Religion isn't about Belief

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Kirex:

tstorm823:

Your misuse of the words "science" and "proven" (and "disproven" for that matter) has broken my face.

Could you care to elaborate instead of just saying that he is allegedly wrong about that?
And why are you just making claims without arguments to back them up in the first place?

You're not accomplishing anything with that, if you think that someone is wrong you should also tell them why, otherwise people just get the feeling that you do it for no good reason. I actually can't think of a single one why you should do that.

I could go into every point of sosolidshoe, but I'm not going to waste any of your time by explaining to you why, for example, Geocentrism is obviously disproven.

I've never taken a lab where one does not lose credit for saying a hypothesis was proven or disproven. In a science, tests are made, and results are observed that support either the hypothesis or the null hypothesis. Frankly, since there isn't an absolute reference frame from which to determine motion of objects, you cannot necessarily claim that everything doesn't revolve around the Earth. That is terribly unlikely, but frankly it's totally unimportant.

I'm not making claims about correctness or incorrectness, just responding to the attitude on the subject. In a scientific community, one does not get respect by ranting about proof (that's philosophy). It does not matter if someone is right or not, if they act like everyone is dumb who doesn't agree with them, others won't take kindly to his findings. Tesla was an amazing person that advanced technologies by leaps and bounds but he was an antisocial lunatic and got himself ignored on many occassions where he was supported later.

But on the subject of God, it's even more invalid to talk about scientific proof. The scientific method is dependant on observation, so no amount of research or advancement will ever be able to make a statement on something that is just about by definition unobservable. There is no science to determine the probability of God, that is blabbering nonsense and was defended with ignorance, not of religion, but of methods of rational thinking.

I feel like the atheists that are educated will not make claims about how science rules out God, just like the religious who understand theology will not make claims about God ruling out science. It's those who don't understand either that take sides.

Aside from all the pedantry on display here, it looks like the question is this: is religion (however you define it) about knowing really hard that something is true, which is what I understand "believe" to mean in this context.

And it really depends. As someone mentioned earlier, there wasn't any special mental framework revolving around many of the polytheistic gods. You just dragged your goat into the temple, slit it's throat, and hoped the local deity would smile upon you. Or frown less, if it was the nasty sort. The powers that be were relateable entities who got mad or jealous or horny or drunk and generally didn't act too much different than we do. Try to stay on their good side, if they've got one.

And this is where belief comes in. Back then, it was perfectly possible to believe in Zeus, Isis, Odin, and Indra all at the same time. They each had their spheres and probably picked fights with each other. Much like their followers. Nowadays, religion is expected to provide absolute answers. And that's where everything goes to Hell.

Thor isn't threatened by the fall of Geocentrism or the Big Bang. His essential nature of blasting stuff, killing people, and drinking oceans of mead takes no account of cosmic nature. Nobody ever dragged a goat to this guy for enlightenment. The stories about him were just that: stories.

It's the religions where the divine claims cosmic power and a personal commitment that things go awry. All of a sudden, there's the potential for conflict between the mystical and the real. When the priest comes by and tells you that the only way to get to heaven is to believe something, you've got an existential crisis a-brewing. People beat themselves senseless trying to make themselves know something that they know isn't true. And no matter what they do, they can never be sure they believe hard enough (whatever that means!) to succeed. It's a recipe for craziness, desperation, fear, and pedantry.

And Eastern religions. You know what they offer? Gradiation. There's Heaven and Hell, but there's also a lot in between. Middle of the road folks have places to go to. That lazy guy who spits a lot doesn't need to be locked with Charles Manson or Hitler.

So we get to this: endless circular arguments about what defines religion, belief, etc., and to what extent Atheism and Agnosticism latch on to them. None of them exist in any measurable sense, so the pedantry goes around and around with nothing solid to grasp.

Faith is just that: reaching out with the (unproven) hope that it's true. One of those "vile old books" put it quite well: Faith is trust in things not seen. Each Faith has it's own batch of unseen things it's trusting in. Atheists are trusting that they aren't there. Agnostics are content to not make any rash assumptions.

And most people don't care. If aliens appeared and upended every fundamental basis for every religion ever, few people would care because they don't even know what those fundamental bases are. It's only the deep thinkers who writhe in syntactical torment over the conflict (or not?) between the Big Bang and God. Most people just want a banner to wave with something written on it aren't too choosy what it is.

This article fails right from the get-go. The whole premise of religion is that what you believe informs how you behave. I can't think of an entirely passive religion where your beliefs and actions are wholly independent. Also his dismissal of "salvation by science", as he calls it is little more than an assertion.

The other problem with this is one that's been enunciated already - while Gray is certainly entitled to his opinion, I see no reason why his opinion on what religion is carries more weight than others. As usual, it boils down the same problem all religions have when trying to address a topic - a matter of opinion.

Veylon:
Nowadays, religion is expected to provide absolute answers. And that's where everything goes to Hell.

While I overwhelmingly agree with the thrust of your post, I have to dispute this line. "Religion" is not expected to provide absolute answers. That is only true of certain interpretations of Abrahamic religions (and some new religions inspired by their approach) and a select group of critics who are obsessed with certain Abrahamic religions to the point that they don't see the difference. I'm not accusing you of being one such critic mind, your post shows you have a very good grasp of the diversity of thought that is possible in religion. I just think we need to be very careful on the terminology here because this forum has a tendency to jump on opportunities to pigeon-hole religion into a very limited category.

Oirish_Martin:
This article fails right from the get-go. The whole premise of religion is that what you believe informs how you behave.

Again, this is only true of certain interpretations of certain Abrahamic religions. For the vast majority of religions in human history, this has not been true.

I can't think of an entirely passive religion where your beliefs and actions are wholly independent.

