David Fryer: I answered this thread because I felt people just accepted arguments about why Bush did good as president. The fact is, the only things people have been able to say are EXTREMELY general, excepting the AIDS struggle in Africa. As far as I have understood things, the global gag rule has more than destroyed any progress made against the disease in Africa. The way I see it, that's Bush's priorities: they need to subscribe to MY morals if they're going to get any money.
No surprise then that no progress has been made. More africans are dying every day from the disease now than before his presidency. He's the american president; if he'd have really tried to make this better, he could have.
So, my evaluation is that he had the power to make good headway against HIV in Africa, he did put in a great effort to do so, but his view of morals was more important. Thus, I have a hard time counting him as a hero for his work.
That does not change the fact that he more or less destroyed the civil liberties of the american people, and by extension and political pressure, the civil rights of every person in the West. That is the most serious argument against his successful presidency.
I'll shut up now.
What is interesting is that in virtually EVERY conflict there is, stands get taken and alliances made ACCORDING TO RELIGIOUS LINES. Sure, there is discussion about money, power, past wrongs, ethnic hatreds, injustice, justice, fear, and so on, but really, what side someone ends up supporting fits with and only with what religious persuasion they ascribe to. See the situations in conflicts like Pakistan/India (Pakistan was created because the indian muslims wanted their own country), Northern Ireland (A majority of protestants in the area was the main reason why the lines were drawn the way they were when Ireland was split), Balkan (Serbia/Croatia/Bosnia split down religious lines, if I recall Catholic christians/Orthodox christians/Muslims), and so on, and so forth.
Religion IS an absolutely central factor in more or less all conflicts we see in the world, today and in the past.
And yet, when an analysis of the conflict is made, it's ALWAYS blamed on something else. I guess people don't like to place the blame on religion.
As has been stated before in this thread: ANY fanatic belief WILL cause violence in the wrong circumstances. Today, the most likely fanatic belief we see around us is religious in nature.
Naturally, there are other forces, more sane approaches to religious belief. However, religions today are very monolithic. It's extremely rare that more moderate factions in a church actively state that they don't support the more fanatic groups within the same church.
To my thinking, that's a shame, because it instead shows us that the moderate factions share, and WANT TO share, the responsibility for what the fanatics say.
What I am referring to is the bills that allow the government to copy and supervise all your electronic communications, meaning all your phone calls, SMS:es, faxes, web surfing and so on, the ones that let the government detain people just because the president says they are "illegal combatants", and detain them indefinitely, the policies about "free speech zones", since apparently the rest of the country no longer has free speech, the suspension of habeas corpus, i.e. that the government doesn't even need to tell you WHY you're detained or what you're under suspicion of having done, the terrorist watch lists that now contain more than ONE MILLION names and interferes with people traveling, people having jobs, and so on, the harsher and harsher restrictions of what people are allowed to say in radio, TV and other media, and so on and so forth and so on and so forth ad nauseam.
Yeah, Bush f&!#ed up good. And if your life hasn't changed because of those changes, rest assured that it WILL, unless these policies are rolled back.
What he attempted to do was spread his fundamentalist christian views and values as far as they would be spread. It's the classic South Park quote:
"You people don't need food, you need bible!"
And when people act that way, spreading their own faith by forcing it on people who need help, what happens is people feel betrayed and used. Yay for american aid policy during the Bush presidency!
People keep saying untrue things about him, dear. Best example is how he saved people from HIV in Africa. I am sorry to spoil a little "we were right in voting for the guy anyway, weren't we?" thread, but such screed cannot be allowed to stand. I am sure there were things he did right, such as correctly picking his nose hairs, but on virtually ALL the things he did as president, the verdict is simply abysmal.
I do agree, however, that he did okay in protecting the american muslims from the anger 9/11 built up. However, they have been harassed by various departments, they lost virtually all civil liberties, all in the name of the Holy War on Terror, and I doubt they feel he did them any favours for putting them indefinitely to jail for sending money to their families abroad.
The fact is just that there are things a president shouldn't do. Destroying the right of the people to communicate unsupervised is one of those things. If nothing else, future historians will consider that his greatest crime.
You guys keep going on about his actions to fight HIV in Africa. Putting restrictions on information campaigns as a prerequisite to getting american aid, that's destroyed all he did and more. Because of Bush, the disease has spread MORE than it otherwise would. His actions, motivated by his personal belief that contraceptives and such is bad, has caused unnecessary deaths by HIV in Africa. Yay for his fight against HIV. Get it yet?
And as for him sticking to his guns: Yes. He stuck to them. Even in the face of massive evidence that doing so was wrong. He kept to his strategy in Iraq way beyond what anyone would have considered sane. Only when he ABSOLUTELY was FORCED to change tracks, did he allow change to happen. Sticking to one's guns is only a good thing if you're doing the right thing. Sticking to them when you have the wrong idea, well, that's when a president gets people killed.
Speaking of which: He kept America SAFE after 9/11? How many americans have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11? Not one bad word about those who answered when he called, but getting more americans killed than died at 9/11 is not a very good definition of safe, is it?
And finally, as for the economy: Clinton left a balanced account. Bush... did not. Do the maths.
