some questions...
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27-12-2010, 12:46 PM
 
some questions...
Hi there.

I am a Hindu and am visiting this site out of curiosity – and hopefully to learn something new! I have some questions I would like to ask to those that don't mind answering...

Please be friendly!

Firstly, (as stated on the web page under what you believe) atheists believe that “religion divides more than it unites.” I was raised to believe that those who correctly follow their religion will have no qualms with other religions, as I do not (nor do I have any qualms with my atheist and agnostic friends!). My question is how did you come to the conclusion that getting rid of all religious belief is the best cure for this problem, rather than (say for example) putting in a bit more effort and trying to unite all people despite religious belief?

Take for example in India; under the Mughal leader Akbar all religions lived together peacefully. Akbar appointed Hindus to leading roles in government (unlike his elders who plundered Hindu cities), and debated frequently with Jains, Sikhs, Hindus, Carvaka atheists, Jews and Roman Catholics, considering them all as equals and with great respect. Leaders like this are able to unite people irrespective of faith, and surely that is what the world needs more of?

Not to discredit the fact that there was a long period of 'division' before this (there was, and it was violent), but I want to emphasise the periods of peace and harmony irregardless of the tensions. When the British left India tensions arose once again (tensions which led to the migration of 14 million people!), but the colonial and modernist ages did much to unite different cultures and belief systems around the world, and of course there was going to be rising tensions when one belief system met another! Politics, I argue, simply exacerbated the situation, as it always seems to do.

The same to Sri Lanka which had a relatively peaceful Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim population which the old and unbalanced political systems of the British destroyed causing tensions thereafter. One could argue that it is the inclusion of politics in the religious realm that contributes to the great degree of 'division', particularly in our global, post-colonial day and age. What is the atheist opinion of this? - Of course political interference heightens religious division – but does that mean to say we should destroy thousands of years of religious belief (human history, some would call it) so as to stop some insignificant and completely avoidable quibbles between extremists?

And in this age of extremists (and I warn you, in our post-modernist age, they are innumerable) to claim that “religion divides more than it unites” is simply fuel for those fools who want THEIR belief to be the one ruling idea – whether it be Al Qaieda or other fundamentalists... wiping out differing beliefs is their goal also. And we all know that although AQ purport Islam (they do not represent any religion), they are just lunatics with a great lust for omnipotence/omniscience, who want their belief system to conquer all else. In some respects, to believe that “religion divides more than it unites” is a dangerous idea. If anything, I believe instead that we need a greater understanding of religion; it has gotten confused over the ages.

Furthermore, I believe that it is in our 'nature' (if you will permit me to use that word) as human beings to highlight the differences between ourselves, as well as the similarities. It stimulates dialogue and engagement with one another. Surely if we get rid of religion we will pick on other differences, such as (eg.) race, ethnicity, culture or political ideology – as we already do to each other? Surely we will just have to get rid of these things too? Why only religion? Does it not add to our great diversity as human beings?

I have friends of many faiths, and am also friends with atheists and agnostics. Does this mean that my friendship with these people does not exist because of so-called 'divisions'? Or is my social group merely an anomaly to your beliefs? And are you also suggesting that atheists have no divisions amongst themselves at all? That you all love and respect each other as one and the same?

Of all atheistic beliefs, the one that really tickles me is “religion divides more than it unites” (as you might probably have guessed!).

I hope you can answer with some insight, or just offer some dialogue. I apologise sincerely if I sounded patronising or demeaning in any of this – my beliefs (religious, philosophical, political, social, historical or whatever) are still shaping themselves into something...

Peace.
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27-12-2010, 12:55 PM
RE: some questions...
Hey Catch22. Welcome to the forum.

The section on this site, "What We Believe" is written by the owner of the site (Who does not post in the forum). It is his opinion, and although some atheists may agree with him, it is not fair to say that it's "something atheists believe". Atheists believe many different things, and don't adhere to a specific set of beliefs. "Atheist" is simply a term that identifies someone who does not believe in a god. There is much debate, even within this forum, as to the correct definition of "atheist", but there is one thing for sure. We are not a group of people who share specific beliefs.

