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When Religion is not poison 
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Post Re: when religion is not poison
axisage wrote:
i've never understood how anyone could refer to and discuss "religion" as though it were one thing.

No, neither can I, axisage. Yet I admired Hitchens' book and while we were discussing it here, I tried to persuade people that the title was misleading (suggested by his publisher, according to Frank). Hitchens uses "religion" and "God" in a resticted sense. I would disagree with Frank that he identifies the three monotheistic faiths as the problem, as he also doesn't let Eastern religion off the hook. But beyond that, he doesn't object to religion (whatever it might be labeled) that he calls "private and optional," or, in another passage, "tamed and sequestered." In the book, he says he has friends who call themselves religious. The religion that "poisons everything" is basically the zealous variety that will make the pronouncements of ancient books the guiding standards for modern life, that will cause people to shut out everything that has been learned about our world if it disagrees (as it has to) with scripture.


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Mon Jul 27, 2009 9:08 pm
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DWill
I would disagree with Frank that he identifies the three monotheistic faiths as the problem, as he also doesn't let Eastern religion off the hook.


I did say “mostly”

And Hitchens did mention that all versions were (in his opinion) brainless fairy tales with personal belief being the least dangerous, but still bred of ignorance.

From what I have read and from watching several of Hitchens’ recorded personal appearances the man has no love of religious belief in any form... private personal belief seems to be more tolerable than others though... but I suspect that you would find that view common among many atheists.

Later


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Mon Jul 27, 2009 9:23 pm
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I've never been able to watch Hitchens in action on videos, but I've heard that he is not as diplomatic as he seems to be in God Is Not Great. Still, referring to axisage's original question, I can't believe that such an intelligent man would ever argue that anything connected to religiion is poison. That would be bigotry, which is one of Hitchens' hatreds.


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Tue Jul 28, 2009 2:00 pm
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I can't believe that such an intelligent man would ever argue that anything connected to religion is poison.


Hitchens clearly does not think that anything (everything) connected to religion is poison or even necessarily bad, he lays out his concerns specifically in both his book and his speeches.

However his attitude does seem to reflect the idea that religious belief (in general) is dishonest, harmful, limiting and unnecessary despite its good points.

Later


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Tue Jul 28, 2009 11:41 pm
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Frank 013 wrote:
However his attitude does seem to reflect the idea that religious belief (in general) is dishonest, harmful, limiting and unnecessary despite its good points.

Well, I don't know if I'd be willing to acknowledge any good points with the strength of these charges against belief. To me, it seems to come down to what belief is for any individual. This word contains within it a whole range of possibilities and variations with regard to strength and type. Relgious belief cannot be said to be harmful in a generic sense, a point on which you seem to agree. I think CH always singles out, at least in GING, that variety of belief that takes control of the mind and wrenches it out of joint with all common sense and frequently with common standards of humanity. Not that he approves of or likes any shade of religion, but he does separate his personal dislikes from what he believes is genuinely harmful--again, in GING, if not in his speeches.


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Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:59 am
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DWill
Not that he approves of or likes any shade of religion, but he does separate his personal dislikes from what he believes is genuinely harmful--again, in GING, if not in his speeches.


Agreed.


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i agree that many religions are rife with allegory and mythology. so are sports. shall i take sports and say that it is responsible for war? a team of men marching down the field in strategic fashion to conquer the territory of those men on the other side. aggression, violence and hostile take-over is inherent in almost any team-competitive sport. we celebrate war by blasting off fireworks on the fourth of july. war is part of the way we think, often disguised (misguidedly) as "patriotism." there are many aspects of culture that mirror war and engender its spirit of it in the hearts of men. do you mean to tell me the only men and women on the front lines in iraq are there because they believe God wants them to be? i happen to be friends with atheists and agnostics who have served the country, as well as judeo-christians and others.

to take the entirety of religion, a field of man's existence that is so vast, complicated and ancient - to pin all of that up there on the wall and then hurl darts at it and call it poisonous is hysterical. really. braindead. i could do the same thing with sports. "how sports poison the world." i could go on to that that "by breeding the spirit of competition, territorial gain, by using violence, aggression and strategy to beat the other team into submission, team sports perpetuate the idea that war is good, and that using our base selves to conquer others is a righteous path."

