The God Delusion / Root of All Evil - Richard Dawkins


View Poll Results: Have you read the book or seen the movie?
Yes, I have read the book and / or seen the movie 9 56.25%
No, I have not read the book or seen the movie 7 43.75%
Voters: 16. You may not vote on this poll

SVMc
#1
I've recently discovered a new theater in Toronto, the Brunswick Theater which is showing a variety of documentaries. One recent screening was Richard Dawkins "Root of All Evil", based on his book "The God Delusion".

richarddawkins.net/godDelusion (external - login to view)

For anyone unfamiliar with Dawkins, he is a well respected evolutionary scientist from the UK, who is rather upset with the wave of Fundamentalist Christianity, specifically the "Discovery Institute (external - login to view)" who are forwarding an Intelligent Design agenda to be taught in public schools.

I would like to defer the discussion on Intelligent Design to a later thread, and instead focus on Dawkins main attack on religion.

Dawkins basically advances a scathing criticism of religion, accusing religion of being responsible for, if not most, then much of the violence and social friction in past and present society.

He limits his case study to Judeo-Christian religions, namely Christianity, Judeaism, and Islam, citing everything from the crusades to the current bloodshead in the middle east.

I would say that it would be hard to find fault with anyone of his supporting arguments, religion has been the catalyst and the rallying point for the crusades to the gaza strip. It has been social divisive, and used in genocidal context.

However, the question was raised is it directly in the nature of religion to cause this kind of social strife in society? I think Dawkins would say yes.

I'm not as sure, religion according to Dawkins is the suspension of rational thought in favour of blind faith or belief. This is a powerful tool to get many people to rally around and if those people can then be rallied they can be politicized and used for force and war. History would certainly seem to support this view.

But, in that context is it not the institutionalization of religion that is the problem rather than the practice of belief itself.

So, here are the questions that we wrestled with after the movie:

- Is it a religion if it is not institutionalized, or is that the difference between religion and spirituality. Can religion exist apart from religious institutionalization?

- Is there any reason to believe that religious institutionalization is not a political force, or will not be turned to political purposes? Can religions institutionalism and the state truly be separated?
 
Josephine
#2
Wow! Very good thread and a very interesting question. Are they any religions out there now that aren't political? Maybe Jehovah's witnesses, but their views have become political with the refusing of blood and all.
It's hard to say about being "religious" outside of a religious organization. I consider myself "spiritual" and I believe I can connect better without the organizations and political hirearchy.
I do believe that "religion" has been the cause of major wars and conflict, because, as you said, they all believe blindly and without question or reason. There's no middle-ground or conceding to anothers beliefs...it seems "my way or the highway".
 
selfactivated
#3
Pagan
 
talloola
#4
Quote: Originally Posted by JosephineView Post

Wow! Very good thread and a very interesting question. Are they any religions out there now that aren't political? Maybe Jehovah's witnesses, but their views have become political with the refusing of blood and all.
It's hard to say about being "religious" outside of a religious organization. I consider myself "spiritual" and I believe I can connect better without the organizations and political hirearchy.
I do believe that "religion" has been the cause of major wars and conflict, because, as you said, they all believe blindly and without question or reason. There's no middle-ground or conceding to anothers beliefs...it seems "my way or the highway".

I agree with you Josephone, blind obedience, with no thought or consideration to any
other thought process, or belief, and in many cases, kill or die for the cause, (which is
only a belief system) to begin with, and nothing proven, very scary, especially from our
vantage point in this country, because we are so accepting of the 'differences' of others,
which, in my opinion, makes us far more advanced than many other countries in the world, who are living in a 'tunnel' as far as 'their' acceptance of others beliefs.
 
Dexter Sinister
#5
- Is it a religion if it is not institutionalized, or is that the difference between religion and spirituality. Can religion exist apart from religious institutionalization? Good questions. My view: Yes, no, and yes, in that order. Paganism and Wicca provide good examples of non-institutionalized religions. Religion and spirituality are, to use a mathematical metaphor, intersecting but non-identical sets. Some might argue that religion is a subset of spirituality, but I don't think that's right. Some of the more extreme fundamentalists may be as deeply religious as they claim, but they appear to me completely devoid of anything I'd recognize as spirituality.

- Is there any reason to believe that religious institutionalization is not a political force, or will not be turned to political purposes? Can religions institutionalism and the state truly be separated? Two more good questions. My view: no, and probably not but we have to try. I know of no case in history in which an institution of religion has not attempted to exert secular authority and make empirical claims about the nature of things. And when they succeed, especially when religious and secular authority are vested in the same institutions, all Hell breaks loose. As I said on some other thread recently, power is uniquely corrupting to religion because of its view that it's uniquely right about certain key things, and it thus feels it has both a right and a duty to interfere in the lives of others. It also usually provides a moral and ethical justification for treating people who don't subscribe to it extraordinarily badly. Many believers will argue that those are corruptions of their faith and don't truly represent its essence, but I don't believe that for a second. You hear that only from faiths that don't have political power; in every case where they do, there is repression, intolerance, and worse. Give even the most pacifist religious sects, like the Amish or the Quakers, real political power, and they'd soon be trying to make us all live the way they do.

