Changing Religion
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12-01-2013, 09:35 PM
Changing Religion
Hey guys. My mind got curious all of a sudden.

First off, I was thinking about religion. During my reading of the God Delusion, I understood that religion should be abolished. I might give it another read soon (once I'm finally free from all the stuff I still have to do), but I had to ask myself why religion must be abolished. What are the chief "complaints" about it?

Aside from not having evidence for its beliefs, what would make it bad?

I thought of at least three things:

1.) Abuse - when killing innocent people is authorized by the religion or teaching that bad things happen to people who simply don't share their beliefs
2.) Neglect - when people are content in praying to their deities and not doing anything to make their situation (e.g., grave illness, natural calamities) better
3.) Willful ignorance - when people reject science because it contradicts religious teachings

I am not sure what else there would be, but additions would be nice.

Anyway, I also thought. What if these bad things about religion are removed? Is it possible to do so, and what would its result be?

Assuming that there can be such an "ideal" religion, what would it look like, and would there be a difference with atheism? If so, what would it be (perhaps aside from atheism's lack of belief)?

So, summing up:
1.) Why is religion bad? Why must it be abolished?
2.) Is it possible to remove these bad aspects of religion? If so, how would the result look like? Would it be different from atheism (with the exception of the lack of belief of atheism)?
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12-01-2013, 10:04 PM
RE: Changing Religion
Religions are opposed to knowledge. They either praise ignorance, or punish reason. You can't properly function in reality if you denounce aspects of reality.
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12-01-2013, 10:11 PM
RE: Changing Religion
(12-01-2013 09:35 PM)Chujutsu Wrote:  ...
What if these bad things about religion are removed? Is it possible to do so, and what would its result be?
...

... the Church of England.

Yes

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12-01-2013, 10:32 PM
RE: Changing Religion
Religion, while it most likely was useful in our evolutionary past, is one of the greatest roadblocks to humanity progressing together as a whole.

Religion is a form of tribalism, this enforces in-group-out-group thinking and prejudices. Not only that, it takes those ideas and places them in the context of eternity (with the afterlife), thus making them far more powerful and open to abuse.

Most have a heavy reliance on faith, just do what you're told and don't think too much. If it doesn't make sense, just have faith that it is correct, and stop thinking about it. That is my biggest problem, that religion gives people a gold plated excuse to stop thinking, and then be praised for doing so. We need to stop rewarding peole for not thinking.

Then there is the dogma, the unsupported claims to knowledge, and willful ignorance. Many if not all religions makes claims about the nature of existence with no evidence to back any of it up, and much of it flies in the face of documented and supported modern science. Why do we still have flat-earthers and geocentrists? Religious dogma.

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12-01-2013, 11:21 PM (This post was last modified: 12-01-2013 11:26 PM by Reltzik.)
RE: Changing Religion
(12-01-2013 09:35 PM)Chujutsu Wrote:  Hey guys. My mind got curious all of a sudden.

First off, I was thinking about religion. During my reading of the God Delusion, I understood that religion should be abolished. I might give it another read soon (once I'm finally free from all the stuff I still have to do), but I had to ask myself why religion must be abolished. What are the chief "complaints" about it?

Aside from not having evidence for its beliefs, what would make it bad?

I thought of at least three things:

1.) Abuse - when killing innocent people is authorized by the religion or teaching that bad things happen to people who simply don't share their beliefs
2.) Neglect - when people are content in praying to their deities and not doing anything to make their situation (e.g., grave illness, natural calamities) better
3.) Willful ignorance - when people reject science because it contradicts religious teachings

I am not sure what else there would be, but additions would be nice.

Anyway, I also thought. What if these bad things about religion are removed? Is it possible to do so, and what would its result be?

Assuming that there can be such an "ideal" religion, what would it look like, and would there be a difference with atheism? If so, what would it be (perhaps aside from atheism's lack of belief)?

So, summing up:
1.) Why is religion bad? Why must it be abolished?
2.) Is it possible to remove these bad aspects of religion? If so, how would the result look like? Would it be different from atheism (with the exception of the lack of belief of atheism)?
Haven't read the book, actually. Will one of these days.

