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brand? stewart brand? former prankster/guru-estranged father fo courtney love-author of the best book ever on the grateful dead? i love this guy, i didn't even know he was still alive. thanks for this.

You're welcome. I hope you didn't miss the bit I included just for you.

There is a common belief that if some trait or behavior is wired into the brain, it is unchangeable, inevitable.

i didn't realize that was directed at me. i don't even really understand the point this person is trying to make, unless it's like frenetic says below. i wasn't aware of this purported "common belief" that religion is hardwired into the human brain.

are you going to fix the sidebar thing or what? it's driving me (even more) nuts.

and the sidebar for the "forum" is even worse, it doesn't change at all until you show up and change it. what's with that?

I've seen videos of Pan-kun (the chimp) before. Anyone complaining that it's "low" for humans to be dressing chimps up for entertainment is so completely missing the point. Pan-kun's reactions to what it may have seem nonsensical to him (magic) is surely worthy of serious study.

I'll leave to braver souls the question of whether religiosity leads to social dysfunction

Irrelevant.

It's enough that there's a strong correlation between religiosity and a fucked-up society. Whether religiosity is a side-effect of dysfunction, or dysfunction is a side-effect of religiosity is too black-and-white anyways; it seems likely that to some degree it's a two way street, a vicious circle.

The point is that religion is related far more closely to human suffering, not human salvation. This is a fact, not opinion.

I doubt we'll any large in-depth studies into how this relationship works causally any time soon... an unbiased analysis is difficult given the current atmosphere.

But, bottom line: the cold hard facts show us that a belief in supernatural sky-daddies is at best highly ineffective and somewhat counterproductive, and at worst a huge source of evil (as Dawkins has argued).

I doubt we'll any large

I accidentally a word:

I doubt we'll see any large

I think that conclusion that religion increases human suffering is really flawed. I think religious belief is a symptom of human suffering. If you look at very devout periods of human history (the middle ages, right after 9/11), it is reactionary to fear or pain. So it should be no surprise that there is a decline in religious belief amongst the most comfortable people in the world who need no solace. You can even just look how religiousness correlates to people's life cycle's, religious belief peaks in the more formidable years of old age, when questions of life and death cause existential anxieties to run high.

religious belief peaks in the more formidable years of old age,

Sounds like a retread of the discredited 'no religion in foxholes' shibboleth. Got any evidence to back this claim up?

oops, that should have been ...no atheists in foxholes...

Yeah, it's more likely than older people are more religious (I do think that's true) because they simply grew up in other times.

Despite what most people say about the old days, I always say that we're living in the best times possible. Freedom of expression and belief has never been higher. Even among people I know (none fanatically religious but most believe in "something"), I am some sort of heretic. I've been questioned on the old and tired "being an atheist is just like being religious" canard by self-appointed "agnostics", it's irritating, but at least I'm not being burned at the stake.

whoops, I meant "that", not "than".

Max,

I'd like to see some references as well. My understanding of the Dark Ages in some part had to do with the Catholic church hoping to keep the masses in check. For music, Gregory Disney-fied all the religious chant to keep Islamic and pagan (ex: gallican) influences OUT. Only roman chant was alowed once he heard the word.

To be fair, there were innovations (scientific and artistic) that occurred during Medeival times, but the church kept religion at the forefront of western European life as much as it could. Convenient that there was a plague to pin sin on. The events of 13th century Europe brought down the veil.

By way of contrast, the Renaissance was a rebirth in the form of opening the mind to humanism - ideas away from divine caprice and other supernatural influences. We could decide out own destiny. Knowledge before belief. The printing press was a huge help, and its origins are in Asia, before Gutenburg want to town on the Bible.

There are tenants of religion are guides for us all: love thy neighbor in particular. Sadly, the ability to manipulate a population through their faith has lead to destruction in wars and genocides throughout history. Yes, there are those who are religious who do love their neighbors, but there is quite a historical lineage of loving only certain neighbors. This is why i would like more correlation between religion and societal improvement.