If you liked The God Delusion you'll also like Victor J. Stenger's God: The Failed Hypothesis. Stenger treats the existence of God as an empirical hypothesis about the nature of reality and subjects it to testing and analysis on those terms. No need to tell you what his conclusion is...
 
darkbeaver
#6
Capitalism is the religion of the western masses.
 
look3467
#7
Is it a religion if it is not institutionalized, or is that the difference between religion and spirituality? Can religion exist apart from religious institutionalization?

It depends on religion defined. If we say that religion is defined as mankindís quest to reach God by what knowledge, experience and end result are, then I would say that it can be institutionalized.

The story of the tower of Babel is such a story.

The difference between religion and spirituality is Adam and Eve.

It is a marriage between the spiritual (Adam) and the physical (Eve) where the spiritual being the stronger of the two.

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Mat 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Therefore apart from his own spirit there is instilled in mankind a void for spiritual fulfillment.

This is translated as a dead spirit which seeks to be renewed.

So that seeking is what spells out religion.

Those are a set of conditions set forth from the creation to form our quest.

When we do find that spiritual God, the void is filled and life begins to grow from that point.
You understand that growing involves trial and error, not to mention pain as well.

When we as a body of believers unite under the same spirit, we shall we know peace.

My thoughts.

Peace>>>AJ
 
SVMc
#8
Quote:

Paganism and Wicca provide good examples of non-institutionalized religions.

This was a point of discussion that came up, we faltered on this in two places. First is the definition of paganism. The word pagan originally refers to country dweller and that in feudal societies often the serfs and peasants had different religions than the upper classes who were frequently from an occupying force and had their own religion. As Christianity swept the western world Pagan came to be defined by any religion which was not Christian. By this definition Hinduism and Buddism can easily be considered pagan religions each of which has caused significant violence in areas of the world and both of which have showed corruption by the upper echelons and less than charity towards the general population.

Moving away from the linguistics then there is what is now generally referred to as a neo-paganism and wicca, the finer points of the differences between the two I'm not extensively knowledgable about but what I can glean from an interest as a teenager generally focus around returning to a more natural focus, recognizing a duality in life, and a "rule of three", "golden rule" or similar to "karma" whichever concepts are most familiar.

One of the strongest points of these religions is that they are relatively speaking new, not that the roots are not old, but that the revival of them is a new phenomena, and they I think it can be argued have not had the time that it seems to take to become institutionalized. I don't think this means that they cannot be institutionalized simply by virtue of seeing how many ancient religions were institutionalized and used very well in the time of empires and kings to control mass populations.

A further benefit that the two provide is a leaning towards a gnostic approach to religion as opposed to a literalist approach to religion. By not relying on "sacred texts" that can be interpreted by religious leader the "faith" is more organic and individualistic encouraging a spiritual ideal located in the self rather than dogmatic adherence to someone else's interpretation of scripture.

This would be the entry point for me to believe that not all religions need to degenerate (because I do see it as a degeneration) into dogmatism and literalism. It seems to me that once a scripture becomes the leading doctrine of an organization then the leaders of the organization use this "sacred" scripture as a tool to rally the masses, and then the leaders have the ability to derive their own interpretations of that scripture for their own purposes. Once this happens the followers are not encouraged to seek a gnostic sense of spirituality which should lead to questions, examinations, knowledge and maybe even enlightenment, but instead become bound to literalism and to an "agreed upon" interpretation that can be used for political purposed.

So I am convinced that a gnostic approach to any religion can counter act the institutionalization of religion, but I am not convinced that the political motives for moving to a literal form of religion will not become attractive to any growing body of popular religion (including Wicca should it pick up)

Quote:

power is uniquely corrupting to religion because of its view that it's uniquely right about certain key things, and it thus feels it has both a right and a duty to interfere in the lives of others.

I think this becomes the core of the issue, and I would even perhaps go further that, this is a best case scenario when religious leaders see themselves as religious leaders and see their values at odds with something in society this can occur. To take it further what if the religious leaders are previously politically motivated this become a much scarier scenario where the religion and it's followers are purposefully directed to change a course in society to the benefit of the pre-disposed politically motivated leaders.
 
SVMc
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by darkbeaverView Post

Capitalism is the religion of the western masses.

