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Author Topic: Can religion lead you to error?  (Read 11061 times)
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« Topic Start: May 14, 2009, 01:22:13 pm »

On another forum I frequent, one dedicated to, of all things, text-based adventure games, a discussion arose in which thread drift caused it to focus on whether or not religion was bad.  Bits of the Christian bible were quoted with the claim that such passages seemed to encourage everything from rape to genocide, and the statement was made that atheism, which has no beliefs, cannot lead people to action.

The following is one of the responses, and with Crat's permission, I'm re-posting it here. We've had some recent threads on the subject of 'evil', but what I found interesting here was the suggestion that religions, with their embedded systems of ethics, provide "a necessary control layer on a population".

Do you believe Crat's premise?  Does your religion provide ethical guidance? If not, what guidelines do you use for moral behaviour?
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"Religion is bad"

Religion is bad in the way that books and cars are bad. Thousands are killed as a result of their use, but in themselves they are just tools for a legitimate purpose.

"Religioners are weak"

My parents love Jesus. They're really smart people and I treat this Jesus thing as an amusing idiosyncrasy, like veganism or republicanism. Folks very often need to affirm the meaning of their lives by identifying with a thing larger than themselves. It's probably a positive trait. Tends to lead to survival. It doesn't make my parents weak, it just means they recognize a specific biological need and accommodate it in a relatively harmless way.

"Religioners are crazys"

Some people are crazy. Crazy people with religion are crazy with religion. If you're handling snakes or denying adults their civil rights, your opinion of invisible pink unicorns is irrelevant. You're now
real life roleplaying where it's a hazard to you and/or others. That doesn't mean religion is at fault. It means you have difficulty distinguishing roleplaying and real life. We know a few people like that, don't we?


I think that nobody knows what's going on, nor what, if anything, it means. It can be very very hard to establish your own set of principles for correct behavior. Generally speaking (unless you concentrate on the silly bits of their scripture), religions provide a convenient set of crib notes for what's ok and what's not. Overall I think it's not only a plus, but really a necessary control layer on a population. Without it, people without the skill to develop a socially assimilable ethics of their own would tend to generate a practical hazard to themselves and others through fairly subtle but long-term deeply destructive means.

For more clever people, religion provides a right-shaped peg for an empty slot. It doesn't have to make sense. Making sense isn't the point. It's plugging that slot.

The best example I can provide is my crazy cousin. He used to think he was a chicken, and would make a real nuisance of himself. Guests would ask us why we didn't have him institutionalized, but we'd wind up having to admit "We can't. We need the eggs."

Religion is strange and nonsensical and sometimes scary, but we need the eggs.

-Cratylus
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« Reply #1: May 14, 2009, 01:42:49 pm »



Hello. I've not seen you around in the areas I frequent, so I'll say welcome to TC. :-)

Wow--that's a BIG question. I can answer only for myself, obviously, but I have to say that the *interpretation of religion* can lead to error. One need look no further than history to see that's happened time and again. Any time one group says "Our religion is right and yours isn't and we're going to show you just how right we are" there's a problem. And, I'd wager, that the *teachings* aren't necessarily the problem--but Joe's interpretation of them probably is. (Poor Joe. He takes a lot of flak for things.)

For myself, Tibetan Buddhism is more of a path than a religion, to start with. There's no creator god, the "deities" are more properly understood as representations of concepts (Avalokiteshvara, the Boddhisattva of Compassion, is the representation of that ideal; Manjushri is the representation of Wisdom, etc.), and the "rules" are really pretty simple, but endlessly deep in their simplicity: It all boils down to "everyone has the right to happiness, and to not suffer."

It's interesting to note that no wars have been fought in the name of the Buddha. That's not to say that there have been no conflicts! There have, and rather ugly ones at that; but, those have arisen from *human interpretation* of the teachings. However, the Buddhist path is not one of conversion, it hasn't been from its beginnings 2500 years ago, and it's not likely to become one. The same cannot be said of Christianity or Islam (which I use as examples only because of the historical examples of wars fought in a deity's name, for good, bad, or otherwise). There hasn't been a history of Buddhists taking over other areas in the name of the Enlightened One. It simply is not that kind of path.

