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  1. #31
    Boring old fossil Night's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    The true evil consists in the moral principles that guide them and their teachers are responsible for such principles, not the suicide bombers themselves. The latter merely thoughtlessly embrace what they are taught, their crime is not mass murder but thoughtlessness which is to be rectified by an education in critical thinking.
    I agree with your usage of the word "ostensibly" within the context of our present exchange - not only as a means to further clarify the intent of the "suicide bomber" and the ideology that he has contaminated his social ambition, but also to cleave our analysis away from a centralized religious slant.

    The perversion of doctrine you describe is not an end unto itself. It is merely a symptom of a larger thematic disorder. As I mentioned a few posts ago, the deviance is not singularly chained to broken religious thought (or, to your point, the inability to critically think). Human social mores -- things like culture; inferior economic status; familial tradition -- invariably play a substantial role in the germination and subsequent application of individual behavior.

    The suicide bomber did not begin as a fanatical zealot. Nor did the hierophant begin as a heretical offshoot. They were individually trained, after being exposed to various intellectual poisons that impossibly vary from culture to culture.

    Certainly, certain cultural systems have a higher probability of breeding maniacal thinkers. The elimination of religion - as an ideal - will not necessarily change the course of this fortune. On the contrary, vulnerability is often the primary catalyst for many schools of deviant thought. Destroying an institution that, for many, provides a healthy alternative to uncertainty and doubt seems counterintuitive to the base point of working to establish a positive psychological environment (one where critical learning can cultivate, for instance).

    Until we can find a means to harmoniously negotiate the infinitesimal, varied differences that plateau certain cultures while marginalizing others, we will always have patterns of thought and behavior that seek cultural equilibrium by any means necessary.

    Religion is not the problem. The problem might not have a solution.

  2. #32
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    Religion is an interesting topic. Organized religion did not exist in during hunting/gathering periods. As man evolved and began the process of farming/homesteading, it was not necessary to apply as much time and human resources to survival.

    Religion effectively evolved as a result of idle time. aka "Too much time on one's hands."

    However, a useful tool for organizing societies around leadership, and conscepts that led
    to and sustained the earliest civilizations. Without it mathematics, accounting, architecture, commerce, the arts, and a whole host of other institutions would not exist.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nunki View Post
    The last thing I'll say (most likely) is that your philosophy seems empty to me because I have no reason to favor "open-mindedness" over closed-mindedness. The only time someone wants another person to open their mind is when that other person happens to disagree with them on some point. It's just a clever way to get people to think like you. So, if I combine that with what I've already said in other posts, to me your whole argument can be summed up as "Stop believing in religion, because I dislike it, and start believing in logic and open-mindedness." But what if someone wants to practice "fundamentalism?" Maybe they're perfectly willing to embrace the consequences, just as you are the consequences of open-mindedness.
    That pretty much hits the nail on the head for me. It usually seems that one mans open-mindedness is another man's closed-mindedness. It all depends on what opinion you hold.

    In regards to open-mindedness being related to one being willing to question things, I would then ask is there a point where the 'question' is answered? If someone is open to questioning a position on morals, ethics, etc, but then decides on a definite answer to such questions, would they then be considered a 'fundamentalist' if they stuck to those answers? Take an extreme topic: child molestation. I'm sure there are some that advocate it. But is a person that initially considers it and then rejects the practice wholly to be accused of being closed-minded? And if they staunchy stick by their viewpoint and refuse to consider any arguments FOR child molestation, are they now a 'fundamentalist'?

    It is pretty evident that there are some people that are religiously inflexible in their position and perhaps truly do not question their beliefs. But that kind of view is in the extreme minority of adherents. I would wager that most religious persons have to some extent questioned their beliefs, but for whatever reasons have made definite decisions for or against those beliefs and are now willing to stand by that decision despite repeated pressure from others to reconsider. Unfortunately though, those that choose to embrace their religious beliefs are more often than not labeled as 'fundamentalist' and "closed-minded", whereas those that have chosen to reject religion are viewed as "open-minded'. Those stigmas are unfair to me.

  4. #34
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Night View Post
    I agree with your usage of the word "ostensibly" within the context of our present exchange - not only as a means to further clarify the intent of the "suicide bomber" and the ideology that he has contaminated his social ambition, but also to cleave our analysis away from a centralized religious slant.

