So what I am really fighting against is ... erm ... organizational dynamics.
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17-07-2011, 05:02 AM
So what I am really fighting against is ... erm ... organizational dynamics.
I have had some more thoughts about my deep conversation with a Christian friend the other day. His form of Christianity is a rather personal form - and certainly as it is explained I cannot see that it is anything other than a good thing. He considers himself a rationalist. If you ignore the belief in God and look at what we agree about it looks we share the same fundamental concerns.

The best way I can think of explaining this is analyze some of my experiences:

I have been in religious meetings where someone was making statements that deserved to be challenged. However I was a mental state where it was hard for me to make that challenge. I can remember the doubts bubbling around in the back of my head but they never managed to break surface until the dubious ideas were obviously broken.

I have been in corporate training meetings where someone was making statements that deserved to be challenged. However I was a mental state where it was hard for me to make that challenge. I can remember the doubts bubbling around in the back of my head but they never managed to break surface until the banking crisis of the past few years and it became clear that ideas in banking had not been sufficiently challenged.

So the idea is that the core problem are the dynamics that make it hard for someone to challenge bogus ideas. I can really see a lot of truth in this. And phrasing it like this makes it a lot eaiser to connect with moderate theistic people so you can engage the issues but avoid confrontation. And I think it really does capture what is wrong with religion. So why not relabel myself? I can see it now:

Quote:Q. What do we want?
A. An end to organizational dynamics inhibiting the challenge of bogus ideas.

Q. When do we want it?
A. As soon as the plenary session of the world atheist congress has finalized the wording.

After this pleasant evening it took me some time figure out what the catch was. The biggest obviously has to be that religious ideas are usually spoon fed to children, followed up by the utter dehumanization and or silliness of most of the ideas. The recent issues in banking may have done a lot of damage, but not much compared to the past few thousand years that religion has done. And I could still make a case for banking whereas I could not do that for religion.

In the latter part of the evening my friend went onto make another move that I did not quite see through at the time. He went onto talk about organizational types and how people seek out organizations where they can fulfill their preferred (not necessarily constructive) role. His big example was Richard Dawkins and that essentially Richard Dawkins was a preacher. I let that pass at the time. I had had enough to drink about and think (or is it the other way round). Well in the cold light of day I still find I agree with almost everything Dawkins stands for. In fact I could have neatly summed it up as "In many cultures it is essentially impossible to challenge bogus ideas once they have a religious label." On the other hand he is right that I am probably a hippocryte if I accept anything any famous atheist says without verifying it for myself. Am I guilty of that? Well I
can think of two possible instances where there is some dissonance.

Firstly Dawkins is famed for a confrontational style. Some of that may be unfair - a malicious attempt to discredit him even. Sometimes it may be necessary to be confrontational. However it is fairly clear to me that I need to work on a different approach for myself.

Secondly there is a section in the "four horsemen" video where Dawkins and co discuss what victory would look like. This bit I really think is wrong. Even if we achieve some sort of atheist breakthrough there will always be religious people - both of the snake oil variety and of the more genuinely spiritual variety. And there will be backlashes as well and there will be times when one generation rejects the ideas of the previous even if at the cost of taking society backwards. And I think what we are trying to achieve is not some post religious nirvana, but rather something approaching a consensus that "children have a right to be taught to think for themselves and that ideas are there to be challenged."
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17-07-2011, 08:46 AM (This post was last modified: 17-07-2011 09:31 AM by Peterkin.)
RE: So what I am really fighting against is ... erm ... organizational dynamics.
(17-07-2011 05:02 AM)angry_liberal Wrote:  ....The recent issues in banking may have done a lot of damage, but not much compared to the past few thousand years that religion has done. And I could still make a case for banking whereas I could not do that for religion.

I was totally with you up to there - think you summarized the situation very well. In fact, i'm still with you here, but feel i should point out that the banking and religion damage were done by the same power-structure.

How i look at it: in all civilizations, the three pillars of power are the administrators (the political/ civil service elite) the enforcers (armed forces, police) and the seducers (organized religion). All these pillars support the social structure that serves the aristocracy (of one kind or another; kings, pharaohs, maharajahs, super-rich - whatever small group has clawed its way to the top and intends to stay there) .

Quote: .... He went onto talk about organizational types and how people seek out organizations where they can fulfill their preferred (not necessarily constructive) role.

I think he's right about this, but only in the context of today's heterogeneous western society. Well, no, i guess it would also have been true in the late Roman empire, or near the end of the British one. In Iran, you probably wouldn't have that scope and choice; in China, it's maybe just starting.

Quote: His big example was Richard Dawkins and that essentially Richard Dawkins was a preacher.

I'm sort of inclined to agree. But, so what? Don't all leaders preach? The problem is that a supposedly secular republic should even need a counter-movement against religious takeover of the public domain.
I happen to like Dawkins' style, and Shermer's, but not so much Hitchens'. Again, so what? I also liked Martin Luther King Jr. and he was religious. What i approved was his social reform; what i approve of is their resistance to oppression. I don't have to believe everything a spokesperson says, any more than i believe everything a teacher says. We use our critical faculties.

