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Imagine, there's no heaven 
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Post Re: Imagine there's no tech
Just a few quick notes...

Irishrosem
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Why encourage blind acceptance? Why encourage indoctrination? Why encourage faith without knowledge?


Well there are two possible arguments you could make here.

1. It is impossible to raise a socially competent child without indoctinating them into a belief system.

2. Faith and blind acceptance can lead to good outcomes.

Frank

Quote:
How about a discussion where you disagree but there is no possible conclusion?


Maybe you're right. It might act as a catalyst for violence.
But atheism doesn't really offer some sort of alternative to that. Instead of two people arguing about which God is real, they argue about if any god is real.

To be honest, I think of religion as an enzyme. It can speed up conflicts, but it can also slow them down. It can have many different effects, some positive and some negative, some powerful and some weak.

Quote:
Religions positive are easily replaced


Well I'm not entirely convinced that this belief is compatible with the belief that a belief in a God is somehow an especially unique and powerful motivation to carry out certain actions.

If we say, atheists and theists can become suicide bombing terrorists, but theists are more likely because they believe they are carrying out the will of God and they expect some sort of heavenly reward, then how can we say that atheists and theists are both equally likely to become peace-making statesmen?

If Ahmed is more likely than Richard Dawkins to kill innocent people because he believes it to be God's will, then isn't he also more likely to fight against poverty and injustice if he thinks that this is God's will? If he is more likely to bomb buildings because of he believes in a heavenly reward for his action, then surely it follows that he is also more likely to be gentle, humble and helpful if he believes that this is what his God wants?

I think that the likes of Dawkins are trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, they argue that atheists are just as likely as theists to behave morally, but argue that theists are more likely to behave immorally because of the special motivation that a divine decree gives a person.

I just don't see how both arguments can be true. Either theists are more likely to be upstanding moral citizens and immoral deviants, or atheists and theists are equally likely to be either moral or immoral.

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Wed Jan 17, 2007 5:53 pm
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Post Re: Imagine, there's no heaven
Tarav, sorry I missed you first time round. This stupid terminal ate my last reply. I'll try and make this quick. Apologies if I misquote you, but I 'll try to make this quick.

Quote:
With god as dictator and having final say in matters of morality, religion is different from any other catalyst to violence or goodness. Replacing god with good doesn't seem to have the same impact. Discussing what is good and what constitues good behaviour without religion can be an open debate.


It's a double edged sword. If you say, replacing god with good doesn't seem to have the same impact, then isn't that also the case when it comes to acts of altruism? Wouldn't that mean that theists are always more likely to become people like Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa or Florence Nightingale?

Either way, I don't think it is really the case that discussing what is constitues good behaviour in the absence of relgion is all that different to discussing what constiutes goodness in its presence.

To take an extreme example, NAMBALA. Now I believe that molesting children is wrong, in every sense of the word. Am I any less disgusted by this than any of atheist members of the board? I believe that child molesting is ultimately morally wrong. I believe that it is against God's will. I believe that it would still be wrong if 10, 20 or 50 per cent of the population thought otherwise. So does that mean that Richard Dawkins or David Mils would be more ready to compromise with child molestors? I doubt it.

We've all got our non-negotiables and I'm uneasy with the notion that atheists are somehow less disgusted by acts they consider to be immoral than I am. Indeed, for reasons not apparent to me, I find that notion slightly more disturbing than the idea that religous folk are more prone to violence and the like.

Does a religious fanatic really feel more disgusted by something like child abuse than I do?

I'd like to think otherwise, but I can't walk a mile in another man's shoes, so it may well be the case. I'm just uneasy with the notion.

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Wed Jan 17, 2007 6:30 pm
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Post Re: Imagine No Humanity
George, just remembered your earlier reply. Sorry about misunderstanding your comments. I think you're right when you say that this whole area is very speculative. Alas, we can't do experiments when it comes to stuff like this. It's for that reason I'd like if people were a little more modest when speaking on the matter. Thankfully, most people participating in this thread have a fair grasp of how complicated the issue is.

I think you've hit the nail on the head again when you say that we should focus on trying to tackle the more harmful aspects of religion, than trying to eliminate religion whole. I think it's an unfortunate effect of the arguments of the likes of Dawkins is that by talking of religious people as one unified group, he effectively frames the debate in such a way that he pushes moderate and liberal believers into a reluctant alliance with the fanatics and the fundamentalists.