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27-12-2010, 01:05 PM
 
RE: some questions...
(27-12-2010 12:55 PM)Stark Raving Wrote:  Hey Catch22. Welcome to the forum.

The section on this site, "What We Believe" is written by the owner of the site (Who does not post in the forum). It is his opinion, and although some atheists may agree with him, it is not fair to say that it's "something atheists believe". Atheists believe many different things, and don't adhere to a specific set of beliefs. "Atheist" is simply a term that identifies someone who does not believe in a god. There is much debate, even within this forum, as to the correct definition of "atheist", but there is one thing for sure. We are not a group of people who share specific beliefs.

Thanks Stark Raving. Sorry, I took "What WE Believe" literally and as encompassing you all...

So, can I ask... as an atheist what are your opinions on the belief that religion divides more than it unites?

Catch22
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27-12-2010, 02:12 PM
RE: some questions...
I don't think it's all or nothing, but I do see more negative impact from religion than I do positive. Just as one of many examples, take war. I don't think religion is the sole cause of war, but many a war has been fought in the name of faith. I am often confronted with the response, "Yea, but look at all the good religion does!" True. But how much of that good would be done without religion? Charity. I know plenty of atheists who support charity, and I think most theists would continue to be charitable in the same capacity they are now if they were to release their religion. Sure, some good does hinge on religion, but I don't think the balance is there to offset all the bad it does.

If people kept their religion to themselves, things would be a whole lot different. If they accepted that I am not religous, I would have far less of a problem. I see it this way; practice your religion ("you" as in everyone, not you specifically catch22) with those who believe the same as you. If I want to learn about your religion, I'll come seek information. Don't force it on me, don't knock on my door, and don't teach it in public schools. Religion kept personal would have much less negative impact than it does right now.

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27-12-2010, 02:13 PM
 
RE: some questions...
Welcome to the forum Catch22 Smile I enjoyed reading your post. Here's my opinion:
Personally, I've experienced first hand how religions divide rather than unite. I grew up in a Muslim country with a very small Christian minority. I was raised a Christian, and even attended a private Christian school. However, even as a kid, I was discriminated against and always left out simply because of my religion. First question I was asked when I met someone was my religion, and my answer decided my relationship with that person. Growing up and witnessing the violence, hostility and hatred between Christians and Muslims led me to believe in the damage religion does. And in a country where there are barely any human rights, or laws to protect the minorities, Christians don't have rights in courts. They get spat on and hit on the streets, homes and churches are burned, and bounties put on their heads and that's considered normal. The situation's been getting even worse lately, to the point that it's dangerous to walk down the street wearing a cross, or with bare arms. Honestly, I don't see the unity here.
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27-12-2010, 02:38 PM
RE: some questions...
My view of religion as being a dividing factor versus a uniting factor is true a lot of the times, though just pointing a finger of blame to religion for that is unjust. From what I've seen, almost any ideal or moral unites and divides. The best way to overcome it is just accepting opposing views and let them be, so long as they are peaceful.

I am sure there are atheists here that do believe religion is indeed harmful, but I myself am not against religion. I am against idiocy in the form of religion.

I don't believe Jesus is the son of God until I see the long form birth certificate!
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27-12-2010, 03:03 PM
 
RE: some questions...
(27-12-2010 02:13 PM)mBear Wrote:  Welcome to the forum Catch22 Smile I enjoyed reading your post. Here's my opinion:
Personally, I've experienced first hand how religions divide rather than unite. I grew up in a Muslim country with a very small Christian minority. I was raised a Christian, and even attended a private Christian school. However, even as a kid, I was discriminated against and always left out simply because of my religion. First question I was asked when I met someone was my religion, and my answer decided my relationship with that person. Growing up and witnessing the violence, hostility and hatred between Christians and Muslims led me to believe in the damage religion does. And in a country where there are barely any human rights, or laws to protect the minorities, Christians don't have rights in courts. They get spat on and hit on the streets, homes and churches are burned, and bounties put on their heads and that's considered normal. The situation's been getting even worse lately, to the point that it's dangerous to walk down the street wearing a cross, or with bare arms. Honestly, I don't see the unity here.