Shinto as practiced by the majority of Japanese people is a perfect counter example. There is no need for faith or belief in Shinto. Simply performing the actions is seen as a perfectly acceptable form of participation. In fact, I suspect that for many Japanese the very question of "do you believe in Shinto" would be seen as very odd. Shinto isn't something all Japanese people do because they all literally believe that their world is inhabited by kami. Shinto is a thing Japanese people do because it's a part of their culture. Faith is about as much a part of participation as faith is a part of a typical American's decision say "bless you" when someone sneezes.

Katatori-kun:
Again, this is only true of certain interpretations of certain Abrahamic religions. For the vast majority of religions in human history, this has not been true.

So people keep claiming. However, I'm not really seeing any concrete counter-examples presented.

Edit: Sorry, I'm an ass, I should have waited longer before replying!
_______

Besides, even though the justification for a particular set of behaviours may be different from the majority (e.g. Jewish orthopraxy vs. orthodoxy, which I think has been mentioned already) that's still actions being informed by a belief, it's just not the same as the rest of your fellow-adherents.

Katatori-kun:

I can't think of an entirely passive religion where your beliefs and actions are wholly independent.

Shinto as practiced by the majority of Japanese people is a perfect counter example. There is no need for faith or belief in Shinto. Simply performing the actions is seen as a perfectly acceptable form of participation. In fact, I suspect that for many Japanese the very question of "do you believe in Shinto" would be seen as very odd. Shinto isn't something all Japanese people do because they all literally believe that their world is inhabited by kami. Shinto is a thing Japanese people do because it's a part of their culture. Faith is about as much a part of participation as faith is a part of a typical American's decision say "bless you" when someone sneezes.

Isn't the idea that participation of any kind is valid a belief?

And even taking this point about Shinto, I still don't really see what it has to do with orthodox religions. If there are religions that don't fall under that banner, then good for them, I suppose.

However, I still don't see how pointing out that Shinto etc. have a different approach to things helps religions like Christianity, much of which still is based on orthodoxy - and I don't see how a religion not being orthopraxic exempts it from criticism, certainly not for the reasons Gray mentions.

Oirish_Martin:
Isn't the idea that participation of any kind is valid a belief?

It is. But it's a cultural belief, not a religious doctrinal belief. Personally I say there is no qualitative difference between the two but it appears quite controversial on this forum. Most people here seem to reflexively reject the notion that say, belief that freedom of speech is the best for society, is qualitatively no different from the belief that Jesus of Nazareth died for your sins. But if you don't think they are different either then we can be pals and throw a party together or something.

And even taking this point about Shinto, I still don't really see what it has to do with the more orthopraxic religions. If there are religions that don't fall under that banner, then good for them, I suppose.

However, I still don't see how pointing out that Shinto etc. have a different approach to things helps religions like Christianity -

I didn't say it had to. I'm just saying if you want to criticize Christianity for the things you think Christianity gets wrong, then criticize Christianity. Don't criticize all of religion when you really only mean to complain about a few interpretations of one sub-category of religion.

Katatori-kun:

Oirish_Martin:
Isn't the idea that participation of any kind is valid a belief?

It is. But it's a cultural belief, not a religious doctrinal belief. Personally I say there is no qualitative difference between the two but it appears quite controversial on this forum. Most people here seem to reflexively reject the notion that say, belief that freedom of speech is the best for society, is qualitatively no different from the belief that Jesus of Nazareth died for your sins. But if you don't think they are different either then we can be pals and throw a party together or something.

I don't know if I necessarily have a problem with that, as long as we are still speaking qualitatively.

But with respect to this topic, Gray did not make that distinction. So it still seems that even if one was to bring in Shinto etc. as backup, that it still doesn't permit you to claim that belief and action are unrelated.

I didn't say it had to. I'm just saying if you want to criticize Christianity for the things you think Christianity gets wrong, then criticize Christianity. Don't criticize all of religion when you really only mean to complain about a few interpretations of one sub-category of religion.

Fair enough. Again though, I don't think this helps Gray much :)

Doublethink is the word that comes to mind when I read this article.

Oirish_Martin:
This article fails right from the get-go. The whole premise of religion is that what you believe informs how you behave.

That's basically it in a nutshell. All religions on Earth make truth claims about unsubstantiated concepts and people act on the moral philosophy developed from those concepts because they believe them to be true. Religion can have a massive social aspect to it that doesn't rely on firm belief, but it is completely legitimate to say that a religion stands or falls on the truth of its claims - and considering all these claims are really silly, atheism seems to be a completely reasonable response to it.

peruvianskys:
All religions on Earth make truth claims about unsubstantiated concepts

Again, untrue. Quakers and Unitarians for example IIRC, do not make any truth claims.

and people act on the moral philosophy developed from those concepts

Again, untrue. Not all religions require a moral philosophy. In fact, in some religions (especially polytheist religions) it's not unusual for there to be no moral philosophy at all- and if there is a moral philosophy, it is internally contradictory based on which deity's POV it comes from.

thtool:
PZ Meyers has already pissed all over this article.
http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/09/18/belief-matters-and-bad-beliefs-hurt-us-all/

But even if this were not the case, and all the non-Western nations were careful to confine their beliefs to the temple and an occasional holy day, never impinging significantly on social life, day-to-day behaviors, or politics, it wouldn't change the fact that Islam and Christianity and Orthodox Judaism do. Apparently, John Gray has never experienced the ostracism that comes from not believing as your neighbors do; has not had his behaviors judged as displeasing to the Lord and sure to damn him to Hell; has not had his children regarded as a taint in the community, pariahs who must not be allowed to expose themselves to the delicate minds of the children of faith. He hasn't noticed that attitudes and laws towards women and gays are aligned with religious views, or that the policy discussions about the reproductive health of women are dictated by religious dogma, or that, for instance, American policy towards Israel is steered by people who openly admit that they are guided by the Biblical prophecies in the book of Revelation. Oh, no, Gray wants to argue, the objective truth of religious beliefs are of little consequence.

