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Author Topic: In support of religions and spirituality  (Read 1272 times)

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Offline TaintedAndDelishTopic starter

In support of religions and spirituality
« on: July 28, 2014, 02:06:58 AM »
I wanted to try taking the opposite side of this argument for a change. Rather than arguing against religion and views that a god exists, I wanted to explore a slightly different avenue. The point of this is not to judge whether or not gods are real and whether or not religions are believable, but whether or not religions have a positive effect on us or serve some purpose. This might mean experimenting with how we view religions and looking for reasons for how and why a religion might benefit society.

I don't want to dig up past atrocities, but would like to look at what good religious and spiritual beliefs might have done at various points in time.

Perhaps religion and unfounded beliefs serve some special function in life - much like art. Art does not have to be logical, and is often soaked in imagination. We say that art is important to us - even if its crazy or confusing. Perhaps religion and spirituality could be explored in a similar light?

So lets start with the assumption that we all disagree on whether or not gods are real, and that we have mixed feelings about religious institutions in general, and step into exploring what positive role religion spirituality might play in our lives.

Some questions that immediately come to mind are:

1. Does it matter whether or not we believe in a god and whether or not such a thing exists? When we die, its not really going to matter anyway ( unless of course, there is a god ). That great black unknown space could be left empty or painted brilliantly with gods and aliens.

2. Does religion and spirituality benefit us in the same or similar way that art benefits us?

3. Might it be possible to construct a religion that actually has some powerful, unifying effect. Something that mankind would be better off with?



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Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2014, 01:06:22 PM »
Focusing on the positive is a very refreshing idea!

Although I'm not Christian, I have to say that the world would be a much poorer place without the works of the great Renaissance artists that were quite often given funds and commissions from the Vatican.

Boston College, Georgetown University, and the international collection of Loyola Universities (and many other colleges) were all founded by the Jesuits.  William and Mary was founded as an Anglican institution, and educated many of the Founding Fathers.  The University of Notre Dame is still classed as a Catholic research university (and when BC plays the Irish, it is said that God sits down to watch.)  Many other colleges were also founded with a religious affiliation, while not always requiring participation in that particular faith.

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Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2014, 10:58:55 AM »
I'd prefer to believe there is some form of divine positive influence, I've seen it personally many times.

The negative has been discussed often enough. But the positive.
Religion has caused both the best and some of the worst actions of mankind. Though in the modern age it's doing less of the bad stuff, that brand of human evil has been picked up by nationalists.  ;D

If it wasn't for religion we would not have science as we have it today, the first scientists, astrologers, and investigators of the natural world, were religious scholars and priests. Often trying to understand their god or gods, or ect. That desire for answers has always been part of mankind, and religious declines were the first to look up at the heavens and start asking questions. Trying to understand god through his creations and all that.

One of the major functions of Christian churches has always been charity and taking care of the needy, especially in a world increasingly obsessed with profit over people, it's a necessary function that non-religious groups have a hard time fulfilling. Helping people is part and parcel of Christian doctrine, even if some forget that fact in favor of more inflammatory and selfish desires.

Also This forum isn't likely to get the echo-chamber effect because it focuses on the positive, so it will avoid forum bloat. YAY

Offline Mathim

Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2014, 12:57:18 PM »
Without bringing up or dwelling on the negative, I'll just be the first to say this: There need be no religion for any of these positive benefits to make themselves known to humanity. It can all be done, in many cases in a superior way, by purely secular means and with purely secular motivations. Bringing religion into things like this will not solve anything and ultimately, inevitably, only create more problems. Case in point: The world as it is today. This avenue, while superficially positive, is not the solution.

Offline Iniquitous

Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2014, 01:15:43 PM »
Read this once and think it is something everyone needs to read.

"The world isn't being destroyed by democrats or republicans, red or blue, liberal or conservative, religious or atheist -- the world is being destroyed by one side believing the other side is destroying the world. The world is being hurt and damaged by one group of people believing they're truly better people than the others who think differently. The world officially ends when we let our beliefs conquer love. We must not let this happen.

When we lump people into groups, quickly label them, and assume we know everything about them and their life based on a perceived world view, how they look, where they come from, etc., we are not behaving as full human beings. When we truly believe that some people are monsters, that they fundamentally are less human than we are, and that they deserve to have less than we do, we ourselves become the monsters. When we allow our emotions to be hypnotized by the excitement of petty bickering about seemingly important topics, we drift further and further away from the fragile and crucial human bond holding everything together. When we anticipate with ferocious glee the next chance we have to prove someone "wrong" and ourselves "right," all the while disregarding the vast complexity of almost every subject -- not to mention the universe as a whole -- we are reducing the beauty and magic of life to a "side" or a "type," or worst of all, an "answer."