Thank you for the response! I'm sorry to hear about the conflict where you are (where are you from, out of curiosity?) but it sounds like you're a victim of circumstance, as we all are. I mean, I grew up in a happy home and went to a school where I had friends from all over the world, who practised different faiths and cultures, whereas you find yourself in the midst of religious hatred. My parents are Tamil Hindus who escaped the civil war in Sri Lanka (an ethnic war, not a religious war) and came to live in London and - the melting pot that it is - I grew up surrounded by many cultures and world faiths, who practise openly everywhere. I think it is one of the drawing points of city life, that there is such rich culture and diversity from across the globe dumped into one place. I think it definitely helped, growing up in such a diverse city, that I have such hope for the unity of religions. All the same, I hope your situation improves whether it be with or without religious unity Smile
(27-12-2010 02:38 PM)ashley.hunt60 Wrote:  My view of religion as being a dividing factor versus a uniting factor is true a lot of the times, though just pointing a finger of blame to religion for that is unjust. From what I've seen, almost any ideal or moral unites and divides. The best way to overcome it is just accepting opposing views and let them be, so long as they are peaceful.

I am sure there are atheists here that do believe religion is indeed harmful, but I myself am not against religion. I am against idiocy in the form of religion.

I am against idiocy in the form of religion.
hear, hear
(27-12-2010 02:12 PM)Stark Raving Wrote:  I don't think it's all or nothing, but I do see more negative impact from religion than I do positive. Just as one of many examples, take war. I don't think religion is the sole cause of war, but many a war has been fought in the name of faith. I am often confronted with the response, "Yea, but look at all the good religion does!" True. But how much of that good would be done without religion? Charity. I know plenty of atheists who support charity, and I think most theists would continue to be charitable in the same capacity they are now if they were to release their religion. Sure, some good does hinge on religion, but I don't think the balance is there to offset all the bad it does.

If people kept their religion to themselves, things would be a whole lot different. If they accepted that I am not religous, I would have far less of a problem. I see it this way; practice your religion ("you" as in everyone, not you specifically catch22) with those who believe the same as you. If I want to learn about your religion, I'll come seek information. Don't force it on me, don't knock on my door, and don't teach it in public schools. Religion kept personal would have much less negative impact than it does right now.

A quick digression: One time I let the Jehovah's Witness into my house. They tried to talk religion to me, but I was working on an essay on astrophotography and asked them if they believed in space and the universe and they said no (can u believe!) I made them some tea and spent the next half hour talking about how awesome Star Trek is for integrating so many world beliefs into one utopian view of the humankind's future. They said it was the nicest visit they ever made! (True story!)

Anyway, they didn't really manage to force their religion on me (because Star Trek is far superior (jk)), but they did leave some leaflets. I'm a bit of a hoarder and kept them, and come back to them every now and again (usually I find them when I'm looking for something else). Anyway, it's an interesting religion from what I can make out. But fair enough, you like to be left alone. I guess people are just different.

So, what I was going to say... Back to this “religion divides more than it unites”. What if some fundamentalist atheist decides to put this idea into practise and so... starts eliminating all religions and religious people. What then? This is the only fear I have with regards atheism... and you know what human being (filled with beliefs) plus (political) power equals.

Otherwise, play on...
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27-12-2010, 03:32 PM
 
RE: some questions...
Thank you Catch22 Smile I was born and raised in Egypt. I, too, hope the situation over there gets better, as I still have family living there.

I moved to Canada 9 years ago, however, so I too have been exposed to many cultures, backgrounds and religions. I absolutely love it Smile
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27-12-2010, 04:22 PM
RE: some questions...
(27-12-2010 12:46 PM)catch22 Wrote:  Hi there.

I am a Hindu and am visiting this site out of curiosity – and hopefully to learn something new!

Welcome to the forum, catch22. Don't worry. We don't kick anybody off the forum for not being an atheist. TTAF has no real moderators; Stark Raving and I are just here to keep the bots down. We don't ban anyone, so you don't have to worry about that.

