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Religion


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So here's my problem with this...

The suggestion here (or at least one reading of it) is that if you call any belief religious it will likely be respected in the public sphere. The above example is similar to the "flying spaghetti monster" analogy that Dawkins and others like to use, but I believe it misses a crucial point.

If we are talking about a cultic formation or an individual that maintains a belief in a supernatural turtle, then clearly we are dealing with something that is absurd. While this cartoon is meant to serve as a direct analogy to conventional religious traditions (the Abrahamic traditions, Hinduism, etc.), there is at least one crucial distinction to be made: the latter are believed in by millions of people and, more importantly, constitute a foundation for our various "civilizations." They are reflected in our laws, our cultural practices, our behaviours, and in what we believe is just or good. This is also true for non-believers (like myself).

My point here is that it is unfair to draw a direct comparison between something that is recently made-up (and meant to provoke) and something that has guided (in the case of Christianity) the course of Western civilization, for better and for worse.

When a community, say in the Southern States, professes a belief in Christ, they are not simply affirming their commitment to some supernatural turtle, but staking their connection to tradition and to history--a history that provides a sense of continuity with the past, and serves as a basis for unity and shared values.

What we are to do about religious dogma is a separate question. One important difference to consider is that between personal beliefs (like where we go when we die or if there's some big dude on a cloud watching over us) and moral practices. I believe that seculars should not concern themselves so much with the former (after all, it's a delicate and complex psychological issue), but insist vehemently on the problems that we all face in dealing with the latter.

In Western democratic countries this means an acceptance of the separation of church and state by all members of society as a necessary condition of our pluralistic world. At the same time, and this is what interests me most, we seculars might think of ways to facilitate meaningful dialogue with the religious through what German philosopher Jurgen Habermas calls a "translation program" between religious and secular language. The basic idea here is the recognition (by seculars) that religious language contains meaningful and important ideas about our place in the world. If parties in dialogue are able to "translate" these ideas into secular language (and vice versa), then a space opens up for addressing real concerns that are often obscured (and sometimes seem "crazy") by the performative cloak of religious ritual and language. It's a tall order, to be sure, but it seems to me to be the direction that we need to head in if we are to bring the majority of reasonable religious people on our side and thereby limit the support for (and appeal of) the extremists.

But I praddle on, as usual...

never heard of habermas, but i like what you say about "translation". i've been trying to do this in my own way for some time.

the assumption that religious people are stupid strikes me as roughly equivilant to the assumption that secular people have no moral foundations.

of course, religious people ARE stupid- 90% of them, just like 90% of secular people. but this has nothing to do with their chosen models of how the universe works.

i thought the turtle thing sounded pretty good, actually. :)jk

Hey Jonathan,

FYI, here's a link to a page about Habermas.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/habermas/#DiaBetNatRel

If you scroll down to the bottom to number 4. The Debate between Naturalism and Religion, you'll get the gist of his argument on religion and "translation." If you have any interest in reading the rest of this lengthy entry, I'd suggest that you read the religion bit first, b/c if you start at the top, it'll take you forever. Some of it is also fairly heavy, and can be daunting if you're not familiar with the tradition.

Matt

thanks for the link. an impressive thinker with excellent credentials. i was impressed that he called out heidegger over naziism...even if it was a little late.

I came across this essay by Habermas called "Religion in the Public Sphere" FYI.

http://www.sandiego.edu/pdf/pdflibrary/habermaslecture031105c939cceb2ab087bdfc6df291ec0fc3fa.pdf

I'm not sure what your background in philosophy is (it is technical in parts), but it lays out his position in as clear a way as you'll find in his writing.

There's also a book called Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida by Giovanna Boradorri that might be of interest.

my background in philosophy is that i was a philosophy major at a typical small american liberal arts college, which means my REAL major was bongs 'n beer. sorry, not an expert. but conversant. and thanks again for the links.