    The perversion of doctrine you describe is not an end unto itself. It is merely a symptom of a larger thematic disorder. As I mentioned a few posts ago, the deviance is not singularly chained to broken religious thought (or, to your point, the inability to critically think). Human social mores -- things like culture; inferior economic status; familial tradition -- invariably play a substantial role in the germination and subsequent application of individual behavior.

    The suicide bomber did not begin as a fanatical zealot. Nor did the hierophant begin as a heretical offshoot. They were individually trained, after being exposed to various intellectual poisons that impossibly vary from culture to culture.

    Certainly, certain cultural systems have a higher probability of breeding maniacal thinkers. The elimination of religion - as an ideal - will not necessarily change the course of this fortune. On the contrary, vulnerability is often the primary catalyst for many schools of deviant thought. Destroying an institution that, for many, provides a healthy alternative to uncertainty and doubt seems counterintuitive to the base point of working to establish a positive psychological environment (one where critical learning can cultivate, for instance).

    Until we can find a means to harmoniously negotiate the infinitesimal, varied differences that plateau certain cultures while marginalizing others, we will always have patterns of thought and behavior that seek cultural equilibrium by any means necessary.

    Religion is not the problem. The problem might not have a solution.
    I think that we agree much more than you think.

    1. I do not dispute the claim that religion is not the primary cause of violence. The primary cause is, as you aptly noted, the combination of social and economic circumstances.

    2. As you have conceded, religion does push an already 'poisoned mind' to committ acts of violence. That and only that was my point, I never asserted that religion alone is to be blamed for violence. It is a supplemental cause and not the primary.

    3. Religion is the supplemental cause because it encourages the already contaminated minds to cease attempting to think critically and assume that their beliefs are incontrovertible. This should be enough to bring their already existing violent urges to the fore by compelling them to kill others.

    4. Will the elimination of religion help matters? Yes, as the contaminated minds in question will not have that aforementioned extra push. Will it eliminate the problem in entirety. Most likely not, as there are deeper, underpinning social causes that motivate violence.
    "Do not argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience." -- Mark Twain

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  5. #35
    Boring old fossil Night's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    I think that we agree much more than you think.
    Indeed. Your conclusions appear to mirror my own on the topic.

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    I think that we agree much more than you think.

    1. I do not dispute the claim that religion is not the primary cause of violence. The primary cause is, as you aptly noted, the combination of social and economic circumstances.

    2. As you have conceded, religion does push an already 'poisoned mind' to committ acts of violence. That and only that was my point, I never asserted that religion alone is to be blamed for violence. It is a supplemental cause and not the primary.

    3. Religion is the supplemental cause because it encourages the already contaminated minds to cease attempting to think critically and assume that their beliefs are incontrovertible. This should be enough to bring their already existing violent urges to the fore by compelling them to kill others.

    4. Will the elimination of religion help matters? Yes, as the contaminated minds in question will not have that aforementioned extra push. Will it eliminate the problem in entirety. Most likely not, as there are deeper, underpinning social causes that motivate violence.
    Then again there are other supplemantal causes. In the grand scheme of things the death toll attributed to religious cleansing is actually very small.

    Hitler didn't kill 12 million in the name of religion
    Stalin didn't kill about 60 million in the name of religion
    Saddam Husein didn't kill, God knows how many, in the name of religion
    Mussolini didn't kill millions in the name of religion.

    There are millions more who killed millions just because they seeked power.

    2. Religion does not push someone towards violence, they do. Everyone has free will. Religion does not strap a bomb to some and press the switch in the super market, he does. Religion can act as a posion, but free will can cure the poison. I do not blame religion, and never will. I will always blame the person. They choose to do what they do because they believe what they do it right and what they do has to be carried out.
    This is the same as some middle school kid being pressured by his friends(religion) to fight the guy who tripped him in the hall the other day. He can choose to fight or not to fight. To say the reason why he fought is because his friends pressured him is false, his friends gave him and alternate path to chose. He then decides what to do, fight or flight.

    3. Religion doesn't encourage anyone. In the end, people carry out things out of free will. No matter what you are told you will ultimately be the master of your actions. Blaming something else is the easy way out to not accepting responsibility.