but do i really know all sports to be terrible and bad? no, of course not. sports also foster the spirit of team-play and working together. the physical aspect tends to be very beneficial in minimal contact sports. and so on.

nothing is accomplished when one team beats another. advertisers make a killing, and a few key players get a million dollars added to their contract. while i agree that some people use religion as their sword and shield, and interpret literally, the best use of a faith is as a template with which to place over the world and live by to the best of your ability. maybe hitchens should have said "how evangelism poisons the world." people pushing their beliefs down the throats of others is where problems come in. that just sucks. otherwise, the only reasons someone would have a problem with someone else believing in something "they can't know to exist," is because that person having the problem is missing the bigger picture.



Fri Jul 31, 2009 9:49 am
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Axisage, your sports and war analogy is somewhat of a straw man, Wars are not the only harm that religions are capable of causing (when I say religion I mean the major western religions and Islam)

You should really read the book; Hitchens lays out his claims in a responsible fashion and backs them up with solid facts.

Quote:
Axisage
the only reasons someone would have a problem with someone else believing in something "they can't know to exist," is because that person having the problem is missing the bigger picture.


Actually it is the type of thinking fostered by religion that is so annoying to most of us. Questionable/plainly false information is taught as factual by the church and religion fosters an in group/out group mentality… Out groups are blatantly bigoted against, atheists and Gays for example are demonized and misrepresented by the church, with 60+ percent of voting Christians in this country denying gays their civil rights. Over 80% of religous Americans say that they would not knowingly vote for an atheist regardless of their qualifications.

Improvable religious claims are the basis for certain beliefs, (the soul is injected into the zygote at inception so stem cell research is BAD!) or (contraceptives are sinful… as a direct result of this claim thousands of people spread and die of aids every day) these beliefs and others like them have held back advancement for hundreds of years, costing countless lives.

Of course these claims are believed because they cannot be disproved… which brings me to another stupid religious assertion…

The claim that “you cannot disprove it” is an acceptable reason to believe something is another religious arguement that makes me laugh out loud. If that were an acceptable standard some absurd stuff (aside from religion) would be believed.

Unicorns live on Venus… we live in the matrix… god is really a green jellybean that lives behind a tree and disappears when you look for him… god created everything 10 minutes ago just as it is…

These things cannot currently be disproved, but people do not believe them… why?

Because not being able to disprove something does not make it real and that is not a good standard for a solid, unwavering belief.

If it truly were an acceptable standard for belief… wow… I cannot even begin to imagine the lunacy.

Chicken Little’s “the sky is falling!!!” comes to mind…

Anyway...

Religion is much more than a conquerors’ tool to motivate people for war. It is also many other harmful things and I have barely scratched the surface with this post.

But rest assured, those of us that have problems with religion are not missing the bigger picture… we see religion and the harm it causes very clearly.

Later


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Last edited by Frank 013 on Fri Jul 31, 2009 11:12 am, edited 4 times in total.



Fri Jul 31, 2009 10:54 am
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I think getting beyond the title is needed for you to see what Hitchens is trying to do. What he says within the book is much more important than the few words in the title. All of his examples seem to me to indicate the harmfulness or real wrongheadedness that religion can assume. I feel the same as you do about the impossibility of making a single meaningful statement against religion in general, which is why I didn't expect to like Hitchens' book, but did.


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thanks, will. i totally appreciate that. and i'm very intrigued by the book.

when i say that "people are missing the bigger picture" i meant that others who have religion in their lives in a way that enhances them is what's important. it's dicey to come down on "religion" in general when some people incorporate it into their lives in very positive ways (that don't involve the more nefarious aspects of gay-bashing and political infusion that others constantly point out as "why religion is wrong.") i subscribe to a faith, i accept gays, and i'm an obama fan. what does that make me?

my only issue was with the use of the term "religion." if we're talking about people blindly conforming to a religion and then doing stupid things in the name of it, then maybe we should be talking about the dangers of conformity, the dangers of unthinking people. maybe my sports analogy was a "straw," but it was only meant to convey that blind conformity can be what is most poisonous, and that other things in our lives enhance idiocy (i.e.: an instance where a mob of disgruntled buffalo bills fans overturn a car, start fires, cause mayhem, etc.)

