What to substitute for the "useful" parts of relig
Posted: 24 December 2005 08:57 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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It's all very well and good to be against something whether it's religion or chain-smoking, but it's even better to be in favor of something else.

Those who've struggled to give up smoking should readily understand that breaking the "habit" is easier if one substitutes some other form of new behavior for the old undesireable one.

It is clear, for example, that one of the great values of religion is the social aspect: even the NY Times has published studies demonstrating the positive affect of belonging to a church and having friends.

Where is the similar benefit of religion bashing?

Further, religion provides "answers,"  specious and useless as they may be from a scientific point of view, to unanswerable questions like "where did the universe come from?"

Science would like us to know that it came from, say, the Big Bang. For the average person, however, this is not a good answer. They want to know what came before the Big Bang. Religions pretend to give that answer.

For the fact based point of view to hold any sway beyond those who already understand, "science" must come up with a convincing and compelling answer to just sort of question. Otherwise, it will find itself speaking only to the choir.

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Posted: 27 December 2005 11:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Any usefulness in religion is “borrowed” from somewhere else, their origins shrouded in lies. Everything they are conflicts with basic human freedom. I think that the freedom to think and discover for oneself trumps any “usefulness” religion could have.

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Posted: 27 December 2005 11:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Hello Dallee, I must respectfully disagree with you. I mean, we can agree to disagree, right? I mean, us happy and joyful Christians can disagree with unhappy unbelievers, right????? That doesn’t make us any more joyful and you any more unhappy. It just means that the difference between us is obvious. grin

The issue in question is whether religion is shrouded in lies or not. Actually, we have no argument because Christianity is really not a religion. It is a relationship with the risen Christ (Jesus, for you unknowing unbelievers). Ok, but what about this Christian stuff. Is it truthful or is it lies?

The proof is in the pudding. Look out across the land at the changed lifes. What changes the human heart? Its not magic, its God. So we have proof in the numerous changed lifes. But lets take it a step further. Is it truth? I say yes! But how can you experience this truth?

He who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. John 3:21

But Dallee, all in all, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened and so forth.

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

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Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matt 11:28-29

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Posted: 27 December 2005 03:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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“The proof is in the pudding. Look out across the land at the changed lifes. What changes the human heart? It’s not magic, its God. So we have proof in the numerous changed lifes. But lets take it a step further. Is it truth?”

It’s proof to the person “feeling” the truth in their heart. But I have heard that line from Mormons, Baptists, and Jehovah Witnesses - “I know it’s true because I feel it in my heart.” An emotional attachment to an idea is only proof to the person feeling the emotion. Sincerity in your belief is not proof. I am sure that the Mormons, Baptists and Jehovah Witnesses felt equally sincere about the truth of their convictions. Would they be willing to blow themselves up for their beliefs?  Does the Muslim blowing himself up convince me of the truthfulness of his beliefs? - Naw, just his insanity. Crazy Akbar probably experienced the serene peace of knowing that he was doing God’s will right up to the point of blowing himself up with the infidels. If feeling it is true in your heart were the sole criteria for truth, how can we sit in judgment of Crazy Akbar? He did what was true to him. Does your warm fuzzy feelings about your convictions convince me of the truthfulness of your faith? Do conversions to your faith convince me? Sorry, not a chance, not anymore that Akbar’s faith in action. Try again Champion.

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Posted: 27 December 2005 05:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Nice try Sagan Clarke, but you are guilty of misdirection and confusion on the original point. 2 demerits for you (not that anyone’s counting, grin.

Anyway, the point wasn’t about feelings, it was about concrete changes in people’s lives. But it appears you want more, and I like that. It shows you to be a seeker. So please revisit the final crux of the post:

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

Sagan, therein is the key. Hold to Christ’s teachings and then you will know the truth, not warm fuzzy feelings. Warm fuzzy feelings come and go. We all have crummy days and even terrible days. Where are those warm fuzzy feelings on those days? Nope, those are the days to hold fast to Christ’s teachings. Even Jesus said that there would be storms in this life. He said that the person who built their house (i.e., faith) on the rock (i.e., Jesus) would withstand the storms (i.e., up and downs, crisis’, the dark days etc.). He also said that he who built his house on sand (i.e., no faith in Christ) would not withstand the storms.

Even the Apostle Paul wrote that he was content even in the dark days as well as the good days. Warm fuzzy feelings can’t traverse the differnt day types. But faith, faith will see you through it all.

