A Level Platform for the Debate of Religion?
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10-11-2013, 06:56 PM
A Level Platform for the Debate of Religion?
Hi all,
I am a former Christian now Agnostic who is still fascinated with the concept of religion. I watch debates constantly on religion and find that most of them end up saying the same thing:

Science says religion can't be proven or dis-proven and it like believing in unicorns.
Religion says science can't appreciate what is beyond this realm and that without god the universe has no meaning and people would be without morals.

My idea is to try to level the playing field as absurd as that may sound. Here is what I wrote last night (sorry it is a tad long and needs some editing, but I wanted to get some opinions on it):

Without emotions get stirred, and feelings get hurt since this is a very sensitive topic, let's try to look at this from a newcomer's perspective. Believe that you are a person who grew up in a godless but intelligent tribe unaware of the whole world until becoming an adult. Believe that you are a rational person that is being presented with the following ideas upon becoming aware of the rest of the world and their ideas:
1 - God created the universe and everything in it. To save humanity he killed his only son Jesus to forgive humanity of their sins and give us eternal life in heaven if we believe, or hell if we don't. To know the religion you must know their book and to question it is blasphemy.
2 - Allah created the universe and everything in it. Muhammed is the last prophet sent by God for mankind. If we believe and practice the faith, we can have eternal life in heaven or hell if we don't. To know the religion you must know their book and to question it is blasphemy.
4 - Science stating that the Big Bang likely created out universe and that evolution shown in various aspects of nature has brought life to where it is today. It presents falsifiable statements and welcomes people challenging it's theories.

Using rationality and logic you can compare your options and try to make a decision. Remember, your life and a possible afterlife are at stake, so you need to put some thought into this! Both Christianity and Islam say that the proof of their religions is in their books which are the words of God or Allah through the scribes of men. If you question things too much, many of the theists will get angry and offended and think of your questions and doubt as blasphemy and as an attack on their religion. Science however shows you the math and physics and gives you testable statements for you to check and verify. When you ask the religions if anything is testable and they will say no and to have faith. With science, people welcome questions and encourage people to look into the facts if they doubt anything.

You remember as a child the cruel tricks that your big brother would play on your from time to time. At one point he told you to close your eyes and cup your hands for something special. Trusting him you did so only to find that he then spit in your hand for amusement. Trust was lost in your brother that day as well as for people making claims without something to back them. Around the same time you had believed in this idea of Santa Claus and had your heart broken at the thought of him being a lie for years. This has made you even more cautious to accept new bold statements without a little convincing first. Something has to prove itself as definitive one way or another.

Going back over the religions you read their books to see if there is something there to make it shine out of all the others. In both the Bible and the Koran you find many positive verses, but also many violent references; ordering the faithful to kill people and pushing messages of intolerance and discrimination. When asking the churches about these verses they are told that this was meant for another time or that the "Old Testament" isn't as important as the "New Testament." Uh oh, red flag. You were told that the Bible and Koran were messages from God and Allah and that if you wanted to know the religion you should read their texts. But now you are being told that some of it isn't relevant and you should focus only on the good parts? Why would an all knowing all powerful supreme being send confusing messages to his prophets that would later be ignored by his followers? Who made the decision that some of God and Allah's words were not important anymore. Truly if you believed in your religion you would take it more seriously if eternal after-life is on the line, right?

Ok, so their books aren't 100% reliable, and there is a lot of disagreement among their members. So really I should just be focusing on their big messages: the pillars of Islam, the 10 commandments, Muhammed and Jesus. I must believe and follow these keys things to go to heaven or else I will be forever condemned to hell.

Both Christianity and Islam have their similarities as their roots are the same. Since you cannot confirm which text is valid since both have fallacies and "disregard-able" verses through their books, you decided to look at it a different way. You know a bit about math, so you take a look at the statistics to see which religion would have a better chance of being right. As of 2012, a consensus stated that 31.5% of the worlds population is Christian and 23.2% of the worlds population is Muslim. Christianity has an edge now, but Islam is growing fast. Tough choice on statistic alone, but looking at the non-believers a gloomy figure presents itself. If these religions are so loving and caring, why are so many believers seemingly indifferent to the fact that 68.5% or 76.8% of the population today is doomed to hell if their religion is right. If you are an atheist, no one is tortured after death, they just die and that's it. Kind of a sad feeling, but is it sadder than having 5 billion people of today's population suffer in pain for eternity? Who knows how many more billion more will be tormented for eternity in years to come. Such a warm fuzzy feeling inside to know that so many souls will be stuck in hell forever for possibly never even having a chance to know of or hear about the concept of God or Allah. Why is it so acceptable to believe this? That doesn't sound like a loving god and religion to me.

