Are the benefits of religion greater than the costs to society?:

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Three-Puppet Saluter
Civilizations threatening other civilizations don't stop being threats because they have an import-based economy with a third party. (And Crusaders sacking Constantinople makes no sense from a geopolitical or a religious standpoint. It's just people being short-sighted plunderers.)
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52 USAF7135th Dec 2011 04:45:24 PM from the United States
I changed accounts.
And yet a monk discovered genetic selection. I remain unconvinced.

They must call it the "Fertile Crescent" for nothing, then. Also, major trade route = fuckton of money to be made, back then.
I am now known as Flyboy.
Adveho in mihi Lucifer
Who didn't even want to be a monk.

The "Fertile Crescent" thing was long gone by the time when the Crusades occured. And it was mostly by the Nile and Euphrates/Tigris anyway.
A single phrase renders Christianity a delusional cult
54 Pykrete5th Dec 2011 08:02:50 PM from Viridian Forest
Most religions do encourage charity and good-will towards others, and donate food and medical supplies to the needy. I'm enough of an optimist, though, that I feel humans would follow these practices with or without a religion actively encouraging them.

Unfortunately it's measurably far less than you think.

AIDS crisis in Africa would have been contained if not for the Catholic church's problems with condoms. So millions of people die from AIDS because we refused to spend our money sending Africa protection, all due to religious misgivings about contraception.

As stated before, they don't have that much say in the matter, and even if they did, you are aware that some 90% of the Catholic Church up to and including a huge portion of its clergy is in favor of contraception? Hell, most of the current Pope's opposition to it right now is because some idiot said Humanae Vitae was infallible, JPII supported it because it was a pet peeve for him, and that means nobody can go back on it directly without killing infallibility dogma* . Which we should have done ages ago anyway.

Furthermore, Africa's got some mind-breakingly nasty issues about that. Blue Ninja named several. Another particularly depressing one is that certain high-paying clients of prostitution often pay more when allowed to have sex unprotected, and an impoverished prostitute doesn't really have any say in the matter if she wants to have food.

The general progress of science is often held up by religious groups, even in such cases where the research in question has obvious benefits to society at large. Case in point, Perry's recent denials of global warming, motivated by appealing to the anti-science platform of the religious right, has cast doubt on legitimate scientific concerns at a time when the opportunity to stave off the worst consequences of global warming is fast reaching a critical point of no return. Then there's the opposition to famine-ending genetic engineering, the denial of evolution by religious groups which undermines efforts to stop bacteria from evolving antibiotic resistances, opposition to euthanasia when quality of life in the patient is unbearable...I could go on, but I think you see what I mean.

Eeeenope. Historically, religious institutions have been strongholds of knowledge, and any inhibition of things was usually political pissing matches or social elite trying to keep people in check by any means possible. Climate change issues today are stymied by people who have business interests against fixing the problem. In fact, there are several religious movements springing up that see conservation of God's creation as a sacred duty (just met a nice grassroots group in Idaho). Genetic engineering isn't even likely to be the tipping point for anything anyhow — farmland can be conserved far more effectively by just not eating ruminant meat and shooting down ethanol fuel. Opposition to euthanasia has jack all to do with science.

Most conflicts on Earth are caused by religious differences. Pakistan vs. India, the USSR vs. USA, the mess in the Middle East (Shiite vs. Sunni vs. Jews vs. Christians vs. Zoroastrianism vs. etc.), conflicts all over Africa (such as Sudan), unrest in Southern Mexico, Southeast Asia, and to some extent Russia vs. its former Soviet satellites (atheism/Orthodoxy vs. Islam).

...have you actually read a history book before? Pakistan vs. India is a cornucopia of cultural issues, scarcity of resources, and political backstabbing, of which religion is only one factor — pretty soon it'll be as much about water shortage in Kashmir river sources as everything else combined (thanks glacial retreat!). Saying Communism vs. the world was about religion is like saying Lord of the Rings is about Boromir. Mexico and SE Asia have problems mostly relating to being run by hideously exploitative hierarchies, in the former case a goddamn drug cartel.