Sure enough, the flak started coming in. Can't say I am too worried. People have complained about how people "show irrational hatred of Bush". You flak guys just demonstrated a severe tendency of irrational support of Bush. Perhaps it's because you don't like to think about how your votes 2000 and 2004 affected the world? And no, I have no obligation to be a better president before I can criticize the man. That's one of the things about being a president: EVERYONE can, and will, have an opinion about you. And his global gag rule, a.k.a. No abortions, no condoms, only abstinence if you want money, that's monstrous, and it's been singularly effective in spreading HIV severely in Africa. Read up on the numbers before you say stuff like "His HIV work in Africa was exemplary". Those numbers are pretty depressing.
Seriously, I was VERY worried that he would want the Rapture and all that to start, and pressing the button would probably have caused something very eschatological. So, apart from the Not being president anymore, I truly AM grateful I won't have to live the rest of my life in a postapocalyptic wasteland. Thank you, Bush, for not pressing the button!
Keep the flames coming, I have all the flame-repellant I need. =)
He did absolutely ALL within his power to destroy freedom of information, freedom of speech and freedom of communications, thereby doing EXACTLY what the terrorists wanted. His HIV-policies in Africa and other countries, with the "global gag rule" has probably done more than anything anyone has ever been able to do to SPREAD the disease effectively. He singlehandedly destroyed the entire economy of the West.
I am sorry. The only thing he COULD have done WORSE would be starting a global nukular war, which we can all be grateful he didn't. Three good things about him?
1) He's not president anymore.
To all you americans out there: Don't repeat performance Bush, ok?
Hello again, people.
you know the old saying you get what you ask for; well it is true. Everything in your life is what you have attracted though the reasons for such may be obscure at best and a whole lot of it is all perception based. Sometimes it takes years to find out why things happen the way they do; but everything has a purpose to someone, somewhere.
I've worked in health care for a long enough time not to agree with this. People die painfully for no reason. Children die from genetic wasting diseases. Yes, it's a part of being a human that eventually, you can see positive things even from things such as the death of a child... that does not mean that the child dying is meaningful. Neither does the idea of karma work. People absolutely don't get what they deserve, and I find the belief that they do very questionable in itself: If a four-year-old gets a cancer and dies over the course of a year, I refuse to believe this is because the child has been terribly evil and deserves to die.
Of course, it is a comfortable world-view to some that there is a great PLAN that has their lives already mapped out... but when life starts to go wrong, that belief isn't so comforting anymore.
You haven't explained your statement to any kind of satisfaction to me. I am still quite angry that you called me a savage.
I don't NEED ANYONE to tell me how to behave. I know how to behave, and my goal in life is not to fling feces on anyone. I respect the law, and I want to be a part of society... but society is NOT allowed to force me to pay lip service to anything I don't believe in. And if someone wants to take away my freedom of speech or my freedom of religion, they are THE ENEMY. Hence my view of christian lobbyists trying to institute blasphemy laws as THE ENEMY.
Read up on freedom of speech.
Keeping all official power away from formal religion is the way it's been for ages now. I notice that religion still exists. Don't give me anything about "total destruction of all religion". Religion only requires freedom of religion to live, and religion has that.
Oh, and I am NOT tolerated by you. You want to send me into the jungle. Big reason to respect your views, wouldn't you say?
The solution is simple. We keep respecting the civil liberties that are in place, no matter who wants to change them. No matter how good their goals with removing the liberties are. No matter how much better everything becomes "if we can just make this country christian". No matter who gets his religious or otherwise feelings hurt by other people's freedom of speech.
And for an example, you should know that the UN decided that a prohibition on hurting people's religious feelings would be a good idea. Of course, this was voted against by the entire western world, but the resolution passed. Part of this prohibition was that the declaration of human rights should be amended so that freedom of speech was only to be had under "responsibility" not to hurt religious feelings.
Does that sound serious to you?
It seems you do have a grasp of how democracy works, including the protection of the rights of minorities. Of course, this stands in contrast with the categorical statement you made before, that if the majority wants something, the minorities should always obey. And blaming me for various things doesn't change the fact that saying that atheists don't want anyone telling them they have to behave and that atheists want to act like savages is very offensive. As I said, it's a good example of why religious people should NOT be allowed to make policy despite protections that exist in various civil rights (blasphemy laws, for example, hurt freedom of speech, a law put into place to protect minorities from the majority). It is also a good example of the "tolerance" we can expect from an unchecked religious majority making policies.
If that is so, why do the "obnoxious christians" refer to what you call Old Law in how we should live today? Why is Creationism so important that we get a battle about it vs evolution, if it's just a document about what people believed back then? The problem is that more or less all christians refer to Jesus to show how their religion is tolerant and sensible, but then they quote Paulus or Leviticus when discussing how THEY think we should all live today.
Oh, and if you need to defend your faith or the bible from me, I think you have made some odd assumptions. The bible is what it is, no matter what you or I think of it. It doesn't need to be defended. Denying that it has certain monstrous things in it is rather unreasonable. And you certainly don't need to defend your own faith from me; I have never challenged your right to believe whatever you want.
Moff Rimmer, since you feel the need to keep bashing me even after I had left, I feel justified in getting back into this discussion.
It's inspiring that you seem to share my view of the bible as a historic document and not any sort of divine truth. Because, you know, if it were divine truth, it would be saying that we SHOULD be selling our daughters, even today. There are good numbers of other examples, such as God forcing Abraham to be ready to sacrifice his only son and so on.
