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'"[today], when religious wars and mindless murders are rampant" I don't mean to be a contrarian, but this is a pet peeve of mine: today's society is actually no different from past societies in this regard. Religious war and mindless murder have been around as long as humankind.'
Yes, to some extent I agree. But to say the world is "no different" is flat wrong. I should have been more descriptive. In the USA, mega-churches are on the rise and fundamental Christianity is on the rise. This is documented and has been the trend for decades. The numbers of members of fundamental groups and how extreme their beliefs are do fluctuate. In the USA, the trend is towards greater numbers and greater extremes. In several northern European countries, it is the opposite. In many Islamic regions, the trend is also towards growing numbers and greater extremes, and we see the effects more clearly and obviously due to real-time mass media coverage. I should mention that the other extreme is also on the rise: non-believers. Like our politics in this country, our attitudes towards religion seem to be polarizing some. Maybe there's a link. Again, if Ingersoll lived in today's world, I like to think he might choose to call himself an atheist instead of an agnostic, but that doing so wouldn't in the slightest change his beliefs about gods and the supernatural. Agnostics becoming atheists, too, seems to be a modern trend. I (obviously) promote it. It is in reaction to those who would like our government to be based on their "Christian values", and our schools to be teaching Intelligent Design as a scientific theory.
Anthony: in general, I'm with you. But I think there is another reason why people believe that the bible is true. They learn it during childhood, and because of natural human development, it becomes ingrained in such a way that most adults cannot possibly "unlearn" it. Of course, we refer to it as "brainwashing", but I find this word both condescending and somewhat inaccurate. Our young brains have evolved with an innate ability to lock in beliefs as they are handed down to us from our parents/society. Our adult brains have evolved to use reason, logic, analysis and doubt. The two are at odds with each other, and it seems the "brainwash" trait most often (unfortunately) wins. I have two kids. Though they know none of it is true, you should see how strongly attracted they are to superhero stuff. They want -- need -- to believe in the supernatural. (Despite my better efforts in reminding them about things that do and don't exist to our knowledge.) They have friends who believe in God and proudly wear crosses around their necks at the age of 6. These kids are neither morons nor hypocrites. Nor are their parents; they're just stuck. So if your intent is to teach the world about a better line of thought, one that is more tolerant than the traditions of various religions, you'd best not start by calling them all morons and hypocrites. That will ensure that they don't listen to you, and worst of all, their kids probably won't either.
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