And finally, all those cases where an otherwise intelligent and pro-active person decides that a problem is "in god's hands" and fails to act when they could have prevented a coming disaster. You see this kind of talk a lot concerning our failures to protect the environment for ourselves, but I believe it permeates through all levels of society and basically accumulates to the point that it obstructs and hinders the progress of human society towards a technological utopia.

Funny. Most of the religions I know of emphasize hard work, doing God's will instead of just talking about it, and know...sloth.

Also lol technological utopia.

I have been to Africa, and I have seen how missionaries have misled the natives into thinking that condoms are cursed and will cause your genitals to wither away because they are against God's wishes, and how the church deludes Africans into believing that the first step towards modernity and the wealth it brings is to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.

And meanwhile, my church's missions specifically train missionaries not to so much as mention God unless first asked. Also, overwhelming internal dissent on the matter in the first place.

Over time as medical advances increase our age and we learn not only how to coexist with the rest of nature but to promote its growth on other planets, we slowly come to realize that the REAL gods are ourselves.

Oh, narcissism. Awesome. Totally a good substitute for an introspective system of ethical standards.

And even that is apart from countries like Japan, known for both a high atheist population and a strong work ethic.

And...suicide rate :|

It is now. For a while it was not

Local bishops were a crapshoot like they are on pretty much everything ever, but the Vatican on the whole has never once been opposed to evolution. At worst, it was no comment on the topic, and a warning against taking scientific findings in general to conclusions of materialism.

Most of said large cities were thriving due to parasitism from richer terrains.

...that has to be the most spectacular understatement I've ever seen concerning the impact of a backbone for a major trade route to the Orient at a time when everyone had to navigate some of the most perilous deserts in the world on foot.

Look, I'll be the first to admit religions have some serious problems. But to point at all these issues and say "religion did it!" is more often than not very, very intellectually lazy and a massive oversimplification of complex interplay and power struggles. It's been used as a means by political leaders simply because it's supposed to be an obligation that supersedes that to country — they had to twist things to line those up before they could go a-conquering much of anywhere.

edited 5th Dec '11 8:11:32 PM by Pykrete

Proud Canadian
The "Fertile Crescent" thing was long gone by the time when the Crusades occured

Not to nitpick, but it grew infertile directly after, with the Mongols rape of the irrigation systems in Iraq.

On "athiestic" communism:

The USSR was anti-religion secondarily. By that I mean that the policy of athiesm wasn't a founding principle, but rather a way of protecting socialism from any ideas that might contradict totalitarian communism.

So saying "athiest countries were wors or just as bad" ignores why they did it.
If you don't like a single Frank Ocean song, you have no soul.
56 Pykrete5th Dec 2011 08:18:58 PM from Viridian Forest
Yeah, the sticking point with that was that they looked at the same thing crusaders did — religion as a higher obligation than that to the state — and instead of using it, they saw it as a threat to their power and tried to exterminate it. Because you're not gonna get away with genocide and shit for long with those pesky hippies spreading subversive garbage like "thou shalt not murder" and "render unto God what is God's" and "seriously Stalin what the fuck is this ethnic cleansing shit."

Which brings up a very important point: religion is in many ways a wildcard of sorts that resists the state growing too powerful and unchallenged. That alone is a reason to keep it around.

edited 5th Dec '11 8:25:41 PM by Pykrete

57 USAF7135th Dec 2011 08:34:08 PM from the United States
I changed accounts.

That doesn't really excuse it.

In the predominantly Christian US, the worst an atheist could expect, by and large, was shunning from the community. In the anti-theistic Soviet Union, religious people were executed.


Eh... religion isn't necessarily good for that. It tends to become the state, if allowed...

edited 5th Dec '11 8:34:35 PM by USAF713

I am now known as Flyboy.
58 TheEarthSheep5th Dec 2011 09:26:25 PM from a Pasture hexagon
Christmas Sheep
Hold on guys, I've seen a prevalent theme in some of your arguments: That Religion and Science are, and have always been, diametrically opposed. This is patently false.

