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Author Topic: Atheism: A religion?  (Read 15729 times)
Nyktipolos
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« Reply #60: January 13, 2009, 03:26:50 am »

So, yeah, the schools might not be actively teaching Christianity, but Christianity does seem to permeate the schools.

I don't get why the school wouldn't act either (your daughter and your family can't be the only family who finds this awkward). I have no problem necessarily with Christian music, but theres a difference between practicing certain pieces and just not budging, even when its posing a problem.

And I most definately agree. I guess I am biased as the area of Canada where I come from, religion tends to stay either academically or not taught at all outside of private schools. So I guess I just find it odd when it permeates like that outside of private schools.
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« Reply #61: January 13, 2009, 04:30:45 am »

Which state are you thinking of that doesn't acknowledge that people have spiritual beliefs?

I'm sorry; again we seem to have a communication issue. It seems to happen often, although I'm not sure why. It's not an issue I have otherwise. What I said was a two-parter: acknowledges deeply held spiritual beliefs AND that there may in fact be deity.

I could improve on the detail of what I intended by restating my position more clearly (there's almost always room for improvement Smiley).

I think that the State should be aware of the degree of religiousity in its citizenry, value the fact of religiousity or equivalent moral/ethical framework to a degree in keeping with community priorities and values. Where there are positive outcomes for citizens that derive from religiousity I bellieve it is the role of the State to keep its citizenry informed of this and to encourage it to the degree that investment in its encouragement is a cost-effective way of addressing the needs of the type of economy and society that the citizenry is willing to support and to be bounded by.

This expansion represents both further development of thinking and the kernal of intent in my original desire that the State both behave as though someone other than a loon might be theistic and also to positively-but-impartially promote faith-based living (which is what I intended, but expressed poorly, when I referred to acknowledgement of deeply held spiritual beliefs).

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Personally, I like a rationally run government, and hope to see one eventually :p  Government should ideally be based on evidence where possible, and decide things based on reason.  I really don't see why government needs to get involved with religion.  So long as people are free to pursue their religion, where's the problem?

I absolutely agree with you. I suggest however that there are many completely sane individuals out there who are not Rationalists and who may not want their State to favour the views, values and virtues (so to speak) that Rationalists, such as us, hold.

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I would rather governments worry about things like the budget. law enforcement, large social issues, and other boring things that definately exist, and definately require goverment attention.

Sounds like a plan for sound government. I think that it can be more fully and successfully implemented if the approach that I advocate above is applied. YMMV.

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« Reply #62: January 13, 2009, 06:18:25 am »

I'm sorry; again we seem to have a communication issue. It seems to happen often, although I'm not sure why. It's not an issue I have otherwise. What I said was a two-parter: acknowledges deeply held spiritual beliefs AND that there may in fact be deity.

I'm happy for the government to acknowledge that there may be deity if they also, in the same speech, acknowledge that there may be a Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, and Nyarlathotep the Crawling Chaos.  Would you be happy if a government made a speech on how there might *not* be deities?  Because I suspect that would get a public outcry.

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I think that the State should be aware of the degree of religiousity in its citizenry, value the fact of religiousity or equivalent moral/ethical framework to a degree in keeping with community priorities and values.

So...praise the majority position?  I don't know what your government does, but my government is generally quite ken to say how wonderful religions are.  Occasionally someone remembers that atheists are citizens too, and they get an honorable mention in a list.

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Where there are positive outcomes for citizens that derive from religiousity I bellieve it is the role of the State to keep its citizenry informed of this

'Well done, have a cookie?'  Honestly, I find this suggestion fairly patronising.  People are going to be religious, or not, regardless of their government telling them how great their religion is.  Overdone, it could look like an attempt at trying to clumsily brain wash the populace.

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and to encourage it to the degree that investment in its encouragement is a cost-effective way of addressing the needs of the type of economy and society that the citizenry is willing to support and to be bounded by.

'Go back to Church, you're too restless'?

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This expansion represents both further development of thinking and the kernal of intent in my original desire that the State both behave as though someone other than a loon might be theistic and also to positively-but-impartially promote faith-based living (which is what I intended, but expressed poorly, when I referred to acknowledgement of deeply held spiritual beliefs).

I don't know what your state does, but I don't see my state acting in the way you apparently think secular governments do.  And you seem to want an increase in governments saying that having faith makes you better than un-believers.  I know you're saying 'positively but impartially', but to me that says 'Just believe anything, so long as you're not an atheist!'