I would refer anyone interested in a less Buddhist, more general concept of ethical behavior to _Ethics for the New Millennium_ by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. IIRC, that's the book in which he says, paraphrasing here, "Religion is something, I think, we can sometimes do without." Ethics, we need. Religion, perhaps not so much.
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« Reply #2: May 14, 2009, 02:08:34 pm »



Well, he's definitely coming from the premise that religion is inherently FALSE, which I argue with. Smiley

Can it be misused?  Hell yeah.  You can misuse ANYTHING if you try - I can use a hammer to help me build a house or smash in a skull, etc.

I do not think that religion is inherently false.  I think SOME are crap, but religion in general aids us in our attempt to understand the whys of the universe.  (not the hows - science deals with how, religion with why)

But again - anything can be misused.  Anything can be used by people in power to control those that want to believe.  The desire to believe is VERY strong, and the desire to have a small thing to deal with and trust the other people to handle their own stuff is strong.  But that doesn't make religion wrong - it makes it something some people can misuse.

Just like everything else out there.
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« Reply #3: May 14, 2009, 02:44:41 pm »

But again - anything can be misused.  Anything can be used by people in power to control those that want to believe.  The desire to believe is VERY strong, and the desire to have a small thing to deal with and trust the other people to handle their own stuff is strong.  But that doesn't make religion wrong - it makes it something some people can misuse.

Just like everything else out there.

This.

My basic reaction to "Can religion lead people into error?" is "Why should it be different from anything and everything else in the known universe?"
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« Reply #4: May 14, 2009, 02:54:53 pm »


I don't believe that any religion (that I've studied anyway) can lead one to error.  For the most part I have found truth in each and every one of them.

The error I believe is in us as the people in those religions.  Either in ourselves, or in the people in which we allow to lead us blindly.  The people that I've come to respect the most in any religion are those that think for themselves.  They take an honest look at themselves and truly study the ethics & priciples of their repective religion and work out how those apply to life. 

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« Reply #5: May 14, 2009, 05:35:00 pm »

This.

My basic reaction to "Can religion lead people into error?" is "Why should it be different from anything and everything else in the known universe?"

An my response to that. Hell yeah! From the moment I saw the thread title I thought 'anything applied to the blkind exclusion of other considerations can lead people into error'. Typing this I'm questioning it on technical grounds, so I'll hit post, think some more and do a more considered one.
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« Reply #6: May 14, 2009, 06:43:22 pm »



OK. This started small and got out of hand Smiley

It's a bit dry, but I'm unemployed and wanted to pull it apart to stop mys mind turning into a source of intellectual porridge. I've broken it into four parts of which the first two are in this post and the latter two will follow.

(Part I)

Quote
"Religion is bad"

Religion is bad in the way that books and cars are bad. Thousands are killed as a result of their use, but in themselves they are just tools for a legitimate purpose.

Assuming we take this at face value I get stuck at the first is. I cannot support a categorical statement of 'religion is bad'; however, given the nature of the example provided, Crat appears to have meant to say 'Religion can be bad'. I say this because he doesn't seem to be saying that cars and books are categorically 'bad, rather that they have potential to be used in a manner that delivers 'bad' outcomes on some occaisions. The badness is highlighted as situational. That being the case, I'd have to agree with his analysis so far.

(Part II)

Quote
"Religioners are weak"

My parents love Jesus. They're really smart people and I treat this Jesus thing as an amusing idiosyncrasy, like veganism or republicanism. Folks very often need to affirm the meaning of their lives by identifying with a thing larger than themselves. It's probably a positive trait. Tends to lead to survival. It doesn't make my parents weak, it just means they recognize a specific biological need and accommodate it in a relatively harmless way.

There's a few different things going on here to my eye. I'll take each in turn and give immediate comment, then look at them taken as a whoole to respond to the essential assertion of the weakness of religioners, which I understand to be individuals who self-identify as religious.

Firstly, an equation of the modification of personal behaviour and thought in response to religion, diet and politics.

On face falue this seems a fair equation to me, but not an absolute one. To the extent that religion is a matter of practice informed by a set of understandings and beliefs about the nature and relative value of differing aspects of manifest reality, then it seems to me reasonable to say that veganism and republicanism fit the bill.