    I think what you should have said is that a large amount of people are weak minded and easily fall prey to pressure/manipulation. You always have free will, no matter what. Religion is not the problem, man is.

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soujiro View Post
    I think what you should have said is that a large amount of people are weak minded and easily fall prey to pressure/manipulation. You always have free will, no matter what. Religion is not the problem, man is.
    But does religion teach you to have a strong mind or to follow blindly? Isnt religion tied to faith? If a strong mind is built around faith and faith falters, what happens to the mind?

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by poki View Post
    But does religion teach you to have a strong mind or to follow blindly? Isnt religion tied to faith? If a strong mind is built around faith and faith falters, what happens to the mind?
    No, religion does not teach you to follow it blindly, people make the conscious choice to follow it blindly.

    If someone's faith falters, then they have other choices/paths they can choose. Find a new faith/belief system, see why your current faith faltered and maybe make changes, evaluate whether they really associated themselves with the faltered faith because they wanted to or because they blinded followed others like sheep, etc.

    Someone's faith faltering doesn't bring about the end of the world, and the sooner they realize that the better so that they can heal. They might be in a state of shock, but that state of shock doesn't make them go kill the people who brought down their faith, they do. They believe that the only way to cure that state of shock is to get rid of what caused that state of shock to begin with, and thus they carry out an action. In the end they chose to do that, they could have done something else, but they chose that path. Hence, once again going back to free will. Religion is not to blame, man is.

  9. #39
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soujiro View Post
    No, religion does not teach you to follow it blindly, people make the conscious choice to follow it blindly.

    If someone's faith falters, then they have other choices/paths they can choose. Find a new faith/belief system, see why your current faith faltered and maybe make changes, evaluate whether they really associated themselves with the faltered faith because they wanted to or because they blinded followed others like sheep, etc.

    Someone's faith faltering doesn't bring about the end of the world, and the sooner they realize that the better so that they can heal. They might be in a state of shock, but that state of shock doesn't make them go kill the people who brought down their faith, they do. They believe that the only way to cure that state of shock is to get rid of what caused that state of shock to begin with, and thus they carry out an action. In the end they chose to do that, they could have done something else, but they chose that path. Hence, once again going back to free will. Religion is not to blame, man is.
    I think poki's suggestion was that religion encourages people to follow doctrines blindly because it urges them to accept religious doctrines regardless of whether or not in his judgment they are congenial. Rick Warren has famously stated that a good Christian is one who obeys God's commands even if doing so makes no sense. Throughout the Purpose Driven Life and a variety of other writings we keep on seeing the message that a true believer trusts not his own judgment, but that of God. He or she does not question God's word.

    Hence, if this is the message of our typical religion, then there is a clear and a direct command to obey blindly. Certainly you may say that a person does not have to accept this. He has every right to stop believing in religion, but religion alone does not encourage him to do so or to develop a belief that he may abandon religion if he thinks that this is fitting. In fact, religion does the opposite, it insists that a good person is one who has unshakeable faith, for only he will enjoy eternal bliss. Yet, whoever ceases to have religious conviction shall suffer eternal perdition.

    From what I could tell is that people are responsible for their actions because they are fully capable of making their own decisions regardless of what religion has to say with respect to their choices, but religion undermines their right to do so by telling them that they should adhere dogmatically to a certain set of beliefs. It undercuts their 'free will' by stating that they have surrendered their lives to God and now He and only he is the decision maker in their lives. Many of such religious folks believe that God commands them to engage in terrorism.

    Do they have a choice not to do that? Certainly, but the presence of religion in their lives makes opting to make such a decision drastically more difficult. Who is to be blamed for acts of violence, men or religion? Men are, you are absolutely right. How is religion at fault then? Because it puts them in a very difficult situation by inhibiting their volition on a profound level by convincing them that a higher power is in control of their lives and their business is not to make decisions, but merely to obey orders that they will never fully understand.
    "Do not argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience." -- Mark Twain

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  10. #40
    Allergic to Mornings ergophobe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    The quantity of principles that are regarded as unquestionable determines how much a religion adheres to fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is the thesis that some views in the worldview are unquestionable. All religions are fundamentalistic by definition, yet because there are degrees of fundamentalism, some are necessarily more fundamentalistic than others.
    Religions themselves are not fundamentalist, followers are

    Religions are dangerous on the account that fundamentalism discourages critical thought. Fundamentalism also encourages people to believe that some of their views are unquestionable.
    Chicken or egg - the lack of critical thought leads to fundamentalism.

