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A Modern Secular Religion

 
 
McGentrix
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 07:56 am
I have never understood why having a belief in something should stir up controversy. Why must something be proven to exist or not exist in order to be believed? Isn't that really what belief is? Some believe God exists, others don't. Why force your own beliefs on others?
0 Replies
 
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 09:24 am
We are getting bogged down in words and bullshit.

Here is a summary of my position:

I do not know if a God exists. I do not know if there are no gods. I suspect none of the rest of you do either.

I do not see enough unambiguous, probative evidence upon which to base a meaningful guess in either direction.

I understand that some of you see enough evidence to cause you to extimate/guess/speculate that there is a God. I also understand that some of you see enough evidence to cause you to extimate/guess/speculate that there are no gods.

I prefer to simply acknowledge that I do not know -- and the fact that some of you go one way on the issue and some go the other reinforces my feelings that doing that is more truthful, more ethical, and more honest than making the guess (in either direction) and stressing the guess/estimate rather than the fact that it is a guess/estimate rather than knowledge.

Anyone -- whether they be someone here in A2K or a learned philosopher of the present or future who thinks that to be an unreasonable position -- is way, way, way off base as far as I am concerned. I consider it to be totally reasonable -- and preferable to the other options.

I understand and acknowledge that reasonable, intelligent, ethical individuals can disagree.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 09:27 am
Well, one last set of blows at the moribund equine . . . I appreciate George's post to clarify his intent, and, as time offers, i will come back--soon, i hope--to respond to that post.
0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 09:32 am
McG

Yes, but the problem has been that the church has prescribed and enforced beliefs, values, and behavior for everyone. That's quite different from some esthete off in a cave in the desert whipping himself with sphagetti noodles and bothering no one else.

george

As much as I admire any post on this topic which incorporates an Irving Berlin lyric, I'm afraid I haven't bumped into the notion you consider common to historians that the church and government have some equal and necessary cooperative relationship. But dollars to donuts such views originate with folks active in the church.

You 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." Well, that's a big argument and I think you assume a lot which is quite arguable and false. Foremost, that the church has or is responsible for an area of social concern which a government should not enter.
0 Replies
 
patiodog
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 09:39 am
Blatham, you're not trying to swing this thread back to the original question, are you -- the yet-to-be-supported assertion that there is some ideology, actively supported, endorsed, and espoused by the government, that is somehow marginalizing religious institutions in the United States of America?
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 10:29 am
I pray that he is (all irony intended).

georgeob1 wrote:
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.


Were this the case--and i do not yet say "yea" or "nay" to it--then you have supplied the argument to refute your claim about a modern secular religion presenting a danger to good governance which had not heretofore existed.

Quote:
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.


This i cannot accept at face value. Historically, religion has either manipulated or actually acted as the government which has slaughtered the alleged heathen or heretic in their millions. In fact, a good historical case can be made that religion unfettered can be far more harmful than religion entwined in government. One of the most successful and horrendous propaganda smear jobs in history has been the characterization of the Inquisition as a blood drenched organization imprisoning and slaughtering thousands in the name of god and with the overt conivance of government. This was the first example in history of a mass medium (the newly ubiquitous prining press) being used in such a manner. Court records in Spain from the period of the Inquisition show literally hundreds of examples of convicted defendants making or attempting to make heretical statements at the time of their sentencing in the hope that they would be incarcerated in Inquistion prison rather than royal prisons. In a period of more than 350 years, the Inquistions own meticulously maintained records show somewhat more than 3000 executions for heresy. In the same era, but in a period of less than 60 years, German, Dutch and Scots Protestants executed men and women--mostly women--on flimsy allegations of witchcraft; the numbers of those executed will never be known for certain because of the often spontaneous nature of the witch trials--but modern European historicans making conservative estimates place the figure at tens of thousands--usually in the range of 40,000 to 60,000 persons. A principle difference in how history is percieved in these matters can be attributed to the concerted and successful effort of Protestants with printing presses to spread broadsides, tracts and pamphlets with lurid descriptions of the murderous practices of the Inquisition, while that body remained, for purposes of the dissemination of public information, mute. In Scotland, such activities were either ignored by, or in some cases even encouraged by, the local authorities of the Kirk. In Holland, where far fewer such incidents occurred, there were sometimes prosecutions of witch burners, because of the probity of the government of the United Provinces. In the german states and principalities, the continuing struggle of Lutheran, Catholic and Calvinist, and the almost universal oppression of Jews and
Anabaptists created a social chaos which remains to this day almost unreported in standard histories. I simply cannot accept a statement that government and religion are equivalent in the nature and scope of atrocity. Religion has a far worse record, and has either perpetrated their horrors with the connivance of, through the intimidation of, or in despite of the governments concerned. Where there has been no distinction between government and religious establishment, such as Calvin and Zwingli's "Godly Republic" at Geneva, and the Massachusetts Bay colony in the 17th century, there has been absolutely no mechanism to restrain the excesses of religious zeal, and that zeal has often been enshrined in the institutions of government. Geneva was organized based upon the principles of Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Church, and that work was exported to Scotland via John knox, resulting in the eventual establishment of the Kirk as supreme authority in that nation, and spread from there to England, giving rise to the "Puritan" movement in Protestantism. Those Puritans willfully created a "Godly Republic" in the wilderness of New England, and to a large extent because of their disenchantment with the open, intentional plurality of the United Provinces to which Puritans originally resorted before going to Massachusetts, and the less widespread but nonetheless tolerant policies of the Lord Protector after the triumph of Parliament in the last English civil war, after John Winthrop had been sent to Massachusetts with a "Godly Republic portfolio." I will expound no further on the point, and although not everyone here will agree with my assessment, i think most here familiar with my posts will acknowledge my belief that i could extrapolate such examples at great length.

