TV Tropes Org

Forums

search forum titles
google site search
Total posts: [194]  1  2  3  4  5
6
 7 8

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

 126 Owlman, Thu, 8th Dec '11 11:36:10 AM from Doesn't matter.
It doesn't matter.
I like it when everyone turns out to have been agreeing in the first place. Misunderstandings can cause such strife...
I don't want to set the world on fire, baby. I love you too much. I just want to start a big, big flame in your heart.
 127 De Marquis, Thu, 8th Dec '11 1:51:17 PM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
Or increase understanding...

So- what came first, the chicken or the egg? Do doctrinal statements that seek to rationalize the exclusion of certain populations from the benefits of being included within the moral community cause the resulting exclusion, or do underlying economic and other circumstances provide triggers for exclusionary competition between groups, providing an incentive for developing exclusionary language?

If the first, if language (or as I put it earlier- "belief content") is the driver of behavior, then changing the language should change the behavior. Get CC's (Conservative Christians) to admit that homosexuality isn't wrong, and homosexuals will receive better treatment. If the second, then changing language (official doctrines) will be too difficult and not effective enough. Instead, you attack bigotry in general, and support individual rights, generate public support for those values ("memes") and the treatment that excluded populations receive will improve, even if official doctrines lag behind (and not only of churches, but all social institutions, including academia, the law, and popular media).

Now, obviously actual history is more complicated than that, and an effective campaign to improve minority treatment will involve both strategies. I might make an argument that every instance of actual social change that I am aware of more closely resembled the second approach than the first, but that isn't the topic of this thread.

The question, I presume, is whether or not religion itself, not specific denominations nor groups of religious people with extreme views (however vocal and organized politically they may be) but Religion itself, is so inherently slanted toward authoritarian treatment of vulnerable populations that the very fact of a common faith within a society delivers more costs than benefits. (If that isn't the question, then I don't know what we are discussing).

I don't see a case. Obviously I'm personally biased in this matter, and I have already stated the argument that, even if that assertion (of greater social costs) were true, that would provide no plausible reason why any individual should give up their faith. But let's take this argument on it's own merits.

It's true that human societies often treat groups of people unequally and unfairly. The question is why. Given what Fighteer and I have already agreed ("... that although religious doctrine has often been used as a justification of authoritarianism, it is only one among many such tools, not all authoritarian regimes have used it, not all religious doctrines have been used that way, and that it has also been just as frequently used as a way of undermining the claims of a ruling regime?") surely it is more plausible, albeit depressing, that out-group treatment is much more likely to be the result of some fundamental cognitive mechanism, most likely operating below the level of consciousness? Something much more fundamental than the specific content of religious doctrines, which are, after all, limited and temporary regarding time and place.

The enemy of justice isn't religion, it's prejudice. There is religious prejudice, of course, but that is surely the effect of prejudice affecting religious beliefs, and not the other way around. During the 1930's the psychologist Gordon Alport wrote a book "On Prejudice" in which, based on the experimental evidence of the time, he proposed that prejudice is the result of a simple minimal condition- the arbitrary assignment of people to groups. I am aware of a mountain of research on game theory which has basically corroborated that. But he also proposed that prejudice can be overcome under three conditions: Equal status contact in pursuit of common goals with institutional support. In other words, when people struggle together to solve their problems, they will change their attitudes toward one another, provided that they receive some degree of support from the outside social environment.

Alport was Jewish, and wrote extensively on anti-semitism. Nowhere does he propose reducing the influence of Christianity within society, or of religion in general, despite the evidence that he himself documented that Christians were often anti-semetic. He found a much more plausible explanation, and a more effective solution. You might as well ask for the abolishment of human in-groups, which of course can never happen.

You are mistaking a symptom for the cause. The causal chain goes the other way. Uplift the personal attitudes of individual people, and I think you will find that they will stop using religion, or any other "official docrine" as an excuse to exploit one another.
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
Moar and Moar and Moar
Indeed. And that's a valid point. I'm not saying that I'm right and everybody else is wrong. It's simply my opinion. (And to be honest it's one that's often not shared even by other "opponents" of religion) In fact, my opinion now is a fairly recent one, that came to me from actually speaking/talking to religious individuals for an extended period of time.

To be honest, my stance on religion comes down to one simple line.

The problem is the privilege.