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Sounds like a plan for sound government. I think that it can be more fully and successfully implemented if the approach that I advocate above is applied. YMMV.

You bet it varies.
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« Reply #63: January 13, 2009, 06:56:09 am »



I think I'm out of food. Sorry.
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« Reply #64: January 13, 2009, 07:58:48 am »

Occasionally someone remembers that atheists are citizens too, and they get an honorable mention in a list.
....
Overdone, it could look like an attempt at trying to clumsily brain wash the populace.
....
I know you're saying 'positively but impartially', but to me that says 'Just believe anything, so long as you're not an atheist!'


Don't know how you interpreted BGMarc's post but I was under the impression that he was advocating that states encourage religiosity not because atheism is bad and religions are automatically good, but only where religions bring some sort of (presumably moral/social) benefit. In other words, an instrumental approach to religion. The reason atheism wouldn't be encouraged is, again, not because it's bad but because being a lack of belief, it has zero instrumental value. It's neither positive nor negative, while religions with all their beliefs and institutions and whatnot can be either or both. I'm saying this only because it sounds as if you think he's a bit anti-atheist, which I don't think is the case.

Having said that I have some reservations about using religion this way, which I'll tackle next.
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« Reply #65: January 13, 2009, 08:08:45 am »

Don't know how you interpreted BGMarc's post but I was under the impression that he was advocating that states encourage religiosity not because atheism is bad and religions are automatically good, but only where religions bring some sort of (presumably moral/social) benefit. In other words, an instrumental approach to religion. The reason atheism wouldn't be encouraged is, again, not because it's bad but because being a lack of belief, it has zero instrumental value. It's neither positive nor negative, while religions with all their beliefs and institutions and whatnot can be either or both. I'm saying this only because it sounds as if you think he's a bit anti-atheist, which I don't think is the case.

Having said that I have some reservations about using religion this way, which I'll tackle next.

I don't think that BG Marc is anti-atheist, but what he says comes off slightly that way.  Further, his proposals look a lot like a dismissal of atheism to me.
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« Reply #66: January 13, 2009, 08:16:17 am »


I think that the State should be aware of the degree of religiousity in its citizenry, value the fact of religiousity or equivalent moral/ethical framework to a degree in keeping with community priorities and values. Where there are positive outcomes for citizens that derive from religiousity I bellieve it is the role of the State to keep its citizenry informed of this and to encourage it to the degree that investment in its encouragement is a cost-effective way of addressing the needs of the type of economy and society that the citizenry is willing to support and to be bounded by.

....
I absolutely agree with you. I suggest however that there are many completely sane individuals out there who are not Rationalists and who may not want their State to favour the views, values and virtues (so to speak) that Rationalists, such as us, hold.


(I posted above to Everfool what I think you're saying, but am not sure if I got it right. I'm assuming that you're advocating that the state adopt an instrumental approach to religion, valuing it as long as it accords with 'community priorities and values'.)

I can see the attraction of using a religion in this way, though with some reservations. First one being that, if the government doesn't actually believe in what it's doing, then it really is 'using' a religion and might not be the most respectful thing. If it does believe in what it's doing, then it's state-sponsored evangelism, which is even worse.

Secondly, if a state did decide to use religion this way, then it had better control the administration of the religion and sponsor an 'official version'. It's only rational to support a particular religion if you can control how people interpret and practice it, otherwise you risk encouraging people to listen to spiritual leaders who may be preaching in accordance with your policies one day, but not the next. This in turn degenerates into state control over religious thought and practice, which might achieve your ends but isn't the most pleasant means.

Thirdly, while there may be a majority of people who aren't 'Rationalists', that doesn't necessarily mean you should have to try and please them. Democracy doesn't necessarily mean following the whims of the majority all the time (and the US constitution is specifically designed to check majoritarianism). Worse, by following a non-rational path you effectively entrench it, because you're encouraging people to be religious and they'll continue demanding religious encouragement from the state.

Which leads to my fourth and final reservation -- what if my goal for community is rationality? I think a rational, epistemically sceptical approach to things minimises conflict, and I'd be keen to promote that if I were governing. Encouraging a religion, no matter how much it helps promote moral/social cohesion, would defeat this other purpose.