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Wed Jan 17, 2007 6:38 pm
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Post Re: Imagine there's no tech
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Niall
But atheism doesn't really offer some sort of alternative to that. Instead of two people arguing about which God is real, they argue about if any god is real.


Not with other atheists, at least not normally.

Quote:
Niall
Then how can we say that atheists and theists are both equally likely to become peace-making statesmen?

If Ahmed is more likely than Richard Dawkins to kill innocent people because he believes it to be God's will, then isn't he also more likely to fight against poverty and injustice if he thinks that this is God's will? If he is more likely to bomb buildings because of he believes in a heavenly reward for his action, then surely it follows that he is also more likely to be gentle, humble and helpful if he believes that this is what his God wants?


Not necessarily, religion offers a justification for the absurd that negative beliefs do not. But compassion and empathy are normal human emotions existing independently of religion.

A generous person will continue to be generous if religion is involved or not.

I am living proof, I have no religion but I give hundreds to toys for tots every year, I even went to New Orleans to help out after Katrina. I had no motivation do do this from religion but it was more motivation than 99.999% of other Americians.

So while religion can lead to acts of kindness it can, and has, also lead to righteous slaughter all being equally justified in the name of god.

Most other normal human emotions do not lead to righteous mass murder, it can happen but it is not normal and has no justification outside of blind hatred.

Later




Wed Jan 17, 2007 6:43 pm
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Post Re: Imagine there's no tech
Frank

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Not with out atheists, at least not normally.


So all you have to do then is convince everybody to agree to be atheists, right? Couldn't we just convince everybody to be Catholic? Jewish? Sunni? Buddhist?

If everybody agreed, then of course we wouldn't have arguments!

Quote:

Relgion offers a justification for the absurd that negative beliefs do not.



A justification, maybe. A cause, I doubt it. The absurd takes many forms both positive and negative, and while I'd agree that religion does not necessarily make somebody act in an extreme fashion (either positive or negative) the argument being put forth here is that if somebody believes in God they have some sort of extra additional motivation to behave in a certain manner.

Besides, racism has always been a ridiculous and absurd thing. Racists often turned to religion, but during the 19th century, they adopted the scientific method and attempted to use it to justify their beliefs. Religion isn't needed. In its absence, those who believe in the absurd simply create new forms of justification.

I'm not saying that an implication of the argument presented is that atheists will not act in altruistic ways (like you did), only that, everything else being equal, they'll be less likely to behave in an extreme altruistic manner when compared to a religious individual.

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Wed Jan 17, 2007 7:05 pm
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Post Re: Imagine there's no tech
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So all you have to do then is convince everybody to agree to be atheists, right?


Right!

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Niall
Couldn't we just convince everybody to be Catholic? Jewish? Sunni? Buddhist?


No, those beliefs are just too silly. ::04

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Niall
A justification, maybe. A cause, I doubt it.


I think religion can be a cause sometimes especially when the religion orders believers to take certain actions like convert or kill all non believers, which both Christianity and Islam have in their text.

As an example certain religions teach that the practitioners of other faiths are going to hell and not to associate with them, some also teach that homosexuality is a sin and those people will somehow corrupt our family values leading to cultural decay and chaos.

The result of these teachings is bigotry which has led to altered behavior through religious belief and the people who believe this stuff do act on it.

But I agree that normally cause is personal.

Quote:
Niall
The absurd takes many forms both positive and negative, and while I'd agree that religion does not necessarily make somebody act in an extreme fashion (either positive or negative)


I agree that religion does not necessarily make somebody act in an extreme fashion, but I think that it can.

Quote:
Niall
The argument being put forth here is that if somebody believes in God they have some sort of extra additional motivation to behave in a certain manner.


I think this can be true if a religion gives absurd orders, and the level of the believer's fanaticism is acceptable to allow the absurd behavior.

Quote:
Niall
Besides, racism has always been a ridiculous and absurd thing. Racists often turned to religion, but during the 19th century, they adopted the scientific method and attempted to use it to justify their beliefs. Religion isn't needed. In its absence, those who believe in the absurd simply create new forms of justification.


