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God in America

#88: Sept. - Oct. 2010 (Non-Fiction)
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Saffron
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God in America

Hey,
I thought anyone reading The Evolution of God might be interested in this PBS production, God in America. It begins tonight.

From the PBS site for God in America:
How has religious belief shaped American history? What role have religious ideas and spiritual experience played in shaping the social, political and cultural life of what has become the world's most religiously diverse nation?

For the first time on television, God in America, a presentation of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and FRONTLINE, will explore the historical role of religion in the public life of the United States. The six-hour series, which interweaves documentary footage, historical dramatization and interviews with religious historians, will air over three consecutive nights on PBS beginning Oct. 11,


http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/?gclid= ... 5Qodox0LjA
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DWill
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Re: God in America

Saffron wrote:Hey,
I thought anyone reading The Evolution of God might be interested in this PBS production, God in America. It begins tonight.

From the PBS site for God in America:
How has religious belief shaped American history? What role have religious ideas and spiritual experience played in shaping the social, political and cultural life of what has become the world's most religiously diverse nation?

For the first time on television, God in America, a presentation of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and FRONTLINE, will explore the historical role of religion in the public life of the United States. The six-hour series, which interweaves documentary footage, historical dramatization and interviews with religious historians, will air over three consecutive nights on PBS beginning Oct. 11,


http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/?gclid= ... 5Qodox0LjA
I am interested in this, although I'm wondering if even I might reach a point of overload on the topic of religion!
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President Camacho
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Re: God in America

I've just started Voltaire's God & Human Beings. It's a sober look at what religion is. It includes history and Voltaire's own philosophy on the subject. It's a very common sense spiritual approach to our belief in god. It really cuts into the church for its thievery and lies but for those interested in the idea of god - Voltaire proclaims that there is one.
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Saffron
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Re: God in America

Did anyone watch? After viewing the first of three parts, it seems to me that we have always been a crazy country as far as religion is concerned.
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Re: God in America

I blame it on Fox news and Rick Sanchez.
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Robert Tulip
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Re: God in America

Saffron wrote:we have always been a crazy country as far as religion is concerned.
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DWill
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Re: God in America

Since my daughter had to watch Gossip Girls on our only TV, I tried to watch it online, but for some reason the feed stopped after 5 minutes. I'll try again today. I think possibly our infatuation with religion has to do with this perception that the settlers became the "New Adam" in a "New Eden," which gave a rejuvenated push to the more tired religion of Europe. There were biblical associations that turned out to be too powerful. And what was Manifest Destiny but the idea that we were meant to inhabit the whole of the Promised Land?
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DWill
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Re: God in America

I watched the first two segments, thought they were well done. It's impossible for me put myself in the place of the general public at any time discussed in the program (about 1620-Civil War). The conviction that Americans were favored of God, and the constant presence of religion in their lives, is different from anything we have today. I feel this includes those who call themselves religious, too.

An interesting take on the Puritans. We might not think of them as the calm, rational believers (through the lens of Salem trials, for example), but compared to revivalists led by George Whitfield, they were. The revivalists essentially rebelled against the Puritan totalitarianism in religion, desiring a more ecstatic and emotional tie to God and claiming that the born again experience meant that there was no doom hanging over them as long as they lived, as the Puritans taught. The program tied the expanding religious freedom in the country, with hundreds of sects springing up, to its taste to rebel in matters of politics as well. I had never heard of the religious fervor being tied to the political. I think we normally think of an opposition of sorts between religion and politics, which led to a Constitution without mention of God. The program implies it wasn't like that.

I didn't know that Lincoln became the most publicly religious president in at least 50 years. He attributed the entire Civil War to God's need to extract punishment on the nation for the crime of slavery. It was a justification for continuing the war, at any cost, that he came up with only after the war had gone on for over a year in a bloodier fashion that anyone had imagined. He then had the mandate to continue the immense destruction of this war until the price God demanded had been paid. The implication is that a human being, with only his own personal conviction, would not be able to carry the burden of directing the deaths of so many people. But with God having decided it, Lincoln could.

There was also a tie-in with The Evolution of God. The Pueblo Indians were willing to accept the new gods that the Spanish Christians brought them, in the fashion of polytheists. But they never intended to give up their native religion, causing great problems with the would-be rulers, who of course demanded exclusive adherence to the one truth. This led to brutal executions of Pueblos for sorcery and other insane acts by the Spaniards. Around 1675, the Pueblos rose up and killed quite a number of the Spaniards, targeting especially the priests. The Spaniards then fled, giving the Pueblos an unfortunately temporary victory. Hard not to give a cheer to them.
Last edited by DWill on Tue Oct 12, 2010 10:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Saffron
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Re: God in America

DWill wrote:I didn't know that Lincoln became the most publicly religious president in at least 50 years. He attributed the entire Civil War to God's need to extract punishment on the nation for the crime of slavery. It was a justification for continuing the war, at any cost, that he came up with only after the war had gone on for over a year in a bloodier fashion that anyone had imagined. He then had the mandate to continue the immense destruction of this war until the price God demanded had been paid. The implication is that a human being, with only his own personal conviction, would not be able to carry the burden of directing the deaths of so many people. But with God having decided it, Lincoln could.
I have watched exactly 1/2 (each night was really 2 segments). I didn't know this about Lincoln either and have never encounter or maybe never fully grasped the aspect of the Civil War presented in the first half of night two.
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DWill
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Re: God in America

I finished watching all of the program online and was pleased with it. A little disappointed that it didn't go into more detail about the religion of the founding fathers, but even with six hours I suppose it couldn't cover everything. It did talk about Jefferson's role and presented a good balance. Though he was a famous skeptic of the Christ part of Christianity, it is sometimes forgotten that he fought for religion to remain a vital part of society, and the way he did that was to champion religious freedom. In his day in Virginia, the Anglican church was the state religion. That church had the power to declare other religious expression illegal, which it did in the case of itinerant Baptist preachers who had not been granted licenses to preach. Jefferson intervened, with the result being that the Anglican church was disestablished, the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom was passed, and the religious marketplace was opened wide.