I was thinking pretty much the same thing once I was a couple paragraphs in. The mere existence of young-earth creationism, not to mention museums showing humans coexisting with (or even domesticating) dinosaurs show how seriously some take their beliefs, and how far away from reality they are willing to wander in order to adhere to them.

McMullen:

thtool:
PZ Meyers has already pissed all over this article.
http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/09/18/belief-matters-and-bad-beliefs-hurt-us-all/

But even if this were not the case, and all the non-Western nations were careful to confine their beliefs to the temple and an occasional holy day, never impinging significantly on social life, day-to-day behaviors, or politics, it wouldn't change the fact that Islam and Christianity and Orthodox Judaism do. Apparently, John Gray has never experienced the ostracism that comes from not believing as your neighbors do; has not had his behaviors judged as displeasing to the Lord and sure to damn him to Hell; has not had his children regarded as a taint in the community, pariahs who must not be allowed to expose themselves to the delicate minds of the children of faith. He hasn't noticed that attitudes and laws towards women and gays are aligned with religious views, or that the policy discussions about the reproductive health of women are dictated by religious dogma, or that, for instance, American policy towards Israel is steered by people who openly admit that they are guided by the Biblical prophecies in the book of Revelation. Oh, no, Gray wants to argue, the objective truth of religious beliefs are of little consequence.

I was thinking pretty much the same thing once I was a couple paragraphs in. The mere existence of young-earth creationism, not to mention museums showing humans coexisting with (or even domesticating) dinosaurs show how seriously some take their beliefs, and how far away from reality they are willing to wander in order to adhere to them.

Exactly. For a bunch of people who apparently don't actually believe these stories, they sure take them very seriously. Like Meyers said, either the majority of religious folk are extremist, or the guy has misavaluated his peers.

However, it's worth noting that John Gray is British. From what I have observed of Britain, religion isn't as...intrusive there as it is in the U.S. So for all I know Gray may be correct as far as Britain goes. Probably not, but I can't say for sure without having experienced it myself.

But what I have experienced is people crying over how much the Lord loves/hates us all, or people believing they were having visions when they were really just dreams. They attempt to pass laws that infringe on basic human rights because it offends their religious views, I've seen kids as young as 3 or 4 stand at church podiums and recite a common chant about how everything they learn in their church is true, not understanding a word of it and only saying it because their mother is standing right by them whispering in their ears. I've seen cartoon vegetables preach the 'teachings of god', people I grew up with waste two years of their lives forsaking everything they love in order to preach, doing it not because they decided to themselves, but because they were told they were going to do it since as far back as they could remember. People foam at the mouths if an elected politician doesn't practice the same religion, because God knows that people of other faiths have different values and are idiots for not accepting the true word of God.

None of this crap suggests a lifestyle, it suggests a mental prison and a legitimate belief that the world was flooded, and that a lone man built a giant ship to house two of every animal in the world. It suggests a belief that womankind were truly created out of some guys ribcage, and was then tricked by a talking snake, and a belief that gay people and other religions are minions of Satan.

If religion really was nothing more than a lifestyle, most athiests wouldn't care. It's crap like this that gets on our nerves, and it's rampant as far as the U.S goes.

PhunkyPhazon:
If religion really was nothing more than a lifestyle, most athiests wouldn't care. It's crap like this that gets on our nerves, and it's rampant as far as the U.S goes.

You are confusing a few interpretations of a few religions with religion as a whole.

Religion doesn't have to have beliefs. But it can. Just like religion doesn't have to involve a notion of morality. But it can. Religion doesn't have to be a form of government. But it can. There are many things religion can do, but we cannot say any of those things are an inherent part of religion unless we can definitively show they are an inherent part of every religion. If any religion doesn't have that trait, it is not an aspect of religion, but rather an aspect of religions.

Katatori-kun:

PhunkyPhazon:
If religion really was nothing more than a lifestyle, most athiests wouldn't care. It's crap like this that gets on our nerves, and it's rampant as far as the U.S goes.

You are confusing a few interpretations of a few religions with religion as a whole.

Religion doesn't have to have beliefs. But it can. Just like religion doesn't have to involve a notion of morality. But it can. Religion doesn't have to be a form of government. But it can. There are many things religion can do, but we cannot say any of those things are an inherent part of religion unless we can definitively show they are an inherent part of every religion. If any religion doesn't have that trait, it is not an aspect of religion, but rather an aspect of religions.

Slight problem with that first part, as a religion can't exist without at least a set of beliefs. It's literally in the definition:

the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods : ideas about the relationship between science and religion.
details of belief as taught or discussed : when the school first opened they taught only religion, Italian, and mathematics.
a particular system of faith and worship : the world's great religions.
a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance : consumerism is the new religion.

Anyways, yes, it goes without saying that not every religion is the same and, more importantly, not every religious person is the same. One might take everything in their holy book literally, but they can know better than to try to force their beliefs onto others, or to insist that their way is the only correct way. But everything I discussed, sans the specific stories, (Which, living in the U.S, are the ones I hear the most) are not exclusive to one religion. Tons of religions have missionaries or something similar, most people are raised in a religious environment and are taught to believe at a young age. (Heck, I would love to see what would happen if every child born over the next century wasn't raised in a religious environment. Would current religions even still exist by the end of it?) Every group, religious or otherwise, has its extremists. Lastly, even the more morally-centered religions like Buddhism still have their supernatural beliefs. Is every person practicing a specific faith doing it for the same reason as everyone else? Do each and every single one of them take literal views of the teachings? No. But a religion could not exist to begin with if it was simply about morality. If it were, it would instead be a mere philosophy.

PhunkyPhazon:
Slight problem with that first part, as a religion can't exist without at least a set of beliefs. It's literally in the definition:

[snip]

Dictionaries make for poor arguments, especially when I've listed above religions that do not make any claims to be believed.