Secondly Crat enters in on a collection of related assertions beginning with the multi-part assertion that at least some people at some times need life to have meaning, need that meaning to be affirmed, seek outside of themselves for that affirmation and find 'identifying with a thing larger than themselves' to be a satisfactory way of meeting that need. It seems to be assumed that religion is indeed such a larger thing.

I'm not sure that I have the expertise or the space and time to explore whether or not lives have meaning and (if so) whether the experienced desire for meaning is in fact a need, or if it is just a want. There are things that people genuinely need if they are to survive, but there are also things that merely make such survival more amenable, but which the individual may incorrectly perceive as necessary to their survival. Which of the two the perceived need for meaning fits into is a longer and different discussion methinks. That said, the observation that at least some people seek externally to fill such a perceived need seems to be born out by the behaviours and self-reports of many individuals across time. Likewise, it is a matter of observation that many individuals believe that religion is filling such a need for them. It seems equally a matter of observation that there are individuals with the perceived need who meet its gratification internally, or who seek externally and find sources other than religion that appear to suffice.

It would be interesting to look more closely at the qualities of religion that are relevant here; to define precisely in what ways religion is something larger than the individual and which of these ways are relevant to the meeting of the perceived or actual need. Again, I suspec that that is a different thread.

Thirdly Crat asserts that this need gratification by way of religion is most likely to be generally beneficial. Unfortunately, no reasoning is given in support of the assertion. That said, I do not believe that it would be a matter of contention that many people do perceive religion as a beneficial facet of their lives in accordance with their own, idiosyncratic values.

Beyond general beneficience, Crat argues in favour of an enhanced personal or special survival outcome associated with the need | its gratification via religion | both (dependant on how you parse the grammar), which is a stronger claim than non-specific general beneficience. It is certainly well documented opinion and supporting fact that religion can act to preserve personal life and health and that it may even embody a cultural memory that increases the survival and reproductive 'success' of the group across time. It is equally well documented opinion with supporting fact that religion can act to curtail personal survival and may counsel directly against reproduction at all. This fact leads me to conclude that religion per se is irrelevant to personal and special survival, but that at least some religions contain elements that are survival enhancing.

Finally in this sequence of ideas, is the assertion that general and survival benefits taken together are sufficient to demonstrate the absence of weakness (where the qualities of weakness are tacit).

Again, we lack the insight into Crat's mind to truly respond here. The meaning of weakness is crucial to the analysis. Whatever it is, it must preclude all those things that positively contribute to personal or special survival. This seems a broad net to drawer, It becomes suddenly more reqasonable if Crat refers to weakness in an evolutionary sense (i.e. less likely to pass genese to future generations who in turn repeat thta process; however, this seems an overly specific definition in a general context. It certainly doesn't strike me that Crat would reject as weakness traits that were inherrantly useful, but that have no appreciable impact on  reproductive outcomes.

As an add on to the previous assertion there is the implicit assumption that the need being gratified is biological, together with an assertion that gratifying the need via religion is essentially harmless. It could be argued that any such need actually arises from social expectations and peer pressure, or from lack of accurate information. I certainly haven't seen anything to demonstrate the need as biological. This is important to me as I see a value judgement attendant to it being biological. In the context of the described exchange and the post as a whole, it seems to me to suggest that holding religion is not a matter of rational choice, but rather of biologically-driven necessity. When combined with the western philosophic tradition's prized position for rationality, this acts to slyly devalue religion as an activity of rational intellectuals, without exposing the implication to direct assessment and criticism.
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« Reply #7: May 14, 2009, 07:58:36 pm »

Hello. I've not seen you around in the areas I frequent, so I'll say welcome to TC. :-)

Ah, so... the reason you haven't seen me in your areas of frequency is every time I find a question on Buddhism you've already been there and I have nothing to add to your excellent posts!

I would refer anyone interested in a less Buddhist, more general concept of ethical behavior to _Ethics for the New Millennium_ by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. IIRC, that's the book in which he says, paraphrasing here, "Religion is something, I think, we can sometimes do without." Ethics, we need. Religion, perhaps not so much.

