ForumsWEPRThe Religion Debate Thread

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nichodemus
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So yeah, our threads on religion have long since died out, so I figured it would be time to start afresh here!

Do you believe God exists (I know almost all of you don't)? Do you feel religion is important today? Is it a force for good? Discuss everything related to that here!

I'm going to start the ball rolling:

We all know about the rise of ISIS and the terrible acts it perpetuates. Does that show that Islam and religion in general is an awful concept? Is it the people who twist it? Or is it fundamentally an evil force?

Roping in the WERP frequenters
@MageGrayWolf @Kasic @Hahiha @FishPreferred @Doombreed @09philj

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HahiHa
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HahiHa
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We all know about the rise of ISIS and the terrible acts it perpetuates. Does that show that Islam and religion in general is an awful concept? Is it the people who twist it? Or is it fundamentally an evil force?

I think Daesh is a bad example. It is based on an extremist movement of Islam, and many followers aren't even particularly religious to begin with. It is a violent ideology grown out of past political world events.

I am personally not a big friend of religion as a whole and don't consider it a 'force for good' for several reasons, but I don't think it is 'evil' per se either. It depends on what people make of it, and how society shapes it.
Doombreed
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Doombreed
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Do you believe God exists?

I would say yes, since I consider myself to be an agnostic theist. Of course, using "existence" in a very relative, subjective and abstract way. I also think we are not meant to know really. We probably cannot even fathom the real answer.

Is it a force for good?

I believe "god" takes a more passive role. a being such as this cannot be classified as "good" or "evil", at least not by our standards as humans.

We all know about the rise of ISIS and the terrible acts it perpetuates. Does that show that Islam and religion in general is an awful concept? Is it the people who twist it? Or is it fundamentally an evil force?

Islam is still just a religion. So basically it is the people who twist it, to answer the question. Religion, even if somewhat conservative and backward is not a fundamentally evil force. The evil comes from the fanaticism which can come from any obsession with anything for that matter.


I am personally not a big friend of religion as a whole and don't consider it a 'force for good' for several reasons, but I don't think it is 'evil' per se either. It depends on what people make of it, and how society shapes it.

So you would say that society has a say too in 'how much of a big deal' it becomes? Sure it plays an important part, but it is not the only or the primary factor in my opinion. Hence why the ISIS can recruit members from the first world through the Internet.

HahiHa
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HahiHa
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I would say yes, since I consider myself to be an agnostic theist. Of course, using "existence" in a very relative, subjective and abstract way. I also think we are not meant to know really. We probably cannot even fathom the real answer.

If we are not meant to know, and cannot fathom the answer anyway, one could ask 'then why care?' Am I right in assuming your everyday life isn't impacted much by your belief?

So you would say that society has a say too in 'how much of a big deal' it becomes? Sure it plays an important part, but it is not the only or the primary factor in my opinion. Hence why the ISIS can recruit members from the first world through the Internet.

On the contrary, it has a lot to do with society, at least concerning Daesh and their internet propaganda. Granted, every religion/sect usually tends to appeal to or target marginalized people looking for context, but Daesh uses this a lot in their propaganda. Most radicalized youth weren't particularly religious to begin with, as I said, and I don't think they get much theological education afterwards either. Sure, radical imams working with Daesh are an integral part of the radicalization process, but does their hate-filled preaching really have that much to do with religion? I don't know. It is this feeling of being disconnected from society in their home countries that make those youths ideal targets. Besides, their chosen scape-goat is not so much Christianity as it is "the West" as a whole, and their goal is to show that 'our' democracy is hypocritical and weak.
nichodemus
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One thing that bugs me about religion is much of the text that it is based upon; these holy scriptures/teachings/books often are steeped in extremity, both in the imagery and message (at least in contemporary times).

If we have to keep re-interpreting the Bible, or the Quran, or any of these texts to fit into a more modern, less violent image, what does it say about the universality of religion and its teachings? And from there, what does it say about religion as a concept?

Swarmlord2
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I most certainly am not religious. Most religions are good if people do as they are 'meant' to. Extremism usually goes against the fundamental rules of a religion and is almost always very bad. I know that religion can help some people feel better about things but my opinion (I'm being honest, no offence meant to religious people) is that almost all religions are just a way that people thousands of years ago made up to explain what they could not. Through organised religion and indoctrination of children, this has continued despite our current understanding of the universe and the evidence against religion. What a lot of it comes down to is people trying to find a way to escape the depressing truth of our mortality and how nothing anybody ever has done or will do shall matter when everybody is dead.

Doombreed
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Am I right in assuming your everyday life isn't impacted much by your belief?

Yes. In fact, not at all.

Besides, their chosen scape-goat is not so much Christianity as it is "the West" as a whole, and their goal is to show that 'our' democracy is hypocritical and weak.

But they still target the 'unfaithful'. Their target is not Christianity sure, but it is everything but Islam. And in their videos, they mostly talk (from what I understand at least) about the superiority of Islam (hence the term 'Islamic State'). So it may have some more to do with religion than with general hatred.

If we have to keep re-interpreting the Bible, or the Quran, or any of these texts to fit into a more modern, less violent image, what does it say about the universality of religion and its teachings? And from there, what does it say about religion as a concept?

The interpretation has always been up to us, as such, the universality and the general image of religion was always for us to decide. If we have to keep re-interpreting the Bible or the Quran, it is simply what we have always been doing. Sure it may mean that the whole concept is not that universal and even somewhat conservative but everything changes with time, so why not that?