Hey Jonathan,

Yeah, I can relate to the bongs and beer angle, though I've had to tone it down in recent years upon the terrible realization that I'm not indestructible.

A quick note: the link to the Habermas article entitled "Religion in the Public Sphere" was different from the one I had in mind.

Fortunately, the one I gave is actually better for getting a taste of his position, as it's shorter and less technical. Here's the reference to the one I had in mind anyways, if it should interest you.

Jurgen Habermas, “Religion in the Public Sphere,” European Journal of Philosophy 14 (2006)

Matt

Hey! Maybe 10% of you are just too dam smartypants.

hey, i can't be properly offended when the attack is that funny. i protest- i want my quota of offendedness!

I think you missed the joke.

I also think the turtle battle is a reference to an actual religion.

I don't mean this in a confrontational way, but how did I miss the joke? I'm just curious if there's something I'm missing. Also, what actual religion could this be referring to (also curious)?

The following is longer than I anticipated and is not necessarily a reply to your comment, but a clarification/elaboration of some of my earlier points.

While there are always different interpretations, I think the gist of this cartoon, or at least the most likely way that it would be read, is that when someone adds the caveat, its my religion, their belief automatically confers respect regardless of how absurd it is. From this I draw an implicit connection or suggestion between a recently invented absurdity and the actual claims of existing religions. Where I have a problem is in the equivalency between something invented (and absurd) and something that constitutes 2000 + years of history and civilization. In short, I think it constitutes, at least in one sense, an easy cop-out (i.e., we cast all religion as equally absurd and dogmatic).

My main concern, to re-iterate, is in what I see as an endless, circular debate between the "theological camp" and the "atheist camp," where the main points of contention revolve around proving or disproving the existence of God. This debate has been going on for centuries, and with very little headway, at least in terms of coming to any"final" decision (as if that were possible).

When people profess a belief in God they are not simply affirming a supernatural absurdity (like a space turtle), but professing a connection to a tradition and a community of values that in most cases constitutes their strongest point of contact to a meaning-oriented life. Thus, when their belief system is ridiculed (and often harshly so by secular critics) it seen to undermine not only their "opinion" on the question of God, but also to undermine the positive association that their tradition has in relation to their identity, values, and a sense of community. I am not suggesting that we don't confront these issues, but rather that we think about the effects that a harsh and often cynical approach toward religion has on advancing our overarching goals in this debate. These goals, as I suggest in my first post, are primarily aimed at creating a meaningful public discourse between religious and secular people (and its worth bearing in mind that on a world scale, seculars are in the minority) so as to limit the impact of narrow, rigid, and dogmatic beliefs on public policy. In short, we shouldn't be wasting our time in trying to disprove the existence of God, but instead focus on what is unacceptable in terms of the impact that certain religious beliefs have on public policy. In this way, the debate is re-directed toward the ill-effects of religious beliefs (not to mention secular ones), without necessarily undermining the worldviews of religious people. I think its true that people are less hostile and emotional when the conversation is on practical matters that must find some compromise, rather than on the foundations of people's belief systems. I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't critique worldviews (or offer humourous parodies), but rather that it should take a backseat to more pressing concerns.

Another way to look at it, is in terms of simple psychology. If you want someone to listen to a perspective that they deem controversial, they need to feel as though you're not out to get them. Once a level of trust is established, you can begin to introduce challenging points of view in an attempt to work them though (i.e., in terms of the "translation program" that I mention above). In the absence of this, you may win certain fence-sitters over to your side (a strategy that the New Atheists have admitted to)--converts, as it were, but will also be alienating and antagonizing a much greater proportion of people who might otherwise be receptive to respectful criticism (i.e., criticism based on a trust that you are not out to get them).

In short, it is a question of drastically re-orienting the strategy that seculars take when confront religious dogma, and even admitting that there are things to learn from the religious once a "translation program" can be worked out.

