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Does Faith really cause War?
Posted: 29 April 2008 09:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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isocratic infidel - 29 April 2008 02:41 PM
burt - 29 April 2008 12:37 PM

An interesting thread.  I think that there are two interconnected issues here: (1) that conflict is caused by material issues (desire for land, wealth, etc.) that can be traced back ultimately to survival and territorial instincts; (2) the us vs. them of differing belief systems (extending this beyond religion to any difference in belief) used as an excuse to justify our treatment of “them” as territorial instincts are taken from the material to the mental (i.e., defending our physical territory becomes defending our beliefs).  In some sense, one could say that aspects of religion are intended to mitigate the tendency to fight, while other aspects can easily be co-opted to justify it. 

Two books by Doris Lessing seem relevent here:

Prisons We Choose to Live Inside A short book consisting of a series of radio talks given in 1985 (CBC Massey Lectures).  This looks at the human propensity to hang onto beliefs, and to commit barbaric acts against people classified as “different.”

The Sentimental Agents in the Volyan Empire A satire looking at how people fall for rhetoric and get trapped into belief systems that are endemic in a culture.  (The action takes place in a small intersteller empire where the local disease is “undulent rhetoric.”)


It’s like you’re a professor or something burt.  cheese You make most excellent points monsieur. Trotting out South African author, Doris Lessing, is nothing short of brilliant. THe second recommend sounds particularly entertaining—who can resist a good satire? What do you think of Lessing’s “Briefing for a Decent into Hell” ? I’d heard of her, but have never read her works. I’m surely heading to the bookstore now.

Haven’t read that one.  Went for her Canopus in Argos series and several other of the SF type novels. (Sentimental Agents is the 5th and last in that series).  Other good titles in that series (actually they’re all good, but Shikasta and The Sirian Agents are pretty dense) are The Marriages of Zones 3, 4, and 5; and The Making of the Representative for Planet 8.

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Posted: 01 May 2008 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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burt,

“The Making of the Represenative for Planet 8” is an incredible book.  I really need to read some of her other works.

If we ended “Faith” tomorrow, would we still kill one another due to bigotry, xenophobia, tribalism, and desire for power, resources and supremacy?

Further, is war part of the natural selection process to keep us from over-populating?  Is war a dominant gene that thins the pool?

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Posted: 01 May 2008 08:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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LogicAndReason - 01 May 2008 11:56 AM

burt,

“The Making of the Represenative for Planet 8” is an incredible book.  I really need to read some of her other works.

If we ended “Faith” tomorrow, would we still kill one another due to bigotry, xenophobia, tribalism, and desire for power, resources and supremacy?

Further, is war part of the natural selection process to keep us from over-populating?  Is war a dominant gene that thins the pool?

The catch is I don’t think it would be possible to “end Faith.”  People need some sort of conceptual framework to make sense of the world, and will invest a good deal of fixated belief in any system that does the job for them.  What might be possible is to get people to understand that tolerance and respect for differences is a good thing (as a matter of faith, if nothing else), and blind belief is not. 

I don’t think that war is part of natural selection (saying that it is implies that there is a genetic tendency toward war), although it probably has exercised a selective effect (or several effects, e.g., those who are agressive enough to fight all the time get killed off more often, those who can fight smart survive more often, and so on—material for a fantasy novel grin )  I think that most people are naturally peaceful unless their survival is threatened.  Unfortunately, the survival instinct gets tied into things like defending a belief, a self-image, a way of life, etc., etc., etc., and then people fight.

My own view is that we need much more research on the way that our biological nature is co-opted by culture (the survival instinct being attached to cultural survival, for example, and the extension of this to an insistence that everybody has to belong to the same belief system) and how people can learn to be more conscious of this and avoid its darker aspects.

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Posted: 01 May 2008 08:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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Well said…

Freud would agree with you for he said that religious faith will never end as long as man fears death.  I also liked his ideas about how the ruling class, manipulating the working classes’ narcissism, promoted faith to stay in power and keep the majority working class in their submission.  There are many more reasons, beyond need for comfort and conceptual framework, that faith is propagated within civilizations.