I think that conclusion that religion increases human suffering is really flawed. I think religious belief is a symptom of human suffering. If you look at very devout periods of human history (the middle ages, right after 9/11), it is reactionary to fear or pain. So it should be no surprise that there is a decline in religious belief amongst the most comfortable people in the world who need no solace. You can even just look how religiousness correlates to people's life cycle's, religious belief peaks in the more formidable years of old age, when questions of life and death cause existential anxieties to run high.

Trivially, religion itself isn't wired, as if it were then there could be no such thing as apostasy/deconversion. Rather tendencies towards certain traits which make one more succeptible to religion appear to be wired; whether the 'hyperactive agent detection device' of Dennett, which might lead one to posit entities where none exist, the disposition towards social conformity or the (rather schizotypal) tendency towards having hallucinations or engaging in magical thinking.

"I think religious belief is a symptom of human suffering." - Which would explain, for example, the correlation of religiosity with higher rates of crime. However, this also seems to entail that religion isn't doing much to prevent social ills, so much as offering an emotional band aid for those afflicted. Is that not exactly what Marx was pointing at when he wrote/plagarised:

"Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions."

Norm,

I hate to sound incurious, but which article in the New Republic hits on Creationism for liberals? After scrolling down some,I seem to have missed it.

I couldn't find it either. I did when I used their search box.

It was one by Jerry Coyne. I could only find the comments, not the article... do you have the link jill?

Wow - it's gone. Scroll down for the first page. Someone must have set up the links badly....

They have been revamping their website over the past week, and broken a number of links. I can't find it either. If I locate it again I'll relink.

Thank ye.

The correlation between old age and religious devotion I made is anecdotal, I know a lot of elderly people who became more religious as they got older and the idea of dying became more tangible.

I don't have a reference for the middle ages example either, however I probably could find you one. The church exploited people's misery in my view, they filled a niche for comforting those who lived really harsh lives. The nobility and elite even then probably had a large percentage of non-believers because they had no need for comfort. Atheism has existed for several thousand years, and my observations show it was usually restricted to the upper classes.

Regardless of examples though the points I would like to make are that:

  1. Religion and fundamentalism are an expression of tribalism; not a cause of harsh societies but a symptom (terrorism is more socioeconomic than spiritual)

  2. Religion serves a psychological role, otherwise it never would have originated independently across every human society (I think anyone who says they are glad there is no afterlife and are fine staring into the abyss are lying in order to appear confident)

  3. Secularizing humanity won't end violence or make people less ignorant, those are independent aspects of the human condition (Nazism was an almost totally secular movement, the crusades were wars for riches)

All that said I'd like to add that I'm an agnostic and don't support organized religion (I have a lot of animosity towards Judaism as it robbed me of a foreskin without my consent), I just think that anything that exists in society is an aspect of human nature that you can't destroy, you can only change it's outlet. Atheists in my experience possess all the same ignorance and tribal behaviors that make religion problematic, they just manifest differently. At the end of the day people will be manipulated whether it is based on their citizenship, their religious affiliation etc.

Hi Norm

Thanks for the link to the Stu Brant interview.

I should not, I suppose, been so disappointed to find him channeling Dan'l Webster in his thoughtless embrace of technology solutions about which his apparent ignorance is rather embarrassing.

Sigh. Once upon a time the Whole Earth Catalog and Truck Store held a vision of accessible and SUSTAINABLE technology. Ah me. Guess we're all getting old and not thinking as well as we might.

I've noticed that a non uncommon problem among especially intelligent atheists, is that, having torn down the signpost labeling HUBRIS a "sin", they forgot that it is none the less still a failing and absent a sign, fall right into it.

If Stu's God like wisdom is better living through GMO and Nuclear power, I'm not joining THAT church any time soon.

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