kant also tried to develop the Moral Imperative, but that states morality as an intrinsic property of the universe.
    Yeah, but neither of them died of radiation poisoning saving the Enterprise in Wrath of Khan.
    I cannot argue with that. Actually, it's not as silly as it sounds. I learnt a lot of my morality from Babylon 5 and Star Trek - it's all memes, these are just more interesting to assimilate.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    The second thing I see happening in your responses is that you are sort of "mixing frames." I notice you sort of bouncing between "general oughts" and "moral oughts." In essence, you are moving between "good for me" or "good for the one" and "morally good" in and of itself. I'm trying to focus us on the second... Morally good in and of itself. That changes the way our discussion flows in a fairly significant manner.

    I think we both need to agree up front to terms and context if we're going to have a meaningful exchange here.
    I guess that's not going to happen. Moral decisions are made at the individual level, not collectively.

    I don't buy into the idea of everybody in the world working toward a common goal, with no distinction between any other conscious creatures. It's not realistic. This I think is a relatively new idea in historical perspective, and one that is honored more by lip service than actual behavior. Maybe that's how Mother Theresa acted. You're not going to get very many others to go along.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Aha. I think i see where we disagree. I'm viewing religion not so much as a causative factor for morality, but a vehicle through which certain memes exist - and exist only to propagate themselves. This vehicle is an accident of history - it could have been another vehicle, like the Babylonian Code of Laws others have referred to here (of which i know little).
    Indeed. I think you're right, and I may have been missing it because I have been (in this thread) viewing memes of this nature as propagating through pretty much all groups... in all human tribes and troops, not just religion. That helped, so thanks.

    (BTW - More on the research here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science...ality#Research )



    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    The second thing I see happening in your responses is that you are sort of "mixing frames." I notice you sort of bouncing between "general oughts" and "moral oughts." In essence, you are moving between "good for me" or "good for the one" and "morally good" in and of itself. I'm trying to focus us on the second... Morally good in and of itself. That changes the way our discussion flows in a fairly significant manner.

    I think we both need to agree up front to terms and context if we're going to have a meaningful exchange here.
    I guess that's not going to happen. Moral decisions are made at the individual level, not collectively.

    I don't buy into the idea of everybody in the world working toward a common goal, with no distinction between any other conscious creatures. It's not realistic. This I think is a relatively new idea in historical perspective, and one that is honored more by lip service than actual behavior. Maybe that's how Mother Theresa acted. You're not going to get very many others to go along.
    Again, though... We are talking past each other here... at cross purposes. I'm not here right now talking about implementation. I'm not here right now talking about specific moral decisions made at the individual level. I'm not here right now talking about getting people to behave a specific way based upon the outcome of this science based exploration of morality (not yet, anyway).

    I'm talking about having the ability to more objectively determine whether specific actions are moral or not in and of themselves. I think it's possible to do this using the methodology of science if it remains grounded in the aforementioned starting axiom, and none of the arguments you've made thus far give me reason to think otherwise.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_of_morality#Theory
    Michael Shermer opines that "It doesn't take rocket science- or religion" to deem acid throwing to be wrong. Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson also describes how, even though philosophers often highlight and discuss some of the most challenging moral situations, there are still many more "moral no brainers". Such extreme cases could even be more important to deal with than the grey areas.

    Furthermore, there are still objective facts about things that are relative (i.e. relational facts). For example, it might be a fact (not subject to anyone's opinion) that Alex would like to play a musical instrument more than would Jamie. Alex would flourish given the opportunity, but Jamie would not (unless Jamie's preferences change). It may therefore be a fact that it is more morally good to give the instrument to Alex than to Jamie precisely because the two people value different things. The existence of such moral facts does not directly rely on the individuals' caring about the facts (about what would maximize flourishing), nor their acting to maximize wellbeing (Jamie may exploit Alex, and it would remain a fact that he acted less morally compared to collaborating with Alex).