Very true but shouldn't we narrow their ability to justify these behaviors when possible? one of the dangers of religion is that they can be so morally malleable, and when religion is used to justify an action people can tend to accept it?

Denying Gays the right to legal union is a good example here. The religious have single-handedly kept a portion of our society from having equal rights in the eyes of the law, over something that is frankly none of their business.

Quote:
Niall
I'm not saying that an implication of the argument presented is that atheists will not act in altruistic ways (like you did), only that, everything else being equal, they'll be less likely to behave in an extreme altruistic manner when compared to a religious individual.


I would say atheists are less likely to act in extreme ways in general. But I also think that the extreme is where the problem lies.

Later




Wed Jan 17, 2007 8:10 pm
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Post Re: Imagine there's no tech
I agree with George that religion being taught by qualified teachers, and this by no means implies priests, imams or rabbis or any other tradition specific representative, is a good thing. Religion is part of our history and NEEDS to be understood. But we need to expose everyone to all versions with an emphasis on none.

I would love to take a comparative religion course. I think my basic mindset would not be changed in any way regarding my atheism, but I would like to learn some more about it all.

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Mon Jan 22, 2007 11:57 am
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Post Re: Imagine there's no tech
Irish:

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Who do you mean by "we"?


The human race? Mankind. Society.

Or do you just think that it is everybody for themselves?

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Or the brainwashing that continues to control many of the adult religious faithful. In fact, Dawkins' prologue introduced the idea that he wished to let people know that they could be atheist, that it is an acceptable belief system. Indoctrination is most successful in childhood (Dawkins notes it is particularly disgusting that religion preys on vulnerable, childish minds), but religion also encourages the same ignorance among its adults. I personally did not recognize that trait until after I left the church. I agree it is necessary for children to be "indoctrinated" into a rules system. But that indoctrination can come through instruction and socialization; it need not come through religious dogma.


I'm afraid I don't really find that sense of promoting ignorance, but I suppose that's to be expected!

Quote:
I now recognize that you don't need religion to teach morals, you just teach them. For instance, I would no more tell a child not to lie because god is watching her, than I would tell her there is a boogey man under her bed to keep her from crawling out at night.


Ah yes, but what we do not teach children is as important as what we teach them. You can teach a child that something is right or wrong, and if you only believe that these are historical conventions and modern constructions and not actual absolutes, then do you teach the child that these notions are malleable? Is leaving out certain pieces of information not the same as telling the kid tales of monsters? If we let them believe in Good and Bad as though they were real and not just constructions that exist only in our minds, then does that not have the same effect.

Regardless, I don't think that you need to fool children into believing in a God just to get them to act morally. But I do think it helps to be economical with the truth, and even if you don't believe in a God, well it can be a useful lie, at least in some respects.


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Wed Jan 24, 2007 11:31 am
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Post Re: Imagine there's no tech
Niall:

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Or do you just think that it is everybody for themselves?


When it really comes down to it, it is. The 'self' becomes groups and not necessarily individuals. There is always faction. Sad, but true. But we should work as much as possible to stop this. You can start by dropping this 'god' crap! ;)

Quote:
I'm afraid I don't really find that sense of promoting ignorance, but I suppose that's to be expected!


Do you deny, then, that this happens? Just because YOU have not experienced this does not preclude it from being something that happens. Just as my experience of people does not speak to ALL those people, no?

There is obviously some form of mind control at work with any system that states that there is some 'being' that is always watching you and is never wrong and that 'you will be judged'.

Quote:
then do you teach the child that these notions are malleable?


Absolutely! These notions are malleable! Murder is wrong, but killing in self defense is not. Killing is wrong, but allowing someone die who is so very sick with no hope for a cure is not...especially if they WANT to die!! Stealing is wrong, but if you are starving and need to survive, then stealing some food may not be the worst that you can do. Beating someone up is wrong if you can avoid it and if the other person did nothing to deserve the beating, but beating the shit out of someone raping someone is not wrong at all!! Use of force in one situation is bad while in another it is good. Of course these things are malleable. If not, there would be no problem with morals at all! And also no need to invent an absolute source, which never holds the morals as absolute anyway!

