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God delusions cloud a world of wonders - Comments

beanson's Avatar Comment 1 by beanson

It's a puzzling thing about religion that its words, which generally urge us to bolster our better natures and remedy our faults, so rarely match its actions


Do the words of religion 'generally' urge these things?

If all that we now know and all the demonstrable benefits of secular thought are not enough to dissuade the faithful, then it's hard to see what shattering revelation or cogent argument ever will


It is, unfortunately, a replicating virus, childhood indoctrination/ infection is the answer as to why people belive in the face of all evidence to the contrary. No rational argument will dissuade the faith-infected mind. The only way out of the morass is a complete break from the past and one I fear that will involve violence

Mon, 04 May 2009 06:26:00 UTC | #356007

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 2 by Steve Zara

Comment #372733 by beanson

Do the words of religion 'generally' urge these things?


Yes, they generally do. There is a good reason for this. We have evolved to generally act according to the Golden Rule. We have also evolved an excessive tendency to see intentionality and agency in the world around us. Put those together and you get the feeling that the Golden Rule has to come from somewhere, and that is the basis of much if not most religion.

The problem with religion is that it is thinking without a seat-belt - there is not the connection with reason and reality. The same supposed justification for being decent to each other can be used to justify atrocities. "Thou shalt not kill" becomes "Thou shalt mostly not kill", and it can be downhill from there.

I guess the problem here is the difference between the words of a religion, the words of those who claim authority to be leaders of a religion, and the words of the religious. The major problems usually arise from the second group.

Mon, 04 May 2009 06:45:00 UTC | #356009

gr8hands's Avatar Comment 3 by gr8hands

It usually turns out to be "Thou shalt not kill fellow members of this particular sect who are in good standing by blindly and absolutely following all demands -- but everyone else is fair game because god told me so."

Each group gets word directly from god that they are "the apple of god's eye" and special above all others. (Amazing that no one ever gets word directly from god that their neighbors are the 'chosen' people. Funny that god would fail to ever reveal that fact.)

It is always a short distance between getting divine revelation that one is closer to god than someone else, and the mistreatment of that someone else.

Mon, 04 May 2009 06:55:00 UTC | #356011

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 4 by Steve Zara

Each group gets word directly from god that they are "the apple of god's eye" and special above all others.


Yes, indeed. The Golden Rule has a tendency to be applied only to kin and friends: members of the tribe. That may be an evolved tendency as well, although I may be putting too much emphasis on evolution.

It is always a short distance between getting divine revelation that one is closer to god than someone else, and the mistreatment of that someone else.


Not everyone moves that short distance, but you are certainly right about this.

Mon, 04 May 2009 07:01:00 UTC | #356013

clunkclickeverytrip's Avatar Comment 5 by clunkclickeverytrip

I think this is a very good little article.

Mon, 04 May 2009 07:41:00 UTC | #356019

severalspeciesof's Avatar Comment 6 by severalspeciesof

I thought this a great article until this:

And then, too, I wonder if I'm any better. It's become quite clear that I'm as guilty as anyone of clinging to an irrational belief in the face of all available evidence. It's just that my faith is that people will one day see the light, and realise it comes from earth, not from heaven.
It speaks to me with the sameness as "well, you have to have as much faith in atheism as in theism" type of prattle...

Sorry to be hypercritical...

Mon, 04 May 2009 07:54:00 UTC | #356023

robaylesbury's Avatar Comment 7 by robaylesbury

A powerful article. I happen to believe that the majority of believers persist in belief because it is what they know. I know so many persons who were raised as Christians. Imagine how hard it is to go through the trauma of relinquishing the whole basis of one's life. It's traumatic, life changing. And for many they have formed friendships that are strong and deep and mutually rewarding. They see no reason to leave that behind. I kind of understand.

Mon, 04 May 2009 07:56:00 UTC | #356025

beanson's Avatar Comment 8 by beanson

Tot up how much of the bible refers to fluffy injunctions such as the so-called 'golden-rule' and how much (most of the OT) refers to hell, damnation and jealous gods and you will understand why I question if religions 'words' GENERALLY urge these things.

I dare say this applies to other 'inspired' 'sacred' texts.

You're sounding more like a catholic apologist daily Mr Zara, I don't know how you came by you astonishing assertion that the golden rule is the basis of most religion

Mon, 04 May 2009 07:59:00 UTC | #356026

George Lennan's Avatar Comment 9 by George Lennan

Excellent point Steve. Thou shalt not kill becoming thou shalt mostly not kill is a very good example of the way human minds react to their notions of God.

To be seen as faithful you don't have to only profess belief in something for which there is no evidence, but rather something which is *manifestly untrue*. In the same way, the word of God, by its very unalterable eternal nature, *must* be altered by the believer to suit his own ambitions. It's spooky innit?

