In the last paragraph of Lola's most recent post i found a statement that well encapsulates the semantical (and consequently logical issue that has beset us here. Here is the statement'
But I agree with Frank and Blatham on this. True belief would require absolute and complete understanding of the nature of the universe and I'm doubtful of this possibility for any being, human or non. Or I should say that I cannot conceive of any circumstance in which this would be possible. Assigning understanding (faith as belief) is not an acceptable method for managing this ultimate dilemma when the need to understand involves well being.
Taking words at their strictest literal meaning, it is clear (at least to me) that Lola should have said 'True knowledge...' instead of 'True belief...'. This becomes clear with her reference to "complete understanding of the nature of the universe...".
Recalling that the strict definition of theist and atheist refers to the belief or non-belief in the existence of God. As Frank has repeatedly insisted, one can be an agnostic theist (i.e. one who chooses to believe in God, though he acknowledges he does not know He exists). It follows that one could also be an agnostic atheist (i.e. one who chooses to believe that God does not exist, though he acknowledges he cannot prove it). I submit that this is contrary to the great majority of the common usage of these words: virtually all references to 'atheist' one encounters strongly imply the assertion of knowledge that God does not exist. The distinction is unimportant - it is, after all, merely a semantical issue. The confusion started when we moved back and forth to believe and know with different implied relationships to the aforementioned words.
A good deal of skepticism concerning the worth (social or otherwise) of religion among many on this thread. Frank even implies that virtue on the part of religious people is more often occurs in spite of their religion then because of it. I believe that religions are merely organizations of humans like many others, particularly government. No better, no worse. The subject matter and the organizing principles are different, but they do overlap. Governments and Religions have both done much harm and much good in the world - in more or less equal measure I will stipulate. Religion at least has the excuse of a central interest in the next world as opposed to this one, whereas government must be judged only on what it accomplishes here and now. It does appear to me that several here apply a higher standard for earthly good to religion than they do to government. Interesting.
I have made the point that the development of Western Civilization and institutions has benefitted from the unresolved tension between government and religion. This could launch a new thread on its own, but I will merely point out that this is a widely accepted thesis among historians, and one often cited in comparisons of the relative success of the Western World compared to that of the Islamic since the fifteenth century.
My choice of the term 'Secular religion' has unfortunately brought more darkness than light. My intent was to refer to the growing tendency of modern liberal governments to displace religion from tacit roles it once played, or at least heavily influenced in public life. This occurs as a side effect of well-intended but intrusive legislation and programs that aim at perfecting good behavior (as opposed to merely proscribing criminal behavior) on the part of citizens. The manifestations are the increasing social indoctrination in public education; the growing social aspects of Head Start and welfare programs; increasing government regulation of the content and operation of the social aspects of private groups and religion in areas once left untouched. It is also aided by a growing vocabulary of politically correct usage that often obscures or devalues issues of great moral significance to many religions.
My interest is not so much in the content of the social controls and the vocabulary themselves as it is in the fact that it is coming from government and not directly from the people in their voluntary associations with each other and in religion. This, I fear could destabilize the balance between religion and government at a time when religion is already beset by many challenges, some self-induced. In short I don't mind government e-liminating the negative, but I do fear it ac-centuating the positive.