From these first few responses, I can see that in my newbishness I goofed with the thread title. I translated the first of Crat's targets (an assertion by someone taking an atheistic position that 'religion is bad') into something I was more comfortable with (a phrase common in the I Ching), when what I was hoping for was a discussion of ethics, especially ethics within the framework of Neo-Paganism. I was hoping folks would focus on the "study questions", as I have seen happen in other threads.

In hindsight, I think maybe I should have titled the thread,  Society, Ethics, and Your Religion


(But Marc, don't let that stop you. You owe us Parts III and IV, and I eagerly await them.)
(And I quoted Starglade above as she was closest to what I meant)
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« Reply #8: May 14, 2009, 09:00:13 pm »

<snippage>
(And I quoted Starglade above as she was closest to what I meant)

Yay! I get a cookie! LOL

I'm glad you enjoy my meager input on Buddhism from the Tibetan Buddhist POV. That's what I follow, it's what I'm reading about/studying in my own time, and I freely admit I could be horrifically in error on any given point. That's why I try to provide references. :-)
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« Reply #9: May 15, 2009, 09:49:04 am »

From these first few responses, I can see that in my newbishness I goofed with the thread title. I translated the first of Crat's targets (an assertion by someone taking an atheistic position that 'religion is bad') into something I was more comfortable with (a phrase common in the I Ching), when what I was hoping for was a discussion of ethics, especially ethics within the framework of Neo-Paganism. I was hoping folks would focus on the "study questions", as I have seen happen in other threads.

In hindsight, I think maybe I should have titled the thread,  Society, Ethics, and Your Religion

In light of this, I will respond differently.  I will say this now, rather than repeat it each time.  The titles for the 3 sections that the original poster parsed out, doesn't match up with what they say about each one.  I'm one (among many) that really don't care for labeling or stereotyping.  There are very few, if any at all, absolutes when it comes to stereotyping large groups of people.

Quote
"Religion is bad"

Religion is bad in the way that books and cars are bad. Thousands are killed as a result of their use, but in themselves they are just tools for a legitimate purpose.

Religion bad?  I do not believe so.  As I stated previously, out of all the religions that I've studied, the main principles, ethics, & morals that they outline are applicable to life in one way or another.  It is up to each to actively participate in their own life and their own surroundings and through trial and error find where those apply in life.

Quote
"Religioners are weak"

My parents love Jesus. They're really smart people and I treat this Jesus thing as an amusing idiosyncrasy, like veganism or republicanism. Folks very often need to affirm the meaning of their lives by identifying with a thing larger than themselves. It's probably a positive trait. Tends to lead to survival. It doesn't make my parents weak, it just means they recognize a specific biological need and accommodate it in a relatively harmless way.

The former gov of Minnesota was ostrocized for making a very similar statement.  "Religion is a crutch" I believe was the exact statement.  In a way I agree, but again I disagree with the wording.  I know many people that have various problems such as addiction, depression, that have only been able to overcome such things through religion.  So a crutch?  No.  A tool to use and live by.  For some, yes. 

As I stated previously, I know people who are not weak in any way but are intelligent, searching people who have full control of their life who just happen to be completely devoted to their religion.  So weak?  Definately not.

Quote
"Religioners are crazys"

Some people are crazy. Crazy people with religion are crazy with religion. If you're handling snakes or denying adults their civil rights, your opinion of invisible pink unicorns is irrelevant. You're now
real life roleplaying where it's a hazard to you and/or others. That doesn't mean religion is at fault. It means you have difficulty distinguishing roleplaying and real life. We know a few people like that, don't we?

LOL!  There are crazies everywhere!!  I get a kick out of the term Fan, which is derived from Fanatic.  You see them cheering for sports teams, in government, and religion.  To mean, crazies apply to those that are so zealous about their religion (or anything else in life for that matter) that common sense is not part of their thought process.  So saying that religioners as a whole are crazy.
. . .well I'm sure we all have our own flavor of crazy that we fully admit to.   

Quote
I think that nobody knows what's going on, nor what, if anything, it means.

I would have to agree with the general meaning of this statement.  I don't think that we are capable as long as we are in this existance to fully grasp the scope and reality of who god, gods, goddesses etc. really are.  It is difficult as it is to fully grasp the complete being & intricate details of another human beings soul, personality, & beliefs .

Quote

For more clever people, religion provides a right-shaped peg for an empty slot. It doesn't have to make sense. Making sense isn't the point. It's plugging that slot.