Both Hindu's and a number of North American Native mythologies involve turtle creation stories. Not sure if great turtles do battle in one, but it wouldn't surprise me. The Hindu turtle myth is one that has played a key role in some debates on religion. "what does the turtle stand on?"

So in part I don't think the author was meaning to create a narrative where the character was spouting something that he just recently made up, although certainly there are new religions.

More to the point, I would think the author is indeed making a joke about the absurdity of religious beliefs and how we are compelled to give them "respect".

Unmarried woman traveling far from home with a boyfriend claims to be both pregnant and a virgin? And we believe her and call it a miracle? God comes to earth and his big miracles include walking on water and turning water into wine at a social gathering? And there is only one god, he just has three personalities and talks to himself?

To your point of how you, "question of drastically re-orienting the strategy that seculars take when confront religious dogma."

I would repeat a point I have made before, which is, that not everything done by an atheist is an attempt to convert you, and if it were attempting to do so, a polite and factual conversation would probably be less successful then mockery. In this case the author is not really mocking religious belief, but attempts to insulate belief from any and all scrutiny with a call for "respect". For many strongly religious folks respect=not questioning.

if we are to bring the majority of reasonable religious people on our side and thereby limit the support for (and appeal of) the extremists

To this point, many atheist also assert that religious belief is a social belief, believed because others believe it, not because of fact. and concluding from that hypothesis that extreme religion is caused by "reasonable" religion.

Personally, my jury is still out on that point, but I just woke up from a nap, so I am leaning in that direction at this moment.

(convential religious beliefs) are believed in by millions of people and, more importantly, constitute a foundation for our various "civilizations."

That's a pretty bold statement there. I'd like to see you prove that modernized societies are more influenced by religion than vice versa. Which came first, the golden rule, or jesus teaching everyone about the golden rule? How is our supposedly "christian" nation actually subscribing to the beliefs of jesus? Are we feeding the poor, regardless of their ability? Do we turn the other cheek when attacked?

In the mind of a true christian, isn't it more important to die without having betrayed your beliefs rather than kill someone else in pre-emptive wars?

Here's a Utah example: Mormons believe that blacks are marked from the seed of cain and were cursed with dark skin. Brigham Young said (i'm too lazy to look up the direct quote) the mixing of seeds is an abomination and should never happen, this will always be the case.

Therefore, Utah, if bound by it's local religious "foundations", should push to ban cross race marriages. However, society sees that as abominable, and that would not stand in the United States (anymore).

I feel society influences religion and drives it's decisions more than what you claim. Whenever society has implemented religious laws on it's people, it usually causes struggle and grief, and occasionally wars and martyrdom.

However, if you are just claiming that religion as a local "tribe" that people use for support and interaction, i'll whole-heartedly agree with that. But, these "tribes" are a segment of society, not the society itself. This is clearly from a 21st century view of the world, and previous societies that were smaller probably apply within your scope, but I feel this is no longer the case.

"In Western democratic countries this means an acceptance of the separation of church and state by all members of society as a necessary condition of our pluralistic world."

That is the very crux of the problem. There is a large number of religious people in and outside the US who do not want to live in a pluralistic world. They do not want the separation of church and state. The question for those of us who do want this is: what is the best way to insure that our wishes take precedence over their wishes? War? Law enforcement? Reducing the influence of their religion on society, especially the younger generation? Destroying their religion? Something else?

I don't know the answer, but I am certain that I don't want to live in a theocratic state regardless of the theology behind it. And I don't want the US or any other western country to become such a state.

Satinsheeds: One important difference to consider is that between personal beliefs (like where we go when we die or if there's some big dude on a cloud watching over us) and moral practices. I believe that seculars should not concern themselves so much with the former (after all, it's a delicate and complex psychological issue), but insist vehemently on the problems that we all face in dealing with the latter.

These aren't mutually exlusive. The former informs the latter. To not understand this misses the point entirely of why secularists (especially those authors that have emerged recently) speak out against superstitious beliefs.