Ya know, I’m on a roll here man. Lets….just cut to the chase! Shall we! Sagan, why not surrender your all to the risen Christ.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

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Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matt 11:28-29

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Posted: 27 December 2005 08:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Champ:

Someone that I worked with, many years ago, shared a bit of his life story with me.  I won’t bother to repeat the whole thing (he shared bits and pieces with me over several months) but the salient details are as follows:

As a young man, he was heavily involved in the drug scene, as well as armed robbery and other unsavory activities.  One day, he saw his best friend shot to death in front of him, which had a profound impact on his state of mind.  The next day, he converted to Islam, and has been dedicated to his faith ever since.  He cleaned his life up, got a job, got married, and has been a dedicated husband, father and member of his community for several years now.

So, does this mean that Islam is “true”?  I don’t think so, and clearly you don’t think so either.

It would certainly appear that a person’s religious faith can be linked to sudden and radical life alteration, for the better.  The problem, though, is that these transformations can been seen in multiple religions, all of which make mutually exclusive claims about fundamental issues.  Since they can’t all be true, it seems obvious that changed lives, no matter how dramatic, cannot serve as supporting evidence for any of them.

Perhaps there is another explanation?

-Matt

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Posted: 28 December 2005 02:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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[quote author=“TheChampion”]Nice try Sagan Clarke, but you are guilty of misdirection and confusion on the original point. 2 demerits for you (not that anyone’s counting, grin.

Champ,

I did not misdirect from what you were giving as proof of Christianity - which was the point of that portion from your post I quoted from. You said that the truth of Christianity was proven by the many conversion experiences you noted as: the proof in the pudding. I asserted that believing a proposition sincerely in one’s heart and witnessing openly to that fact to someone else, as proof of the matter asserted, was not proof of the propositions of Christianity. Personally witnessing to emotionally and sincerely felt religious convictions and your conversion experiences fall into matters of the heart.  You offered proofs by way of matters of the heart. I think we are all looking for objective proofs - evidence in the realm of the objective world that can be openly kicked around, tested and verified. While these feelings for the truthfulness of the subject religion are convincing for the individual involved, they that are not evidence - proofs – of the faith to the rest of us. Subjective religious experience is not evidence for the truth of the matter asserted. It is only evidence that a person believes the propositions of whatever religion. And yes, Christianity is a religion amongst many other religions that have their own testimonies of religious conversions and of what God has done in their lives. Bottom line: It’s your personal subjective religious experience and holy book versus their personal subjective religious experience and holy book. Can the true religion be determined from all of that to satisfaction of all? I think you know the answer to that. The proof in the pudding would be in the concrete, verifiable, empirical world of which we all share and experience openly - not in the netherworld of the faith experience.

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Posted: 28 December 2005 02:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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As one who has 25 years as a happy atheist I can attest to profound changes that a person can decide to make. I made that decision on August 17, 1980 after reading an article in Scientific American titled “The Lattice Theory of Quark Confinement”. This degree of scientific detail (proven or unproven) provided me with enough insight to realize that there truly is no god, nothing to fear but fear itself. Anyone can change their life for good or ill if they are free! No god be necessary.

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Posted: 28 December 2005 09:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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The original post is about practical results and not about metaphysical beliefs.

Hijacking the question to make points for or against a belief system is not the topic.

The question is what, if anything, can substitute for the provable positive values of certain mainstream religious practices?

The example given is the social value of, for example, small churches.

What do non-religious systems substitute for this?

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Posted: 29 December 2005 01:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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One response would be for a group of free thinking people to form a community of reason. This may sound like a bad joke but this has already happened. There is a group in Texas called the North Texas Church of Freethought. You can check their website out. They meet once a month and offer other social opportunities. Others form meetup groups via the Internet. They are obviously not meeting to worship some deity but such groups offer a social opportunity and a chance to form a community. I am not sure what rituals for marriage, birth and death that may have been created but those are probably forth coming.

Another response would be to retain an open mind on spiritual matters. A dogmatic materialist is no less a fundamentalist than a Bible thumper or blow thy self up Muslim. People can reasonably maintain spirituality for themselves. The universe is still sufficiently mysterious enough to remain humble about it and attach some hope that the things that humans value may in fact have some more than some illusionary value to them. Having a basic trust in reality is not unreasonable. There are some topics that science has nothing to say on yet. There is no reason to suppose that this existence is all there is and that we have heard the final word on the matter.

Finally, if the second option is appealing then there are religious groups such as the Unitiarian Universalists that encourage people to follow their own religious path. They have their free thinkers, pagans, Christians, Jews, etc. This diversity does work and is rather quite interesting.

I hope this helps.

In liberty and reason,

Sagan

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Posted: 29 December 2005 11:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Bystander, I apologize for “hijacking” your subject. It was not intentional and perhaps I could have been a little less blunt and more expansive in my reasoning.

The “useful” parts of religious practice is purely manipulative psychology. Borrowed and/or stolen dates, ideas and techniques are verified by history and archeology. Altruism is also found in nature. The facts give us a base upon which we may decide for ourselves where and what we are in this wondrous, marvelous universe.

