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Author Topic: [BLOG] Religion and Morality  (Read 23790 times)
Chris Stalis
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« Reply #15 on: November 21, 2008, 06:07:50 EST »

Ok, gonna warn ya guys right now, this is not going to be short.  Get comfortable.

Part 1:  Religiosity
Has anyone here ever actually pondered what it means to be a "religious person"?  How do you know when someone is "religious"?  Can you not be "religious"?  Because I've never really been able to understand what makes a person "religious".  I can point to someone and say that "Joe the Priest" is religious, but that's not because he has done anything "religious" to me... it's just how I understand him to be.

The problem arises from the fact that the West is very strange in its notion of how the spirit woks.  Since the Enlightenment, we have striven to what we feel is 'superior intellectual understanding', assuming inherently that we know what that entails (specifically, a logical argument [defined by what was acceptable in Greek debate] used to relate empirically observed events).  Now, I've said this elsewhere on the board, but I must point out that this deifies logic, and imbues it with a control over the universe.  That which is not logical, that which does not ascribe itself to our arbitrarily defined sense of what is right cannot be, and will not be correct.  Not unless the sense of what is right is fundamentally altered.

Now, functionally, this has led Europe (and by extension America, Canada and Australia) to where it is today.  This does not validate the assumption that we know how the world works, it only provides for the notion that we aren't idiots.  Because it is an assumption that is being made when an Atheist says "there is no God", just as there is an assumption made when a non-atheist says "God is this" or "the Universe acts like so".  It is also a fully rational argument, as it is internally logically consistent.  Whether it is universally true... that is impossible to say or judge until the end of time occurs and the great curtain hiding All Knowing Truth is pulled away to tell us all how The Universe was programmed by the dev team.  Until then, unless you can hack into the fabric of nature itself, you cannot be sure that the data you gather has meaning.  This is similar to the notion of The Matrix, only I am trying to be broader in my implications here.

As a result, I must view any attempt to distance yourself from religion as impossible.  No known society on earth has existed without religion, no person has been observed to be without personal ceremony and belief.  And yes, belief in nothing is belief in something.  If you would like to say there is a demarcation in how you follow your belief, if you would like to say that your notion on what "Is" is different then that stated by a Judeo-Christian sect, this is fine.  But you are commenting on something you can never prove, you are believing in something that can never be demonstrated.  You cannot claim as irrational the views of the "religious" because yours is also a religion: it is a statement on the nature of the universe.

Note that I do not say this derisively.  My sole aim with this line of thought is to point out a logical flaw driven by our societal need to be both different and/or better then each other.  Which is fine if that's how you want society to work.  But while Americans (and by extension our allies in Western society) would like to perceive a difference because they don't want to be 'tarnished' by a taint carried by their neighbors, there is no taint or flaw here that is not carried by all participants.  So long as you are making statements that cannot be proven empirically, you are not making use of logic in forming your understanding of the universe, and are acting in a manner I have only seen defined as "religious".

Part 2:  Judeo-Christian Morality
This will be shorter.  In regards to whether Christianity and the 10 commandments have influenced legal thought, it would be absurd to argue that they have not.  Your parents spend 20 years telling you not kill bunnies and at the age of 21 you say that had no impact on you?  Please... we would never believe that of anyone in another discussion, why believe it here?

Now, in my bunny killing scenario, is it the only reason you don't do it?  That is a more interesting question, yet one I think would have to answered with 'no'.  I have never observed anyone who did something for one reason and one reason alone. Maybe it happens, but usually there is a thousand different reasons all in the back of your mind, dictating how you say "friend" instead of "best friend", bring a rose instead of a carnation, play a movie instead of a video game...  Perhaps you were influenced by how cute you thought bunnies were, perhaps you just don't like the taste of meat.  Maybe it's cause you secretly want to be a bunny.  Regardless, there's always more then one reason why anyone does anything no matter what the subject matter.

Generalizing outwards, there's more then one reason why I don't kill people, or steal, or do a thousand different little things.  But my parents made me receptive to these morals/ethos based upon what they were taught by people who were taught by people who were taught by people who, if you go far enough back, were taught by people who believed in the legal wisdom of Jewish law.  So the Jewish law and Christian belief did influence my acceptance of these American laws and values.  Whether it will continue to do so, or whether it will be foremost in my mind (now or in the future) is open for debate.  Which is what I think makes people defensive when the topic comes up, in addition to the desire to be 'different' then those 'religious people' that they don't like.  I dunno... it seems really straightforward to me.

To summarize: Christianity isn't the only reason why we follow or created the law, but it cannot be denied that it contributed to creating the law by contributing to the society that created it.  By extension, it also contributed to a nonbeliever's willingness to accept the notion, regardless of if it was the ultimately convincing argument.