They are all bad options it would seem. Science has the dull, boring, non-magical feeling of our physical reality of life ending in death. But Christianity and Islam have these awesome ideas about an eternal afterlife of happiness, but at the same time they bring in these eternal death traps to hold the majority of the worlds population. By feeling and emotions alone, no choice seems good. They all have horrible baggage attached to them that make them undesirable to say the least.

So how can we look at this to remove the emotion and to level the playing field in terms of which choice is the most rational based on the evidence provided. Science keeps giving you ideas that are testable or that have information and facts as evidence whereas these religions make SIGNIFICANT claims with nothing but their own word to say that it is right. So far, nothing has shown itself as hard evidence or fact to validate any religion, any god, and the ultimate beginning to everything.

Surely science is more grounded in our own reality, but who is to say that there is something beyond what we understand today? If we were to live for another 100 million years, how far advanced would we be from today? Would we have the power, technology and know-how to be able to cross dimensions or travel to other universes? Would we be able to break or bend the laws of physics to give us insight into things or beings beyond our own reality? This is possible, but at the same time this logic could be used to say that there is a distant planet of unicorns or fairies that are watching over us and judging us. It is an impossible statement to prove or disprove at this time.

So if were to accept that these ideas are possible, then to an extent any idea beyond our current knowledge and technology is possible until we reach the point where it can be proven or dis-proven. That is to say that our imaginations can run wild until we have enough information to say one way or another about it.

OK then. So we know that:
- Science has told us much valuable information about our world, but is not to the point where it can determine one way or another the origins of the universe beyond the theory of the big bang.
- Religion has told us different ideas as to how the universe began usually in the form of metaphors making it near impossible to know specifically what really happened beyond the metaphors. Additionally religion has made it impossible to prove or disprove their theories.
- Statistics of believers and non-believers for Christians and Muslims show that God or Allah only favor a few and find it acceptable to leave the majority of the world in an eternal hell.
- There are around 20 major world religions and countless more beyond that making the likelihood of any one religion being right range from a gracious 5% to less than 1%. Scary probability when betting your eternal life on it.

Taking another step back, let's try to come up with a different idea seeing as how so many religions have falsehoods and have made some fantastic statements with little to no evidence to verify them, and with a <1% chance at being right, maybe there is a better idea out there... What if no current religion is right? Or what if all of them are right to a degree? If we set aside the bulk of every religion and just look at their core concept of the existence of a benevolent, maybe we can get somewhere. But is it really even possible to state that god is benevolent? No-one has been in contact with the god (that can be verified), so even making a simple statement like "god is good" is going to far. We are already going as far as to accept the possibility of god but to then say that god is good or bad would be too much! That is making the arrogant assumption that you know the mind and intention of god. Have you ever been wrong? Surely you have, and if you are so blindly arrogant as to think you know who god is and what he feels or wants for humanity, then maybe you should rethink yourself. With a 1% chance of being right, that your belief is the one true religion, then anyone claiming they KNOW their religion is right is being incredibly presumptuous and blasphemous.

Would a loving god create multiple religions that would fight and kill each other in their name?
Would a loving god want to send their creations to an eternal hell full knowing that many wouldn't have ever heard about them?
Would a loving god allow for so much torment and suffering in this life?

These are unanswerable questions and many believers would say that we cannot question the mind of god and that it is all according to his/their plan. To that I say, how dare you! You accept that questioning god is blasphemous but you then go as far as to think you know his intentions and his thoughts for humanity? You claim to believe what god is and wants then call it blasphemy to question it - can there be a bigger hypocrisy? HOW DARE YOU! This is not directed at the religions, but you the individual believers. If you think that YOU are right in your belief (being it whatever religion) you are saying that you know god and his intention without a doubt. BLASPHEMY!

So then, if we were to only accept the idea that there might be at least one god and that going any further would be absurdly presumptuous and arrogant, then let us imagine how we should live our lives. Would it be acceptable to go around spreading messages of our own ideas on how to live life because we smugly think that we know god's intention? I think not. In the simplest of examples, I would compare it to if I had a child. It is as if I had a son who was going around his/her school telling his friends that they needed to eat paste because it tastes awesome and that I would approve as well even though he had never talked to me about it, he just assumed that I would approve... Not only is he harming himself, but he is harming others all in the belief that it is right and good. Are Christians and Muslims not doing the same? Obviously someone is wrong, and they are not doing any good by spreading lies.