Quote:
Regardless, I don't think that you need to fool children into believing in a God just to get them to act morally. But I do think it helps to be economical with the truth, and even if you don't believe in a God, well it can be a useful lie, at least in some respects.


But you still do not show why you need a god. Honest discussion is just as good.

Mr. P.


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Wed Jan 24, 2007 5:17 pm
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Post Re: Imagine there's no tech
Mr. P.
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Do you deny, then, that this happens? Just because YOU have not experienced this does not preclude it from being something that happens. Just as my experience of people does not speak to ALL those people, no?


Hmm. Think you misunderstand me. I wouldn't say that it doesn't or hasn't happened, only that it's not something that I never found. Now, what I took from Irish's words (correctly or incorrectly I'm not certain) was the notion that it was an intrinsic part of belief.


I said:

Quote:
then do you teach the child that these notions are malleable?




You said:

Quote:
Absolutely! These notions are malleable! Murder is wrong, but killing in self defense is not. Killing is wrong, but allowing someone die who is so very sick with no hope for a cure is not...especially if they WANT to die!! Stealing is wrong, but if you are starving and need to survive, then stealing some food may not be the worst that you can do.


You've taken me up wrong. By malleable, I don't mean that certain acts are wrong under certain circumstances but not under others, I mean that while for instance rape is now considered right, that is partly an historical accident. What constitutes rape in one era and one culture does not constitute rape in another.

The religious tend to believe in absolute right and wrong, that somethings are always wrong and that right and wrong are not just constructions. Generally, atheists tend to believe that right and wrong are cultural conventions that partly result from biological predispositions of differing strengths.

The religious tend to believe that right and wrong would exist regardless of whether humanity did. But since atheists tend not to believe that right and wrong only exist within our minds, they do not.

So, if you have an atheist child, do you educate them about the changeable nature of morality? Or do you use rules of thumb and act as though these notions were actualities and not just constructions?

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Thu Jan 25, 2007 11:24 am
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Post Re: Imagine there's no tech
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I wouldn't say that it doesn't or hasn't happened, only that it's not something that I never found.


Ok then. But keep in mind, when people like rose and I state such a thing, we do intend to give a picture of a priest or other faithful person saying "Ignorance is grand, lets all be ignorant". While this does happen sometimes, I am not suggesting that the method is that transparent. The ignorance is promoted by not accepting things like science...or adding a caveat that science has no authority on god.

I saw a sign today on the local church in town...it said "Any science that omits god is no science at all". That is promoting ignorance, IMO.

Quote:
I mean that while for instance rape is now considered right, that is partly an historical accident.


Rape is now considered right? Ireland must be a f'd up place! (Just kidding). But please explain.

Quote:
What constitutes rape in one era and one culture does not constitute rape in another.


I think this is tending towards semantics rather thann any substantial difference in rape. Rape: Forced sexual contact without consent. Now whether the LAW prosectured rape in the same way is a different story, and has nothing to do with the morality of the act itself.

Quote:
The religious tend to believe that right and wrong would exist regardless of whether humanity did. But since atheists tend not to believe that right and wrong only exist within our minds, they do not.


I can agree with this...but I cannot see how or why the religious version is seriously considered at all. Without humans, who would we apply this system to? Is a gorilla 'raping' the female gorilla commiting a sin? Without humanity, what IS right and wrong and what would the God that the moral system derives from apply it to? HOW is it universal if there are no specially created beings to function within it?

Quote:
So, if you have an atheist child, do you educate them about the changeable nature of morality?


Yes. I try to explain WHY it is right or wrong to do something. I just dont lay down the law, so to speak. I try to teach my children HOW to think and not what to think.


Mr. P.


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Sat Jan 27, 2007 2:51 pm
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Post --
Ah Crap. Man, my last post was a bit of a mess. Keep losing posts and trying to retype them quickly. Anyway, getting back on track:

As for adding a caveat that science has no authority on God, well to be honest, I think you'll find that to be true. Dawkins is relatively unqiue(?) in arguing that the existence of God as a scientific hypothesis. The likes of Huxley and Gould seemed to realise as much. I don't see as to how science can speak on any matter (no matter how hypothetical) that is not a part of the physical world.