As for whether or not to abolish religion? ... well, I'm most likely opposed to doing so. First you have to get a clear definition of what is and isn't a religion. (For example, does Buddhism count, or is focus on some sort of deity a requirement?) Once that is done, I think it'd be important to do a cost-benefit analysis of some strategy for abolition, and compare it to not abolishing. In particular, this would require actually having some strategy for abolishing religion to analyze. I'll present two possibilities, which I'll refer to governmental and non-governmental, though I'll give them different names later. If you have a third strategy, please feel free to share it.

My analysis will be focused on the US, because A, that's where I live, B, it's the region I'm most familiar with, C, if you can't do it there you can't do it in half the places in the world, and D, it's in the habit of exporting beliefs, so you'd have to do it there anyway. Above all, I should emphasize that your first question -- why is religion bad? why should it be abolished? -- are actually two SEPARATE questions. Religion could easily be bad without justifying its abolition. The latter is a specific strategy for dealing with the former. It is not the only strategy, nor necessarily the best one, nor necessarily effective at all, and we should not think that religion being bad should mean we must abolish it.

So, first: Abolition by Governmental fiat. In this scenario, the government decrees the end to freedom of religion, and all religious practice. To achieve this (in the US), we would need the following: 60 senators, a majority of house representatives, and a president all willing to pass the bill. (Given 67 senators and 2/3rds of the house, we can in theory do away with the president. In practice, we can't.) 5 supreme court justices willing to uphold it as constitutional. And, most likely, a constitutional amendment. The constitutional amendment, in turn, requires either 2/3rds of both houses or 3/4ths of the state governments, AND roughly 3/4ths of the states' legislatures or elected conventions. In other words, it would require a HUGE groundswell of support, in several branches and levels of government, when the majority of those individuals would be hostile to that proposal. Furthermore, those politicians are answerable to voters, and the measure would be extremely unpopular with them as well. Even if those politicians were so anti-religion as to ever pass such a bill, they would be replaced in the next election by politicians who would repeal it. In short, it ain't happening, and will keep ain't happening until there's a huge demographic shift away from religion and towards... not just atheism, but militant atheism.

But that's just the beginning. We can't just pass a law and expect it to magically take effect. It has to be enforced. What would enforcement entail? First, you'd need an executive who was actually willing to put the law in effect, rather than sabotage it. (See every Republican-appointed head of the EPA from the 80s on.) This is why I said you need the president, even if you get a veto-proof majority in Congress. In truth, we do not have such a president, and (barring rumors about who might have been a closet atheist) we've NEVER had such a president. THEN, you'd need a law-enforcement structure from the top down willing to get behind the law and push. I'm talking everywhere from the attorney general down to beat cops. Again, we don't have that. THEN things get messy.

What exactly would constitute religion, anyway? Well, let's see. We'd have to ban the holy books, except maybe as items of literary and historical impact. ... but of course, we'd have a hard time ensuring that anyone reading them viewed them ONLY as literature or historical references, so better make it a total ban. Destroy as many copies as possible. Burning is traditional. Of course, since most homes have a Bible, we'd have to actually SEARCH homes for them. And do so repeatedly, because copies would get around. Everyone with a printer could be producing them illegally. Oh, and we'd have to block any copies to be found on the internet, and maybe any internet searches for them. And of course, there's all the literature that's specificly about religion. And books where religion isn't the subject, but is heavilly the context. Have to ban 'em all, really.

What else? Prayer, that's a big one. Except the problem is that prayer can be conducted in the privacy of one's own mind. How in the world could we abolish that? We'd need some sort of mind-reading technology.

Then there's congregating for church on the various Sabbaths. Hmm. Well, obviously we could tear down the churches (or nationalize them and sell the building). But it's not the building, it's the assembly. Groups as small as, well, two or three can be doing communion and readings (er, recitals, we banned the books) in the privacy of their own homes. We'd need some way to regulate these gatherings.

What else? Right! Passing it on to the children! OH, but that's the big one! Either we'd have to watch every moment between a parent and a child to catch indoctrination, or we'd have to separate children automatically from their parents and put them in appropriate fostering.

