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So much for religion as a loving community.
Posted: 25 February 2013 08:13 PM   [ Ignore ]
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People often talk about community as one of the positive aspects of religion but today I saw the dark side of that community. I met a woman recently who is an author and poet. She is a pleasant but fragile person and she is very religious. Her religion is important to her and the church is an important extended family.

She confided in me that in her profession as an author she wrote a childrens book. One of the characters in her book was a witch. The book neither glorified nor vilified the witch but the very fact that she mentioned a witch at all was considered sinful. Her congregation confronted her and threatened to excommunicate her ( not the exact word she used but the same idea) if she did not pull the book from distribution. This was during a difficult time in her life and she needed the income from the book but they basically told her to do what they demanded or she would be banished. Ultimately she gave in to their demands but went through incredible financial and emotional stress as a result.

It really makes you wonder why people would remain members of such a dysfunctional family.

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Posted: 25 February 2013 09:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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On what basis does that one anecdote justify the categorical title of your topic?

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Posted: 25 February 2013 09:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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That is such a sad situation. I hope she has the strength to leave.

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Posted: 26 February 2013 05:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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macgyver - 25 February 2013 08:13 PM

It really makes you wonder why people would remain members of such a dysfunctional family.

Sad, but I guess her community was more important to her than the money. Don’t we all go through similar dilemmas all the time? Even on this forum I often have to decide if what I am about to say is worth my potential loss of membership. Freedom of speech is an illusion anywhere.

[ Edited: 26 February 2013 05:45 AM by George ]
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Posted: 26 February 2013 06:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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PLaClair - 25 February 2013 09:25 PM

On what basis does that one anecdote justify the categorical title of your topic?

Granted its never entirely fair to use single anecdotes to justify generalizations and no doubt there are many religious communities that provide supportive environments to their members but this is an example of what happens when your community cares more about its rules than about the people in the group.

By the way George, one more comment like that and you;re out of here wink

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Posted: 26 February 2013 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Granted its never entirely fair to use single anecdotes to justify generalizations and no doubt there are many religious communities that provide supportive environments to their members but this is an example of what happens when your community cares more about its rules than about the people in the group.


I could give you dozens more worse than that but what it all boils down to is the community, your place within it and your desire to maintain that place. Public scorn is a mighty weapon against us even if we do have freedom of speech. It keeps our mouths in check if not our thoughts. If your church community is vitally important (it really doesn’t matter if you believe the religious BS) to your sense of group comfort, you will be affected by their condemnation of your actions. It allows you to stay in the group, hence religious hypocrisy. I can screw anyone I want (double meaning intended) but if I show up on Sunday reciting the same platitudes as everyone else in the pews I’m one of them. The rules define us as a group and when you break one openly you are declared “not one of us” and are temporarily out of the group until you perform your penitence, publically that is. Standing alone, whether figuratively or literally can be pretty scary. Picture yourself in front of a congregation of three hundred people and telling them they’re rules are wrong, then call for questions. Any takers?


Cap’t Jack

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Posted: 26 February 2013 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I’d say that if her religious group is that much against any type of (to them) non - righteous concepts, she should have been aware of that.

But, as you say she is a fragile person, so maybe she can’t help but get into these situations?

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Posted: 26 February 2013 11:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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PLaClair - 25 February 2013 09:25 PM

On what basis does that one anecdote justify the categorical title of your topic?

I suppose he could have listed another dozen or two as further examples, but we value succinctness here.  LOL

Occam

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Posted: 26 February 2013 03:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Another example:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-21595814

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Posted: 26 February 2013 10:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Here we go again. The title of this topic suggests that religion is categorically antithetical to supportive community. That’s simply not true, either in theory or in practice. Succinctness is an important value but not when it compromises the truth by drawing a broader conclusion than is warranted.

We secularists have got to get something through our heads if we’re ever going to be heard, accepted and embraced by a larger group of people - and for that matter, if we are going to adhere to our core principle of reason. We must stop casting our net more broadly than the facts justify. We have no credibility in the realm of reason if we ignore the fundamental fact that on balance, the churches do a better job with supportive community than we do. Until we look objectively and critically at ourselves, we will not gain the acceptance our core concepts deserve - because we are p—-ing away our opportunities with emotional reactions like the title of this topic, which is not supported by the facts. The facts do not justify that broad a conclusion. The discussion that follows the topic heading is pretty good but the “headline” says a lot about the prevailing attitude here. It is counterproductive, and inconsistent with what we claim to value: reason and a clear, objective analysis of the facts.

