Lions and tigers and religion, oh my!
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29-08-2011, 07:06 PM
Lions and tigers and religion, oh my!
I've often stated that religion is not the problem, but that it's simply nested within a larger problem. Still, I encounter a lot of resistance.

I was thinking today and I came up with an analogy... In dialogue form.

A - Lions are a problem.
B - Why?
A - Because they eat things. They're killers.
B - What about sharks?
A - Sharks are irrelevant. Lions kill.
B - But sharks do too. Even spiders.
A - Are you trying to tell me that history is not replete with examples of lions killing?
B - No. It is. Sharks too though. Also cats.
A - Look. Lions kill because lions are evil. Maybe not evil, but there's something wrong with lions.
B - But not sharks?
A - That's right.
B - Don't lions eat because they're carnivores?
A - Don't be absurd, it's because they're lions.
B - No really. Sharks, wolves, eagles, monitor lizards, they're all carnivores.
A - What does that have to do with anything?
B - They all kill. Not because they're lions but because they're carnivores. Lions included. But killing isn't a problem of their design, it's a feature.
A - They all kill because they're lion-like.
B - That doesn't make any sense. They aren't lion like, they're all just carnivores.
A - Are you saying that you condone lions?
B - That doesn't make any sense. I'm just saying they're part of a larger whole.
A - Well life will be better without lions.
B - What about the other carnivores? They'll still be there. Doesn't it make more sense to look at carnivores as a whole if you're so worried about being eaten rather than focusing on lions?
A - ... Lions are evil.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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30-08-2011, 04:16 AM
RE: Lions and tigers and religion, oh my!
(29-08-2011 07:06 PM)Ghost Wrote:  I've often stated that religion is not the problem, but that it's simply nested within a larger problem. Still, I encounter a lot of resistance.

I was thinking today and I came up with an analogy... In dialogue form.

A - Lions are a problem.
B - Why?
A - Because they eat things. They're killers.
B - What about sharks?
A - Sharks are irrelevant. Lions kill.
B - But sharks do too. Even spiders.
A - Are you trying to tell me that history is not replete with examples of lions killing?
B - No. It is. Sharks too though. Also cats.
A - Look. Lions kill because lions are evil. Maybe not evil, but there's something wrong with lions.
B - But not sharks?
A - That's right.
B - Don't lions eat because they're carnivores?
A - Don't be absurd, it's because they're lions.
B - No really. Sharks, wolves, eagles, monitor lizards, they're all carnivores.
A - What does that have to do with anything?
B - They all kill. Not because they're lions but because they're carnivores. Lions included. But killing isn't a problem of their design, it's a feature.
A - They all kill because they're lion-like.
B - That doesn't make any sense. They aren't lion like, they're all just carnivores.
A - Are you saying that you condone lions?
B - That doesn't make any sense. I'm just saying they're part of a larger whole.
A - Well life will be better without lions.
B - What about the other carnivores? They'll still be there. Doesn't it make more sense to look at carnivores as a whole if you're so worried about being eaten rather than focusing on lions?
A - ... Lions are evil.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt

Hi Matt, your old mate Mark here (LOL).

Are you suggesting that there is nothing inherently evil about Christianity?

Are you suggesting that Christianity is not evil because there are other religions saying and doing something similar?

Are you suggesting that atheists who object to Christianity are unfairly demonising a religion that is just doing its thing?

I may have totally misunderstood you, but if these are your assertions I can feel a big debate looming LOL.

Regards, Mark
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30-08-2011, 08:04 AM (This post was last modified: 30-08-2011 08:18 AM by Efrx86.)
RE: Lions and tigers and religion, oh my!
I... don't get it. Are you saying anti-religionists use circular reasoning when dealing with religion? (Religion is evil... because it is!)

Also, what is this bigger problem that religion is just a part/subcategory of? Intolerance?

EDIT: lemme see if I made some progress after re-reading...

Quote:B - They all kill. Not because they're lions but because they're carnivores. Lions included. But killing isn't a problem of their design, it's a feature.
A - They all kill because they're lion-like.

Does this snippet refer to comparing communism to religion whenever people use the "Stalin was an atheist" argument?