Boy. I hope I read your viewpoint right, otherwise I just wrote all this for nothing!  Cheesy
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« Reply #67: January 13, 2009, 10:23:36 am »

Both my kids' middle school and high school did not teach anything religious in their classes EXCEPT in the chorus classes.  Christian music (especially gospel) has been the prevalent music performed every year.  Daughter1's middle school chorus teacher even used a piece of Christian music as a warm-up every day.  This made Daughter1 extremely uncomfortable to the extent that we had to get her exempted from singing the Christian music.

That's unfortunate that she didn't wish to participate. There's actually a whole body of law that deals with art and music classes in public schools, since so much of the history of western arts is tied up in religious expression. As long as there's an educational purpose to the music, it can be as religious as they want. Otherwise, everyone's stuck with like 1910 forward, which is a crappy history of music. Gospel music would tend to have ethnic and racial, US historical, AND musical educational value to it, so I would certainly expect it to be in the curriculum.

I think you're right to complain about the Christian music warm-up (unless they're warming up on a song they're preparing for a concert farther down the road), and you'd certainly be right to complain about modern Christian music sung to the exclusion of other modern music (Christian pop has zero musical educational value), but western music is deeply intertwined with Christianity and an music education program with any value is going to have to deal with that, and deal with it a lot, especially in vocal music.

My public high school, which was majority JEWISH actually, performed Mozart's Requiem every year at a local cathedral for one of their classical concerts. Because there's nothin' like Jews singin' about Jesus! (And when we put on Jesus Christ, Superstar as the musical, Jesus was Jewish! As was Judas. Caiaphas was totally Chinese, though. And Mary Magdalene was Korean.) For the holiday concerts we always did a mix of music from many religions and secular holiday tunes as well (I know more Hannukah songs than anyone else I know), but during the regular year, there was always quite a bit of classical music to do with Christianity. Not because it was Christian, but because it was good. (The band and choir directors were Jewish; the orchestra director was a lapsed and pissed-off Catholic.) This was one of the finest performing arts programs in a non-magnet public high school in the country, and just pipelined people to Julliard, Oberlin, St. Olaf (apparently an excellent violin program), and Hollywood. (I keep seeing kids I went to high school with on TV, which is freaky and weird.)
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« Reply #68: January 13, 2009, 01:15:30 pm »



I didn't realize that there were actually laws dealing with art and music.  But as a classical musician myself, I realize that a lot of classical music does have Christian/Catholic themes to it. Not all of it, of course. I have sung several very beautiful religious works, such as the Mozart Requiem, the Poulenc Gloria, the Mozart C minor Mass, and several Bach cantatas. Even though I am not of the same religion as the people who produced those works, I am still glad I had a chance to perform them. (and I might add that while Mozart wrote several Catholic masses, he was not strictly Catholic. His personal religion was a mix of Catholic, Protestant, and Freemason views.)

But I also think that any student studying classical music should be exposed to the many great nonreligious/non-Christian works as well, such as the Mahler 2nd Symphony (which has a beautiful choral section about someone who goes into the afterlife and finds that everyone is welcome there), Orff's Carmina Burana (which was based on secular Medieval Poetry, but also includes a hymn to Venus), Brahms' German Requiem (which has non-religious texts intended to comfort the loved ones of the deceased), and choruses from the many great operas.
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« Reply #69: January 13, 2009, 03:39:48 pm »

That's unfortunate that she didn't wish to participate. There's actually a whole body of law that deals with art and music classes in public schools, since so much of the history of western arts is tied up in religious expression. As long as there's an educational purpose to the music, it can be as religious as they want. Otherwise, everyone's stuck with like 1910 forward, which is a crappy history of music. Gospel music would tend to have ethnic and racial, US historical, AND musical educational value to it, so I would certainly expect it to be in the curriculum.

I think you're right to complain about the Christian music warm-up (unless they're warming up on a song they're preparing for a concert farther down the road), and you'd certainly be right to complain about modern Christian music sung to the exclusion of other modern music (Christian pop has zero musical educational value), but western music is deeply intertwined with Christianity and an music education program with any value is going to have to deal with that, and deal with it a lot, especially in vocal music.

This pretty much hits the nail on the head about what my issues were.  I'm a lawyer too, so I'm well aware of the body of law on this.  Smiley  In fact, my initial approach was to attempt to make the school aware of the law.

The basic problem in middle school was Christian music (definitely the modern stuff -- they never did Handel's Messiah or anything like that) to the exclusion of *almost* anything else (I think the chorus did a token Hannukah song) plus the refusal to acknowledge that this could be a problem for a student.  The warm-up was not a song being readied for performance -- it was just something the director used as a warm-up.  And the "fix" of having Daughter1 go on and off stage (mostly off) just made it worse for her by calling attention to the fact that she was the only one who had complained.