Fortunately for us, perhaps, very few people read this forum. But if they did, they would hammer us with reason - because the title of this topic puts us in that position. George W. Bush conflated cowboy foreign policy with strength. When one of us titles a topic like this, it’s the same thing without the weapons. We should stop doing that to ourselves.

Anyone here is free to ignore all of that and continue to bash religion with or without justification. I say we should hammer religion when and where we have justification to do it, and be incisive about what we’re doing. We have plenty of opportunities. The clear-headed discussion about the story in the opening post is valuable. The categorical conclusion is not. We can choose to continue on this path but we cannot choose the consequences of our choices. That is as applicable to us as it is to the theists we are so fond of reminding of this social dynamic.

This forum can be a cheerleading section for people who want to bash religion in every form and manifestation but if we do that, then we’re just singing ourselves a bedtime lullaby. We won’t be accomplishing a thing.

[ Edited: 26 February 2013 10:16 PM by PLaClair ]
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Posted: 27 February 2013 12:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Religions tend to support only that which is considered appropriate and not in conflict with scripture.
Anything that does not specifically reinforce the Religious part of the community is considered “outcast” or “infidel”, or even “from the pits of hell” as expressed by a congressman recently..
Hypatia was killed, not for science (she was a scientist), but as a witchcraft practising witch.
In the OP example, the lady is accused of writing about a witch and is then persecuted and threatened with excommunicated from the religious community, a ludicrous example of dichotomy.

Religion confuses the mind.  There is no objective approach to religion, it will always be a subjective emotional experience.  Problem is that it is not possible to standardize this subjective emotional experience.

[ Edited: 27 February 2013 12:28 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 27 February 2013 04:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Write4U - 27 February 2013 12:18 AM

Religions tend to support only that which is considered appropriate and not in conflict with scripture.
Anything that does not specifically reinforce the Religious part of the community is considered “outcast” or “infidel”, or even “from the pits of hell” as expressed by a congressman recently..
Hypatia was killed, not for science (she was a scientist), but as a witchcraft practising witch.
In the OP example, the lady is accused of writing about a witch and is then persecuted and threatened with excommunicated from the religious community, a ludicrous example of dichotomy.

Religion confuses the mind.  There is no objective approach to religion, it will always be a subjective emotional experience.  Problem is that it is not possible to standardize this subjective emotional experience.

If I accept your premises for the sake of argument (since they’re not entirely true), then CFI must be a religion, because what is at work right here on this page is a set of dogmas - a set of informal scriptures as it were whose core dogma is the evil of all religion on every level. Forget the evidence, forget the vast differences between religious organizations and congregations, all religion is evil and let’s bash it, with no apparent concern for the facts and the truth.

Some religious organizations behave as described above but others do not. Many churches barely adhere to scripture in the first place, and will discard it in a heartbeat to serve the human interests of their members. In short, their focus is more on the people and their interests than on the formal doctrines and dogmas. UU congregations, for example, do not behave as above. Neither do Ethical Culture Societies. Neither do most Buddhist groups. Neither do many Christian congregations - Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian, Catholic, you name it - despite what you might expect based on their formal doctrines. There are plenty of theistic religions that do not subscribe to notions such as “outcast,” “infidel” or “the pits of hell.” Write4U’s categorical statement simply is not true; it is utterly indefensible as a statement of fact.

To be sure, this creates a conflict between what people in a congregation claim to believe and what they really believe - but no greater a conflict than I’m seeing on this page with these categorical comments about religion that aren’t based on the facts. One aspect of religion confuses the mind: the false notion that truth can reliably be derived from an arbitrarily chosen outside authority, such as the Bible or the Koran, or for that matter the Upanishads. However, in this culture at least, adherents to the Upanishads are less likely to be dogmatic in their approach than are adherents to the Bible or the Koran. There is more dogmatism on this page than you will find in many churches.

