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A Modern Secular Religion

 
 
Frank Apisa
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 08:00 pm
georgeob1 wrote:
Frank, This is a discussion, not a contest, and no apology is needed. Both of us will likely have to get through a forest of like semantical and inferential issues on our way to engaging the core issues here. I certainly don't know how to avoid it, and ask for your consideration when I make a similar misstep.


George,

I apologize when I think an apology is proper and in order.

It has nothing to do with contests!

It would have been nice if you simply had accepted the apology.

In any case, when mistakes are made, I always cut people lots of slack. You will not be an exception.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 08:21 pm
Well, this discussion has wandered off into the pastures of some of the more popular stalking horses at A2K.

A Modern Secular Religion[/b]

Leaving aside for now the vexed contention that such a thing as secular religion can even exist, let alone be said to be currently operative within our society--i will concede the principle in order to ask a few questions of those who are willing to make the contention that such a thing exists and threatens truth, justice and the American way.

What are the specific tenets of "modern secular religion?"

Which of these tenets explicitly--not simply inferentially--threaten our society and our polity?

In what, specifically, consists the threat? That is to say, what proximate danger of demonstrable harm is entailed in these alleged tenets?

How is one to know the adherents of this sect, and identify the leadership thereof, for the purpose of examining to what extent said leaders and "faithful" give evidence by their words and actions of a willingness to fundamentally alter institutions, or destroy them?

What defense can be offered that said institutions are the sine qua non of our social and political survival--thereby to justify raising the alarm at the prospect of the triumph of this sectarian party?

There, i've thrown away half the argument for you, and eliminated that boggy ground of speculative theorizing into which far too many discussion in these fora seem to have wandered of late. I ask that anyone willing to defend a contention that there is such a thing as secular religion, which concept in the adherence to which and consequent attempt at the application of the principles of which, to explain how this poses a clear and present danger to the people and institutions (casual, social or political) of the United States.
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blatham
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 09:11 pm
George
Quote:
My point is that religion is far from alone in, at least initially, rejecting new ideas or novel insights.
Yes, that is so.
Quote:
re anti-intellectualism - Orthodoxies of all kinds, religious, scientific, Sociology, Education, even modern Liberal thought - all have much in common in this regard.
Maybe, depends on where you are planning to take this awfully general premise.

Quick note on Athens: true, citizenship excluded slaves, women, and non-citizens. Some feminists have used this to paint Athens and Greek culture as just another typical worthless patriarchy, but of course, the notion of one man-one vote is a necessary precedent for women voting too...one can't expect the whole ball of wax right off. Additional note: we can thank the early Christian church for its inclusion of women and slaves into a level of social equality.

Re the Russia/Nazi argument....first, I know of no institutional avowal of atheism within nazism. But anyway, there really seems to be no way to establish these aren't merely coincidental facts. The weight of evidence would actually suggest pretty strongly they are coincidental, as every other example of all the mass killings and episodes of war in western history (not to mention other histories) have god up there as cheerleader, motivational speaker, and umpire.

Atheism and crime....can't find the reference I'm recalling, but I'll keep looking.

The dwarf metaphor...both you and scrat (and many others) suggest that theism and atheism are an equal species of claim. They are not. The dwarf example demonstrates how they are not. I say there is an invisible undetectable dwarf on my head whispering to me. You likely won't find this a terribly valuable hypothesis in understanding either me or the world. So you'll go about your life as an 'adwarist' - that is, without accepting my dwarf hypothesis/belief. This difference becomes even more clear if you think about where the burden of proof is appropriately located. Surely, that burden lies with me, as I am the one making a claim. You, on the other hand, have no burden of proof as you make no claim. You were just walking along minding your own business when someone else shoved his face in your face and said "X is real!"

It's an interesting question as to why folks don't differentiate appropriately on this. Partly, it is a matter of appearance...if most everyone has agreed (or been taught) that bernie's dwarf is there, any odd person out who doesn't nod in further agreement APPEARS to be in opposition. And another reason is that it is a final line of defence for theists whose world view is gradually falling into disfavor.