I'll leave that for another thread, but there is a very interesting co-relation between a belief system that centers around a supernatural or "God" and a political or economic belief system, people tend to be equally as passionate about both.
 
tamarin
#10
We live to civilize our children so that we might live in civil communities. Religion is a great tool in this regard. If religion didn't exist, the rational amongst us would be hard pressed to find an agent equally adroit at doing the job. Humans aren't nice. They need guiding principles that bear authority. A Just Society, even as Trudeau envisaged it, is only possible through numbing regulation. Even then the govs have to hope the people will prove amenable to being cowed.
 
SVMc
#11
Quote:

We live to civilize our children so that we might live in civil communities. Religion is a great tool in this regard. If religion didn't exist, the rational amongst us would be hard pressed to find an agent equally adroit at doing the job. Humans aren't nice.

This is a subject that Dawkins addresses at length in his book, and somewhat in the film. The general argument seems to typically come across as religion is the great moral leader, and that without religion civilization would degenerate into a survival of the fittest where each individual acted to maximize self interest, Hobbesian style nightmare.

There is a significant amount of proof that for social animals (which humans are) that even the most primitive social animals favour cooperation and social unity over anti-social and violent behaviour. Animals who behave violently or in an anti-social way towards their kin lines, pack, tribe are excluded from the pack and the social cohesion prevails over the course of time. Dawkins provides a wide variety of support for this in the book notes.

From a rational standpoint the criticism I would level at this argument is that if we need religion to offer moral guidance than what would that say about us as individuals. As an individual it is easy to rationalize that cooperating with society at large (while I am not always in agreement with everything) is generally in my own interests, and it is definitely in my own interest when I have a complaint against society to work within it's guidelines, this is generally one reason why vigilante justice is not accepted. I can't buy into the notion that without established religion we would all be murdering and raping each other in the street. The simple evolution of a generally secular society in the past 200 years as well as the transition over different forms of religions runs counter to this.
 
tamarin
#12
"The simple evolution of a generally secular society in the past 200 years as well as the transition over different forms of religions runs counter to this."

Despite our obvious secularism, ours is still a society steeped in Judeo-Christian tradition and practice. We're smart enough to know there's safety in proven moral ground. I've never belonged to a church as an adult but I have no doubt of the church's reach as an agent for good.
A society dependent on the action of just and rational men will last until one's bored. Then all the nastiness resident in the beast will emerge. I don't for a second believe civil society is possible without some powerful agent of influence or force.
 
Dexter Sinister
#13
Quote: Originally Posted by SVMcView Post

...there is a very interesting co-relation between a belief system that centers around a supernatural or "God" and a political or economic belief system, people tend to be equally as passionate about both.

Or substitute one for the other, as the Marxists tried to do.

Jeez SVMc, you need to come here to explore these issues? You're obviously far better informed and more articulate than most people on these things, and have given them far more and much deeper thought. I like your style of thinking too.

It's long seemed perfectly clear to me that we're quite capable of making rules for ourselves and living within them (for the most part; there will always be aberrant personalities), in response to our common needs. We all have the same physical and emotional needs, we're all subject to the same natural forces, we all respond the same way to certain emotional stimuli, it can hardly be a surprise that we invent institutions that serve those things. No explanation is required for why people pursue common human interests and relate our institutions and laws to common human concerns. We, humans, are the source of our values, rooted in our common needs and responses. What needs explanation is hypothesizing a higher law from a supernatural being. Thatís the end of understanding and the beginning of coercion.

Welcome to CanCon, BTW, I think you're an excellent addition from what I've seen so far.
 
Dexter Sinister
#14
Quote: Originally Posted by SVMcView Post

This was a point of discussion that came up, we faltered on this in two places. First is the definition of paganism.

Yes, you're quite right, and perhaps I should have specified neo-paganism, but this (external - login to view) is what I was thinking of. I think you'll like that site, BTW, if you haven't found it before. There's also an interesting entry there for Wicca. (external - login to view)

I'd also agree that institutionalization is a degeneration of religion. It is most instructive to study the various church councils of the early Christian church, called for the purpose of defining doctrine and practices, if you look specifically at what they announced should *not* be done. You don't forbid things unless people are doing them, so with time and patience you can figure out what Christian worship services were originally like before the Church's institutionalization. Fortunately we don't have to, the writer Theodore Sturgeon has done it for us and reports on it on pages 146-147 of his 1986 novel Godbody (though I did enough digging around myself to confirm, at least to my personal satisfaction, that he got it essentially right).

There was no house of worship. People met at some quiet, secret place, by choice or to hide from persecution.
There was no priest officiating.
There were no distinctions of age, race, wealth, poverty, or gender.
There was the 'kiss of peace.' Every person embraced every other person.
There was a meal, called the Agape.
Then they all sat around together feeling good and waiting for somebody to feel moved to speak. They called it theolepsy, which means 'seized of God.' That's the original 'speaking in tongues' experience, which the early Church looked for and welcomed, and the modern Church scorns and derides, except for a few fringe sects.