Mon, 04 May 2009 08:04:00 UTC | #356027

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 10 by Steve Zara

Comment #372753 by beanson

You're sounding more like a catholic apologist daily Mr Zara


From you, I take that a real compliment.

You post statements like:

No rational argument will dissuade the faith-infected mind.


Rather strange on a site that has a section called "converts corner". It seems the religious aren't the only ones who are immune to evidence.

Also, I consider statements like the following:

The only way out of the morass is a complete break from the past and one I fear that will involve violence.

Deeply worrying.

But I have been down this route before. After this I will let others make their mind up about the nature of your posts (and mine too, of course).

Mon, 04 May 2009 08:12:00 UTC | #356029

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 11 by Bonzai

beason

Tot up how much of the bible refers to fluffy injunctions such as the so-called 'golden-rule' and how much (most of the OT) refers to hell, damnation and jealous gods and you will understand why I question if religions 'words' GENERALLY urge these things.


Actually the OT never refers to hell or eternal damnation,--early Judiasm had no belief in an afterlife,-- and hell is only mentioned briefly in the NT by Jesus. The book of Revelation was obviously written by someone on acid.

I agree with Steve that you are dealing with caricatures.

Mon, 04 May 2009 08:21:00 UTC | #356031

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 12 by Bonzai

George Lennan

To be seen as faithful you don't have to only profess belief in something for which there is no evidence, but rather something which is *manifestly untrue*.


Indeed it is one of the most curious perversity of some believers,--like Timothy aka savingappearance1 on the other thread. They insist that God is too great for human rationality to understand and track by examining material evidence.

They believe precisely because there is no evidence outside the Biblical stories, and to seek evidence at all would be wrong headed. I think these people will actually stop believing if there is real evidence and a scientific explanation for God. If God can be understood by science it wouldn't be God anymore.

Mon, 04 May 2009 08:31:00 UTC | #356032

phil rimmer's Avatar Comment 13 by phil rimmer

The only way out of the morass is a complete break from the past and one I fear that will involve violence


The only meaningful way to interpret this is genocide. I can think of no other instances where there is a complete break with the past.

Anybody know any instances of a complete break that didn't involve anihilation?

Billions of people are the problem. This is going to require a solution of industrial scale to finally nail it like Beanson wants.

Mon, 04 May 2009 08:47:00 UTC | #356037

severalspeciesof's Avatar Comment 14 by severalspeciesof

The only way out of the morass is a complete break from the past and one I fear that will involve violence
I'll take my hammer and chisel over a complete break anyday...

[Edit: Let me add: hammer and chisel = Reason]

Mon, 04 May 2009 08:50:00 UTC | #356039

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 15 by Bonzai

Phil

Anybody know any instances of a complete break that didn't involve anihilation?


Being born again? It involves only metaphorical anihilation if you count anihilation of the mind.

Mon, 04 May 2009 08:51:00 UTC | #356040

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 16 by NewEnglandBob

9. Comment #372753 by beanson:

I agree with your first two paragraphs. It applies to the OT and the Koran.

Mon, 04 May 2009 09:02:00 UTC | #356043

The Hogfather's Avatar Comment 17 by The Hogfather

Thank you Michael Coulter for a most splended article!!!! I agree with pretty much everything that is said in this article, with the exception a few very minor quibbles here and there.

Mon, 04 May 2009 09:07:00 UTC | #356046

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 18 by Bonzai

NEB

. Comment #372753 by beanson:

I agree with your first two paragraphs. It applies to the OT and the Koran


No, actually two out of three items he listed,--hell and eternal damnation,--don't appear anywhere in the OT.

Mon, 04 May 2009 09:13:00 UTC | #356049

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 19 by Dr. Strangegod

Quite nice. I especially liked the last two paragraphs. Good to see I'm not the only one with a fatalistic (and I think, reasonable) view of our prospects at cohesion with the crazies.

severalspeciesof - I think you missed his point.

beanson - EDIT: Nah, forget it.

Mon, 04 May 2009 09:39:00 UTC | #356056

chewedbarber's Avatar Comment 20 by chewedbarber

Considering how often religion incorrectly labels vice a virtue and virtue a vice, I think it's strange to make the claim that the general language of religion attempts to bolster our better natures and remedy our faults.

If by better natures you mean becoming the meek and mild sheep, and by faults you mean our tendency to go to the sheerer kicking and screaming, then yes you've got it.

That being said,

Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

Isaiah 1v17


you can even point to the sermon on the mount, which many people will likely do.

My problem is with the use of the word generally. This is not the general language of religion, it is the general language adopted by moderates and used anytime religion needs defending. But that doesn't in my opinion make it the predominate--a condition I think necessary for the use of the word generally--language of religion.