If "several here apply a higher standard for earthly good to religion than they do to government," it ought not to be wondered at, given the propensity of the religious to wrap themselves in the glorious robes of divinely inspired virtue.

Quote:
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.


I would only dissent from this estimate to the extent of observing that what George characterizes as "unresolved tension between government and religion" has most often taken on disasterous consequences for the "common man"--all of those not armored by privilege and political and religious connection.

Quote:
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.


To this, i would again reply with reference to the often murderous, or at the least, impoverishing, consequences for the majority of populations which have arisen from "tacit roles it [religion] once played, or at least heavily influenced in public life." I would also add that if government contemplate social welfare programs, it has been because of the complete failure of organized relgions to fill that void in the needs of the people; if government take steps to liberate the slave, enfranchise women and provide civil protection for homosexuals, it has been because of either the failure of religion to provide for such necessary measures, or the blatant opposition of organized religion to such measures; if government takes measures to protect the environment and species diversity, it has flown in the face of the "revealed truth" doctrines of christianity in this country which ascribe to mankind a divinely endowed stewardship of nature, without providing the least guidance or leadership to protect the world claimed to have been so entrusted to the faithful. I believe that in these failures of organized religion to deal effectively with the ramifications of burgeoning populations making increasing demands on limited resources, as well as the very reasonable demands for access to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" on the part of those peoples formerly marginalized by the narrrow doctrines of organized religion--have resulted in those government measures which are here being unjustly characterized as the promotion of a modern secular religious agenda.

Quote:
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.


Although i feel that what i have already written about government measures encompasses these statements, and disputes their force, i will further note that the "issues of great moral significance to many religions" here referred to have often embodied an activte hostility to large segments of the populations (for exemple, the biblical rationale for slavery, and the pervasive misogyny of the bible), and an unwillingness to allow the participation of those segments of the population in the normal transactons of the polity. I've grown exhausted with reviewing the rise of the concept of political rectitude and its effective adoption by the conservative segment of our population with as much vigor as has heretofore been shown by the liberal. This entire concept of a threat from a moder secular religion qualifies in my estimation as an example of the political rectitude of the right applied to the "issues of great moral significance" to the left. I find us once again arrived at Luther's pithy observation about the matter of whose ox has been gored.

Quote:
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.


I am left almost breathless by the foregoing contention (although, as well all know, almost never speechless); if it were not the province of a government "of the people, by the people and for the people" to accentuate the positive, then i am left to wonder what the conception of government is here asserted to be--the simple collection of revenues, and organization of courts of common cause? In fact: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." This suggests to me that it is most fitting for government to pursue the ends decried here, so long as it can be shown that it embodies the will of the people. I find myself, finally, in the pasture, contemplating Luther's wounded bovines.
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 10:46 am
Frank has provided a compact summary of his beliefs on this question. I have the impression they approximate those of the majority of the posters here. Let me restate mine in relation to them.

I accept all that Frank has written with only two exceptions.

First I believe there IS reason to prefer a leap to theism over a leap to atheism. That reason has to do with fairly constant elements in the human spirit, and not to external factors. We live and die only once, and we must make choices with which to govern our external and internal lives - and second chances are not the rule. Only rarely do we have enough information with which to make the most important choices in our lives on a purely rational, objective basis. This ranges from the choice (or non choice) of a mate, to the orientation of our inner lives, and the choice of the right wine for the occasion. We are faced with the continuing necessity of making most of the important choices in our lives without sufficient information to do so on a rational, objective basis. Why should the standard for this choice be any different?

Further, there is an identifiable need in the human spirit for relation to a creator or something like that. It is manifest in the words, writings, and behaviors of innumerable thinkers and ordinary people as well. Is this merely the result of the adaptive rearrangement of chromosomes over time? I doubt it.