    <...>

    Physicist Lawrence M. Krauss goes further; not only can science tell us what is right and wrong, but he says that to reject science is to reject moral knowledge. Krauss argues that knowing something is moral entails knowing various facts about reality. Furthermore, he says that science has already shown us that the world is very often not what we expected (e.g. made of atoms). He concludes that knowing those facts which are most relevant to moral appraisals is impossible without science's systematic empirical investigation. Krauss uses the example of Embryonic stem cell research, and suggests that various morally relevant facts have been discovered by science, and would not have otherwise been known.

    <...>

    Lindsay says that morality is the practical enterprise of pursuing peace and happiness. He places great emphasis on the methodology of analyzing morality, and suggests that we: (a) gather the foundations on which we all agree, (b) identify the more culturally relative and relevant norms, and (c) analyze and create our moral system according to facts provided by science.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_...t_s_right.html
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    I think we have to listen to Spock on this one: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" to be able to advance from the fact that morals are relative. Solutions must be looked for that can benefit as many people as possible. A set of morals that are geared towards the benefit of all mankind are what Humanism are after. In that sense it is flexible instead of rigid as religion often is.
    Spock? I thought it was John Stuart Mill in his book Utilitarianism. Kant also tried to develop the Moral Imperative, but that states morality as an intrinsic property of the universe.
    Spock is the only one I knew about that said it and was quoted tongue in cheek. But the point remains and is pretty obvious I would think in any case.

    I don't buy into the idea of everybody in the world working toward a common goal, with no distinction between any other conscious creatures. It's not realistic. This I think is a relatively new idea in historical perspective, and one that is honored more by lip service than actual behavior. Maybe that's how Mother Theresa acted. You're not going to get very many others to go along.
    That is a bit pessimistic. Of course it won't work now, but who knows in the future? Just look at the similarities between westernised nations at the moment already and the common goals that already exists between them. Is it really that far fetched? I don't think so, but even if it never fully materializes, surely the drive of working towards such a goal can only bring benefits?
    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
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    I think the fact that these factions can be defined by religious affiliation is secondary to the political differences.
    A question comes to mind when I read this. If you accept political differences as being a prime motivator of violence, how specifically are religious affiliations and distinctions any different? Are not religious ideologies equivalent to political ones for purposes of this conversation?


    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    My only real point here is that in the world wide view, even without the ability to define participating conflicted factions by their religious affiliations, we would still have horrible wars and horrible human atrocities.
    We are in absolute agreement here.
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    But I would not agree with the Krausse statement, "...not only can science tell us what is right and wrong," and especially in the context in which he uses it.

    Science cannot tell us that it is right or wrong to destroy the life potential of a fertilized egg for medical purposes. Certainly, science can tell us about the potential benefits to other life. But it cannot determine that the loss of the potential being in the fertilized egg is less valuable than whatever benefits might acrue to others. What's worse, is that the potential being has no opportunity to consent or dissent.

    On the other hand, the dilemma is not usually over whether to permit the fertilized egg to develop. Rather the question surrounds the proper disposal of such an egg. While science may be able to tell us the consequences of our possible decisions on disposal of the fertilized egg, I'm not convinced science can ever tell us the rightness or wrongness of a given decision on this issue. And, of course, there is also the issue of aborting a pregnancy vis a vis preventing a pregnancy.

    I suspect these will be topics of disagreement for a long time wherein science can only suggest consequences without being able to establish the moral right or wrong. Opinion may swing one way or another, but I doubt we will ever reach agreement on the issue, eventually leaving it to personal preference.
    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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    Let me ask my question again since you did not respond to it. You have openly acknowledged that differences in political ideology can lead, and have led, to war and violence and atrocity.

    Despite this acknowledgment that such strife often comes from differences in ideology, you have not conceded that differences in religious ideology can similarly lead, and have similarly led, to war and violence and atrocity... a point raised more than once by a few posters in this thread.

    You have, in fact, dayton, stated without equivocation your feeling that religion does NOT play a role in these negative events, and have dismissed that possibility without seeming to show much reflection on the point whatsoever.