Part 3:  Centuries Old Abuse of Atheists
I do not see evidence for it, even in all the ranting done on the blog that was linked.  I see maybe 100 years abuse, but that's largely because I do not believe there was ever an "organized" atheist movement until quite recently.  There are those who questioned god individually, those who as individuals felt proud for telling the Church to shove it.  But the systematic eradication of a Supreme Being from logical thought... Darwin didn't do it, Galileo didn't do it, Occam didn't do it... Nietzsche did it, but really, how many other names stand out in history like that?  How many people have argued prior to the late 19th century that there was no supreme power?  I will bet hard currency that any of the 'fathers' or 'mothers' of atheism and science from before this time would be demonstratively believing in something that their 'followers' contend does not exist.

I do not purport, though, that this excuses the stark treatment that has been given to a non-centralized religion such as Atheism.  But, if you really want to understand why the 'faithful' get so overworked about you folks believing differently... walk up and punch a military serviceman who just got back from Iraq in the face while calling him a "disgrace", and see what happens.  It is entirely possible that you will be killed, and I think there are few here who would mourn your passing.  But, the important question is: why?  If you punched some punk in a street alley who was threatening you with a knife, you'd be called 'brave' or 'a hero'.  The serviceman, though... he's special.  He's "different".  The entire social structure of America has made him not like that punk, and therefore a specific social code of respect and honor has been built up around him.  Violate that, and you violate the very fabric from which society is woven, and people react violently to that.  No one likes it when you disrespect everything they stand for.

So, similarly, atheism posits there is no God.  Christianity and all its sects depends on the existence of a God.  By saying "no, you're wrong", even passively, you have just punched their serviceman in the face.  Until you can do this in a nonthreatening manner or with greater respect (as defined by them, not you), they will react in an extreme fashion.  I'm not saying this is right, I'm not saying you have to like it, but if their opinion for any reason matters to you, then this is the nature of the beast and you need to take it into account some how.  Of course, if you don't care what they think, then you can just tell them to go screw themselves.  Generally, I find this to be counter productive, but that's just me.


Ok, I've typed a heck of a lot.  Thanks to any who read all of it.  I eagerly await hearing what y'all have to say on my thoughts, as other people's opinions of the world matter to me.
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Hephaestus 16
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« Reply #16 on: November 21, 2008, 06:44:32 EST »

Quote
I would argue a good degree of dislike for atheists is the same as the dislike for vegans.  It's not that people -really- think that it's a neccessary requirement, but the majority of such people they have encountered have been preachy, judgmental pricks.

Just like how when people think of gays they think of those douchebags for Queer Eye rather then a guy eating breakfast and reading the news.

It isn't neccessarily thier fault, either, atheists have done a piss-poor job of picking their spokespeople or ever saying "This guy doesn't speak for me", bless their angry little hearts, people on the hard religious right distance themselves from people who say things that are really racist or crazy, but atheists still let Dawkins off the leash in public (Hitchens is at least witty, Dawkins is a dabbler at best [and seems to be a proponent of biological determinism, ala Walden II]).  Am I the only one who remembers the open antagonism of the early movement?

With bellicose asshats doing all the talking, is it any wonder people assume atheists tend towards jerkdom?  Given their defining trait is the lack of faith, it is not illogical to draw the connection that a lack of faith equals more jerkdom.  If you act like Louis Farrakhan, expect to be shunned.  If you let Farrakhan claim you as a follower and say nothing to contradict him, expect people to assume you agree.

Off the top of my head, only MBLA (Man Boy Love association) has a worse PR campaign then atheism.
It might not be that belicose asshats do all the talking its that belicose asshats get all the listening too by theists, that is they sneek out the most asshatty dude they can claim to be promenient and they claim he is a leader of the group.  They proceeded to quote those people out of context in the least flattering way.

Quote
So, similarly, atheism posits there is no God.
I take issue with that, many self described atheists posit that the existence of the standard monotheist diety is incredible unlikely but still possible, and certainly not worth changing behavior over, for example read douglus adam's the salmon of doubt, it think one of the chapters in Dawkins book is titled as such.  The people who say there is no God are Antitheists those beleifs I also find rediculous.  Unfortnately many theists cannot understand the naunce and simply round down. 
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"There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings, to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise: if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death." - Bertrand russell
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paddyfool
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« Reply #17 on: November 21, 2008, 07:01:20 EST »

@Chris,

Wow, you did write a lot.  I'm going to respond to you number by number, splitting up number 3 on two issues.