If it's not divine truth, why should we follow the rules in it that are blatantly monstrous or stupid today? Why should anyone refer to things in the bible for legal, moral or ethical guidance, when so much of it is downright macabre today (genocide, group rape followed by dismemberment, and so on)?
Bubbagump, I have a problem with some things you have said that don't fit together very well.
How do these two statements fit together? Was the second one a good example of your own "tolerance", and is this what we can expect to learn from you?
Moff Rimmer, Bubbagump: You have your definitions, your views, and your ideas. When something says differently, I doubt you even see it. No matter how much I try to answer your questions, Moff, you don't think I do. Most likely, I don't give you the answers you want to hear. And Bubbagump: You proved more or less my every point about organized religion when you defended blasphemy laws because they were necessary to make people behave. You then followed this up by saying that minorities should always obey majorities in all things, and that if people don't act religious they are savages and shouldn't be allowed to live in your society.
I see very little reason to continue this discussion.
Have a nice discussion without me.
Okay, concerning freedom of religion, Bubbagump: What I am saying is that (like all other areas) you should be allowed to act in religious matters as you wish, as long as you respect others' right to do the same - including ignoring your wishes that they act certain ways. Regarding promoting your faith, feel free. Toward people OF your denomination, you can reasonably do as your religion teaches to affect their behaviour. However, where this stops is the point where you try to ignore the recruitment step and go right to the affecting behaviour. No matter your method to do this, you don't have a leg to stand on, because that freedom of religion that you enjoy also covers them -including freedom FROM your religion.
And no, not every belief system is a religion. Merely taking from your examples, you cite Hitler and Stalin as being atheists. I am not saying they were, but they serve as a good example that you don't consider every belief system a religion.
Moff Rimmer: I have explained in detail how I see the issues under debate, and yet you still don't understand them. You say there was nothing on the wikipedia "atheism" page on politics, so I suggest you read the part about "practical atheism" again. But in total, I have been under fire here from the start, trying to discuss with both you and Bubbagump who have been, shall we say, less than diplomatic at times. I consider it polite to answer questions as they are brought up, and I have been entirely busy defending myself from you both. If you now say that this means I do not listen, that's your call.
I, too, checked out the wikipedia page on atheism. Read it, because it's a pretty good one. Basically, atheism boils down to certain ideas:
Certainly, there is the idea of Strong atheism, meaning that one actively says there is no God. I would assume this is rather uncommon. Most professed atheists I have met are rather scientifically-minded, and if you are, saying something like that requires some sort of proof. Instead, they sort under the umbrella of Weak atheism, which means an agnostic position in the field of religion (we can't KNOW if there is a God or not), but in the political/sociological field they state that it doesn't MATTER whether there is a God, it's making exceptions to rules for those who believe in him that's a bad idea.
Like it or not, things like atheism usually isn't about dictionary definitions (like was noted about christianity as well) because those are just a teensy bit too simple to cover it.
For my personal position: I don't know if there is a superior spiritual being. I am not too sure I care either. When I look at the world, I see logic, natural laws, psychology and various more advanced fields of study (like economics) in action, never the hand of any sort of God. Some things ARE unexplained, but that's to be expected; it would be arrogance to assume we knew everything worth knowing today. I DO know, however, that a God as described in the bible (the entirety of it) doesn't exist. In that, I am a theodical atheist.
Remains the question of morality. I consider myself a highly moral person, but naturally with the flaws you'd expect everyone to have. I have thought long and hard about morality, and I have one that I'd respect in anyone else. Of course, it's a tall order, and normal life sometimes comes into my way. Again, I expect this is more or less the same for everyone. Regarding the religious books, I see no real morality there, only tenets designed to aid religious and social leaders in controlling the people under them. True, in some situations, these tenets are necessary to create a working society, but when they start discussing what I am allowed to think, for example, that's way off limits for anyone. I also note that there are a good number of things lacking in the moral rules, such as not intentionally inflicting harm on others and not enslaving others. There are rules that tell us monstrous things too: There are rules in Leviticus about how to responsibly go about selling your daughter. The qu'ran states quite clearly that someone who abandons the muslim faith must die for his crime.
That's not to say there aren't good things in there, but with the bible, it has to be an all-or-nothing prospect. Before you say it: Jesus states clearly that he does not change any sort of deal between God and the people. Most of the obnoxious christians also happily refer to the rules laid down in Leviticus. I suppose we can be happy that they don't too often stone their neighbors for breaking those rules.
I hold a great admiration for Jesus, by the way. He was one of mankind's great teachers, and the ideas that we should love our enemies and that forgiveness is central, that's what I call a higher revelation. But like all great teachers, his teachings have been usurped by the religion formed around him, which chooses to focus on the various mythological aspects of his life instead. How can being born from a mother impregnated by God, walking on water, curing the sick and restoring someone to life be more interesting than his message, especially considering how many other figures make just these "miracles"?
About heaven and hell, and exactly why organized religion is bad, you'll have to read my earlier posts. Too tired right now to go into that again. I'll just stick with Jesus' teaching on this: Heaven is within us all. I.e. it's not what happens after death.
Now I am just going to go live in the jungle, like the savage I am for not loving blasphemy laws designed to make me Behave. Oh, and perhaps that's for the best, because when the majority decides something, we minorities must all obey, no matter the cost to us personally. I really wouldn't like to live in such a society anyway. Yay, jungle!!!