I have mixed feelings about this one.  For more clever people?  I think for everyone. 
Religion provides a right-shaped peg for an empty slot.  Quite so.  It is something different for everyone.  We all need & want different things and the lucky ones find it before they leave this existance.  Wether it is christianity, aethism, various flavors of paganism . . etc.

As for myself, I never did find a religion to plug that slot.  The only thing that has ever worked for me is to actively focus on my life.  I study to find the means to live it honourably & respectably.  But prayer, worship, ritual . . . etc have never worked for me. 

Quote

The best example I can provide is my crazy cousin. He used to think he was a chicken, and would make a real nuisance of himself. Guests would ask us why we didn't have him institutionalized, but we'd wind up having to admit "We can't. We need the eggs."

Religion is strange and nonsensical and sometimes scary, but we need the eggs.

Bok, bok-bok-bok!

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« Reply #10: May 15, 2009, 12:46:49 pm »

The titles for the 3 sections that the original poster parsed out, doesn't match up with what they say about each one.

I don't think they're supposed to.  It looks to me like naming a stereotype, then addressing it, rather than giving titles to sections of a theory.  Remember, it was a response on another board, not a list of debate points on this one.

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« Reply #11: May 15, 2009, 01:58:15 pm »

Do you believe Crat's premise?

If by "premise" you mean the quotes in parenthesis then I have to say that nothing will lead you anywhere unless you let it. It is true that any religion and precept has some propensity of leading someone where they don't want to be but it is up to the person to be aware of where they are going instead of allowing themselves to be led around by the nose.

As for religion itself, it offers an oasis of stability and comfort to those who desire it in that form. Intellect really has little bearing on whether or not one is religious or not..I would think it more prudent to be cognizant of the difference between being religious and being spiritual.
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« Reply #12: May 15, 2009, 02:17:41 pm »

It looks to me like naming a stereotype, then addressing it, rather than giving titles to sections of a theory.

Exactly.

It's not Crat's beliefs I was hoping to be discussed, but rather his proposal that religion offers ethical guidance that might otherwise be lacking.  The Rede of Wicca has been covered many times, so I was looking for a way to open things up for others to discuss whatever ethics might be inherent in their belief systems.
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« Reply #13: May 15, 2009, 02:37:21 pm »

If by "premise" you mean the quotes in parenthesis then I have to say that nothing will lead you anywhere unless you let it. It is true that any religion and precept has some propensity of leading someone where they don't want to be but it is up to the person to be aware of where they are going instead of allowing themselves to be led around by the nose.

As for religion itself, it offers an oasis of stability and comfort to those who desire it in that form. Intellect really has little bearing on whether or not one is religious or not..I would think it more prudent to be cognizant of the difference between being religious and being spiritual.

I think that Crat's response on the other board is everything below the line, and that the quotes in " " are just stereotypes he is responding to (like Marilyn said).
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« Reply #14: May 15, 2009, 07:09:37 pm »

"Religion is bad"

Religion is bad in the way that books and cars are bad. Thousands are killed as a result of their use, but in themselves they are just tools for a legitimate purpose.


"Religioners are weak"

 Folks very often need to affirm the meaning of their lives by identifying with a thing larger than themselves
-Cratylus

1.
I Must agree with this, like all things, religion cannot force someone to do anything they dont want to do, though the premise of religion can be used by a clever individual to rob a weak person of some of thier free-will and cause them to do something they normally might not do. cults often have these two types of people mentioned in it. a clever person to run the cult and weak-minded people to populate it.

but not all religions are cults.

some religions exist merely for the purpose of self-improvement, but even those can be twisted.


2.
This is also true, many people do need the crutch that a religion provides for them when times get tough. some religions also provide people who have bad lives on earth that things will get better after death, thus giving them hope.

religion can lead to error, belief can lead to error, disbelief can lead to error. but the amazing thing about being human and committing an error is the realization that you committed an error, the understanding allows us to change and grow.

Luzifer
Logged

"It is only when we have stopped being biased towards one answer or another that you can find what you really believe.
And truly set yourself free; not from doubt though, because that is a fundamental necessary trait that keeps us from pulling the wool over our own eyes." - Luzifer

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