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Posted: 01 May 2008 11:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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LogicAndReason - 01 May 2008 12:43 PM

Well said…

Freud would agree with you for he said that religious faith will never end as long as man fears death.  I also liked his ideas about how the ruling class, manipulating the working classes’ narcissism, promoted faith to stay in power and keep the majority working class in their submission.  There are many more reasons, beyond need for comfort and conceptual framework, that faith is propagated within civilizations.

I don’t generally go for class conspiracy ideas, too neat. But bracketing that, it all fits into the conceptual framework idea in the sense that whatever material and/or existential needs underly a persons committment to a belief system or worldview, it is the potential of the belief system to answer those needs (and the existential ones are tricky—if they were fantasized to begin with, they can easily be answered by another fantasy).  Faith itself (or, I would prefer to say the tendency for blind belief) is, it seems to me, an aspect of the way that the brain and mind are structured.  It’s one of the costs of being able to think in the way that we do—we need to have some sort of idea about where we are (i.e., to be able to answer the questions “What’s going on?  What do I have to do to get along?” we need a worldview).

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Posted: 01 May 2008 11:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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burt - 01 May 2008 03:39 PM
LogicAndReason - 01 May 2008 12:43 PM

Well said…

Freud would agree with you for he said that religious faith will never end as long as man fears death.  I also liked his ideas about how the ruling class, manipulating the working classes’ narcissism, promoted faith to stay in power and keep the majority working class in their submission.  There are many more reasons, beyond need for comfort and conceptual framework, that faith is propagated within civilizations.

I don’t generally go for class conspiracy ideas, too neat. But bracketing that, it all fits into the conceptual framework idea in the sense that whatever material and/or existential needs underly a persons committment to a belief system or worldview, it is the potential of the belief system to answer those needs (and the existential ones are tricky—if they were fantasized to begin with, they can easily be answered by another fantasy).  Faith itself (or, I would prefer to say the tendency for blind belief) is, it seems to me, an aspect of the way that the brain and mind are structured.  It’s one of the costs of being able to think in the way that we do—we need to have some sort of idea about where we are (i.e., to be able to answer the questions “What’s going on?  What do I have to do to get along?” we need a worldview).

It may sound ridiculous at first, but one of the reasons people go to war is because they are bored. ( I’ll admit I am borrowing that idea from another writer who’s name I can’t remember ) Men especially . I think that men want to fight. Sure, it IS in thier genes !  All males of the species are instintively combative. Name him : even spiders fight one another for the female. Males lock horns- they have it in them to reproduce. Then there’s human males—-ever read or watch shows about ancient , but still exsisting tribes ? They seem to just thrive on the next fight. It’s the central area of thier whole lives. When they get tired of hunting and building etc. they want to recharge thier need for individual importance so they turn to the fight. They have certain rewards coming if they are winners- one of them is probably getting the most desirable woman.
I’ve always said that the hillbillies of Afghanistan clash even when there are no outsiders or militant groups threatening them , will fight one another no matter what. They turn to the fight so they can boost thier egos . Combat is one of the quickest way to make a guy feel like he’s worth more than being just farmer tending to his poppies . Of course he can always slap his wife around—-as most Muslim men do to prove how strong and important they are . Hey-no kidding , I truely believe that’s how it is. Before we invaded that country to fight them , those bored-sick men were fighting amongst themselves. For petty reasons too. “YOU STOLE MY DONKEY !!”

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Posted: 02 May 2008 04:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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The above behavior is demonstrated in nature as rivals fight for territories and the losers do not win the reproduction lottery; thus population sizes are regulated.  War may be innate to a certain degree.