Moff Rimmer wrote:
EXACTLY! It ISN'T a religious point of view! I knew I could get you to understand!
Because it isn't a matter of faith, it needs to be backed up, and so atheism only states what can be backed up. It would be stupid to demand that people accept what you say just because you believe it, wouldn't it?
Seriously: You seem not to have a very good understanding of atheism, so could you perhaps read up on it before you keep blurting out that it's a religion? You religious people seem to have a hard time accepting that not everything someone holds as relevant is religious in nature. It is also somewhat odd that you try to disqualify things like science by saying they are really religions too.
This continuing insistence on "atheism is a religion" is really getting a bit tiresome, Moff.
Moff Rimmer, since this seems to be a hard issue to digest:
I have yet to hear one atheist state that "there is no God". That is what YOU say atheists think.
The religious view associated with atheism is agnosticism, because saying anything more would require some sort of proof of nonexistence of God, and atheists know that that's impossible.
I say it again, atheism is a political view that says that organized religion is bad for society.
Here we go, this is where yo start equating atheism with various totalitarian and monstrous regimes we've seen. First off, I should say that Hitler made no move against the church. Indeed, the church liked him so much they only took exception with one of the leaders, I think it was Goebbels. He was excommunicated... for divorcing his wife. If this is the level we're discussing at, why don't we try Iran instead? You can fault that regime for many things, but being atheistic isn't one of them.
Now you're just not reading what I am saying. I have said repeatedly that atheism is a political view, not a religious one, one based on the idea that organized religion is bad. Atheists don't care what people believe in, as long as they don't try to force their beliefs on others. And from what you write, it seems you agree. "The non-believing party argues that religion (and Christianity in specific) are dangerous" says nothing about "having a problem with God". Stop pressing this issue, please, or find something new to say about it. Also, it should be well noted that what you've never seen happen is based on very few points of measurement, and can't be seen as even remotely relevant in this case.
Except that more doctors in a society makes people MORE happy, not less. Otherwise it's a cute comparison.
Are you perhaps saying that the greatest good is, well, something like "having people turn to christianity"? You understand that this is really proving my point, at least with regards to you?
Again, I would argue that what you have never seen, and have no reason to WANT to see, is completely and utterly irrelevant. And if you want to back this up with "your research", then show it. The rest of this seems to be based on very christian research.
As someone who has done quite a bit of scientific research, I must say you're on VERY shaky ground saying what you say here. It says to me that you should probably read up on Popper, specifically his demand for falsification. Intelligent design isn't any kind of scientific theory, because there is no test that could prove it false. As long as this is true, ID will remain a thinly veiled religious dogma/theory/whatever. And finally, evolution isn't a religious view, it is a very established and strong scientific theory, with all that that entails. In short, evolution has a given place in science class, ID belongs in religious teachings. And a good suggestion before trying these arguments again would be reading up on basic scientific theory and principles.
I have a problem with blasphemy laws for a good number of reasons. First: they stifle discussion about religious power over politics, and this is the main reason they are pushed by the religious people, but it's a very bad idea to put crimps in the public debate. That leads to unopposed takeover by unscrupulous people, less openness, and eventually to a more totalitarian government. There was a reason the first amendment was put into place in America, and that was so that all sorts of opinions could be voiced, something good for any country.Second: They are stringently used for what I mention under the first point, even if people pushing them always say that "it's to protect other people's religious feelings".
Third: They force people to pay respect to certain religions above others. Most such laws ban blasphemy against the dominant religion, but not others. Those laws are hypocrisy. Other such laws say that you aren't allowed to blaspheme against any religion. These are just plain impossible to uphold, because people don't even know what offends various religious movements.
These are merely some reasons.
Another VERY problematic point you bring up is when you say that what the majority wants, the minority complies with. This is what is called a majoriarchy, when the majority forces up to just below 50% of the population to comply with various things. The point of the rule of law is that this shouldn't happen. It's not okay for the majority to kill, or enslave, or do any number of stupid things to minorities. Blasphemy laws force people to pay lip service to gods they don't believe in, and that's convenient only for those who believe in those gods. Other people suffer for it, no matter if you've never seen it happen. Again, if this understanding doesn't come easily to you, read up on basic theory of democracy.
Now THIS is so much offensive screed that I don't know what to do with it. Even so, I'll try. Atheists don't want to be forced to comply with religious teachings of other people. Even so, they are highly moral people who behave politely and in a civilized manner. It's not a question of "behaving", it's a question of "being forced to behave LIKE THE RELIGIOUS PEOPLE WANT YOU TO".
I'll just end with: If you want everyone nearby to live according to your rules, go design a fundamentalist sect somewhere. It's not a good idea, but you do get your wish. Or else perhaps you shouldn't call me a savage.
Well, according to the discussion we've had above, it's pretty clear to me that organized religion more or less ALWAYS gives non-religious people a bad time, so I'd consider your question well answered to why it's so common that people become atheists due to bad-time-giving organized religion.
And: Again, very few atheists have a problem with God and people's personal feelings about such a being. What atheists do have a problem with is organized religion shoving their faith down the throats of the atheists in all kinds of ways ("you WILL go to church").
