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Essential topic: the difference between theism and religion
Posted: 11 March 2011 12:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Sarah Pseudoproblem - 10 March 2011 02:27 PM

(1) What is the message?  How would it change given a shift from a pedestrian understanding of theism to a careful distinction?

(2) What are we fighting exactly?  Maybe I’m alone in it, but part of what I dislike most about some people of faith is how they condescend and push their beliefs on others in the name of helping them live a better life.  I’ve always tried to live by example and to hold conversations and debates when and where they seem appropriate.  It’s a different matter when people with faith take action which harms themselves or others.  Then they are inviting intervention.  Fighting the pervasive influence, like discrimination against atheists, fighting the progress of science, vaccinations, things like that seem to have very little to do with this distinction.  Maybe I am missing your point.

(3) Christians are the ones in power in the USA.  If I had to pick out the two religious currently causing the most problems, it would be Islam and Christianity, which are both faiths that fall under the religion and theism umbrella. 

(4) Yes.  If you want to have a debate and look well reasoned it’s best to understand the terms and the facts.

(5) Maybe I too am misunderstanding the distinction between religion and theism, but for me the more pressing distinction is something like this: when looking at a practice, faith, religion, what have you, how much of their practice can be considered positive psychology in action or philosophy and how much is pseudoscience and bigotry?  When something feels like religion it irks me, but there are many practices out there that I’ve learned more about and come to accept because they actually do good and aren’t hurting anybody.  Some are just one more set of tools in the toolbox of how to be a good and functioning person.

1) The important thing is precision. I have noticed that discussions on this board often make sweeping statements about religion, but those statements seem to be extrapolations of a very specific form of conservative, dualistic theism. If we want to talk about religion we need to use a better, more representative sample. Alternately, If we want to talk about conservative theism, then it is important that we not fall into the trap of over-generalizing by referring to “religion.”

2) I totally agree that that’s annoying, but I sometimes feel like people in skeptical groups do the same thing. We should not stoop to that level.

3) I think that you could more precisely say that it is the constituents, rather than the religions themselves that are causing problems. While this might seem like hairs are being split, I think it is necessary to realize that the political actions of religious groups are rarely the implications of the fundamental theological teachings of those religions. It is people that f&ck; it all up, not the religions themselves.


Paul, I think you make a pretty excellent point. I am very much a fan of specific critiques about specific topics under the heading of religion, and you raise a valuable point we all need to be cognizant of. Because we come together here under the headings of skepticism and rationalism, we have an intellectual responsibility to always seek precision and accuracy of language. When we make imprecise statements and overgeneralize, we undermine our very cause (rationalism).

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Posted: 11 March 2011 03:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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PLaClair - 11 March 2011 11:21 AM

You’re right, words can trigger emotional responses. But then, if I react like that, I have to ask myself whether that reaction is consistent with my commitment to reason and to furthering our causes as expressed in CFI’s mission statement; unless of course I’m just hanging around a secularist organization because it provides emotional satisfaction.

Religion tends to be dogmatic and authoritative whether theistic or not. Intellectually you can understand an difference. I think the concern would be whether it prevents any member from being willing to question and justify for themselves the core values of the group.

Also from Wikipedia from beginning of defining secularism…

Secularism is the belief that government or other entities should exist separately from religion and/or religious beliefs.

And from secular religion

Secular religion is a term used to describe ideas, theories or philosophies which involve no spiritual component yet possess qualities similar to those of a religion. Such qualities include such things as dogma, a system of indoctrination, the prescription of an absolute code of conduct, an ideologically tailored creation story and end-times narrative, designated enemies, and unquestioning devotion to a higher authority. The secular religion operates in a secular society by filling a role which would be satisfied by a church or another religious authority.

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Posted: 11 March 2011 05:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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Gnostikosis - 11 March 2011 03:54 PM

Religion tends to be dogmatic and authoritative whether theistic or not.

As a long-time member of an Ethical Culture Society and from my occasional contacts with Humanistic Judaism, that has not been my experience at all.

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I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

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Posted: 11 March 2011 05:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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From Occam (Post #16): I realize all organizations, just by the nature of being organized, tend to
have some rule or authority basis, however, the more we can minimize it, the happier I would be
with it.


Quoting PlaClair (Post #19):

Perhaps but I hope you would agree that your or my personal comfort
level shouldn’t determine the position either of us takes on issues of common concern to
Humanists, secularists, etc. In fact, our personal comfort levels reflect our biases.

