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Old 03-14-2017   #71
Mithras
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Religion is just a system of metaphysics, rituals, ethics (i.e., meta-ethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics), and sometimes practice, such as meditation or prayer. Now, I can understand someone having issues with rituals in general, but damning religion altogether is foolish, since the majority of people (including scientists) have metaphysical presuppositions and conditioned ethical values.

People who believe religion promotes bad behavior are ignorant and naive, since the very idea of "bad behavior" descended largely from religion in the first place. The natural world, by itself, has no capacity to validate what constitutes bad behavior.

Unless one is going to deny the whole metaphysical and ethical project the way anti-foundationalist, anti-essentialist thinkers do, then he or she is stuck with half of religion or one-fourth if they're nihilists.

Last edited by Mithras; 03-14-2017 at 08:43 PM..
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Old 03-14-2017   #72
Robert Adam Gilmour
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Arthur- I think that's when Hitchens was referring to not atrocities but common things like genital mutilation, gender segregation, the rules of sharia law etc. Is it not fair to say religion helps protect these ways?

Does arranged marriage have a religious aspect?

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Old 03-14-2017   #73
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Sure. Religions are human institutions, even if their origins may be considered by adherents to be divine. As such, they will reflect distorted ways of thinking and adherents will do terrible things. The problem is not religion - the problem is being human, with all the positives and negatives that go with that.

In the 1940s and 1950s, doctors in America, supported by the secular culture, routinely inserted ice picks into mental patients' eye sockets to turn part of the frontal lobe to mush. It had nothing to do with religion. It was science. So, once again, I return to the shallowness of Hitchens' analysis.

As to arranged marriages, there is not always a religious aspect except insofar as it is part of a broader cultural leaning. As the grandchild of grandparents whose marriage was arranged, I can tell you they had a wonderful marriage, full of love and respect. Would I want it for myself or my children? Probably not. And yet it so often worked to the fulfillment of the participants. Our modern focus on individual freedom as the supreme value may make it hard to understand or appreciate.

"What lay behind me was no longer any normal, familiar life, that everyday life out of which the impulse to pray raises us, with still at the back of our minds that whensoever we wish we can return. A void was behind me. And in front a wall, a wall of darkness." Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest

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Old 03-14-2017   #74
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Quote Originally Posted by Arthur Staaz View Post

To what did Hitchens attribute the horrors of the Stalinist reign of terror? Sure, he might have said, following Nietzsche, that Stalinism was a (warped) evolution from Judeo-Christian ethics. But then one could as easily say with regard to those who continue to adhere to Judeo-Christian values such as generosity to the poor and a strong sense of equal justice, "In order to do wonderful things, you must involve religion."

The same can be said of other religio-ethical systems, such as Islam .

This statement demonstrates the shallowness of thinking often engaged in by the "New Atheists."
Hello Arthur.

While I am neither a Hitchens expert or apologist, I think Stalin, who was himself a seminary student before the Revolution, might actually prove the point.

The Russian culture for centuries had been taught that the Tsar, the head of state, was an actual intermediary between the people and God. When the state collapsed, Stalin built on that well instilled belief and used it to his benefit to have himself viewed as unquestioned ruler. And to solidify that perception he engaged in what would rightly be called heresies, witch hunts, excommunications (to the Gulag with you), etc.

You know I respect your opinions Arthur, always. I can certainly understand your position. I have reached what is, to me and me alone, the inevitable conclusion that organized religion of any sort, if it gains enough followers (and sometimes even when it doesn't), will eventually corrupt and bastardize itself to the point it becomes a veil for human excess and cruelty. The fact that it may engage in good works does nothing to mitigate the terrific misery it causes.

I have no expectation that anyone would, or should, agree with me.

If my prior post came across as flippant, it was not intended as such.

"The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind." - H. P. Lovecraft
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Old 03-14-2017   #75
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Arthur- What was the intended purpose of sticking ice picks in the eye?

But don't you think religion makes it far tougher to change things that are hurting people?
The most similar thing I can think of in science is animal testing. I don't care if animal testing saves human lives, I don't think it justifies the torture of animals.

If there's a bigger obstacle to change than religion it's money.

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Old 03-15-2017   #76
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

"The fact that it may engage in good works does nothing to mitigate the terrific misery it causes."
But does that fact ( of the good works not mitigating the misery) itself lessen the goodness of the good works? Of course, by the very same token, it does not.

Also, is misery cumulative? Or is the maximum of misery that humanity can suffer, the maximum an individual can suffer?

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Old 03-15-2017   #77
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Arthur, you talk about secularism and atheism as philosophies from which flow atrocities comparable to those attributed to religion (see lobotomies and Stalin, respectively), but this is a tragically false equivalence. Secularism and atheism are NOT philosophies. They make absolutely no claims on how to behave. It is no different from saying you don't believe in unicorns. This non-belief does not in and of itself recommend—much less dictate—any sort of behavior whatsoever. You might as well blame the gulags and pre-modern psychology on non-unicornism.