I hope you find the answers you're looking for. We won't bite if you won't. Tongue

Quote:Firstly, (as stated on the web page under what you believe) atheists believe that “religion divides more than it unites.” I was raised to believe that those who correctly follow their religion will have no qualms with other religions, as I do not (nor do I have any qualms with my atheist and agnostic friends!). My question is how did you come to the conclusion that getting rid of all religious belief is the best cure for this problem, rather than (say for example) putting in a bit more effort and trying to unite all people despite religious belief?

Well, as Stark Raving has already said, that's TTA's opinion, not ours. He doesn't post here, so if you really want an answer to that, you might be better off emailing him.

That said, I think you've mischaracterised TTA a little bit. Nowhere on that page does it say that he thinks getting rid of religion is a better solution to this than trying to promote tolerance. I don't think he espouses the removal of religion. Very few atheists I've met actually do. For the most part, we've got no problem with religion as long as you keep it to yourself. Removal of religious practices which harm people or impede progress (social or scientific), yes; removal of religion as a whole, no.

Quote:I have friends of many faiths, and am also friends with atheists and agnostics. Does this mean that my friendship with these people does not exist because of so-called 'divisions'? Or is my social group merely an anomaly to your beliefs?

Neither. The page says "religion divides more than it unites", not "religion always divides". It's entirely possible for people of differing religious beliefs to be friends. But friends are rarely friends because of their religious beliefs, and formerly close groups of friends are often torn apart because of religious differences. I know. It's happened to me. It's happened to many people on this forum.

Religion very, very rarely brings people together for anything more than a casual relationship. Friendships are built on more than a common belief of how the universe came to be. But it can be single-handedly responsible for the destruction of a relationship.

Quote:And are you also suggesting that atheists have no divisions amongst themselves at all? That you all love and respect each other as one and the same?

No. Are you best friends with everyone who is a Hindu? But atheists who dislike each other never dislike each other because of atheism.

"Owl," said Rabbit shortly, "you and I have brains. The others have fluff. If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest - and when I say thinking I mean thinking - you and I must do it."
- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
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27-12-2010, 05:13 PM
 
RE: some questions...
Thanks for the response!

I was watching a Bollywood film last night with my dad. The storyline went something along the lines of Hindu woman falls in love with Christian man (I think the same plot has been repeated in a lot of films over the recent years) but it highlights a growing trend into the prominence of this problem in Indian society. In the film they didn't end up together – the Hindu woman married another Hindu, to her parent's delight. I think this is a good example of what you mean.

Anyway, the dialogue regarding this problem has begun in Indian cinema (it's been around in recent years). It reminds me of problems surrounding mixed marriages in Western society over the last few decades... and although there is still discrimination, I think tolerance has improved. I think as society is reflected more and more in cinema as having improved attitudes in light of these problems, attitudes and society itself will change. India has an increasing number of love marriages per annum, and it's generally respect for the older generation which hinders this. I think as time moves on religious practises such as this which hinder 'progress' will be confronted (remember, India is in some respects still an ancient civilisation that has a different idea of 'progress').

“religion divides more than it unites.”
I think religion can divide people, in as much as it can unite people. I don't agree that there is an imbalance in which religion does more harm that good. The key is (my own personal belief) in how religion is deployed by political and social systems. The people who control religion, control religious people. If the world's politicians were not so corrupt, they would not command religious people to do their bidding, they would not manipulate religious doctrine, and they would not use religion as an excuse to wage war. I sincerely believe that those people who practise their religion correctly will have no qualms with any other religion.

I understand your point about friends not being friends on sole account of their religion, but more than that, I would say it is intolerance – not simply religion – which can be the destructor of friendships. I merely meant to express that people will have arguments and dislike one another for all sorts of differences, religion being one of them. Tolerance is vital.

“Religion very, very rarely brings people together for anything more than a casual relationship. Friendships are built on more than a common belief of how the universe came to be.”
True... but the same can be said for strangers... who very, very rarely come together for more than a casual relationship. But religion can be an insight into another world, another history, especially with a friend who is willing to share that with you. And with a friend it can be so much more personal and intriguing. For me anyway, it's like having a friend invite you to stay with their family in their home. It's a delve into another world, an escape. We have so much to offer one another; I think religion can be a good thing, if people use it in the right way. It's when religion gets confused that things can become problematic.
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