The God excuse: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument. "God did it." Anything we can't describe must have come from God. - George Carlin

Whenever I'm asked "What if you're wrong?", I always show the asker this video: http://youtu.be/iClejS8vWjo Screw Pascal's wager.
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30-08-2011, 08:26 AM
RE: Lions and tigers and religion, oh my!
An analogy may not have been the best way to explain your position.

I think I would tend to agree that most religions have inherent problems with them and are all flawed but I think for most of us we center on Christianity because we are more familiar with it. Or did I also miss the point of the analogy?

“Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.”
—Thomas Henry Huxley
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30-08-2011, 10:15 AM
RE: Lions and tigers and religion, oh my!
I think I get the analogy. If I'm reading it correctly, then the problem may not be that you all are missing the point of the analogy but that the analogy is missing the point of the "religion is bad" arguments. I don't think anyone is arguing - or at least not anyone trying to make a reasoned and intelligent argument - that religion is the whole problem. You often see the generic comment that "religion is the cause of most wars" or words to that effect. I think most people realize that this statement is a grand over-simplification. I don't think anyone reasonably believes that without religion there would be no wars. Many wars are fought for reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with religion, where religion was never even brought up. WWI is a perfect example of an "irreligious" war (as well as a perfect example of monumental stupidity). So, an analogy that works on the basis that people are only seeing one argument and rejecting all other explanations fails. Admittedly it does not fail for all people as I'm sure there are some who will insist that religion all by itself is the problem. These people are not worth the time to even debate.

So, if I do understand the analogy, and perhaps I'm not reading it right, I think it fails because it makes an assumption that I don't think is true. Reasonable people don't believe that we have wars, problems, etc. only because we have religion. However, many of us, myself included, do believe that religion is a contributing factor to many of these problems. Telling people that their enemies are outside god and you will get salvation for whatever brutality you can envision is a powerful and effective way to get people to commit atrocities they never otherwise would have done. WWII may have taken place without religion but the Holocaust most likely never would have. That is one example, and there are hundreds of others.

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When ignorance reigns, life is lost
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30-08-2011, 01:34 PM
RE: Lions and tigers and religion, oh my!
I find that to be a terrible analogy but, it's not your fault. The root cause of this being a poor analogy is that it is trying to mock the statement 'religion is evil'.

The statement 'religion is evil' is frequently thrown around (myself in the past included) by those who are on the path to understanding the true consequences of religion on the human mind and the state of society.

When a person says 'religion is evil' what they actually should be saying is 'religion has many negative effects on man and the world' or 'religion is a mental pollution'. It is a term that is used too loosely in the presence of those who don't understand how detrimental religion is to us.

The human race has many mental problems, our greed, extreme desire to understand everything, thirst for power and greatness, excessive lying, etc. are no doubt very large contributing factors to many of the problems in the world today and in the past.

Religion amplifies our mental disorders and causes us to be less intelligent. I will try to give some examples.

If an unexplainable event happens, people will generally attribute this event to the supernatural. Therefore explaining what they don't understand and closing the book on future discovery of what has actually happened for a much longer period of time.

Abortion is another great example. In the USA right now, abortion is a liberal value and the ability to have a child every time it is conceived is conservative. These values are actually backwards (in the future) because of religion.

One day in the future, we will need to slow the growth of the human population. China is a real life example (although they are doing it wrong). When a person's right to have a child at leisure is restricted. The right to have children at your own will becomes the liberal view. Those who get approval before making this child or have it aborted, are now the conservatives.

If the United States continues to be a christian nation, abortion will never find it's true future conservative place. Because it can't become a conservative value due to it's violation of christian values.

You, as a reader, probably disagree with me and are ready to write your skeptical, gotcha statement asap. I understand your disagreement with me and there is no need to bother. I did not present this argument in it's greatest form and I don't want to spend an hour trying to do so. However, you as an atheist, are at least capable of sitting down and thinking about what I've said in your own logical mind and at least comprehend the point i'm trying to make, even if you don't believe this will happen.

This concept is unthinkable by a christian, they are literally incapable of understanding this value in it's future form. They would fight tooth and nail to prevent a concept such as this from happening and they have the power to make it never happen. Their religious beliefs has put a gigantic roadblock in their mind. Logical, rational thought and discussion is not possible in this case and many others in the mind of a religious person.