At its best, religion is able to organize extremely complex world views into manageable and communicable systems so they can be grappled with and studied abstractly. But even the most noble efforts to organize the world are essentially futile. The best we can usually achieve is a crude and messy map of life from one particular vantage point, featuring a few grids, bullet points, and sketches of its various aspects and landmarks. Anything as infinitely complex as life, reality, and the human experience can never be summed up or organized in a definitive system, especially one based on "left or right," "A or B," "us or them." This is the fatal flaw of binary thinking in general. However, this flaw isn't just ignored, it's also embraced, amplified, and deliberately used as a weapon on the very people who think it's benefiting their way of thinking.

Human beings crave order and simplicity. We cling to the hope that some day, if we really refine our world view and beliefs, we can actually find the fully correct way to think -- the absolute truth and final side to stand on. People and systems craving power take advantage of this desire and pit us against each other using a "this or that" mentality. The point is to create unrest, disagreement, resentment, and anger -- a population constantly at war with itself, each side deeply believing that the other is not just wrong, but also a sincere threat to their very way of life and survival. This creates constant anxiety and distraction -- the perfect conditions for oppression. The goal of this sort of politics is to keep people held down and mesmerized by a persistent parade of seemingly life-or-death debates, each one worth all of our emotional energy and primal passion.

But the truth is, the world has always been and always will be on the brink of destruction. And what keeps it from actually imploding is our love for life and our deep-seeded desire not to die. Our love for our own life is inextricably connected to our love of all life and the miracle of this phenomenon we call "the world." We must give all of ourselves credit every day for keeping things going. It's an incredible achievement to exist at all.

So we must protect and respect each other, no matter how hard it feels. No matter how wrong someone else may seem to us, they are still human. No matter how bad someone may appear, they are truly no worse than us. Our beliefs and behavior don't make us fundamentally better than others, no matter how satisfying it is to believe otherwise. We must be tireless in our efforts to see things from the point of view we most disagree with. We must make endless efforts to try and understand the people we least relate to. And we must at all times force ourselves to love the people we dislike the most. Not because it's nice or because they deserve it, but because our own sanity and survival depends on it. And if we do find ourselves pushed into a corner where we must kill others in order to survive, we must fully accept that we are killing people just as fully human as ourselves, and not some evil abstract creatures. Have the strength to doubt and question what you believe as easily as you're so quick to doubt others beliefs. Live with a truly open mind -- the kind of open mind that even questions the idea of an open mind. Don't feel the need to always pick a side. And if you do pick a side, pick the side of love. It remains our only real hope for survival and has more power to save us than any other belief we could ever cling to.
"
« Last Edit: August 09, 2014, 01:18:08 PM by Iniquitous Opheliac »

Offline Mikem

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Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2014, 01:38:12 PM »
Well....

Coming from a guy who'd much rather invest all his time into believing Aliens exist instead of some almighty force, I WILL say that Religion, as a concept, has done good on the personal level with people. Many who look to Religion have found some kind of peace within them which gives them a foothold to better their lives, thinking their hard work will pay off one day.

But when Religion is pushed upon a community. A society. A nation. A world of people, instead of leaving it as an individual choice. Well. Things get real icky.

But since this is a positive thread about Religion, I won't get into that. Again, I agree that Religion's morals and good natured ideals are indeed beneficial to individual lives.

Offline Aislinn

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Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2014, 01:51:38 PM »
Without bringing up or dwelling on the negative, I'll just be the first to say this: There need be no religion for any of these positive benefits to make themselves known to humanity. It can all be done, in many cases in a superior way, by purely secular means and with purely secular motivations. Bringing religion into things like this will not solve anything and ultimately, inevitably, only create more problems. Case in point: The world as it is today. This avenue, while superficially positive, is not the solution.

And yet, the OP chose to make a thread about the positive aspects of religion and spirituality and their impact on the world. Coming into a thread with comments that aren't related are disrespectful to the OP.

...

I think, in regards to the topic, that others have made wonderful points about certain advancements or avenues that were made possible, in large and small ways, by certain religions and spiritual points of view. Many of our holidays were created the same way.

Offline Inkidu

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Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2014, 04:16:56 PM »
I'm glad to see something religiously positive in the forum. There are many benefits to education, science, and humanitarianism from many of the worlds' religions. Sometimes that gets forgotten by the negative aspects that humanity can bring forward.

