you are right that this is not a reason that religion is true, but it is a reason that we should not get rid of it. being a good citizen is hard, but we all depend on others to be good more than you know.
HL Mencken was brilliant, indeed.
Sara, I respectfully disagree with your point - not all children are taught Santa Claus is real, and yet they try to be good children nevertheless. Also, most of them learn Santa Claus is not real by the age of 10, and yet they do not automagically become bad/naughty children.
ok, wintershade, you do have a point, but you are then comparing children to adults, who have entirely different responsibilities and punishment systems in place. children are taught what is good and bad by their parents, who have access to them 24/7. Adults have to choose what is right and wrong for themselves, and they can often become isolated and corrupted. so what about when financially worried people find that right and wrong are not as important as they used to be? a lot of people come to this conclusion, and they can commit serious crimes because of it. Religion helps people have someone to talk to when they need to sort things out in a hurry or confidentially, when there is literally no one else to turn to.
Sara, when talking to such people - I assume you mean priests, pastors, etc. - how much real help are they? They can offer emotional comfort at it's best, and not even all of them will do so either.
The sad truth is that most of them are not experts in any relevant field when it comes to peoples' private problems, such as finances, psychology, health care and similar, and are likely to give "advice" which will turn things for worse in the long run. Sadly, I've met quite a few people who finished their study of theology and are now convinced that they know absolutely everything about every topic (the ultimate answer usually being "god" or "Jesus", of course.)
From my personal experience - and I have to emphasise this - from my personal experience - "when there is literally no one else to turn to", the very place one should not turn to is religion. For a simple, yet very important, reason - religion gives absolutely no actual answer to anything. In the short run, religion can give one comfort for a few minutes or hours. In the long run, the matter will only get worse because there was no real action taken in order to take care of the problem in question.
I am terribly sorry, but there are problems in life to which "keep praying", "no matter what, remember that God is with you" and/or "this is your test of faith" simply fail as answers. Prayers will not pay the bills, feed you or your children, heal you, keep you warm or restore broken relationships.
And neither will a person educated in theology be able to tell you how to spend the scarce remainder of your financial (or other) resources - that kind of good advice will be given to you by a person educated in finances and economics. A priest will not pick up the fragments of your broken marriage after your significant other cheats on you, and then leaves you and your children in poverty after the divorce. That's the area of expertise of a lawyer. A pastor will not be able to treat your cancer or AIDS properly. That's what doctors do.
Back to the topic, what is wrong with my comparing children to adults? That's the whole point of H. L. Mencken's quote! That's exactly what he wanted to say - children are not adults, and adults as such do not need an invisible force or a "higher" authority (of questionable qualifications in psychology, sociology, economics, law, etc.) to teach them what is good and what is bad.
Adults are supposed to have learned what is right and wrong, and indeed, this was imprinted in our instincts through our evolution. A grown-up person does not need religion to tell them what is right and wrong, let alone to convince them that they will be punished by some deity if they do wrong. Or rewarded if they do right, for that matter. This is exactly the behaviour that induced the Inquisitions, the Crusades, the islamic Jihads, etc. So no, I disagree that religion teaches people what is right and what is wrong. Evolution did that job long before the first religion was even born.
Not to mention the facts that religion teaches people how following their own natural instincts (through the means of sexuality, for example) is inherently wrong, and that they should feel guilty for doing so.
To conclude, religion is not the only place they can turn to when in some kind of trouble, and I am strongly convinced that it is far from the best place to turn to as well. As predators, we are social animals, and our society involves relationships such as friendship, family and similar, which - if are healthy - can be always turned to in times of trouble.
As a further question, if religion indeed is something that teaches people right from wrong, how come the ratio of re
My worry in talking to anyone in any type of god squad is that under the guise of 'helping' they are really just recruiting. Wintershade is quite right, these people are not qualified to advise on anything except the content of their magic books, and they don't even have the courage to admit to a lot of what is written in them either. They are certain to tell the desperate person that they should (or that the counsellor him:herself does) find solace in blablabla. With increasing education and scientific advances, the various religions are losing out on voluntary members and so are fighting over the three easiest targets:
1. Children who must be confused beyond all reason by contradictory information from various authority figures (parents, teachers of proper subjects and religious leaders);
2. The elderly who think "shit, time's short, I'd better go to church just in case...";
3. Anyone in between who is vulnerable, depressed, intellectually challenged, in any kind of emotional difficulty.
This sounds cynical, but it is a fact.
In Europe there are plenty of alternatives to religious leaders if you need to talk to someone, who can channel you towards people with real expertise in real life problems. Real-world advice from someone whose rationale is based on a religious book has as much practical value as advice from someone's whose entire world view is contained in the testament of Harry Potter.
#2...an Aussie scientist (name not given) is quoted by Dawkins as mocking those old guys with "Cramming for the final?"
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