Doesn't sound very different from a lot of pagan and Wiccan ceremonies I've read about.
 
Niflmir
#15
There is a "religion" which I happen to like quite a lot, called the Unitarian Universalists (external - login to view). They basically believe... that the individual can believe whatever they like. They have Christian origins, and basically their belief in an Omnipotent god or force or power caused them to reject the trinity and their belief in the omnibenevolence (or just plain apathy) of this force caused them to reject hell. Then they rejected the bible for some reason, and the teachings of other churches. So now, you can call yourself Unitarian Universalist if you just like hanging out with people that like belonging to a religious institution, without the religion.

I bring that up because I think there existence sheds light on the fact that religion and religious institutionalization are at the very least different.

To me a religion is nothing more than an enforced dogma, as outlined by a statement like "Brushes their teeth religiously." If a person was willing to self enforce a dogma upon themself due to whatever beliefs, sure that could be religious. I don't think many people would consider you religious though, so is that what matters?

Is religion nothing more than common consensus that you belong to a given religious institution or agreed upon label? The affirmative would seem to necessitate the institutionalization.
 
SVMc
#16
Quote:

Despite our obvious secularism, ours is still a society steeped in Judeo-Christian tradition and practice.

I have heard this argument used to validate the existance of religion and religions intrusion into the state. I would forward that this argument is equally as reductionist and and oversimplification of both religion and society.

To accept this argument we first must accept that religions primary purpose is as a moral guide, this devalues the spiritual and philosophical components of religions which I would see as equally strong motivators for religion.

It also devalues society because there is overwhelming biological evidence (as referenced in my earlier post - here is a good opportunity to read the Dawkins argument) and social evidence that humans do not need religion to create morals. Furthermore it is easily evident that we do not need Judeo-Christian morals as there are many societies past and present who are / were overall moral societies (no society today has been 100% violence free) and have other principle religions. For example most Asian societies had very intricate moral philosophies before Christianity was introduced in those societies.

Quote:

A society dependent on the action of just and rational men will last until one's bored. Then all the nastiness resident in the beast will emerge. I don't for a second believe civil society is possible without some powerful agent of influence or force.

This is a very Hobbesian view of the world, if you have not read Leviathan, then you would likely enjoy it. It is a philosophical choice to view the world this way, I in particular reject the view point I lean much more towards the post-modernists or even modernists than the social contract philosophy which basically supports the necessity of monarchies and top down power. Historically I do not think that we have seen the best in society when people are rallied around a monarch or pope. The centralization of power in the hands of a few, usually supported by the Hobbesian argument that people do not their own moral compunctions has caused significant damage and bloodshed in the course of history.

This is why I begin with the Dawkins premise that religion which in most traditional forms is a corrosive force which bends masses to political purposes and encourages not morality, but violence in the name of faith. I then ask, if Dawkins premise is correct then religion is the root of all evil, but, if his premise is in error then how is it wrong?

This begs the original questions of if the negative effects of religion are from the religion itself or from the institutionalization of that religion, and if they are from the institutionalization of religion is it then possible to have religion without institutionalizing it?

Quote:

We, humans, are the source of our values, rooted in our common needs and responses. What needs explanation is hypothesizing a higher law from a supernatural being. Thatís the end of understanding and the beginning of coercion.

I think this becomes the key issue of institutionalization of religions. In a gnostic sense religion is used to explore that which we cannot explain the philosophical "big" questions, like where do we come from, why are we here, what is our purpose, and so on. In a gnostic sense a myth is developed, so for the Christian gnostics this would be the creation myth, a very traditional myth of death, and rebirth signifying enlightenment, this is then repeated throughout the bible in the Jesus myth, the Johna myth, and many others. One very interesting book on this is the Jesus Mysteries the looks at the origins of Christianity as a gnostic religion. Jesus and the lost goddess explores the dualistic roots of Christianity.

Anyways the purpose of gnosticism was to allow myth to be a meditation point, to be illustrations and hypothetical applications around which to develop a common understanding about the unknown. (Think invisible hand for the economists out there).

But then we end up with mass religions and the mythical or gnostic myths become literal interpreted by priests and dictated to the people, where as gnosticism was supposed to encourage the the exploration of the spiritual, literalism translates the spiritual into practical and discourages exploration in favour of blind faith.

We now then have the dangers of a common shared myth that is now literally interpreted and believed and a top down group has control of the shape and direction of the myth and therefore control of the people, this is institutionalization, and the reason we can motivate large groups of people in the name of religion to fight for their beliefs instead of to explore and challenge them.

Quote:

Fortunately we don't have to, the writer Theodore Sturgeon has done it for us and reports on it on pages 146-147 of his 1986 novel Godbody (though I did enough digging around myself to confirm, at least to my personal satisfaction, that he got it essentially right).