<pretend there are a few paragraphs here about homosexuals in the same context, it may have been a better example because it's going on right now>

In conclusion, Yes you are right. Religion is not evil. Those who claim it to be evil have simply defined it's detrimental effects inaccurately due to frustration and/or hatred. This 'evil' definition also makes it more difficult to convince those who are not intolerable of religion that it is truly a terrible thing to allow in our society.

My current best redefining of 'religion is evil' is the following: Religion is a mental pollution that hinders the advancement of our species.

Those of you who do not agree with the prior statement, probably spend a lot of time thinking about how silly religion is and how untrue it is just like me. Try thinking about the negative effects these beliefs have on people as well sometimes. You just might want to make religion obsolete, as i do, one day.

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30-08-2011, 01:44 PM
RE: Lions and tigers and religion, oh my!
This is what I'm trying to say.

The statement, ‘animals being eaten is caused by lions’ is false because it's caused by carnivorism. Lions just happen to be carnivores but they in no way cause anything. They do. They don't cause.

The statement, ‘religions are responsible for atrocity’ is false because hierarchy is responsible for atrocity. Religions just happen to be hierarchical but they in no way cause anything. They do. They don't cause.

Hey, Mark.

Quote:Are you suggesting that there is nothing inherently evil about Christianity?

Whatever "evils" they may have perpetrated are not caused by Christianity any more than travelling down the highway is caused by the Chevy Malibu.

So I'm not saying that Christianity is incapable of evil any more than I'm saying a Chevy Malibu is incapable of doing 100kph on the highway. But if you're looking for cause, you have to go deeper.

Essentially it's a case of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

Quote:Are you suggesting that Christianity is not evil because there are other religions saying and doing something similar?

Not just religions. Religion in its entirety is still a just a subset of hierarchical organisations.

And again, I'm not exonerating Christianity of anything. So I contest your use of the word ‘not’.

Quote:Are you suggesting that atheists who object to Christianity are unfairly demonising a religion that is just doing its thing?

This has nothing to do with judgment. I'm making no commentary on Christianity. Take a flying dump on their head if you want. But if you're looking for the cause of the thing you're blaming them for, you need to go deeper.

I'm also saying that if you do go deeper, then you will see that you should no more be surprised that Christianity does these things than surprised that a lion ate something. It's not a design flaw, it's a design feature. But these features are no more exclusive to Christianity than they are to lions.

Hey, Efrx.

Quote:I... don't get it. Are you saying anti-religionists use circular reasoning when dealing with religion? (Religion is evil... because it is!)

Yes. But not because they're dumb, but rather because they have no way of identifying what makes religion evil. They can’t do that because they've convinced themselves that the design flaw resides in religion and religion alone. The problem is that they can identify WHAT a religion is doing and THAT it is problematic but they assume that BECAUSE religions did it that it must be CAUSED by religion. They can't identify the true cause because their investigation is too narrow in scope.

Quote:Also, what is this bigger problem that religion is just a part/subcategory of? Intolerance?

Hierarchy.

There isn't a single hierarchical organisation that is not either capable or simply guilty of everything Christianity is guilty of.

Quote:Does this snippet refer to comparing communism to religion whenever people use the "Stalin was an atheist" argument?

It refers to precisely that sort of thing. If one convinces themselves that the problem is within Christianity then it only makes sense that other organisations are exhibiting those qualities because they're Christian-like. But that’s like saying dogs have teeth because they’re buffalo-like. But if one realises that the issue is within hierarchy then one can say that both Christianity and Communist states are hierarchical and EXPECT them to share traits.

Hail to thee, Bearded one.

Quote:An analogy may not have been the best way to explain your position.

Perhaps. But damn if it didn’t just seem so clear to me lol

Quote:I think I would tend to agree that most religions have inherent problems with them and are all flawed but I think for most of us we center on Christianity because we are more familiar with it. Or did I also miss the point of the analogy?