But everything I discussed, sans the specific stories, (Which, living in the U.S, are the ones I hear the most) are not exclusive to one religion. Tons of religions have missionaries or something similar, most people are raised in a religious environment and are taught to believe at a young age. (Heck, I would love to see what would happen if every child born over the next century wasn't raised in a religious environment. Would current religions even still exist by the end of it?) Every group, religious or otherwise, has its extremists.

Irrelevant. I could make a very long list of animals that have fur. That still wouldn't prove the argument that every animal has to have fur.

Lastly, even the more morally-centered religions like Buddhism still have their supernatural beliefs.

Some interpretations of Buddhism have supernatural beliefs. Not all. It is particularly important for a religion/philosophy with as diverse an implementation as Buddhism does that we do not pigeon-hole it and conveniently pretend that all interpretations that do not fit our purposes don't exist.

But a religion could not exist to begin with if it was simply about morality.

Not all religions are about morality either.

Katatori-kun:

Again, untrue. Not all religions require a moral philosophy. In fact, in some religions (especially polytheist religions) it's not unusual for there to be no moral philosophy at all- and if there is a moral philosophy, it is internally contradictory based on which deity's POV it comes from.

Oh? Could you give a few examples of polytheistic religions without a moral philosophy? Unless your definition of "moral philosophy" isn't what I think it is, I'm having a very hard time coming up with examples for this.

As for the latter part, I suppose that's true if you expect the gods to be perfect exemplars of what is and isn't considered proper conduct instead of imperfect beings that can also fuck up. But that's why Reconstructionist polytheistic religions are called "the religions with homework", because the wider one has read in the lore and scholarship, the clearer the societal-best-conduct rules and customs become. It's not quite as simple as "this myth here is a morality tale" because those peoples didn't need them to be-- they would already have known what the moral philosophy of their culture is, having gotten it from birth. Unlike, say, Christianity, which had to communicate an alien moral message to people other than those of the cultures where it began. (I've started a book on the interesting topic of what happened when Christianity encountered Germanic cultures, to whom its cultural/moral messages were utterly bizarre and unwanted, and the ways in which Christianity became "Germanified" as a result.)

Katatori-kun:

PhunkyPhazon:
Slight problem with that first part, as a religion can't exist without at least a set of beliefs. It's literally in the definition:

[snip]

Dictionaries make for poor arguments, especially when I've listed above religions that do not make any claims to be believed.

But everything I discussed, sans the specific stories, (Which, living in the U.S, are the ones I hear the most) are not exclusive to one religion. Tons of religions have missionaries or something similar, most people are raised in a religious environment and are taught to believe at a young age. (Heck, I would love to see what would happen if every child born over the next century wasn't raised in a religious environment. Would current religions even still exist by the end of it?) Every group, religious or otherwise, has its extremists.

Irrelevant. I could make a very long list of animals that have fur. That still wouldn't prove the argument that every animal has to have fur.

Lastly, even the more morally-centered religions like Buddhism still have their supernatural beliefs.

Some interpretations of Buddhism have supernatural beliefs. Not all. It is particularly important for a religion/philosophy with as diverse an implementation as Buddhism does that we do not pigeon-hole it and conveniently pretend that all interpretations that do not fit our purposes don't exist.

But a religion could not exist to begin with if it was simply about morality.

Not all religions are about morality either.

I'm honestly having a hard time trying to figure out what exactly it is you're trying to argue. All I was saying in my original post is that I believe the majority of religious people truly believe in their, well, beliefs. Morality itself is based on beliefs- beliefs that, in this case, stem from people's religions. And no, I'm sorry, religion has to have at least a set of beliefs or morality, and I would personally argue both because those two are rather intertwined. If you're religious and are in it for the morals, than they're going to come from the beliefs. If you're religious and focus on the beliefs, then it's completely pointless if you're not learning any morals. It's kind of like saying you can have cereal, but you can't pour milk or vice versa. But even if you can have one without the other...so what? That's irrelevant to what I was discussing. The reason Gray joined his religion to begin with is because he saw that the people were good, and that they were good because the religion taught good morals.

I'll check back later, it's late and I haven't had any dinner.

bruggs:

Well I was quite prepared to accept that you could be of a religion, without believing in their God. Not a bad thing at all. And sure, not all -tell- you what to do, maybe you could say they're, "guidelines". Anyway, my point was, with the absence of the holy authority that comes with the religion, I'm not sure why you devote yourself -entirely- to their teachings, rather than taking what's good about it and applying it to your life. And if you do just that, it seemed to me like that's not quite being a member of that religion.

Sorry, it's tricky to word. :P

And pressure was definitely a bad word to use, and I think I may be a bit wrong there. But all the good reasons for following a religion without believing in their god seem to relate to what I said. If their teachings appeal to you, and you don't believe in any divine punishment or reward for following them, why identify with the religion itself and not just use the teachings?

For the first paragraph, you're basically asking where the line is to properly call someone a part of a certain religion vs. someone with an affection for it or inspired by it but who falls short of the standards needed to call them a member. (OTOH, what exactly do you mean by "devote yourself *entirely* to their teachings"?) I think there's a grey area between the people you can point to and say "they live and breathe their religion" and the people you think can't properly be thought of as members, and I think it can be a very big grey area. How much belief do you need (does "doesn't believe, but respects" count? ), how much praxis do you need (do "Christmas and Easter Catholics" count as Catholics?), before self-identification isn't enough? I think most religions, IME, are disinclined to outright tell someone their self-identification is wrong unless they're really openly and flagrantly acting against the the things the religion holds dear or really openly breaking all of its rules and customs. And even then, the community will often argue about it for whatever reasons most apply to that community-- Christians because anyone can be forgiven by God, Pagans because we're fond of that "disorganized religion" label and "who the hell made you the Pagan Pope to say who does and doesn't belong?", etc. So basically, way less cut-and-dry than I think you think it is.