Then -- and this is the big part -- we need MONEY to do all that. We need money to seize all the bibles, money to tear down the churches (even if we don't pay for them, we have to pay for the bulldozers), money to monitor the parents and care for the children, money to break up any gatherings in private homes on Sundays, and money to determine whether that was just a jello-mold party or not. We need money for all the trials and money to imprison (or maybe execute) all the people who insist on clinging to religion despite the government's authority. And believe you me, that will be a LOT of people. And then, you'll need money to draft, train, equip, and mobilize a military to fight the inevitable revolt. This would be a NEW military, you understand, being as the old one would be on the opposite side, being fairly strongly Christian. Oh, and they'd have more experience. And more numbers. And the support of the majority of the population.

... you know what? Let's call this strategy "Tyranny, Going on Suicide." A, it wouldn't work. B, if it did work, its methods would be unconscionable. And C, it's worse than the disease. Besides, even if you DID get the government fiat in place (huge, huge, HUGE if), the backlash would be so stupendous that you'd lose ground in the long run. Also, D, you'd upset the (oft-breached but largely honored) truce of the first amendment. You know that? That thing which is largely what keeps (a subset of) Christians from walking all over our faces as is?

Okay, so let's talk about abolishing it WITHOUT government. Tell you what. Let's get a bunch of ski masks, some assault rifles and Compound 4, and a list of churches tha--

Scratch that. This one's called "Anarchist gunmen, going on suicide." See A, B, C, and D above.

Granted, the picture might look significantly different in other countries. But you can't do it worldwide unless, as part of that, you do that in the US.

So no. No, no, no, no. No way abolishing religion is a good idea, or a workable idea, or a tolerable idea. In fact, I'd be first in line to oppose it. (Well, probably not, I'm slow to learn these things are in motion.)

That said, I'll address your actual questions in my next post.

"If I ignore the alternatives, the only option is God; I ignore them; therefore God." -- The Syllogism of Fail
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12-01-2013, 11:34 PM (This post was last modified: 12-01-2013 11:44 PM by Chujutsu.)
RE: Changing Religion
Whoa. Hahaha. I didn't quite expect such a response.

I'll agree that, so far, I don't have a practical method to abolish religion, if it needs to be abolished.

I also hope to learn more about USA, since I don't live there (I'm from the Philippines). I'm sorry if I can't really understand the government and the situation there, but I hope I can learn something new.

I suppose that we can focus on theism, at least. Buddhism, as far as I know, has no deity, so I guess it's more of a personal philosophy.

EDIT: No wait, scratch that last part. Let's say that religion is belief which is unsupported by evidence.

EDIT 2: Regarding American politics, in my country, we have a presidential system, so I understand a bit regarding the president and congress. However, I am not very familiar with the Democrat / Republican stuff in the States. There may also be differences in the government between USA and the Philippines. I hope that I can learn more about such differences.
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12-01-2013, 11:41 PM
RE: Changing Religion
(12-01-2013 10:32 PM)EvolutionKills Wrote:  Religion, while it most likely was useful in our evolutionary past, is one of the greatest roadblocks to humanity progressing together as a whole.

Religion is a form of tribalism, this enforces in-group-out-group thinking and prejudices. Not only that, it takes those ideas and places them in the context of eternity (with the afterlife), thus making them far more powerful and open to abuse.

Most have a heavy reliance on faith, just do what you're told and don't think too much. If it doesn't make sense, just have faith that it is correct, and stop thinking about it. That is my biggest problem, that religion gives people a gold plated excuse to stop thinking, and then be praised for doing so. We need to stop rewarding peole for not thinking.

Then there is the dogma, the unsupported claims to knowledge, and willful ignorance. Many if not all religions makes claims about the nature of existence with no evidence to back any of it up, and much of it flies in the face of documented and supported modern science. Why do we still have flat-earthers and geocentrists? Religious dogma.
^ All of this. Why would you someone even want to get rid of the "bad" parts of religion? I'd say it's all bad, where are the good parts? A sense of community? You can get a sense of community by joining a bowling league. Charity? There are secular charities. There is no "good" part of religion that couldn't be achieved as well or better by eliminating the supernatural aspects.