Rape:What I meant to say was that rape (or at least certain forms of it were considered ok in the past. For instance, look at the invention of this new notion of "date rape". Once upon a time, it was the case that "No meant no." Now, it's "No means no, but sometimes yes does as well".

A better example would be to look at the notion of lesser peoples. Because Africans , Indians and Arabs were considered lesser peoples, in the past, Europeans did not consider it wrong to enslave such people. And to kill one of these people was little worse than killing an animal. Raping a black woman wasn't really considered rape. Who was it that said it wasn't so much rape as just bad taste?

Hell there were some pretty fucked up conventions regarding victory in war. It was taken for granted that the victors could steal, rape and murder for three days after they took a town in the past. And that was accepted as part and parcel of the deal. Now the losers never liked this, but they would have done the same thing had they won, and they would have considered it, if not morally right, then not immoral.

Look at something like murder. Today, we tend to disapprove of murder in almost all circumstances. But, we eat meat. Now if the PETA mentality were ever to become popular in the future, then eating meat would be considered immoral. Isn't their catchphrase "Meat is Murder?" They would look back at us in the same way that we look back on the slavers and the rapists.

Without a supernatural basis that transcends the natural world, morality becomes a convention or an opinion. And while I've got an opinion about what constitutes good music, I'd not push it on somebody else, especially my own children. Still, I'd be horrified if they liked the Backstreet Boys.

Quote:
I can agree with this...but I cannot see how or why the religious version is seriously considered at all. Without humans, who would we apply this system to? Is a gorilla 'raping' the female gorilla commiting a sin? Without humanity, what IS right and wrong and what would the God that the moral system derives from apply it to? HOW is it universal if there are no specially created beings to function within it?


Ach, you're moving into a complicated area. Does a gorilla commit a sin when it rapes another gorilla, I have no idea. But I doubt it, since there is an absence of free will.

Now we can both agree that there are many potential acts that have not been carried out, yet which if they were carried out we would consider immoral. Now in the absence of humanity, and even in the absence of creation, there would still be the potential for immorality so long as there was a God.

Edited by: Niall001 at: 1/29/07 7:09 am



Sun Jan 28, 2007 1:15 pm
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Post Re: --
I know I've missed a bit of this conversation; I've been skiing. I think you and I have similar opinions on this one, Mr.P.

Niall: Now, it's "No means no, but sometimes yes does as well".

Niall, I'm not exactly sure what you mean by this. Perhaps my head is still a bit loopy from the high altitude, but is this supposed to be a statement to illustrate date rape?

Also, those examples you gave



Mon Jan 29, 2007 3:25 pm
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Post Re: --
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Without a supernatural basis that transcends the natural world, morality becomes a convention or an opinion.


And even WITH a supernatural basis, morality is still a convention and an opinion. No one has access to this "supernatural" realm, so there is no way to really even know what is moral, in such a case. For all practical purposes, then, religious morality is just a matter of taste as religious morality, given our epistemic limitations.

However, I think you are wrong when you say that morality must either be supernatural or arbitrary. What is it about being supernatural that somehow makes it non-arbitrary? (It certainly seems plausible for an omnipotent being to make murder acceptable one day, and then prohibit it the next.) And what about all the objective ethical theories proposed by philosophers that make no appeal to supernaturalism? We're talking about the large majority of ethical theories, too. Very few philosophers endorse Divine Command morality.

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Saint Gasoline: And even WITH a supernatural basis, morality is still a convention and an opinion. No one has access to this "supernatural" realm, so there is no way to really even know what is moral, in such a case. For all practical purposes, then, religious morality is just a matter of taste as religious morality, given our epistemic limitations.

_________________________________________

The whole notion of our only choice being between a set of moral values that are authored by a deity and the whims and wishes of individuals is one of the great fictions put out in support of religions.

As SG points out, even if the supernatural exists, there is no way to determine what moral values would apply. All we are left with, when all is said and done, is our own human efforts. However, those human efforts have been preconditioned by millions of years of evolution and fine tuned by the evolution of human societies and human cultures.

Morality evolves as we evolve. It has never been an absolute declaration of right and wrong that was good for all people for all time. Neither has it ever been "just do what feels good at the moment." At least, not for most people most of the time.

George

"Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them."

Godless in America by George A. Ricker




Tue Jan 30, 2007 12:29 pm
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