As for the last paragraph, because you like the people and what they're doing enough to want to belong to the community? And for the community, the forms matter? As I've heard atheist Heathens tell it, they're fond enough of the folkway, the community, and the feeling of connecting with their ancestors' ways that they want to be part of it in a way that's more than just sitting at home thinking Vikings are cool and the Havamal had some good ideas in it.

Katatori-kun:

Again, untrue. Quakers and Unitarians for example IIRC, do not make any truth claims.

Only the most liberal Quakers make no truth claims, and those people are more New Agers than true religious people; traditional Quakers make truth claims about Jesus, the soul, etc. Even Unitarians make a truth claim by acknowledging a spiritual element as existing at all. There is no religion without dogma.

Again, untrue. Not all religions require a moral philosophy. In fact, in some religions (especially polytheist religions) it's not unusual for there to be no moral philosophy at all- and if there is a moral philosophy, it is internally contradictory based on which deity's POV it comes from.

Polytheistic religions definitely do make truth claims, even if those claims are metaphysical - Alan Moore, for example, talks a lot about how he doesn't really "believe" in the Gods he worships but considers them worthwhile figures because the mind is "as real as the real world." You might see that and say that he's not making any truth claim, but then you realize that the very idea of thought's ability to impact the physical world is a very clear truth statement that one could easily argue with. Polytheistic/Pantheistic religions may not approach truth values in the same way as more traditional religions, but they all definitely make claims about the nature of the universe and from those claims they all prescribe a certain morality. You can't have a religion that says, "This is the way the world is, but it doesn't matter - you can do what you want." That just doesn't happen. Any belief in a supernatural view of the world is necessarily going to inform the actions of those who believe it. You can't tell me that an atheist and a Neoplatonist or witch doctor are going to not have their behavior influenced by their wildly differing beliefs.

Katatori-kun:
Some interpretations of Buddhism have supernatural beliefs. Not all. It is particularly important for a religion/philosophy with as diverse an implementation as Buddhism does that we do not pigeon-hole it and conveniently pretend that all interpretations that do not fit our purposes don't exist.

The only Buddhist philosophy without supernatural beliefs is secular Buddhism, and that is not a religion at all; it's a philosophy. This is a perfect example of what I'm trying to say, mainly that religion - superstition = philosophy. Religion needs a supernatural element to be a religion and the following of a religion requires belief in that supernatural element, even if its not slavish devotion to it.

peruvianskys:

The only Buddhist philosophy without supernatural beliefs is secular Buddhism, and that is not a religion at all; it's a philosophy. This is a perfect example of what I'm trying to say, mainly that religion - superstition = philosophy. Religion needs a supernatural element to be a religion and the following of a religion requires belief in that supernatural element, even if its not slavish devotion to it.

IMO you're half right and half wrong. I think you're right on "religion - superstition= philosophy. In fact, this is exactly how the Ancient Greeks happened to think. (Digression: a friend of mine is a very erudite Hellenic Reconstructionist pagan. When I asked him one day about what Greek religion has to say about how humans should live their lives, he just shrugged and said "that's not the job of theos, that's the job of philosophy". Which isn't to say the one doesn't influence the other, just that those who created the term "philosophy" did see a split there.) Although... I don't care for the equating of "supernatural" and "superstition" very much. Someone I rather like recently defined "superstition" as "spiritual OCD", and that makes a lot of sense to me-- but I can see where an atheist might find that too granular.

What I disagree with is that the following of a religion requires belief. Yes, if *nobody* believes, that's going to cause a radical revisioning of the religion within a generation or so. But it doesn't follow that *everyone* must believe. Try this for a test: if you can respond, within a religious group, to a question of "what do you believe about God/the Gods" with "*frosty glare* That's a rather personal question" and have the other person promptly stfu, that's a group that doesn't require belief. If you can respond with "I don't believe" and have people respond with "huh, that's interesting, so how does that work?", that's a group that doesn't require belief. Which is a rather good thing for me, seeing as how I'm agnostic on belief and if pressed, will come back with "I don't Know and shut up, neither do you". :)

Polarity27:
Oh? Could you give a few examples of polytheistic religions without a moral philosophy? Unless your definition of "moral philosophy" isn't what I think it is, I'm having a very hard time coming up with examples for this.

Shinto lacks an explicit moral philosophy. I have visited many Shinto shrines and not once did I encounter even a single recommendation of what kind of morality I should exercise outside the shrine.

I expect this is generally true of most polytheistic religions. While certain moral imperatives may be derived from alignment with particular deities, over the religion as a whole the moral imperative is convoluted and incoherent. Take Greek polytheism, for example: The contrast between the philosophies espoused by priests of Dionysus and Apollo is well-known. But for the average lay-Greek who had no interest in joining a priestly order, the entire discussion would have been rather moot. It was not expected, for example, that a commoner obey the commandments of Apollo simply because they made a prayer to Apollo at Apollo's temple. At the highest, the rivalry between Dionysus and Apollo would have been understood as a metaphor for the rivalry between human impulses toward the order of the rational mind and the chaos of unrestrained creativity and revelry. At the lowest, they were two gods one should salute when participating in their domains. This salute would not have been a moral imperative (i.e.: "All moral people acknowledge Apollo before playing the lyre, all moral people salute Dionysus before imbibing wine.") Rather, it would have been almost a commercial exchange. Do right by the gods, and they may do right by you. I would question that in ancient Greece (or most polytheistic societies for that matter) that a notion of absolute morality even existed.

they would already have known what the moral philosophy of their culture is, having gotten it from birth.

I totally agree. Morality comes from one's culture, of which religion may or may not be a component and the religion may or may not have an impact on the perception of morality.

Unlike, say, Christianity, which had to communicate an alien moral message to people other than those of the cultures where it began.

