Religion, as it's generally encountered, is a bunch of silly make-believe.  Its practitioners often seem aware of this, but they worry that if they quit their game, life will become unbearable.  But was it always intentionally deceptive, or could honest philosophy have once been involved?  I wonder this because I was pondering how existence might have begun a few years ago, and I came up with the idea that what initially must have existed could have only two properties: identity and lack of cause.  I felt pleased with this idea.

Identity can be thought of as a recursive logical structure.  Something is what it is what it is, etc.  This idea has a couple things in common with a very basic observation.  Our universe is several orders more large and complex than it needs to be in order to make one's head spin, but is nonetheless (really or virtually) contained within a quite tiny three dimensions.  Well, if it "emerged from nothing" by virtue of a technically simple self-referential fact, then it makes sense for it to be unimaginably expansive and repetitive at the same time.

A while later, I drove some billboard that I don't remember any more while continuing to ponder this, and it suddenly occurred to me that the trip sequence part of Exodus contains a couple parallels with the ideas that I came up with.  I hadn't (and still haven't) read it in probably more than a decade, but I remembered how the bush claimed to be god, and said that he is who he is, and has no name.  If you remove all of the cheese, and there's a lot of it there, you end up with the same idea that I thought was pretty clever when I thought of it- that the universe derives from a thing that is what it is and has no cause.  I was very upset about this at first, wondering if my Catholic upbringing had imperceptibly tainted me forever, but then I came up with this idea.

Could religions as we now know them have once hosted attempts to legitimately understand things, and then ended up devolving into nonsensical yet somewhat practical (or just addictive) social rituals like those practiced by ancestral tribal cultures, while also being corrupted by charlatans and greed?  General stupidity and disinterest, as well pressure from outside, would certainly have made it very difficult for ancient societies to pass along any sort of abstract concept for several generations.  The components of the idea would dissolve into childish symbols for the sake of easy transmission, but would then take on lives of their own, with the fractured meanings not approaching the original's in terms of depth or attempted validity.

Successful religions always exhibit mechanisms that deter people from leaving, as well as mechanisms that lead to their own spread.  But they also tend to have some blatantly abstract, sometimes horrible bits that have no clear meaning and that do nothing but frighten and/or confuse people without providing any clear benefit to any society, modern or ancient.  Could a few of these parts be the remnants of complicated speculations that have been subsequently splintered and rotted?

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"When it clings to its human understandings of the truth of the universe instead of remaining inquisitive and humble before the observational data. 

"There is a parallel  with religion.  We theists are apt to roll our eyes and act patronizing and arrogant when we read some of the silly ignorant things that get written by atheists about religion.  I'm sure I do!   But we lose our way if we don't remain open to new insights, new inspirations of God, new knowledge about the universe.  We have been given brains to figure things out, and learn, and grow."

A laughably transparent attempt at reverse psychology - he's trying to say that this is what WE do, by illustrating that it just may be what HE does --

"new inspirations of God"

Define god and prove it's existence.

Religion loses its way when it abandons humility.

1) Teach children to be humble.

2) Teach them to feel guilty when they don't obey.

3) When they occasionally look up, exacerbate their guilt with silliness like Religion loses its way when it abandons humility.

4) You win; they lose.

1) Teach children to be humble because that is the only way to learn.  We don't tell the universe what it is; we observe and listen and it tells us what it is.

2) Teach children to feel guilty when they do wrong, because wrong leads to harm to others or to themselves (which makes them less able to help others).  Guilt is a manifestation of empathy and care.

Teach children obedience because in some things, at least while they are learning, that's important for their safety.  Wear lab goggles in the lab.  Not everything should be learned through personal experience, and so obedience is a form of care and instruction.

3) When they occasionally look up, teach them to be inquisitive.  Teach them to look at the world, and at other people's writing, and inquire into what it might really mean, rather than respond to it superficially, or worse devalue it because they are from another tribe. 

4) Everyone wins.

"2) Teach children to feel guilty -- Guilt is a manifestation of empathy and care."

Teach children guilt? You are more mentally ill than even Suzanne suggested! I sincerely hope you have no children.

Children Learn What They Live

By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.

If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.

If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.

If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.

If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.

If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Please excuse if someone else asked and I missed the answer:

I'm wondering about the bush which claimed to be god. Which bush was that? George W?


Could have been, after all, he DID say:

"I trust God speaks through me."
-- George W. Bush --

Bob – I wonder at times what kind of “Science” you work at. Is it “Christian Science”? You keep drawing analogies to Science when talking about Religion.

“To borrow a parallel from science, science is quite arrogant in some ways.  We tend to believe that we have the one Truth about things like conservation of energy, and roll our eyes and act patronizing and arrogant when someone comes along talking about how wonderful their perpetual motion device is and how wrong and stupid we are to believe it can't be done."

Science does not claim the Law of Conservation of Energy to be the “Truth” in the same dogmatic manner that Religion makes claims.  If someone claims to have perfected a perpetual motion device Science will not roll it eyes unless the person making the claim refuses to demonstrate it to his or her peers, or as with Christians, refuse to show what evidence they base their claim on. The tool used by Scientists, the Scientific Method, does not care if something is true or not. It does not claim to offer the “Truth”.

It attempts to destroy all claims that any theorist makes by falsifying them under strict peer reviewed conditions. If the claim then cannot be proven false then it will reach a point where the scientific consensus will deem it to be a Law, in the sense that it becomes accepted Theory.It is still not considered as a claim to be an unalterable Truth. If the Law of Conservation of Energy was shown to be flawed then the Scientific community would, with humility, advance to a new understanding. This is not how Religion works, so please stop trying to draw parallels between it and Science.