Damn, I have to learn to inhibit my breezy style when responding to PlaClair.  I must be much
more precise and avoid metaphor.  (I seem to recall that you may be a lawyer, PC.  Our
conversations here appear quite reminiscent of conversations with my lawyer daughter. LOL )

By “. . .the more we can minimize it (organizational authority), the happier I would be with
it”, I meant that I believe organizations which operate from top down authority rather than
based to a great degree on member suggestions and recommendations, while likely to be
efficient, do not serve the needs and desires of those members as well as would a more
egalitarian based society.

Occam

[ Edited: 11 March 2011 05:37 PM by Occam. ]
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Posted: 11 March 2011 06:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Hey, I just realized something.  Isn’t what I’m describing about organizations exactly what PlaClair’s Sig is referring to?  smile

Occam

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Posted: 11 March 2011 07:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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PLaClair - 11 March 2011 05:25 PM

As a long-time member of an Ethical Culture Society and from my occasional contacts with Humanistic Judaism, that has not been my experience at all.

Yes, we all have a different varity of experiences and we all have to figure out how to get along as best as possible.

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Posted: 12 March 2011 03:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Occam. - 11 March 2011 05:35 PM

From Occam (Post #16): I realize all organizations, just by the nature of being organized, tend to
have some rule or authority basis, however, the more we can minimize it, the happier I would be
with it.


Quoting PlaClair (Post #19):

Perhaps but I hope you would agree that your or my personal comfort
level shouldn’t determine the position either of us takes on issues of common concern to
Humanists, secularists, etc. In fact, our personal comfort levels reflect our biases.

Damn, I have to learn to inhibit my breezy style when responding to PlaClair.  I must be much
more precise and avoid metaphor.  (I seem to recall that you may be a lawyer, PC.  Our
conversations here appear quite reminiscent of conversations with my lawyer daughter. LOL )

By “. . .the more we can minimize it (organizational authority), the happier I would be with
it”, I meant that I believe organizations which operate from top down authority rather than
based to a great degree on member suggestions and recommendations, while likely to be
efficient, do not serve the needs and desires of those members as well as would a more
egalitarian based society.

Occam

Context matters. There’s a difference between saying you’re not comfortable with authority and analyzing why the conflation of theism and religion is inaccurate. So no, they are not the same thing and you can be as breezy as you like; fart in my general direction if you want to but don’t expect me to treat that the same as a reasoned argument.

As for what makes an organization work, it depends. Quite often organizations work best with a disciplined vision and leadership from one person. This is pretty well documented, so I would be hard-pressed to make a case for only member-driven organizations - which probably is one reason Humanist organizations are not very effective given our numbers. We have a herding cats problem.

[ Edited: 12 March 2011 04:50 AM by PLaClair ]
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Posted: 12 March 2011 05:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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I don’t believe I was saying that religion and theism are the same thing.  Rather, that in many cases religious organizations have theism as an important part of their structure.  I do recongnize that one could define an organization as a religion without theism and that one can be a theist without being religious. 

An example of a top down authoritian organization is the ACLU.  I’m strongly in favor of their activities, and became quite active for a while, until I saw that member input was strongly ignored (except for monetary donations). 

I’ve never become involved in the politics or administration of either of the two main U.S. humanist organizations so I don’t know how they operate.  However, I get the feeling that, rather than being member driven, most of the members are happy to contribute, but are not motivated to get involved.  This was certainly the case with the ACLU,  I became president of a local group with a paid membership of just over 1,700, but we would usually get about thirty to our meetings and were hard pressed to find nine members to serve on the board. 

Occam

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Posted: 21 March 2011 11:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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There is another, though rarely mentioned, possibility.

What if there is a God but He/She/It does not give a damn about any religion or even care about what we regard as worship?  The religions could all be different psychological delusions turned into indoctrinating power structures claiming some association with God.

I have always found this commandment curious:

Thou shalt not use the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

What if it is really an order against the creation of organized religion?  LOL

We are usually told it means not to swear in God’s name.  But if that is all it meant why is it higher on the list than “Thou shalt not kill.” and “Thou shalt not steal.”  It is pretty ridiculous that swearing with God’s name is more important than those.  That would make God a really petty jerk.