But even in the case of Christianity, I think we should be careful not to ascribe too much attention to its morality component. While yes, morality is very important to most interpretations of Christianity (though not all- some interpretations of Christian Gnosticism might say that understanding is more important), in Christianity's modern application we struggle to pin down a coherent morality. Jesus preached forgiving one's enemies, yet in the US the areas with the strongest support for Christianity also tend to be the areas with the strongest support for the death penalty. There are many churches who believe Christ's most important moral imperative is to live simply and help those in need. There are other churches who believe in prosperity theology and believe their moral imperative from Christ is to effectively screw the poor. When opposite moral interpretations come from the same religion, I would be hesitant to claim a coherent morality exists for that religion, let alone that this interest in morality can be generalized to all religions.

Religion goes beyond a set of beliefs and influences peoples way of live and behavior?

*Insert video of Lee Evans saying WELL FUCKING YEEEEESSSS! here, couldnt find one on youtube*

Anyhow, I dont see how this article changes anything. It lacks a real point. Yeah, religion influences ways of life. Yeah, religion might be more about the lifestyle, rather than the bible or koran. But why is it still necessary again? Why is relevant? Why do we need it? In short, what the fuck are you trying to say?

And as for The Bible not meant to be taken literally, bull. Fucking. Shit. The bible was taught as fact, as iron clad stories that happened exactly as the book described them. Then, progress came a long, shat all over the whacky thing and the church started saying it is not to be taken literally in order to stay relevant and keep credibility. I mean, come the fuck on guys.

tstorm823:

Kirex:

tstorm823:

Your choice of one, therefore not the other, is just intentionally confrontational.

Modern science excludes the concept of a god, if I only take the ways of a religion and not the god itself, then it is a philosophy, not a religion. Religions have to have a "god-figure", by definition. I know that - by scientifical arguments - god is highly improbable. I'm not confrontational about it, really, like I said, I don't care if anyone is religious or not and I just want my peace with my view of things.

tstorm823:

It's like saying "I believe that swimming is valuable exercise, therefore running is stupid and worthless."

It's not like I rigorously want science to exclude a god, you know? That's just the way the probability meter swings, at least according to the stuff that makes sense to me.

Find the science that claims anything about the probability of God and you'll have made a reasonable statement. Good luck.

If anything, thats an argument AGAINST the possibility of a God and not for it.

SmashLovesTitanQuest:

tstorm823:

Find the science that claims anything about the probability of God and you'll have made a reasonable statement. Good luck.

If anything, thats an argument AGAINST the possibility of a God and not for it.

You know, saying something is an arguement for something and just figuring that you're right is bad policy.

Does science figure the probability that there is a cure for all cancers? "Science" has made claims about the probability of other sentient life forms in space, but real science doesn't extrapolate from 1. There are many things we can't even imagine a probability for, so that must be an arguement that they don't exist? Hypothetical physicists have based the modern models for the universe on forms of matter and energy that are completely untraceable and we have no proof of.

I've never understood why people can buy an arguement like "galaxies wouldn't form right without this stuff we can't prove exists, but it has to be there" but not the arguement "the universe wouldn't form without a cause that we can't prove exists, but it has to be there."

peruvianskys:
Only the most liberal Quakers make no truth claims, and those people are more New Agers than true religious people;

It's a very bad sign for your case when you have to start declaring members of a religion to not be members of a religion in order to make your stereotype of religion work.

- Alan Moore, for example, talks a lot about how he doesn't really "believe" in the Gods he worships but considers them worthwhile figures because the mind is "as real as the real world."

Alan Moore is not the ever-living Pope of Polytheism. There is no reason to assume that just because he believes something that all polytheists must believe it.

The only Buddhist philosophy without supernatural beliefs is secular Buddhism, and that is not a religion at all; it's a philosophy.

Ah, again you're re-defining your terms in order to make them say what you want them to.

SmashLovesTitanQuest:

And as for The Bible not meant to be taken literally, bull. Fucking. Shit. The bible was taught as fact, as iron clad stories that happened exactly as the book described them. Then, progress came a long, shat all over the whacky thing and the church started saying it is not to be taken literally in order to stay relevant and keep credibility. I mean, come the fuck on guys.

Do you have citations for this?

Prior to Darwin, it was sort of a mix, with more people believing in an allegorical take.
http://biologos.org/questions/early-interpretations-of-genesis

The supposed dominance of literalism started much later.

Kirex:

tstorm823:

Your choice of one, therefore not the other, is just intentionally confrontational.

Modern science excludes the concept of a god, if I only take the ways of a religion and not the god itself, then it is a philosophy, not a religion. Religions have to have a "god-figure", by definition. I know that - by scientifical arguments - god is highly improbable. I'm not confrontational about it, really, like I said, I don't care if anyone is religious or not and I just want my peace with my view of things.

tstorm823:

It's like saying "I believe that swimming is valuable exercise, therefore running is stupid and worthless."

It's not like I rigorously want science to exclude a god, you know? That's just the way the probability meter swings, at least according to the stuff that makes sense to me.

Firstly, no. Religions do not have to have a God figure by definition, any properly defined cultural belief system that has an element of spirituality can be classed as a religion. The Buddha isn't really a God figure, more of a teaching figure that supposedly guides people to enlightenment using his philosophy but Buddhism is still a major world religion.

And what exactly do we mean when we say that God is highly improbable? How improbable are we talking? Particles quantum tunneling through certain energy barriers is highly improbable (we're talking like 10^-30 kind of improbable here) but it can and does happen. Is there a fairly consistent idea on the probability of the existence of God (at least within a factor of 10)? No, seriously, I'm interested.

Katatori-kun:

It's a very bad sign for your case when you have to start declaring members of a religion to not be members of a religion in order to make your stereotype of religion work.

It's not redefining a term to say that a certain group doesn't meet the criteria; if I announced that I was a Christian atheist, would it be "redefining the term" to say that I wasn't really a Christian?

Alan Moore is not the ever-living Pope of Polytheism. There is no reason to assume that just because he believes something that all polytheists must believe it.