    In context of this discussion, I am asking you to please either:

    a) Acknowledge that there is an unmistakable equivalence here and that posters attributing various heinous acts to religion actually have a fair degree of merit in their point (in much the same way you see merit in the point that differences in political ideology have led to suffering and various heinous acts), or...

    b) Explain clearly and without dissembling or evading specifically how differences in religious affiliation and ideology are exempt in your mind from being a motivator for violence and suffering, yet differences in political affiliation and ideology do not enjoy a similar exemption.
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    It was never my intent to deny that religious differences have played roles in some of the world's distress, especially in the Middle East.

    But I think there is a difference between using religion as a rallying cry to action and an action purely motivated by religious convictions.

    The Crusades were easily an attempt of European Christians to drive Muslims from Jerusalem and for religious reasons. And, certainly, Muslims have militarily captured territory, North Africa for example, solely for the purpose of imposing Islam on the native populations.

    There was turmoil as a result of the Reformation as Rome attempted to retain its dominance of Christianity. Yet, even this conflict seems mild compared to Muslim conflicts between Sunni and Shia sects.

    Some of the exploits of the Holy Roman Empire were solely for the purpose of spreading Christianity, but I am not sure how much effort was exerted in an oppressive manner or how much was exerted only on a political level. In contrast, I don't think Ancient Rome was motivated one whit by any religious conviction to conquer other governments. I don't seen Babylon or Alexander the Great as religiously motived. All those people sought to conquer territory for political and economic reasons.

    I remain of the opinion that the troubles in the Balkins and Africa, for instance, are more the result of long existing ethinic hatreds that developed long before those people were exposed to Judaism, Christianity or Islam. Religious differences have merely added a new element to those old ethnic hatreds which may date as far back as tribal times.

    I am not certain whether you consider such things as USSR and Red China suppression of religion as being religious perpetrated conflict.

    The question is really what has CAUSED or MOTIVATED the most conflict and human suffering and misery. And does a religiously motivated conflict that resulted in 300 deaths (as in one of the examples from the links iNow provided above) weigh as much as the slaughter of 6 million jews strictly for political purposes.

    Pol Pot slaughtered around two million Cambodians with absolutely no religious motivation. And he was a piker when compared to Mao's responsibility for 40-70 million deaths which had nothing at all to do with religion.

    As I tried to point out a post or so ago, with 93 percent of the people in the world being religious (and it used to be more), it becomes very easy to assume that religion is a factor. It seems to me that 100 percent of the people involved in these conflicts have been human beings. Maybe the real cause of conflict is our humanity looking for excuses to eliminate the gene pools of other human groups.

    It just seems to me that there is an tendency here to maximize problems which may have some religious causation or rallying point while virtually ignoring greater strife caused by political and economic ideologies which had no religious basis whatsoever. I have no idea how you assign true religious intent and motivation to the actions of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot without stretching the idea of religious motivation beyond any semblance of reality.

    (Edited to change word in last paragraph.)
    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 KALSTER
    even if it never fully materializes, surely the drive of working towards such a goal can only bring benefits?
    No, it can get you killed. There will ALWAYS be some who do not conform with your polyanna vision of the world.

    This, I think, is the way the world has arrived at the somewhat militaristic or agressive way of behavior that we see. Some of the discussion above talks about memes, and how they propagate. Societies that are too passive tend to get wiped out and overwhelmed by the more aggressive ones.

    Within societies, those who do not look out for their own will end up being doormats for those who do.
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    I think it has always been a fairly militaristic environment, since there has always been an "us vs them" situation going on and indeed through evolution engrained in our genes. I'd say we are moving towards a world where more and more people look at humanity as a whole as forming part of the "us".

    I guess we need a single world government then.
    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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  90. #89  
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    I think it has always been a fairly militaristic environment, since there has always been an us vs them situation going on and indeed through evolution engrained in our genes.