I wish I had saved the article, but years ago I read an article in Texas Monthly about a man who fought in Vietnam and came home to be the perfect husband, father, successful business man and community leader.  His article touched me as he was very candid about the effects of war on him.  He said he often hated himself and felt conflicted because he missed being over there, the fighting, the killing, the enhancement of sex after battle, and the adrenaline rush of survival.  Basically he said that war made him feel very alive and that a man who never experienced war was much like a woman who never experiences pregnancy.  The piece was stark and you could sense the dichotomy of a moral and loving man who longed for an experience so opposite his role in ordinary civilization.

Again I ask, is war a biological remedy for over-population?  Is it written into our genes?  In Ken Wilbur’s “A Brief History of Everything” he speaks to the hormone testosterone and its function in the male body: it drives a man to fuck and fight (pardon the crassness but so not confuse it with romance).  Biologically speaking, testosterone underwrites aggression. 

Dee, I don’t think war is as trivial as you illustrate above, nor do I think the majority of men who participate in war do so out of boredom.

Lastly, I will again restate that religion plays a role in distinguishing the two sides in a conflict and helps to justify the fight, but if religion ended tomorrow, we would continue to find reasons to fight one another.  I also further posit that war, pandemics, natural disasters, and famine are past of nature’s population regulation.

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Posted: 02 May 2008 08:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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The degree of violence in a society is to a large extent cultural, including the prevalence of warfare.  In the American Southwest, for example, there were the Hopi and Zuni, very peaceful groups; and then the Navaho, who were quite warlike.  About 20 years ago I was at a conference where a paper was presented on the relationship between violence in a culture and the amount of physical affection infants and young children received.  In the 47 cultures studied, there was, with three exceptions, a direct correlation: cultures where children received a good deal of physical affection were not violent, cultures where children did not were violent.  The three exceptions were non-violent cultures where children didn’t receive much physical affection but which encouraged teenage sexuality. 

So there is a major cultural aspect to violence and the tendency for war that needs to be taken into account. 

Now for a quote: “I think it is sentimental to discuss the subject of war, or peace, without acknowledging that a great many people enjoy war—not only the idea of it, but the fighting itself.  In my time I have sat through many many hours listening to people talk about war, the prevention of war, the awfulness of war, with it never once being mentioned that for large numbers of people the idea of war is exciting, and that when a war is over they may say it was the best time in their lives.  This may be true even of people whose experiences in war were terrible, and which ruined their lives.  People who have lived through a war know that as it approaches, an at first secret, unacknowledged, elation begins, as if an almost inaudible drum is beating… an awful, illicit, violent excitement is abroad.  Then the elation becomes too strong to be ignored or overlooked: then everybody is possessed by it. ...When I was in Zimbabwe recently, two years after Independence, and the end of that appalling war that was very much uglier and more savage than we were ever told, I met soldiers from both sides, whites and blacks.  The first obvious fact—obvious to an outsider, if not to themselves—was that they were in a state of shock.  Seven years of war had left them in a stunned, curiously blank state, and I think it was because whenever people are actually forced to recognize, from real experience, what we are capable of, it is so shocking that we can’t take it in easily.  Or take it in at all; we want to forget it.  But there was another fact and for the purposes of this discussion perhaps a more interesting one.  It was evident that the actual combatants on both sides, both blacks and whites, had thoroughly enjoyed the war.  It was a fighting that demanded great skill, individual bravery, initiative, resourcefulness—the skills of a guerilla, talents that through a long peace-time life may never have been called into use.  Yet people may suspect they have them, and secretly long for an opportunity to show them,  This is not the least of the reasons, I believe, that wars happen.”

From Doris Lessing, Prisons We Choose to Live Inside

[ Edited: 02 May 2008 08:42 AM by burt]
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Posted: 02 May 2008 10:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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I strongly agree.  Would you call that excited nature innate?  burt…I have known some professional military killers; they are nothing like someone would expect.  They can easily be the person next door.  They will chill your heart when they intellectually discuss their affinity for killing.  One only has to reference “The Indian” in Stephen King’s “The Firestarter” for a good illustration of the psychology of such a person.  I sense some biology at work here; not to discredit the above study where it is observed that interaction with children reduces violence in a population.  I have to wonder if the populations studied were in any struggle for resources or what the level of religiosity was in said populations.

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Posted: 02 May 2008 05:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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LogicAndReason - 02 May 2008 02:46 PM

I strongly agree.  Would you call that excited nature innate?  burt…I have known some professional military killers; they are nothing like someone would expect.  They can easily be the person next door.  They will chill your heart when they intellectually discuss their affinity for killing.  One only has to reference “The Indian” in Stephen King’s “The Firestarter” for a good illustration of the psychology of such a person.  I sense some biology at work here; not to discredit the above study where it is observed that interaction with children reduces violence in a population.  I have to wonder if the populations studied were in any struggle for resources or what the level of religiosity was in said populations.

I think this “elation” has to do with the emotional bonding of a group, and we know that few things do that as well as an external enemy—just look at how the Democrats have divided into Clinton and Obama camps in an us against them war.

Professional killers are different.  But they are not necessarily identical with professional military (there was a guy posting here last year who served several tours in Afghanistan and he had a very informative perspective, once the ego was filtered out. 

A real chiller was the bad guy in No Country for Old Men.  In the book the study of his worldview (if that is the word) was far more detailed than in the film.

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Posted: 02 May 2008 09:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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burt - 02 May 2008 09:41 PM

I think this “elation” has to do with the emotional bonding of a group, and we know that few things do that as well as an external enemy—just look at how the Democrats have divided into Clinton and Obama camps in an us against them war.

I think that’s the crux of it, that we have a natural predisposition toward dividing people into “us” and “them.”  We have one code of conduct which applies to us:  the Code of Amity; and a different one for them:  the Code of Enmity.  Religion and faith make good use of this predisposition, as does nationalism, among others. 

I’ve heard it argued that the basic point of Jesus Christ’s message was to include everyone in the “us” category and treat them according to the Code of Amity.  But think about how doomed any society which adopted such an ideology would be!  Jesus’s message had to be converted into the traditional us vs. them variety in order to survive amid all the competing ideologies of the time.  Something about those who beat their swords into ploughshares ending up serving those who don’t.

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Do-gooding is like treating hemophilia—the real cure is to let hemophiliacs bleed to death, before they breed more hemophiliacs. -Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

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Posted: 03 May 2008 05:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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I agree antisocialdarwinist, but would rather credit that inclusion to Paul, versus Jesus.  You can see what Jesus thinks about non-Jews when he encounters the woman of Canaan in Matthew 15: 21-28.  Paul, on the other hand, being a Pharisee, a fervent Jew who was already an itinerant Jewish zealot before his conversion, a Roman and being raised in the diaspora, saw the opportunity to include the gentiles.  In fact, with many Gentiles of that period interested in the Israel Epic and spending time around the Synagogues of the many Hellenistic cities of the diaspora, Paul realized that none of these people could ever expect to be Jewish (which meant keeping the laws and circumcision).  The new Jesus cult was his opening to include all of these people and that was the probable reason for his decision to change teams (unless you believe the fable about the road to Damascus).  Paul believes that he is building a further people of God (Israel) in this process and engineers the mythology around this idea.  Later, the four Gospels are written around Paul’s rhetorical arguments and aphorisms.

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Posted: 03 May 2008 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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“Later, the four Gospels are written around Paul’s rhetorical arguments and aphorisms.”

I suggest adulterated by would be more accurate than written around.

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Posted: 11 July 2008 06:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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Of all the myriad activities in which a human being or group of people can partake, violence is one that requires very good reasons.

Religion has been an endless source of violence because faith is designed to circumvent reason.

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Posted: 15 July 2008 05:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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Apologists for faith often insist that religion is not a motivator for war but a justification for it. They don’t acknowledge that absolutism of any type, religious or secular, is inherently dangerous. Absolutism may be the core irrationality behind tribalism.

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