What then would god really want of its creations then? Essentially what is the purpose of life? We were never given any handbooks direct from god, and man wrote a few that have been show to be invalid over time, so what are we to do then? Do we just wait this life out for the next one assuming that there is one? Or do we live this life like it is the only one we have? The safe bet would be the latter, and logically it makes more sense. Why would anyone throw away or demean their current life in the hopes of something better? Why would god create this universe if it didn't matter because the after-life is really where it counts? That makes no sense! Why build a house if you are just going get rid of it immediately for a bigger, better one? Surely god would want us to value and to get the most of out the lives we have already been given! Again this is going a bit far to assume god plan, but it definitely seems more logical than devaluing our current lives while waiting for the next!

Going back to the big picture then - there may or may not be one or many "gods" and to say that we know their intentions or that they have created an after-life including heaven and hell would be a bold statement at the least. What we do know is that we are alive as an intelligent race of beings capable of doubt, reasoning and self perception. Given that if a omnipotent god or gods made us, and gave us these abilities, they must have known what would follow. For a god or gods to judge their own creations right or wrong would be irrational or at the very least just cruel. Whether there is a reason to this life or not, we cannot know, but the fact that we are given this opportunity means we should probably make something of it.
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10-11-2013, 07:42 PM
RE: A Level Platform for the Debate of Religion?
That's pretty long, and I'm not sure exactly what you're looking for, but here are two observations that jumped out at me:

1) Not everyone has a big brother.
2) An isolated tribe probably wouldn't know about Santa Claus.

"I feel as though the camera is almost a kind of voyeur in Mr. Beans life, and you just watch this bizarre man going about his life in the way that he wants to."

-Rowan Atkinson
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10-11-2013, 08:03 PM
RE: A Level Platform for the Debate of Religion?
(10-11-2013 07:42 PM)Can_of_Beans Wrote:  That's pretty long, and I'm not sure exactly what you're looking for, but here are two observations that jumped out at me:

1) Not everyone has a big brother.
2) An isolated tribe probably wouldn't know about Santa Claus.

Of course... But that is completely aside from the point. This is a thought experiment and I am sure people can imagine that they have a big brother and I am sure most Americans have heard of Santa Claus...
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10-11-2013, 08:18 PM
RE: A Level Platform for the Debate of Religion?
(10-11-2013 08:03 PM)ShaggyKyle Wrote:  
(10-11-2013 07:42 PM)Can_of_Beans Wrote:  That's pretty long, and I'm not sure exactly what you're looking for, but here are two observations that jumped out at me:

1) Not everyone has a big brother.
2) An isolated tribe probably wouldn't know about Santa Claus.

Of course... But that is completely aside from the point. This is a thought experiment and I am sure people can imagine that they have a big brother and I am sure most Americans have heard of Santa Claus...

I think you need to clarify the experiment. Are we members of an isolated tribe hearing about this for the first time or Americans?

"I feel as though the camera is almost a kind of voyeur in Mr. Beans life, and you just watch this bizarre man going about his life in the way that he wants to."

-Rowan Atkinson
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10-11-2013, 08:25 PM
RE: A Level Platform for the Debate of Religion?
(10-11-2013 08:18 PM)Can_of_Beans Wrote:  
(10-11-2013 08:03 PM)ShaggyKyle Wrote:  Of course... But that is completely aside from the point. This is a thought experiment and I am sure people can imagine that they have a big brother and I am sure most Americans have heard of Santa Claus...

I think you need to clarify the experiment. Are we members of an isolated tribe hearing about this for the first time or Americans?

You are arguing aspects that make no difference. I am confused as to why this is such a big point for you. Can you not be in an isolated tribe in America? What difference does it make which country it is in? Use your imagination if you have one. The whole point is to assume you are not religious and know little of the scientific origins of the universe. You are then presented with three ideas that you must rationalize:

1 - Christianity
2 - Islam
3 - Science

Your birthplace, nationality, sibling count etc do not matter. Those are trivial aspects to this thought experiment that you are bringing up.

Consider the allegory of the cave. It doesn't matter what nationality the cave-dwellers were, or their skin color, or how big their family was. If you argued those aspects with Plato he would say the same thing I am. It is not relevant to this discussion.