Hi Erick, Thanks for your thoughts. This is a huge point which I can't even begin to flesh out here, though I will attempt a few preliminary remarks.

While I agree that these are not mutually exclusive questions, I see the consistent attempt to destroy the former so as to diminish (or wipe out) the influence of the latter as misguided at best. In short, we're not going to wipe out religion. Many have tried (especially since Darwin) and with little success. That is not to say that we shouldn't critique the logic of metaphysical thinking, and I think that there is a place for that. What concerns me is that the attack on the status of God (on belief in the supernatural as absurd and as opposed to science and reason) has come to dominate debates on these issues. Since questions of belief in the supernatural are highly complex (of which studies in psychology/psychoanalysis, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, etc. can attest), it seems to me that they should take a back seat to the much more pressing concern of how moral values play out in the public sphere.

Take the United States for example. Approaching this matter from a critical historical perspective, it is not difficult to make the case that each and every American benefits greatly from the separation of church and state that was enacted by the founding fathers. As we know, many of the first settlers in the New World were fleeing religious persecution in Europe, where purges regularly had Catholics or Protestants imprisoned, abused, or even killed. We all know the history. The point is that taking such an approach (which is one of many approaches) avoids a direct confrontation with peoples deepest held beliefs, and re-orients the debate toward an area where actual progress can be made (and with less of a chance of people closing off due to insult). Christopher Hitchens brings this point up, though only as a footnote to his argument, which is largely one of attack. I think he could make a lot more headway if he were to concentrate on the politics of church and state.

If strategies for such an approach are carefully thought through (and I've had much success with this approach), those who hold dogmatic beliefs that they may wish to see imposed upon others, are forced to consider how their own beliefs are protected by secular laws and a secular constitution and how, in the absence of such a state, they're own cherished beliefs could be persecuted.

In sum, I think part of the problem is that people tend to have such short historical memories (if they have even been educated at all). A critical engagement with what a modern, pluralistic, and democratic society actually requires, and what the "ideals" of American democracy actually imply is a strong counter-point to the arguments for religiously guided laws and, more importantly, opens up conversation toward a direction that we can all immediately engage with (in most cases), as opposed to a line of attack that will leave most religious folk insulted and closed-off from further debate.

Obviously this is a complex issue, though I'm glad for the chance to write about it.

In short, we're not going to wipe out religion.

In other words, religion is here to stay. Sam Harris actually has a satrical response to this which I think is apt:

    But magic is here to stay too, George; Africa is full of it. Is there a conflict between scientific rationality and a belief in magic spells? Specifically, is there a conflict between believing that epilepsy is a result of abnormal neural activity and believing that it is a sign of demonic possession? Dogmatists like Coyne and Dennett clearly think so. They don't realize, as Dyson must, that the more one understands neurology, the more one will understand—and honor—demonology. Have Coyne and Dennett read the work of sophisticated magicians like Aleister Crowley or Eliphas Levi? Don't count on it. Ask yourself, how could matter conflict with spirit in any way? Answer: it cannot. Forgive me, but I find it embarrassing to have to explain these things to people who are supposed be well educated.

It's also quite pessimistic of you to claim that religion cannot be diminished, if not eradicated. There have been several examples throughout history of victories that have been won, by ridicule even! Harris hasn't failed to mention time and again the success it had with the KKK. Slavery is another fine example that has been nearly wiped out -- and it wasn't thanks to Yahweh's attempt at softening its blow by instituting regulations on it. Moreover, considering the ramifications of dogmas informing "moral values" it should be clear that one should take the front seat with said issue. We have to be candid with ourselves in knowing that asking, "well if only they knew more history" or "if only they had more scientific knowledge" is rather immune to dogma. Very little headway is created from presenting them with facts, as the point is not to tell them what to think but how to think. It seems the most powerful antidote is exposing the fallacy of holding irrational beliefs. Once a group is well established and unaffected by problems like persecution and such, they go on to attack in the very same way as they once experienced. Has it helped that many African Americans are being told they are discriminating against gays in the same way they were once discriminated? Doesn't seem that way; in fact, many don't see the connection at all even once presented with the history. It's time we stop treated this issue as though it's too complex for us to even touch it. Yes, like Neil deGrasse Tyson once said, we create impact by being sensitive to people's state-of-mind when presenting facts. Don't be so quick to dismiss ridicule however.