There was no house of worship. People met at some quiet, secret place, by choice or to hide from persecution.
There was no priest officiating.
There were no distinctions of age, race, wealth, poverty, or gender.
There was the 'kiss of peace.' Every person embraced every other person.
There was a meal, called the Agape.
Then they all sat around together feeling good and waiting for somebody to feel moved to speak. They called it theolepsy, which means 'seized of God.' That's the original 'speaking in tongues' experience, which the early Church looked for and welcomed, and the modern Church scorns and derides, except for a few fringe sects.

Sturgeon makes a very important point here, as late as the 18th century in England protestant camps were breaking from the Catholic Church, the church of England was despised by many protestant sects as a political grab for power, they saw it as a co-optation of their religion and failing to meet the purposes of the Christian religion which they widely viewed at the time as community centered not top down. This late in history these churches had no priests and the people actively rebelled against laws that forced them to attend the Anglican church and listen to a priest. Many people met in community homes to practice what they referred to as their true religion which was not mitigated by a priest or pope.

Further evidence of the community based roots of Christianity is the sentencing and execution of the translators of the bible. Translating the bible out of latin into a language that common people could understand removed the power (or so the theory went) from the institutions of the church.

A few hundred years later we know that despite people having the power to read the bible themselves that very few choose to interpret it themselves, and even those that try face the large challenge of having to read sometimes politically interpreted versions (i.e. King James version).

Quote:

Doesn't sound very different from a lot of pagan and Wiccan ceremonies I've read about.

The community based religions give me the most hope that religion can exist as a spiritual and philosophical and moral practice without degenerating into dogmatism and institutionalization encouraging blind faith (and I do think there is a very important difference between faith and blind faith).

However considering the evolution of most religions from community sects to large institutions (which largely do not reflect the original religious purposes) I am still at a loss as to if a religion can exist and evolve uncorrupted by institutionalization.

If Wicca became popularised, could it maintain it's integrity over generations. I don't think there is a question that the original advances of the religion would strive to keep it as un-dogmatic as possible, but is it possible to pass that down through the generations when religion is such a powerful rallying tool for mass assembly?

Quote:

There is a "religion" which I happen to like quite a lot, called the Unitarian Universalists (external - login to view). They basically believe... that the individual can believe whatever they like.

The UU and the Humanists are two organizations that truly intregue me, they seem to be attempting to go back to the gnostic roots on the principle of believing in the spiritual, but rejecting the literal interpretations of biblical studies and instead trying to build community. I think they could have a lot of potential, but they remain a very small relatively unknown group.

This becomes a powerful question for me in the sense of does religion only have mass appeal if it tries to deliver pragmatic dogmatic answers to the unknown? Are the UU and the Humanists not more popularized because they do lack the rallying point that a more literal interpretation demands of the congregation?
 
Niflmir
#17
How can I not respond to such a well thought out post?

Although you raise many points I haven't considered before, I agree with what you are driving at. While conversing with my wife one day, she pointed out that the Universalists could hardly be considered a religion since they don't truly claim moral authority and seek to coerce others. Although I felt that this was not in step with what I thought of as religion, it did seem to reflect what the popular majority would feel about religion.

Through many conversations with various Christians, I realized that very few of the modern Christians I spoke to viewed God as omnibenevolent. Instead, they saw salvation as something that God decided to give to a person or not, based upon his own judgement and without regard to the human concepts of good and evil. This was a view supported by the bible and necessitated by the coexistence of God and Eternal Damnation. Moreover, these same individuals would often point out to me that salvation was attained by giving up one's moral agency to Christ and simply behaving as he orders you to. Which, from my viewpoint is terribly devoid of ethics.

With this rationalization in hand, it is easy for those christians to justify the slavery and wife beating espoused in the bible as good, at least, once upon a time. When supposed moral authority exists in the hands of a single being, that being is free to revoke and change those rules. Morals are not unchangeable abstract entities but merely the rules laid out by the single moral authority and delivered to us through a book, or through the teachings of the Church. Regardless, the book is hard to interpret and so we are called upon to put our faith in certain learned interpreters. In the end, the two amount to the same: moral authority in the hands of the institution.

I do not think it is at all uncommon for people to think of religion as nothing more than spirituality tacked onto the claim of moral authority. If I invited you to join my religion, the first thing you would ask me is: What am I supposed to believe? Answers such as: "Just believe that the world was created," don't cut it for most people. If I say something like: "Believe that science explains the creation of all physical objects," it probably wouldn't cut it either. Someone would soon ask how they are supposed to behave, if I said, "However, you like, so long as you observe the laws of the land," they would balk at me.

I did it once. I went out and when there was a lull in conversation, I would tell people: "I have created a religion," and wait for their responses.