In high school, the gospel music is pretty much all that is performed, with an occasional pop (often Christian) piece thrown in.  Again, my problem is the exclusion of other types of music.  But neither of my girls was in the chorus, so we just listened to it at concerts.

Just for the record, I'm not anti-Christian-music.  I've performed Handel's Messiah (the whole thing, not just the Hallelujah Chorus  Wink ) on many occasions, and I love it.  And I also love most gospel music.  In fact, the dance company Daughter2 is in and for which I do the lighting and stage management performs two incredibly powerful pieces to gospel music.  And Daughter2 was in Jesus Christ Superstar just this past summer.  But that was her *choice*, not a school requirement.  Big difference.

So I do understand the value of it.  I just object to it being the only thing taught in the school.  It's kinda like the ichthys on the billboard -- it makes me think the subtext is "We're all Christian so how could this be a problem?"

On the other hand, we've also had other legal issues with the school that were simply based on ignorance.  The one that comes first time mind is the time they took portraits of the kids without telling the parents they were going to do so or giving us a chance to order picture packages.  Then they just sent the photos home and told us to pay for them.  That's illegal under my state's law, and is legally considered a "gift".  (IOW, if a company sends you something you DID NOT ORDER and tells you to pay for it, that's considered a coercive commercial practice.")  We kept the pictures and, instead of sending a check, sent a letter detailing the law (with citations) and requested consultation with the school system's attorneys.  They never responded.  But they never did pictures that way again.  Wink
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« Reply #70: January 13, 2009, 03:53:05 pm »

(I posted above to Everfool what I think you're saying, but am not sure if I got it right. I'm assuming that you're advocating that the state adopt an instrumental approach to religion, valuing it as long as it accords with 'community priorities and values'.)

I can see the attraction of using a religion in this way, though with some reservations. First one being that, if the government doesn't actually believe in what it's doing, then it really is 'using' a religion and might not be the most respectful thing. If it does believe in what it's doing, then it's state-sponsored evangelism, which is even worse.

Secondly, if a state did decide to use religion this way, then it had better control the administration of the religion and sponsor an 'official version'. It's only rational to support a particular religion if you can control how people interpret and practice it, otherwise you risk encouraging people to listen to spiritual leaders who may be preaching in accordance with your policies one day, but not the next. This in turn degenerates into state control over religious thought and practice, which might achieve your ends but isn't the most pleasant means.

Thirdly, while there may be a majority of people who aren't 'Rationalists', that doesn't necessarily mean you should have to try and please them. Democracy doesn't necessarily mean following the whims of the majority all the time (and the US constitution is specifically designed to check majoritarianism). Worse, by following a non-rational path you effectively entrench it, because you're encouraging people to be religious and they'll continue demanding religious encouragement from the state.

Which leads to my fourth and final reservation -- what if my goal for community is rationality? I think a rational, epistemically sceptical approach to things minimises conflict, and I'd be keen to promote that if I were governing. Encouraging a religion, no matter how much it helps promote moral/social cohesion, would defeat this other purpose.

Boy. I hope I read your viewpoint right, otherwise I just wrote all this for nothing!  Cheesy

Very close, and very well considered where it picked up on points that I wan't trying to make Smiley

I do advocate the State having an instrumentalist approach to religion and other comparable ethico-moral frameworks, which would include atheist and theist frameworks.

I do not advocate majoritarianism. The basis of the role of the citizenry in my post is that (at least in western societies) the power and legitimacy of the State rests in the people. To me this suggests that, while the State (in its role as informer of the public) should resist the will of the majority in some instances. Specifically, to the extent that the will of the majority is based in unintentionally applied approaches and modes of thinking that serve to build a community whose characteristics are not those that citizens have forsaken autonomy in favour of.

For example, if a policy is essentially racist, then it falls to the State to educate citizens, such that they understand how racism creates a community with inequality of opportunity, increased viiolence, wasted human resource and potential, etc. That said, if a State were to do this and then find that most citizens still supported racist policy, it is hard to see a justification for the State to fail to implement the policy if in fact legislative authority resides within the citizenry.

I say this, at least in part, because I do not recognise obligations acruing to the State from external authorities unless the State has so bound itself. I am persoanlly a supporter of universal human rights, but I do not veiw their universality as an objective truth. I see it as a 'liberal' aspiration. I do not believe that any human has any absolute and unconditional right save that which they can take and keep (by whatever means - including the formation of a State).