In contrast, religions, by definition, are dogmatic, and therefore causality can—and must!—be drawn between prescription and action.

"We're all just human" is a cop-out. To the degree that we have a natural capacity for cruelty, religion amplifies this capacity (by providing external and putatively divine justifications) and, more importantly, focuses it.

Last edited by Ucasuni; 03-15-2017 at 07:42 AM..
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Old 03-15-2017   #78
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Ucasuni: even if atheism and secularism were as philosophically neutral as you 'd like to see them, then the same causality that applies to the practice of religion applies to the practice of atheism; atheism itself might not recommend any behaviour ( which claim is suspect: at the very least it requires that one behaves as if one believes that one's actions have no ramifications in eternity), but it can lead atheists to believe that certain actions are in fact prescribed ( such as actively curbing the choices of others by instating atheist laws that discriminate against the religious).

A denial of something is no more neutral than its affirmation.

& what makes you think that religion compels anyone to do anything? Religion has no agency. Man may act & is thus responsible for his actions- whether to society, to himself or to God, that is up to each individual to choose, while he can.
But if you are convinced religion mustn't be used as an excuse for the indulgence of cruelty or the committing of atrocities, it follows that it should also not be blamed for them. Both are cop-outs.

If my intention to make clear my thoughts in little space and even less time has led to these statements to appear terse & combative i apologise; they are offered in peaceful spirit.

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Old 03-15-2017   #79
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Quote Originally Posted by Ucasuni View Post
It is no different from saying you don't believe in unicorns. This non-belief does not in and of itself recommend—much less dictate—any sort of behavior whatsoever. Y\
it recommends, it has an impact...it is selected ("for" to a degree or "against "to a degree) under current conditions - perhaps not the belief but the display of the belief certainly - you display the belief and selection occurs....witness ( c'mon guy you really got something against unicorns?)

it is interpretatively a value judgement, you are in the unicorn trap

not about meaning only survival
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Old 03-15-2017   #80
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Re: Believing in God makes you a better person

Quote Originally Posted by Ibrahim View Post
Ucasuni: even if atheism and secularism were as philosophically neutral as you 'd like to see them, then the same causality that applies to the practice of religion applies to the practice of atheism; atheism itself might not recommend any behaviour ( which claim is suspect: at the very least it requires that one behaves as if one believes that one's actions have no ramifications in eternity), but it can lead atheists to believe that certain actions are in fact prescribed ( such as actively curbing the choices of others by instating atheist laws that discriminate against the religious).
It seems that you are simply ignoring my statement and rephrasing Aurthur's original equivalence. Atheism is not prescriptive (just as non-unicornism is not). Period. It is immediately obvious that there is some struggle understanding this fact, as evidence by your argument that atheism requires that one behave as if there is no consequential afterlife. This is factually wrong; belief in a consequential afterlife is not dependent on theism, and is not exclusive of atheism.

But even if it were, these beliefs are STILL not prescriptive in any way. Not believing that your actions don't have eternal consequences is not the same as believing your actions don't have ANY consequences. The argument you're making here is basically that atheist should have a natural tendency toward amorality, which is demonstrably untrue.

As I said, religion by contrast, is dogmatic. Whether you accept all the dogma or not, you're still acting in conjunction with or in opposition to defined behavioral demands.

Quote
A denial of something is no more neutral than its affirmation.
Ouch. Not believing in god is not the same as declaring affirmatively that there is no god. Non-belief IS neutral. I though we would have moved past this cliche long ago, but religious apologists never tire of it.

Quote
& what makes you think that religion compels anyone to do anything? Religion has no agency. Man may act & is thus responsible for his actions- whether to society, to himself or to God, that is up to each individual to choose, while he can.
But if you are convinced religion mustn't be used as an excuse for the indulgence of cruelty or the committing of atrocities, it follows that it should also not be blamed for them. Both are cop-outs.
I'm sorry that this response has come across as antagonistic, but the fact is that I am feeling antagonized, and this final section is a perfect example of why I feel that way. A straw man argument is a lie; and what you say here is a straw man argument. I didn't say religion compels anything. I repeat: "To the degree that we have a natural capacity for cruelty, religion amplifies this capacity (by providing external and putatively divine justifications) and, more importantly, focuses it." [emphasis added]

But for the sake of argument, the fact that text cannot literally compel any behavior is an obfuscation. Most religions (and certainly the Abrahamic religions) are more than just words on a page. They are also institutional, and institutions CAN (and HAVE) compelled behavior. For you to say that religion has no agency as if that were an absolute fact is...um, deeply problematic.

@Acutely — This was a little too Burroughsian a response for me. I can't seem to make heads or tails of it. Sorry. I'll keep trying, but don't take my absence of a response as ignoring your post.
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