Suppression of free thought always begins as dogma.

Alas, atheists are not the ones trying to destroy the world with a new crusade against Islam. No, I have not forgotten 9/11. If we are short on patience perhaps it’s because we’ve been quiet too long. Yours in peace. D. Allee

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Posted: 30 December 2005 05:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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We have a long way to go before humanity will be ready to give up on religion. People want answers, comfort and a social community. They want a narrative. They want to feel as if they understand their world and their place in it. Even if it is a lie, people will continue to be seduced by religion. Even if every person of faith woke up tomorrow with complete amnesia about their religion and all their religious artifacts, books, music, etc. had disappeared, humans would invent religions.

So, I believe you are right to ask this question. It is a practical concern. Mr. Harris has shown pretty convincingly that mankind very possibly cannot survive continued religious conflict (not to mention all the other reasons people have to fight each other). What can be done toward diffusing this situation? It does look bleak (to me). I suspect the only path that has any hope of succeeding is education.  Maybe too little, too late, but we will never get people to give up their beliefs by force and you are correct in saying that something has to replace those beliefs.

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Posted: 03 March 2006 07:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Hi—- I’m new here…

But I’ve found this to be an interesting question. Grew up in a Presbyterian Church and although I don’t miss the ideology or religious aspects of it, I do find that my old friends who are still in the church have this built in support and social structure that doesn’t yet seem to exist for non-believers (athiests, humanists, whatever you choose to call yourself).

One thing that I’ve found to be a great way to create your own community of good will and positive inspiration is to use my Sunday mornings (or whatever time was previously devoted to church) to volunteer with an organization I support. This allows me to make an actual contribution, builds relationships with people with similar values and motivations, and is, to me, an excellent way to grow as a person.

Just my two cents…
I love this site and forum. Just read the book and I agree with much of the sentiment, if not all of the specifics. Looking forward to more discussion with you all!

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Posted: 04 March 2006 01:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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It seems pretty obvious that church/religion doesn’t make people moral or teach them to act ethically, but rather that people choose a religion that fits their morals and ethics. If you’re a nasty bastard you can find a sect of Christianity or Islam (or most other religions) that will affirm your nasty bastardness—even give you an all-powerful, ultimate authority for an advocate. However, we see all the good religion gets credit for duplicated in secular organizations, and most of the bad as well. The difference is that the secular organizations tend to stay much more focussed on the task at hand and waste far less time, energy and money barking at the moon.

Byron

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Posted: 13 March 2006 01:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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[quote author=“Bystander”]
It is clear, for example, that one of the great values of religion is the social aspect: even the NY Times has published studies demonstrating the positive affect of belonging to a church and having friends.

It’s healthy to be part of any community and make new friends.  This has nothing to do with faith.  Ok, church is a community where you can make friends. lol amazing.

Where is the similar benefit of religion bashing?

Since when did criticizing become bashing? This is the problem with alot of theists. They cant accept debates.  You do know us atheists have our own communities and conventions too right? We even have friends…... rolleyes

Further, religion provides “answers,”  specious and useless as they may be from a scientific point of view, to unanswerable questions like “where did the universe come from?”

Somethings cannot be answered. Lets not fool ourselves by saying god did it.  Just becuase you make up an answer, doesnt mean it’s a real answer. If you did not know what two plus two equals. Do you just go:

2 +2 = god.

Or if you dont know how ocean waves are created you go:

Ocean Waves = God blowing wind against water


Of course not. You thinks it’s silly now becuase we have evolved as a society to learn such silly reasoning doesnt solve anything.  By labeling “god did it”  as an answer you are basically saying “I have no clue, but God seems pretty cool. He could definately do it.” Well whose god? and can you prove him with empirical evidence? If not you got nothing, and you’re fooling noone but yourself.

Science would like us to know that it came from, say, the Big Bang. For the average person, however, this is not a good answer. They want to know what came before the Big Bang. Religions pretend to give that answer.

The beginning of the universe is one of the most difficult answers to find. Saying “god did it” doesnt answer the question, and you yourself admit to this by wanting science to find a better answer. Like i said before, Making up an answer doesnt make it the real answer to the question.  You might as well say unicorns, or fairies did it. Becuase I can show you just as much evidence as you can for God. (notta)

For the fact based point of view to hold any sway beyond those who already understand, “science” must come up with a convincing and compelling answer to just sort of question. Otherwise, it will find itself speaking only to the choir.

Science doesnt pretend to have the answers to everything, it relies on making sure the answers we have are right, along with future answers. I dont know about you but I dont just want any answers. I want answers supported with overwhelming evidence. If it takes along time, so be it.

You take away alot of credit Science has done with technology. Ok, there are answers left unsolved. Maybe they are unsolvable. It’s not the answers that are the most important part of science, it’s how we came to those answers.

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