Ain't this fun?!
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georgeob1
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 09:22 pm
Frank,

You and I use words differently. I use 'know' to mean that I know the truth of something by either direct observation or sufficient deduction from known, or accepted, facts, principles or postulates. I use believe to indicate acceptance, but by a lower standard than above. That usage is consistent with standard English and it has been the norm in my experience in school, in the execution and management of scientific and engineering projects, in Naval Aviation, and in the command of Navy ships and formations. In all of these, those who chronically reported what they merely believed as something known were dangerous and were swiftly eliminated. The very different distinctions you appear to make are quite outside my experience.

Perhaps the confusion enters with the words 'theism' and 'atheism'. Literally they refer to the belief or the lack of it in the existence of God or gods. When used in conjunction with 'agnosticism', which refers to the assertion that God's existence is unknowable, the former two words usually take on the contextual implication that one so identified asserts either the existence or non-existence of God - though I will concede the literal meaning refers to belief - in which case your use of 'agnostic theist' does make sense. I was careful to use know and believe in my posts. It was you who forced the taxonomy into the discussion.

'Agnostic' is from the Greek. This root word has been in use for millennia by philosophers and others. It didn't enter big time into the jargon of philosophers until the 19th century, but it was only the jargon usage that was new. Certainly any learned thinker confronted with the word in the context of a discussion of the existence/nonexistence of God would instantly recognize the meaning and intent. The concept is hardly new, and the existence or resolution of semantic confusion does not constitute original thought. The absence of jargon does not at all imply that Seneca, Francis Bacon, or Thomas Aquinas did not understand the distinction between belief and know. Each addressed the issue directly.

Tolstoy, Dostoyevski and Merton all frequently addressed the psychological and spiritual necessity of belief in a God who was concerned and involved with our existence. Each emphasized that this involved a leap of faith, implicitly acknowledging the lack of certainty. Each described the opposite view, the assertion that God does not exist as both dangerous and contrary to human nature. It is all over the work of each - go anywhere.
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blatham
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 09:23 pm
set

that's a good direction to go
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georgeob1
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 09:42 pm
Well, Blatham did warn me. For the last several iterations on this thread I have had the dim image of Blatham standing beside me saying, "See, I told you so". It finally happened. Worse he brought his goddam dwarf ! (Worse still, I asked for it.)
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Craven de Kere
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 09:45 pm
Don't mock the dwarf. I believe in the dwarf.
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Ethel2
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 09:52 pm
hail to the dwarf
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Setanta
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 09:53 pm
Ta Hell with the Dwarf . . .
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blatham
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 09:53 pm
george may be the only adwarfist here...I perceive a certain irony in this turn of events.
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Craven de Kere
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 09:54 pm
Why must you insult my beliefs setanta? I will rejoice in my knowledge that all adwarfists will burn in hell.
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Ethel2
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 09:56 pm
you have a better dwarf, Setanta? We've got a battle of the gods on our hands. Giggle, I'll get a coke and sit back for the show.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 09:58 pm
Let me put this a little more precisely, and with as much offense as possible, so that y'all might get the flavor of just how inane the endless repetition of the god debate is at this site . . .

Y'all are flogging a horse so long dead that you're blinded by the clouds of blowflies about your heads, and with a senseless vigor which can only be attributed to the toxic effects of the putresence which you have thereby loosed to befoul the atmosphere that we all must share . . .
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Craven de Kere
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 09:59 pm
I still believe in the dwarf.
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blatham
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 10:01 pm
Setanta is ovulating...give the boy room.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 10:03 pm
lol
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Craven de Kere
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 10:04 pm
Dead horses are so much easier to flog than the live ones...
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Ethel2
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 10:04 pm
laughing Can't top that.
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blatham
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 10:20 pm
just want to note....I don't have time to read threads completely these days...I apologize...but I've just notice Lola's post some pages back and would like to say that it is as bright and fresh a post on this particular topic that I've bumped into for a long while. Personal thank you to her from me.
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georgeob1
 
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Reply Tue 8 Jul, 2003 11:19 pm
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'
Lola wrote:


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.
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