What bugs me the most is that the theological education of most religions does not focus on what it should. Every religion bears an important message and that is what should draw people and drive them to creative extremes of humane behavior. Christianity's primary message is that of forgiveness and love. Interpreting everything by the book and following every single word to the letter never works and was not the point even in ancient times. When God supposedly asked men to "keep the law in mind before doing anything" he didn't mean to construct wooden boxes in which to place scrolls containing the 10 commandments and tie those boxes around their foreheads (which is what the Pharisees did). But no, even now we see priests and other religious people, even Christians, judging their fellow men with a 'Holier-than-thou' attitude, utterly persistent in their beliefs and of course, missing the point of love and forgiveness towards all men.

Swarmlord2
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If I were to be competely honest, I would say that almost every part of religion is nonsensical but I understand most of it and respect religious people (for their religion, at least. Most people I don't care about anyway). It only really matters when it gets in the way of other things in life.

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nichodemus
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Those are some very good points you raised @Doombreed

I still can't help but feel that humanity would do much much better without religion. Not now, I don't believe in throwing out the entire edifice right now, when religion still plays a massive role for good and progress for people (Especially the poorer nations). But I still think that ultimately, clinging on to religion would lead to much anguish. At least in its current state.

Re the universality point: If religion isn't as universal and timeless as it claims to be, then doesn't that ruin its foundations somewhat?

Moegreche
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Moegreche
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If religion isn't as universal and timeless as it claims to be, then doesn't that ruin its foundations somewhat?

This is a such a great question (and a nice idea on the thread, btw) that I thought I'd weigh in.
One worry is that religious truths are no longer objective truths - instead they are only true relative to some period of time or culture. This worry hangs on the idea that religious truths change throughout time. But this isn't so much a worry since objective truths can - and do - change throughout time. Currently it's true that Paris is the capital of France. But from 1722 - 1944 this statement was false.

But I think the worry you're after (and, ultimately, the more compelling worry) is that these truths should be immutable. The standard response I see here is that they are immutable, but we just don't have immediate access to some of these truths. In other words, religion X could say that P in an attempt to get at an immutable truth, say, P*. P might be close to P* to a certain degree. But ultimately, this is an issue of epistemic access to these truths rather than the status of these truths.

We can see this approach in Catholicism. There are certain truths within than religion - called dogma - that are immutable. But there are other claims within this religion that are accepted but can also be changed. One example is the notion of Limbo, which was part of Catholicism but no longer is.

Doombreed
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I still can't help but feel that humanity would do much much better without religion. Not now, I don't believe in throwing out the entire edifice right now, when religion still plays a massive role for good and progress for people (Especially the poorer nations). But I still think that ultimately, clinging on to religion would lead to much anguish. At least in its current state.

Well, I would say that humanity would definitely be better off without extremism. There is nothing wrong with religion by itself like there is nothing wrong with sports, but we still get hooligans for example. As Hahiha pointed out, this has a lot to do with general hatred too, not just religion (even if it is primarily religion or if it simply uses religion as an excuse). Anyone can use anything as a way to exercise their capacity for violence.

FishPreferred
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But this isn't so much a worry since objective truths can - and do - change throughout time. Currently it's true that Paris is the capital of France. But from 1722 - 1944 this statement was false.
That isn't a change in objective truth; that's an incomplete description of two objective truths.
HahiHa
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We can see this approach in Catholicism. There are certain truths within than religion - called dogma - that are immutable. But there are other claims within this religion that are accepted but can also be changed. One example is the notion of Limbo, which was part of Catholicism but no longer is.

In my opinion Limbo is exactly one of those examples that show how society changes religion, with a little lag of course. Our perspective of children used to be very different; the strongly decreasing infant mortality increased the importance of children in our society and thus also the status of their soul, so-to-speak. Thus Limbo, the place unbaptized children were supposedly going after they died, has been ditched.

Like nicho, I am feeling that this abandoning/adapting of dogmas over time is contrary to what the ideal true religion is expected to be. Instead, you have a cult reflecting our society and history, and evolving with it. Which I kind of appreciate, considering the amount of stoning we would have to do otherwise...
MageGrayWolf
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The interpretation has always been up to us, as such, the universality and the general image of religion was always for us to decide. If we have to keep re-interpreting the Bible or the Quran, it is simply what we have always been doing. Sure it may mean that the whole concept is not that universal and even somewhat conservative but everything changes with time, so why not that?

If it's all up for interpretation and reinterpretation doesn't any actually message it's suppose to convey get lost? Essentially it just becomes a "big book of multiple choice" as it were.

Doombreed
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If it's all up for interpretation and reinterpretation doesn't any actually message it's suppose to convey get lost? Essentially it just becomes a "big book of multiple choice" as it were.

Definitely, at least, parts of it. So it is essentially not as universal and timeless as originally thought. But personally, I am glad that the essential things, the lessons of love and forgiveness still come across. Maybe nicho is right. Maybe it would have been better if there was no religion to begin with. But since there is, I am content with the...universality of that message even as things are right now (meaning, after the re-interpretations and everything since the ancient times)

HahiHa
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Definitely, at least, parts of it. So it is essentially not as universal and timeless as originally thought. But personally, I am glad that the essential things, the lessons of love and forgiveness still come across. Maybe nicho is right. Maybe it would have been better if there was no religion to begin with. But since there is, I am content with the...universality of that message even as things are right now (meaning, after the re-interpretations and everything since the ancient times)

Love and forgiveness may be a central tenet of certain religions, but those values are not exclusive to those religions. Do you think that religions actively help spreading those values, or would secular groups in a society without religions do as good a job?
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