If then, religions are supposed, or rather, thought to claim moral authority, how could they possibly not seek to institutionalize themself and begin to exert authority over the population? Isn't the duty of all good men and women to see that wrongs are prevented and punished?
 
SVMc
#18
Quote:

If then, religions are supposed, or rather, thought to claim moral authority, how could they possibly not seek to institutionalize themself and begin to exert authority over the population?

This becomes one of the central questions to me. If we are asking what makes a religion, because we need to know what makes a religion before we can ask if religion is in fact a negative force in society, then, we need to look at populist and non-populist religions and ask why are some belief systems considered "religions" and other "spiritualism" and others seem to exist in a space apart or between (however you choose to view it).

If the function of religion is to exert / claim a moral authority then it logically follow that religion will become an institution with the purpose of advancing it's claim on it's moral authority in society in general. There are certainly ample examples of religions that do exactly this, the more interesting question (for me at least) is if there are examples of religions which can be agreed upon as a religion which do not do this.

On the first point I think there are several belief systems that may claim to be religions that do not put a stake on moral authority, I would see neo-paganism, wicca somewhat in this realm and more strongly UU and Humanitarism.

The second part of that question is a little more difficult. To blur the lines between church and state even more it seems to be that to be recognized as a religion, the state in some way needs to sanction it. But, this is a narrow definition of religion, and would have made all Hugeonauts in France non-religious during the middle ages. But the challenge remains that to claim religious status there is a function of recognition.

If I, or you, or you and I go out and found our own religion we are simply two lunatics until we reach a critical mass, and defining that critical mass seems to be the challenge in defining a religion as opposed to an individualistic spiritualism (which to make matters more complicated an individual spiritualism can follow an indoctrinated religion).

Quote:

While conversing with my wife one day, she pointed out that the Universalists could hardly be considered a religion since they don't truly claim moral authority and seek to coerce others.

This then becomes the next important question in defining a religion in a social context. If we can accept that a solitary practice can either be a reflection of a individuals choice to practice an indoctrinated religion by ones self, or can also be an individual exercising their self sense of spirituality without outside leadership then how does a religion that does not actively recruit or appeal to the population for subscription exist apart from individual spiritualism. This is why the UU and Humanitarianism examples are particularly thought provoking.

I agree that in a spiritual sense I think of the main pillars of religion being a belief system that has philosophical, moral, ethical and supernatural components. But do we also need to add a populist aspect, and appeal to the public and does that appeal necessitate "selling" the belief system as an answer system?

Is this a challenge of the sales pitch, that selling an answer system (moral authority) is a more attractive sales pitch than selling a belief system without a moral authority pitch?

If it is simply the issue of the sales pitch then we can conclude that moral authority is not a necessary part of religion but is an attractive component of populist religions. Which would suggest that religion can exist apart from a claim on moral authority or directive and in that case hopefully avoid the seemingly unavoidable indoctrination and institutionalization. Which leaves us back at question one of if a religion needs popular support to be a religion, and if so what is the critical mass?
 
selfactivated
#19
I am so out thought in this thread but I AM reading.
 
SVMc
#20
Quote: Originally Posted by selfactivatedView Post

I am so out thought in this thread but I AM reading.

I'm glad you're still reading, the discussion that we had after the film was very thought provoking for me, so obviously I've had some time to mull this over at length. I think one of the challenges that we face in our society is this thought process about what religion is to us, not just what our religious beliefs are. These challenges are leveled on a personal and societal level. Please feel free to jump in if and when you feel inclined to do so, I'd love to get more input on this ... question.
 
Niflmir
#21
Quote: Originally Posted by SVMcView Post

On the first point I think there are several belief systems that may claim to be religions that do not put a stake on moral authority, I would see neo-paganism, wicca somewhat in this realm and more strongly UU and Humanitarism.

For the sake of the discussion at hand, I think we can usurp the lexical or democratic definition of marriage and posit that a religion need not claim moral authority. These has the consequence of immediately negating Dawkins argument in the literal sense but I think it furthers the view that he is stating. We weaken the wording of his orginal argument and replace "religion" with "institution claiming moral authority", then the classic and perhaps the only examples are the classical religions which some people may claim are the only religions (by discouting our new, implied definition). The move is not a semantic one, but a clarifying one. It becomes that institutions which make claims to moral authorities are the root of evil. So religion is no longer a source of evil if it claims no moral authority. It portrays the classic religions in the sense that Dawkins wanted, since they all claim moral authority, and it sweeps the "hedonistic" religions out of the argument. By hedonistic I mean those religions that claim no moral authority and so allows complete moral agency of its members, since those religions would be labeled hedonistic by Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and others. Indeed I believe people have those very views about UU and Humanism.