Even discounting the fact that a significant portion of scientists remain religious, for 95% of human history, the only literate people you could find in Europe were either scribes or monks. In most of the Western world, only people in monasteries did any kind of science at all. They also had an enormous impact on other forms of culture, as they are also the only ones who wrote books. Back in the East, I'm not sure about Literacy levels, but I do know that the monasteries of Eastern religions are and have always been very scientific.
Still Sheepin'
Moar and Moar and Moar
Well, it was more of if you are religious in such a way that it interferes with the power of the movement, but whatever.

One thing that I honestly think is that we're at a bit of a high tide (or a low tide, depending on your point of view) in terms of the role of religion in our world. Not that we're at the peak of all time, just that it's...higher than normal, and it's fairly recent, the last few decades or so. I think religion is much more anti-science now than it was just a few decades ago, as an example. It may be a temporary thing, but it may require change to get things back in balance.

Hell, I think religion tends to be much more anti-science and pro-bad stuff than it was 5 or 10 years ago.

But by and large it's a knee-jerk reaction, a backlash of sorts, against increasing secularism in the world. Or just perceived secularism for that matter. (I'll be honest. Some of the religious complaints along these lines really are delusional. Like the whole "War on Christmas" claptrap that comes up this time every year as of late.) Which means that it could be the fault of secularists, but I'd more say it's the fault of increased communications technology increasing our friction with those around us dramatically.

But that's not to say that it's going to always be this way or it's something inherent in religion. Now, I think it's something inherent in hardcore theism, which is the direction in which religion as a whole seems to be moving towards, but that doesn't HAVE to be the case.

[up] That's very true. One thing people should realize is that in most cases, when people move into serious theological study, they move away from the sort of hardcore theism that I talk about in the last paragraph there. An old friend IN seminary told me, seminary is where god goes to die.

This is why religion and science don't really have to be in conflict, and they only are when basically laypeople get their hands on the wheel and make the easy, obvious conclusion that a god that directly controls everything is the answer to everything. And that's what is happening right now. And it's happened on occasion in the past, as well. The threat is always there. But it's not mandatory or automatic by any means.

edited 5th Dec '11 9:39:27 PM by Karmakin

Democracy is the process in which we determine the government that we deserve
60 Pykrete5th Dec 2011 10:17:11 PM from Viridian Forest
Some of the religious complaints along these lines really are delusional. Like the whole "War on Christmas" claptrap that comes up this time every year as of late.

Funny you should mention that. Oregon State just had a presentation by a guy arguing that Christmas is bad and should be removed altogether. It was pretty cringeworthy, but yeah, it is a thing.

edited 5th Dec '11 10:18:39 PM by Pykrete

61 USAF7135th Dec 2011 10:20:18 PM from the United States
I changed accounts.
I am now known as Flyboy.
[up]Christmas isn't even a Christian holiday - its a Roman feast celebrating the god Saturn (the Saturnalia) that the Christians co-opted (because its easier to convert someone when you promise not to take away their holidays). Saturnalia featured gift-giving and wreaths (which is why you hang a wreath from your door):
63 USAF7135th Dec 2011 10:27:15 PM from the United States
I changed accounts.
Yes, yes, I've heard the "CHRISTMAS IS A PAGAN HOLIDAY!" crap for the last 5 years or so.

Who cares? At this point it's just another victim of globalized commercialization—proof that even Western Christian culture cannot stand against the viciousness of democratic-industrial systems, which are the real—if necessary—culture killers.

edited 5th Dec '11 10:27:48 PM by USAF713

I am now known as Flyboy.
Adveho in mihi Lucifer
Hold on guys, I've seen a prevalent theme in some of your arguments: That Religion and Science are, and have always been, diametrically opposed. This is patently false.

Indeed, but abrahamic religions form a strict dogma about what is true or false, and thus it is not the least bit surprising Xianity and Islam are the biggest players against scientific progress in modern days.

All things considered, though, religion vs science is not as much bothersome as in terms of social progress.

edited 6th Dec '11 5:01:45 AM by Gannetwhale

A single phrase renders Christianity a delusional cult
Pro-Freedom Fanatic
Actually the Middle East was a very fertile place... 'Cause the first civilizations built irrigation channels throughout that very same barren wasteland.
You exist because we allow it and you will end because we demand it.
66 cityofmist6th Dec 2011 05:45:39 AM from Meanwhile City
turning and turning
My (tentative) answer to the question: No.