It doesn't matter if it comes from the beliefs or if the beliefs come from the desired community structure, if it's socially and culturally unacceptable to criticize this, then it's a problem.

Democracy is the process in which we determine the government that we deserve
 129 De Marquis, Thu, 8th Dec '11 3:04:47 PM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
Oh sure, but in that case, any privileged value system is a problem. I would have thought that there were other ideologies that are much more problematic. Like, say, nationalism. Or class elitism. But privileged religious belief structures should be criticized along with everything else.
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
Moar and Moar and Moar
Yup. It's just that in some situations it's the religious aspect that takes center stage. And some has a lot of cross-over appeal. (take for example the growth of materialistic predeterminism and the rise of far-right economics, which turns what mostly used to be a class-based issue and turns it more into a religious-based issue)

Edit: As an example, take Richard Dawkins. Very outspoken atheist, probably one of the biggest names in the world right now. His issue, more than anything is the growing attacks on evolution being taught in science classrooms. That's what makes him political. If he were more concerned with say, foreign policy instead, then nationalism might be his bigger bugaboo.

edited 8th Dec '11 3:44:39 PM by Karmakin

Democracy is the process in which we determine the government that we deserve
 131 De Marquis, Thu, 8th Dec '11 7:00:42 PM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
Well, in one sense, Christian bigotry should be considered as more objectionable than other forms of bigotry, since Christians are specifically instructed to avoid that. It's like so-called liberals who support banking deregulation.
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
 132 drunkscriblerian, Thu, 8th Dec '11 7:15:39 PM from Castle Geekhaven Relationship Status: In season
Street Writing Man
Well, in one sense, Christian bigotry should be considered as more objectionable than other forms of bigotry, since Christians are specifically instructed to avoid that.

Yeah, this. If Jesus were to come a second time, he'd end up nailed to a piece of wood all over again...likely by the same people who claim to worship him so. I mean, the religious right let all of us know what it thought of peace and love in the 1960s if memory serves.

edited 8th Dec '11 7:15:54 PM by drunkscriblerian

If I were to write some of the strange things that come under my eyes they would not be believed.

~Cora M. Strayer~
 133 De Marquis, Fri, 9th Dec '11 7:38:09 AM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
Heh, Jesus of Montreal anyone?
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
I mean, the religious right let all of us know what it thought of peace and love in the 1960s if memory serves.
To be fair, I'm not sure if it's the same religious right. Supposedly there was a huge shift in the 80s due to Reagan in how religion and politics were connected.
"I even like the idea of a nice man who sees me when I'm sleeping and knows when I'm awake. And that man is Barack Obama." - Bill Maher
 135 Owlman, Fri, 9th Dec '11 8:48:26 AM from Doesn't matter.
It doesn't matter.
Everyone always blames and credits Reagan, and I for one don't get it. You mean he, a Hollywood actor, put up an attractive ideology all by himself? Why don't people credit his cabinet instead?

And what did that change mean, exactly?

edited 9th Dec '11 8:48:45 AM by Owlman

I don't want to set the world on fire, baby. I love you too much. I just want to start a big, big flame in your heart.
Moar and Moar and Moar
The modern Religious Right didn't really form until the late 70's early 80's, but only really started to gain serious steam in the 90's.

This is why I say what you see today is a relatively modern situation and you can't really compare it to things (both good and bad) that have happened in the past. I still maintain that by and large it's a response to secularism being more visible, and as such looking like much more of a "threat" to social and cultural dominance.

The response to that, was to try and "raise the flag" so to speak to create a visible counter-movement. And as secularism has become more visible over the last few decades, this results in religious groups, not even just right-wing groups but mainstream groups as well, trying to raise the flag higher and higher.

I should note that this isn't the blame of non-believers or secularists, who first of all should be free to express our beliefs, but second of all, even if there was no change with us per se, what did change was the level of communications in our society, which has become larger especially over the last few decades via technological increases.

Said communication technologies (like this one), have allowed out-groups to build better communities for themselves, and as such, are now seen as much more of a "threat" than ever before.

edited 9th Dec '11 9:38:11 AM by Karmakin

Democracy is the process in which we determine the government that we deserve
 137 De Marquis, Fri, 9th Dec '11 9:41:42 AM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
Karen Armstrong has written extensively on the phenomenon of the rise of fundamentalism as a negative response to rapid social change. From the article: "She maintains that religious fundamentalism is not just a response to but, paradoxically, a product of contemporary culture and for this reason concludes that, "We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world".