    I guess we need a single world government then.
    Your world government will have factions, unless somebody uses a pretty heavy hand to put them down.
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    I'd say we are moving towards a world where more and more people look at humanity as a whole as forming part of the "us".

    Like I said, we have not developed our mindset enough for this to be feasible just yet, but I don't see why it couldn't someday be. With a single government you wouldn't have poor nations any more. I'd venture that a country that suddenly has the resources to improve themselves won't mind too much about who the "rulers" are. A single world government also does not necessarily mean that different cultures can't keep their identities.
    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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  92. #91  
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    @Harold14370,
    One morning an old man was walking along the shore of the ocean. In the early dawn light he saw a young girl picking up starfish off the beach, and hucking them back into the ocean.
    The old man went up and asked the girl, "What are you doing"?
    The girl replied, "Well, the tide has washed all these starfish up on the beach, I'm throwing them back in the ocean before the sun can dry them out".
    The old man then said, "There are thousands of starfish on this beach, you can never save them all".
    The girl picked up another starfish, hucked it into the ocean then spoke,
    "No, I can't save them all. But I just saved that one".
    -Author unknown.-

    @All
    The following link explains, what I see, as an anthropic moral basis provided by nature and illuminated by the scientific method.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_mind

    Religion, as with most anthropic endeavors, is rife with both honest benefit and horrific error.
    I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
    Lucky me. Lucky mud.
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    Cat's Cradle.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner

    I don't think iNow's example of Ireland holds up as a religiously motivated conflict. In all of Great Britain and Ireland except for Northern Ireland Protestants and Catholics live peaceably. The problem in Northern Ireland is political and comes about as a result of the early 20th Century establishment of the self rule on the island of Ireland. The conflict arose among those in Northern Ireland who wanted to be a part of the Republic of Ireland and those who did not want that political affiliation and chose to establish their own separate. I think the fact that these factions can be defined by religious affiliation is secondary to the political differences. It did turn out that protestant factions were able to seize political and economic dominance and control at the expense of the more Catholic affiliated group seeking to become a part of the Irish Republic. But this conflict was not motivated by the religious hatreds which developed as the conflict fomented. If the separatists were black and the unionists white, we would be calling this a racial conflict. I don’t think they really care that the other faction is of a different religion so much as whether they are unionists or separatists.

    t.
    I think in this case, the religious communities just came down on two sides of the same issue. It happens any time you've got communities that are largely isolated from each other. Not isolated like they never interact at all, but isolated in the sense that they don't associate in the same circles of friends.

    Religion determines a lot about who your friends are. People of the same faith like to hang out together, and go to BBQ's at each others' homes.

    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner

    Science cannot tell us that it is right or wrong to destroy the life potential of a fertilized egg for medical purposes. Certainly, science can tell us about the potential benefits to other life.
    It doesn't even do a good job of that. Religious people often point out how much Darwinism has done to ruin our ability to be kind to one another. Even when it doesn't lead to outright genocide, the idea of the winner deserving to take all makes it tough to organize en effective economy sometimes.

    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Let me ask my question again since you did not respond to it. You have openly acknowledged that differences in political ideology can lead, and have led, to war and violence and atrocity.

    Despite this acknowledgment that such strife often comes from differences in ideology, you have not conceded that differences in religious ideology can similarly lead, and have similarly led, to war and violence and atrocity... a point raised more than once by a few posters in this thread.

    You have, in fact, dayton, stated without equivocation your feeling that religion does NOT play a role in these negative events, and have dismissed that possibility without seeming to show much reflection on the point whatsoever.


    In context of this discussion, I am asking you to please either:

    a) Acknowledge that there is an unmistakable equivalence here and that posters attributing various heinous acts to religion actually have a fair degree of merit in their point (in much the same way you see merit in the point that differences in political ideology have led to suffering and various heinous acts), or...

    b) Explain clearly and without dissembling or evading specifically how differences in religious affiliation and ideology are exempt in your mind from being a motivator for violence and suffering, yet differences in political affiliation and ideology do not enjoy a similar exemption.
    It's like trying to argue against someone who thinks that money is inherently evil, or causes suffering. I can't say nobody ever used money to precipitate a genocide. Certainly that has happened. Similarly I can't argue that nobody has ever used the cloak of religion to precipitate a genocide.