It's also interesting to note that there is, in several studies, an inverse proportionality between percentage of religious people in a country and measured quality of life in that country. Data on this shouldn't be hard to find. There are two possible interpretations of this finding:
1) People become religious because they are unhappy. This is extremely bad if true, because it makes it absolutely vital for churches to make sure people STAY unhappy. Otherwise they lose members. Many of the things we see done by religious people, such as working actively to limit free speech, seems to support this theory fully.
2) People become unhappy because they live in a religious country. This is the one I consider most likely. In a very religious country, people can't live as they prefer, but have to adapt to someone else's interpretation of some religion or other. Religious people make the policy decisions, and base these on what would make their religion stronger rather than on what would make the people in the country happy.
Oh, I should probably add that it's possible that it's BOTH 1) and 2).
And again, as I have stated before: If some atheists become vocal, it's very much NOTHING compared to what atheists have to take from religious people. Saying it's just as bad may be true, but it doesn't acknowledge the vast disparity in scale between the two phenomena.
I have run SCAP with eight players, which meant generally five or six, but at certain points down to three players. This actually worked just fine, despite the two-level-lag that the three players had due to splitting XP between more characters. What happened was that they were MUCH more cautious at those episodes, which took them in-game longer, but it worked generally fine. This is because every single fight cost them more, but not so much more that they couldn't rest up afterward.
However, even if the standard encounters are fine with two powered-up characters, you seriously need to watch out for some things. First off is the famously difficult battles, i.e. Aushanna, Nabthatoron, and so on. Check the other topics here for help with them. It may also be that some of those fights can be EASIER with fewer, but stronger characters. Second, some fights consist of massive numbers of enemies, such as with Ike Iverson and the battle at villa Rhiavadi. With a great disparity between the number of actions of heroes and villains, these fights can probably be very deadly. My suggestion for those is simply to cut down the number of foes.
I hope that helps you, let us know how it goes.
To be perfectly honest, I think the problem does exist, and it's not just the same with all viewpoints. In society today, religion has a taboo about it, that basically says "you aren't allowed to question people's religious acts, policies or tenets". The sensible taboo would be "you aren't allowed to question people's religious feelings", but it's grown so far beyond that today. There are massive amounts of religious people who press this taboo further, and want to use it to stifle discussion about their religious practices, law-changing campaigns, and so on. At this point, the religious people who do this (and a good number of others) say that "hey, look at Hitchens and Dawkins, they're doing the same thing to us!!1!!"
However, the proportions are nowhere near the situation where that could be relevant. The religious people are everywhere, and campaign wildly for their viewpoints. Atheists are very, very few in comparison. And laws keep getting changed every day in America, laws that more or less directly strive to give the religious viewpoint complete dominance. Atheists fear, and quite rightly so, that this process will turn America into a theocracy. Some areas of concern are: prohibition of abortion, children being forced to learn intelligent design in school, and limited freedom of speech due to various suggested blasphemy laws. Each of these areas have serious and wide-ranging consequences that are generally ignored by religious campaigners.
As I have previously stated, being forced into paying lip service to some God is, for an atheist, exactly as bad as for a christian to be forced into obeying another religion. However, very few religious campaigners see this as a problem. Can you religious people understand that some atheists become very vocal about this?
Stating that one is an atheist doesn't mean you claim to have any sort of proof that there isn't a God. It merely means that you see organized religion as a very serious problem facing every human society. Generally speaking, atheists don't have anything against people being religious, as long as those religious people don't try to force their religion upon the atheist, or force them to comply with religious tenets through lawmaking or other methods.
Speaking as someone who has quite a bit of experience with people suffering from psychosis, I'd say you raise an interesting question. We are agreed that some religious experiences are due to mental or neurological illness. However, you say that when considering these things, the general mental health of the person must also be taken into account. I understand that view, at least partly, but it also seems that the other side of that coin is problematic. If we accept the existence of "real" religious experiences, i.e. ones truly caused by God, what says that a person currently psychotic can't have a real religious experience? What are your thoughts on this?
Again, I used the catholic church because its practices were a good example of what I meant. It's also an organization with a fairly massive number of members. And, finally, it's the original form of christianity, and thus rather important to the tenets of other christian movments, like it or not. All in all, I think it's fair to question their practices, but they are by no means alone in having weird practices.
To another question of yours, Moff: Most people turn to religion to find the question of "how to live a good, fulfilling life". If religion can't provide that, it's doing a whole lot of false marketing. And I don't see that we need all those "you must" and "you cannot". Is there anything fundamentally wrong with providing guidelines and suggestions to how to deal with difficult situations where we all need guidance? Perhaps the role of the church shouldn't be to order its members around, but to guide them?
Bubbagump: It's trolling to put in such a comment, I agree. However, there is a related question there, and it's quite relevant to this discussion. By its very nature, a religious experience is deeply personal. This makes it impossible for someone else to relate to it. Even two religious persons, who have both had such experiences, can't know they had the same experience, because there aren't words enough to describe it. Would you say that's a fair description? We also know that our brains are vulnerable to suggestion, for example if you really want something, your brain has a tendency to see everything that happens in the light of what you want. We know that religious experiences happen in the right temporal lobe of the brain, and that many who have for example epileptic symtoms in that area get various strongly religious experiences. Note that I am not saying that this proves anything about God not existing; I see it as entirely possible that if God exists, he put a hotline into our brains. The main question becomes: can those of us who have no religious experiences find any guidance in what religious people tell us about their experiences, given that such experiences are so deeply personal?