"religion" is any easy target. at the same time, it's so multifaceted that its a shame to lump it all together as this one thing. when i see the gentle farmer who is a taoist or jain and lives in the spirit of ahimsa (non violence) should i tell him his practice is poisonous?

just looking out for the little guy. which, in this case, gets tossed in for persecution with to the big morons in the "religion" line-up.

lol - i've rambled on long enough. good discussion, guys! i look forward to the book.



Fri Jul 31, 2009 4:32 pm
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i couldn't resist:

"For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who don't, none will suffice."
-dunninger

(of course, he was a magician...lol)



Fri Jul 31, 2009 4:38 pm
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Welcome axisage. If you will forgive me for injecting a note of philosophy into this discussion, Hitchens' book is really about the theory of knowledge, epistemology. He takes the view that scientific knowledge, based on evidence, is reliable, while religion, based on belief, is unreliable. He is sceptical about the method of basing life on unreliable belief.

The epistemological argument here is that knowledge and belief are radically different ways of approaching the world, and that mainstream religion retains an obsolete method of basing thought on beliefs which are unreliable and often demonstrably false.

I think your analogy with sport is excellent. Sport sublimates human need for competition away from war into a formal game structure with artificial rules. Similarly, religion enables community through shared beliefs, with much productive benefit. However, the truth of these beliefs is contested by Hitchens, suggesting a need to change the rules.

I don't think that Hitchens gives enough weight to the human need for ritual, myth and ceremony in his assessment of the value of religion, as these cultural needs, also served in sport, cannot be delivered by science alone.



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axisage wrote:
my only issue was with the use of the term "religion." if we're talking about people blindly conforming to a religion and then doing stupid things in the name of it, then maybe we should be talking about the dangers of conformity, the dangers of unthinking people.

I think that is a very strong point you make in the second sentence. Giving so much power to a thing--to any thing we might name--could be the wrong approach. It would be more logical to blame human tendencies toward extremes that can also manifest in areas other than religion, as you have said. But I think, too, that religion appears to be an easy target because so much of this extreme behavior occurs in connection with some variety of religion. It might tend to stand out as a "thing" for other reasons as well, though. Thanks for putting a turn in my thinking.


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Sat Aug 01, 2009 9:51 pm
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axisage
my only issue was with the use of the term "religion." if we're talking about people blindly conforming to a religion and then doing stupid things in the name of it, then maybe we should be talking about the dangers of conformity, the dangers of unthinking people.


Well unfortunately many religions require people to blindly conform to their dogma (that is what faith is) and then they do stupid things (don’t use a condom, god does not want us to use them, besides in our abstinence class we learned that they do not work anyway) because their world view has been warped.

Then they wonder why the abstinence program is failing abysmally… :hmm:

Religion is an easy target because it requires blind devotion, restricted thought and conformity; it is rife with un-thinkers.

Only unthinking could allow a normally rational person to believe in talking snakes.

I do not think that sports requires any such irrationalities.

Later


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hey, thanks for the welcome, robert. bring on the philosophy! i wonder about the epistemological argument. for me - and i speak only for me - it is all belief. it was once 'evidenced' by science that the model of the solar system was heliocentric. as it was once evidenced that the world was flat, that quarks were the smallest of "stuff", and so on. science is - again, speaking for me - about observation, and that is limited to what methods are available at the time. knowledge is not infallible, so to speak. one of the ways in which religion takes a beating is with the in-group / out-group aspect of it. but i see the same thing happen with the in-group / out-group of science versus religion. both, to me, are systems of approaching an understanding of the world, and i enjoy them both immensely. while religion focuses on allegory and myth, science takes what is observable, studies it, and makes calculable assumptions. --oh man, i can't believe i'm going on here explaining 'religion' and 'science' as though i were the first to have such ideas. i digress!

thanks, will. great to chuck the bull around with you guys.

what were we talking about? ah yes - books!



Sun Aug 02, 2009 3:26 pm
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