    Religion is a facilitator of ideas. What it does is allow more than one perspective on a given issue to emerge by dividing people into separate groups that think alike with each other, but don't think alike with the other groups. Its most successful application is when it leads to secular protestantism, because then the groups are so fragmented that they can't wage war on each other. In Ireland, there were just two groups. Islam vs. Western Europe also has that problem.

    Judaism technically counts as a third group, but they always throw in with the Christians.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GiantEvil
    @Harold14370,
    One morning an old man was walking along the shore of the ocean. In the early dawn light he saw a young girl picking up starfish off the beach, and hucking them back into the ocean.
    The old man went up and asked the girl, "What are you doing"?
    The girl replied, "Well, the tide has washed all these starfish up on the beach, I'm throwing them back in the ocean before the sun can dry them out".
    The old man then said, "There are thousands of starfish on this beach, you can never save them all".
    The girl picked up another starfish, hucked it into the ocean then spoke,
    "No, I can't save them all. But I just saved that one".
    -Author unknown.-

    @All
    The following link explains, what I see, as an anthropic moral basis provided by nature and illuminated by the scientific method.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_mind

    Religion, as with most anthropic endeavors, is rife with both honest benefit and horrific error.
    I think I see the point you are trying to make, but once again you have avoided any real moral dilemma. Aside from the fact that starfish, having only a rudimentary nervous system, are probably not suffering, there would be no particular reason not to throw them back in. What if, instead of saving starfish, the little girl is saving Norway rats from drowning. How about puppies, except she has to choose whether to save her own puppy or some stray puppy? How about her own puppy versus two strays? If the stray puppies were on a boat being shipped to the euthanasia facility, would they still be worth saving?
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  95. #94 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    My friend and i have recently been discussing the benefits of religion. We are both atheists, often talking about the ugly side of religion. However, we also found it quite interesting that we both had recently fallen for Muslim girls. We reasoned it was something to do with strong family values and morals. We also lamented the demise of British youth (drunkenness is celebrated and we cheer when we top Europe's teenage pregnancy leagues). This seems to be correlated to the demise of religious upbringing here.

    But enough of anecdote. Does organised religion bring about more benefits to society than harms? Does anyone actually know of any real evidence of either. Belief is a non-issue here, only the social function religion serves and the benefits, or harms, it brings.
    organized religion have been used for war propaganda, political interests, etc. It's easier control when your organized. But for some it is a means of sharing views and expression. It can go both ways, but to be blunt religion has been used for such negativity through out history.
    Imagination is key to the logic of thought, a greatest eternal truth.

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  96. #95  
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    MiguelSR1 asked:

    Does organised religion bring about more benefits to society than harms? Does anyone actually know of any real evidence of either.
    Show me your atheist organized humanitarian organizations and projects.
    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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  97. #96  
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    MiguelSR1 asked:

    Does organised religion bring about more benefits to society than harms? Does anyone actually know of any real evidence of either.
    Show me your atheist organized humanitarian organizations and projects.
    How many would satisfy your request? There are literally hundreds to thousands. Here's a small sampling:

    1. Atheist Centre of India
    2. Foundation Beyond Belief
    3. EARTHWARD, Inc.
    4. Fellowship of Freethought
    5. International Humanist and Ethical Union
    6. Atheists Helping the Homeless
    7. American Humanist Association
    8. Kiva Lending Team: Atheists, Agnostics, and Non-believers
    9. Humanist Soup Kitchen
    10. Secular Humanist Aid and Relief
    11. Atheist Relief Fund
    12. HIVOS (Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation)



    More here:
    http://www.freethoughtpedia.com/wiki/Charities

    And here:
    http://techskeptic.blogspot.com/2007...charities.html
    http://beingism.org/community/?q=node/76

    ...and others.