Qualification of above: I think that, on balance, the negative effects of religion (can cause international conflicts, can lead to oppression of various group, can hold back scientifical and medical progress, and can severely restrict social liberalism, in some cases) outweigh the benefits it brings to society (encourages charity, creates a sense of community, lots of people get a lot of happiness out of it). However, I'm pretty sure that the sudden disappearance of all religion, even if it happened totally of its own accord or for an independent reason, would have some very bad consequences, and I certainly don't believe in the restriction of religion, that's never going to end well.

My view on what should be done: Not much. A couple of people mentioned the British monarchy, and I think that's an excellent analogy for what I'm trying to say. I don't personally believe in the British monarchy, and sometimes it irritates me how much other people believe in it. When you give too much political power to the monarchy, bad things happen. However, just having it around doesn't have any particularly terrible effects if you do it in a sensible way, and it makes a lot of people happy. What I, personally, think should happen regarding the British monarchy is exactly what is happening: it's still there, it's still an important and historic institution, it has little political and decreasing social power, people are slowly losing interest in it over time but there's no pressure to do so and it's still around for those who like it. In my opinion, all of the above either do or should apply to religion.

So I suppose my more detailed answer to the question is: Probably not, but there's no justifiable way to actively get rid of it so let's just concentrate on more pressing issues and let people decide for themselves what they want to believe in.

edited 6th Dec '11 5:46:36 AM by cityofmist

Scepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom.
- Clarence Darrow
Proud Canadian
[up][up]It wasn't wasteland back then, that's my point. It detiorated due to overfarming and irrigation failure.

@USAF: I didn't excuse Soviet atrocities, I'm just giving information.

edited 6th Dec '11 3:39:59 PM by Erock

If you don't like a single Frank Ocean song, you have no soul.
68 DeMarquis6th Dec 2011 04:32:15 PM from Hell, USA , Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
@Karmakin: "...I'm talking about looking at those beliefs on an individual basis, seeing what they mean and looking at their positive and negative external and internal effects (and remember, external is valued higher than internal, but it's not infinitely so) and forming an opinion thusly."

Not sure what you could mean by external > internal. Could you explain?

"It's different than how many religious leaders want us to look at religion, where if it's religious it must be pure as the driven snow. And maybe some atheist writers/speakers, are the opposite, however, I'll be honest. It's not as much as you guys think. Most non-believers value freedom of religion, of course."

Do I really need to point out that what you say about atheist scholars is equally true of religious ones?

"However, what's not valued is the idea that religion should be above criticism. Quite frankly, nothing should be. And that's where the problem is. That's where most of the costs come from. And you can remove it without removing the religious just happens to involve some people giving up some power"

Cant disagree with that.

I do not compromise—I synthesize.
Moar and Moar and Moar
External is the effects of the belief outside of the group and internal is the effects of the believe inside the group. I think from an ethical point of view external effects should be weighted heavier than internal effects. (It doesn't matter how much warm and fuzzies you get from an action that hurts people with some significance, in other words)

And while I do agree with you in concept, I do think that people way overblow (and I'm not the only one, this is a HUGE point of contention in non-belief circles, meaning there are people on both sides of the argument) the influence of the "sophisticated theology" (that's the term apologists use for it) that you're talking about. For some reason, said theology isn't getting down to the average layperson at all, and that's what is important. It's less important what some smart people come up with in order to intellectually and ethically justify their beliefs, than it is what the culture as a whole does with the message as given.