It was just an example, obviously a system like polytheism has different belief structures, creeds, etc.

Ah, again you're re-defining your terms in order to make them say what you want them to.

No, I'm not. Religion is defined by the supernatural element. Saying that non-supernatural Buddhism isn't a religion is just sticking to the definition. Again, is it redefining the definition of heterosexual to say that you can't include Elton John? You seem to be saying that I'm doing the No True Scotsman thing here, but I'm really doing the opposite - I'm not redefining the term, I'm being strict about its parameters!

tstorm823:

I've never understood why people can buy an arguement like "galaxies wouldn't form right without this stuff we can't prove exists, but it has to be there" but not the arguement "the universe wouldn't form without a cause that we can't prove exists, but it has to be there."

Really? Well one's entirely scientific, the other's a rather odd non-sequitur. The fact that galaxies have formed is evidence that the stuff has to be there, or that our models are entirely wrong.
Now, the universe needed a cause? What does that even mean, and how does that relate to the mechanics of its formation? The universe could have natural causes, and in fact a 'sentient' 'being' being a cause is probably the least likely explanation unless you can show that those words have any meaning at that meta-universal scale and have a tad of evidence.

thtool:

tstorm823:

I've never understood why people can buy an arguement like "galaxies wouldn't form right without this stuff we can't prove exists, but it has to be there" but not the arguement "the universe wouldn't form without a cause that we can't prove exists, but it has to be there."

Really? Well one's entirely scientific, the other's a rather odd non-sequitur. The fact that galaxies have formed is evidence that the stuff has to be there, or that our models are entirely wrong.
Now, the universe needed a cause? What does that even mean, and how does that relate to the mechanics of its formation? The universe could have natural causes, and in fact a 'sentient' 'being' being a cause is probably the least likely explanation unless you can show that those words have any meaning at that meta-universal scale and have a tad of evidence.

Funny, I thought a claim required prior observation and experimentation to be scientific. A few math formulas hinting at something doesn't make science. I can easily parallel your arguement with mine. The fact the there is stuff here is evidence that something caused it all. Look, completely parallel statement. Neither arguement is scientific, both are purely logical arguements. The only thing getting one more traction in "science" than the other is the cultural bias pushed by atheists who think they have a monopoly on rational thought, which is as disturbing as evangelicals thinking they have a monopoly on truth.

tstorm823:

thtool:

tstorm823:

I've never understood why people can buy an arguement like "galaxies wouldn't form right without this stuff we can't prove exists, but it has to be there" but not the arguement "the universe wouldn't form without a cause that we can't prove exists, but it has to be there."

Really? Well one's entirely scientific, the other's a rather odd non-sequitur. The fact that galaxies have formed is evidence that the stuff has to be there, or that our models are entirely wrong.
Now, the universe needed a cause? What does that even mean, and how does that relate to the mechanics of its formation? The universe could have natural causes, and in fact a 'sentient' 'being' being a cause is probably the least likely explanation unless you can show that those words have any meaning at that meta-universal scale and have a tad of evidence.

Funny, I thought a claim required prior observation and experimentation to be scientific. A few math formulas hinting at something doesn't make science. I can easily parallel your arguement with mine. The fact the there is stuff here is evidence that something caused it all. Look, completely parallel statement. Neither arguement is scientific, both are purely logical arguements. The only thing getting one more traction in "science" than the other is the cultural bias pushed by atheists who think they have a monopoly on rational thought, which is as disturbing as evangelicals thinking they have a monopoly on truth.

Nice ignoring/clouding the question. The arguments are not parallel, and the first one is clearly a scientific claim, the second based in weak unfounded philosophy. The stuff (is it dark matter we are talking about?) in galaxies has to exist in our models. There is no requirement for a god to exist in our model of the formation of the universe. You didn't even say 'god' in either reply, you just said 'cause'. Are you trying to conflate the two? Suggesting that any 'cause' has to be a 'god' (whatever that word means) and trying to get everyone to accept that as if it's trivial?

Well it ain't. Give us a definition of your god, and the mechanisms through which he would create the universe, and show us that that is the only possible way. Then the two arguments are a bit more parallel.

There is no reason to imply that the cause of the universe is a sentient being.

Katatori-kun:

I totally agree. Morality comes from one's culture, of which religion may or may not be a component and the religion may or may not have an impact on the perception of morality.

Okay, even with your examples, this is where I think you may misunderstand polytheistic cultures some (and this is, to me, the great mindfuck of polytheistic cultures for anyone who grew up in a Christian culture)-- there was no thing called "religion" vs a thing called "culture" until the Romans literally invented the concept of "religion" ("religio", re-linking). The two were so inextricably linked that for most polytheistic cultures, there is no word for "religion" and the closest things translate out to "our way". So saying that polytheistic religions didn't have a moral component but the cultures did is too simplistic, since you can't just pull the religion out of the culture without understanding the culture. Within the stories told about the gods are plenty of moral messages (you can't, for instance, read the Eddas or Sagas without being beaten over the head with the importance of hospitality and honor; and all through anybody's mythology are clues about what's important and what isn't, what causes problems and what doesn't, etc. It's in there, it's just that nobody ever thought to make a point of making these concepts (religion, morality, culture) separate, or trying to teach them to anyone who isn't already born into it.

But even in the case of Christianity, I think we should be careful not to ascribe too much attention to its morality component. While yes, morality is very important to most interpretations of Christianity (though not all- some interpretations of Christian Gnosticism might say that understanding is more important), in Christianity's modern application we struggle to pin down a coherent morality.