1) Religiosity, noun.  Two meanings: 1. The quality of being religious; 2. Excessive or affected piety.  Here, we're talking about the first.  This has three meanings: 1. Having or showing belief in and reverence for God or a deity; 2. Of, concerned with, or teaching religion: a religious text; 3. Extremely scrupulous or conscientious: religious devotion to duty.   The meaning referenced under religiosity is obviously number 1.

Now, if religion is concerned with gods, then, fundamentally, your argument would have to be that atheists are making a god out of human reason.  I would contend that, actually, we don't hold up our rational faculties to be some beautiful, perfect, all-solving thought-constructs.  We simply think that they are the best tool in the box for understanding the world, which is not the same as perfection.

2) Judeo-Christian morality.  This is where your argument got a tad confused, but in short, your proposition seems to be that "Judaism and Christianity are fundamental to how our culture views morality".  Well, they had their share of the input along the way.  But many other cultures have, along the way, come to hold many of the same things independently as good (honesty, respecting one's parents, not killing people, etc.).  The question becomes, then, did these rules, derived independently many different times by many different people, come from man or from god?  Is religion originally a channel for god(s) to pass on these rules for us, or is it rather an after-the-fact rationalisation for such guidelines (with its fair share of good philosophers and legislaters to codify them, admittedly)?

3) Centuries old abuse of atheists.  

Regarding your doubt as to whether this occurred, read the Wikipedia article on the history of atheism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_atheism.  Look up what happened to heretics of any stamp in the dark ages.  There's much more to this story than what happened to the (Catholic) Galileo.  Carl Sagen's "This Demon-Haunted World" might also address this nicely.

Also, regarding your statement that our viewpoint is offensive to many as it intrinsically casts doubt on something at the core of their beliefs.  Well, yes.  Many believers do get offended when we say what we believe; there are ways to ease that by how we say it, but it's practically impossible to avoid completely.  However, the analogy with slapping some random (and well-respected) stranger in the face over a political disagreement is flawed.  How many atheists do you hear of physically attacking Christians, anywhere, even under provocation of the "you're evil" variety?  We say what we believe, people get offended, and a very few attack us.  Those few who do are breaching the mores of civilised society far more gravely than atheists.  And they do not have a right to be protected from knowing that other people believe differently to them.
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John
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« Reply #18 on: November 21, 2008, 07:17:52 EST »

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So, similarly, atheism posits there is no God.
Well there's lots of people. There's:
* Those who say there is no god.
* Those who say they don't know if there's a god.
* Those who say they don't know if there's a god, but they're damn sure the god(s) of religion X don't exist.

But in all honesty Christians and Atheists are almost identical in what they believe. Christians don't believe in hundreds of gods, atheists just don't believe in one more.
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« Reply #19 on: November 21, 2008, 09:20:25 EST »

Regarding ethics and morality....

I've heard these words defined in so many ways it makes my head spin.  In their normal usage I usually see no difference.  So, when being precise I recommend defining words to mean what you mean, rather than relying on people understanding the differences you see in them.
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Somber Ghost
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« Reply #20 on: November 21, 2008, 09:46:45 EST »

I'd also like to note something...

How many blocks can you travel without seeing a cross, church, billboard, or other advertisement for christianity?  For me it's usually about a dozen when I'm not looking hard.  In one spot in town we have no less than eight churches side to side.  It's like a spiritual strip mall.  And theists are going nuts about atheists putting up signs on busses?  How many signs have they put on busses?  But when atheists do it its wrong, and when they do it its okay.  Just another streak of hypocracy brought to you by theists.

I've almost lost my job over being an atheist.  Not for "preaching" about atheism or reading the Nichezie riot act but simply because a rumor got started that I was an atheist, and when I confirmed it, my students told their mommies and daddies who told the principle.  Fortunately he had my back, but I had to endure a lecture in which I was told that I really should keep such things like that to myself.

The fun of being contraversial.
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Somber Ghost
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« Reply #21 on: November 21, 2008, 10:28:53 EST »

Also, I was wondering, if you were to have a 10 commandments of atheism, what would they be.

What would your contrabution be?  Please, don't list all 10 or more... just which are the most important to you.

Mine: Thou shalt not be ashamed of being atheist.
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« Reply #22 on: November 21, 2008, 11:14:01 EST »

Nobody has to speak of the commandments of atheism in hushed and serious tones.

Nobody has to lecture anyone on the commandments of atheism.

Nobody has to know the commandments of atheism.
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Medivh
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« Reply #23 on: November 21, 2008, 11:23:52 EST »

All any of us have to do is look into where the scummiest of the scum live.

Prisons.

The biggest religion in prisons is Christianity.

Next, Islam.

The tiniest group in prisons?