    Here's a decent video, as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...&v=iyo1PXuCjpY
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    I hesitate to burst your bubble here, but many of the "secular" organizations listed in your links are covers for Christian organizations so they can get into and do work in, particularly, Muslim countries.

    I know when I was on such a trip in a Muslim country, all the money and all the direction came through a Christian group although the official sponsoring group was secular. Even so, all the people working with the secular group were actually Christians, too.

    This allows the country to accept the much needed help and work that is provided by the covert Christian sponsored and funded projects. During my tenure and following my participation, some Christian workers were expelled or denied reentry into the country due to their activities exposing their Christian affilation.

    Still, the native people with whom we worked and who were nominal Muslims knew that we were all Christians and were thankful and appreciative. Our group was rather small, and the project employed many more locals with several weeks of employed from before our group got there and after we were gone, all the money being funneled from a Christian organization into the "official" secular sponsor.

    These affiliations remain unspoken on an official level, but I do know that several of the projects and organizations in the links (not necessarily the ones you mention directly) are funded by, run by and staffed by Christian people all operating under the guise of a secular group. I personally know Christian people who have participated in the work of some of the listed groups who attest to the fact that most of the management people and those providing services are Christians.

    I would not risk publicly exposing the listed groups which I know are covert Christian operations for fear of potential investigations into their works, especially in Muslim countries. Not that these are "secret" operations, just that it is best not to roil the waters and disturb the charade under which they operate.
    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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  99. #98  
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    I hesitate to burst your bubble here, but many of the "secular" organizations listed in your links are covers for Christian organizations so they can get into and do work in, particularly, Muslim countries.
    Are they, cite your sources, please some links! some links! else it is only your opinion. And I do mean show the correlation.
    A logician saves the life of a tiny space alien. The alien is very grateful and, since she's omniscient, offers the following reward: she offers to answer any question the logician might pose. Without too much thought (after all, he's a logician), he asks: "What is the best question to ask and what is the correct answer to that question?" The tiny alien pauses. Finally she replies, "The best question is the one you just asked; and the correct answer is the one I gave."
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  100. #99 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by MiguelSR1
    It can go both ways, but to be blunt religion has been used for such negativity through out history.
    To be blunt, you have only expressed an opinion without adding much to the discussion.

    Let us assume that all the love, goodness, charity, and happy stuff that is preached in church goes right in one ear and out the other. So the only thing anybody ever retains about religion is the "negativity."

    Now let's say this negativity is being used in some war or aggressive activity. It helps the combatants to feel a sense of righteousness in their cause, and the belief in an afterlife gives the warriors courage for battle. Well that would probably be true for both sides, the aggressor and the defender as well. So wouldn't it work a positive good for the defender?

    Do people seriously think that without religion, everybody would live in peace and sit around the campfire singing Kumbaya all day long. Dream on.
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  101. #100 Re: Benefits of organised religion? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Quote Originally Posted by MiguelSR1
    It can go both ways, but to be blunt religion has been used for such negativity through out history.
    To be blunt, you have only expressed an opinion without adding much to the discussion.

    Let us assume that all the love, goodness, charity, and happy stuff that is preached in church goes right in one ear and out the other. So the only thing anybody ever retains about religion is the "negativity."

    Now let's say this negativity is being used in some war or aggressive activity. It helps the combatants to feel a sense of righteousness in their cause, and the belief in an afterlife gives the warriors courage for battle. Well that would probably be true for both sides, the aggressor and the defender as well. So wouldn't it work a positive good for the defender?

    Do people seriously think that without religion, everybody would live in peace and sit around the campfire singing Kumbaya all day long. Dream on.
    I'm new here and could it be common practice that people get flamed for the smallest things?! Yes religion plays a key role to promoting all the good stuff, it can keep many things in check. All I'm saying is it's been used for war propaganda the crusades, inquisition etc. Not to say it can't serve a positive purpose as I stated "it can go both ways"
    Imagination is key to the logic of thought, a greatest eternal truth.

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