Before I respond more fully, I need clarification on two points.

First, you seem to imply a parallel between "religion" and the KKK. Can you explain this more fully?

Second, how might you argue that religion could be "diminished, if not eradicated?" Even assuming that the nearly 7 billion (and counting) people on earth all had access to a decent "secular" education, as well as a decent living standard a life prospects, how could this be possible? How are we defining "religion" here?

I understood that the comparison of religion to demonology, or astrology, or even battling turtles seemed perhaps to facile so I brought up the issue of racism and described various forms -- one of which you mentioned (the KKK) and another which you left out yet I brought up, that of slavery. Both these, of course, are a result of deeply held convictions. And yet amazingly we have nearly eradicated the problem. The scant news articles we hear about the anomolous incidents of slavery are not to the degree they were at the infancy of this nation -- let alone at the turn of the first century or even before that. That's why I remained optimistic in light of your facile dismissal that religion is here to stay and that eradicating it is nearly impossible. I think it's been that we haven't even begun to seriously wack away at it which is why we've made no headway.

We can certainly begin with religious America which shares in guilt with the atrocities you find in many backward countries of the Middle East. As for a definition of the word religion I can take the most popular from any dictionary: "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs." And I'll even amend it to include those institutions which enshire said beliefs and set it up on a pedestal.

Hi Erick,

Thanks for your response (and sorry for the late reply).

I'll fashion my rebuttal in a way that doesn't address your response directly, but attempts, rather, to clarify the terms under which we are both trying to approach these questions. I will point out, however, that you didn't address the following point I made:

"Second, how might you argue that religion could be "diminished, if not eradicated?" Even assuming that the nearly 7 billion (and counting) people on earth all had access to a decent "secular" education, as well as a decent living standard and life prospects, how could this be possible? How are we defining "religion" here?"

I am yet to hear someone overturn this argument in a convincing way.

Alight, allow me to show some of my cards here. I am currently working on a PhD. in the study of religion. The discipline is non-confessional (i.e., not theology), and takes a social scientific approach to the phenomenon that we call "religion." I have written more about the discipline in a different post, so I won't elaborate here. I mention my work not to imply any superiority to my opinion (to pull rank, as it were), but rather to express how my interests (which are social scientific) differ from debates on religion in the public sphere.

To illustrate my point I'll quote from religious studies scholar Tim Murphy who writes in his essay "Speaking Different Languages: Religion and the Study of Religion,"

“Because it takes as its basis, as its guiding principle, the dictates of practical reason, the temporal horizons of the public sphere are much narrower than are those of the sciences. Likewise, the suspension of belief in an indefinite deferment to the future is not possible given the dictates of practical reason. […] The public sphere is necessarily constituted by these demands, and cannot have the patience to ‘wait and see,’ a gesture of deferral which is essential to science.”

When he talks of "science" here, he is referring to the academic study of religion. His point, I believe, is that discourse on religion in the public sphere is narrowed, as he writes, "by the dictates of practical reason." One area that I'm interested in addressing in my own work are the ways in which the academic discourse on religion can enter the public sphere and enlarge (or nuance) the terms of the debate. This is a tall order, to be sure, since such a discourse is often highly technical, not fitting in well with the "sound-bite" character of popular media. Furthermore, to my knowledge, there are no popular and accessible books on the market that address these issues head-on. Scholars of religion like myself are thus doubly frustrated by what we see as a narrow approach to these questions, without being able to point to accessible alternative sources to counter the arguments.