It makes perfect sense to me to focus on Christianity if it's what you're familiar with. Just like it makes sense to focus on cats if that's what you're familiar with. That being said, what I'm saying is that if in the course of that investigation you realise that much of what makes cats cats isn't due to catness, but due to the fact that they're mammals, then that realisation opens a door to a wider understanding that one has an obligation to step through. I'm saying that same door exists for Christianity and I'm inviting people to step through. Otherwise they'll be like a female whale biologist saying that she's whale-like because she too lactates for her baby.

For example, if you were watching a movie about a plucky kid from Brooklyn who decides to investigate when Vinnie ‘The Knife’ Mancuso stabs five people in the borough and then goes on to discover that aliens have taken over the minds of people the world over and that all of those people are going on stabbing sprees and after discovering that the kid says, “We gotta stop Vinnie,” you’d scream, “Stop the fucking aliens, dumbass!” at the screen because you’d know that he was failing to step through that door.

It’s about stepping further through the looking glass.

Hey, BnW.

Quote:I think I get the analogy.

Sweet!

Quote:If I'm reading it correctly, then the problem may not be that you all are
missing the point of the analogy but that the analogy is missing the point of the "religion is bad" arguments. I don't think anyone is arguing - or at least not anyone trying to make a reasoned and intelligent argument - that religion is the whole problem.

-The Root of All Evil
-God Is Not Great
-The God Delusion

These works and others like them start and finish with religion.

This is not to say that they don’t have any valid points, but that blame is laid at the feet of religion.

I do agree though, they are neither reasoned nor intelligent arguments because they have rushed to judgment before investigating fully. If they had been more thorough, then they’d report that the "Root" is much deeper.

Furthermore, if that root is such a concern, then you're wasting your time if you're not digging deep enough. It's like cutting a dandelion with a lawn mower and then declaring ‘problem solved’.

Quote:You often see the generic comment that "religion is the cause of most wars" or words to that effect. I think most people realize that this statement is a grand over-simplification.

I don't know that I agree with that. Even if it is true in some cases that people actively understand that it’s an over-simplification, the constant use of that simplification has the same effect as a Fox News talking point. People grow content with the simplistic answer and abandon deeper investigation.

Quote:I don't think anyone reasonably believes that without religion there would be no wars.

I think many do. That being said, I don't think it's everyone. That being said, I think many people believe that eliminating religion will eliminate a ‘roadblock to peace’. That's like saying eliminating lions will remove a roadblock to animals living without fear of being eaten. On some basic simple ass level, that's true I guess. But it has very little practical value.

Quote:Many wars are fought for reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with religion, where religion was never even brought up. WWI is a perfect example of an "irreligious" war (as well as a perfect example of monumental stupidity).

I agree.

That being true, still some people say that the people's fealty to the European Monarchy in the early 20th century was "religion-like". And they say that because they can't see the larger concept.

Quote:So, an analogy that works on the basis that people are only seeing one argument and rejecting all other explanations fails.

Well it doesn't fail actually because I never said everyone but the number is most definitely higher than none.

Quote:Admittedly it does not fail for all people as I'm sure there are some who will insist that religion all by itself is the problem. These people are not worth the time to even debate.

They are worth the time to me because they're perpetuating a fallacy that is keeping all of us down. Doubly so because that fallacy works its way into rational discourse.

For example, 100 years after Eugenics, you still gotta deal with lingering ideas about racial superiority when you’re talking about genetics.

All of that being said, despite what you may think, my gut tells me that the ratio of people that blame religion to people that blame hierarchy is greatly stacked on the side of blaming religion.

Quote:So, if I do understand the analogy, and perhaps I'm not reading it right, I think it fails because it makes an assumption that I don't think is true. Reasonable people don't believe that we have wars, problems, etc. only because we have religion. However, many of us, myself included, do believe that religion is a contributing factor to many of these problems.

I suppose that one could say that lions are a contributing factor to animals being eaten, but that statement isn't very valuable in terms of addressing the problem.

Like I said. Religion does. There's no denying that. The historical record is clear. But it doesn't cause.

A Ferrari does. It’s a fast car. But it doesn’t cause fast cars.

Quote:Telling people that their enemies are outside god and you will get salvation for whatever brutality you can envision is a powerful and effective way to get people to commit atrocities they never otherwise would have done. WWII may have taken place without religion but the Holocaust most likely never would have. That is one example, and there are hundreds of others.