Well, in the interest of not feeding trolls, I will just state that I am hereby deciding to ignore Bubbagump, until such a time as he can prove himself not to be a troll.
What I would have liked to see, Moff, was a reasoning on how to live a good, fulfilling life, in terms that did not read like "controlling the masses 101". One of the things I don't do is use people's ignorance to exploit them. Just using the catholic church, there are tons of examples of this thinking, sadly. First off, the council at Nicea was ordered by emperor Constantin, and the big people of the early christian churches were there on pain of death. Inconvenient books like the gnostic texts that were considered part of christianity were stricken from the records. Oddly enough, many of those texts focused on the divinity within each and every human, and of an individual faith. With time, various strange practices grew, such as confessing one's sins (gives priests and above all the church TONS of dirt on everyone), indulgences (gave the church a majority of the land in Europe at one time), suppression of nonbelievers' views (and burnings of those who dared question dogma), populistic practices (every society can easily find people they like to burn, such as witches), and, all in all, an EXTREMELY wealthy and powerful church.
You know... how to live a good, fulfilling life needn't be riddled with stuff you should do so that the church can more easily control you.
Another thing: I would have liked not having to do all these bizarre practices. Christianity isn't the worst at this. Orthodox judaism is much worse, with every ounce of time regulated with things to do that you have to really believe to appreciate. From what I've heard, buddhism is also riddled with this.
Living a good, fulfilling life shouldn't mean you have to jump backwards on one foot every time you enter a room, or sacrifice doves with every menstruation.
And finally, I would have liked not having all those taboos, viciously exploited by all sorts of religious movements. Some examples are not mixing milk and meat, or not eating shellfish, or not taking insurances, or not THINKING in various ways. Most studies on this subject show that taboos survive for far longer than proscriptions, because they are a tool for discerning who is in-group and who is out-group. All in all, this seems to me to be pandering to mankind's lowest instincts.
Living a good, fulfilling life shouldn't require people to give up everything that's good about this life, only to give them a not-provable Heaven after they're dead and can no longer tell about whether it was true or not.
So... there is a lot I don't like about the religious systems we have so far. And to nobody's surprise, I am not a believer. When I see a message that can convince me that living this way would be a good, fulfilling life, then I'll think about it again.
Thanks, Erian. =) Science's take on religion is that somewhere around 25% of us have the capacity to feel true religious feelings, and thus feel the need to do so. Beyond this, I'd speculate that most of the rest have some sense of spiritual feelings and needs, and that a fair portion of those remain part of some religious movement due to social or other reasons. However, to many of those who do NOT have the capacity to feel religious feelings, being forced to pay lip service to a church/God/whatever is more or less just as horrible as for a deeply religious person to be forced to join another religion. It's just not enough to say that "it's still good for you". Moff, you are a christian, right? I'd assume it's a part of you that you couldn't deny even if you wanted to.
Now imagine what it'd be like to be to grow up in a family where they forced you to go through the motions of serving another religion. I've spoken to a good number of those who were forced into christianity by uncaring parents, always motivated by "it's good for you even if you hate it". What tends to happen is that these children grow up into hating everything that christianity stands for, and see christianity as utterly Evil. As soon as they are able, they leave home, and most become very determined atheists. At least, this is my experience of those people.
For myself, I had the luck to be born into a family where pressing me into paying lip service to anything wasn't a priority. My parents never told me what parties they voted for, for example. At times I wished they would tell me, of course, because it would have been easier, but they let me find my own way. And perhaps not so strangely, I ended up believing in more or less exactly the same things they believed in.
And finally, as for religion, I didn't find anything I liked. All the systems of belief I studied spoke to me more of "how to control the masses" than of "how to live a good and fulfilling life". That's where cynicisms like the catholic Hell sting. And, because I do try to act in a good manner, I found that I could not lend myself to supporting "how to control the masses".
And another thing, what would it have meant for me to "just accept it"? I would have had to deny a very central part of myself. You see... not feeling religious feelings, not getting answers to your prayers, not seeing the hand of God in all things... those things are all parts of what and who I am. So, to me having to "just accept it" would be just as bad to me as for you to "just accept" some other religion, if my guess is correct.
We do not choose who we are. But if we can't be tolerant of those different from us, none of us humans will survive.
I do not have a bone to pick with the Catholic church specifically. The reason I used it as an example was that it has a very specific view of Hell. I live in Sweden, and our lutheran until-recently state religion has officially stated that Hell is no longer part of their dogma.
As for what religions I have looked seriously at: Well, let's see. Judaism, catholicism, various smaller churches of protestantism, islam, mormons, jehova's witnesses. Yes, this limits my experience to various constructs of biblical religions, but it's hard to come by hinduists, buddhists, shintoists and so on where I live.
Erian: You are very perceptive. It seems you have insight, and I'd be prepared to respect you for that insight even if you weren't religious. You correctly understood that I have something against formal and organized religion. What people believe for themselves, that's up to them. But when people force their religious views on their children, that's not okay. I have talked to so many who were in this situation and suffered throughout their childhood for it. When religious people use their religion to force others to conform to their tenets under the guise of "you hurt my religious feelings", that's absurd. And when there are laws made that promote one religious view over all other views, that's not okay either.
Moff Rimmer: You want the questions that I want answered?