    For example, many Muslims believe that those who use Islam to justify violence are distorting the scripture. Is Islam blameless?
    It's not many Muslims, it's most Islamic scholars. Again, how can a religion be assigned blame? Religions don't have agency, interpreters and followers do.

    No, it is not. Islam has discouraged people from thinking critically inevitably placed them in a position where they are likely to interpret scripture in an undisciplined fashion, or simply put, interpret it however they please. Is Islam intrinsically more objectionable than other creeds?
    The lack of critical thinking discouraged people from taking a more moderate approach to religion, regardless of type. How is one religion, particularly one whose main tenet is "There is no compulsion in religion" more objectionable than others? No other holy book stresses the importance of reason, actually thinking carefully about issues as much as the Quran.

    Possibly true, as after all Christians, Jews and Buddhists do not attempt to justify violence nearly as much as Muslims do. However, is this solely the fault of Islam? Possibly because this religion is unopposed by secular authority and the Muslims who commit violence face few intellectual challengers to their views.
    I think some historical perspective is important here. The crusades were led by Christians.... In fact, Muslims who commit violence face a lot of intellectual challenges to their views. Please pay attention to the media that addresses an Islamic population -- these extremists are often seen as heretics and isolated minorities from within the larger Islamic communities. Western media presents the majorities rather poorly.

    Christians, however, most prominently in the Western Europe and North America are forced to question their beliefs on a daily basis because they are forced to deal with a separation of a church and state. However, the same could be said with respect to Islam in Europe or in the United States. Notably, Islamic extremists are much more common in the Middle East and Africa than in Europe or the United States. Thus, there are different kinds of Islam and Christianity. Some forms of Islam are more rigid than others, and the same can be said with respect to Christianity.
    We must be viewing North America and Western Europe from alternate universes? Separation of Church and State is only complete in countries where there is forced secularism such as Turkey. Every other country has different amounts of church and state influencing each other. In North America and Western Europe, religion has a strong influence on both public opinion towards government policy as well the positions taken by legislators themselves. Umm, Catholicism in Southern Europe? The separation of church and state is a fallacy even in the United States. Any time gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research...you name it is brought up both public and legislators look towards their religion for guidance. All religions look to influence all aspects of human life, Islam is not an exception.

    Also let's not forget, historical perspective again -- the only theocratic state in the world is Iran. Yes it is based on Islam and led by a cleric. What explains the system we see there today? Well, a democratically elected leader was removed by Britain and the United States and replaced by a monarch who was eventually removed through the revolution which led to the theocracy. In the only country where a religious leader is the head of state, it wasn't religion that led to this outcome, it was external intervention.

    When you compare the United States and Western Europe to the Middle East and North Africa, you are not just comparing majority Christian states with majority Islamic ones, you are comparing mainly authoritarian states with democracies. Let's keep that in mind. Democracies have different compulsions than authoritarian states, many of which have been influenced and kept stable by American support and/or oil. The U.S. supports Saudi Arabia and Egypt both of which are repressive states that quash opposition.

    Authoritarian regimes allow for less questioning, of authority - religious or otherwise. Democracies allow for more diverse views to be expressed. We observe the consequences -- diverse religious views expressed in the Western states in the government itself while fewer diverse views are expressed in the governments we observe in the Middle East and Africa. There, the diversity that does exist in the public is not reflected in the government (see Egypt -- the government supports one type of Islam while the majority of citizens follow a completely different type). This is not a consequence of the religion but of the type of government - authoritarian.

    Having said the above, Islam itself is not antithetical to democracy, why do we see it survive in Turkey (>90% Muslim)? Why did Indonesia, the world's largest Islamic state, by population have its second democratic election?