In no way is this a defense of ancient scripture. It is merely an observation that whatever followers of a particular religion may claim to believe, or believe in, you must look more closely at their beliefs in content, and their practices, to understand them.

To be clear, I have no quarrel at all with the content of macgyver’s opening post, which offers an excellent observation about a tragic phenomenon that occurs within some religious groups. But I’ve seen similar phenomena at the Humanist Institute, with the dogmatic exclusion of solid Humanists who had the temerity to suggest that religion and spirituality are multi-faceted, containing some good qualities. I do not understand this continual and insistent looking past the facts that appears on this and other pages here on this forum. They are not defensible on factual grounds.

[ Edited: 27 February 2013 04:08 AM by PLaClair ]
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Posted: 27 February 2013 09:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I would say that a community is not supportive if it threatens to shun a person for thinking differently from the group. That is not my definition of support.  It is my definition of community manipulation. it is unfortunate that vulnerable people are sucked in and manipulated by their communities to the point where they are afraid to think for themselves.  I think McGyver made an excellent point.

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Posted: 27 February 2013 10:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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PlaClair clearly I struck a nerve here but if you read my second post in this thread you will see that we are basically on the same page. i didnt mean to impugn all religious groups but i would disagree that humanist or other nonreligious groups are the same as religious ones in this regard. Many religious groups require you to follow a certain dogma and set of rules to even be a part of the group. I grew up catholic and the catholic church makes no bones of the fact that certain behaviors or choices will get you excommunicated.

That differs from what you find in most humanist communities from what I have observed in my limited experience. While certain ideas may not be accepted by the group and even met with derision at times everything is open to debate. You may have to have a thick skin to endure some debates but ultimately no one is ever banished unless they are abusive.

[ Edited: 27 February 2013 11:08 AM by macgyver ]
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Posted: 27 February 2013 11:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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When I take the time to consider my position, something I don’t always do, I find I agree with many of PLaClair’s points.  There clearly are moderate religions which alleviate an enormous amount of pain and suffering while providing a supportive community for their members.  Judging from discussions here, community and good deeds are not the focus of this group, or at least not the focus of this forum, (I have no idea what participants here do in their non-forum lives).  My shallow sense of the general humanist mindset, is that we tend to be a diverse group of outliers and individualists who are often geographically isolated.  Most of us don’t seem to be looking to live in a close community of like minded secular people, not in way members of more conventional religions often do, and in this way and others, we seem to happily function quite differently from a religious community.

It is interesting then, that I seem to find myself, to some degree, opposing religion in a very general way.  If I don’t deeply desire what religion offers, why do I care at all, much less feel distinct animosity toward religion? 

I’d speculate my attitude primarily results from the fact that I find a person who adopts or inherits a religious viewpoint somewhat frightening and offensive.  When I write of someone possessing a religious viewpoint, I specifically mean, one who chooses to hold a belief in the efficacy of the supernatural, and promotes this belief as being exclusively correct and unchallengeable.  I don’t see how someone who adheres to such belief system can accept or even truly tolerate my secular viewpoint.  This inherit intolerance offends me, and judging from history, it should frighten me.  Quite frankly, I would like to see any system of belief built upon a dogma involving the worship of unchallengeable supernatural figure cease to exist. 

Now I recognize that doesn’t define many belief systems which are generally referred to as “religions”.  But, it seems that those alternative “religions” make up a pretty insignificant part of the religious population.  I cannot include the liberal branches of the Abrahamic religions, because, no matter how far they stray from a literal interpretation of their central dogma, as far as I know the core of their belief is that there is a single, all powerful, supernatural being.  The importance of forcing obeisance to this figure may wax and wane, but the nucleus of that idea always exists. 

I realize that cultivating intolerance for secularists is very far from the focus of most moderate religious believers, and even though my broad based discomfort and intolerance for religion clearly does affect my ability to effectively interact, I really don’t know how to resolve this issue.  While I have no desire to insult or harm people who hold a religious belief, (as I’ve defined such a belief)  my mere refusal to believe is offensive by definition.  I don’t know how to honestly mask my deep conviction that this sort of religion is a flawed and dangerous phenomenon.

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Posted: 27 February 2013 06:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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mac, my only quarrel with what you wrote is not in the content of your post. It is how you titled this topic.

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