Offline Lux12

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Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2014, 04:28:51 PM »
You know, I dislike evangelists of any kind but I can say I know more people who have been helped by religion than hurt. Whether they become a fellow Pagan, a Buddhist, Christian, or anything else, I can safely say that religion may have actually saved people I know. I'm not just talking about spiritual salvation necessarily. I'm talking about people who have been pulled out of some pretty messed situations by the path they came to walk. I can also think of religions that support outright progressive outlooks.

Offline Lilias

Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2014, 05:43:31 PM »
I'm Greek. A cursory overview of Greek history will show that what is the modern state, as well as its broader surrounding area, was under Turkish occupation for five centuries (15th to early 20th). Religion - Orthodox Christianity, in the particular case - was the reason both the nation and the state exist today. The church provided the people with community in their present, as well as historical continuity, while its liturgical texts preserved the language and promoted literacy. Without all those, the people would have been linguistically and culturally assimilated and there would have been none to rise and demand independence.

Offline TaintedAndDelishTopic starter

Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2014, 03:50:16 AM »
Some interesting points so far.. especially what  Iniquitous Opheliac had to say.

What Lilias pointed out was exactly the sort of historical example I was hoping to hear about. In the meantime, I came up with one that I thought was worth mentioning. The Salvation Army. While they have a religious agenda, they seem to put taking care of people's needs first, religious conversion last. Since I was a kid, I recall seeing people standing out in the cold ringing the bell only to see a quarter or dime tossed in - sometimes a dollar rolled up.

Some might argue that a non religious group could do this, and rightly so, but I think that the values taught by groups like this encourage charity and care for one another. No, you don't need a religion be charitable, but maybe it does help to influence some people who might otherwise not be all that inclined to be charitable, naturally.

Some might argue that society would be stronger if we all treated charity as a crime and just let the weak die off due to their own failures, but I don't think this is natural or necessary. People who are ill, weak or poor can certainly make strong contributions to society (ie. Steven Hawkings ) and many people do tend to react compassionately, so I think being charitable is just part of being human... for many.

But when Religion is pushed upon a community. A society. A nation. A world of people, instead of leaving it as an individual choice. Well. Things get real icky.

I agree, and think this was part of I.O.'s point. Once we start dividing the population into "us" and "them", we start going down hill. Religion without the "they are inferior" bit or the "we must do X to be worthy" bit would be a lot more palatable. We are human though. We do tend to disagree on things.

Without bringing up or dwelling on the negative, I'll just be the first to say this: There need be no religion for any of these positive benefits to make themselves known to humanity. It can all be done, in many cases in a superior way, by purely secular means and with purely secular motivations. Bringing religion into things like this will not solve anything and ultimately, inevitably, only create more problems. Case in point: The world as it is today. This avenue, while superficially positive, is not the solution.

For starters, I am an atheist and dislike a lot of things about religions. I've shared those views quite liberally. No, religion is not needed for charity or morality to exist, but to be quite honest, I'm starting to think that throwing religion out the window is like tossing the baby with the bath water. I'm not fully convinced of this yet, but I think this may be true.

This, I have to disagree with:

   "It can all be done, in many cases in a superior way, by purely secular means and with purely secular motivations."

People have mixed and changing motivations and tend to corrupt things over time. What works in theory does not always work in reality. People are anything but pure. We have corrupted our religions, businesses and governments. We corrupt our friendships and relationships with one another.  Hell, we screw up good code too.  o.O

With regard to religion and executive function ( I think that's the right phrase ), sometimes, you just need a basic sense of direction in order to start your journey. I can get from here to there without GPS coordinates or the most optimal route. Sometimes a road sign or pointed finger is sufficient for starters. Religion may have served as that pointed finger for the time being and might be replaced by something analogous to a GPS, but for the time being I don't think we are there yet. It seems like right now, religion works for some while science, philosophy, psychology or whatever works for others. Yanking the road signs down might do more damage than good for some at this point in time.

Quote
"Bringing religion into things like this will not solve anything and ultimately, inevitably, only create more problems."

You see, this is what I am questioning.  DOES religion serve such a purpose. Bringing all the "religious division" into the picture certainly makes things worse, but is it possible that the act of believing in a dream or shared dream might do some good for the time being? I remember early on in my career, I wanted to be an electrical engineer and invent all sorts of wicked stuff. That motivated me in the very beginning of my journey, but thus far it has not been my destination. It was just a misguided dream, but one that got me to the next step in my path.