To be clear, the study of religion is agnostic, and is very critical of religion. We do not accept statements of "faith," as reasonable answers to questions on religion, though neither are we out to disprove religion. Though political or strategic positions are unavoidable, our approach, as Murphy argues, is one of "wait and see," given the complexities (and qualitative nature) of the subjects/objects we are investigating.

On another point, and here I'll try and clarify why I don't think ridicule should be our guiding approach, I'll turn to the theories of German philosopher Jurgen Habermas (the main focal point of my dissertation).

Habermas's position can be described as 'post-secular,' by which he means a recognition of the continued existence of religious beliefs and communities amidst the on-going process of secularization. To sum up his perspective on the status of religion in the public sphere (which is complex) in a very short space is impossible. Nevertheless, I'll take a stab at it.

Habermas's critical theory of society deals a lot with theories of communication, and what he calls communicative rationality and ethics. Since the process of modernization is violent in the sense that it disrupts traditionally held values, and calls positions of morality and worldview into serious question, a process of cognitive dissonance needs to take place amongst those who maintain (though often in contradictory and complex ways) a pre-modern disposition.

For Habermas, the promise of Modernity (which includes an understanding of morality that requires that reasons be given that can be agreed to by all and be logically falsifiable) is most effectively fulfilled if we are able to discover ways in which a complimentary learning process can take place between secular and religious worldviews. For Habermas, since religious communities have been thrust into modernity (especially in the Islamic world) largely through military ventures and the imposition of free markets, the additional demand of secularization on a Western model is seen as overbearing, especially if we agree that the "instrumental rationality" of capitalist globalization diminishes traditional values and the sense of what is sacred between people and their community.

I'll quote Habermas here from his 2003 essay "Faith and Knowledge":

"Those moral feelings which only religious language has as yet been able to give a sufficiently differentiated expression may find universal resonance once a salvaging formulation turns up for something almost forgotten, but implicitly missed. The mode of non-destructive secularization is translation. This is what the Western world, as the worldwide secularizing force, may learn from its own history. If it presents this complex image of itself to other cultures in a credible way, intercultural relations may find a language other than that of the military and the market alone."

While I have plucked this out of context, the point I want to emphasize here, and of which I am largely in agreement with, is Habermas's contention of the need for "nondestructive secularization." For him, the 9/11 attacks and the resurgence of religion (esp. the extreme kind) after the fall of the Soviet Union, is largely the result of the so-called secular project of modernization (esp. in places like Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq) which has been experienced as a trauma, with an absence of any sort of credible moral virtue to lend legitimacy to a de-secularized political re-orientation.

There's a lot more to this, but I think, at the very least, it's worth considering how a process of secularization (and I'm not sure what Habermas would say about the possibilities for eliminating religion in the future) can and has been received as a violent and impoverished alternative to traditional worldviews that still hold communities together (however well or poorly as the case may be).

I'm only scratching the surface of this argument and, as mentioned, in a very cursory way. There is a lot more nuance to Habermas's theory, and the variety of theories and methods that the study of religion can offer to this debate.

I hope, at any rate, that I have clarified my position a little (by showing my cards), and helped to illustrate the point that my position is anything but facile and uncritical. Like yourself, I am deeply concerned with the ill effects that religion has on our societies, though, I must concede, as a Canadian, I do not experience the same levels of religious fanaticism as do many places in the world, including the U.S.

I don't claim my position to be a correct one (in an absolutist sense) though I do hold firm to my belief in the need to enlarge the parameters of the debate on religion in the public sphere. How the hell that's going to happen (and to what extent it is possible) I'm not sure, but I maintain a commitment to expanding the argument all the same.

... it's a cartoon.

    Satinsheeds:
"Second, how might you argue that religion could be "diminished, if not eradicated?" Even assuming that the nearly 7 billion (and counting) people on earth all had access to a decent "secular" education, as well as a decent living standard and life prospects, how could this be possible?