As for what Reltzik said,yes, of course it would be problematic, useless, and unethical to make a police state legally enforce no religion. You can't force people out of religion, you'd just drive it underground. You have to encourage people to give up religion. The way to abolish religion, IMO, is to educate children and train them in critical thinking, and the problem will eventually solve itself. Indoctrination would still be a roadblock, but maybe it would eventually become less so.
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13-01-2013, 12:58 AM
RE: Changing Religion
(12-01-2013 09:35 PM)Chujutsu Wrote:  Hey guys. My mind got curious all of a sudden.

First off, I was thinking about religion. During my reading of the God Delusion, I understood that religion should be abolished. I might give it another read soon (once I'm finally free from all the stuff I still have to do), but I had to ask myself why religion must be abolished. What are the chief "complaints" about it?

Aside from not having evidence for its beliefs, what would make it bad?

I thought of at least three things:

1.) Abuse - when killing innocent people is authorized by the religion or teaching that bad things happen to people who simply don't share their beliefs
2.) Neglect - when people are content in praying to their deities and not doing anything to make their situation (e.g., grave illness, natural calamities) better
3.) Willful ignorance - when people reject science because it contradicts religious teachings

I am not sure what else there would be, but additions would be nice.

Anyway, I also thought. What if these bad things about religion are removed? Is it possible to do so, and what would its result be?

Assuming that there can be such an "ideal" religion, what would it look like, and would there be a difference with atheism? If so, what would it be (perhaps aside from atheism's lack of belief)?

So, summing up:
1.) Why is religion bad? Why must it be abolished?
2.) Is it possible to remove these bad aspects of religion? If so, how would the result look like? Would it be different from atheism (with the exception of the lack of belief of atheism)?
Okay. Now on to why religion is bad, whether these bad aspects can be excised, and what the result would be.

Why religion is bad. That... depends on the religion. I'd actually argue that some aren't that bad. Or aren't bad at all. Unitarian-Universalism, for example. (To be fair, I'll admit that my membership in that religion might be biasing me to believe it's not bad. But I think it's more that my believing it's not bad is part of why I'm a member.)

So, this is GOOD NEWS. It means, A, that religions don't have to be bad, B, that we've got proof of concept in place, and C, that the desired reform is doable. Your question should be not, what makes all religion bad, it should be, what makes some SPECIFIC religions bad, and that's a much easier hurdle to jump.

So, what makes some religions bad? Again, it depends on the religion. But here are some of the more common and egregious perpetrators, IMO.

1) De-emphasizing compassion for human suffering. This can play out lots of ways -- saying God's more important than people, or that eternal salvation is more important than momentary pain, so on. What's odd is that many religions actually contain a conflict within them, in that an adherent can interpret compassion as important, or can regard the suffering with indifference. This is particularly on display with Christianity, which in some places emphasizes kindness towards others (Christ and the Gospels), and in others (Leviticus) can get pretty darn nasty. You can find Christian denominations all over the map on this issue.

2) Emphasizing fixed answers over active inquiry. This can lead to a general dumbing down of people who just don't know how to search for truth that isn't handed to them, to conflict with people who don't believe the revealed truth, to following dumb techniques (like faith healing) over more effective approaches. Again, not universal.

3) Suppression of minorities (women are a popular target for this, but see also the Hindu caste system), and also inventing crimes that aren't and directing violence, hate, and shame at people who commit these not-a-crimes (examples: homosexuality, moneylenders, people who eat beef). Again, not universal. Though directed mostly inwards, this often spills out and innocent bystanders become targets. Especially with....

4) Grasping at the reins of power. Okay, sure, someone's gotta rule, but often faith feels it has a divine MANDATE to rule... and then once you're in power, you advance your faith using it. Often this includes...

5) Persecution and/or forcible conversion of non-believers. AGAIN, not universal. But also not rare.

6) Exploitation of followers for wealth and power. This can be everything from coating churches in gold while half of Europe starves (see Catholicism, about 700 years ago) to mobilizing your followers for some political purpose (see Catholicism, today). Often linked with outright scams. Again, far from universal. ... well, okay, any organization needs SOMETHING volunteered to support it, but differences in degree become differences in kind when the degree is friggin big.