Anyone else watch it and have any reactions? I also was pleased that it went into some detail about the fight of nonbelieving and Jewish parents to get religious instruction out of the schools. I do believe that the statement of one guy who spoke, that religion is in our DNA as a nation, is no exaggeration.

Edit: The program provided a link to an article called "Morals Without God?," which turned out to be by our old friend Frans deWaal. I read it and found it to be exceptionally on-target and balanced. An excerpt:

"While I do consider religious institutions and their representatives — popes, bishops, mega-preachers, ayatollahs, and rabbis — fair game for criticism, what good could come from insulting individuals who find value in religion? And more pertinently, what alternative does science have to offer? Science is not in the business of spelling out the meaning of life and even less in telling us how to live our lives. We, scientists, are good at finding out why things are the way they are, or how things work, and I do believe that biology can help us understand what kind of animals we are and why our morality looks the way it does. But to go from there to offering moral guidance seems a stretch.

Even the staunchest atheist growing up in Western society cannot avoid having absorbed the basic tenets of Christian morality. Our societies are steeped in it: everything we have accomplished over the centuries, even science, developed either hand in hand with or in opposition to religion, but never separately. It is impossible to know what morality would look like without religion. It would require a visit to a human culture that is not now and never was religious. That such cultures do not exist should give us pause....

Other primates have of course none of these problems, but even they strive for a certain kind of society. For example, female chimpanzees have been seen to drag reluctant males towards each other to make up after a fight, removing weapons from their hands, and high-ranking males regularly act as impartial arbiters to settle disputes in the community. I take these hints of community concern as yet another sign that the building blocks of morality are older than humanity, and that we do not need God to explain how we got where we are today. On the other hand, what would happen if we were able to excise religion from society? I doubt that science and the naturalistic worldview could fill the void and become an inspiration for the good. Any framework we develop to advocate a certain moral outlook is bound to produce its own list of principles, its own prophets, and attract its own devoted followers, so that it will soon look like any old religion."

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/20 ... thout-god/
Last edited by DWill on Mon Oct 18, 2010 8:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: God in America

DWill wrote: "While I do consider religious institutions and their representatives — popes, bishops, mega-preachers, ayatollahs, and rabbis — fair game for criticism, what good could come from insulting individuals who find value in religion? And more pertinently, what alternative does science have to offer? Science is not in the business of spelling out the meaning of life and even less in telling us how to live our lives. We, scientists, are good at finding out why things are the way they are, or how things work, and I do believe that biology can help us understand what kind of animals we are and why our morality looks the way it does. But to go from there to offering moral guidance seems a stretch./
I would question whether we derive morality from religion, but certainly religion seems to reinforce moral behavior. More importantly, many people find meaning in their religion, whatever flavor it is. I like to think that organized religion will eventually fall out of favor, but ultimately in a free society people get to choose what they believe.

I want to quote Muhammad here: "To you your religion and to me my religion." :wink:

Oh, thanks for posting the link.
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Re: God in America

DWill wrote:our old friend Frans deWaal... [asks] what good could come from insulting individuals who find value in religion?
The problem here is that people of faith commonly believe things that are not true. The eventual consequences of false belief are dire. The most stark example is that indifference to global warming has its intellectual foundation in religious blind faith, with a hostility to evidence that is psychologically very similar to creationism.

It should not be seen as insulting to point out that somebody is wrong, for example in their belief in creationism, flat earth theory, virgin birth, safety of CO2 emissions, etc. Many wrong people are just ignorant dupes, and if they repent of their error even Jesus says they will be forgiven.

Building a framework for morality that is based on evidence is bound to produce superior results than building a framework based on falsity. We ought to be able to measure the consequences of rival paths as a way to base values on facts. First we need to agree on common values, for example human flourishing and biodiversity. We can then say Path A will produce poverty and extinction, while Path B will produce prosperity and sustained diversity, so B is morally superior to A.

But this debate doesn't even get started while religious people insist on throwing spanners of false belief into the mix.

Religious people often assume that the longevity of their traditions makes them immune from criticism. This is a frustrating attitude that is quite hypocritical, given the emphasis Jesus placed on truth. However, atheists are often equally closed-minded, failing to see the social benefits of faith.
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Re: God in America

I suppose the key word from deWaal might be "insulting" those who find value in religious belief. I don't see this the way you do, Robert. Of the factors or influences that can send thinking into a ditch, religious belief is only one. As to whether global warming denial is religious in origin, it would be difficult to collect data indicating that, not when even the Southern Baptist Convention in the U.S. issues a position paper urging its members to support carbon reduction.
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Re: God in America

Saffron wrote:Did anyone watch? After viewing the first of three parts, it seems to me that we have always been a crazy country as far as religion is concerned.
Yes agree with you which leads the global culture towards a different direction which is not healthy for the future generations. :)
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Re: God in America

God? Who is this? Let's keep this forum on the topic of existant beings that have physical evidence of that they exist. And for anyone who tries to refute this argument, you're wrong. there is no proof for any God.
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