“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
 138 Fighteer, Fri, 9th Dec '11 9:44:23 AM from the Time Vortex Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
I agree with that in principle. It's funny how religion, supposedly the home of moral compassion, has become so violently antagonistic to the compassionate principles of the liberal left.

Ironically, the pursuit of the definition of happiness does not appear to be a happiness-maximizing behavior.
 139 De Marquis, Fri, 9th Dec '11 10:11:44 AM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
You mean fundamentalism.
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
Moar and Moar and Moar
There's a good criticism of Armstrong at http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2009/review-of-karen-armstrongs-i-the-case-for-god-i/

(Note. It's written by somebody who actually knows more theology (of the complex kind) than Armstrong can actually dream of)

In any case, I don't think I disagree too much with her ideal, just that I don't think she really has much knowledge or concept of how to get there. It's the question of, if the religious model that the "New Atheists" (Note. Even though my atheism predates the "New Atheist" movement, I consider myself one of them) criticize is not the correct and optimal model for religion, how do you make the movement to get religious people who do not have the correct and optimal model for religion to adopt it. What changes should be made in order to reduce the literalistic outlook, in other words.

She seems to think somehow that if atheists and other secularists would some how shut up people would do it on their own. Because we can see that the movement towards overt literalism, mostly in the US but also in other countries predates the rise of atheism and non-belief being anything more than discussion topics in philosophy classes, that rings very hollow. Before a decade ago there was very little public discussion or organization. But the perceived threat was still there.

No, while I do think that growing secularism is something that has provoked the rush towards overt literalism, I do not think that it's anything we could hope to prevent. The mere existence of secularism/atheism is enough in and of itself to do that. Everything else, is gravy, in a matter of speaking.

Which is why I say the change has to come from within. From religious groups who make crystal clear that their sermons are metaphors and meant to be seen as such, and lay out again, in crystal clear fashion that these things are under no circumstances to be taken literally...root and branch.

[up] Edit: The problem is that over the last few decades it's not JUST fundamentalism anymore, or maybe to put it the other way, literalistic interpretations of religion are spreading outside of groups that we would consider to be fundamentalist. We're seeing more of a literalistic movement inside Catholicism, as an example.

I guess what has to be seen is that there's little to no difference between literalism and fundamentalism. They both mean the same thing. So as literalism spreads to more mainstream religious congregations, they seem to be taking on more right-wing views on other topics such as economics.

It's the constant reinforcement that yes, God does exist, he is watching you, and he's going to directly impact the world around you, (and we must act in a way to bring Glory to Him to please Him) That's what the New Atheists and other strong secularists object to primarily.

Edit 2: It's not just Catholicism either, it's also been happening in Anglican churches. There's a real divide between more Western religious structures and the structures in the rest of the world which tend to be much more literalistic. To the point where in some communities there have been takeovers of Anglican churches by literalistic groups.

edited 9th Dec '11 10:24:35 AM by Karmakin

Democracy is the process in which we determine the government that we deserve
 141 De Marquis, Fri, 9th Dec '11 10:34:32 AM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
@Karm: Armstrong makes the mistake of thinking that what she wants to accomplish had already happened in the past. That's probably not true, but there is nothing wrong with the understanding of God that she wants to explain to everyone. Her ideas are very "Zen", and I appreciate them a lot. She would have better claimed that certain ideas of the past can be used to form a new theology, in opposition to fundamentalism.

But I think I have what may be an even more fundamental disagreement with both Armstrong and yourself. I am not sure that I can support any program which attempts to persuade everyone to believe the same things. I do not believe that such a thing is possible, and I am very skeptical that it would even be desirable. I am perfectly comfortable in a world in which different groups have beliefs that offend each other, even at the cost of some degree of conflict between them. I would rather keep both fundamentalists and atheists around, even though I profoundly disagree with both groups. I do understand everyone wanting to share their own values, and recruit to their way of thinking anyone who voluntarily decides to go, but I hope no one ever succeeds in reducing global culture to one set of coherent beliefs (not even mine). I value diversity of belief as an end in itself.

So I hope that secularists never shut up, nor their opponents on the other side. Although it would be nice for "liberal Christians" to be recognized as an independent player in our own right.