True, but I was talking about the initial spread of Christianity, not the modern state of Christianity. My point is that Christianity had to be kind of packaged in a way polytheistic cultural/moral/religious messages never did, to be forcibly spread to cultures to whom the things Christianity found important would be utterly alien. The Romans started the idea of "religion" as a separate sphere (and emphasized "Roman-ness" to conquered people as a desirable thing to aim toward), but Christianity took it much further and made it a completely independent unit that had to teach values to people as part of a religion, and not simply intrinsically part of the religiocultural mix you were born into. So IMO it's hard to make cross-religious comparisons because what Christianity and Islam are doing is such a recent thing and so completely unlike the way the rest of the world operated (and in some places, still does).

It's also worth mentioning that modern, Reconstructed polytheistic religions definitely do have a moral component, because that's the only way to get that aspect of the culture now that the culture itself is gone. Something that tribal religions like Shinto and Judaism don't have to worry about, having an unbroken cultural heritage that makes religiously-inspired cultural rituals able to be a thing.

(It's late, I'm not sure if that's making as much sense to anyone else as it is to me as I'm writing it. :P)

Polarity27:
Okay, even with your examples, this is where I think you may misunderstand polytheistic cultures some (and this is, to me, the great mindfuck of polytheistic cultures for anyone who grew up in a Christian culture)-- there was no thing called "religion" vs a thing called "culture" until the Romans literally invented the concept of "religion" ("religio", re-linking). The two were so inextricably linked that for most polytheistic cultures, there is no word for "religion" and the closest things translate out to "our way".

Believe me, I am well-aware of this principle. It's one of the things I like most about polytheistic cultures.

But when people are demonizing religion as a whole and trying to come up with dishonest definitions of religion to suit their personal agendas, we have to make some attempt to look honestly at what religion is. And we have to find some way to separate out polytheistic religions from culture even if the polytheists in question wouldn't naturally do that.

And the way we can do that is to look at polytheist religions that have been shared across people of different cultures. Take ancient Greek polytheism for example. We think of all Greeks today sharing the same country, but in ancient times that unity was much weaker. Look at the rivalry between Athens and Lacedaemon (Sparta). They were both Greeks, they both followed the same religion (though naturally, different deities were likely more prominent in each city) but they had very different cultures and moralities. If they have different moralities despite sharing the same religion, we have to conclude that religion wasn't the source of their morality- even if it was bundled up with culture in a way that seemed inextricable to the people in question. It had to come from their culture outside of religion, as that was point of divergence between the two peoples.

It's also worth mentioning that modern, Reconstructed polytheistic religions definitely do have a moral component, because that's the only way to get that aspect of the culture now that the culture itself is gone.

I'm not disputing that, but I think that reinforces my argument that morality in those religions came from the culture, not the religion.

To be clear, I'm not saying morality never comes from a religion. Just that it doesn't have to.

I sense that a lot of people may be uncomfortable with what I'm saying because it effectively means religion is almost impossible to define. If religion doesn't have to make a claim on the universe, doesn't have to teach a morality, and doesn't have to entail a belief in the supernatural, then what is religion? Sometimes, I feel like religion is a bit like pornography- We have trouble succinctly defining it but we know it when we see it. But we shouldn't be afraid of this ambiguity, because it can lead us to what religion really is. Religion should not be thought of as a set of ideas or beliefs, because every time we try to define those ideas or beliefs we come across a religion that doesn't fit the bill. Instead, we should think of religion as a mental framework into which ideas and beliefs can be structured. Or rather, religion is the social group that forms from when people share that framework.

So what is the framework? It's a paradigm. It's a grid, to use Discordian terminology. Its a set of rules[1] to give the mind a way to process the beliefs and information that will be carried with the individual religion. They might be rules like, "Life is cosmically significant," or "Actions have spiritual consequences," to give two hypothetical examples. Actually, it may be useful to think of each religion as having its own paradigm and the definition of religion then could be something like, "The social organization that results from many paradigms that are not science." Because science is also not a set of beliefs and ideas, ultimately science is a grid that we use to structure the information of our world. For example, Einstein's E= mc^2 is not a rule of science, though in conversational shorthand we might say it is. Science (the paradigm) has no interest if E=mc^2 is true or not. Science is the rules Einstein followed to get to E=mc^2. Science is the framework that makes E=mc^2 meaningful. This is not to be taken to mean that religion and science are the same. Rather they are the same class of mental construct, operating on very different rules.

But there are many secular constructs we do have that I would say are no different from religious constructs. The "Invisible Hand of the Free Market" for example. It is not explicitly proven by science, it depends on the faith of the public to exist, and it supposedly punishes the wicked and rewards the just in a way that is almost Old Testament in its brutality. It is a paradigm that I believe is qualitatively no different from a religion.

[1] These are rules for the information to be put into the paradigm. These rules should not be confused with the doctrinal rules of the individual religion itself.

thtool:

Nice ignoring/clouding the question. The arguments are not parallel, and the first one is clearly a scientific claim, the second based in weak unfounded philosophy. The stuff (is it dark matter we are talking about?) in galaxies has to exist in our models. There is no requirement for a god to exist in our model of the formation of the universe. You didn't even say 'god' in either reply, you just said 'cause'. Are you trying to conflate the two? Suggesting that any 'cause' has to be a 'god' (whatever that word means) and trying to get everyone to accept that as if it's trivial?

Well it ain't. Give us a definition of your god, and the mechanisms through which he would create the universe, and show us that that is the only possible way. Then the two arguments are a bit more parallel.

There is no reason to imply that the cause of the universe is a sentient being.

Hey, look! Another arguement fizzles because someone won't use the words science and scientific correctly, and instead pretends that science is any claim about the universe that isn't religion.

Edit: Also, an issue can be clouded fairly. Clouding an issue is not a negative thing when everyone claiming absolutes is wrong.

In most religions - polytheism, Hinduism and Buddhism, Daoism and Shinto, many strands of Judaism and some Christian and Muslim traditions - belief has never been particularly important. Practice - ritual, meditation, a way of life - is what counts. What practitioners believe is secondary, if it matters at all.

Adhering to a particular practice or ritual is just another form of belief. Author is inventing a distinction where none exists.

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