I'll just give you one: If God is omnipotent, and omniscient, and omnibenevolent, why does the world look like it does, with lynch mobs, food riots, murder, corruption, torture, mass executions, pollution and so on?
And before you start on the free will argument: that isn't a problem for an OMNIPOTENT and OMNISCIENT God. It's just one of "those answers", you know?
Throughout my searching, I found things in all the religious movements I looked at that made me cringe. I am an intellectual person; I want to have answers before I "just accept it". Now, many have told me belief isn't an intellectual process, and I acknowledge it isn't. However, I put in all the effort I possibly could, for a good long time, and I got nothing. Perhaps I am not equipped with "belief circuits", but if so, must I burn in Hell forever for being who I am?
And many more consider Tertullian one of the fathers of the catholic church. I brought him up because he was one of those who helped form the christian view of Hell.
Now, as for my run-ins with priests, theologists, and religious people during my years of searching, I can say it wasn't just one person. They ALL gave me those answers, either standard noncommittal fare like "it's okay, Jesus loves you", or simplistic references to various scriptures, or things that basically amounted to "just accept it". Seeing how religious people treated me when I wanted to believe did give me a sour aftertaste.
Back to Hell: It may be that you could clothe the doctrine of Hell in more pleasant clothes today, things not as monstrous as eternal torture. But again, Hell in the eyes of the catholic church isn't like that. I have discussed this with many catholics, including priests, and what I took away from those meetings has generally been that Hell in catholicism is a very real place, with very concrete punishments. And if you look at it throughout history, it's even more concrete, told of in loving, overflowing detail how horrible its physical punishments are. There are even children's books about the horrible punishments that small children endure in Hell.
Sum total: If we accept that God made this world, both physically and metaphysically, and the doctrine of Hell is correct, we get a God who designed a Hell for us to burn in if we didn't choose the right way to honour him. And just to make it easier, he told a lot of different people about this stuff in different ways, resulting in thousands of religious movements that all claim to be the One True Path. If Hell is the absence of a guy like that: count me in.
So I can't state that some people hold something as a fact without BELIEVING IT MYSELF???
Let me just state that I have done my searching, and I found religion wanting. The answers were never that impressive, at least to me. And while asking and seeking a truth about original sin, whether babies go to hell, and so on, I was more or less handed only "just accept it".
As for the view of Hell that most scares me in its utter wickedness, perhaps a quote from Tertullian could be a good example:
The doctrine of Hell is a singularly wicked thing, and trying to repair the issue by adding ideas of original sin, of limbo and the like and so on does not help it.
Nonono. It's not an act of kindness to kill a child, because that child has ORIGINAL SIN. Obviously a theological necessity for this very reason, but also a rather odd idea that tells us that children are, basically, evil. This is, of course, due to the fact that Eve disobeyed God a very long time ago.
Needless to say, it's something most non-religious people find very hard to accept.
But those sources have something in common: they are either religious or ideologically utopian. All these writings provide so-called higher goals that can be used as the ends for any means you like.
Without ALL those sources, both religious and ideologically utopian, humanity will be forced to accept that all we really CAN do is use our lives to make this world perhaps a little bit better. And it's not really a question of removing those sources, it's just a question of viewing them as sometimes interesting historical documents. That should make us able to ignore them when what they say is monstrous, incomprehensible, stupid or just plain bizarre. We can still view the good parts as relevant.
Well then, see my third point. An afterlife GIVES us excuses to behave badly. Some people send their children to blow themselves up in the face of a lot of people they don't know. They typically do this so that their children will come to heaven.
I think that without easily available excuses, we will have to learn responsibility for ourselves and our actions.
I think it's interesting that people see an afterlife as necessary, because people would otherwise behave badly. Why do people think this? I have thought long and hard about the question, and I see no such necessity.
The basic issue is one of reward and punishment. I get that people enjoy thinking the one who plagued them during life gets thrown into eternal torture. I understand that people want to feel like they can live forever, and that they will eventually meet all their loved ones in Heaven. But rewards come because we do good acts in this life as well. Hold the door at the bus for someone, and you usually get a smile, for a low-level example. Certainly, not everyone takes time to smile at us, but then, we don't act well to get a reward, do we? Rather it's more of a feeling that by doing this, the world perhaps becomes a tiny bit brighter. This is where I feel the idea of Heaven becomes problematic. If it's an utterly just reward, and its existence is a certainty, doing those good acts doesn't really impress. You're just "making partial payments for Heaven access", using other people to grab the greatest prize of all, eternal bliss. I am much more impressed by someone who takes time of day to help someone when there ISN'T a certain reward forthcoming.
As for the Hell part of it, do we need it to behave? I say no. People who do bad things DO end up paying for them. It's not coincidence that most cultures have sayings like "what goes around, comes around". As a fact of life, ever since the first recorded societies, a massively important task of those societies have been to punish those who do bad things to others. We know from studies on humans, and on many animals, that the need to punish someone for a perceived injustice is a deeply rooted need. Certainly, there are those who DO get off easy, but they are very few and extremely far between. And does failure to punish some bad-thing-doers hurt the rest of us? A little, usually. A bit more, rarely. Again, revenge is not seen as a popular thing in many cultures, for example the christian culture.