Online BAMF

Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2014, 03:57:02 AM »
I wanted to add one counter-point to your post, T&D. I have gay friends, and The Salvation Army has actually refused to take donations from my LGBT friends. One guy I know tried to drop off a few bags of clothing and he and his now husband went together and they refused the donation.

I know this is a personal anecdote, but I wanted to mention it because I've heard of it happening here. I don't know if all Salvation Army outlets are similar, but that's my own experiences (and not even my own, but I digress), YMMV.

Offline Inkidu

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Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2014, 11:16:51 AM »
I wanted to add one counter-point to your post, T&D. I have gay friends, and The Salvation Army has actually refused to take donations from my LGBT friends. One guy I know tried to drop off a few bags of clothing and he and his now husband went together and they refused the donation.

I know this is a personal anecdote, but I wanted to mention it because I've heard of it happening here. I don't know if all Salvation Army outlets are similar, but that's my own experiences (and not even my own, but I digress), YMMV.
Yeah, that happens, thankfully I don't think it's actually policy.

Offline TaintedAndDelishTopic starter

Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2014, 03:32:12 AM »

Yeah, I don't find it surprising that you would find that sort of bias in a Christian charity. I didn't mean to put the salvation army on a pedestal or anything, but just to point out a religious group that was of some tangible benefit to society - or at least to a significant portion of society. I would expect other charities to inherit similar biases and shortcomings from whatever religion their founders have rooted it in.

Thanks for pointing that out, BAMF.




Offline Ironwolf85

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Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2014, 10:45:38 AM »
Yeah it's hard to avoid personal bias with any organization.
Faith I believe can be a beautiful thing, faith in a greater power has driven mankind forward in every field including the sciences and arts.

I think the problem is anything+stupid=Stupid2

Leaving that aside and looking at the good things, let's look at some of the amazing feats people have accomplished in the name of their faith next. grand monuments and art. Let's not forget that many early researchers in the age of enlightenment were driven by their faith in god and a desire to understand his world. Darwin's origin of species had a prayer to Christ in the dedication page on the inside cover.


Before this comes up of it's own accord I'll address it now Galileo. Because he is held up as an icon of the church suppressing science and so forth. I did my research on the guy, dug deep into history books. Turns out he wasn't put on house arrest for his beliefs. After being denied a papal grant in favor of a man doing similar work with planets he published a book where he basically called the pope and all his scientific rivals morons and other far more unkind words.
That was why the pope got huffy, and to add tinder the Italian scientific community of the time felt insulted and various members petitioned the pope to do something about his book. Pope Leo called up the inquisition, who was his personal police force within the church. Galileo was officially tried for slandering church officials. But the inquisition was chomping at the bit for a heresy charge.
You guys know the rest. Galileo got house arrest, and they made him take back the book. (which had the now proven theory he is now remembered for.)

Leo was a patron of the arts and sciences for his reign, a bit of a politicker, he died not long after the galileo trial, and his successor borga was a complete bastard as history well shows. It's a shame his historic legacy will always be linked to Galileo's trial and not the tons of church gold he spent funding Galileo's research into planets before they had their falling out.

Offline Sabby

Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #15 on: August 12, 2014, 12:13:03 PM »
Hmmm, what positive things are there to Religion... well, unity of the people, I guess, but I wouldn't call that a perk only Religion offers.

Is there anything positive that we can only get from Religion and no where else? I've thought on this a while and I'm not really getting anything.

Offline Ironwolf85

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Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #16 on: August 12, 2014, 01:44:35 PM »
Religion as an organization?

Or do you mean spirituality & faith?

the first is just an organization, the other two are part of humanity as a whole.

Offline Sabby

Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #17 on: August 12, 2014, 01:47:04 PM »
Most definitions that Google shows me for Spirituality makes it seem like something that can also be achieved without a Religion.


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Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #18 on: August 12, 2014, 02:10:04 PM »
Most definitions that Google shows me for Spirituality makes it seem like something that can also be achieved without a Religion.
I'm a Christian and I'm spiritual person, I also pride myself on being rational and reasonable. I believe it is our highest calling to unravel the mysteries of the cosmos around us to that end I am very into cosmic research, and while I can't wrap my head around advanced physics without a reference guide for the symbols of an equation I believe in both science and religion as ways to ennoble mankind. They are not opposing ideas, all understanding brings morality.

That said I acknowledge both have their dark shadow Inquisition, Mustard Gas, and so forth.

howabout you guys?