I recall that attendence at mass & other religious services was much higher among pilots (particularly attack pilots) on carriers during deployments to the Gulf of Tonkin than other times and places. Was this merely the absence of pagan stoic virtue, or something else? A bit of both, was my self-assessment. Frank has noted the high incidence of theism among convicted murderers on death rows. He implies that this suggests more murderous tendencies among theists. I believe the very obvious explanation is quite different. To exploit Samuel Johnston's phrase 'The prospect of being hanged after the appeals are exhausted, wonderfully concentrates a man's mind'.

We have but one life. We must make choices, and most without sufficient information. We are confronted with our natures and our hungers, physical, emotional, and spiritual as they are, and without full understanding of their origin or evolution. All this means something or it doesn't. The choice is between belief, despair, or Scarlet O'Hara - like postponement ("I'll think about that tomorrow"). But when tomorrow is threatened, humans often choose belief. Why?

The second reservation has to do with the relative likelihood of a Creator or designer, given what we know about the origins of the cosmos and the startling connections it has with the behavior of sub-atomic things. Many physicists readily acknowledge the existence of god, as long as god is defined only as the author of the laws of nature which are the continuing object of their iquiries. Physicists from Einstein to Hawking would be included here. I believe this illustrates the difficulty of the assertion that a creator or designer certainly does not exist. It certainly does not prove the existence of a God who is aware of or concerned with our existence, but I do believe it tips the balance away from the affirmation that no god exists.

That's it.
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 10:47 am
Need doesn't translate into existence. Rolling Eyes
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 10:48 am
Come on guys, wounded oxen, not dead horses . . .
0 Replies
 
patiodog
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 10:55 am
Craven de Kere wrote:
Need doesn't translate into existence. Rolling Eyes


But necessity is the mother of invention...
0 Replies
 
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 10:59 am
george

I appreciate your response to my last post.

My response to your response will be to repost something I said in that last post:

Quote:
I do not see enough unambiguous, probative evidence upon which to base a meaningful guess in either direction.

I understand that some of you see enough evidence to cause you to extimate/guess/speculate that there is a God. I also understand that some of you see enough evidence to cause you to extimate/guess/speculate that there are no gods.

I prefer to simply acknowledge that I do not know -- and the fact that some of you go one way on the issue and some go the other reinforces my feelings that doing that is more truthful, more ethical, and more honest than making the guess (in either direction) and stressing the guess/estimate rather than the fact that it is a guess/estimate rather than knowledge.
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 11:03 am
patiodog wrote:
Craven de Kere wrote:
Need doesn't translate into existence. Rolling Eyes


But necessity is the mother of invention...


Quite right, which makes it one of the worst arguments I have seen. I should write a few satires on how the demonstrated human need to explain away the sun and such as gods illustrates that they are indeed gods.
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 11:06 am
Frank,

We have finally gotten to the core issues.

Question. Have you consistently applied the standards for truth, honesty, and ethics you cite for choices of belief to other aspects of your life?


I, of course, don't solicit an answer, but pose this only to test the veracity of your standard.
0 Replies
 
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 12:04 pm
georgeob1 wrote:
Frank,

We have finally gotten to the core issues.

Question. Have you consistently applied the standards for truth, honesty, and ethics you cite for choices of belief to other aspects of your life?


I, of course, don't solicit an answer, but pose this only to test the veracity of your standard.


George

Whether you are soliciting an answer or not -- I would like to respond.

But although I see a question mark at the end of your comment, I get the feeling it really isn't a question at all -- but rather a rather thinly veiled accusation of some sort.

Come on, George. You've commanded naval vessels and deployed naval task forces. You certainly should be able to ask a question if you actually have a question in mind -- and should be able to make an accusation with a bit more candor if that is what you were about.

Ask what you want to ask. I'll be happy to respond.
0 Replies
 
patiodog
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 12:13 pm
That craven cat wrote:
Quite right, which makes it one of the worst arguments I have seen. I should write a few satires on how the demonstrated human need to explain away the sun and such as gods illustrates that they are indeed gods.


Douglas Adams did this gently (natch) in one of the Dirk Gently series, where everything humans have ever chosen to believe in had actually been manifest and some listless and unwanted Norse Gods started making trouble in the world... Not a great book, but not a bad one, either, if you're bored enough.
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 12:17 pm
The bastard stole my idea! Oh well, the logic is hillarious enough to riff on a bit. I'll probably start defending wolf's sincere belief in all things conspiratorial since the human spirit seems to need it so much.
0 Replies
 
Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 12:35 pm
Truth, honesty and ethics -- isn't that a trifle redundant?
0 Replies
 
patiodog
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 12:40 pm
No, a trifle is a dessert.
0 Replies
 
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 12:43 pm
patiodog wrote:
No, a trifle is a dessert.


Ain't it a mushroom?
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2003 12:43 pm
Same difference.
0 Replies
 
 

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