Finally: Certainty of an afterlife is a HUGE problem. I have met many christian people who see this eartly existence only as a preparation for life in heaven. This means that what happens to this world is basically irrelevant, and giving up everything in this life such as happiness, responsibility, freedom and so on means nothing. To my thinking, NOT having an afterlife would force us to do better than we do. If people only have this one life, we couldn't say things like "kill them all and let God sort out his own" or "who cares whether you suffer, you'll get your reward in Heaven". With just one life, I believe we'd have to show one another some respect, and start valuing lives a bit better than we do.
I have high respect for those who live according to the values they believe in, even if it costs them something, naturally somewhat dependent on the values. For example, I have met very impressive people who are christians, who act in good ways and don't force their beliefs down the throats of those who don't want to listen. This is a fact, and I wonder if it's not part of why people consider religion a necessity for living a good life.
However, it's not. Thing is, anyone acting in a morally well thought-out manner lives a good life, and can be an inspiration to anyone. But doesn't religion give us morals? Absolutely not. We are moral creatures, we understand what is good and what is not. However, in complex situations, it's very important that you make a moral standard of your own. Now, anyone can do this, and not only from religious sources. Fact is, even if you DO get your morals from the bible, or the quran, you STILL need to choose how to evaluate various parts of the teachings of those books.
It should be obvious that even deeply religious people can do horrible things, and some can't even see that these things are horrible even to their religious teachings.
There was an interesting study made about this subject. You took a number of fundamentalist religious people and a number of atheists, and put the question "if you would suffer no consequences of it from the outside world, would you kill a helpless man?" to them. Everyone answered "No." Then you asked them "if you knew there was no God, and you would suffer no outside consequences for doing so, would you kill a helpless man?" The atheists said "No." But the religious people...
Many of them apparently answered "Yes."
This shows something interesting: Morals are either based on external codices like the bible or other texts, or the individual struggles to find a set of morals he can accept for himself. Now... given this, it's understandable if religious people, who generally tend to assume morality is dependent on religious teachings, see atheists as dangerous. Simply put, religious people can't see that atheists have ANY morals.
Hmmm. It may be that there are more options. These two were really just all I could think of that were based on the "you mustn't hurt people's religious feelings". There are other possible arguments for following tenets of various religions, such as perhaps some of them are the law somewhere, but I am really just discussing those based on respecting others' religious feelings. Feel free to suggest other alternatives to my two options. =)
And mainstream catholicism and islam were really only examples. Substitute with methodist/flying spaghetti monsterism/buddhism/judaism/presbyterian/calvinist/jehova's witnesses or anything you like.
My main point is: live and let live. Don't force your beliefs on anyone not part of your religious movement. It's a really good idea too: without this, we get intolerance at scales we've never even been able to imagine before. And yes: many religious people act every day to force nonbelievers into following the tenets of their religions. This is things like censoring stuff in the newspapers that doesn't follow your tenets, not selling alcohol to anyone on sundays, and so on.
You say that following ALL edicts of ALL religions is impossible... yet ignore the follow-up question: Why should I respect one religion I am not part of, and not another? Are the religious feelings of mainstream catholicism more important not to hurt than those of muslims?
There are two demands in this:
"I want you to respect MY religious feelings by observing the tenets of MY religion, don't worry about those other religions and their tenets" - this is hypocrisy, and should never be taken seriously by anyone. In effect, it says that you should follow certain tenets because hurting the religious feelings of the one demanding this is worse than hurting the religious feelings of other people.
"I want you to respect the religious feelings of EVERYONE by observing the tenets of ALL religions" - this has some moral merit that the other kind lacks, but is sadly utterly impossible due to the sheer volume of work involved.
So, neither is acceptable basis for changing any sort of behaviour. People should follow the tenets of whatever religion (if any) they follow, and extend basic courtesy to all other people. Those religions that can't accept this are in the wrong.
And yes, it is a rant. Even so, it's an important point that so many people today miss.
Moff Rimmer: I have not been uncivil. You have been going out of your way to misinterpret what I am saying, mostly using misquotes and quotes taken out of context. It makes me wonder what I've done to upset you.
I have not in any way, shape or form, criticized this thread. I repeat that: I have not criticized this thread.
I have not said that anything anyone said here was ridiculous. I repeat that too: I have not said that anything here was ridiculous.
The point of my post was that when religious people demand observance of the tenets of their religion by people not of their religion, they want something none of us are able to give. Even if we wanted, we could not observe the tenets of all religious movements. We couldn't do it if we devoted our entire lives to ONLY doing that. We couldn't even find out HOW to do it if we devoted our entire lives to ONLY doing THAT. There are many thousands of moderately small to largish to massively huge religious movements, and this is what I mean by saying an effort to live in accordance with their tenets is RIDICULOUS.
To which you could say: But you only have to do this with religions of people who are nearby. No, because this goes just as much for newspapers, schooling systems and so on. Massive numbers of religions have people who read New York Times, and they can't do this either.
Another argument could be: But really, the only important religion to respect is the one I am from, who cares about the rest of them? The answer to that is that it would be the height of hypocrisy to reason this way, and really not worthy of respect.
So how do well-meaning people adapt to these demands? As I said, everyone is entitled to basic courtesy. Every other demand is, and must be, off limits. If religious people can't handle that, they should rethink their religion and what it demands of its environment.
Moff Rimmer: Don't answer this if you do so only to find things to get angry about. Please answer it if you seriously wish to discuss what I have said.