With this definition in hand, it is much harder to argue against the conclusions as well. You aren't bashing religion per se, so you don't have to continuously show that religions do this or that, you simply show that the claim to moral authority of an institution naturally leads to coercion or attempts at coercion by that institution. I think the conclusion follows more naturally from the weakened hypothesis:

Morally right people do not want morally wrong things to occur. Given the chance to stop some action that they believe to be morally wrong, a morally right person will act to stop those actions. A large enough institution has this power. An individual who claims moral authority believes to know right from wrong in all actions. An institution with moral authority will seek to control people's lives down to the minute level, since it has the belief that minute details are wrong or right and the power to affect those changes.

Is this the essence of Dawkin's argument though? Wars and conflict arise because of institutions (governmental or otherwise) that view the actions of another nation, group, or institution as morally reprehensible and seek to remedy the situation through violence, in an "ends justify the means and there are no other means" sort of manner. Or did he in fact want to point out that this was uniquely because of religious thinking? In that, perhaps only religions define moral rights and wrongs against a spiritual entity as opposed to against a manifest organism?
 
selfactivated
#22
Quote: Originally Posted by SVMcView Post

I'm glad you're still reading, the discussion that we had after the film was very thought provoking for me, so obviously I've had some time to mull this over at length. I think one of the challenges that we face in our society is this thought process about what religion is to us, not just what our religious beliefs are. These challenges are leveled on a personal and societal level. Please feel free to jump in if and when you feel inclined to do so, I'd love to get more input on this ... question.

Im Pagan, I have no religion I have faith. I refuse to walk in even a UU church for services. I was raised catholic and that didnt work for me. I raised my kids in the sally ally and that wasnt so bad because they're a works based orginization and I Love being involved with community work.....back then.

Religion to me is the total opposite of what Goddess/God created us for. See Im not as smart as yall Im just a simple Priestess with simple beliefs.
 
jimmoyer
#23
This has got to be the most self congratulating thread I've read in a long time.

Arguments can be made for both relgious and secular behavior. One trying to prove the concepts of the other side as not as solid or consisting of some hypocrisy seems a self-satisfying pre-occupation.
 
SVMc
#24
Quote:

We weaken the wording of his orginal argument and replace "religion" with "institution claiming moral authority", then the classic and perhaps the only examples are the classical religions which some people may claim are the only religions (by discouting our new, implied definition). The move is not a semantic one, but a clarifying one.

I think this can easily be agreed, that anytime a institution claims moral authority and gains popular support it then has the ability to exercise it's moral outrage in the form of violence against sub-sets of people it sees as it's enemies. This can easily bring darkbeavers argument back into context as while the crusades or the gaza strip are shining examples of religious based moral authority inciting conflict, the cold war is a good example of faith in socio-economic systems motivating people to engage in conflict.

This can be reduced to the general argument that whenever you have an unthinking mob mentality that is blindly following a politically motivated leader it will likely be a bad outcome.

Quote:

Is this the essence of Dawkin's argument though? Wars and conflict arise because of institutions (governmental or otherwise) that view the actions of another nation, group, or institution as morally reprehensible and seek to remedy the situation through violence, in an "ends justify the means and there are no other means" sort of manner. Or did he in fact want to point out that this was uniquely because of religious thinking?

The crux of the Dawkins argument seems to be the later in this case, which is why I am uncomfortable with it. While we can widely accept that having masses handing over their moral authority to any sort of centralized body and then adhering to the direction of that body typically produces bad results, the problem I wrestle with is Dawkins assertion that religions are not only in an unique situation to create this climate, but by definition will create this climate.

In which case I have to ask is a religious moral authority more or less likely to create conflict than a non-religious one. If we do draw a line in the sand between the belief in the Holy Roman Church and the belief in a Capitalist (or Socialist) system, then can we see that one is more likely to result in conflict "evil" than the other.

There is certainly more evidence for societies going to war on religious motivations, at least on the surface, because until relatively recent history nations were large organized as religious nations under the control of a monarch that either subscribed to a religious institution (i.e. Catholic Empires, Ancient Roman Empire) or located the religious institution inside the monarchy (i.e. Anglican / Church of England). This does not of course mean that it was for religious reasons that wars / conflicts happened, often these were politically or territorially motivated wars that simply engaged the population through religion as a tool.

In which case is it the religion that is causing the problem, or the political institution causing the problem. Dawkins argues strongly that it is the religion that without religion the conflict in the Middle East would not exist, the crusades would not have been fought, 9/11 may not have happened, terrorists would not be blowing themselves up in the name of God.

Dawkins sees religion as at least the rallying point to motivate a population, and at worst the cause of the conflict.

I can agree with the rallying point for classic religions, but question the causal point. We have shown in WWI, WWII that nationalism is a powerful rallying point and the cold war was an interesting blend of nationalism and pure political ideology.

I think the question becomes weather or not religion is the cause of the conflict if it is the rallying point (classical religion that is) then is it pro-active for science / reason to declare a "war" on religion and put forward a viewpoint that religious institutions should be abolished for the greater good because they contribute significantly to conflict.