7) Overbearing power of those within the religious hierarchy, or lack of accountability. Again, Catholicism and its dirty, naughty priests.

I could go on, but I think that covers most of the more egregious problems. Thus a solution would look like...

1) A religion that emphasizes compassion and is, basically, humanistic.

2) A religion that emphasizes questioning and a search for truth. In Christianity, for example, this might be linked to the idea that our knowledge of God is fallible and flawed, and so we must always question it, and turn to God's Creation (and the scientific method) to see whether or not our beliefs are in error. A Buddhist might similarly employ scientific techniques in trying to figure out how to best reduce suffering. In particular, a rejection of literalism.

3) Emphasis on equality, often coupled with a rejection of outmoded customs found in the holy books. (Because, hey, poor understanding of those who wrote them in the first place, see 2.)

4) Belief in separation of church and state. This could involve regarding worldly power as an evil temptation or ungodly, or be a cold-blooded recognition that you have to bar all churches from government if you want to bar THAT church down the street from government.

5) See 2. Or 1. Or 3. Or 4. Or, hey, just having enough faith IN your faith not to be threatened by the faith or non-faith of others. Really, that sort of thing just SCREAMS insecurity.

6 and 7) Not having a hierarchical religion.


So what would this look like? ... pretty much any "liberal" denomination or sect you can name, be it from liberal Christianity, or Islam, or...

"If I ignore the alternatives, the only option is God; I ignore them; therefore God." -- The Syllogism of Fail
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13-01-2013, 01:15 AM
RE: Changing Religion
Ahh. So, the religion in question must be very specific...

So, such religion should be liberal? Hmm... interesting.

I suppose I should also ask what makes religion good. Perhaps I might have to change the question to ask what makes specific religions good. However, I am not sure which ones to ask about. I realize that there are so many religions, so it's going to be difficult to point out specific religions.

Is it possible that religions have a "general" trend of good characteristics? Some religions, I admit, would be quite bad, such as a fundamentalist Christianity. What would these good characteristics be?
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13-01-2013, 01:17 AM (This post was last modified: 13-01-2013 10:35 AM by Reltzik.)
RE: Changing Religion
(12-01-2013 11:34 PM)Chujutsu Wrote:  Whoa. Hahaha. I didn't quite expect such a response.

I'll agree that, so far, I don't have a practical method to abolish religion, if it needs to be abolished.

I also hope to learn more about USA, since I don't live there (I'm from the Philippines). I'm sorry if I can't really understand the government and the situation there, but I hope I can learn something new.

I suppose that we can focus on theism, at least. Buddhism, as far as I know, has no deity, so I guess it's more of a personal philosophy.

EDIT: No wait, scratch that last part. Let's say that religion is belief which is unsupported by evidence.

EDIT 2: Regarding American politics, in my country, we have a presidential system, so I understand a bit regarding the president and congress. However, I am not very familiar with the Democrat / Republican stuff in the States. There may also be differences in the government between USA and the Philippines. I hope that I can learn more about such differences.
Huh. Supply-side economics as religion. Climate Change Denial as a religion. ... actually, both of those kinda work. But I don't think it's what you're aiming for. Really, what is and isn't a religion is tricky to define when you start groping for the border between the two.

Quick trip to wikipedia suggest that the two form of governments are very similar, with the Philippine constitution being modeled after the US's, but the states have more autonomy and somewhat more sacred enshrinement in the Constitution than your provinces do. (Not entirely sure of that, though.) Republicans and Democrats are the two political parties that pretty much dominate the ballot here, and control of government tends to seesaw back and forth between them. To explain my earlier comment, Republicans as a group are extremely unfond of environmental regulations keeping business from doing what business wants to, and when they get to appoint the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), they tend to put someone in place to handicap the agency, rather than accomplish its mission.

EDIT: Also, don't apologize for not knowing the ins and outs of a foreign country's government. No reason you should.

"If I ignore the alternatives, the only option is God; I ignore them; therefore God." -- The Syllogism of Fail
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