And if that message isn't correct (and to be fair, I do not believe it is) the question then becomes what can be done to fix it. Personally, I advocate stopping using the term "God" to define what are deistic or pantheistic beliefs, which really is what that sophisticated theology is, more or less. But I'm an outsider, you and other people might have better ideas. Unfortunately, people seem to get REALLY defensive about this stuff.

edited 6th Dec '11 4:57:40 PM by Karmakin

Democracy is the process in which we determine the government that we deserve
70 DeMarquis6th Dec 2011 05:57:28 PM from Hell, USA , Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
Well, here's the thing- I dont believe that anyone can sincerely adopt ideological beliefs because of "external effects", or even "internal effects" if you meant "internal to the group" but external to the person adopting them- in other words, you can only believe something is true for internal reasons- because they strike you as being true. This is the basic difference between objective beliefs (such as scientific hypotheses) and subjective beliefs (such as religious faith). The two are simply incomensurable.

Of course, it depends on which religious beliefs you are talking about. IF a religion makes a claim about the objective state of affairs ("intelligent design") that particular claim is fair game. It can and should be evaluated according to objective standards ("but what about all those fossils?").

Religious faith itself isn't an objective claim, and therefore cant be evaluated according to criteria of "correct" or "incorrect". There is no test, so such considerations simply do not apply. Such a belief is "right" if someone decides they really believe them.

I'm one of those people who think that religion and science should stick to separate domains- using science to make a claim about spiritual meaning, or using religion to make a verifiable claim about the universe, is trying to use the wrong cognitive tool.

At first, it sounded like you thought that faith itself had negative consequences for society. Now it appears that you don't, and so perhaps we don't actually disagree.

Oh- and as for the lack of comprehension laypeople have regarding sophisticated theology- I wouldn't place much trust in their understanding of sophisticated science, either.

edited 6th Dec '11 5:59:55 PM by DeMarquis

I do not compromise—I synthesize.
If religion still exists its because it either enhances or doesnt hinders natural selection too much.

So I would argue for it being benefitial, at least in primitive societies.

In Modern day society... maybe then it becomes detrimental. Secular societies are certainly the most advance.

edited 6th Dec '11 6:00:06 PM by Baff

I will always cherish the chance of a new beggining.
72 USAF7136th Dec 2011 06:16:58 PM from the United States
I changed accounts.
Well, frankly, I don't see why anybody complains. Sociology long ago predicted the death of overt religion, and it is generally a natural phenomenon. Saying that "everybody should let go of their silly beliefs!" is patronizing and annoying, given that the best you can offer for you own strong assertion that there is no supernatural—as far as we currently understand—other being is the absence of visible evidence and thus is not particularly compelling for anything other than soft, agnostic atheism at best.

In other words, what you're asking for is already happening, albeit gradually and sometimes intermittently. So...

edited 6th Dec '11 6:18:04 PM by USAF713

I am now known as Flyboy.
religion = training wheels. it could have helped lance armstrong learn to ride a bike when he was a kid, but they'll just slow him down now.

religion was a nice shortcut to get everyone to behave a few thousand years ago, but these days it's just an extra weight on society. religions have the disregard and misinterpretation of facts as their very foundation; those are the very things we need more of to actually understand the world and make it a better place.

i'll be as patronizing and annoying as i have to be. if someone told me they could channel the power of christ to heal cancer, i'll mock them. if someone believes that people can only be good because of the fear of punishment, i'll mock them as well.

edited 6th Dec '11 7:02:26 PM by willyolio

74 USAF7136th Dec 2011 07:15:08 PM from the United States
I changed accounts.
If you want to be a holier-than-thou, annoying preacher about what you believe, you go right ahead.

Point is, instead of blaming religion—which at its most basic is merely a given ideal system with bits and pieces tacked on for the purposes of metaphysical justification—you should blame the people who twist it—though I will grant that there are belief systems that are in fact unworkable and unacceptable in reality, or at least have aspects of their beliefs that are unworkable and unacceptable by their nature... in my opinion, at least—and attack said twisting, rather than blaming the ideals themselves.
I am now known as Flyboy.
[up]nope. read my point again. it's not the people doing any twisting: all religions, fundamentally, force people to disregard facts in order to maintain their facade. when a person discovers a fact that may contradict said religion, the religion urges them to choose between the fact and their "facts". this is an inherent evil and slows down progress of the human race as a whole.

and yes, while you can call me preachy, i am fully prepared to back my statements up with facts and evidence. something religion has never done before.

edited 6th Dec '11 7:23:35 PM by willyolio

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