    I understand the point you're making about different types of Islam and Christianity but it's not really borne by the empirical evidence. Several terrorists that emerged in the attacks in Britain and in South Asia were actually British citizens, indoctrinated in extremist religious organizations in yes, Western Europe, not Middle East or Africa. Wahabbism, the type of Islam connected to extremism (with little support from the majority) originated in and is still funded by groups in Saudi Arabia, a prominent Western ally and a repressive monarchy. Your later point about relative poverty in these communities and one you didn't make about political exclusion would be more compelling explanations for the rise of these extremist religious groups in Britain, for example.

    As a result, can we conclude that Islam is intrinsically more rigid than Christianity? That is unclear. In order to answer this question we would need to know of a one way correct way to interpret both holy books. At this point, such a feat cannot be accomplished. Language and culture in which both of these holy books were written have changed drastically and we lack much of the important information to construct the proper interpretation of both works. Moreover, even if we did, both works are high on figurative, poetical and ambiguous content which makes constructing a plausible interpretation of either of these books an onerous task.
    In addition, there is so much additional diversity of views within Islam -- Shi'a interpretations, for example, are quite different from Sunni interpretations. Shi' ites believe that the Quran can be continued to be interpreted over time (iran) whereas Sunnis tend to believe that interpretations from the 10th century should apply today. In both communities, there are prominent reformists who push for more progressive interpretations.


    On the one hand, we see that religion, and Islam most prominently, can produce kind and peace loving people, yet on the other, fanatics who are willing to kill thousands in favor of their beliefs. Is religion to be blamed for this?
    Whether the Crusades, centuries before or the fundamentalists using Islam or Hinduism or Christianity today -- religion does not produce anything. Leaders, religious and secular co-opt and twist the religion for strategic purposes. This is not isolated to any one religion.

    Certainly because this is a result of people believing that their views are incontrovertible. This, however, is not the entirety of the problem. If someone merely believes that their views are indisputably true, he or she will not have the sufficient motivation to kill thousands. After all, a very high degree of aggression is necessary in order for people to behave in such an ignominious manner. Is religion solely responsible for the problem? Certainly not, as there is a variety of reasons why people became intensely aggressive, poverty or oppression are clear-cut examples of such reasons. Does religion contribute to the problem? It certainly does on the account that it discourages people from being open-minded and compels them to believe that they are right only because a sacred text or a divine authority insists that they are.
    I completely agree with you that religion is an issue on which people are unwilling to be open-minded or question their views. Is this really an isolated problem with Islam? Stop a regular Baptist in the south eastern part of the United States or central parts of Canada and ask them how questionable their beliefs are...really, people who wanted evolution taken out of textbooks. Yeah, that's how much people question their beliefs regularly here.


    In addition to Islam, Stalinistic violence is an example of religion entailing violence...Stalinism was arguably as legalistic as many groups of contemporary extremist Islam. It is therefore unsurprising that these were the religions guilty of the most violence in the world.
    Again, how far back are you going to go to support this view? The Crusades led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

    Although religion is not the sole cause of violence, and in many violent acts is not the cause of violence, it is certainly striking that the majority of violent acts today are committed for a religious cause. For this reason, it is important to eradicate religion from contemporary education. All that separates religion from philosophy is the last principle, or the incontrovertibility axiom, which is the proposition that some views must be accepted as unquestionable. If this principle is to be eliminated, the religious influence in the contemporary society will decline significantly.
    The majority of violence is conducted over resources and could be attached to language (Sri Lanka)/religion/ethnicity. Removing religion just removes one cleavage - one source of difference. To remove all sources of conflict, we'll have to remove all cleavages, all differences. At that point, we'll all look the same. No diversity at all.

    This is to be accomplished by restructuring the program of education where critical thinking is emphasized more and no effort is made to convince the children that any view is unquestionable. Slowly, a society will emerge where people will not have a need to believe in things that are unsupported by arguments but merely feel pleasant to believe in. When that is accomplished, there simply will not be any further need for religion.
    Yes! When can we apply this widely in the Southern United States and Europe? I'm up for it!

    One additional point:
    Those adults, especially from third-world countries that are dominated by religious thought have not developed their critical thinking skills.
    Extremist Islam originated in Saudi Ariabia - no third world country. It's one of the richest in the world since the oil boom. Also, it's a small point but no one really uses the term third world any more. It's a remnant of the cold war era.

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