In response to your edits: It's very true that "literalism" as you call it is a growing movement, and is spreading beyond the Protestant denominations where the movement first appeared (of course, the spread of fundamentalism within Islam and Judaism has a different genesis). Yet it's also true that many religious attitudes over time are trending liberal, esp among the young. I think the appeal of "literalism" may have peaked.

edited 9th Dec '11 10:52:38 AM by DeMarquis

“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
Moar and Moar and Moar
Well, it is impossible of course. And the steps that would need to be taken to try and make that happen quite frankly, even if it were essential (which I don't think it is) simply wouldn't be worth the cost.

Of course, fundamentalists/literalists don't think the same way that most atheists/secularists do.

Which is why I'll settle for smashing religious privilege. And that's a pretty happy settling for me, to be honest. That's all I want. I want how people act to be judged or gauged depending on the effects of their actions have on others. Full stop. Everything else doesn't matter.
Democracy is the process in which we determine the government that we deserve
 143 De Marquis, Fri, 9th Dec '11 10:56:27 AM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
OK, but why single out "Religious Privilege"? If your goal is that people be judged by the outcomes of their actions, why not smash "Privileged Beliefs" in general?
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
 144 captainbrass 2, Fri, 9th Dec '11 12:15:18 PM from the United Kingdom
Smashing prejudice and the privileging of certain beliefs is a noble goal, but to me it's about as likely to succeed as anything else that would involve people becoming fundamentally nicer, in this world anyway. We are what we are. Most of the problems that are said to arise from religion or nationalism or capitalism or whatever, really arise from the basic flaws of human beings. Greed, selfishness, vindictiveness and so on.

And for me, that's precisely the problem with humanism and the attraction of religious explanations.
"Well, it's a lifestyle"
Moar and Moar and Moar
Oh definitely. I'm interested in smashing other privileges as well, although to be honest, "smashing" them is probably a bad word for these things, as much as it is just making people aware of them so they can keep it in mind that it MAY be something that affects their judgement here or there.

Be it gender privileges, class privileges, or whatever, I think they're bad things. Not that being privileged makes you a bad person. Taking advantage of that privilege now, is a different story. I guess the thing about religion is that it's the only one of the above that's really organized, per se, and as such you see a lot more cases of taking advantage of said privilege.
Democracy is the process in which we determine the government that we deserve
 146 Cojuanco, Fri, 9th Dec '11 6:01:27 PM from Riverside, CA, US
Student
Uh, for the people earlier implying the Catholic Church is even close to allowing condoms for any reason, it's actually not true. It's a bit more nuanced than that. The argument seems to be, for example, between having sex with a prostitute without protection when one of the partners has HIV/AIDS, and having it with, the latter is better cause while you're still sinning, you're only breaking one commandment, not two (arguably subjecting someone to a deadly disease willfully is kinda covered under "thou shalt not kill"). Problem is that nuances aren't good soundbites in our 24-hour news cycle, and it gets incredibly simplified by the press. Also, the Vatican's press office is probably one of the worst-managed for an organization its size. And the Pope's tendency to assume that Viewers Are Geniuses makes it even worse.

 147 Kexruct, Sat, 10th Dec '11 7:28:23 AM from Vvardenfell
nonarySpade
The problem with the pope is that he makes good points in a a bad way.
They call themselves seamstresses -Feet of Clay
Moar and Moar and Moar
Well, that whole situation is a moral and an ethical mess from top to bottom.
Democracy is the process in which we determine the government that we deserve
 149 USAF713, Sat, 10th Dec '11 10:15:02 AM from the United States
I changed accounts.
Having just watched a special on religion and science, I can say with some degree of certainty that at least with the Catholics, this "they hate science" shit is nonsense. They have a Papal Observatory, and the scientists were talking about how now they could have dialogue with the Church about things like genetic engineering and actually compromise, where only a few decades ago they would have just gotten a flat "no."
I am now known as Flyboy.
 150 Cojuanco, Sat, 10th Dec '11 11:51:46 AM from Riverside, CA, US
Student
Not to mention there is a long tradition of clerical scientists. We do have a rich intellectual tradition, you know - where do you think the Sorbonne or Oxford came from?

Total posts: 194
 1  2  3  4  5
6
 7 8


TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy