[ExI] Religions and violence.

Jebadiah Moore jebdm at jebdm.net
Tue Aug 10 16:07:51 UTC 2010

On Mon, Aug 9, 2010 at 2:09 PM, Sabrina Ballard <sabrina.ballard at hotmail.com
> wrote:

> On 8/9/10, Jebadiah Moore <jebdm at jebdm.net> wrote:
> > My opinion on religions in general is that
> >   a) they are mostly false
> I'd rather try to despute an actual falsehood.

You're absolutely right.  I stated these generalizations because John Clark
seemed to be thinking I believed something else based on my other

> Many times, the problem
> is in the interpretation. Currently, many people take the bible, torah
> and koron literally, while they were written mainly as metaphorical
> documents.

While I agree that you can interpret them metaphorically, I don't see any
evidence that they were written that way.  Indeed, it seems rather unlikely
that all of the things modern people say are metaphorical were actually
written that way.  (Obviously some of the language was figurative, though.)

> I am not familiar with any other religious texts, so I
> cannot spean on that point.

I'm somewhat familiar with some Buddhist texts, which are in general quite
figurative, but I think they're mostly interpreted that way. Although some
of it is interpreted literally, especially by some of the poorer people in
the East, against the common belief I think of more highly trained

>   b) the falsehoods are generally dangerous because they lead people to
> make
> > bad decisions and hold strange values (although values are, I suppose,
> > arbitrary, these values are usually in conflict with the pro-human life,
> > pro-family, etc. values that we all likely hold at some level due to our
> > genetic heritage)
> Again, specific refutations would be more useful than a blanket
> argument. These falsehoods, however strange and unuseful they are now,
> once served a very important purpose.

I appreciate your call for specifics :)

Some specific falsehoods that I feel are dangerous include:
 - the belief in a personal, benevolent, omniscient/omnipotent god, as the
whole notion is full of contradictions and causes people to not take action
or take action no better than placebo when they could actually do something
positive to help themselves;
 - the belief in a single, universal code of morality, usually including
ideas of purity/sexuality/slavery/etc. that serve to oppress large swaths of
people when applied
 - the belief in heaven for certain people, which I see the "good" purpose
of (comforting people as they die or go into a fatal situation), but I also
see the "bad" purpose of (being able to get people to do things that are bad
for them here by telling them it will help others later--for example, cash
for indulgences)
 - the belief in hell, used to scare people into acting right (despite
dubious values of right, see above), especially children
 - the belief in a saviour, which leads some people to expect an actual
saviour (of the mortal variety), which rarely comes
 - the belief in prophets, which enables people to claim authority from
nothing, manipulate people, and lead a cult of personality

I could probably think of more if I gave it more time.

>   c) religions do "shackle... the mind", because they, through various
> > methods, "force" their followers to hold views that may or may not be
> true,
> > usually without allowing them freedom to differ
> This is only with orthodox interpretations. More liberal
> interpretations of religions allow more freedom. And, supposing we all
> had the freedom to choose, we could choose a religion that fit us
> better. I think the issue here is being forced to follow a certain
> religion.

Like I mentioned, I am a big fan of more liberal interpretations, but the
liberalization of a religion seems to happen rather slowly.  And when they
are sufficiently liberal, perhaps religions are mostly harmless.

But I don't think "freedom to choose" is entirely the issue.  In some
places, yes.  But the thing is, most people will stick with the religion
they grew up with even if they are given a choice; it is far more likely
that they will just practice their religion weakly (Christmas and Easter
Christians) rather than change it.  And they'll probably feel a bit guilty
about it.

> >   d) however, for all their cons, in many places religions are practised
> > with most of the doctrine at an arm's length, thereby reducing the
> negative
> > impact, while bringing together strong, loving communities who do, in
> fact,
> > do a great deal of good
> This is one of the major purposes of religion, to build communities.
> This again is part of the orthodoxy argument. Strict interpretation is
> often detrimental.

Major purposes according to you.  Functions is a better word, because it
doesn't imply a purpose-giver.  Some religions seem to consider their
community-building functions as secondary (Christianity is for spreading the
gospel first, spreading goodwill second; Judaism is pretty pro-community at
this point; Islam is fairly pro-community, Buddhism is about
goodwill/enlightenment first, with communities as a means to an end,
Hinduism doesn't really seem to have an explicit purpose, being more about
traditions and worship, etc. (but I'm not super-informed about the body of
religions we call Hinduism)... I could go on).

Again, definitely agree that strict interpretation is often detrimental.
 But liberalization is slow, given that people follow their parents, that we
have "revivals" pretty often (especially when things go wrong), etc.

> It's the belief in something bigger. For many athiests, the power
> bigger than them is Science, and I do not mean this in an insulting
> way. Have you ever met an athiest who doesn't believe in science?
> Science is part of the "greater good", it can be reliev on, and it is
> dependable if you treat it the way that is is supposed to be treated.
> The faith mechanism (which I do not propoose as a literal thing, but a
> metaphorical one) works in the same fashion, though this (science) is
> inherently more logical.

I don't know.  If this was the case, we'd have something like a scientific
church.  Perhaps you could say this is what a university is, but surely
there would be something less temporary/exclusive.

But perhaps it is about the "something bigger", and we just don't have
critical mass yet, or there is some other social block (atheists perceiving
an atheist group as being against the point or too religious-y)?  Honestly,
I'd prefer it not be an atheist/agnostic thing, just one independent of
religion.  There aren't very many social clubs like that, sadly.

As for atheists who don't believe in science--you've obviously not taken
many high-level humanities classes.  Those guys hate science, but they're
generally for complete cultural relativism, expressing that they don't
believe in any of it but that it's all equally "valid".  Whatever "valid"
means in that context.

For the record, I would like to say that I am pro-religious choice.
> However, I am neither for or against religion.

I'm the same thing in theory, but I am opposed to a lot of the actual
practices of most religions.  You can practice religion so that I don't
care, or perhaps even support it (though you'd probably have to be a
Buddhist near the edge of the philosophy-religion line).  But most people

Jebadiah Moore
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