Offline Mathim

Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #19 on: August 12, 2014, 02:46:28 PM »
Regarding throwing the baby out with the bathwater: My analogy reply is, when cell phones become widely available, we throw out corded home phones.

The placebo effect religion provides is, again, not exclusively available through religion and adds no truth value to the thing whatsoever. If people choose to cherry-pick nice bits out of holy books and live their lives like that, you're inevitably going to have others cherry-picking the bits that say they should torture, enslave and murder unbelievers and whatnot simply because they choose to look at it that way. If all religion was as intrinsically good as we hope, we wouldn't have these contradictory holy books and mythologies (and we wouldn't have any reason not to believe). But you can't make any clear distinction between those who believe in the good bits and those who believe in the bad bits because they're using the same type of irrational non-logic to make the personal decision about how to interpret them.

It is this problem that prevents this wishful thinking from happening, sad but true, no matter how hopeful it may look. That's why I said, it's superficially positive because on the surface, it's a great idea, hooray, up with people, fantastic, world peace and harmony...except that once you get past that and really look at it objectively, it isn't feasible. I can speak until I'm blue in the face to a Muslim looking to be a martyr about there being no need for this hate and violence and that us getting along and making the world a better place for everyone's children, but once I lose my voice, that won't stop them from pulling the cord and taking us both out because what I say means nothing to them because they simply are not going about life, philosophy, or anything in a rational, logical way. Religion is the force keeping the world from looking at things in this way hence no productive solution can be reached, so there just can't be a solution reached with that as the platform, as unhappy as that is. People never like hearing the truth so there's just no way to say that without pissing people off, unfortunately.

Offline Ironwolf85

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Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #20 on: August 12, 2014, 02:53:31 PM »
Regarding throwing the baby out with the bathwater: My analogy reply is, when cell phones become widely available, we throw out corded home phones.

The placebo effect religion provides is, again, not exclusively available through religion and adds no truth value to the thing whatsoever. If people choose to cherry-pick nice bits out of holy books and live their lives like that, you're inevitably going to have others cherry-picking the bits that say they should torture, enslave and murder unbelievers and whatnot simply because they choose to look at it that way. If all religion was as intrinsically good as we hope, we wouldn't have these contradictory holy books and mythologies (and we wouldn't have any reason not to believe). But you can't make any clear distinction between those who believe in the good bits and those who believe in the bad bits because they're using the same type of irrational non-logic to make the personal decision about how to interpret them.

It is this problem that prevents this wishful thinking from happening, sad but true, no matter how hopeful it may look. That's why I said, it's superficially positive because on the surface, it's a great idea, hooray, up with people, fantastic, world peace and harmony...except that once you get past that and really look at it objectively, it isn't feasible. I can speak until I'm blue in the face to a Muslim looking to be a martyr about there being no need for this hate and violence and that us getting along and making the world a better place for everyone's children, but once I lose my voice, that won't stop them from pulling the cord and taking us both out because what I say means nothing to them because they simply are not going about life, philosophy, or anything in a rational, logical way. Religion is the force keeping the world from looking at things in this way hence no productive solution can be reached, so there just can't be a solution reached with that as the platform, as unhappy as that is. People never like hearing the truth so there's just no way to say that without pissing people off, unfortunately.

What constitutes "Truth?"

Offline Mathim

Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #21 on: August 12, 2014, 02:59:33 PM »
Verifiable facts vs. outdated, disproved claims, just like always.

Offline Sabby

Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #22 on: August 12, 2014, 03:00:28 PM »
The true or actual state of a matter. That which confirms with fact or reality.

Naturally, all this does is open up the question 'how do we determine what is likely true'. That is a whole other discussion and we could probably spend all day talking about things such as rationality, the scientific method, solipsism, standards of information... but as far as what truth is, there's your answer.

Offline Oniya

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Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #23 on: August 12, 2014, 03:02:28 PM »
Excuse me - this is veering in precisely the direction that the OP didn't want it to go. 

If you can't say something positive, please refrain from posting in this particular thread.

Offline Mathim

Re: In support of religions and spirituality
« Reply #24 on: August 12, 2014, 03:03:23 PM »
The true or actual state of a matter. That which confirms with fact or reality.

Naturally, all this does is open up the question 'how do we determine what is likely true'. That is a whole other discussion and we could probably spend all day talking about things such as rationality, the scientific method, solipsism, standards of information... but as far as what truth is, there's your answer.

Thanks for the support. Anyway, I've said my piece.