First of all, I don't think religious belief is extremely destructive.  I agree that intrinsically divisive, irrational and unfalsifiable beliefs about the nature of reality are frightening in the 21st century.  You don't need to look far in this age of terrorism for evidence of this.

Yes, religion has committed atrocities.  Yes, nonbelievers have less reason to act so destructively.  And yes, religion is not necessary for a good life.  Most of us agree there.

BUT, religion is not always or even often destructive.  Although most Christians (I have no experience with members of other religions, sorry) would be fine without their religion-I'm not claiming they can't- it's a characteristic of religion's circular logic to convince people that God is the only source of meaning and morality. It is extremely sad when a delusion is all a person relies on for self-worth, but, there are people who DO rely on it to get along.  For example, I know a couple Marines who can only cope with the guilt of having taken human life by believing that God forgives them. 

I may be preaching to the choir here, but I hope you all realize that being religious also does not make a person stupid.  Neither does it make a person immoral, or crazy, or particularly different from you!

If I've learned anything from losing my faith, it's that there is always a chance I'm wrong in holding a particular belief.  We all are equally succeptible to confirmation bias and logical inconsistency.  Waving around the banner of "intellectual" "skeptic" and "freethinker" as a way to exalt yourself is betraying the very values we are representing. 

Now on to my main point.  Nonbelievers are in the minority, de facto atheists even smaller.  Are we hindering our own progress by being so strident?  Not all people who label themselves with a particular religion subscribe to all its ideas.  Are antitheists like thunderf00t and Hitchens for example isolating moderates and liberals?  Please tell me what you think.

Thanks guys, and this is an awesome forum :)

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Very religious people can still get the work done, love their children, have a conscience, value 'honesty', and even promote the scientific method. Sadly, the 'devil' is in the details...

I don't believe much progress, whatever that entails, has been made in the past by remaining in the atheist closet. Being timid amidst the bible thumpers has not helped move our culture towards acceptance of non-belief. On the other hand, being an asshole and showing obvious disrespect for things supernatural does not help our cause. Diplomacy sometimes fades away when you're being told your ass will burn in hell for eternity. My comments are from the perspective of living in the southern US where one is faced with the strident rhetoric of Protestant fundamentalists. 

"showing obvious disrespect for things supernatural does not help our cause"

Gotta disagree here. Showing obvious disrespect for things supernatural serves more than one useful purpose. Firstly "things supernatural" do not exist so disrespecting them is NOT the same as disrespecting the individuals who hold such belief (although people like Hitchens would say that the people who defend these doctrines are likewise unworthy of respect). Secondly and more importantly, God is assumed by most of our societies. It's the default. It doesn't NEED defending - it's just there. Confronting religion AND the religious begins to change that. People can no longer automatically ASSUME that their "rights" (for instance to spend public money on religious displays) will go unchallenged. Yes, people will be offended but only those that believe they have a God-given right to be free from offense.

The progress that has been made over the last couple of decades has not been made without stepping on some toes. 

I do believe that flipping off people (by insulting them as a whole and trashing them as both people and for their beliefs) is not a wise strategy. Perhaps it works on a minority or those ready to convert ... but it most certainly alienates people, puts their guard up, reinforces their sad beliefs and makes atheists look like smug ass-holes.

I think there are certain people and groups who do alienate people who are religious.  I especially see it in online forums where you see an ideological echo chamber effect that creates and us vs. them mentality.  That said, I don't see those actors as being much more than a vocal minority in the overall atheist "community".  There are a lot of endeavors where secular and religious elements can work together for the common good, and I personally wouldn't hesitate to do so.

Humans have been naturally selected for religiosity. Religious institutions will always exist because religiosity is not cultural, it is biological. The biological religiosity module in our brain offers significant advantages in increasing courage, empathy and the initiation of the search for objective morality. There are also downsides to this module, as it can also activate a desire to build an utopian "Chosen Ones" society that might war with other societies.

From a game theory perspective, objective morality is a detriment to individual selection but aids group selection at a societal level. Positive religious institutions that activate religiosity modules and channel them towards objectively moral virtuous behavior benefit a society. Similarly, negative religious institutions can also start holy wars.

If existing positive religion institutions are destroyed, there is an enormous risk that in the absence of religious institutions, dictators could channel religiosity activations of their subjects towards themselves, to the overall detriment of society. Marxist dictators often use this tactic to maximize power and control.

"Humans have been naturally selected for religiosity. Religious institutions will always exist because religiosity is not cultural, it is biological."

Is this your opinion? Do you have any scientific references to back up this notion? Religion is a learned concept that occurs through indoctrination and tradition. Nothing genetic about it. There remains isolated peoples where the concept of god(s) and a supernatural realm are not part of their awareness.

"There remains isolated peoples where the concept of god(s) and a supernatural realm are not part of their awareness." - Link?

@Renee:

" I hope you all realize that being religious also does not make a person stupid."

What in your opinion does make a person stupid?

"What in your opinion does make a person stupid?"

Lots and lots of drugs. Or do you mean, "what constitutes a stupid person?"

"what constitutes a stupid person?"

Maybe that's the question Renee needs to answer first and then we can address the issue she has raised ie. "Does Religion Make Some People Stupid?"

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