Quote: Even if we achieve some sort of atheist breakthrough there will always be religious people - both of the snake oil variety and of the more genuinely spiritual variety. And there will be backlashes as well and there will be times when one generation rejects the ideas of the previous even if at the cost of taking society backwards. And I think what we are trying to achieve is not some post religious nirvana, but rather something approaching a consensus that "children have a right to be taught to think for themselves and that ideas are there to be challenged."

Yes. In fact, what we need to re-achieve is the guarantees that were enshrined in our constitutions. It's always an uphill struggle against vested power.

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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17-07-2011, 09:32 AM
RE: So what I am really fighting against is ... erm ... organizational dynamics.
(17-07-2011 08:46 AM)Peterkin Wrote:  Yes. In fact, what we need to re-achieve is the guarantees that were enshrined in our constitutions. It's always an uphill struggle against vested power.

I am in the UK and I am not sure anything useful is enshrined in the constitution. Although the US constitution is wonderful it does not really seem to work out in practice. However I do fear for the future in the UK. One of several things that fueled the Catholic/Protestant troubles was separation of schools. It took an enormous amount of effort by Tony Blair (amongst others) to change the dynamics there. Yet the same Mr Blair encouraged the growth of "faith schools" so I wonder how divided our society will be in 50 years. The argument for them was that if we have Catholic schools in mainland England (I went to some) and a few faith schools for other religions then there have to be Muslim schools as well. Diversity of education choice is a big theme of all the political parties.
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17-07-2011, 09:51 AM (This post was last modified: 17-07-2011 10:03 AM by Peterkin.)
RE: So what I am really fighting against is ... erm ... organizational dynamics.
I don't know what's in the British constitution (heck, i barely know what's in the Canadian one, and i'm reasonably well informed, as ignorami go - wonder how many USians know what's in theirs) but i'm pretty sure somebody, somewhere, put in a bit about freedom of worship, which has to include freedom from worship. Stands to reason they would, after all the bloody conflict between Catholics and Protestants.

That whole business of religious schools is a major headache. They should never have been allowed in the first place; we need a quality, consistent, all-inclusive secular public education system (with everyone free to indoctrinate their kids on their own time, at their own expense) Private school of all kinds is bad for a society, imo. Once you let the rich keep theirs, you pretty much have to let everybody else have their own. Starts with Catholics and never ends. Bad idea, but i can't see a way out. Of course, allowing and supporting are different concepts: government is in no way obliged to give tax exemptions or reallocate revenues, but it usually does, under interest-group pressure. So, the next best thing, i suppose, would be to encourage the greatest possible diversity: experimental, Montessori, visual and performing arts, community, nature/outdoor - all kinds of schools. It wouldn't lead to greater social cohesion, but a hundred factions are less destructive than two or three.

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17-07-2011, 09:59 AM
RE: So what I am really fighting against is ... erm ... organizational dynamics.
(17-07-2011 09:51 AM)Peterkin Wrote:  I don't know what's in the British constitution (heck, i barely know what's in the Canadian one, and i'm reasonably well informed, as ignorami go - wonder how many USians know what's in theirs) but i'm pretty sure somebody, somewhere, put in a bit about freedom of worship, which has to include freedom from worship. Stands to reason they would, after all the bloody conflict between Catholics and Protestants.
Hmm. Well for a start one of the key provisions of the British constitution is that the monarch may not marry a Catholic. There are laws regarding discrimination but I don't think they are part of the Constitution. Actually there is no constitution as such so what counts as the constitution are the laws and practices that are regarded as constitutional.

(17-07-2011 09:51 AM)Peterkin Wrote:  That whole business of religious schools is a major headache. They should never have been allowed in the first place; we need a quality, consistent, all-inclusive secular public education system (with everyone free to indoctrinate their kids on their own time, at their own expense) Private school of all kinds is bad for a society, imo. Once you let the rich keep theirs, you pretty much have to let everybody else have their own. Starts with Catholics and never ends. Bad idea, but i can't see a way out. Of course, allowing and supporting are different concepts: government is in no way obliged to give tax exemptions or reallocate revenues, but it usually do, under interest-group pressure.
Yes absolutely. I have to say it has taken me a long time to see this. The biggest problem with my religious education I can see now was that it was a waste of brain time. However these schools are deeply embedded in British culture. I don't think a government could get rid of them if it wanted to - and they generally don't.
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17-07-2011, 11:40 AM
RE: So what I am really fighting against is ... erm ... organizational dynamics.
It's probably not worth the effort to fight over religious education. If secular public education is good enough, the religious schools begin to lose their appeal. Many Catholic families in my youth stopped making the financial sacrifice of parochial schooling, once they were culturally assimilated and reasonably confident that their children wouldn't be endangered or corrupted in public school. But then, the rich bastards started pulling strings and government started pulling funds, and pretty soon, the public schools, especially in industrial cities, deteriorated; so did living standards and conditions, leading to ethnic conflict, and concerned parents started pulling their kids out of public school.... An ugly, hopeless cycle, driven by greed, perpetuated by bad policy.

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