“At the same time, science loses its way when it abandons humility.  When it clings to its human understandings of the truth of the universe instead of remaining inquisitive and humble before the observational data”

Jesus wept into a bucket!! Science does not cling to anything.  What other truth can we have but truth based on “human understanding”? What “observational data” do you have for you God?  You sound like a Jehovah Witness that just discovered a book by W.L. Craig.

“But we lose our way if we don't remain open to new insights, new inspirations of God, new knowledge about the universe.  We have been given brains to figure things out, and learn, and grow”.

It is the religious that are closed to new concepts. What “new knowledge about the Universe” has Religion given use in the last 500 years? What questions today can be answered by Religion about the Universe or anything in it that Science cannot answer? What “new inspirations from God” can you reveal to us that might make this Atheist humble?

You have none Bob. You have no evidence for you God to show us, yet you claim humility.  I am (as I said before) open to changing my viewpoint. I will convert to theism if you, as a man of Science and who claims to know “The Truth” as a Catholic if you can show me any shred or tiny scrap of evidence for this God of yours.

If you cannot produce anything objective then please be humble enough to admit that your Truth is only based on you subjective Faith, while Science is based on objective Laws.

and one more thing .....we were not given brains, we evolved them :-)



"Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense."
-- Chapman Cohen --

You may not have gone far enough, Reg.

When a catholic (they don't deserve a capital, IMO) claims humility, I feel rage. Anyone who remains part of that malignant organization lacks the capacity for either morality or humility, IMO.

If I were to state that I was a member of the KKK, and that I attended burnings and hangings of black people, would it excuse me were I to state that I hadn't actually taken part in the hangings but only stood in the back? Would that float?

So then, consider the list of outrage committed by the catholic church and then offer a justification for continuing to endorse that?

Humility, the idea would make a cat laugh.....

I'm going to have the oddball opinion here again, but I'm still an atheist, so my view should still matter--at least a little.

Was it Gould who said science and religion are different magisteria, or something like that? Most of us here will agree that religious methods have little in common with scientific method. Note that the former is plural, and the latter is singular, because the scientific method is practiced the same all over the world, not because of dogma, but because scientists agree that it's the method that works the best. You could have completely separated, non-communicative sets of scientists who don't even know about each other, but they would still learn and employ the same, scientific method, because it is the best, time tested method that works. No ancient scripture needed!

Scientific method doesn't even need defense, because it stands on its own. In fact, science uses transparency and constant skepticism and evaluation of new-found evidence to become truer and truer to reality. But religion is written out in a book, to be taken either as gospel-word-of-god, or to be taken metaphorically. One either needs to take a single authority to heart, or take to heart a personal point of view that does not even require the scrutiny of other religionists.

As far as the topic of this thread, philosophy informs both science and religion, to varying degrees. Ideas and critical thinking at least form bases for intellectualizing, writing down, and communicating concepts that seem like they might make sense. It's the creativity that largely allows for argument, while building consensus. But then, when it informs science and religion, it diverge can into several different paths of discipline. In science, the paths must eventually converge, because all science is seeking the same, verifiable, universally reproducible experiments and predictable results. But religion can split off into various scriptures, neo-religions (like the misleadingly named Church of "Scientology"), or cults.

I appreciate Dr. Bob's contributions here. He is not my real enemy. My real enemies are the extremists, who have no clue how blindered they are by their religious philosophy and peer group, and may even think that science is essentially evil just because scientific evidence often conflicts with their sacred beliefs. If only half the world's fundamentalists and extremists could take on Dr. Bob's desire to understand the relevance of science in today's and our future world, I would absolutely have more hope for humanity's future.

So that's my oddball opinion. I'm picking my battles, because I don't believe that absolute good-vs-evil, with us or against us attitudes are going to win the war of reason.

It could also be argued that philosophy does not inform Science. Science has no need for it. The big questions about Life, the Universe and Everything” have had no input from philosophy (or indeed Religion) for hundreds of years. They both have not only been overtaken by Science but they have also been replaced by Science.  Religion has nothing new to offer mankind. Philosophy may have it uses in considering the implications of what Science has revealed to us but it is not necessary. Our “toolbox” will still be able to allow us to work if we only have Science in it but forget to take religion or philosophy with us.

Gould was known for his idea of “NOMA” or “non-overlapping magisteria”, where both Religion and Science live in two separated domains. Science can deal with the empirical side of discovery and religion with the “meaning of life”.  However I would disagree with this because Religion makes claims of a scientific nature – claiming to “know” things that the Science does not support.

We know from Science (beyond a shadow of a doubt) that we are an evolved species and that any religious opinion that suggests otherwise is just plain wrong. What does this mean for mankind? Ask a priest or philosopher or a person that has learnt how to think critical and use the power of reason?

Well said!

Philosophy may have it uses in considering the implications of what Science has revealed to us but it is not necessary.

I still see philosophy as a necessary bridge between hunamkind's considering of what "should be", and what "can be". We not only use liberal arts/humanities to consider implications of scientific revelations, but to consider implications of what we should focus on in science for the future.

Medicine is a prime example. We can get a lot out of statistics wrt morbidity and treatments, but we still need the political and philosophical discussions to determine how to best fund our institutions. Success in this requires not just statistical evidence and analysis, but a certain proportion of try this and try-that process, with transparency and reasonable monitoring and feedback loops through human decision making.


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