In response to PLaClair’s post #26 above: PlaClair, it seems that almost every area of belief is defined differently by different humans. Many members of various religions are quite certain that anyone with a different set of ideas will be consigned to hell, that any nonbeliever must be immoral, that only they have the truth. Many political conservatives and liberals believe those on the other side are ill-informed or stupid. Essentially all of them believe that their views are broad and encompassing while those of others are narrow and simplistic. I have met humanists who are also theists, and humanists who are secular.
This seems to fit our differences: You see my definition as personal and non-inclusive while yours is “on advancing Humanism and scientific naturalism as social forces - as movements.” I see yours as overly broad and controlling while doing nothing to advance any movement or philosophical stand.
You’re looking at what religion means to you. I’m looking at what religion can mean to a scientific naturalist and Humanist.
I can’t help but smile at your implication that I am not a scientific naturalist and Humanist while you are. I’d guess that it would be more likely that a scientist would be a scientific naturalist than would a lawyer.
Apparently we both see the definition of the other as narrow and parochial, and since this is a forum to discuss disparate ideas we seem to be functioning well within its structure.
Wow, did you misread me! I was acknowledging that we are both Humanists and scientific naturalists, not suggesting that you are not. If you place the emphasis on the word “can,” the intended meaning should be clear.
Here is the genesis of my disagreement with you. You wrote: “. . .when one person insists on using a non-standard definition of a word, often one that has been out of date for many years or one that is based on the original etymology of the word parts . . .”
That is nowhere close to being accurate. In the first place, it isn’t just one person. Gary posted 16 definitions of religion, drawn from some extraordinarily erudite people, and GdB added one more. They are all standard definitions, in common use today, and each of them has its practitioners, whether by direct intention or not. Most of the secular definitions are variations of each other, and are fully consistent with the definition that I proposed. I didn’t make that definition up. It is rooted not merely in etymology but also in psychology and history. The statement that these are not-standard definitions, or are out of date is simply not true.
Let’s assume, arguendo, that your statement was true; in fact, let’s go a step further and imagine that all religions were theistic. That still wouldn’t alter the historical and psychological roots of religion, and the relevance of at the very least our psychology today. As Gary observes, religion probably developed as a survival tool - or at least that’s how people saw it. Thousands of years ago, people lived at the mercy of nature, predators and pests. A drought or a plague could wipe out an entire community. A predator could carry off your children. So in the evening, around the fire, people tried to figure it all out. Having little means to understand these matters, they listened to the elders who told them about rain gods and fertility gods and charms that would ward off predators. The mere fact that they gave piss-poor answers to the questions doesn’t mean that they weren’t trying to do something noble and important: understand their world and figure out a way to live within it. That is the genesis and essence of religion: the attempt to understand and bring that understanding to bear on life (my definition), or to understand and align oneself with the unseen order (James’ and others’ definition). They’re the same thing.
You’re saying we shouldn’t do that. According to you, and many others within our organizations, we should narrow the definition to fit within the narrow confines of the dominant religious view in our culture. You couldn’t devise a more bass-ackward, self-defeating strategy if you tried. You’re saying culture has dumbed down religion, so we should say that’s all religion is. Even though we know that’s not true. That’s the same argument as would justify saying that the word “theory” implies an absence of proof, just because the knuckleheads in our society say so.
I get the sense that you, and many others, react viscerally against religion. Having had that reaction myself, I’m all the more inclined to think that’s what is going on. I have no other way to explain why we wouldn’t discuss the psychological roots of religion - beyond insisting that anyone who believes in a god must be delusional - and try to come up with ways to interact with people who call themselves religious, and their organizations; ways of interacting that respect and honor the dignity of their undertaking, if not particular ways they go about it. There seems to be a vision of smashing and eliminating religion. In the first place, such a vision is pure fantasy. Religion is one of history’s most enduring institutions. In the second place, the religious quest is good, noble, and in fact indispensable. I have no problem at all with the religious quest; my problem is with many of the answers people have given. So let’s be about offering a different set of answers. Trashing the entire undertaking is counterproductive. We need to fashion new answers to the old questions. That is in perfect keeping with the stated goals of CFI. If we don’t do it, others will.