Or are you just trolling? I can't tell...
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10-11-2013, 08:41 PM
RE: A Level Platform for the Debate of Religion?
You asked for opinions. My opinion is that asking us to adopt the mindset of an isolated group and then assuming shared mythology is inconsistent.

"I feel as though the camera is almost a kind of voyeur in Mr. Beans life, and you just watch this bizarre man going about his life in the way that he wants to."

-Rowan Atkinson
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10-11-2013, 08:54 PM (This post was last modified: 10-11-2013 09:02 PM by ShaggyKyle.)
RE: A Level Platform for the Debate of Religion?
(10-11-2013 08:41 PM)Can_of_Beans Wrote:  You asked for opinions. My opinion is that asking us to adopt the mindset of an isolated group and then assuming shared mythology is inconsistent.

Sorry, I did attack your opinion after I asked for it - but to be honest it offended me that you would bring up these little inconsistencies distracting from the main point. At the beginning I said that this was a tribe that was "unaware of the whole world." This was phrased specifically including the word "whole" to allow for the trivial irregularities such as an awareness of Santa Claus. I was hoping to get posts about perhaps flawed logic or whether or not my reasoning was somewhat on tract or way off base in regards to putting all religions under the same scrutiny. I didn't expect someone to bring up Santa Claus and whether or not we are Americans while trying to imagine this.

In my revision I will be sure to be more specific about the scenario as to avoid this unneeded confusion.
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10-11-2013, 10:01 PM (This post was last modified: 10-11-2013 10:20 PM by DLJ.)
RE: A Level Platform for the Debate of Religion?
I haven't got through the whole post yet but (courtesy of Nìmwey from the http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/forum/...n?page=114 thread)

you might like to use this pic as part of the set up...
[Image: I_say_so.jpg]

EDIT:
I spotted a couple of typos but I'm guessing you are asking more for a critique of the premise and structure so...

You have a mix of:
a) challenges to existing belief systems and
b) a neutral non-emotive thought experiment.

I think you need to separate the two.

For example, a theist might not accept that the 'knowledge' provided by their scriptures is flawed. Better to set up the neutral experiment with ...

(10-11-2013 08:25 PM)ShaggyKyle Wrote:  ... The whole point is to assume you are not religious and know little of the scientific origins of the universe. You are then presented with three ideas that you must rationalize:

1 - Christianity System A
2 - Islam System B
3 - Science System C
...

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11-11-2013, 01:54 PM
RE: A Level Platform for the Debate of Religion?
(10-11-2013 10:01 PM)DLJ Wrote:  I haven't got through the whole post yet but (courtesy of Nìmwey from the http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/forum/...n?page=114 thread)

you might like to use this pic as part of the set up...
[Image: I_say_so.jpg]

EDIT:
I spotted a couple of typos but I'm guessing you are asking more for a critique of the premise and structure so...

You have a mix of:
a) challenges to existing belief systems and
b) a neutral non-emotive thought experiment.

I think you need to separate the two.

For example, a theist might not accept that the 'knowledge' provided by their scriptures is flawed. Better to set up the neutral experiment with ...

(10-11-2013 08:25 PM)ShaggyKyle Wrote:  ... The whole point is to assume you are not religious and know little of the scientific origins of the universe. You are then presented with three ideas that you must rationalize:

1 - Christianity System A
2 - Islam System B
3 - Science System C
...

Thanks for the reply. That is exactly the type of criticism I was hoping for! =) (love the pic btw)
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11-11-2013, 03:01 PM
RE: A Level Platform for the Debate of Religion?
I would also not bother separating Islam and Christianity to two different systems, since you don't distinguish them in anyway. Muslims are about as christian as Mormons or Jehovah's witness anyways. If you divided it up into say; section a is fundamentalist or those who reject reason for faith, such as most Lutheran splinters. Section b are for those who separate faith and reason such aS Islam and Calvinists who believe in no free will so science doesn't interfere with there faith. Section c would be orthodox, catholic and Anglican who consider science the basis for faith, you could discuss philosophical leaps here. And section d could be a materialist world view were only what is observable is considered valid.
Now this might be too much effort and research for a internet post, probably better suited to an academic essay, but it would cover much more ground much better and allow more people to fall into a section.

I'm homophobic in the same way that I'm arachnophobic. I'm not scared of gay people but I'm going to scream if I find one in my bath.

I'm. Also homophobic in the same way I'm arachnophobic. I'm scared of spiders but I'd still fuck'em.
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