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January 09, 2006

Comments

John East

Sure, as you say, it promotes mental and well being, but it also promotes intolerence, mass murder and oppression.

Furthermore, the "good" aspects you've cited can only work if one is gullible enough to believe. I don't think that the Enlightenment is a genie that can or should ever be forced back into the bottle.

Maynard Handley

Correlation or causation? Maybe religious people are simply dimwitted sheep who go along with the system, whatever the system happens to be? If so, presumably one could get the same good side-effects of a belief in religion, without the nasty side-effects, by indoctrinating them with something rather less noxious.

Shuggy

"Maybe religious people are simply dimwitted sheep who go along with the system, whatever the system happens to be?"

It's this thinking that's the problem: belief has absolutely nothing to do with intelligence or even education - neither is it necessarily a function of social conformity; I'd argue the problem with Al-Qaeda and their imitators is rather the opposite. I assume that you, as I am, are strongly in favour of a civil society butressed by institutions that make a clear distinction between the sacred and the secular and in which a similar distinction is made between what is treated as a crime and what is treated as a sin? This is pretty much all that a liberal polity requires; it certainly does not need people to de-convert or become 'Enlightened' should they happen to be of a religious disposition. I think the failure to recognise this is a real weakness amongst the ranks of us who wish to maintain, and indeed extend, the secular public space in this country because we fail to realise that a significant number of religious people support the separation of religious devotion from legal compulsion.

Chris - thanks for the link. I was just reading a few of your previous posts; I salute your sanity, it's comparatively rare ;-)

Maynard Handley

Shuggy, your political points are quite reasonable, exactly what I believe, but what bearing do they have on MY point, namely the issue of correlation vs causation?
My point is that one could argue that society is always composed of rebels and sheep, that the sheep tend to have easier lives in the various ways ascribed to their religious beliefs, and that these easier lives are NOT the consequence of their religious beliefs, they are the consequence of their being sheep. The fact that they are religious is simply part and parcel of being sheep --- they go along with what they were told as kids, never questioning it, just like they've never questioned anything else, from the nature of art to how the political system should function.

My point, therefore, is that one cannot claim that it is *religion* that is making them content, and one cannot presume that (on average) the rebel will become content by finding Jesus. There are always exceptions of course, but we're talking averages here, not anecdotes.

dearieme

"quite reasonable, exactly what I believe": what, you consider yourself only quite reasonable? Bah. Or perhaps baaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Blimpish

Maynard, these days (in the UK, anyway) there are lots of atheist sheep as well as religious. In fact, if anything, your average sheep probably is atheistic in an unconsidered, astrology-fan kinda' way.

Re Dawkins, a headbanging sociobiologist (such as he is) should see that religion brings distinct evolutionary advantages for a society - especially in terms of promoting reproduction.

John East

Blimpish, I beg to differ that,

"these days (in the UK, anyway) there are lots of atheist sheep as well as religious."

Yes, there will certainly be some atheist sheep, but generally, and I admit more so in the past than today, one begins life by being indoctrinated from perhaps the age of four into one or other religion. This is as far as the sheep get. To subsequently become an atheist requires a change of mind, a rejection of the myths and acceptance of critical reasoning. These latter qualities are not possessed by sheep.

angry_economist

Well since I decided for myself (with a bit of help from others) that religion is human made anyway, I choose to follow other sources of humman made codes of guidance or morals.

Call them humanist values if you must label them, but I don't need a supernatural entity to set them out for me. Another human being will do - including myself.

In terms of the contentedness argument - if someone is conditioned to think a certain way and to place less negative emotions or weight of concern at events/issues because they think a supernatural entity is looking after them in the long run, well good luck to them. However, for me, the baggage of unquestioning loyalty and/or following the strictures of classical or medieval social practices is too much of a price to pay for this.

I'd rather maintain the actual or real illusion of critical thinking, even if it makes me less happy. Its my own rational decision.

Well that, and for me growing up, religion was just about the most boring thing ever. I just could never get inspired by priests or their dronings. I got more out of reading science fiction and comics!

Shuggy

"My point is that one could argue that society is always composed of rebels and sheep, that the sheep tend to have easier lives in the various ways ascribed to their religious beliefs, and that these easier lives are NOT the consequence of their religious beliefs, they are the consequence of their being sheep."

Um, I think the sheep = religious, rebels = atheist or agnostic free-thinkers doesn't quite work. Sometimes people express their social conformity via religion, but if you lived in the Soviet Union, the opposite relationship was often evident - as it still is in China today. The problem with the violent extremist religious types is their *lack of social conformity*; they not only don't want to conform but look to the destruction of the societies in which they live.

"To subsequently become an atheist requires a change of mind, a rejection of the myths and acceptance of critical reasoning. These latter qualities are not possessed by sheep."

Heh - so what's someone like me, brought up by atheist parents, supposed to do to avoid sheep status?


rjw

"But it seems rational in the sense that it can, in average cases, promote mental and economic well-being"


Use of "rational" in this context seems to me to be a bit of a problem, as rationality does not consist in believing in things because they are good for us, but because we judge that they are true.

Blimpish

John: Shuggy beat me to it... but my guess is that most people in England since the 1960s or 1970s haven't been raised in any seriously religious way. Certainly, I wasn't - no doctrine, no sunday school, no discussion of God or the hereafter.

I've met very few consistent atheists - most, quite sensibly, choose to assert fundamental values as facts, as an act of faith. I dare say every atheist on this post does so. Certainly, liberal egalitarian morality seems a bit of a stretch without some kind of notion of a human soul. Atheism is not typically a lack of religion, just the positing of man at the centre of it.

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