Mon, 04 May 2009 09:44:00 UTC | #356058

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 21 by Steve Zara

Comment #372785 by chewedbarber

This is not the general language of religion, it is the general language adopted by moderates and used anytime religion needs defending.


Would you not agree that most people are moderate? And what is the effective language of religion but the language of most of those who belong to that religion?

Mon, 04 May 2009 09:50:00 UTC | #356060

root2squared's Avatar Comment 22 by root2squared

22. Comment #372787 by Steve Zara

And what is the effective language of religion but the language of most of those who belong to that religion?


One could make the argument that the effective language of religion is the one used by the most vocal and pro-active of those who belong to those religion even though they might be the minority, simply because of the effect they have on the rest of the world.

Mon, 04 May 2009 10:00:00 UTC | #356061

JonLynnHarvey's Avatar Comment 23 by JonLynnHarvey

beanson , it has been often pointed out by careful observers that 90% of the hellfire references in the New Testament occur in either the first or last book of the same (Matthew- mostly threatening religious hypocrites and Revelation) and there is remarkably little hellfire in what remains. So I think the generalization is a somewhat safe one.

Mon, 04 May 2009 10:07:00 UTC | #356066

chewedbarber's Avatar Comment 24 by chewedbarber

Steve, this could be a problem of my experience, but no, I don't think most people are moderate. I think most people are polarized to one extreme or another. Also, I suspect (just a hunch) that there is even a correlation between increased religiosity and a decline in moderate thinking.

However, I do think most people can be tempered in the presence of an effective moderator, and perhaps secular society has/is tempering religion or at least its public face.

Mon, 04 May 2009 10:11:00 UTC | #356071

liberalartist's Avatar Comment 25 by liberalartist

I think the author makes a good point about the violence of today's extremists and the history of religion in the world. Are extremists really a new phenomenon? I doubt it. Maybe its the liberals and moderates that are something new today.

So should I be happy that moderates are less a threat and closer to letting go of religion? Or are moderates a real problem because they won't acknowledge the truth - that they don't really believe all the bullshit and just embrace the idea of belief? But by embracing that belief they support the extremists.

Mon, 04 May 2009 10:28:00 UTC | #356083

phil rimmer's Avatar Comment 26 by phil rimmer

Comment #372767 by Bonzai

Being born again? It involves only metaphorical anihilation if you count anihilation of the mind.


I have no doubt that individual epiphanies are possible. But there have been no such things as cultural epiphanies. Indeed I suspect that cultural changes are subject to a kind of Lenz's law, where without fail any attempt at change is automatically opposed by the conservative factions. (Those with the 5 paradigm model of morality as opposed to the 2 model, fearless bunch who lead change. I'll put the reference in when I can.)

So, to tighten up my question- Any one know of a culture that made a complete break with its past?

Mon, 04 May 2009 10:38:00 UTC | #356086

Nova's Avatar Comment 27 by Nova

Steve Zara:

Would you not agree that most people are moderate?
This is only true in some places, but even if we assume it is completely true, this still only supports that those particular peoples' religion is heavily influenced by the Golden rule - almost every medieval Christian would be an extremist by modern standards so for much of history almost no one was moderate.

Mon, 04 May 2009 10:46:00 UTC | #356088

mitch_486's Avatar Comment 28 by mitch_486

Would you not agree that most people are moderate?


There are two ways to look at this. Socially and intellectually.

So, socially, yes, most people are moderate. Intellectually, the religious (due to evidence) could be considered extreme based on their misguided thought process.

Mon, 04 May 2009 10:50:00 UTC | #356092

phil rimmer's Avatar Comment 29 by phil rimmer

Comment #372788 by root2squared

One could make the argument that the effective language of religion is the one used by the most vocal and pro-active


Having sat (mostly seething) through Bruce Almighty, I think that this will have actively influenced the minds of millions of adolescents. Its modest and attractive proposals will find favour where, self denying, austere and brutal proposals may alienate. Only the hungry and the aggrieved will engage with the latter if it is used to underpin a political program of resititution.

EDIT To be clear Bruce Almighty IS poison, just of a second order sort, with its implication that only with God can we be selfless.

Mon, 04 May 2009 10:57:00 UTC | #356095

mitch_486's Avatar Comment 30 by mitch_486

30. Comment #372823 by phil rimmer on May 4, 2009 at 11:57 am

I think that movie did a great job of pointing out many biblical fallacies. Like, for example, the part where he had to answer all of the "e-prayers". At that point, I just laughed at the absurdity.

EDIT: Personifying god is a wonderful way to showcase many religious impossibilities!

Mon, 04 May 2009 11:05:00 UTC | #356096