Did I not already answer this with my analogy to slavery? In fact, replace the above-bolded word with slavery and ask yourself that very question and you'll soon see the weakness of your argument.

    Satinsheeds:
How are we defining "religion" here?"

Recall that you, not I, initially brought up the term when you said,"In short, we're not going to wipe out religion." How you are defining it is the real question. I already gave you a working definition but failed to awknowlegdge it.

    Satinsheeds:
...since religious communities have been thrust into modernity (especially in the Islamic world) largely through military ventures and the imposition of free markets, the additional demand of secularization on a Western model is seen as overbearing, especially if we agree that the "instrumental rationality" of capitalist globalization diminishes traditional values and the sense of what is sacred between people and their community.

Who is agreeing anything of the sort? In fact, his (and indirectly your) whole assertion is made up of smaller assertions, none of which you seem to feel the need to explain, let alone justify. You need to re-think about what you're trying to say and then come back with a cogent statement - preferably one which does not make itself contingent on such an amazingly arrogant presumption regarding what 'we're to agree'. You can start by explaining why you see secularization as a "demand" which is "overbearing". I live in a society where secularization has been an agent of liberation from traditional values imposed on people which may have been deemed "sacred" by their imposers, but which contributed heavily much of their misery at the time.

    Satinsheeds:
can and has been received as a violent and impoverished alternative to traditional worldviews that still hold communities together (however well or poorly as the case may be).
...with an absence of any sort of credible moral virtue...

And what are these "traditional values" then? And definately explain how they promoted "moral virtue" in the previous political processes to which the people you refer to were subjected?

user-pic

A million flies can't be wrong: Shit is good!

My point is, the fact that millions of people believe in God and not some other deity (like Zeus) is all a matter of some chain of events. It might have played out differently, but it didn't. It doesn't mean Christianity should have more respect or credibility than any other deity either made up 2000 years ago or made up yesterday in a cartoon.

I don't see anything wrong with this situation. Is it trying to suggest that we SHOULD mock people with beliefs very different from ours? That's as arrogant as the mainstream religion that you despise so much.

In short, we're not going to wipe out religion. Many have tried (especially since Darwin) and with little success.

What? Religions get wiped out all the time, It just gets done by other religion. They call it missionary work.

Atheists aren't organized, so they don't have missionaries.

Now, it does seem easy enough to eliminate a religion, but hard to say how easy it is to eliminate all magical thinking, as some percentage of people seem to just create a new religion when they are forced to eliminate another.

Now, it does seem easy enough to eliminate a religion...

oh ho, izzat so? example, please, that didn't involve something close enough to genocide to not be worth arguing about. you can start, if you like, with zoroatrianism. i think there's still a few of those left in iran (persia).

if you want to talk about how missionaries have eliminated tribal religions in africa, say, i'd say you're not keeping up with the news. as far as the "religions" of the greeks and romans, well, you're still here, aren't you? and in any case, in what way was it "easy" to eliminate them?

before every people whom are now christian, moslem, hindu, or budhist, they were all something else. Some got violently forced to change, but many others.

I mean, in early human history it is likely that every village or community had their own versions of religion. its only been about 5,000 years out of what like 250,000 years of human cultural development that religious consolidation has been a widespread trend.

Seems likely that the overwhelming majority of religions have been wiped out or absorbed.

Even a hundred years ago the Christian religion was divided into well defined sects, which I see as melting into one big Christianity, with the more conservative groups being reduced to small groups of fundies. Look at what has happened to Catholics.

So I guess my point is that many don't show a lot of generational loyalty to their specific religions traditions. they commit to something vaguely like there parents and then find their specifics after marriage.

So I guess my point is that many don't show a lot of generational loyalty to their specific religions traditions.

many don't. but many do, and i would argue, many more do. as far as i can see, it is only jews and christians who handle it as you describe. and the christians don't have much of an argument for "generational loyalty", anyway. and the jews are a statistical non-entity.

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