I know what led me here, and I also know that my original premise was faulty. I came here (atheism) straight out of Christianity. I hadn't, at that point, read any other religious texts. I just went on hearsay (mostly from my friends/family that were Christians) that all the other religions were false. When I figured out theirs was as well, it was pretty much right to atheism. Now, I'm backtracking and studying as many other religions as I possibly can. I know I'm right, as an atheist, but it just got me wondering:

How many of you out there are still studying other religions?

I do it constantly, both to become more well-rounded (not EVERYTHING in all those religious books is bullshit, just most of it), and to know how to debate against any type of theist I come across. I know a lot, if not most of you, have read the bible... But who here, like me, has read or is reading the Koran, the Vedas, I Ching, the Dhammapada, etc.? I talk to a lot of atheists who can virtually destroy one of the aforementioned religions, but they seem content with what they've learned. When I make an attempt to teach them more, I get something along the lines of "Who cares? Religion is all crap anyways!" I don't get it. Isn't that the same close-mindedness that we fight to discourage? Is atheism becoming a trend, which is sprouting mindless followers (thinking S.E. Cupp, if she actually IS an atheist) of it's own?

Maybe I'm fucking crazy (no comments on this line, please), maybe I've just got too much time on my hands, but it sometimes seems like I'm alone in my quest to learn as much as I can about my passion.

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A life without religion, or it's study, is certainly something that has it's merit. One almost needs to be a recluse in the backwoods to completely avoid the daily interactions that has religion at it's roots. Such is the fate of we southern U.S. unbelievers.

What parts of it are crap and why? This is why we should know what we're talking about.

Once you stop thinking you 'know everything', school is always in session!

I agree that you don't need to have a thorough understanding of other religions to know what you believe. Belief is personal. The only duty you have to your belief is to seek out evidence for the validity of what you believe.
Just like your beliefs are yours alone, the evidence you need will have personal significance. Your evidence will not be the same as someone else's.

That being said, I think you would be wise to find evidence that supports your beliefs rather than look for evidence that refutes someone else's. When you are secure in your own beliefs and have evidence to support your beliefs, you will be able to 'debate' a theist as effectively as possible considering that they have chosen to abandon logical thought.

Of course if your just curious about what motivates other people or how they think, as a lot if anthropologists and psychologists are, studying other religions would be a hobby of interest. Keep in mind though, that most theists do not know what the religious texts actually say. They know what their religious leaders have selected and interpreted for them.
Religion is one of the most powerful forces in our world and may well contribute a world war if left unchecked. To stay ignorant of it is... ignorant. No, you don't have to be an expert but to say it doesn't matter is stupid.

Religion is an interesting phenomenon, when you step outside of it and study how it affects people.

I've personally found some critical study of the bible to be interesting.

As far as value of studying other religions.  Is the point to see if, maybe, one of them is true?  Certainly you can glean a wise saying or two from them, but that's an awfully high noise-to-signal ratio there!  But if it's possible to conclude that one god is bogus on the grounds that he is purported to be supernatural, then any god that is purported to be supernatural must be bogus.  To make an analogy to illustrate what I just said, if I know, before opening the book, that it will be based entirely on the claim that 2+2=367, then if I am seeking "truth" I can save myself the effort.  On the other hand, if I am looking for sheer entertainment or trying to understand the mindset of people who think 2+2=367, reading the thing might be just what I want.

I'm interested in the cultural processes that lead people to believe in dogmas and authority, and I'm most interested in why people consciously choose specific dogmas and authorities over others. The success of L. Ron Hubbard's brainwashing techniques in Scientology on intelligent people is what got me most fascinated in human gullibility and the human "need" for feeling of belonging and purpose. Hopefully I'll learn more about gangs this term in school. It's all related, imo! We are all social beings, amped up on artificial explanations for our existence.

Pope Beanie - have you seen this article?  Two Key Steps in the Evolution of Human Cooperation - Michael Tomas....  I found it excellent, and it gives an account of the evolution of cultural norms.  Basically it's for the purpose of coordinating group actions once the group reaches a certain size.  It's also for the purposes of group identification.  Spoiler alert.  

 It's also for the purposes of group identification.  Spoiler alert.  

Hahaha! The "Spoiler alert" actually made me laugh out loud. Bravo, sir. You have done something rare.

That looks like a pretty good article, thank you. It starts out with the paragraph, below.

Modern theories of the evolution of human cooperation focus mainly on altruism. In contrast, we propose that humans’ species-unique forms of cooperation—as well as their species-unique forms of cognition, communication, and social life—all derive from mutualistic collaboration (with social selection against cheaters). In a first step, humans became obligate collaborative foragers such that individuals were interdependent with one another and so had a direct interest in the well-being of their partners. In this context, they evolved new skills and motivations for collaboration not possessed by other great apes (joint intentionality), and they helped their potential partners (and avoided cheaters). In a second step, these new collaborative skills and motivations were scaled up to group life in general, as modern humans faced competition from other groups. As part of this new group-mindedness, they created cultural conventions, norms, and institutions (all characterized by collective intentionality), with knowledge of a specific set of these marking individuals as members of a particular cultural group. Human cognition and sociality thus became ever more collaborative and altruistic as human individuals became ever more interdependent.

Perhaps altruism is a realistic goal that can be encultured, even if it's not genetically instantiated... as long as it doesn't get too Borgy!

The thing with altruism is, it works ("with social selection against cheaters") at least on a small scale.  "We do right for love of self" to paraphrase a Buddhist.  But on a large scale, this individual effect can disappear?    ????

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