Your statement about the Holocaust is pure supposition. There's no factual data to support it. That and the Holocaust is a product of a historical context. Change the context and of course you change the outcome. The statement, ‘if those things hadn't happened then that thing would not have happened’ is obviously true. But what it implies is that something similar, in this case genocide, could never ever possibly occur under different conditions; an idea that is dangerously false.

I don't disagree that religion can be used to convince people to commit atrocity. It most certainly can. Beyond argument it can. But it's not the cause of atrocity. Other things can, have and will be used to incite atrocity. To address the problem of atrocity, we have to look at why religion can be used to incite it and why those other things can be used to incite it. What trait do they all share? What is the lowest common denominator? The lowest common denominator lies outside of religion.

And again, saying that it's a larger issue in no way contests the historical record or exonerates Christianity. It just says that the problem is way more widespread and that the solution is more involved.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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30-08-2011, 04:54 PM
RE: Lions and tigers and religion, oh my!
Yay I've been given license to base all my arguments on cats!!! Oh wait I already do, but what's this about looking past cats features and discussing mammals? Don't humans tend to talk about humans outside of the context of primates?

Your argument is basically my long held feeling that superiority is a horrible device that leads to destructive actions. Though what about the few non hierarchical religions where it's really a very personal thing? I think you must agree as an agnostic that another horrid feature of religion is gnosticism which is the main argument brought by atheists usually. Know it alls are almost as bad as those who demand superiority =p

I'm not a non believer, I believe in the possibility of anything. I just don't let the actuality of something be determined by a 3rd party.
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30-08-2011, 07:14 PM
RE: Lions and tigers and religion, oh my!
(30-08-2011 01:44 PM)Ghost Wrote:  Like I said. Religion does. There's no denying that. The historical record is clear. But it doesn't cause.

Sorry, but I reject that. Religion does not exist in a vacuum separate from mankind. Religion is actively created by people. You are right that the concept of religion doesn't cause anything but the action of there being religion most certainly is a cause of many of the things we object to. And, to be clear, the objection is not so much religion as a concept but more religion as a practice and a way of organizing thought.

If you're basing your arguments on pure definitions then we can keep following that logic and say that war doesn't cause death, destruction and suffering, it merely defines a violent conflict and it is the men and nations who fight those wars that cause death, destruction, etc., but the concept of war itself is innocent of all these things. I find that argument to be intellectual nonsense. We don't live in concepts, we live in real life where these institutions exist, exert power and commit atrocities.

Finally, religion is not a lion hunting to survive. It's not an animal just doing its thing, or a hurricane that blows wind and rain without malice aforethought. Religion schemes and plans and kills and poisons. It can also teach and comfort and lift up and absolve. Whether you are for, against or neutral on religion you can't reasonably argue that it just "does" and is not, in and of itself, the cause of anything because that is just demonstrably not true.

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When ignorance reigns, life is lost
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30-08-2011, 08:11 PM
RE: Lions and tigers and religion, oh my!
Religion isn't the ultimate problem. Agreed. Tribalism, uncritical thinking, absolute morality (Divorced from it's consequences on humanity), etc... are the problems. HOWEVER, religion is a major, if not THE major, cause of these things. Religion encourages us-and-them thinking. It discourages thinking rationally. It encourages accepting an absolute authority.

Religion and Nationalism (The bad kind, not the harmless flag-waving kind) are 'lions' and 'sharks' and the reason we don't like them is because they're 'carnivores', or in this metaphor, supporters of unreason, etc.. But that doesn't move the blame from them. For example...

A: Man, I hate lions!
B: Why?
A: Because they eat people!
B: Ah, so what you really hate are carnivores! Why do you hate lions so much?
A: ...because lions are carnivores, and there happens to be a crap ton of lions around here...

Religion is not bad in and of itself, sure. Jains are pretty harmless, although the damage they do to themselves in living such a restricted lifestyle isn't a good thing, but, hey, not wanting to harm any kind of life is a good goal. But most religions support all those bad things, and make them more commonplace. Religion is the major cause of unreason, and the biggest label for tribalism. Religion may not be the only carnivore out there, but it's the biggest one.
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