As far as the State and atheism go, I agree with you that it is a moot point where atheism is the simple absence of belief in deity. Where it is the basis of an ethico-moral framework, then the State should advocate it to precisely the extent that it does other comparable frameworks. I don't thtink that the State should establish, or preferentially support, a religion or particular religious institutions. I believe that if the State identifies that having 'congregations' within the community is an effective way of building the community that that citizenry has relinquished its 'right' to self-determination in order to achieve, then it should have policy and funding programs that reduce the barriers to citizens forming 'congregations' and should promote the benefits to the individual and the community of citizens choosing to participate in the congregation of their choice.

An example (whose individula merits, while potentially fun to debate, are not my point here) might be mandating that business allow employees to take some form of paid congregational/beliefs leave in the same way that some communities support paid maternity leave. On the atheist front this might translate into leave to attent union fairs, political party events, secular humanist meetings, etc.

Finally, on the rationalist front, my point is that not all people are rationalists. When, as rationalists, we say that the state should be set up along rationalist lines, we are stating an inherantly biased position. Of course we think that; however, I am not so arrogant in my rationalism as to discount other ways of prioritising and valuing things in the group endeavours that I participate in (such as society). I am willing ot concede that many relevant stakeholders would temper rationalism with other considerations and that they too are requinquishing autonomy in the formation of the State I am in.

I am not advocating wild irrationality, bigotry towards atheists, state sponsoring of a particular faith, irrationally faith-based policy, etc.

My main original point is really just that you sometimes need to be very careful if you want to avoid a stance that was intended to be neutral/impartial becoming inherrantly atheist, or suggesting that sane, mature, educated and intelligent adults are not theistic.

Babbling now, so I'll stop. Hope it helps/clarifies/is worth the read Smiley

BGMarc
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« Reply #71: January 13, 2009, 03:58:57 pm »



Think it's time to start sending the music department citated letters then. Wink
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« Reply #72: January 13, 2009, 04:17:54 pm »

Think it's time to start sending the music department citated letters then. Wink

Oh, believe me, I had that letter all drafted.   Cheesy  Daughter1 didn't want to pursue it further, though, for a variety of reasons (middle schooler, remember -- very socially difficult time), so we dropped it.

She seems to have survived, although I do think it was one of those experiences that influenced her and helped her learn to think critically for herself and to stand up for herself.  So I guess it wasn't ALL bad.  Wink
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« Reply #73: January 13, 2009, 04:20:00 pm »

For example, if a policy is essentially racist, then it falls to the State to educate citizens, such that they understand how racism creates a community with inequality of opportunity, increased viiolence, wasted human resource and potential, etc. That said, if a State were to do this and then find that most citizens still supported racist policy, it is hard to see a justification for the State to fail to implement the policy if in fact legislative authority resides within the citizenry.

This point puzzles me.  Are you saying that the State should maintain/institute racist policies if it can show that the majority of its citizens support racist policies?

Doesn't the state have a duty to equal protection?  (Yes, I know the US does, but I'm talking abstract state here.)
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Marc Larkin 6marc9
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« Reply #74: January 13, 2009, 04:43:20 pm »

This point puzzles me.  Are you saying that the State should maintain/institute racist policies if it can show that the majority of its citizens support racist policies?

Doesn't the state have a duty to equal protection?  (Yes, I know the US does, but I'm talking abstract state here.)

I am hesitant to say on any grounds that the State should maintain racist policies. I believe them to be inherantly damaging to both the individual and the community. That said, I haev trouble reconciling the derivation of the State from its citizenry, an absence of a belief in universal rights/social truths, the understanding of the function of the state underpinning the social contract and general liberal/pluralist/rationalist concerns.

I have trouble finding a sound intellectual basis for a State not to implement a racist policy that is clearly wanted by most of its citizens given that the citizens are well informed and are cognisant of the consequential impacts of the policy. I want there to be a reason, but I'm having a lot of trouble finding one that isn't just pandering to my biases.
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"If Michelangelo had been straight, the Sistine Chapel would have been wallpapered" Robin Tyler

It's the saddest thing in the world when you can only feel big by making others feel small. - UPG

Stupidity cannot be cured. Stupidity is the only universal capital crime. The sentence is death. There is no appeal and sentence is carried out automatically and without pity. Lazarus Long.

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