I suppose such a God is more useful to religion.  LOL

psik

[ Edited: 21 March 2011 06:27 PM by psikeyhackr ]
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Posted: 21 March 2011 12:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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psik:

Though shalt not use the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

What if it is an order against the creation of organized religion? 

Never thought of that one,  going to have fun using it.

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Posted: 22 March 2011 03:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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psikeyhackr - 21 March 2011 11:05 AM

What if there is a God but He/She/It does not give a damn about any religion or even care about what we regard as worship?

Interesting thought.

From “Non Serviam” in “A perfect vacuum” (a collection of book reviews of non-existent books) Stanislav Lem, reprinted in the “Mind’s I”:

ADAN’s reasoning seems incontrovertible, at least insofar as it pertains to me: it was I, after all, who created him. In his theodicy, I am the Creator. In point of fact, I produced hat world (serial No. 47) with the aid of ADONAL IX program and created the personoid gemmae with a modification of the program JAHVE VI. These initial entities gave rise to three hundred subsequent generations. In point of fact, I have not communicated to them – in the form of an axiom – either these data, or my existence beyond the limits of their world. In point of fact, they arrived at the possibility of my existence only by inference, on the basis of conjecture and hypothesis. In point of fact, when I create intelligent beings, I do not feel myself entitled to demand of them any sort of privileges – love, gratitude, or even service of some kind or other. I can enlarge their world or reduce it, speed it up its time or slow it down, alter the mode and means of their perception; I can liquidate them, divide them, multiply them, transform the very ontological foundation of their existence. I am thus omnipotent with respect to them, but indeed, from this it does not follow that they owe me anything. As far as I am concerned, they are in no way beholden to me. It is true that I do not love them. Love does not enter into it at all, though I suppose some other experimenter might possibly entertain that feeling for his personoids. As I see it, this does not in the least change the situation – not in the least.

Italics by me.

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Posted: 22 March 2011 12:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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I’ll go you one better. What if there really is a god and he really does care what you think and there really is reward and punishment based on your belief? Considering that no one knows beans about him, maybe the only way to gain the reward is to reject all the theisms and admit that you don’t know spit.

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Posted: 22 March 2011 02:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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PLaClair - 22 March 2011 12:01 PM

I’ll go you one better. What if there really is a god and he really does care what you think and there really is reward and punishment based on your belief? Considering that no one knows beans about him, maybe the only way to gain the reward is to reject all the theisms and admit that you don’t know spit.

Theological axiom #1.

If there is a God then He/She/It can’t be STUPID.

Corollary #1

Stupid religions are unGodly.  LOL

psik

[ Edited: 22 March 2011 02:50 PM by psikeyhackr ]
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Posted: 22 March 2011 08:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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Shouldn’t be mean or vindictive or jealous either.

You would think people who say they believe in God would figure this out.

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Posted: 09 June 2011 05:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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It seems to me that two issues are being discussed here, and I have different responses to each of them. One regards the desirability of community structures and organizations that serve similar purposes to churches, temples etc but cater specifically to secularists and naturalists - PLaClair and George have been discussing this. I am firmly of the belief that if we do not start building such structures we will not have a significant impact on the wider culture. Such spaces serve as a base for recruitment, political mobilization, service work and community-building, and I see no reason why Humanists should not create such spaces for those that want them. As PLaClair suggests, if we don’t build them, people will find their community elsewhere, often in religious spaces, and Ethical Culture has done a good job in the past in providing such spaces. There’s no doubt that it could do with a fresh infusion of energy and ideas, and I think the time is right to make another push on this front.

The second question, and the topic of the thread, regards the correct use of the term “religious”. There’s no doubt the PLaClair is right in terms of the technical meaning of the term, but in my view it is still confusing to use the term “religious” to describe Humanist beliefs. This is not to denigrate the strong tradition of Humanists and Humanist organizations that do use the term in such a way, but simply to recognize the reality that there are serious political and public dangers were we to use the term in a more widespread way. There is no doubt that the term “religious”, in the public consciousness, refers to theistic belief systems, and this is as true in my home the UK as in the USA. I think it highly unlikely we will be able to shift the meaning of this term, and I do not see what benefit there is to attempt to do so for the movement as a whole. I understand that individual Humanists who use the term “religion” to describe their beliefs and practices would be more comfortable if the term had a more amenable general use. But I don’t see how the cause of Humanism would be furthered by trying to shift the use of the term back to a broader meaning.

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