Atheists.

Speaks volumes, doesn't it?

Correct for the proportions outside of prison, and you'll find those statistics have much less impact, if any at all.

Also, I was wondering, if you were to have a 10 commandments of atheism, what would they be.

What would your contrabution be?  Please, don't list all 10 or more... just which are the most important to you.

Mine: Thou shalt not be ashamed of being atheist.

I've only got the one, and it's not specific to atheism; thou shalt not be a pushy arsehole.

Quote from: Chris Stalis
large swath

To part 2: where are the laws on blasphemy? Coveting? Work on the sabbath?

The culture is affected, no doubt. The laws? Not so much. The only parts of the ten commandments that are also part of the law are the parts that are common sense to have in the law.
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I'm gonna serve it to you
And that ain't what you want to hear
But that's what I'll do
-- "Seven Nation Army", The White Stripes

So what you're telling me is that LTV's fudge factor means more than it's independent variable?
Yes...
Eon
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« Reply #24 on: November 21, 2008, 11:52:24 EST »

To those who would berate atheists for being angry, I have this to say: why the hell do you think we wouldn't be angry considering the way many of you fanatical religious bastards treat us?

Props to Greta Christina. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Quote
So, similarly, atheism posits there is no God.
Well there's lots of people. There's:
* Those who say there is no god.
* Those who say they don't know if there's a god.
* Those who say they don't know if there's a god, but they're damn sure the god(s) of religion X don't exist.

But in all honesty Christians and Atheists are almost identical in what they believe. Christians don't believe in hundreds of gods, atheists just don't believe in one more.

In terms of God belief, yes. However, it's the baggage that comes with Christianity (or any theistic religion) that truly sets atheists and believers apart.

Although I've noticed that most people are functional atheists in their day to day lives, since most of us act as if there isn't a God, whether or not we believe there is one.
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Schmorgluck
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« Reply #25 on: November 21, 2008, 12:01:23 EST »

All any of us have to do is look into where the scummiest of the scum live.

Prisons.

The biggest religion in prisons is Christianity.

Next, Islam.

The tiniest group in prisons?

Atheists.

Speaks volumes, doesn't it?
I'm not an expert of logical fallacies, but I think we have a Texas Sharpshooter here. Am I mistaken?
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Andrei
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« Reply #26 on: November 21, 2008, 12:07:33 EST »

Quote from: Eon
To those who would berate atheists for being angry, I have this to say: why the hell do you think we wouldn't be angry considering the way many of you fanatical religious bastards treat us?
I'm pretty sure I'll regret it, but let me give you a Heq-esque argument here:

Religious people are, at least nominally, the majority and are culturally associated with good things. Atheists are a fairly small minority and are culturally associated with bad things. Until both these things change, the religious side is ultimately in a position of power.

If the gloves come off, it'll be the atheist side spitting its teeth and begging the referee to stop the match. Atheists should be civil because they have the most to lose from open confrontation.
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- Boss, with all due respect, you are naive and pedant.

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« Reply #27 on: November 21, 2008, 12:41:36 EST »

I take issue with that, many self described atheists posit that the existence of the standard monotheist diety is incredible unlikely but still possible, and certainly not worth changing behavior over
That is pretty much my exact attitude.  It may be possible, but to me, it is simply not relevant enough to act as though it were true.
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wodan46
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« Reply #28 on: November 21, 2008, 12:45:10 EST »

I'm not an expert of logical fallacies, but I think we have a Texas Sharpshooter here. Am I mistaken?
Is a fallacy, but not the Sharpshooter one, which deals with more purely random stuff.  In this case, it is simply the choice to use the flat number rather than the proportion for a given group being in jail.  More Christians may be in Jail, but there are more Christians, the question is whether or not a greater percentage of Christians are in jail than Atheists in jail.

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wodan46
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« Reply #29 on: November 21, 2008, 12:47:35 EST »

Quote from: Eon
To those who would berate atheists for being angry, I have this to say: why the hell do you think we wouldn't be angry considering the way many of you fanatical religious bastards treat us?
I'm pretty sure I'll regret it, but let me give you a Heq-esque argument here:

Religious people are, at least nominally, the majority and are culturally associated with good things. Atheists are a fairly small minority and are culturally associated with bad things. Until both these things change, the religious side is ultimately in a position of power.

If the gloves come off, it'll be the atheist side spitting its teeth and begging the referee to stop the match. Atheists should be civil because they have the most to lose from open confrontation.
If we are forced to spit out teeth, then maybe people will begin to realize which group is the one with the violent amoral assholes who use scripture to justify their bullying and their desires.
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The plural of "anecdote" is "anecdotes". Not "data".
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