Then we arrive back at the question of the benign religion. Many people are attracted to non-institutionalized religions. Is there a way to foster these beliefs to meet what seems to be a human need without institutionalizing them.

Dawkins would disagree, while in the movie he picks what I would refer to as the low hanging fruit (classical established institutionalized religions and mainly the fundamental branches of these religions) he does in the book address moderate religion as a corruptive force as well, because he sees a moderate acceptance of a supernatural, without physical proof as the slippery slope to allowing for the fundamentalist cooptation of morality. In this way he levels the argument that all religions will necessarily degenerate into power wielding institutionalism, but provides little proof on this matter.
 
Dexter Sinister
#25
Quote: Originally Posted by SVMcView Post

Dawkins ... does in the book address moderate religion as a corruptive force as well, because he sees a moderate acceptance of a supernatural, without physical proof as the slippery slope to allowing for the fundamentalist cooptation of morality. In this way he levels the argument that all religions will necessarily degenerate into power wielding institutionalism, but provides little proof on this matter.

I think Dawkins' argument is a little more subtle than that, though I'd agree that he doesn't go into it as deeply as he could have. But there's a limit to what one book can cover, and I think that's a book-length subject in itself. It seems worth noting, however, that I can think of no case in history in which religion, given secular authority, has not turned into power wielding institutionalism. Much of the history of the nominally Christian nations of the West over the last 400 years or so can be read as the church retreating, or perhaps being beaten back, from its position of secular authority as the scientific revolution revealed the falsity of many of its claims.

I didn't read Dawkins as using the slippery slope argument though, he certainly ought to know that's a common logical fallacy. I understood him to be saying that because religions, even the most moderate among them, hold themselves to be uniquely right about certain things, they feel they automatically deserve respect and should be immune from certain criticisms. To be logically consistent then, they have to further insist that *any* religious belief automatically deserves the same respect and immunity from fundamental criticism, which is a very pervasive, and I think insidious, claim. No idea is so good it deserves a free pass. He does explore that a little further in some of his other writings where he talks about memes and mind viruses.

Just for interest, you can see Bill O'Reilly's interview with Dawkins here. (external - login to view) That man must be the worst interviewer in the world. He never let Dawkins complete a thought, just kept interrupting to lecture and harangue him.
 
L Gilbert
#26
Quote: Originally Posted by darkbeaverView Post

Capitalism is the religion of the western masses.

-Wanted: A colony for an ant named "Beaver"-
 
L Gilbert
#27
Quote: Originally Posted by tamarinView Post

We live to civilize our children so that we might live in civil communities. Religion is a great tool in this regard. If religion didn't exist, the rational amongst us would be hard pressed to find an agent equally adroit at doing the job. Humans aren't nice. They need guiding principles that bear authority. A Just Society, even as Trudeau envisaged it, is only possible through numbing regulation. Even then the govs have to hope the people will prove amenable to being cowed.

Reason would be a great tool. Unfortunately, people cannot seem to control their emotions, and let themselves be guided by them: EG, like greed, hate, etc. Reason goes down the tube and emotion takes over.
 
selfactivated
#28
Quote: Originally Posted by L GilbertView Post

Reason would be a great tool. Unfortunately, people cannot seem to control their emotions, and let themselves be guided by them: EG, like greed, hate, etc. Reason goes down the tube and emotion takes over.


Are you against emotions such as Love, Compassion and Caring also........Those rule my life for the most part.
 
L Gilbert
#29
Quote: Originally Posted by NiflmirView Post

There is a "religion" which I happen to like quite a lot, called the Unitarian Universalists (external - login to view). They basically believe... that the individual can believe whatever they like. They have Christian origins, and basically their belief in an Omnipotent god or force or power caused them to reject the trinity and their belief in the omnibenevolence (or just plain apathy) of this force caused them to reject hell. Then they rejected the bible for some reason, and the teachings of other churches. So now, you can call yourself Unitarian Universalist if you just like hanging out with people that like belonging to a religious institution, without the religion.

People end up believing whatever they like anyway.
 
L Gilbert
#30
Quote: Originally Posted by look3467View Post

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Mat 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Peace>>>AJ

lol.
Do you ever pry your nose outta the "good" book long enough to breathe?
 

Similar Threads

34
Richard Dawkins on Religion
by Scott Free | Nov 22nd, 2008
11
Russian Mass Delusion or What eh?
by darkbeaver | Sep 10th, 2008
0
N.-Korea: Axis of Evil not so evil anymore!!
by dancing-loon | Feb 25th, 2008
17
The root of all evil
by Freethinker | Feb 28th, 2006
0
THE IMPERIAL DELUSION
by jjw1965 | Sep 17th, 2005
no new posts